As marinas go Brunswick Landing is a pretty good one:
It's up a dead end channel so very protected and has good
infrastructure - floating docks, a large modern club house,
excellent and free laundry facilities, etc, etc. But what
really makes it special are the people who run it. Sherri &
Cindy are a formidable team in every sense of the word! And
they care - they care about the marina, about the boats and about
the customers and they'll always go the extra mile to make things
work. If, for example you are stupid enough to go off
travelling without taking your passport with you, Sherri will
happily go aboard your boat, rummage around inside, find it and post
it on to you so you can cross the Canadian border - I know because I
was that imbecile!
The marina is also within
walking distance of the town centre - just as well as there's no
public transport of any sort. Unfortunately, although the
first impression is of charming historic town, you soon realise that
over half the retail properties have closed down. In it's
heyday it must have been quite a place, but now it's been gutted -
everyone's gone to the malls. There is still though a very
decent hardware store and some small local supermarkets within
walking distance and a big supermarket and a West Marine within
cycling distance. So task #1 - buy bikes!
Task #2 would be to try and open US bank accounts
and get US credit cards. Non US plastic just doesn't work here
- to buy online, fill with fuel, etc you must always provide the ZIP
code the card is registered to and a UK postcode just doesn't fit in
the box. All our digging had suggested this would not be easy
and that the stumbling block would be our lack of Social Security
Numbers - which in the US are the primary way of proving you are who
you say you are!
|Off to Bank of America, who do have a very large
office on the high street. We deal with Cindy Hughes the
branch AVP. We sit in her office, explain what we want and she
dutifully inputs all our information. Bank accounts - not a
problem! Debit cards - not a problem! Credit cards - not
possible. "For those you will need SS numbers" she tells us.
Well, it's still not bad - we can do nearly everything we want with
debit cards and we have bank accounts and cheque books/paying-in
slips. Cheque books, remember them? It's amazing but the
US still use mountains and mountains of cheques (sorry, that would
Back to the marina to talk to Ray and Fiona on
Willow. They're a few months ahead of us at the "becoming an
American" game. They do have credit cards and they also have a
car - our task #3. They opened their accounts, also with BoA,
in Fort Lauderdale and the guy they dealt with found a way around
the SS number issue. His name is Jose and they have his
contact details. I email him and ring him and never get a
response, but since we know it can be done we take another trip to
see Cindy. She's surprised, but happy to try again and see if
she can find a way. Back in her office with her at the
terminal once again and..... Kchunk! The machine pays
out! It appears that now we're existing customers it's not
necessary to validate our identities. Two shiny new credit
cards in the post. At this rate we may even be able to vote in
the next presidential election!
Now on to Task #3 - the car. Are you sitting
comfortably? To buy/register a car in Georgia you must have a
Georgia driving licence. To apply for a Georgia driving
licence you must have a (you guessed it) a Social Security number.
The Social Security Administration website is very clear (in big
letters) "We will not issue Social Security Numbers purely in order
to obtain a driving licence - it is not necessary." This is a
catch 22 situation. Actually, what the Georgia driving
licensing authority want is that you apply for an SS number, have
your application rejected and with that rejection letter they will
process your application. "But they already know....." you're
saying. That's right, they do, but rules is rules. And
applications from foreign nationals have to be vetted by the
Department of Homeland Security so the process typically takes about
2 months. Oh, I forgot to mention that the Brunswick driver
licensing office is about 15 miles out of town and as there's no
public transport, you can't get there without a car. Enter
stage right - Franz Kafka! And then, when you get your licence
you have to take your practical and theory driving test.....
Actually, we found all this out second-hand
without actually jumping through the hoops or visiting the DLO.
Matt and Karen On Where 2 had gone through the whole process a
couple of years earlier and had finally acquired their licence.
Ray and Fiona had found an alternative solution. "Drive to
Florida. 25 miles to the border another 25 to Jacksonville."
In Florida you just need your own national licence and a Florida
address. The Willows also provided us with the details of a
mail handling company in Florida who fitted the bill. The
following week we were in a hire car driving to Jacksonville.
We lost count of the number of used car dealers we passed on the
road south through Georgia, but they we're not for the likes of us!
That evening we proudly parked our Florida-plated Honda Accord (with
200,000 miles on the clock) at the end of our dock in Brunswick.
It had been a long day.
Now we could go to the malls too. Just like