Let your tummy bubble with nervous energy!
I did: I got my first bluewater sailing experience recently, when we sailed on the outside – into the Atlantic Ocean, about three miles east of the coast – from the Palm Beach Inlet south to the Port of Miami.
See, I am of the strange and small cast of characters that make up the
“Liveaboard Sailor” designation, which I like very much because, in part, I really like freaks. But just because I live aboard a vessel doesn’t mean that I am an experienced sailor by any stretch. All this year, I practiced sailing with my boyfriend and my friend Michael, as well as studied concepts in many training manuals. I knew that if I was going to be an admiral on S/V Tortuga as we traverse the globe that I would need to be a competent mate and helmswoman; so I applied myself and took it as seriously as having fun would allow. I sailed the Indian River Lagoon and the St. Lucie River, but I had yet to take the wheel in the ocean. Our lovely sailboat had suffered a variety of engine issues over the year, work that was pricey and complex (and dangerous!) to fix. Only recently (and finally) have we got her running smoothly so we can finally begin our adventures wherever the winds take us.
So, yeah, winds: They were favorable approximately a week ago, so onward we went. We basically had our act together, having done yet another major round of repairs and preparations. But those damn winds had been blowing fairly strongly … “honking” is the gerund we’ve been wearing into the ground … for weeks. It took a healthy amount of patience to wait until it was right to head south as we had been planning since basically January. Here we are in December.
Operation Tighten Up 2015 a success!
Yes! We are currently anchored for basically nothing in a small,
protected cove in Bill Bagg’s State Park in Cape Florida, as the winds just shifted so the 15 or so other sailboats in this anchorage drifted around their anchor rode and faced toward Biscayne Bay. We spent the day snorkeling in the healthy grass flats off the beach that featured a lighthouse, and I’ve seen a spotted trunkfish (see left), spotted sting ray, hermit crab hanging out in a queen conch shell, a juvenile yellowtail snapper and, back at the cove, three manatee, a great white heron, a kingfisher and a lovely sunset.
With my love, it was rewarding to look at each other and realize that an entire year of divesting, fixing, provisioning and planning had finally paid off, with our view of Stiltsville and our countdown to the Bahamas. So sweet.
But that didn’t mean that the trip south had been a total cakewalk. Even with the seas around 2 to 3 feet, the approaching front had churned up the current in a strange way, forcing the helmsman to ride the boat as she surfed down crooked waves, letting the rudder compensate in an effort to stay on a southerly passage. It took focus and muscle: We were alive!
If only my tummy hadn’t been talking to me! Despite our solid meals and sleep, I had a little seasickness in the 600 feet of ocean. I was physically ailing (although I never got sick and still managed to grill up a sandwich for my captain), but my cat, Penelope, was mentally anguished. She hated sailing at sea! The hanging nets that held our hats and random crushable groceries
fell down. The oil lamp clanked loudly as the hurricane-shaped glass swayed from side to side in rhythm with the brass casing. The boat was at a heel. Yeewww … and meooooow!
Thankfully, my boyfriend took the lion’s share of the time driving, because the entire trip took about 16 hours. We left in the early afternoon, so we watched the sun set and the crescent moon rise … and then the sun rise again! One time, while I was on the wheel, I looked down to see him lying down on the starboard settee with my big orange kitty nestled nervously on his chest.
Being in control of a 32’ sailboat (our home) is fun! We averaged around 5 knots, which is a pretty good clip for a boat loaded down with foodstuffs, water and fuel for a while. At one point, I saw a falling star. Another time, I watched a big marlin jump acrobatically out of the ocean at my portside. A little tuna jumped out and said hello to us, too. There’s so much life around us that is so easy to overlook or ignore.
As we turned into the Port of Miami (in between huge cruise ships!) and toward Biscayne Bay, we had figuratively and literally turned a corner. We were cruisers! We have entered a lifestyle that is new, novel and fun. And after a few nights in the public marina, where I was able to do some work and Brad could run needed errands, we crossed the bay and ended up here.
We came out the other side; that’s part of what it means to surf the deep. Big lifestyle change, I think, is a little like “walking through the valley of death.” (Oh good, I get to link to this <– Soundtrack alert!) It’s dark and scary; it makes you wonder if you should turn around. But something inside of you says, “Go forward! Progress! Keep on the path and you will make it!” Listen to that voice.
So, we have. Maybe this is as far as we’ll go. Maybe we’ll go around the world and back again. We’re keeping the expectations low and the stoke high … until the next big surf in life!