Finally Cruising

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I know I haven’t posted in a while, so I apologize for that.  We finally pulled up the anchor and started making our way north. We were headed to the Chesapeake Bay for summer. We had been hoping to be there a while ago, but that’s how it goes.  So far, we have gone over 1300 nautical miles, and we have 300 nautical miles to go before we hit the Chesapeake. Unfortunately last week we blew a rod in the engine, so we ended up hauling the boat out of the water for repairs.  We are also going to take some time to do other repairs and paint the hull which we were planning on doing this summer anyway.

It has been fun finally travelling. It is interesting seeing the scenery change as we go. Even in travelling down the west coast and back up the east coast of Florida, even when it feels hopelessly monotonous, you can see how the scenery change as you go. The types of trees and plants change as you move. The terrain in northern Florida actually started getting hilly, while most of the state was rather flat. There were places where you see more sand dunes, others where it is more like a jungle, and others where it looked more like a beach post card.

We were trying to get out of hurricane zone, so we’ve been in kind of  a “hurry”. We stopped every so often to recuperate for a day or two, or when we would find a place that we just need to stop to explore. There have been many places we’ve missed that we’d like to stop someday in the future, and others, that I would be happy missing (mostly the big cities, which just feel obnoxious these days).

We’ve learned an amazing amount over the time we’ve been cruising. We’ve gone the offshore route in both the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic. We’ve also gone the inside route in the inter-coastal water way (ICW). Both are amazing. On the Atlantic we were able to take advantage of the gulf stream, gaining 2-4 knots of speed for one day, but then unable to find the gulf stream the next. It was awesome when we had that current working for us. The ICW can have crazy currents as well, sometimes helpful, but often not.

About the time we hit Fort Meyers, the weather took on the Florida summer pattern, with daily afternoon thunderstorms. We were taking a two-day break and experienced our first two good afternoon thunderstorms. Seeing the weather forecast for the following 10 days, we decided to go back to the ICW (we had been mostly going the outside route at that point). Even on the ICW, we got caught in two storms, two days in a row. The first time, we were in a place of the ICW that was very shallow outside the marked channel, with tons of little islands all around us. We looked around to try to find a place to anchor, but there was nothing around us but shallows.  When the storm hit, it was crazy with pounding rains, winds that made it hard to keep my eyes open, thunder and lightning all around and visibility so poor I could barely make out the bow of our own boat. And I was still trying to keep in the channel. At one point, the wind was so strong, we stopped making headway, making the GPS confused as to which direction we were even facing. That was scary because we had zero visibility. After about 15 minutes, the storm passed and we were on our way again.

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The following day, we also got caught in a storm. We were just six miles from our destination, when we came to a bascule bridge that would have to open in order for us to pass. Because it was close to rush hour, they told us it would be 70 minutes for the next open. Since we were exhausted, and there was nice deep water in the area just off to the side, we decided to anchor while we waited. The storm clouds had also been gathering. About 15 minutes after we anchored, the storm hit, and wow, that was a massive storm too. The weather alert said there would be up to 55 mile per hour winds, and we’re pretty sure it came close. The wind kept changing direction, so instead of facing into the wind while anchored like is typical, it kept blowing us sideways, heeling the boat over to the rails. Tons of thunder and lightning too. We ended up just staying anchored there for the rest of the night, with several patches of storms passing through. After that, we began to start as early in the day as possible, and tried to be to our destination each day by 2-3 pm.  That worked well. Now that we are out of the Florida/Georgia area, the afternoon storms seem to be less of a daily thing, so that is reassuring.

The only real casualty of the storms was our bimini, which was in pretty poor shape to begin with. The wind ripped it to shreds, so keeping out of the sun has become a daily chose. We, of course, layer on the sunscreen, wear hats, and we have tried to duct tape it back together. It actually seems to be doing okay that way. Between the duct tape and the solar panels above, we are able to avoid a lot of the sun, but we are anxious to get  a new sewing machine, and make a new bimini, as well as a dodger so we have better weather protection out there.

The northern Atlantic ICW doesn’t run nearly as close to the ocean, so it ends up more of a meandering path, so in order to get to the outside, it can actually be quite a few more miles than just taking the ICW. So even though it would seem to be more efficient to take the outside route, it isn’t necessarily. On the other hand, on the ICW, the tides are much more extreme and associated currents can be very challenging if you are not going with the tide.  There was one inlet that we were crossing, in which the current was actually at almost 4 knots. There was even a short while that we stopped making way, and we were being swept toward a huge tanker at the edge of a shipyard. We had to really work to get past the current there, but we ended up making it, averaging 0.7-1.2 knots. I can crawl faster than that. That’s one of the times that the lack of engine power gets to me.  Also on the ICW, we aren’t able to truly sail. We put up the sails, which helps us get a little extra speed, but the path is so meandering so it is impossible to keep the wind in the sails for very long, and on some days lately, there isn’t much wind to speak of in the first place.  Oh well.

While we were not anticipating the need for a new engine (nor the expense of it), it isn’t the end of the world. We had multiple friends trying to help us diagnose the issue, looking for new engines, and we have a friend and his wife coming from Florida to both deliver the new engine and help us put it in. It is amazing how much people are willing to help and how wonderful everyone is. It gives me hope in human kind again.

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Overall, we are still having an amazing time. Even with sometime major, like needing a new engine, we’re having a good time. There are many challenges to this lifestyle, and it is much more stressful that I had ever imagined, but it is also more peaceful than I imagined. It isn’t for everyone, but we feel truly lucky to be able to live this life while we can.

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