When I last wrote we were anchored out at Cape Canaveral, Florida. We had ducked behind the bridge to the mainland in a heavy north east wind. That north, north east wind never left us and we had the wind at our backs for several weeks. I can only recall one day of traveling where we had beam seas for a few hours. This seems miraculous and we are incredibly grateful for this good fortune. Abundance, indeed.
The less easy side of the story is of course the time and distance we have to travel each day in order to stay within the calendar we had created for ourselves. Mainly, we hoped to reach our winter slip in Marathon on November, 1st. Planning our daily travels was a bit more complex due to navigating some of south Florida and the ICW’s most shallow waters. There is a stretch between Biscayne Bay (just south of Miami) all the way to Marathon, where even at mid to high tide, especially on a waxing and full moon, the depths are between 4 and 6 feet (for miles). We draw four feet before fuel and water so of course, this will cause concern. The good news is that the bottom is mostly sand, and there will be turtles, magnificent sea turtles.
The more we live a life traveling on the water, the more appreciative I have become for the energy the water offers us in return. Otherwise, I think this life might be too rigorous for us. I say out loud to the beautiful blue waters of south Florida, to the dolphins, manatees, turtles, seagulls, frigates, pelicans, flying fish, tarpons, rainbows, sun, moon, enormous clouds, the beautiful blue sky and more, “Thank you”. Thank you for placing so many miracles along our path and in this world. Each of them is life giving and life affirming. As we live in the moments we are in, both the stressful and the amazing ones, we simultaneously envision a safe harbor in our future and recognize the past will be past.
IRENE has been running like a dream since we replaced the inverter back in Westport, NY, and then her alternator in Holden Beach, NC. But, as we were waiting for the Atlantic Avenue draw bridge in Delray Beach, FL to head to the City Marina and a slip along the ICW, her bow thruster failed. I turned it on and we heard only, “click, click, click”. Kind of a worst case scenario for me at the helm with a big north wind, in a narrow body of water, turning 90 degrees into a 15 foot wide slip where the wind would be on our starboard beam. Fortunately, we read the wind right, had a hand with the lines on the dock, and were safely tied up without the use of the thruster. Extra heart palpitations not necessary, after all. A call to a local boat mechanic and an early evening house call diagnosed the issue was with the thruster’s switch. We will be ordering one and having that replaced once we are in Marathon. Silver lining, dinner that evening with David’s brother Bill and his husband Lee at the sweetest little art house in Delray Beach, Dada.
Little did we know that the windlass, which is the motor for our anchor chain and anchor, is somehow tied into the same switch system. We found this out at our next stop, an anchorage in Hollywood, FL, called South Lake. We were preparing to anchor when I turned on the windlass and hear the now notorious, “click, click, click” sound. This is an even bigger game changer for us as it means that until it can be repaired, David and I have to manually lower and raise our 45 pound anchor, and at least 100 feet of chain, each time we anchor out (which is most of the time). In an attempt to assuage my upset over these two events (yes, I cried) David reminded me multiple times, “This is how they did it in the old days”. Well my friends, while I do long for simplicity, I am not interested in suffering. My response was, “one more week of llittle boat on the prairie”.
Hollywood was a deep anchorage in approximately 28 feet of water, which is less than ideal to begin with however, pulling up that much chain from a muddy bottom was an enormous work out. Imagine how you feel after you rake a couple of acres of wet leaves. That was us. We opted for a longer day of travel after that to minimize the number of stops we would end up making before reaching Marathon. In fact, we made it all the way past past Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Key Biscayne, all in one day of travel. We anchored in the Key Biscayne National Park water off Elliot Key in 7 feet of water. It was beautiful however; that north wind blew hard all night and even though we were protected from waves and most of the wind, the anchor dug in exceptionally well. In the morning, we had a hell of a time pulling it out of the wet and compacted sand.
Based on our experience at Elliot Key, we opted for another longgggggger ass day of travel all the way to Islemorada. Islemorada is a town south of Key Largo that encompasses six of the northern Florida Keys and surrounding coral reefs. It’s beautiful, but its shallow waters and numerous crab pots make make navigating the area challenging. The distance traveled overall made it worth it because it meant we could drop the anchor in one place for three nights and save ourselves some of the struggles with the chain and the bottom of the sea. From Islemorada, only a five hour journey to Marathon. Only five hours yet, David said that last day of travel was among the most difficult of the entire 2000 miles of summer traveling for him. Tired and sore from pulling up the anchor, his eyes tired from watching for crab pots with the sun reflecting off the water, seeing the shallows become shallower then charted, and with the wind behind us on an 89 degree day (you can’t feel the wind when it’s directly behind you), it was definitely rough out there.
We persisted and we made it safely to Marathon. We docked Irene with no thruster and 15 miles an hour of wind pushing us off the dock. We didn’t exactly set an example for perfect docking under the circumstances, but we didn’t entirely suck either. What a joy to have the boat safely tied up, to feel the wind on our faces and to be offered a cold beer by an old friend. I write all of this from a place of deep gratitude and appreciation for all the blessings the universe has bestowed upon us and our travels. Not only for the end of our current travel, but for our entire journey.
Irene needs a good washing now (and seemingly always) to get the salt off her, but the miles are on David and me for ever. Since leaving Fort Meyers in April of 2021, we have traveled over 10,500 miles. We set out knowing that circumnavigating the US’ interconnected waterways would be at least 6,000 miles, but we would not have guessed that we would keep going from the Keys and return to our beloved Lake Champlain in Vermont, by boat, and then back again.
I am not exaggerating in the least when I quote James Joyce’s Ulysses: “Think you’re escaping and run into yourself. Longest way round is the shortest way home.” And the also famous line, “Me. And now me.” Both true for “me”. I suspect David may give a nod to a different line from that epic story, “The sea, the snotgreen sea, the scrotumtightening sea.” Haha. I remember reading Ulysses in school and thinking what an insanely exotic and giant tale it was, but it turns out it wasn’t a myth after all. It is alchemy bottled up in a perfect decanter, dispensing each of our stories, because to learn, one must be humble and life truly is “the greatest teacher”; and James Joyce was a fucking genius. We are home again. Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah.