Tuesday, December 17, 2013


On Sunday we moved to the Charleston Maritime Center to get ready for jumping outside Monday morning. While struggling to get fuel onto the boat (there is something wrong with the vent system – Deb will add it to her list) a solo Cat driver walked over to admire our boat. (I never said she wasn’t pretty, only that she hates me. Come on, a fuel vent problem rears its ugly head right then?) A bit of conversation and it turns out he is part of a small handful of boats heading “outside”. He invited us over to his place for no other reason than to answer what-ever questions we might have. Pretty cool, that. We had already made the decision to go but it is always heartening to find that others, with the same information, have come to the same decisions. It was a very informal group and, come Monday morning’s departure Kintala was a member. At least it gave us someone to talk with on the VHF in the wee hours of the morning.

Then, 31h 25m and 170nm later, it was done, and now we are in FL. It might seem like a bit of an anti-climax, but that is a good thing. We love sailing at night. We love being out of sight of land in a big ocean in a small boat. It was cold and ocean waves are a whole ‘nuther animal when compared to a lake. (We each wore a patch and it was a good idea.) For the most part we stayed in the cockpit with the off-watch person curling up in the dodger to get out of the wind, catch a few winks, but be instantly available should some need arise. The full moon and clear sky made the first overnight run easy. We motor sailed the first 16 and the last two hours; sailed the rest, worked our way through the St. Mary’s Inlet and to the anchorage. Just another day in the life of live-a-board cruisers.

Only it wasn’t.

Motor sailing first and then having the breeze build enough at 0330 to silence the Wester-Beast left us with an awkward sail set; full main and stay sail. It works okay for motoring but the mismatch makes for an awkward helm once the motor goes away. But 0330 on the first open water night sail seemed a bad time to practice sail changes unless absolutely necessary. The boat was moving at better than 5 knots; best to live with the awkward until morning.

Come morning I was up on the foredeck for the sail change. Kintala’s foredeck is a disaster still evolving; baby stay, stay sail, four head sail sheets, dinghy, some fuel cans, jack lines, anchor and windless, and a soft spot in the deck (yeah, yeah, I’m getting to it) all jammed into a narrow bow, throw in the still-weird-to-me motion of a boat on big water and, if things are going to go wrong, the foredeck will be the place it happens. I had the main down when Deb yelled up to me that I needed to come to the cockpit.

Most of these dolphin pictures are taken through 3-6 feet of water

I did, and it was already filling with magic. On our starboard side swam two dolphins in close formation, near enough to touch, though somehow that seemed wrong. These were not pets; they were handsome alien visitors from another world. We could see others headed in from all direction, jumping and spouting and playing with Kintala the clear focus of attention. There must have been more than 100. They played in our modest bow wake, gathered and tumbled and shot by in streaks of grey and black. Sometimes they would linger alongside, matching our speed exactly and clearly eyeing us. For nearly an hour we were completely surrounded by this dancing cauldron of joy whose history far pre-dates the tribe of humans, clearly intelligent creatures completely at home in their environment. An environment we get to visit only for a short while, thunking along in slow blocks of fiberglass, thinking that going 170 NM in 31 hours is something special.

Yeehawwww! What a back splash dive that one was!

Yet the message from the dolphins wasn’t that we were awkward and out of our element. They seemed to be throwing us a party, a welcoming to their world while knowing this is the best we can do. Finally the party started to break up. Groups would wander off, a few youngsters would jump one last time, then there were only a pair swimming alongside for a minute or two more. Finally they left as well, gently shutting the door to let us know it was all good. We went back to the sail change, flying the big jib behind the stay sail then dropping the stay. Kintala settled down, picked up an extra knot of speed and started to respond to the helm instead of arguing with it.

We are newcomers to this land but I think we are welcome.

The bright light at the top of the picture is the moon


Unknown said...

great news. I was thinking of you last night when I saw the full moon with a clear sky.

So, welcome to Florida, 70 degree days start Thursday, order up just for you.

Unknown said...

I am so happy for you guys, well done indeed and congrats are in order as well.

Wonderful, made my day reading of your success ....

Latitude 43 said...

Welcome to Florida! We sent those Dolphins out to greet you. No, not really, but It's the thought that counts.

Matt said...

Wow cool- nice welcome from the dolphins!
Have you worn 'the patch' before? Be VERY careful with scopolamine patches. Some people will have 0 side effects, others (like me) will experience BIZARRE drug withdrawal after patch removal (for me after 3 patches). Its nothing you want to go through, trust me on that, and could derail your entire trip.

Ben & Terri said...

congratulations, I've been following quietly since you left Carlyle, you didn't need any other distractions. Glad to see you've made it to warmer weather.

Journey said...

We're envious! Stuck in the cold mts of N.C. Loved the dolphin pics. Time to kick back and enjoy a rum and coke!

Ryukyu said...

Nice Green Flash photo!

Pat and Joan said...

Congratulations on the great night sail. Even cooler our the dolphins. We have been to Fernandina several times and love the town. Make sure you go to the ice cream store good homemade ice cream. The ICW to Jacksonville is a nice jaunt. Make sure you stop in at the plantation on the St Georges river. Fun to arrive by water
Pat and Joan.

Unknown said...

Congrats on the making the outside passage down to warmer climes!

NewAcornCottage said...

I am SO SO happy for you. Thank goodness you finally got out of the ICW and into the ocean and on to Florida.
I have been following you for months and it's great to see your progress.
Laura from

Mike M. said...

Congrats!! Another landmark occasion. Love the dolphin photos, too.