Thursday, April 6, 2017


After a week of enjoying being still and protected in No Name Harbor, the calendar kind of insisted that we get a move on. As is normal, weather is the issue. (Sailboats, as a new friend put it, are the most unreliable source of transportation the world has ever known.) We need to go south, the winds and waves have been coming from that direction for days. But it looked like Tuesday would be an okay day to give it a try, right up until I did a last minute check of the weather Tuesday morning. The Ding was aboard, the deck was set, the engine checks done; but the waves were running just shy of 4 feet on a 4 second period, and there would be 20 knots worth of wind directly on the bow.
No thank you.

No Name Harbor at sunset

The day passed with occasional frets about the passing of time, though I was secretly pleased to spend another day. No Name, though not for everybody, is high on my list of places I have enjoyed since we headed out. If Biscayne Bay is our American home, then No Name Harbor is my lounge chair sitting in front of the fireplace.

The next morning we were up at dawn to stop by the pump-out, fill the water, and be on our way before 0800 to make Rodriguez Key before the sun went down. At first it didn't look too promising. Leaving the bay we were wind against tide, the surging rollers washing over the bow and slowing us to less than 2 knots. (It is a good, if somewhat scary, way to wash all the mud off the anchor.) It took more than an hour just to gain enough room off the coast to make the turn southward. When we did, things picked up a little. Though we still needed the Beast, there was just enough angle on the wind to fill the reefed main and stay sail, making for enough speed that, at least, it looked like we would make Rodriguez before midnight.

The Hawk Channel is not quite the turquoise of Bahamian water, but still good on the eyes

Later, though not in the forecast, the winds picked up more and soon we were making good speed, helped by the waves tamping down a bit as we entered the Hawk Channel. Still, it was a long, hard day of motor bashing, the decks often awash with spray making its way to the dodger and bimini. I was glad to pitch the hook over the side just after 1700. I was really dragging. Dinner and a shower were done by 1830, by 1900 I was in the v-berth, where I slept for most of the next 13 hours.

We were going to try for Boot Key today, but an 0500 look at the weather wasn't promising. Wind and waves would be more brisk, and still directly on the bow. So much so, that it would be unlikely we could make anything more than 2 to 3 knots, even with the Beast thumping along. At that point we decided that moving to the other side of Rodriguez would be the only movement today. There we will wait for the cold front to pass, and hope to ride a north wind to Boot Key tomorrow. I went back to bed.

Sunset at Rodriguez Key

So we are listening to the wind blow and trying to decide on the proper time to relocate. Most of the boats that were around last night have gone, all north bound. (They will make Biscayne Bay easy today.) A couple of other boats have joined us, and two remain from last night.

We were hoping those two would leave. I missed the show, but they scared Deb. The crews came in from shore drunk and belligerent, shouting at each other, falling overboard, and puking over the sides of the boat. For some reason they also saw fit to scream racial slurs and ignorance into the night at the top of their lungs. At one point Deb was afraid that the woman on board was in real trouble, the noise and abuse to the point where she thought about calling the police. But this is Florida, and I will bet you a good cup of coffee both those boats have guns on board. Armed nut cases are an American staple, one best left to self-destruct without interference. So far today, there hasn't been any activity on either boat, and I will be happy if it stays that way.

So here we sit, struggling a bit because we “have” to get someplace by a certain time. Sailboats are simply not designed to do that, yet we haven't figured out how to make the cruising life work without those deadlines. Family can't be ignored, nor can the cruising kitty. It is best to be someplace else when the hurricanes come to visit, or at least be in a place where one can leave the boat and run, run away. (Insurance paid up, of course.)

Four years in, and we are still trying to figure out how to balance out the competing needs to not have to be somewhere, and having to be somewhere anyway. So the path to Tampa Bay is uncertain. Learning to live with that uncertainty has become my biggest challenge to living this way. Pilots live with alternates, but at least they know what those alternates are. Sailors, in a way, just live. What the day will bring is nothing short of a guess. Sometimes, what the next couple of hours will bring is the biggest guess of all.

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