Any Way The Wind Blows

DSC00890.JPG We're still finding the rhythm of our new mobile life aboard the Miramar. We left Sarasota bound for the Bahamas, and yet a week later here we are still in Key West, floating in a bay on the northern side of the island, hanging from a mooring ball. When the time came that we had planned to cross the gulf stream, a front slowly crossed bringing strengthening winds from the north. As the gulf stream flows to the north, we have been told that when winds come out of the north they collide with the strong current and build up some impressively large and treacherous waves. So we wait and practice our skills here in Key West, getting out as often as we can, getting better at sailing and docking and anchoring and maintaining our boat.

img_4026.jpg According to the forecast, the winds should finally swing back around from the South by the end of the week, but by that point our friend, instructor, and partner in crime will be headed back up north in his new Triumph, off on his next adventure until he gets back to his life in Sitka, Alaska. As fun as it would be to get to the Bahamas, Jamie and I realize that by ourselves we're still boating neophytes and thus are changing our plans and will instead explore the area around Key West for the next month or so. Our first adventure of any distance is likely to be Boca Grande, due west of here. And once we've safely accomplished that, proving our navigation, sailing, and anchoring skills, then we may take a longer trip west to Garden Key in the Dry Tortugas.

img_3768.jpg Jamie seems to be enjoying life aboard, and is eager to prove herself in all conditions and tasks. Last week she volunteered to climb to the top of the mast and be lowered down the aft stay to fix a block and properly secure the man overboard pole. She's learning how to read the water, as well as how to read charts and to navigate with the GPS. She's gained judgment on reading the wind, and approaching docks, mooring balls and other boats at a safe angle and speed. She's pulled middle of the night shifts alone in the cockpit, happily steering by moonlight. She's learned to tie a boat securely to a cleat, and to make lines and attach halyards and sheets. And she's adapting to the cramped quarters, taking a pride in how our boat looks and cooking fantastic dinners with minimal complaints about not having ready access to a coffee shop. We're both on a steep learning curve at this point, but I'm quite proud to be learning along side with her, sharing this amazing experience.

img_3691.jpg The other permanent member of our flotilla, Quixote, seems somewhat nonchalant about his new life. He has accepted the fact that the ground below his feet moves often without warning, and carefully divides his time between sleeping, grooming himself, eating, and chasing lines blowing in the wind on deck. He has an uncanny sense of balance, or perhaps he's simply unbelievably lucky, sprinting madly the 37 feet from the bow to the stern at top speed and leaping up and out to the narrow 2x4 hanging across our davits, then lifting a paw and calmly cleaning himself from what seems to us bipeds to be a precarious perch. His fur does seem to get into everything, and his daily bowel movement is non-too-pleasant for the rest of us sharing his air space, but on the whole he's proving to be an excellent and entertaining companion on the boat.

img_4039.jpg The cruising life aboard a sailboat is in theory quite affordable. I suspect there could be truth to this somewhere, but that's not proven to be as true as we might have hoped while we're working overtime just getting everything into a working state. If we chose to tie our boat up to a marina in Key West, we're looking at spending over $100 a night for the privilege, which includes the ability to plug our boat into shore power, to refill our water tanks, and easy access to showers and laundry. We have instead decided to tie our boat to a mooring ball, leaving us 30 minutes away from all of these things using our little dinghy.

DSC00869.JPG Our dinghy is a small, 8 foot inflatable boat. It has a couple of cheap oars, but we've yet to find a second oar lock that fits our boat in the countless marine stores we've visited. Thus, its only real form of propulsion is the electric outboard with its forty pounds of thrust. I still have mixed emotions about our dinghy setup. We purchased a small gel cell marine battery with only 55 amp hours of life as I wanted something that Jamie could lift with minimal hassle, and our outboard consumes 40 amps an hour when running at full speed. This gives us around 1 hour of battery life between chargers, an event that either requires us to be connected to shore power, or to run our engine for over an hour. With town being about 25 minutes away from our mooring ball, clearly we'll be running our engine each day we make the trip.

DSC00921.JPG There are a few ways we could improve this experience. It would certainly be helpful to have solar and wind power, so that all of our batteries are kept topped off without having to start the engine each day. It would also be nice to replace our inflatable with a hard bottomed boat which would move easier through the water. We're thinking about an 8' Walker Bay with a sail kit, as then we could sail, row, or use our electric engine to easily get around. But back to that concept of trying to live aboard cheaply, it's unlikely that this will be happening any time soon.

DSC00836.JPG It's the end of March now, and we've pre-paid our mooring ball for a complete month. This gives us a few weeks to gain experience and confidence with our boat. Toward the end of April, we'll have to decide what happens next. At some point we'll start our trip northward, through the Keys, past Miami and Fort Lauderdale, and up to St. Augustine, Miramar's home port. By the end of May, we hope that Bill will be able to return, at which time we intend to take a straight shot to Maine where we'll be settling down for some months, making money and planning our next big adventure, all the while continuing to learn. One of these days I hope to be able quote Freddie Mercury with honesty, "any way the wind blows, doesn't really matter to me."

2 comments on Any Way The Wind Blows

  1. mattyboy4u
    Fri, 03/27/2009 - 21:59

    Well thinking of my sister years ago (2 hour showers, always late, and extremely hard to get motivated :P) its finally nice to see her living a lifestyle known by all, but lived by not so many :). Excellent work you 2 and keep it up. I am glad to see that Jamie has finally "transformed" into something that most of the family has either seen as exotic or luxurious. BUT, (and I shall repeat myself on this one for the emphasis) BUT I will be waiting for my trip on the boat in the next 10 years! :). And as I told Jamie, while listening to her complaining about the long hours of studying and school, keep it up and don't fail us now LoL. It is great to see a life well lived through the eyes of someone so close. Anyways, take care and happy sailing!

    -Your brother (and only brother at that!)


  2. alaskamarge's picture
    Tue, 03/24/2009 - 19:04

    It is so much fun to read about your adventures and learning experiences. The pictures have been so beautiful we almost feel that we are right there with you. This mom is glad that you are wearing your life jackets. Keep safe and have a wonderful time. MOM