Exploring the Eastern Seaboard

img_4659.jpg Life on the sailboat seems to move at a difference pace than life on shore. Days often feel like weeks, and now as I try to remember details from the past month I have to wonder if some of this happened a lifetime ago. img_4702.jpg Sailing through the night on the open sea, rocking in the endless ocean swell under the moon and stars is a different perspective on life, offering plenty of time for reflection and introspection. Around the clock shifts make for a tiring lifestyle, yet proves also to be a rewarding experience that hopefully will allow us to still make some considerable distance up the Eastern seaboard, away from Florida and onto somewhere new where we'll settle down for a few months and save up some funds.

img_4718.jpg On the trip north from the Keys we anchored a couple of times, and I quickly decided that I was not a fan of our 33 pound Bruce anchor. While the water was still warm, I jumped in each night to dive the anchor and see how it was setting, learning quite a bit about how the anchor actually works, and helping me to set it better in the future. img_4729.jpg Jamie and I did considerable research, and when in St. Augustine we were pleased to find a used 44 pound Delta which is now our primary anchor. We still have our 33 pound Dansforth, and a similarly sized Fisherman's anchor to allow us good holding in a variety of bottoms.

img_4757.jpg Leaving the Keys and reaching South Florida felt like quite an accomplishment. Ironic in that much of the 7 years I lived in Ft. Lauderdale I dreamt of getting away, but the dream nearly always involved escaping on a sailboat, so returning in this way somehow felt right. At this point we were still doing one day jumps, so we stopped at Key Biscayne and anchored outside of No Name Harbor which was far too full of boats to seem like a good place to anchor inside. img_4787.jpg I was excited when Mayte, a friend whom I worked with at Cyberguard in Ft. Lauderdale, and her husband Gonzalo, made time to visit us, treating us to sushi on the island and catching up on the many years gone by. The next day Gonzalo managed to join us for the trip to Ft. Lauderdale, a welcome crew member and proving how helpful another hand can be.

img_4793.jpg I had been looking forward to sailing into Ft. Lauderdale, it being my home for so many years previously. Sailing into the intracoastal waterway along the many million dollar homes was an experience, img_4885.jpg but the busy city quickly felt oppressive compared to the peaceful anchorages we'd found south of there. It was great to visit with some old friends and show off our boat, but I felt a strong pull to get back on the water as quickly as possible.

img_4860.jpg From Ft. Lauderdale we decided to make up for lost time and sail through the night. The first day we cruised along at an impressive 8 and a half knots, surely riding the edge of the Gulf Stream as the winds were light and the seas were small. After the sun set the winds picked up, img_4821.jpg providing more excitement and speed than we'd intended and teaching me that forecasts really are just a best guess, complicated by traveling long distances. Fortunately while stronger than we expected, the winds weren't too strong and the seas weren't too big, so by the time the sun rose we were still feeling confident.

img_4908.jpg I had the sunrise shift, and was rather shocked to spot a submarine off of Cape Canaveral. It rang a bell when it surfaced, attracting my attention, and then started charging right towards us. Eventually it veered off and headed toward Cape Canaveral, disappearing in the distance.

img_4935.jpg The second night we came across a couple of smaller sailboats cruising together, with the same plan of heading through the night. I confess to being a little annoyed that they were making better time than us with their spinnakers (perhaps they were using different wind?), but they veered further out to sea and we fired up the engine, pushing on as the winds died and the seas calmed. On the morning of our third day at sea, the ocean was completely flat and there were no winds, but we proudly img_4959.jpg found St. Augustine right where we expected it. We tied up to the city marina, rented a car, and drove across to our storage unit and post office box in Old Town. Back in St. Augustine we enjoyed Miramar's home port and our old home town for five days, visiting with old friends, visiting favorite restaurants, and trying to catch up on rest.

img_4974.jpg Our final night in St. Augustine was spent on anchor in front of the old, picturesque fort, proving our new Delta as the aggressive tides changed 3 times and we didn't drag an inch. Our friends Bob and Toni, the makers of all the pottery on our boat, decided to join us for the intended trip to Charleston in South Carolina. Unfortunately, however, a large swell had blown up during the time we lounged around in the old city, starting at 4-6, and building another foot or so as we left Florida behind. Bob laid low in the cockpit for much of the first 24 hours feeling a bit queasy, while the rest of us also tried to move around as little as possible to avoid getting overly bruised.

img_5000.jpg Due to the rougher conditions, Jamie and I decided to cut our shifts short, switching from our normal four hour shifts to more attainable two hour shifts. This proved to be a good decision, and is likely what we'll do going forward, even in calmer conditions. By morning it was clear that the winds weren't going to get us to Charleston by night fall, and with a gale force storm approaching from the north we had no desire to spend a second night on the ocean. We headed East, settling on Beaufort, South Carolina. This day also ended my long dry spell as a want-to-be-fisherman when I landed a 15 pound Little Tunny. Minutes after returning the lure to the water, a second, smaller Tunny struck. So we enjoyed Tunny for the next three meals, a very tasty fish once you cut out the blood line along the backbone.

img_5003.jpg Bob and Toni stayed with us one more night, during which the storm hit. I woke up in the dark and thought that we were out sailing as the boat was bouncing around something fierce. I got up and checked all the lines and made sure everything was lashed down on deck before heading back below and sinking into an uneasy, dreamy sleep. We spent much of the day calling around until we found a rental car place in Hilton Head willing to rent a one way car back to St. Augustine, and bid farewell to our friends.

img_5005.jpg The rest of the week I spent catching up with work, which is primarily what I do when I have a little free time. I confess that I'd much prefer being able to just kick back and relax, reading and inventing creative new rum drinks rather than spending all these long hours on the boat sitting behind my computer. On the other hand, it is the ability to work from anywhere that has made this trip possible, so I'll keep my complaints to a minimum.

img_5007.jpg Tonight we poured over the charts, trying to plan our next week. We'll be staying on the intra coastal for the next 15 miles or so to St. Helena Sound where we'll head outside again. It's supposed to be blowing and ideal 10 to 15, with 4 to 6 foot seas for the next two days. Ideally we'll stay outside for three full days and two nights, reaching Cape Lookout and Beaufort, North Carolina by the end of this three day weekend. Of course, if the seas tire us out, or the conditions don't hold true to the forecast, there are plenty of places for us to slip back inside if we need to. My choice would be Murrells Inlet if we have to take a break, as it looks like we could quickly slip in for one night and easily get back outside the following day.

img_5021.jpg From Cape Lookout we are most likely going to stay inside and follow the ditch north to Virginia. Several people have warned us that Cape Hatteras can be treacherous and unpredictable. And it's a long stretch of coastline without any where to get out of the weather if we needed to. That said, the winds are supposed to slow down over the next week, and the seas are supposed to mellow out, so we'll decide for sure what we're doing when we get there.

img_5027.jpg Any way you look at it, there's a lot of coastline between us and where we intend to end up. Our goal of Maine sometime in June is looking more and more improbable, and now we're talking about settling down in Connecticut instead, though even that still looks to be a long ways away. At this point, I'm wondering if instead we'll find ourselves staying in Chesapeake Bay this summer. From what we hear from the many interesting people we've met during this trip, it wouldn't be a bad place to end up. But that's the future, and for the next few days we'll be more focused on the present, from Beaufort to Beaufort, or wherever we drop our anchor.