The majority of the people we meet in our travels spend most of their time in "The Ditch", the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), an inside route along the coast stretching from Texas to Massachusetts. The ICW allows you to avoid the frequently rough weather on "the outside" ocean while working your way along the East coast in a boat. Jamie and I have instead preferred to go outside, practicing our sailing and navigation in preparation for future plans, and getting farther faster thanks to overnight trips, rather than motoring along on the inside watching markers and avoiding shallows. We got our first taste of the ICW yesterday while motoring from Port Royal Landing Marine out through St. Helena Sound. There's certainly much more scenery, which was an enjoyable change, but it also meant considerably more boat traffic, waiting on bridges, and constantly paying attention to avoid shallows. The entire way we debated whether or not we should just stay inside all the way to Charleston, but finally decided that 50 miles in one day wasn't enough so we headed out into the four to six foot swells.
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. 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.
Our month in Key West is almost over, and we're preparing for our trip north. The past few weeks we've gotten out sailing regularly, practicing and gaining confidence with many of the skills that we'll need as we work our way up the coast. Along these lines, we recently made our first overnight sailing trip, heading over to Boca Grande Key and setting our anchor for a change instead of sleeping peacefully attached to a mooring ball. It proved to be a great weekend and a good experience for us.
After visiting with some fellow cruisers bound for Australia, I got curious to research some free NOAA charts they were telling me about online. Sure enough, within a few seconds I was able to dig up a link to both Raster Navigational Charts and Electronic Navigational Charts. I downloaded a few samples, then started searching for software to allow me to use them. Within an hour, I had downloaded hundreds of charts and was playing with OpenCPN, feeling the excitement of browsing thousands of dollars in NOAA charts that I had freely and legally downloaded off the Internet.
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.
We're 70 nautical miles from Key West, mid day on March 13th after running through the night in light winds. It has felt like a long time coming, but we're finally on the move, headed south. The past couple weeks have been a blur of work, both preparing the boat for this trip, as well as trying to wrap things up at my consulting company in order to take this little vacation.
Jamie's friends Jessie and Drew picked an amazing week to visit us in Sarasota. The long cold spell which had been bringing us temperatures in the 30s finally broke and gave way to comfortably warm days in the 70s. The weekend rolled around, and we were greeted with near-perfect weather for our planned weekend sailing trip. Captain Tim returned, and the five of us headed north for an overnight trip, our first that involved anchoring.
Break-Out-Another-Thousand. Evidently we have purchased a hole in the water into which we get to throw all of our money... or so the cliché claims. These are both sayings I've heard plenty of times before, but somehow they feel all the more real when you begin to live it.
There were five of us on our first trip with the Tillicum. Tina and Tim joined Jamie, myself, and our cat, Quixote. Tina graduated with Jamie from the University of St. Augustine. Tim was a captain we hired on the recommendation of our broker, and whom we were all very grateful was along for this trip. He proved himself fully during the day, and we plan to hire him again to help us learn as much as we can during these first few weeks while preparing for our upcoming trip.
We have officially purchased our boat today, with the final paperwork signed. Tomorrow's the big day, we're driving up to St. Petersburg and sailing the boat ~10 hours south to Marina Jacks in Sarasota where we'll be living for the next month and a half. We'll be putting lots of time and energy into learning our new boat, and preparing for a bigger trip south to the Bahamas.