Things are different this time on High ZZ’s. As we moved back to the boat on Tuesday, January 27, a whole new feeling emerged. It wasn’t just the lack of familiarity with boat that two months, almost to the day, living at our Venice house might bring. It wasn’t the mountains of provisions that took four trips with our little Geo Tracker (about as large as the old VW Beatle) to bring to the boat. It wasn’t the fact that, with all those provisions, the new two inch higher waterline we had painted on four months earlier in the Deltaville Boatyard was being severely tested…no, it was something else. Embarking on a totally new adventure, untested waters, the much feared Gulf Stream crossing and on to the Bahamas? (Like being chased by pirates, Above)
One might think that, after cruising down, then up, then down the east coast between the Chesapeake Bay and south Florida, traveling over 3,000 miles, after “rounding the horn” of Florida and cruising on the Gulf Coast (Passing mile post 0 of the Gulf Coast Inter-coastal Waterway below), after a year of figuring out the systems on High ZZ’s and the ways of sailing cruisers for a year, we would feel like “old salts”. But it just did not happen that way. Coastal cruising and cruising to islands in “offshore waters” is just not the same thing. Sure, some 40+ years ago, I did this for the first time, cruising with friends from San Diego to Catalina Island on their 40 ft. motor yacht (and , because of my offshore fishing and marine diesel expertise, I was the first mate/most experience/better/real skipper). And then 25 years ago, I did the same trip to Catalina on our own little 23 ft. Hunter as the Captain, if one can use the word “Captain” on a 23 ft. trailer-sailor. Sure, in my early life, I fished 100+ miles of the coast of California and Baha, too many times to count, passing the near-shore Coronado Islands off Baha California in the pitch black most nights….but none of that counts now. Now this is real! Not the young, fearless, 20/30 something Shep at the peak of physical and mental health, not the Shep that aced advanced calculus and could do set and drift calculations in his sleep, after a heavy night of drinking…no this is now the 60+ Shep who forgets where he set down his keys/sunglasses/pocket knife…this is the Shep who, after two shoulder surgeries, a broken neck, knee surgery… has a hard time cranking in the big genoa in any kind of a breeze, this is the Shep that gets “stuck” trying to wiggle into places in the engine room/bilge that he has to access to work on essential bits… No, this is different, somehow so much more daunting; and yet, it should not be so!
In the past year, we have met cruisers in their 70’s and 80’s who never took advanced calculus; we have met cruisers who, without their chart-plotter telling them where they are, would never know what “set and drift” were; we have met cruisers in 25 ft boats, we have met cruisers in wheelchairs, we have met single mom cruiser with 12-year-old daughter…all coming and going to the Bahamas with, seemingly, relative ease.
As we sit out a cold front in Ft. Myers Beach, waiting for a good weather window to jump to Key West (and enjoying the view of all types of funny watercraft, See below) the tension mounts; yet it shouldn’t. Not tension, not apprehension; maybe excitement and a little bit of well reasoned concern, but if single mom with daughter on a 34 ft, 35-year old boat, can do it…well then so can we!