Saturday 09 DEC 2017 – Charleston Harbor, SC
Preparing the boat for departure tonight really means packing away the dinghy. We are fairly adept at this now, and the afternoon’s gray chill makes for faster than usual work. Tonight we work so well together that I consider entering our team into a dinghy dismantling competition.
Back inside the boat I get more interested in our wine-generous neighbors. I open up a browser on my phone and look for information on the SV/Kantala and its owners. They do not have a blog themselves, but I find a good number of encounters with them described by other voyager-bloggers. What I read is very interesting. Michael and Sheila hail from Victoria Island near Vancouver, Canada. Michael was a lawyer (I’m not surprised!) and Sheila a teacher when they worked there. They left on their voyage in 1988. Yep, you read that right, they have been sailing and living on their boat for twenty-nine years! The boat they own, a 44-foot ketch, was built by Michael himself of ferro-cement. It supposedly took him seven years of part-time building to finish. Then they left, and have yet to return to Vancouver. They have been traveling the world, including stays in New Zealand, Australia, Africa, Asia, South America, and the Caribbean as they pursue what they called “the world’s slowest circumnavigation.” As I read about them on the internet, I deliver, out loud, bits to Glenn. He’s impressed. We are both quite sorry to be leaving tomorrow at the crack of dawn (now for two reasons). We would have loved to have met these two folks. I’m sure they have good stories and lots of valuable advice. We kick ourselves for not having made friends sooner when we had the chance.
The thing is, you just don’t know the depth of the person standing next to you… ever. Who are the people you pass on the street/ocean? What if she invented a lifesaving device, or wrote an important manuscript, or would just advance the way you think about something, even something small? When I’m at work I think about this all of the time. At my university there are world level thinkers in many departments. I used to sit in the busy café on State Street preparing morning lectures, wondering if I was sitting among mad geniuses. A few years ago I became obsessed with this thought because of a project my students did. It was an opening assignment where a colleague and I asked out students to perform “urban actions.” One group came up with this idea that they would offer free cups of coffee to passersby in exchange for their story of what brought them to Ann Arbor. They got some good stories. They could have gotten even better stories if they had had more time. If you stay in one place long enough… as the saying goes.
Sunday 10 DEC 2017 – Enroute Charleston, SC to St. Augustine, FL
I creek my eyes open this morning in hesitant trepidation. Glenn has turned on the red light in the galley and is making coffee. Oh no, it’s time, I tell Anca. I look out. I can see my breath. Damn and it’s cold, I groan. I roll over and pull the covers completely over my head. I breathe in the extra warmth, staying under, eyes closed, body curled, extending one last heat surge before I will exit. It’s somewhere around 5:30AM. We have to leave early both because of the length of the passage and to catch the outgoing currents. Without moving any other part of my body, I reach my arm out into the arctic zone and grab the day’s underclothing. Last night, in preparation for this moment, I left them in the nook just outside my room, ironically the very spot we will one day mount a heater. I get dressed with my first layer, completely under the bedcovers: leggings, wool socks, sports bra, and thin fleecey undershirt. Once I’m dressed, there is no other excuse I can come up with for staying under. I’m ready. I pull back the warmth and swing my legs over the side of the opening to our cabin and steel myself for discomfort. It’s not so bad, I think popping out with adrenaline. I can handle this. I quickly jump into my foul weather pants, thump on my boots, don my thin down jacket, hat, hood, neck thing, foul weather coat, second hood, mitts, and… I’m done. Ahhh. Glenn has much less trouble with the cold, but this might be a fluke because I may hate the thought of coldness more than actual coldness.
Glenn signals that we are ready to take off. I step out into the cockpit and pause a moment to marvel at the starry night sky above. Every star in the Milky Way is visible. It is the most lucid sky we have seen after a week under thick lead. The galaxy’s clear visibility lifts my spirit unexpectedly. We lift the main first and then I walk to the bow to crank up the anchor. Soon, I am warm from the rotations my arms make. I crank, always trying to count the number, always losing track. And then we are free. Glenn turns the boat and we’re off. It will only be dark a little while more, a think stripe of orange sky assures us.
When we reach the open ocean and point the boat on course, the wind is in the 10-12kts range from our front starboard quarter. We begin the day by traveling in a close reach at a speed of 5-6kts. Fortunately, it has been blowing from the southwest (from the coast) for days now, so there is no fetch and the sea is providing no other significant swell. Given all of these conditions, our ride will be very civilized. After a bit, I go below to extend my sleep and Glenn carries on in a morning shift. By the time that I reemerge outside, the sun has reemerged too. It’s searing white brightness easily pulls me out of my drowsiness. The sky is a cloudless and infinite blue. And even though it’s still quite cold, I feel balmy and happy. For the next few hours I (wo)man the boat alone, knitting with bare hands, texting messages with a friend far away, and keeping us on course at a fairly good pace. Around noon, however, the wind shifts to more from the front. We slow to under 3kts. Glenn appears disappointed. He knew this change would come, just not this soon. He turns on the motor and declares that it will be a while before we can turn it off again. That’s just fine, I think, absolutely nothing can ruin my mood right now. “Do you want to go back to sleep?” I offer to extend my shift and do.
We motor straight through dinner and Glenn’s entire first watch. Only at 11:30pm, when I come to take over, has the wind returned and we shut off the engine. In fact, it’s quite strong, maybe 20kts, maybe more, that we put two reefs in the main and choke back the jib, as Glenn heads to bed. This set up is perfect and so I set myself up with some podcasts for the ride. The big, bright Milky Way has returned and so I sit in the middle of the companionway, in the middle of the boat, in the middle of the ocean, sailing fast through the stars with stories in my ears. In about an hour I go below and fix myself a chai latte. Before I do, I scan the horizon. There’s a private sailboat, like ours, behind us that has been slowly gaining on us all day. I see their light bobbing, they should pass us on my shift, but not for another hour or more. There’s a fishing boat ahead of us trowling, so we will eventually catch it, but not until daybreak. I verify this ongoing scene on the AIS screen and see nothing else. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything else. At times we have seen fishing boats and markers on the water that don’t appear on the screen, but tonight things look clear, so I head for the galley. I had the forethought this time to make the tea earlier. Warming everything up and foaming the milk takes about ten minutes. I have learned to not get nervous being below for short periods of time. At first I thought someone needed to be watching the seas continuously and I wouldn’t leave the cockpit for even a minute during my watch. Now I can hang out for fifteen minutes or so before I get antsy to take a look around. Many times it could be even longer since it’s boat traffic that is the problem. With my warm mug in hand, I start back up. In an instant I am halted by a very bright headlight off our port side. Oh no, oh no, I think. What is that? It’s so big, its light now sharply entering through the porthole. I set my cup down and scramble up the stairs quickly. What did I miss? Outside, my panic rises, and then just as quickly, subsides as I see now that the giant light was, oh, the moon. Even though it’s only a sliver, it is still quite large and the light it’s emitting is so bright. It is hovering just above the horizon, so it’s easy to mistake it for a nearby ship. Impressed by its supernatural glow, I grab the camera and try to capture it, not taking a single image that accurately could describe the image in front of me.
Monday 11 DEC 2017 – Enroute Charleston, SC to St. Augustine, FL
By the morning the sun is out again warming the cold air. The wind has lessened and is shifting. Our sails are full but the pressure is starting to come from the front. We decide to duck into the ICW a bit earlier than planned just north of Amelia Island, Florida – Oh yeah, we are in Florida! – instead of Jacksonville, to avoid fighting the elements any more than we have to. By early afternoon our motor is on and we are drifting on the Amelia River. This portion of the ICW is such a mixed bag. We pass large industrial sites that appear to be processing raw materials (gravel? sand? uranium? – Google Maps won’t tell me), then open natural preserves full of trees and graceful, white birds, then giant homes packed together each with a dock and indoor swimming pool, then marinas and marine businesses. At one point we even get a playful bunch of jumping dolphins.
We cross into the Clapboard River and start to shed some of our clothes. It’s warming in part because we are further south and in part because the cold snap is dying away. In another day or two the temperatures should be downright balmy, the weather report tells us. That should be good… so long as the clear skies stay too, I cross my fingers. We enter an area called the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve. Here the trees are in the distance, so we can see far across the Floridian flatness with its patches of swampy land made of tall, bushy grasses. Periodically we pass a wading egret and I hope the noise of our motor doesn’t bother them too much. We are not loud, but still I feel our intrusiveness. All species deserve a place unto their own, protected away from me, especially the alligators.
We stop early, earlier than I think Glenn would want, but we are quite tired. In this place because the waters are shallow, we can pull over to the side and drop an anchor just about anywhere. We find a good spot beyond the channel and stop. The last time we were in Florida’s ICW was in the summer and this would be the time, around 4-5pm, for a torrential thunderstorm to roar through. The sky would blacken in a moving band and dump an inch or two of rain in an hour’s storm. At first they were daunting but soon we got to liking them and, because we were typically alone, we started bathing in them. All three of us would strip naked and run out into the warm fresh water, lather our bodies and hair, and rinse off. All the while we would be uproariously laughing at the pleasure of getting clean and, I’m sure also, the thrill of being naked outdoors. In a matter of minutes, we were clean, cool, and in good moods again. Now that it’s winter, it’s dark already and we have only memories and dreams of showers. We put away a few things and seal up the cabin for the night.
Tuesday 12 DEC 2017 – Enroute Charleston, SC to St. Augustine, FL
We rise early as we will have currents to fight today. Our distance of 37 miles would normally take 6-7 hours, but in the end takes 10 because currents and unexpectedly high winds from the south. This leg is a bit of a trial both because of the conditions and because I am anticipating arriving so much. My parents are waiting for us in St. Augustine, where they live. We arrive a little after 4pm. We tie up to a city mooring and then have to wait until 6pm for the launch to come and take us to shore. This is fine as there are a number of preparations to make before getting off the boat since we will be here for two weeks or so.
Wednesday 13 DEC 2017 to Friday 15 DEC 2017 – St. Augustine, FL
These days are a whirlwind of Christmas shopping, grocery shopping, boat repairs (Glenn), cooking/grilling, and hanging out with my parents. The weather is now downright hot.
Saturday 16 DEC 2017 – St. Augustine, FL
Jean comes over today. Yeah, that Jean, the Dancing Machine. She comes in loaded down with gifts for Ava, a big Christmas-y bouquet, and sizable sass, packaged in high-heeled boots and camo jeggings(!!!). We spend the day discussing spirituality, the Jelena reunion, Jerusalem, and retrofit vans. Glenn makes lamb, mom makes potatoes, I make brussel sprouts, dad makes photos, and Ava makes plans. Fun, fun, fun.