Wednesday 14 FEB 2018 – Blackwater Sound, Key Largo, FL
This morning we are adrift. Electronically, I mean. Overnight our internet service has been suspended. I’m sort of to blame for this. Don’t ask. When I call to reconnect I am asked to demonstrate my identity with a passcode I created only two days ago, which now, no matter how hard I press a palm to my forehead, I will not recall. “Can you try…” I dawdle searching for another 4- to 8-digit number combination that might have had a possible numerological relation to my life on Monday. I throw another sequence at the operator. As she’s typing I look down, I see my elbow has some black pen marks scribbled on it. How long have those been there? I wonder, not staying focused. The line clicks back on. “No ma’am, that’s not your passcode either,”
“Oh, okay, bye,” I say reaching an impassable roadblock.
I sit in the cockpit hurrying my coffee when the kid pokes her head up looking cheery. It’s early for her and I know why. “We have to go to land,” I tell her, with a don’t ask-me-yet tone on my face.
“Okay,” she says, and then, after a beat, “Happy Valentine’s Day!” in a sing-songy tone, as she heads back under to get dressed.
“Oh yeah, happy Valentine’s Day,” I brighten.
Yesterday we sailed from Elliott Key through two sounds, two cuts, and a wildlife refuge to get to Blackwater Sound just north of Key Largo. I think the sail was beautiful, but I was occupied with my email, refreshing it approximately every 7 to 8 minutes. I was hoping to receive the results of the lottery for the high school the kid wants to attend next year. The announcements are supposed to arrive in my inbox today. The public school she has picked is small, diverse, and academically excellent. The kid wants to go there in the interest of her education, but so do a lot of kids. They have more applicants than spots this year, so now we wait. The kid wants it bad, and because of this, I also want it bad.
All morning I wait. In the meantime, to try and take my mind off it, I break some world records in Sudoku and crosswords. When I can’t resist anymore, I refresh again. Still nothing. Then, I read something in the paper. Refresh. Nothing. Write something useless in my journal. Refresh. Nada. Where’s my book? And on and on it goes like this for hours, no joke.
At about 2 o’clock we finally anchor the boat, and then I again, blankly, check my email. I turn to Ava, “Man, they are really going to the last possible minute with this announcement.”
She sighs not looking up, “Mom, they said they would send something at 4.”
I check the phone clock. 2:20PM. I check my email again.
At that very minute a gunman entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, one hundred miles away from where we were sitting and, in the eight minutes before I checked my email one more time, murdered 17 people. At the same exact time that I am fucking around crossing my fingers when I hit the refresh button, hoping my kid would get to go to her choice high school next September, fourteen kids and three adults disappear from the face of the earth simply for being in high school.
When we finally hear, we don’t hear. A little after 4PM we get a messy message from the school that, due to some difficulty or other, we will actually receive our admission status later this evening. Frustrated, I temporarily give up my refreshing habit and head to land to a happy hour that features half priced food, which, after eating it, seems overpriced. Dinner is fun anyway as we get to sneak some Olympic figure skating on a silent TV above our heads. Then, just as we are heading back to the boat, I get a call from a friend with whom I chat with for the rest of the evening, helping me further divert my attention.
At 1:46AM this morning I am awake because I operate on a medieval sleeping schedule. I finally get an email from the director of admissions at the school thanking us for our patience. She had been crafting Valentine’s cards with her young daughter for today’s celebration at her school. (Oh yeah, it’s Valentine’s Day, I remind myself to not forget for later.) The email also states that within 15 minutes we will receive the admission results. My internet service gets suspended at 2AM, before I receive anything further.
In the morning, a little after 8AM I am able to reinstate our internet service from land where my identity can be verified via the vast forces of WIFI power. As soon as I can I jump to my email, kicking back into yesterday’s habit. What we finally hear, we hear about Stoneman Douglas High School instead. I read the accounts of yesterday’s horrific shooting and am terror filled.
There is nothing from Ava’s school.
Thursday 15 FEB 2018 – Tarpon Basin, Key Largo, FL
You might be surprised to know that I frequently bite my lip. I actually do. Given how regularly I blurt out an opinion, it might not seem that way, I know. Of course, this morning I didn’t. So, we have a family meeting. “Should we still go to The Bahamas?” Glenn asks as we wait for breakfast orders, my second breakfast of the day. We talk for a while throwing pros against cons. Should we go further faster or remain longer closer? I know what I want. It’s a good talk though, because we all get involved. It’s a talk we should have been having anyway to solidify our plan for the next few months. Together we adjust our route and schedule. The three of us will spend the next few months moving around the Bahamas and Haiti, reducing our distance but increasing our linger. Eliminating our leg to the western Caribbean will give us more time to relax and then to sail back up the east coast leaving the boat in Maine.
Saturday 17 FEB 2018 – Tarpon Basin, Key Largo, FL
It’s here. A day without an easterly wind. It’s blowing from the southeast today, so, we can finally leave. We have been loitering around the nether regions of Florida waiting for a good weather window to open for a long while. Sailing involves much more anticipating and uncertainty than I ever imagined. I used to think we could overcome any conditions, so long it wasn’t a storm or something. I used to think that if we were willing to sail a lot further than necessary by tacking back and forth a lot, we could still get to a destination directly in back of the wind. Here’s what I now know, you can’t always get what you want… in sailing. Sometimes you just cannot get there. Full stop. Sometimes the answer is just no.
I was twenty-eight the first time I heard no for an answer. That’s kind of old, I think. I had torn my ACL during a honeymoon ski accident. It had caused me a lot of pain, but I had had other sports injuries and was therefore not alarmed by the instant weakness. When I got home I saw a sports doctor who was quite young. He inspected my knee and ordered an MRI. When I went in to discuss the diagnosis he told me bluntly that my knee would never be the same. That’s it. There would be no savior surgery. I could do physical therapy and it would help, but the leg I knew was changed forever, weak forever. Now, I have a monster body. It has never not been able to do something I have ordered it to do. This was the first exception. I don’t know why this event chilled me so brutally. Can you imagine the privileged life I have led if this was my first contact with impossible? I am embarrassed now by my incredulity then.
We could have gone months ago. We could have left from Beaufort, North Carolina back in November. That’s where most boats heading south fork down, away from the coast, to ride a winter westerly down to the Bahamian tropics. Leaving from this location takes one through the Gulf Stream, crossing somewhat against its flow, but it’s the shortest, most direct route. The Gulf Steam is a current that flows along the eastern edge of North America from south to north. It can be as wide as 60 miles and as fast as 6mph, at times completely negating the power of the wind. It’s a beast with which one must contend if one wants to escape the United States.
For some time now, our plan, which, it should be said is a common plan – not one we concocted, has been to get south of Bimini, our destination, and then use a favorable wind and northerly flow of the Gulf Stream to project across. Our day starts off with two hitches, though. First, our phones get shut off again (This time, not my fault) and we have to wait until 8AM to reinstate them. This puts us an hour or two behind schedule. Then, the inlet we thought we could use turns out to be too shallow, even for our small draft. So, we have to sail twelve more miles south before we can get to a cut that leads to the ocean. This adds twenty-four miles to the trip.
Once we are out in the ocean we make good northeast progress toward our destination. For a while. Soon though, much sooner than predicted, the wind shifts to the east and we start to get inched to the north. We try and point, we turn on the engine, but it gets increasingly tougher to head east throughout the day. I don’t ask questions, figuring Glenn has a plan. Instead, I go below to rest a bit as it seems we will have to sail the whole night through. At around three o’clock Glenn comes down and says. “It’s not going to happen.” For a minute I try and fathom what he’s telling me. I’m groggy. Oh, to The Bahamas? “We’re not going to make it.” His tone is weird. He’s angry, or sad, maybe. He’s pissed at himself, I come to see.
“Okay,” I say.
He wants to know what I think we should do. I haven’t been paying attention. I know that he would be much better at making the decision in this situation, but his confidence is too low. Together we weigh the conditions, our position. We hatch a new plan and decide to head back to Miami. We will try a different route to the Bahamas. A shorter, more direct, diesel-fueled route.
We arrive back in Miami after 1AM and 87 miles of sailing, which would have been longer than what we needed to get to Bimini, had we been able to get there.
Sunday 18 FEB 2018 – Outside of No Name Harbor, Biscayne Bay, FL
We, sleep in late. When we finally wake up I make a mountain of pancakes and thank god that we still have phone service.
Monday 19 FEB 2018 – Outside of No Name Harbor, Biscayne Bay, FL
The winds are back to blowing hard from the east. Since we are pinned for a bit, we spend the day at the Miami Boat Show, which is quite a spectacle. For one thing, it’s huge. There are boats, mostly power boats, inside four large temporary buildings and there are boats, again mostly power boats, outside in a large bay of water. There are thousands of boats with docks between them for visitation. As live-aboards we like to go see the latest ideas and designs. As non-buyers however, the boat companies don’t really like to see us. We don’t care. We head over to the catamarans. Once in a while we slip and call them “fatamarans,” which cracks the three of us up. None of us has ever been on a catamaran, so we are curious, and doubtful. Glenn takes us to his favorite brand, Outremer, a French performance oriented cruising cat. Of course, I don’t like it. God, who needs all this space? I wonder as I free-range in the salon and galley space. These heads feel like impersonal hotel bathrooms with their fine ceramics and water-wasting showers, I complain to an agreeing Ava. Then on the deck, And, who the heck wants to be so high above the water? You know who? Uh, me. For real. It was beautiful. By the time I admit that I’m smitten, the dealer comes around and tells us this little dreamboat costs about $800K. Oh yeah, that’s right, I hate this boat.
For another thing, this whole little affair takes place in Marina Stadium, a grandstand and water arena constructed in 1963 for boat races and aquatic activities. It’s like a modern day flooded Colosseum. There is a canted seating plinth, which has an independent cantilevered folded plate roof held up by eight leaning columns. All of this made from poured-in-place concrete. The architect was Hilario Candela, a Cuban-born designer who, though not related to Felix Candela, seems to be his design kin. Today, the arena is closed and considered to be greatly in danger for demolition because of the great value of the site. I was very taken with the design of this building and with the amount and quality of the graffiti that now covers it. Once I saw it, I couldn’t look at boats anymore.
Have I mentioned how much I love graffiti? I do. Both as a form of art and a form of free expression, graffiti is one of the most optimistic signs a democratic society is healthy and thriving. Of course it is damaging, but that’s the point. It is a power grab. Coming from a communist country, where people were so oppressed they didn’t dare reveal their opinions (on walls or otherwise) at the risk of imprisonment or worse, I relish and defend every ugly tag I see.
“People say graffiti is ugly, irresponsible and childish… but that’s only if it’s done properly.”
Just a few of the shots from Marina Stadium.