Where has summer gone? It seems like only yesterday we were loading up & cleaning the boat in preparation for our Memorial Day departure to the Chesapeake Bay and now we’re spending our evenings pouring over the details for our trip south. When do we leave? What route do we take? Off-shore vs. Intracoastal? Anchorages vs. Marinas? Do we put the dinghy on davits, on deck or do we tow it? How do we stay connected as we move? See, unlike most folks doing this, we still work. We need our internet as we move. There are lots of things to consider and coordinate. Time is not helping us if it continues to play tricks and disappear like a smoke ring.
As we pour over charts and waterway guides, I find myself with more questions than answers. Speaking to fellow dock mates that have done this several times has proven invaluable. They offer off-the-beaten-track anchorages, cheap eats and fuel stops. Tiny pearls of wisdom about currents at dock “x” and unmark hazards by mile marker “y”. But as I take all this in, I’m reminded of a great piece of advice a dear friend once gave me. He said, “Do your own navigation.” And for the last two plus months, I took this literally as it relates to sailing. Just because you see someone cutting through an area doesn’t mean you can cut that area. They may have local knowledge that you aren’t privy to. And just because someone tells you that the current “isn’t really that bad there” or “oh sure, you have plenty of water between that red marker and the bank” doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look for yourself and check your own charts and notes.
Yesterday I had an amazing discussion with a guy I met at the marina. Jeff is from South Africa and one of the most interesting guys I’ve met since we’ve been on this journey. He’s at the dock fitting out his Island Packet and preparing to head to the Bahama’s this fall. We hit it off immediately and talked at length about boats, music, life and work. We spoke over too many cups of coffee about the parting out of our souls as we worked jobs we hated for too long before tossing up a big middle finger to all of it and reclaiming our sanity. We laughed and exchanged the usual banter about our respective “careers”, dreams, boat rehabs, bucket lists and favorite countries. Now, Jeff, looks to be in his mid to late fifties and is extremely intelligent. But… when I spoke to him, it was his enthusiasm for a life “outside the lines” that blew me away. He spoke like a man set free after years of incarceration and wrongly accused. His insights on the different countries he’s lived in were amazing. His love of food, wine and music was pouring out of him. He loves his wife, his boat, Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits. Kindred spirit if ever I met one.
What has this got to do with anything? Well… Jeff grew up in South Africa, lived in England and several other countries around the world. I grew up in Philly. Melody in Little Rock, Arkansas… and we all ended up in this little town of Rock Hall, MD. Each navigated our vessels and our lives in such a way to end up here. We’ve all heard what we should do. We’ve done things we should never have done and despite storms, groundings and countless false starts, we’ve arrived. We’re all safe. We’re all happy and we all perceive ourselves to be more sane than we’ve been in a long, long time.
So… as our time here comes to an end and we prepare to head south, I’ll listen to my dock mates. I’ll take endless notes and map out my route several times. I’ll second guess my decisions and then ask more questions. But in the end, come September 22, we’ll bid our fair friends adieu, toss off our dock lines and turn south down the Bay. We’ll sail conservatively towards the next phase of our journey, all the while consulting our charts and navigating as we have thus far… on our own.