We have been blessed to be able to pursue our goal of sailing for a few years in our retirement. While we are still a ways out, it seems as though things might just be working out, if ever so slowly. I know of so many people who have dreams, big or small, that get stuck because of either external or self-imposed restraints. After all, selling everything and buying a sailboat sounds like a pipe dream to the ultimate escape, but in reality pursuing that dream carries a whole lot of opportunity to spend money, solve problems and make plans that inevitably have to be changed. Someone once said that chasing a dream is hard work (oh yeah, that might have been me) and while we've had our fair share of challenges, we are also able to take a top-down look at it and say "well, we're on the coast, and we own a sailboat". That's what we set out to do and here we are. Now it becomes a matter of prayer and planning to see if the fulfilment of the dream can be had in the next three or four or five years.
Our initial 'sail' was about 20 some nautical miles up the Intracoastal waterways. Actually we motored up the whole distance and including the wait times for scheduled drawbridges it took over 5 hours. We figured we would stay in Fort Lauderdale at Cooley's Landing during the summer because a) it was touted as a good spot to be in case we did get severe weather and 2) it was significantly less expensive than a few other locations we'd investigated. But all good things need to take a break and so did our stay in Fort Lauderdale.
Now a cold front in Florida isn't quite the same as one in say ... Wyoming, where the temperature can drop 50 degrees in an hour but still, it had some people excited about the propsects of cooling off from the mid 90's. There was talk at work about the associated thunderstorms and cooling air and the forecast surface winds were going to be fairly stiff at upwards of 25 knots. At first it didn't settle in with me, but finally a light dawned and I asked some questions of our local weather expert about the details of these forecasted winds.
Winds would be right out of the north, meaning that if we could make arrangements to go right after frontal passage we would have brisk weather and a strong tailwind to push us along the coastline toward our destination. We needed to move rather quickly, as suddenly we had a narrow window (2 days) to plan and move instead of the three or four weeks we'd initially conceived. Well, it all came together, we got the time off and packed up to go. We checked out and said a very fond goodbye to the staff at Cooley's Landing marina a the day before we left, went home and planned our trip. Initially I had given consideration to departing after Robin got off work that evening (Sunday). It was my day off, and it would mean that I would pack and prepare the boat and Robin would join me after getting off work at 9:00 P.M. We would sail all night until approaching the entrance to the new harbor and throw out the anchor for a couple of hours waiting for the high tide. The entrance to the harbor is not only narrow but very shallow and since it is a whole new place for us, I did not want to risk running through 4 feet of water when we need four feet eight inches :). An overnight sail is not my favorite idea, as you have to rely a whole lot on GPS and can't see the sights and after being awake all day it makes you very tired, but we were indeed slaves to the tide and we needed to be at the entrance by around 10:30 A.M. in order to have the deepest water. The next high-tide was about 11 hours later, deep into the night again and I did not want to try to negotiate a new channel, new harbor and cement dock late at night. So, that was the plan anyway.
We'd been thinking about moving the boat for several days and were, well, sort of ready to sail. The last minute provisions consisted of food, some blankets and pillows and, as a last minute thought, extra fuel. While I was pretyy confident that we'd have plenty of diesel, the gague hasn't worked since we bought her and I was only estimating what we had in the tank. An extra 5 gallons couldn't hurt. The little two-cylinder engine purrs along nicely and is pretty stingy with fuel. I am sure it isn't as eco-friendly as a model that's 30 years newer, but it sure is nice to have a motor unburdened with oxygen sensors and computer controlled exhaust recirculating to make life a little more difficult if it unexpectedly quits running.
We turned southbound about a mile and a half off shore after opening up some of the front sail (jib) and getting a feel for how hard the wind would be pushing us. After only a few winutes we decidied that the jib alone would be sufficient power for us and we ran downwind at over 6 knots for a while, with speeds as high a 7.8 kts recorded on the GPS. The wind was pushing well indeed!
We traveled along the coastline southbound watching Fort Lauderdale, Dania Beach, Hollywood Beach, North Miami Beach and South Miami Beach slip along our starboard side. We took turns at the helm (the autopilot is inoperative, and enjoyed the view, the ride, the temperature and the breeze. The little boat slipped right along the coastline and we passed the big Miami Port and the inbound channel called "Government Cut" pretty much on schedule and under a beautiful sky.
Robin was having difficulty maintaining a heading as the wind was pushing us around so she got the engine going and got us underway into the the wind again. This was a brilliant move that helped in all aspects. I was holding tightly to the mast dragging the sail down and tying it off while Robin kept us steady on. In retrospect it went well, but we learned a couple of lessons about preparation there and about dealing with 'Small Craft Advisory' winds. "Small Craft Advisories" are just plain fun :)
I had debated making this crossing at night, but as we were doing so well keeping our course, and as the tide was higher than it would be early in the morning, we made the crossing without incident. There were markers on both ends of the channel, and the run was perhaps a mile and a half long, but there is till trepidation in a very narrow channel with very shallow water on both sides. Later on I'll explain why we should've waited but our plan was unfolding well as it was.
We did bring the 5-gallon extra-just-in-case-we-needed-it container and I poured it into the tank. The engine cranked and failed, cranked and failed, then cranked and sputtered, then cranked and ran a couple of seconds then cranked and ran a few more seconds and I almost gave up. Finally it caught and stayed running and we could get underway.
It was then that Robin told me that the anchor hadn't really set and we'd been dragging the whole time. When I looked at the GPS we had drifted to nearly the exact spot that we'd anchored so off we went :).