Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Full Circle

“Full Circle”, “Close the Loop”, “Coming Back Around” …  whatever the term, there is a certain satisfaction to the process of coming back to where it all started.

On Saturday, November 15th, 2014 at around 2:00 PM Atlantic Standard Time Robin and I sat at a small café and clinked together two Coronas with lime.  The café, a small cantina adjacent to the Village Cay Marina, was where it all started.  Over 9 years ago Robin and I sat at the exact same table, overlooking the marina and watched a grand sight as a rather large, blue hulled sailboat found and backed into her slip. With the help of her bow thruster the captain made it look easy and elegant.  That was a trigger for the comments between us that eventually found us pursuing a dream to do the same thing.  That day was April 23rd, 2005.

This day, we had arrived by taxi. Our own sailboat happily docked at Nanny Cay Marina some 6 miles south, two days after we had just accomplished an Atlantic crossing of some 1,500 nautical miles to reach our destination.  The story of the preparations, trials, setbacks and exciting successes are laid out in the previous pages of this blog. It has been quite a road and when Robin and I clinked bottles together in remembrance of the first time we did the same thing at this location, all I could think of to say as a toast was “God is good”. It meant so very much to both of us to share that moment.  It was hard not to cry, emotions being high after such a long and hard fought chase for this dream. 

Now, we are here. Sailing our own boat among the British Virgin Islands for the time being and in a situation where we really, truly have no bounds as far as future exploration and adventure is concerned.

We are soon to have fewer ties to land. The house in Longmont may well be sold next Spring, the truck and RV are in storage, with for sale signs on them and the motorcycle was sold back in July. That’ll leave us with a Toyota pickup as our only land based asset. We think we will hang on to it for the time being as is would be handy to have the ability to drive when we get back to the states.  Having said that, there is a case to be made for not making insurance payments on a vehicle that we don’t use … but there’s also a case to be made for keeping insurance in effect on something, anything … if you let all insurances lapse, it can be difficult to get insured again.

But, I digress … SO, we sat at that cantina, sipping on a Corona, and trying to recapture all the events that led us here. It has been a truly amazing journey.

It’s always fun to dream about stuff.  To toss around the ‘Someday Isle” visions and ‘wouldn’t it be fun if…” talks.  Our talks weren’t all that serious right off the bat, but it really didn’t take long to realize that to dream about stuff like that was one thing and to plan for it quite another. We had some big decisions to make and the very cool, amazing and wonderful part of it all was that it was totally safe to have wild-eyed dreams and to experience the freedom of to share those dreams Robin in a supportive and likeminded relationship.

The very first thing we needed to discover was whether or not we even liked sailing.  We signed up for a basic sailing class (ASA 101, Basic Keelboat) in Lyons, CO of all places.  The classes were at the “Anchorage” in Lyons and the sailing days were in Carter Lake aboard a 24’ Santana sailboat that had obviously seen its fair share of hard use and tough winters. Nonetheless … it was fun and while the winds on Carter Lake are cantankerous I think we both got the basic idea that the boat can go where the wind will let you and we learned a little bit about reading the water and waves to find wind. Oh, and how to tie a Bowline.  You must know how to tie a Bowline.

We rented that same boat for a couple of outings, just to practice up and then life and work and planning and other worldly stuff intervened for a few months. Still, we talked about it and kept the dream alive.

Then, it was crunch time …  we kept making plans, scheming schemes and drawing up our hopes for what could be. But it came time to make some decisions that would set things into motion toward those dreams and that’s where it usually gets scary because it means you are going to roll the dice and give up some of the nice, cozy security you think you have.  It also means you go public; it was time to let others know what we were thinking about.  This carries its own risk and reward opportunity, but it makes the whole thing ‘real’ instead of a wish.  The more people we told about it, the more it became real to us as well.  Now, it was a plan more than a dream.  We had few specifics yet, but it was still a real, honest goal that we would push toward.

A few observations:  1: It is very, very easy to convince yourself that your goal is unrealistic, impossible, irresponsible or a hundred other things that make you want to turn back to your ‘secure’ routine. 2:  Friends and family are awesome!  Without exception we found two polar opposites with nothing in the middle. Those opposites were a> “You’re crazy” and b> “I’ve always wanted to do that.” It was still pretty amazing to be able to share the dream. It also makes it a bit easier to make commitments toward that dream if other people know what you are chasing. 3: Chasing a dream is hard. Very hard.  It takes a lot out of you, gets frustrating and it seems like there is a new obstacle at every turn designed just to thwart your success.  I am certain, for instance, that the financial meltdown in 2008 was custom crafted to set us back so far that we’d never recover. 4:  You will never be ready.  We’ve heard it time and time again from nearly every source imaginable and it’s true.  If you wait till all the affairs are in perfect order, you will never, ever get to your goal. You simply have to have some faith that things outside of your control will fall into place and ultimately it’s going to work out.  If you succeed then good on you, if you fail miserably it is still better than not trying.  We were going to try for this one.

We took two advanced sailing courses in Florida; Coastal Cruising and Bareboat Chartering (ASA 103, ASA104). With those two tickets in hand, one can go pretty much anywhere and rent (charter) a sailboat after a check-out ride.  We did that.  We chartered in Seattle and Marina Del Rey and in the British Virgin Islands. All amazing and fun times. It was a bit cumbersome trying to find good sailing experiences though. Sailing in Carter Lake was not really a long term option because it was basically around in circles with silly winds. Sailing on the ocean was tons of fun, and what we wanted to learn how to do, but it always involved airfare, hotel, rental car, restaurants and boat rental. Not very efficient from several respects. So we decided we needed to move and be near the water. We looked all over Colorado and could not find an ocean so it meant a really big move. 

We considered all four corners; Seattle, San Diego, Miami, and Northeast US (maybe Connecticut).  Seattle was cold, San Diego was too pricey and we couldn’t really come to grips with the Northeast US just yet so we set our sights on Miami and when the opportunity was provided moved there.

It was a huge step toward the dream. We were pretty much all in now. The houses were rented, we purchased and moved into the RV, towed across the country, learned the new jobs and bought our first boat to learn on.  Now it was more than just a dream; we had made significant life changes, invested heavily financially and were pretty much running forward as fast as we could. Some people thought we were crazy, some people said “I’ve always wanted to do that.” 

We put our goals on the calendar.  Now … it was a deadline, not a dream.  Instead of saying “someday I’ll do this..” it was “Oh man, I only have this much time to get ready because I have to do this.” Maybe not as romantic, but it changes the whole perspective and kind of gives you permission to take actions, brave actions, to get where you want.  That’s very different from waiting for things to come together. Now, we were doing things with a singular focus. The trials and hurdles (and there were many!) were now part of the things to be dealt with because we were chasing our dream and we pushed through (most of) them with that mindset. 

We shopped for boats way before we could possibly afford one, we looked and listened and read and watched videos and became as in-tune what the future might look like as we could.  We learned what we wanted and what we didn’t, all the while keeping our drop-dead calendar date in mind.

Of course, some setbacks were pretty big, and it was disappointing when we had to slip out deadline out 2 more years but, as I mentioned, the crash of 2008 was particularly rough.  We needed a bit more time to recover and move forward sanely.

From 2009 to 2013 we worked on putting things in order.  Finances, of course, were the biggest challenge.  In October, 2013 Robin got to retire while I stayed at work until the financial situation stabilized.  In January 2014 we first saw the boat we would eventually own and in March we took delivery.  I retired in April, we moved aboard in May and did our first sailing of significance in June. 

Finally, on Oct 23rd, we sailed from the Annapolis, MD area to Portsmouth, VA to stage for the Caribbean 1500 rally to Tortola.  We departed on Nov 3rd at noon. It took 11 days, 7 hours, 20 minutes to get to the dock at Nanny Cay.  We secured the boat and on the next day did what we could to clean and recover the boat from the voyage.

Saturday, we caught a cab.