That is how long it’s been since we “threw the dock lines” and began the adventure called Country Dancer. A year, a week and a day. It has truly been like living the soundtrack of a Christopher Cross song!
So what’s changed in 373 days?
One of the first things I notice, is the new skills and interests. Jodi just came across the cockpit to show me the crop of early morning photos. She has had a few sun rise and sun set cycles to practice on, and there is a blossoming talent for capturing “drama” in the sky. Maybe rather than talent, the correct word is Eye. She hasn’t gone way down the road on learning technical photography, but rather has developed a very keen sense of what make an engaging photograph. And not just sun rises, but people, and landscapes, and things that are just “interesting.”
Another is food. When we left we had heard that cruisers spent a lot of time on food. In the work-a-day world, meals were all pretty much made of the same stuff over and over. It was good, mostly healthy, and varied enough to be interesting, but in the cruising world there is a difference. First there is time. Jodi now spends time almost everyday looking at recipes, or looking at food to come up with interesting new variations to try. Second there are new option, and limits on the old options. Much of what we normally ate at home is simply not available or affordable here. So you try new stuff. And third, there are so many people to share a meal with. The cruising life is much of the time very solitary. Long watches by yourself, and long passages with only Us. When we hit an anchorage, it just seems natural to meet both new and old friends, and share drinks and a meal. Jodi claims that we haven’t had the same meal twice since we left home. Granted, that may mean that this is the first time we have used boxed milk on our Cheerios, but it is a great goal, and I think she is onto something here.
Friends. The word seems to mean something else now. In work-a-day, we seemed to hang out with basically the same groups for extended periods of time. You can get to know people pretty well when you share a sidewalk for a few years. Yet there is something to be said for the “speed dating” pace of making friends out here. It seems at least a couple times a week, we are exchanging “boat cards” with new friends. Some we spend hours and hours with, some just some time around a pool, and some we re-meet over and over again. Yesterday, we were walking a new beach and met two couples with two little girls coming our way. Jodi said, “didn’t we meet you in Rock Sound”. The next five minutes was spent listing off ports of call until we found a pool side “sundowner” in Spanish Wells that we were both at. We then shared our latest adventures, our latest beach treasures, and wished them fair seas until we meet them again somewhere.
Making friends seems to be fairly easy. After all even to be here, we have to have quite a bit in common. The people who do this are cut from a little different cloth, and tend to have strong personalities to match the challenges we face. But names get tough. “Look, isn’t that ‘Hot Chocolate’ standing over by the fountain” is really referring to the couple sailing the boat named “Hot Chocolate”. They are Bill and Sandy…and I am pretty sure they will correct me if I am wrong. We become the name of the boat instead of our given names. It’s just easier for all of us.
And in contrast is the feeling of lonely. Never in my life have I been somewhere that makes me feel so completely alone. The completely empty horizon is 35 miles away so on a typical day we are in a bubble 70 miles across without another living soul. Our only contact with another human has to be by SSB radio, bouncing invisible waves of energy off the ionosphere at the edge of space. If something really bad happens, we better have a solid working plan to save ourselves, ’cause help just isn’t close enough to “help”. Now that’s “alone”.
Another feeling is that of constantly being pursued. Pursued by malevolent weather. As I write this, 50 miles east of Bimini, it is severe clear with hardly even a breeze. We are motoring because it is no fun baking out here with the sails slating back and forth with nothing to even hold them out. And even so, we are running from the weather. It is almost June, the start of hurricane season and we need to be someplace that we can hunker down if needed. At the moment we are in the center of hurricane alley and hundreds of miles and days of traveling before we could be safe. Even “little” weather drives us like sheep from wolves. We must get across the Gulf Stream before the next weather front moves out into the Atlantic. If we move too slowly, we will be faced with seas too large to power into and we will be swept up the coast and even further from safety. 99% of the time we are able to sail in glorious conditions! but every day and every move is controlled by the need to avoid that 1% day of miserable and potentially deadly storms.
Then there is Time, and yes, time changes character when you are sailing. I just pulled in a 6 pound tuna, after trolling a lure since dawn. Thats 6.5 hrs of “fishing” for one little tuna. But so what. We are moving over the same sea at the same speed as if we actually were fishing. But we are cruising, moving through time and space, and the fish is only a momentary sideline. One fish in a whole days isn’t so great, but with cruising time, we went somewhere and got a fish too. Actually, it has taken far more time to clean the blood out of the cockpit than to catch the fish!
We have talked about the other aspects of time before, but a whole year later, it seems more important. Just think, in the last year we could have saved more for our retirement, or I could have built a dozen websites, mowed the lawn 52 times, dug up and replanted a flower bed-twice. But instead we moved over 6000 miles, met hundreds of new friends and saw places that only another cruiser will ever see. Rainy days and overnight passages are still twice as long as work-a-days, but the year went by every bit as fast. I feel good about the shape and character of time now.
Pure Joy. I have lived 60 plus years hoping for the day that I might actually begin to “live the dream.” No other words come close to explaining what it is like to take the wife of your dreams, on the boat of your dreams, and actually set out to live it.
So 373 days later, we are headed back to Seminole. There are things that need attention, so we are going to get a slip, and pay them some Attention. Then ??