I awoke this morning at dawn, snuggled in my Captain’s arms, and lay quietly listening for some sound of recognition. It always takes a moment when we are on a journey and going to sleep somewhere different each night. Are we under way? In a port or harbor? At a dock or at anchor? Wind screaming through the roller furling masts, or sighing through the rigging? Waves crashing or gently lapping against the hull? Weather forecast calm or foreboding?
I heard the human like screech of a Blue Heron. And slowly the lovely realization washed over me….we were safely secured to our dock at our winter port of Fort Myers Beach. I whispered to Gary “Baby, the boat has been delivered!” and we pulled each other close in a celebratory hug.
Back in 2008, we were self-proclaimed live aboard cruisers, but Don Dunn requalified us as Boat Deliverers. When we departed Port Clinton that September five years ago, we were not just following the winds and our dreams. Gary had a Captain’s job waiting for him in Miami, and with Don’s help, we delivered Tessa to our mooring ball in Key Biscayne, ready to report for duty.
Since then, our cruising life has been a series of boat deliveries. From Key Biscayne back to Put-In-Bay, for Gary’s position at West Marine and mine at the Put-In-Bay Winery. Then PIB back to Fort Myers Beach and jobs at West Marine and the Nauti Turtle Restaurant. Then back to PIB for both of us to join our friends David and Jessie Hill in opening and operating the Topsy Turvey Island Grill at the Wharfside for the last two summer seasons.
We have become seasoned “Loopers” with very specific, experienced advice to the newbies. “Never have a deadline. It will always get you in trouble.” And that it has done for us, every single time we try to nudge Mother Nature and Murphy’s Law along! Throughout our entire five years of looping and cruising, we have neglected to heed our own sage words of wisdom and have paid the price, all in the name of an agenda.
This trip south was an exception. We let Mother Nature call the shots and were rewarded with a beautiful journey filled with many new cruising memories.
The best part of the trip was having Chas with us to St. Augustine. There is always a void on Tessa when he departs, but we persevered down the Intracoastal to Daytona Beach and Halifax Harbor. We docked next to two large power yachts who had earlier teased us on the radio about being a slow moving sail boat. When they pulled into the nearby slip, I told the cocky New Jersey Captain that they didn’t sound like just a bunch of guys with short sticks on the VHF. Our dock neighbor on a sailboat next to us ducked down below his companionway stating “Oh boy this could get ugly!”
The next evening we took a dock at the Titusville Municipal Marina, with a great waterfront Tiki Bar within walking distance. We left there at dawn to make fast tracks to blow by Vero Beach and the horrible memories of no-see-ums associated with that anchorage. That night we made it to Fort Pierce City Marina which has become a favorite stop. Great ship store, great people, and a GREAT Tiki Bar. Gary had to drag me away the next morning, with intentions of making it to the Lake Worth Inlet to position for an outside passage. Here we docked at Riviera Beach Marina with….another great Tiki Bar! Oh how we love Tiki Bars after long, tedious navigating days on the Intracoastal!
We were surprised, relieved, and so thankful that the weather cooperated for the ocean passage down to Port Everglades and Fort Lauderdale. We listened to other cruisers radioing bridge after bridge (all seventeen of them!) on the Intracoastal and rejoiced that we had smooth sailing out on the Atlantic. Dare we begin to believe that this trip may continue to be ENJOYABLE and COMFORTABLE???
We anchored in Lake Sylvia nearby the Bahia Mar Marina in the heart of the Fort Lauderdale Intracoastal, where we had plans to meet up with David and Jeannie, friends made while working at Topsy Turvey’s Island Grill. Spent a very pleasant evening visiting with them on Tessa in this very well protected anchorage.
Next port - Dinner Key Marina in Miami, where we docked next to our friends Angie and Ed aboard their motor yacht Sanctuary. We shared a wonderful evening and meal and caught up with each other’s lives since we were together last winter. This dock was way to rich for our cruising kitty, the highest dockage we have ever paid, so we developed Plan B. There is a beautiful, completely protected anchorage called No Name Harbor at the tip of Key Biscayne. Here, we decided, we could comfortably wait out the high winds and waves out in Hawks Channel.
This part of the trip was simply idyllic. Tessa relaxed in the beautiful turquoise harbor while Gary and I accomplished numerous boat chores left unattended while under way. Gary, who is never comfortable at anchor, exclaimed “I could LIVE here!” We took long walks into Key Biscayne village, reminiscing of the winter spent here in 2008. Never have we so enjoyed being weathered in!
Three days later, the party was over, and it was time to continue the journey south to Marathon. We intended to anchor at twilight and rest up for the last leg of the trip to Fort Myers. Late that afternoon we checked the weather and saw big bad winds out of the north forecast for the following evening, and the next three days after. “Nooooo” I moaned. “We do not want to spend four days, and four hundred dollars for a dock in Marathon! We need to get HOME!”
“We could just keep going overnight and be home before the front comes through” Gary tentatively suggested, acutely aware of my disdain of overnighters. It was a beautiful calm evening. We were on the home stretch. “OK, let’s get this over with!” I agreed. We have never made a better call.
The star filled sky looked amazingly unnatural, like a Planetarium visited on a high school field trip. Gary pointed out lights that appeared to be underneath the glass like surface of the water, following along beside us. “What are they?” I whispered. “It’s the reflection of the stars on the water” he softly answered, and we both were simply awestruck, and so very, very grateful for the beauty of this last unforgettable night of our long journey home.