06/04/2016/12:10 pm, Riverside Marina, Ft. Pierce, Florida
The end of a sailing season is always bittersweet, and this one has extra layers of seasoning. We left a place we love and ended up over 1000 nautical miles northeast - on the way back to another place we love.
We didn't plan it that way - at least not at first. Yes, each individual move was planned - there were no accidents - but the plans evolved from week to week. We changed directions according to our gut feelings, and we changed our timing according to the weather (with backup from our gut feelings).
In November, we were going south. In December, we were going a wee bit north, but only for a while. In January we were hurrying north. In February we were lingering. In March we were saying, "This is enough for now - let's go home." We never did say a proper good-bye to our dear friends in Rio Dulce. We didn't anchor and play among the cays and reefs of Belize one last time on our way through. We relied on our own company far more than usual; we swam less and we sailed less. And in the end, we didn't get as far north as we had thought we would.
We experienced our worst passage ever and survived without mishap. We experienced our slowest passage ever, and survived that one too. We forced ourselves to adjust to a "hurry up ... and wait" pattern. We benefited from excellent mechanical and refrigeration experts in Rio Dulce, excellent medical care in Isla Mujeres, and excellent haul-out crew at a new-to-us boatyard in Florida. We didn't encounter a single cranky or unhelpful customs and immigration official in Guatemala, Belize, Mexico or the USA. We spent waaaay more time on a dock than in any other year - and chalked it up to reasonable use of the cruising kitty. We visited only 4 new anchorages this year, had 2 great land trips, 5 overnight passages.
We didn't run out of propane in the middle of a meal, or before the morning coffee was made. We didn't lose any boat poles or fenders - just one jacket and a phone. We did lose weight! We dragged a few times despite the new Manson Supreme anchor, but we didn't hit anyone or go aground. We still don't like re-anchoring in the middle of the night. Our most spectacular day of sailing was near the end of the trip - from Key West to Marathon. Our worst was from San Pedro to Isla Mujeres.
We loved spending the prelaunch weeks with fellow cruising friends at Tortugal Marina in Rio Dulce, and the Christmas season with old friends in Placencia, Belize, and with even "older" friends at the end of the season in Vero Beach, and meeting new friends here and there in between. One of the greatest joys and blessings of our cruising life is the new friendships we have made - some that last for a season or two and some that will be forever - both so valuable and so welcome.
Besides the people, we have enjoyed the company of iguanas, dolphins, pelicans, ospreys, frigate birds, herons and gulls. We still get excited whenever we hear the breath of a nearby dolphin or see the flukes and shiny backs as they curve up above the water's surface, and we rush to the foredeck to watch them play. We grab the binoculars for a closer look at ospreys and frigate birds; we laugh at the sploosh and splash when pelicans hit the water to capture their dinners.
We still marvel at the stunningly blue-green-aqua-turquoise-emerald-jade colours of the Caribbean waters, at white icing-sugar sand, and pebbles that rattle and roll in the tide, at frothing surf and mirror-still water. We still love the ability to live so close to nature - under the moon and stars at night, and the hot sun or cloudy skies of day, and even in downpours as long as they don't last too long; we love seeing the exact times the wind shifts, and feeling the change in temperature and humidity; we notice how small we are, sitting in our cockpit not even a metre above the sea that is a thousand metres deep, and sailing (or motoring) with not another boat or sliver of land in sight.
And now Madcap is high out of the water at Riverside Marina in Ft. Pierce, secure on jack-stands with heavy blocks and tie-downs at the ready as hurricane season approaches. The sails are at Mack Sails in Stuart for inspection and minor repairs. We covered the top with garden netting to protect her from some of the sun's rays, and stuffed the through hulls with stainless steel scrubbies to keep out the bugs. We washed down the interior surfaces and lockers with vinegar and water, removed all the food, and plugged in the dehumidifier, and climbed down the ladder one last time.
Jim and I are home in Halifax now, shivering as a final bit of winter deposits a dusting of snow across the lawns. We will go back to Florida in the fall to move Madcap farther north, and next spring we will bring her home to Canada. At least that's the current plan!
We're planning trips to Newfoundland, where Mary Beth and Graham are about to welcome our first grandchild into the world; we will enjoy visits with family and friends at the cottage. As we say goodbye to our last season of Caribbean sailing for now (but not forever) we look forward to new adventures sailing back up through the waters of the North Atlantic, and a trip to New Zealand next winter.
And that's a wrap for this year. Check the gallery for some more pictures.
23/03/2016/5:15 pm, Riverside Marina, Ft. Pierce, Florida
We motored from Vero Beach to Ft Pierce this morning, and the excellent crew at Riverside Marina hauled Madcap out. She is sitting on the hard while we go back home to Nova Scotia for a few months.
20/03/2016/1:39 pm, Vero Beach, Florida
As we pulled into Vero Beach on Wednesday, voices hailed us from both the VHF radio, and a nearby boat. Ken and Connie (Oz) whom we last saw 4 years ago were waving and welcoming us. We first met them at Mile 0 on the ICW on our second trip down, and shared some fine times in the Bahamas. And that was just the start.
The next day, a dinghy with Valerie and Ed (Windswept) aboard pulled alongside - and I think it is even longer since we have seen them. We remembered Ed from his sports broadcasts in Marsh Harbour. At happy hour, we caught up with Phyllis and Tom (Cocoon Too), also from Bahama days. John and Catherine (Rivendell) arrived and the next day Christian and Mireille (Nomades) cruised up to the North end to raft with us. These last two were especially fun because we were all members of Trident Yacht Club in Gananoque, Ontario; we left there in 2007 and they set off on their adventures a couple of years later. We had an impromptu happy hour in our cockpit, sharing our sailing adventures, and if we had just had Mary and Blair (Strathspey) with us, our little circle would have been complete.
We shared a reunion lunch with Nancy Aadland (formerly on Solitaire) with whom we had many great times in the Bahamas, met her lovely mother, and caught up on more sailing and life news. Since her Jim's passing last fall, she has been building a "new normal" life and we are excited to see her again on Wednesday to catch up on some more plans.
But it can't be all socializing, because we have work to do. We got the sails down on Friday, and Ken (bless his heart) volunteered his van and chauffeur service as he and Jim delivered them in rush hour traffic to Mack sails in Stuart. They also took a drive by Riverside Marina in Ft. Pierce, because that is where we are hauling out. Yes - we actually have a place and a date!
After weeks of indecision about where and when we would end our season, we finally made a decision. It feels like we have gone far enough for now. We have come over 1000 nautical miles from Rio Dulce to Vero Beach, and despite our initial plans to go farther north, it is time to stop. We will be here until Wednesday morning, doing all those end of season jobs like cleaning, sorting out the contents of lockers into "take home", "leave here", "toss" piles, changing engine oil, washing lines, wiping down all the interior surfaces and the insides of cabinets and lockers. Then we'll take one last 2-hour motor trip back down to Riverside marina, go in on the high tide and get hauled out. Other than one 2-week period a year ago, Madcap has been in the water for 4 years and it is time to let her dry out a little.
We'll fly home to Nova Scotia from Fort Lauderdale on Friday - Good Friday - to reunite with more friends and family. In the meantime, back to work for me!
This picture is of a barge easing between Madcap and the mangroves the other evening. I'm glad he knew where his edges were!