Every year, for the past 15 years, we've asked ourselves where we should cruise next? We would spend all winter researching, discussing, and planning, knowing full well that everything could change once we got back to Berkeley East. Still, we enjoyed the process. But with BE's return to the United States, our winter routine will be changing significantly.
During the summer, as we were sitting on Berkeley East reminiscing over a glass of wine, while bobbing at anchor off Italy's Amalfi Coast, we made the call to ship Berkeley East back to the US. We also concluded that it was time for us to retire from cruising, so we would put BE on the market once she was stateside. We were surprised to hear ourselves say we were ready to end our status as "boat people", perhaps it was the wine talking, but more likely it was the nagging voices in our heads telling us to do different things. Berkeley East and our adventures together will always be in our hearts, part of our souls, but the cruising lifestyle is consuming, leaving little time to explore the many other possibilities that life has to offer. And now that we are at official retirement age, it's time for us to relax a bit.
So, after we picked BE up in Port Everglades, Florida (from her trip across the Atlantic on the BBC Scandanavia), we began the painstaking process of getting her ready to sell. It is much like moving out of a home after 15 years, with one difference, we emptied the entire boat before she was even listed; 15 years of precious possessions, along with 15 years of crap. Sounds like a simple task to unload a sailing vessel, but Berkeley East is a 54-foot raised salon yacht with more storage space than your typical house, let alone a boat, and every little crevice was packed.
Throughout the following weeks, we found tiny treasures buried deep inside BE. Like the scrimshaw we had purchased when we landed in the Azores Islands after sailing across the Atlantic in 2010. And the original fleet list from our first Caribbean 1500 boat rally in 2007. There was a box of aluminum foil that boarded BE when she was first commissioned in Florida, and 30-feet of toilet hose that we packed, checked on an airplane and flew from North Carolina to Turkey in 2013, which was then brought back to the US aboard Berkeley East in 2021. And even better than unused toilet hose, we were finally able to retrieve our magnum wine collection from Berkeley East's lower bilge; we had been saving favorite blends for years to bring home and share with friends.
There were multiple trips to the dump, drops at Goodwill, a rented storage unit filled to capacity, and a section of our broker's warehouse for boat-related gear. After all the sorting and sacrificing of goods, we made two trips back to North Carolina, the Hummer packed to the roof, with everything we just could not bear to part with. There will likely be more trips to Goodwill, and the dump, when we unpack the boxes at home.
Once Berkeley East was clear of our clutter, the real work began. While she had been meticulously maintained for her entire life thus far, she needed some cleaning and polishing to impress prospective buyers, so a haul out was scheduled. Over the years, we have hauled Berkeley East numerous times, and while it is always nerve wracking to see her out of the water, we knew the drill. What we didn't know was that there was a strong tide and current just outside the slipway of the boatyard that sent BE swirling dangerously close to two super yachts every time the Captain tried to back her in. We were about to abort the mission, when two guys in a tow boat came out to help push Berkeley East into the slipway. We tried to pay them for their assistance, but they declined, they just wanted to help. Boaters helping boaters, one part of the cruising life that we will miss.
We worked for a solid month with one day off to celebrate the Admiral's birthday.
After two weeks in the yard, Berkeley East was stunning. We splashed her for one last trip with her Captain and Admiral at the helm. We felt fortunate that there was little wind and no rain, as we had been experiencing torrential downpours for weeks. And we made it to the dock before dark, life was good. But as we reached our space, the wind came up blowing Berkeley East off (one problem with docking behind someone's house is there are no marina workers to lend a hand). On the third attempt to wrestle BE close enough, the Admiral showed off 15 years of boat woman skills by lassoing a pilon, jumping over the pulpit off Berkeley East's bow to the deck below, and securing a line so we could inch BE's 37 tons into place. As we grumbled at the difficulty of our final docking experience on Berkeley East, we took solace in knowing that "any docking you can walk away from is a good docking", especially for old sailors like us.
Berkeley East is listed for sale with Collection Yachts, who think she is a real catch. But if someone doesn't snap her up quickly, we might find ourselves moving back on board in the spring and sailing BE to the Bahamas.