October 25th, 2008 / Norfolk, VA:
What does it
feel like to spend years counting your pennies, selling, giving away or
tossing out 90% of your possessions, spending almost every single
moment of your spare time fixing up an old boat, walking in the snow
from a dirty public shower each winter evening back to a bizarre
plastic bubble, and striving through a thousand other small
indignities in the name of someday doing something you’ve
never really done before?
To resign from
your comfortable job that pays you more than you’ll probably ever
earn again in your life without another job in sight?
To say goodbye
to your dearest friends and family that you’re about to propel
yourself thousands of miles away from?
To come up with
a grisly, comprehensive list of supplies to cover every conceivable
contingency that could arise for you, your spouse, your pets and every
life-supporting system aboard the boat, and then try to purchase those
supplies and have them all fit aboard the boat along with all your
everyday living stuff?
To be ready to
accept the blame for being unprepared when something
awful happens that you didn’t think of and plan for?
What is it like
to constantly work towards such an immense, all-consuming goal, and
then have the achievement of that goal finally in your grasp?
Getting ready to
go cruising can stir up some heavy topics if you stop and
think about what you're doing for a moment. Happily, (or
unhappily?) you’re so busy you don’t have the time to
reflect on such abstract things. There are too many important
concrete items to buy, last minute errands, must-do boat projects to
make the boat seaworthy, friends and family to say goodbye to, and then more
things to buy.
But then Wednesday October 15th, the day we'd been anticipating for so long,
finally arrived and there were no storms in sight. Time to go!
Leaving the slip for the last time. Photo courtesy of Ada Williams.
Off we go! Another great picture of Frank and Ada's.
Seeing our home
port fall away in the distance and having the huge unknown loom ahead
inspired our pride, disbelief, sadness, giddy excitement, triumph and
anxiety. We spent so much time immersed in the
nuts-and-bolts preparation for the cruise that we didn’t also
consider that we’d be saying goodbye to our past lives. It
all of a sudden hit us as we waved goodbye to New York City and all the
people and things we love there. It was high noon. What the heck had we just
done? Do we know how to do this? Lord, that ocean
looks big! Will this trip be worth all the backbreaking effort?
They also got some fantastic HD footage of us by zooming around us in their dinghy as we left the marina
So long, New York City.....
Only one way to find out: we kept on sailing. The cruise
has officially begun! For more details on how we prepared, click
We officially set our first destination to be Cape May, NJ but things
worked out a little differently. The winds were south
easterly, coming from just the direction we needed to go. If you
a little about sailing you know that beating into the wind is not a fun
ride for very long. It means sailing almost right into the waves
and the boat gives a jolt as each one hits, with lots of spray flying
over the deck and into your face. And you've got to zig zag your
way to your destination, meaning it takes you much longer to get
anywhere and you've worked much too hard for every bit of progress.
We should have just waited at home for the
wind to shift to a more workable direction, but we were antsy to go
and decided to leave anyway.
Because of our restlessness, we had to bash into the waves
for 32 hours, taking turns to go below and rest every few hours.
About halfway in, the wind kicked up, and the seas grew accordingly. Being unaccustomed
to ocean rollers, the waves looked huge to us, but the National Weather
Service claims they were only 4-6 feet tall. Then, in the middle of the
night, a short in some wiring knocked out Ned the Autopilot, the depth
sounder and the knotometer. We gritted our teeth and began the drudgery
of steering by hand.
"What babies," you might be thinking, "complaining about
steering by hand." Well, steering to windward is fun when you're
out in the New York Harbor, tacking here and there to avoid traffic,
pretending you're the Master and Commander before heading back to your
cosy, sheltered slip. But when your spouse
asleep down below, all you can see are waves, tacking is
every few hours, not minutes, and the wind is howling and cold, it's
not fun anymore. You need to steer a constant heading in order to
get where you're
going ASAP, and so you're stuck there at the helm, staring at the
and fussing with the wheel to keep your bearing, and you
can't leave your post to go to the head or make some tea to warm
up. Even adjusting the sails becomes a challenge when
you're alone with no Ned. The constant concentration on the
compass is draining and tedious, and the chill and the newness of it
all really sapped our energy.
By noon on Thursday we were pooped. We were unused to sleeping
underway and found it difficult to rest while the boat rolled
and bucked her way along. We worried about our failed
navigation instruments and wanted to stop somewhere to fix them.
Alicia had spent much of the passage struggling with seasickness. We wanted
some real sleep, and we were concerned about Louis, who still hadn't
cooperated in going to the bathroom. Had
we been traveling in a straight line we would have made Cape May, but
as it were we weren't even at our halfway point! We
consulted our charts, and saw that the only viable option was a small
fishing town called Barnegat Light. In a few hours, we pulled in to a tiny
marina, ran Louie ashore, and passed out with the heater blasting.
The next morning, we got our wits about us and moved to a nearby
anchorage. Brian was able to revive Ned and the other vital
instruments within a few hours while Alicia baked bread, canned some pumpkin and
cathartically cleaned the boat from top to bottom. The weather
service forecasted a gale warning, with wind still from the south east and this time we
knew better than to go out. We bided our time for another
two days on the anchor waiting for the proper wind direction and
tinkering with the boat. Louie was finally inducted
into the ranks of the "Doo Doo and Wee Wee Aboard Group" (DDAWWAG) and has been a thrilled, relieved member ever since.
Tired furballs: Louie and Bustopher recuperate..
When the wind shifted to come from the north west, we headed out again
and made a run to Atlantic City. It was a satisfying, comfortable sail. Since we were only staying the
night, we gave the gambling a miss, but Bus disappeared for a few
hours and came back broke and really tipsy. We
took on fuel and water at the kitschy Kammerman's Marina - the lady who
works there in the morning is a really lovely person - and then headed
off into the ocean again with a quartet of dolphins following us out of
Casinos off the port bow!
With the wind
working in our favor but forecasted to become a bit fierce later on, we
were able to finally make it to Cape May in one 8 hour sail. We
dropped our hook around 5pm in a crowded anchorage in
front of the Coast Guard station. We waited out the blow with
about 6 other boats, and hardly anyone ever ventured out of their
cabins. The only sign of life on board were the cooking
smells emanating at dinner time, and the glow of cabin lights at night.
We had torn a portion of our mainsail cover during our trip from
Atlantic City (it snagged on the boom crutch), so Alicia busted out the
sewing machine and made repairs. Brian babied our engine and
generator with fluids and filter changes. Louie enjoyed his new club member status and ran happy
circles around deck after each successful trip "outside". Sheba,
as usual, slept and complained. We were all settling into a
routine built around weather reports, boat chores, stealing wifi
signals to check on election news, and planning our next passage.
The sun sets on Cape May.
Our trip from Cape May to Norfolk, 135 miles, was sort of our "take two" overnight
passage and we made sure we were better prepared for this one.
Alicia baked some medicinal ginger snaps and donned a Scopolamine
patch to keep nausea under control. We stowed everything
much more securely so things wouldn't fly around the cabin, and we had
lots of snacks and some easy, hearty meals at the ready. We left
Thursday at noon and sailed on a beam reach the whole way. It was
a much better experience now that we knew what to expect, and we anchored in a sheltered bay just after dark on Friday evening.
view of our course (the green line) from Jersey City to Norfolk (a bit cut off at the
bottom, sorry), exported from our excellent navigational software.
Thanks, James! Note the ridiculous zigging and zagging right off the bat.
On Sunday we'll head over to Mile 0 of the Intracoastal Waterway and
meet our friends Scott and Kitty aboard TAMURE after going through our
very first lock! Soon after we'll be in Alicia and Louie's home
state of North Carolina. When we get to another good, strong wifi
signal and something of interest has happened, we'll update this
Please note that irregular updating does not necessarily mean that we
are dead and/or lost- it probably has more to do with SARABANDE's
Thanks to everyone who's been supportive of us taking this trip!
We're really thankful to have such brilliant friends and loving
Alicia & Brian