Storms don’t last forever.

{spoiler alert} We made it! 1,244 nautical miles and two months later, we reached the Florida Keys.  A lot to catch up on…last we talked, we were still in Georgia with a south heading. 

After discovering quicksand islands, our next stop was Kilkeny Marnia tucked up in Kilkeny Creek, GA. A bare minimum kind of marina, with old wooden docks, outdoor showers and a handful of friendly locals and tubs of live bait.  Once anchored, near a boat called SoulMate, Clay took off with Chad, a pole and a bucket full of live shrimp in search of dinner.  I stayed back in the warmth of our Little Buddy Propane Heater and was gearing up  for some yoga when I was suddenly hit with an overwhelming desire to take a nap.  Not one who takes naps often, the notion seemed odd to me and I remember thinking what a strange feeling to suddenly come over me.  As I was heading to our bed, thinking I might not even make it there before falling asleep, a very quiet voice in my head whispered “the heater”.  I knew I should turn it off before taking a nap so with the last bit of energy I had, I reached through the all ready settling sleep to clip the heater off.  Almost instantly, I felt alert again.  Without realizing it, I had probably saved my own life by clipping off that heater prior to laying down.  We still haven’t found where the propane was leaking from but traced it to a malfunction with the low setting of the heater.  It was a frightening moment and a great reminder to stay aware and safe.  The following day we tied back up to the marina for water and diesel and caught a quick ride into town for light provisioning, the highlight of the which was a 24 variety pack of beer called Tacklebox, sure to top anyfisherman’s list.   The marina is located just adjacent to a pre-civil war era plantation style house which was a treasure to explore along its perimeter while Clay fueled up SoulTide.  

  

  

  

When Henry Ford purchased this property after the war, he had the tiny doors you see put on either side of the walls where cannons had blasted holes through. He wanted to keep a reminder of the destruction the war had caused.

 

Study sesh for the kid.

Georgia has some of the most incredible sunsets I’ve ever seen.

 

Our next major stop was at Jekyll Island, GA. We were forced to stop for a large weather system moving through with high winds and rain. After getting settled, we borrowed bikes from the super hospitable people at the marina and took a ride around, under large sagging oak branches adorned with Spanish moss and little white birds. We were seeing the island during its dead season and everything was either shut down or empty: the putt putt golf course, the water park, the convention center; the hotel parking lots and the main restaurants sat empty. Creepy.  

  
   

    

 

For months before our trip even began, Clay knew for sure where his favorite spot would be. He described it as some kind of Mecca, a destination that ruled over all other destinations, where Bud Light flows like water, the Redskins are always winning and Florida Georgia line plays a concert, live 24/7/365.  After leaving Jekyll Island we made it to this ultimate destination and probably could have ended our trip there: The Florida Georgia Line.

    

Fernandina Beach treated us great. We waited out another weather system here and spent time showering, doing laundry, riding our bikes around for a self guided eating tour of the town, and doing hot yoga (which felt incredible).

The weather system passed, we kept heading south.  Our anchorage for the night was gorgeous, a small oxbow behind an island off the ICW called Pine Island. Not long after we fell asleep, I woke up feeling uncomfortably squished.  I gave Clay a gentle push, telling him to get on his side of the bed.  He responded, “Fine, I’ll just go up to my side.” For a moment, I laid there thinking what an odd response that was…go up to his side? As the thought began to take shape, I felt Clay shift a bit and then whisper, “I think we are aground.” For the next 45 mins our boat began to tilt, slowly at first and then more aggressively as the water receded at a higher rate, until we were on our side at a 45 degree tilt with nothing but mud under us.  Items on the high side of the boat were falling from their places behind the wood railings, sliding out from their cubby holes and out from under nets until there was a whole pile of things (plants, books, heaters, plates) and us, mingling on the low side of the boat.   The wind had kept us away from the out going ride and we ended up high and dry.  They say there are three types of boaters: those who have run aground, those who will run aground and those that lie about it.  We seem to flip flop between the first two categories often.

Taken at what would have been “level”.

   

Sunset in Titusville, Fl where Clay quit smoking! Still going strong!

  

Our first night where we felt like we had really made it. Walking up to a Florida bar, Squid Lips!

  

16 man band killing it, guy on the bongos was crushing french fries between solos.

  

Our girl being brave in the face of gale force winds. We abandoned her and went to the library and pie shop. Eau Gallie, FL

    

Opposite of boat life

    

Chadsworth and Soultide

  

Morning ritual of pulling the anchor.

 

“United States Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville Florida. Break.”

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First fish! We breaded it up in crushed Raisin Bran and made a chipotle aioli. yum!

    

Beach run for the girl.

  

water line from brown and murky to blue and clear.

 
  

submarine!

    
Our stretch from Fernandina Beach to Fort Lauderdale seemed to drag on forever. Clay’s sister and her husband live in Fort Lauderdale and the promise of a comfy bed and
hot showers and great company probably made that stretch seem much longer than it was.  Or maybe it was the terrifying band of severe weather that moved in and wouldn’t let up.  Or maybe the seemingly endless number of low clearance bridges with their untimely openings that we could never get to on schedule.  Maybe a lot of all three.  By the time we had reached 10 nautical miles above Fort Lauderdale, we were exhausted, everything was soaked and starting to harbor mold, the weather was getting worse, morale at its lowest.  We made our last bridge opening in the first hours of nightfall, in the lull between two weather systems.  Seeing our incredibly gracious hosts pull up in a Jetta with cold beers on ice felt nothing short of spectacular.  We spent the next seven days drying out and enjoying some land time, swapping sailing stories and eating great meals.  Certainly one of the highlights of our trip. 

Tornado and severse thunderstorm warnings all day.

  

Everyone knows something about fishing and it all seems to be wrong.

    

Clay in the engine room for the big ship his sister and her husband work on. Their engine room is bigger than our whole boat.

  

A grilling extraveganza.

  

Florida’s version of street cats!

   

live bluegrass with a tiny guest

  

engine troubles

    

 

With the gift of some pretty rad fabric in Fort Lauderdale, I made curtains for our boat!

 

an iguana is hiding in there

  From Fort Lauderdale we made a run to No Name Harbor at the very top of the Florida Keys, where many cruisers wait for a weather window to cross to the Bahamas.  It’s got great all around protection and is the first time we were able to go swimming!     

No Name Harbor

  

    
    

While looking for a protected anchorage in preparation for the next wind storm, we checked out a small key called Boca Chita. I snapped these photos and only later figured out that this was probably a Cuban refugee boat.

  

    

Big motor yacht that had run aground at low tide. It looked like the captain had decided to wait it out in the shade of his boat. That little speck to the right is the dinghy he was sitting in.


We finally found a spot with northern protection along an undeveloped stretch of mangroves at the top of Barnes Sound.  We sailed into our anchorage just as the sun was setting, Clay at the helm singing and dancing to Jimmy Buffet.  Quick showers on deck and soon dinner was going, hatches open to catch the evening breeze.  I saw the first one, an unassuming single mosquito.  I wasn’t nervous, I don’t even think I said anything about it to Clay.  Rookie mistake.  

Within ten minutes, just as dinner was being served, our entire cabin was overrun with mosquitoes, angry and determined ones. I couldn’t even take a bite of my food without also catching a mosquito in the process.  We were sure that they would move on after an hour or so, this is what we’d seen before.  But as the minutes went by, the more mosquitos arrived until Clay finally yelled, “Get under the blankets and tuck in all the sides!” Huddled in the tropics under our blankets meant for cold weather, we couldn’t breathe or see but we could hear the growing buzz of hundreds of hungry mosquitos until it drowned out all other noises.  And there we stayed for another few hours.  Finally, having had enough and starting to sweat, Clay climbed out from his protective barrier prepared to face the swarm.  He popped into the dark cockpit, as it was well into night by then, clipped on the spotlight and shined it into the cabin.  At least a hundred mosquitos had landed on my blanket where I was still hiding, crying from terror and exhaustion and lack of oxygen. Another hundred were buzzing around the cabin, another hundred in our v-berth, countless in the cockpit and surrounding the boat.  We had to move.  Like some kind of hero, Clay shouted down to me to stay covered and that he was going to get us somewhere safe.  I heard the engine grumble to life and the anchor pulled on board.  I waited until I could feel the wind created by our movement before climbing up into the cabin. And so we went, through a pitch black night in unfamiliar waters to try and get away from the nightmare we were living in.  As Clay navigated, I hunted down and terminated hundreds of mosquitos that had harbored in the lower spaces of our boat.  A few hour later we reset our anchor and tried to fall asleep amid phantom buzzing and ghost sightings of mosquitos that thankfully were no longer there.

Clay hiding from the mosquitos .

 

mosquito netting. not so rookie anymore.


We woke up the next morning and waited out a gale at Gilbert’s Marina.  The tiki bar was rocking with live music in the evening and the next morning we headed south with full sails and no engine, the sound of which was replaced by me learning to play the harmonica.  A great day.

   

Our destination was a free slip generously gifted to us by a family friend.  On arrival though, we saw the dock was completely exposed to the northwest sitting on the bottom end of a wide open bay. Against our better judgment, we stayed and had a great afternoon of snorkeling around.  

 7 pm. Like a train in the distance, we could hear the wind pick up.  We felt the water respond, building up against the momentum of the wind, creating a slight chop.  

9pm. The winds amped up quickly and the waves followed suit. Clay checked on everyone before going to bed: Chad secured at the end of the dock, SoulTide secured with lines off all side bow and stern, spring lines for additional support. We tried to sleep.

Midnight: Unable to sleep because of the violent thrash of SoulTide against the pilings, the 2′ waves  slamming into her side and the 30knt winds whipping the bay into a frenzy, we watched episodes of The Office and tried to ignore the sounds around us.  Being on SoulTide at this point is like being on a wild horse.

4am: Clay checks on Chad and sees that Chad isn’t fairing well.  His back cleat had been ripped out and he was flipped over and sinking.  Our third set of oars and oar locks gone.  It was time to get off the boat. 

4:30am: Clay and I make it off our wild horse of a boat and on to the dock.  The only way to save Chad was to lay on the dock and drag him through the water, handing him under the other thrashing boats lines.  We do this successfully and are able to get him right side up. 

7am: The forecast is calling for the same winds for the next 24 hours so we pack a bag, secure SoulTide as best we can, hop the fence to the marina and walk into town. Meanwhile, Clay is sending a distress text to his mom in Key West: please come save us.

life jacket in case of deep puddles. no sleep for 24 hours here.

starbucks sleeping

By that afternoon, we had arrived in Key West, showered and took a nap.  Things were looking up.  We had a great evening in el compartemiento de Anne, watching the Super Bowl and eating the best damn nachos I’ve ever had. Highlight, for sure.

bike ride scenes around Key West

  

a sign.

  
    

We (Clay, myself, SoulTide, Chad) all survived the storm and kept heading south, thinking we were going to make it to Key West within a week. This is Clay celebrating make it to Long Key, which is the furthest south we got to in SoulTide.

    

puffer fish!

  

With less than ideal conditions in the lower Keys, we decided to head north early and enjoy some time in Key Largo where the weather was great!

  

Shower rig on the rig.

 

One of my favorite days of the trip was a day outing in Key Largo.  The backstory for this top notch day begins way back in White Stone, Va where talk of warm weather days spent lounging on white sandy beaches drinking fruity cocktails had solidified my desire to move on to a boat in the dead of winter.  That tropical image had kept my spirits high well into the belly of our trip, after days and days of wearing my parka and ski pants as we crossed four state lines, the miles between us and home increasing but the outside temperature always staying the same: cold.  So once we had arrived in the Keys, I was beyond ready for the white beaches and fruity cocktails and honestly willing to settle for tan beaches and Bud Light if it meant warm weather and lounging.  After several days of gale force winds and countless hours stuck on the boat, Clay and I began to wonder what it was all for and I, lamenting about the lack of sandy beaches, demanded to know when and where we would be finding one.  Clay nonchalantly said “Sandy beaches? There aren’t any Sandy beaches in the Keys.” 😳 Upon realizing he had crushed a very vivid tropical paradise dream, he quickly started forming a plan to find that paradise, or something close to it.  The southern Keys were forecasted to continuing gales and low temps but the northern Keys were slotted to be at least 10 degrees warmer and provide much better protection.  And so north we went, back to Tarpon Basin and it’s incredible protection, free dinghy dock, bait shop, manatees and a dolphin that was 27′ long (I swear!).  Clay’s mom and Mike drove up to meet us and after a stop in at what is probably the best marine consignment shop on the eastern seaboard (one at which neither Clay or Mike can resist stopping at) we drove to John Pennekamp State Park.  We laid on a sandy beach, had a lovely picnic, went snorkeling, read books and showered (✨🎉✨).     

What’s a perfect day in the Keys without a Key Lime Pie tour?

    
    

Really doing something here with this tiki vibe!


  
Holidays are hard to celebrate when you live as close as we do: always together whether on land or boat, and made additionally difficult when your girlfriend has expectations that are impossible to guess or achieve and always involve elements of surprise; also, we are broke. But Clay, always trying to please, snuck off to Kmart under the guise of picking up a bucket for the boat and decorated Valentine’s Day style while I was on a run. It was the perfect amount of quirky and surprise. ❤️
   

We are heading back home now…more adventures are already happenin, faster than I can write about them! New blog already in the works…goodbye until then!

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old friends, new dangers

We are finally back on our journey after the latest engine situation. We thought the cylinder head was cracked but, on our first full day in Beaufort as Clay started pulling our girl apart, we found it wasn’t so bleak as that.  There was definitely some work required where old bolts had rusted through and others had seized so badly they refused to come out no matter how much heat, WD-40 or swearing Clay threw at them. He spent a full day in and out of the engine compartment, multiple trips to the hardware store (which required getting in the dinghy, rowing it to shore, getting on a bike, riding a mile up the road to the most exstensive, locally owned hardware store ever, and then back again). It was a dark evening, weather and morale wise. 

The following morning though, the sun rose and the engine started right up; I’m not sure which one of those Clay loved most. As fate would have it, just before we left the Lady’s Island Marina, we saw our friend Jason coming into the creek.  We met Jason a mere four days into our journey, on the north end of the Dismal Swamp, when a shortage of bridge space required us to raft up to him. His stories of lobstering in Maine, 20′ waves off the coast of New Jersey without a life jacket and plowing through locks single handed had us in awe.  He was a staple in all of our stories since. We were delighted to be reunited and stuck around an extra evening to catch up and watch the Redskins lose. 

After leaving Beaufort, we anchored right above Savannah, GA nestled in between two grassy islands.  Dolphins were playing against the shore and would occasionally come by to check us out.  Because we wanted to bypass Savannah in the early morning with a favorable current and less water traffic, we had chosen to anchor earlier than usual, around 3:30.  This left plenty of daylight for extracurricular activities like fishing for Clay and exploring for me.  The island on the north side of the creek was a sand beach that ran up to a deep set barrier of grass and looked perfect for a late afternoon yoga session. With no houses or boats for miles, the symphony of the land had a chance to shine: dolphin splashes every few minutes, birds calling to each other, soft lapping of the water against the boat. The time was right.  With my yoga mat tucked under one arm and the VHF in the other (safety always, then fashion) I popped into our dinghy and paddled over to the island.  My landing was firm and as I stood up in Chad (the dinghy) I could see a great sandy path leading to the island’s plateau.  In my excitement and total lack of experience with islands that usually stay under water 12 hours a day, I jumped from the dinghy with both feet and immediately sunk 1′ into the ground.  In an effort to catch myself, I was able to rip one booted foot from the ground and took a gigantic step forward in hopes of finding solid ground.  No such thing existed there or anywhere within 100 yards.  I didn’t know this yet though so I kept going and I kept sinking, deeper and deeper until I was thigh deep in what felt incredibly close to quicksand, speculation of course because I’ve only heard about quicksand back in elementary school.  It was from this very distant, very small memory file full of so many other things from elementary school like addition and subtraction, spelling and animals, where I pulled up the image of a cartoon guy in a cartoon jungle in a cartoon pool of quicksand.  He’s neck deep and looks concerned but he’s got ahold of a plank of wood and is saving himself from certain quicksand death by clinging to it.  I always wondered, even as a young child, where the heck that plank of wood came from because that seemed just too convenient and here I was, waist deep in quicksand and there were no planks in sight.  Luckily, in my haste to jump into exploring, I left my yoga mat behind and instead took along the paddle, an image that reiterates landing on the island, standing up and immediately jumping off onto land, paddle and all; no time to switch gear, no time to check for quicksand. I dropped to all fours, paddle laid horizontally across the ground and I army crawled back to the safety of Chad, dragging my mud filled boots behind me, each knee sinking deep before slurping its way back out for the next “step”. I rolled into Chad and pushed the shore, covered almost entirely in mud and sand, soaked from the elbows down. 

Now every time Clay sees a small mound of mud or patch of grass sticking out of the water, he yells “Ooo look! An island!”. 😑  

 

The Swimming Cities of Serenissima

20130330-230005.jpgOne of the most beautiful, inspiring privileges of being human: we can manifest anything we want. Anything. We do it all the time but we call it different things. The computer you are using right now is a physical manifestation of a thought. Extrapolate this notion to everything we see, experience. If we are, at our core,pure creative consciousness and everything around us is a manifestation of that and therefore also creative consciousness, then we can bring any thing or any situation into existence.
Anyway, when someone does this, really manifests something brilliant and inspiring, it’s so wonderful. People respond with love because we all recognize a piece of ourselves in their manifesting. Take Swoon for example: She dreamed about boats and the ocean which eventually manifested as a fleet of repurposed rubbish floating across the Adriatic Sea. An inspiring interview with her can be found here; I highly recommend a look! The photographs alone are stunning.

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