As I write this Smitty is anchored in Miami as we wait for a front to pass and favorable weather for our crossing to the Bahamas. It has been 135 days since we left Hingham to head south. At some point, and I can’t recall exactly when, it stopped feeling like vacation and began feeling like our life. Now things like driving in traffic, sitting at a desk and talking to clients seem foreign while studying the weather forecast, checking the anchor line and monitoring the batteries have become our normal routine. This lifestyle seems more suited to us but we are not sure how we can make it sustainable for the long term. For the short term we will continue to follow this new path and see where it goes.
In the time we have been cruising we have traveled 1,852 nautical miles (2,131 statute miles) in 51 days of travel Only 9 of those days were under sail. The rest of the time we have been motoring slowly south, sometimes even north to eventually go south. But that’s how it is doing the protected water route through the sounds, bays, rivers and canals. We’ve used 292.5 gallons of diesel on this trip. That’s more fuel than we had used in the previous 5 years of owning Smitty and the 4 years we owned Splash combined. But this $702.54 has been part of the cost to see the coast. We could have gone offshore and sailed more but we would have seen less. For us this was a one time trip. We may go north again but we definitely won’t do the entire ICW, the Chesapeake, or the Delaware.
We have spent 58 nights at anchor. Of the other 77 nights spent at a dock most have been free, largely helped by Tom and Nancy hooking us up at Lady’s Island Marina. We have also been at many of the free docks that towns in the south make available to cruisers transiting the area. What we have found is that we are much happier at anchor. The boat rides more comfortably, even in foul weather. You have more privacy. You can safely swim right off your back deck. The more time we spend in marinas the more they feel like trailer parks. Even today it is blowing 20 to 30 knots with gusts up to 50 knots and I find swinging and heeling more comfortable than the short, choppy action you would get on a dock in these conditions.
Cruising with Summer has been great but it’s not always easy. We love having Summer with us and watching her get excited to see dolphins swim near our boat makes up for any minor inconveniences. She gives us an excuse to get off the boat regularly and walk to explore the areas we are traveling through. However, many of the great gunk holes that Chesapeake Bay sailors brag about don’t have any shore access. People have been allowed to build walls right into the water. The result is that there is no actual shore line in these areas, just private property or water. We have seen this same approach in many of the areas along the ICW. That means that there are less and less anchorages where cruisers can get to shore. When you are cruising with a dog, you might have to skip past these anchorages and sometimes anchor in a more exposed area to get shore access for your pouch.
This has really made me think about private property vs. public access. Areas below the mean high water line is considered common land for all to use in most states and by the federal government. In fact I am willing to bet that extensive permitting was needed to construct those walls along the shore. There was even an exhibit about this at the Maritime Museum in St. Michaels that said the public access issue has only developed in the last 20-30 years. Most locals were able to spend summers exploring the shore and now their kids and grandkids are not going to have those same life experiences. Access to the water and the shore for the public has been recognized since the Roman Empire. But we seem to have forgotten that. Recently, Florida politicians have reintroduced anchoring regulations that will make anchoring in front of private property illegal because it ruins the view for the property owner. The commonwealth aspects this nation was founded on seem to be getting left in the history books while the wants of the wealthy prevail. But I digress into politics better left to the dirt dwellers.
As we have been cruising, we have been looking for where we would like to live. We haven’t really found the spot yet. The Carolinas was the first place that started to appeal to us. But the weather still gets colder then we would like there. We are looking for shorts year round type of weather. St. Augustine, Florida has some really attractive aspects. However, there is just something missing. It could be that you still need a car to get around in that town. I would like to remain carless if possible. From West Palm Beach south to Miami the area is just too built up. But this area holds the possibility of finding work and being able to jump over to the Bahamas in a days sail. So while no place has hit all of the wants yet but we have absolutely found some places that would be preferable to the cold northeast. I’m still pulling for Saint Thomas, USVI to be our new home but we will see how much we like it there when we aren’t just visiting on vacation.