The feeling I get when leaving, is starting to become dangerous. By dangerous I mean great. I get so excited. Thrilled by uncertainty. A sense of awareness, verifying the control I have over my life. I am free. The satisfaction of putting plans into action when no one really believes you… better yet, never really telling anyone the plan and just quietly slipping away. I remained unattached, to everything in life but Louise. On this occasion (sailing away from Key West), I assure you, Katie and I both felt a heightened freedom. We didn’t need to talk about it, but we were both happy. The problem here is that “leaving” always feels right, it never feels wrong. Will it ever go away? Will either of us ever stop?
Again, we fall into our roles. Katie and Reggie kayak to shore, she hauls up the anchor, she eats her cookies, gets out the books, the highlighters, and the trip advisor is in action. I check the oil, and start the engine. Followed by placing everything in the cockpit that I will need for the day. French press, water, ginger chews, sunscreen, sunglasses, a white shirt to cover the areas of skin I feel burning, hat, chap stick, a banana (bad luck on a boat, oops). I create a comfy spot on my new folding West Marine chair (Thank you Ellen!) and spend the day keeping us on course. Suddenly 10 hours have passed. We still haven’t changed out of our bra and underwear. We listen to the same playlist over and over. (We call this game, “Have you ever heard this song?”). We crank up the volume and obnoxiously singing louder with each round. Katie has figured out our plan for the day/night, as well as having Reggie completely groomed. I am still glued in my chair, making sure I deliver us to the day’s destination without running aground.
We spent 40 miles sailing on the outside (Atlantic side) to Marathon. What? Yes. SAILING. Those of you who have kept up with our adventure know that we are not die-hard sailors. We are die-hard motor-sailors. We get shit for this. Neither of us care. We have our own way of doing things. You have yours. Don’t worry about ours. Sorry, I may have some pent-up aggression on this subject. Anyway… we were more than happy to have such an incredible sailing day. A consistent 17 knots, gusts up to 22, (Thank you Dave and Renee for our new hand-held, mechanical wind reader, we are obsessed with it. Life changing!) had us sideways for nearly 8 hours. The engine in “off” mode is a beautiful thing, and you could tell Louise was smiling, she was in her groove. Katie and I were even smiling as well, but it did reinforce our reasons for not being die-hard sailors.
It took every muscle in our bodies to keep pressure on the tiller, propping our bodies in a sturdy place to stay on course. Whoever wasn’t steering, was also using all muscles to keep themselves in one location. Louise is little, she is light, she gets pushed and shoved by the wind and waves forcing you to put up a fight. Normally, I have no problem driving 6 to 8 hours straight. On this day, Katie and I had to switch every hour. I can’t work out for that long. There was no chance of us going down below. Neither of us ate the entire day. Going to the bathroom off the stern was a challenge. Reggie was stressed out. Our rub rail fell off on the leeward side from being dragged in the water all day. Everything that was “stowed away” was no longer stowed away. Our home now looked like it had barely survived a tornado. By the time we dropped the hook, we were exhausted. You get the point here. Don’t get me wrong, we were thankful mother nature provided us with a great sail. But when we laid down that night, we agreed that we would renin mostly vertical during tomorrow’s 50 mile day.
Part of Katie’s journey entails something mine does not. Taking care of a living being besides herself. Keeping Reggie healthy and happy. Meaning multiple times a day, no matter where we are, she somehow has to get him to land. For those of you who are new to this blog, Reggie is Katie’s dog of 7 years, and he refuses to go to the bathroom on the boat. I have seen this girl kayak Reggie to land in high winds, heavy rain, frost-bit mornings, and pitch black nights. She never once has asked me for help. No matter what kind of land mass or terrain, (even when it looks impossible) she finds a way to make it possible. After anchoring in Boot Key harbor, the three of us mounted our single person kayak,”Darbie”. It was after this long day of sailing… we were hot, hungry, and tired, and rather far from land. In search of an abandoned yard to let Reggie use as facilities, the three of us inefficiently headed for the shore.
Not too far out was a concrete slab slanting into the harbor, that looked like it had street access. A perfect Reggie ramp. When we got closer we noticed an old man’s eyes glaring at us from his yard. The distance between us and him was getting smaller, his devilish eyes growing larger. We had a bag to pick up Reggie’s business and rope on the kayak we could use as a leash. All we intended was to tie off the kayak and walk around the neighborhood with Reggie. We drift up behind some bushes…incognito… but the ornery old man knows what we are up too. Reggie hops off and excitedly starts running around. We attempt to be quiet, and respectful.
“Don’t you dare shit in my yard! I will kill you! Get your dog off my f*&$ing property! GIT!”
Katie yells for Reggie. Reggie responds to her tone of voice and jumps back on Darbie immediately. We struggle to remain stable and up right between the three of us trying to quickly paddle away aboard a kayak made for one. I take responsibility because I was encouraging this location in the first place.
“I’m sorry sir. We are just looking for street access to walk our dog. We have full intentions to take care of it”. Fearing Reg would take a crap in his yard. Secretly wishing Reg took a crap on his feet instead.
“Tourists! Are you tourists? God damn tourists. Get off my property! Where’d you come from anyway?”
” We’re on that boat out there in the anchorage, the dog has been at sea all day, this looked like our best option. We will find somewhere else.”
By this point his wife comes out of the house. Both of them pointing fingers, screaming “Tourists!!!” They were incredibly mean, cruel, and passionately angry. I was sure one of them was going to fall to their death after exerting so much intensity towards us “tourists”. It was insane. I could not believe the words that were coming out of their mouths. If it were an episode of “The Real World” the entire scene would have been bleeped out from the cursing. I responded in silence. And from the bottom of my heart, I flipped them the bird while Katie paddled us down the next canal. I’ve never flipped someone off with so much zeal. In fact, I don’t think I have ever flipped anyone off in a serious manner in my entire life (except on the toll roads in Florida… when you drive through those cameras and they take a picture of your vehicle…and then send you a bill in the mail for driving on their roads…mmmm government… those cameras may have seen my middle finger on occasion. Like every occasion.) My middle finger was standing tall, flexed, fingers tightly crunched. It stayed that way until we were out of their line of sight.
I was thankful I went with Katie and Reggie that day. She would have been the only one being yelled at. I would have assumed she was being dramatic and embellishing the story. But it all would have really taken place. I will never forget them. And surely, they will never forget us. If you are ever in Boot Key Harbor, and have to row a dog to shore…be careful, or at least be prepared to exercise the middle finger method.
Okay, I have a lot more to write about, but that is all for now. We continue to head north. It’s looking like we are northbound for the next 2 months at least. Until we stumble upon the Hudson River… and take a left -ish. The photos below are from a day sail we took aboard our dear friend Claude’s stunning sailboat. He was a great neighbor at Stock Island Marina. I already miss everyone that entered our lives in the Keys. A day to never be forgotten. Thanks Claude! Cheers to great friends.