10 December 2021: Spitting Distance to Florida
10 December 2021
Blackbeard's Creek, GA, USA
Cumberland River, GA, USA
Cumulative Mileage (NM)
Crew on Board
Skipper, first mate, chef, entertainment and more; I guess that is solo sailing for you!
GENERAL WEATHER OBSERVATIONS
15 knots but after all the twists and turns of the waterways, who knows which direction it was coming from!
Midday warm, mornings and evenings cooling quickly!
Dry, thank goodness!
I know I should be appreciating every day, however, with limited time in the USA on my visa and cold weather settling in up north and slowly working its way south – the only thing my mind can think about is ‘get to Florida’.
From there, when the time to leave the USA arises, it is only a hop, skip and jump to the Bahamas. Until then I am cold and in a hurry and worried about timing and miles to go and feel this pressure to keep moving and not to enjoy along the way. It does not help that I have done this route once before, feeling the same way and I truly remember the relief of getting to Florida. I knew I would feel that again and I could not wait for it.
Truly I long for a few days at one anchorage, exploring a town, going for a hike, a day spent spearfishing, getting exercise and other joys of cruising. However, with this nagging deadline on my brain reinforced by every goosebump, raised hair and chill in the air, it is truly impossible to enjoy staying put as it just makes you wonder if you have made things worse for yourself in the future.
Therefore, I spend 10 to 11 hours per day every day that I am able to move further south. And this anchorage was just too tantalizingly close to the Florida goal. I was within 10 nautical miles of the imaginary line separating Georgia and Florida. As a goal oriented person, being that close but still not there killed me a little bit inside.
Safety-wise though I could not do another 10 nautical miles. Though many things can be navigated in the dark, following the charts and lights on aids to navigation and seeing the lights of oncoming and approaching ships, there are two things you might encounter on the Intracoastal Waterway that you cannot avoid in the dark: a protruding tree and the floats that mark crab pots. Both of which would do serious damage to your vessel. The tree potentially poking a trunk size hole in your hull and sinking the boat and the float and line for the crab pot potentially getting caught on your propeller and bending the shaft or pulling it out leaving a gaping hole where water can fill the boat and sink it (not sure how realistic that last bit is or if that is mostly my imagination). Neither problem would you like to purposely put in your path just for the purpose of getting a few extra miles nor is either a problem I would want to try and solve in the dark.
Do not get me wrong, it has happened in a few places where progress was not quite as quickly as planned and no other anchorages within 5 or so miles to default to (i.e. Port Washington in New York, Norfolk in Virginia, Carolina Beach in North Carolina and Beaufort in South Carolina specifically). However, in most of those places I had either been there before, had a crew member on board to help keep watch from the bow with a flashlight or had friends ahead of me who assured me the channel did not have obstacles in it. Except for Beaufort, that was new, solo and uncertain. But nevertheless, even with a few reassurances, you still have to strain your eyes in the dark and hope that you see it if it is there. The couple of times when I did this alone it was for no more than an hour or so after the last light had faded and it is truly exhausting: straining your eyes, bobbing side to side from behind the helm trying to see as much of the water immediately in front of the vessel as possible, shadows from nearby trees, piers and city lights tricking you into thinking something is there. EXHAUSTING!
So for a mere ten miles (remembering ten miles at the speed a sailboat goes can take two more hours), I just have to settle for Georgia tonight. Do the responsible thing, do not let emotions guide your decisions.
At least on a boat there are a few things that snap you back to reality. And at this anchorage, it was the incredible sunset as I approached the anchorage that jolted me back to reality. How lucky I was to see the sunset every single day in so many new places. On land you might be too busy to take note or be inside at the wrong time and miss it. However, on a boat the light truly dictates the flow of your day and I never feel more a part of the natural cycles of earth than being on a boat.
So even though I spent most of the day trying to get a few more miles to see if I could make it to the next anchorage on the Florida side, and was not soaking up everything along the way. At least this moment brought me back. Made me smile.
And then straight to bed to plan the next days route and get up early to cover those miles. Florida is one thing, but lets not forget the Florida coastline is still very long.
And technically when sailing the trade winds and planning around hurricane season, this never stops even though I get to slow down. Life does get even better in the Bahamas, where there is white sand (no more muddy anchorages) and blue water and warmth. But I need to leave the Bahamas before the spring. And I need enough time to get to southern Caribbean islands before hurricane season sets in in August (and far enough down the Caribbean island chain for June and July that should something come up off the coast of Africa I am practically there). So while I will slow down and appreciate more, a sailor always sails to the weather and the seasons and thus is a slave to it in some sense. And a solo sailor who wants to do smaller shorter sails versus a week long passage to get where I am going, it takes me longer to get to those places.
So even though Florida is tomorrow’s end goal. It is not really the end goal. Such is life!
“For the most part, a sailboat navigates through its world of wind and water not leaving a single trace of its passage. Nothing is consumed. Nothing is altered. The winds and the water are left in exactly the same condition for the next user. Sailing is forever.”
– Michael B. McPhee