Definition: Mecca in English has come to be used to refer to any place that draws large numbers of people…
|Seven Mile Bridge|
Today was a true landmark day for us. As we dropped sails and motored towards the Seven Mile Bridge, our minds were full of all of the things that brought us to this moment. How many people really thought we would make it? In the beginning, I’m not really sure WE thought we would make it. So many years of planning and saving and studying the lifestyle… and here we are, coasting over these green seagrass beds in clear water and balmy breezes, with Marathon, the Cruiser's Mecca drawing us in.
|Sunrise on the Little Shark River|
We awoke this morning, having slept better than we anticipated given the fact that we were anchored in a river with strong tidal currents. Sometime in the night, we checked our position and found that we had reversed on our anchor but it still held. All is well. I jumped out of bed before dawn expecting to sit in the cockpit and enjoy the sunrise, only a little cranky at Bruce for trying to hurry me. But it wasn’t Bruce that hurried me… it was the attack of the No-See-Ums!
One of the good things about living on a sailboat is that you can just pull up the anchor and skeedaddle! And so we did! We left the beautiful and serene (looking) Little Shark River in the sparkling first moments of a rising sun and plunged ourselves into the following seas of the final stretch that led us to the Keys.
The winds were already in the 10 knot range out of the WNW and the seas were probably about 2 ft. off our Starboard quarter. It wasn’t uncomfortable to us by any means, but the rolling motion had us scrambling to get the main up to try and steady the boat a bit. Between 8 am and 10:30 am, we raised the main, unfurled the jib, furled the jib, unfurled the jib, furled the jib, dropped the main, unfurled the jib and raised the main. The winds were THAT light and variable. Bruce was getting a workout! Finally we settled in with winds from the East, but light enough that we kept the motor on to keep our speed to 5 knots or more. We can get to Marathon before dark on that. No need to waste fuel unnecessarily.
|Jetsam: Are We There Yet?|
The clouds and sun duked it out all day. We got glimpses of the brilliant green waters when the sun peeked through, but it was almost a hazy cloudy day as we sailed towards the thin line where cloud meets water. We could not relax our vigil for even a moment, as the crab traps kept coming and coming. The coastal waters here are littered with little floating balls attached to ropes, which lead down to the bottom where the crab trap is. Running over the top of one of these could cause bad things to happen if the rope should become wrapped around our prop shaft… So, we dodge and weave around to avoid them All. Day. Long. I sure hope you crab-lovers appreciate how many traps it takes to bring you this delicacy…
We sailed out of sight of land and just enjoyed the beauty of the day. Suddenly, towards mid afternoon, we spotted LAND-HO! It was our first glimpse of the Keys. I was unprepared for the profound feeling of joy that infused my body with the dawning realization... On this day two years ago, March 24th, 2012… I boarded a plane that dragged me away from our new boat and back home to work, while Bruce stayed on board in Newport, RI. to prepare her for her journey home. I had arrived in Newport on March 17th, to take my first look at what was to be our home. As dirty as she was, it was love at first sight. And it was the TRUE beginning of the downhill slope in our struggle to break free and become Cruisers.
|Sailing over clear and blue green waters|
|Fear of heights kicking' in!|
Two years to the day brought us from taking possession of our boat, to sailing into Cruiser Mecca. We are within days of our Six-Month-Cruiserversary and we’re here! Bruce walked back from the foredeck and said “Tammy you need to come out and look at this water. You can see the bottom, it’s like the BVI’s.” I took a quick look and freaked out! NO! This is not normal. The ground starts at the water's surface! We’re too HIGH! My tiny little fear of heights reared its ugly head as I felt as if the bottom had dropped out from under us. How weird is THAT??? I couldn’t look! Guess I’ll have to get over that soon…
|Hastily folding the davits so we could squeeze in...|
We had no idea if there would be a mooring ball for us. Bad weather was bearing down with high winds and rain expected within the next two days. We really wanted to be on a ball. Our 45’ length is a problem. With the davits on back we’re closer to 50 ft. LOA (length over all) and this put us over the limit for the majority of balls in Boot Key Mooring field, they only have a handful for longer boats. We would need to fold the davits or anchor and wait for a bigger mooring. Guess we’re folding the davits. That little solar panel mounting project we had planned to do… will have to wait!
|Dos Libras recognizes this place|
So, happily, with goosebumps, we proceeded past the famous Burdines, and the old bascule bridge, and our eyes opened wider in wonderment at the sight of so many boats.
So many boats with people on board just like us. People who had walked away from their former lives and went looking for… whatever it is that we’re looking for. Since leaving Texas, we have encountered only a handful of Cruisers. We were happy that very soon, we would be soaking up first-hand knowledge and talking story with people who understand.
|Home for a month!|
The silly grin never left my face as we effortlessly picked up mooring ball #S4 and then hurriedly lowered the dinghy off the foredeck and into the water so that we could speed over to the office and check in before they closed for the day. We made it with 30 minutes to spare and while Bruce was presenting his papers and filling out forms…
|Marathon City Marina|
I was approached by a woman and her husband. She says to me “ Oh YOU’RE Dos Libras! We heard you checking in on the VHF and I’ve been following your blog for a long time... Bill and Rene.” I knew it could happen some day, and today was that day! As our conversation went on, it struck me that she knew all about us, as she nodded when I spoke. It’s like being instant Cruising Cousins or something. Like we’ve known one another forever, but only just met. Except that WE now have to catch up! It was the strangest sensation, but a really good one. We made plans to get together soon and pick their brains about the Bahamas.
|Our First Sundown in Boot Key|
We returned to the boat after taking a quick look around. As we were retying our mooring, a dinghy pulled up alongside… “Hello! It’s me, Kimberly and Jeremy from Lahowind!”. OMG! I’ve been following Kim’s blog since she started and we are fellow WWS’s. We could have gone on talking forever but those showers were calling our names. I began to think that this was NOT the best place to be if we intend to get any work done… it’s PLAYTIME!
Later in the evening, after we had our showers and the sun went down… the masthead lights of the hundreds of boats around us twinkled on. Darkness grew and we could hear voices from across the water. We made our calls to home and settled in with the kitties cruising the deck. The puzzled looks on their faces are a delight to me.
This was such a big day for us. We relive our favorite moments repetitiously like we just can’t get enough of saying it… We’re HERE! This was our unspoken goal for so long, and it’s finally here! It has taken SO much more than the past two years to get here… but two years ago, it became REAL. Go. Cruising. NOW!