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First Year of Cruising

Wow! After years of dreaming about it, separately and together, today marks one year since we cast the lines to cruise the world. To say it’s been an eventful year would be putting it mildly. We’re stronger today as individuals and even more so as a couple. Shannon is quite literally the Queen of my universe. Even when she uses my tools and doesn’t put them away properly or buys way too much stuff on amazon when we have an address to ship to. It’s often said within the cruiser community that the first year it the hardest. I sure hope they’re right because we could use some breaks moving forward!

When we set off last year we thought we would be aboard Quxiotic for many years. Unfortunately, losing her in the gulf that first night told us the universe had other plans. We could have thrown in the towel and quit. Many thought we should. It sure seemed at the time to be a bad omen. Instead, we quickly decided to push forward. Anything less would be telling the universe we didn’t have the deserve the life we had dreamt about for so many years.

Those first weeks after being saved by the USCG were spent in Kemah. We were fortunate to be provided a place to stay in the marina we had just spent 6 weeks in. It was there, surrounded by incredible friends, that we received the love and support that we needed to continue. We will always have a special place in our heart for Brian, Aubrey, Stacy, Sheri, Robert, Karen, Luke, Alex, and so many others that call Portofino home.

We immediately started looking for our next boat and after seeing 15+ boats in Kemah, it was obvious that we would need to expand our search. It was on Facebook that I saw an ad for a beautiful boat in Florida which seemed to meet our main requirement, being ready to immediately cruise. After speaking to the owner, we decided to make the trip to see it. When we arrived, it was clear SV Summer Friday was for us and after a short negotiation period, we took ownership. After just 2 weeks aboard we cast the lines yet again to travel south with the expectation that we would be to Boot Key Harbor in the keys within a week. But of course, the universe had other plans…

Just like our first day cruising on Quixotic it was an awesome day. Till it wasn’t. We traveled 50 miles south on the intercoastal waterway and 5 miles before our planned anchorage we had motor trouble. The Perkins diesel started making odd sounds, so Shannon immediately directed us into a marina. It was there just as we landed on the fuel dock that the motor gave up. After quick inspection we found that it was fully locked. Never to start again. We now had to figure out how to repower.

After much research it was decided that the best plan was to order the same motor as was previously installed. The provider told us they had it ready on the shelf and could ship it immediately. That was great news and meant we would be on our way again within just a few short weeks. That turned out to be a lie. 7 weeks later the motor was delivered. 7 weeks stuck in a High-priced fancy marina surround by mega yachts. A place that was certainly nice, but also one that was not our scene. There we rarely saw other cruisers. It was full of yacht crews prepping boats for guests who would arrive by black car with roller bags in tow, be presented flutes of champagne as they boarded, and then swept away for their grand adventure. We had absolutely nothing in common with them.

Finally, after many weeks in palm beach our new motor was installed and roared to life on the morning of Christmas eve. It was a Christmas miracle! Three hours later we slipped out of the marina and headed south. That first day we went 10 miles and anchored not far from Mar-A-Lago. The next day we kept going and anchored off the ICW where Shannon made us an awesome Christmas Dinner. So. Damn. Delicious. Each of the next 5 days prior to arriving in Boot Key Harbor brought clearer and clearer water. It was as beautiful. Intoxicating even.

Boot Key Harbor was everything we thought it would be, and more. We were finally in a place surrounded by other active cruisers. These were our people. This was our place. It was there that we learned how to play dominos and drink screwball well into the night. Thanks to John & Michelle Church for that. Shannon also became a certified diver. I’m super proud of her for conquering her fears.

Our plan was to be in BKH for a month and then catch the next weather window to the Bahamas. After several delays due to me having to travel for work, the rona hit. Our plans were immediately halted just like they were for people all over the world. That’s ok though, by this time we had already learned nothing goes to plan anyway. Adapt and overcome had become as much of our mantra as it is for the Marines. We did just that. Since we couldn’t go to the Bahamas, we spent the better part of the next two months cruising off-grid in what the locals call the “backcountry”. It’s really just the desolate islands on the gulf side of the keys but it was awesome! There we got closer to friends on SV The Crooked Anchor and SV Dulce Vida. Ken, Kelly, Eric, and Patti are some of the best people on the planet. I can’t wait to see them again.

In May the winds started to die down and the heat went up. We quickly decided that a trip up the east coast of the US was in order. We wanted to find cooler temps. The only challenge was that we had no idea if anything would be open or not. Would we be able to get fuel? Would be able to dingy dock and shop for groceries? The rona was a major factor to consider. Fortunately, a good friend, Dave on SV Crazy Pirates come by via dingy one day to tell us he had spoke to a dockmaster in GA who could get us both a spot in the marina if we wanted it. It was then we decided to commit to a month in St Simons Island, GA. We thought then that it would be enough to let the rona calm down and we could then continue north to Maine.

Two weeks later after traveling 500 NM we arrived in Georgia. It’s here that we ended up in a slip next to a boat for sale. A boat that caught my eye from the beginning. SV Summer Friday had been very good to us, but it was time to consider an upgrade. She taught us many things we loved in a boat and also some things we wanted differently. So, we bought a new boat. Our third in a year. That resulted in another change of plans. Instead of being in St Simmons for a month, we will have been here for 6 before we leave. SV Summer Friday was purchased by great friends from Dallas who will be joining us as we cruise south this fall/winter.

The best part of being here? You guessed it… more new awesome friends. This summer we have been drawn closer to the crew of SV Crazy Pirates but also incredibly close to Van and Janelle aboard SV Stray Cats. We’re pretty much a fleet now. The Pirate Posse with our own flag to fly when we all head south starting early November.

Is this life worth the challenges we’ve had? ABSOLUTELY! The freedom and peace to live our best life without the constraints of the rat race is worth so much more than we gone through. If there’s a main takeaway from the last year it’s that while the world seems currently to be torn by division, people are by and large good. We continue to meet incredible people everywhere we go and when they all band together great stuff happens. We are collecting memories that would never happen had we stayed in our comfortable life with big house and nice cars.

Shannon has become one hell of a seamstress and is a serious master of the galley. I’ve come to learn diesel mechanics, electrical skills, plumbing, wood carpentry, rigging, a/c & refrigeration, general boatwright skills, and a married of other things. Why? Because things break all the time and there’s no one else but us to handle it. It’s satisfying in ways I can’t describe.

What is the future plan? There isn’t one. If you’ve been paying attention, you’d realize that plans never go as they are supposed to. Cruisers say plans are written in the sand, at low tide for this reason. Instead we now only have intentions. Now that means heading south in early November. We’ll go to Boot Key Harbor and then hopefully cross to the Bahamas or Mexico. We would like to be in Granada or Rio Dulce, Guatemala for Summer of 2021 but we’ll see if the universe agrees.

Here’s to being sophomores – on our way to being pro’s. Maybe. Probably not though. Fair Winds and following seas, friends. Don’t be afraid to go for what you want. It’ll surely be full of challenges but in the end it’ll be worth it.

©2020 by A Pirate & His Queen.