We were fifteen miles offshore. It was dark--really dark. The west coast of Florida was off to the left, far over the horizon, so I couldn’t even see shore lights. All I could see was the black night all round us, and the occasional ghostly-white crest of a wave.
And stars--a million stars.
I was wedged into a corner of the cockpit. I was comfortable, but not too comfortable. It had been a long time since I’d slept properly, but now wasn’t the time to nod off, tempted though I was.
The wind was still blowing hard enough to need a reef in the main and, with fifteen miles between us and the coast, there was plenty of room for the wind to blow up four-foot seas. They rolled in from the port quarter (left rear corner of the boat), but the Blue Moon didn’t seem bothered by them. She rose lightly and let them slip under her keel without fuss. The sheet-to-tiller steering gear held us on a steady course. I was as relaxed as I’d been so far on the voyage. My little boat was taking care of me for now--perhaps just paying me back for all the loving care Helena and I had lavished on her.
I cast a wary glance towards our only company: a large container ship several miles off the starboard beam, also heading south. I wasn’t worried about her. We were roughly following the three fathom line on the chart. The big ship and her sisters stayed in the shipping lanes and wouldn’t venture into shallow water just to run us down. As long as we stayed out of their way, we’d be fine.
Someone once said that there are only two wildernesses left on earth: the tops of mountains, and the sea. That night, as we rolled along under reefed main and staysail, watching the tip of the mast draw figure eight’s in the star-filled sky, I understood what he meant. The sea hadn’t changed since the pirate Jean Laffitte roamed these waters in his schooner La Diligent in the early 1800s, and the Blue Moon wasn’t all that different from Laffitte’s ship. We had the same amount of electrical power, for instance. That is to say, none, except for the small amount I managed to generate by solar power. Just like Laffitte, most of the lights we had on board were oil lamps. And like the furtive pirate, we weren’t showing any running lights, except for a kerosene light hanging from the mizzen mast.
The Coast Guard, I knew, would take a very dim view of this arrangement. I hadn’t seen a Coast Guard boat since arriving in Florida, but I wouldn’t let us get caught offshore at night again until I had a full set of running lights installed.
Wind, waves, stars, the gentle rolling of a good sea boat... what more could one ask for?
A cup of tea, of course. Must drink something to stay awake.
I soon had my gimbaled stove roaring. It was a delight to be out of the wind, down below, in my snug little cabin, while the Blue Moon steered us towards Tarpon Springs. Why were we the only boat out here on this beautiful spring night? Why didn’t everyone want to do this? At that moment, I couldn’t imagine...
-- From "An Unlikely Voyage"
|The Blue Moon with five sails set.|
Image by Pauline Chiarelli
Why doesn't everyone want to do this? I still can't imagine. And ever since I sailed the Blue Moon into Huntington Harbor -- with Cabin Boy trailing behind -- I've been thinking, "What's next? What's next?"
For awhile, I thought I had my answer: beef up the Blue Moon, sail her across the Atlantic to England, and race in the 2018 Jester Challenge back to Newport. Helena was initially all for it, but when she saw me start the long preparation for what would be -- let's face it -- a BIG adventure, she got jealous.
"You're going to spend another summer sailing without me?" she asked. "Why can't we do something together?"
Not having the word 'stupid' written across my forehead, I immediately agreed. We weren't sure what we would do, but we'd do it together.
With Helena involved, my simple plan to sail across an ocean began to grow. Perhaps we would buy a boat in the Pacific Northwest, take her on a shake-down cruise to San Diego, and then onto the Galapagos, Easter Island, and southern Chile. Or perhaps we'd try for our bucket-list goal of sailing to Madeira (the only way to visit that famous isle.)
Whatever the plan, it was clear we were looking at an adventure on a new scale. A long-term cruise. Two, maybe three years. It was time to make changes.
First we had to part with the love of our life, our amazing home in Huntington, NY. We quickly found a delightful couple from South Africa who promised to be her new caretakers, put our most precious belongings into storage -- to be reclaimed when we return to shore life -- and moved temporarily to FL. First step, done.
Second step is to find the perfect boat. But in the meantime, it is time for another parting -- to sell the loyal and gentle Blue Moon. Yes, she is the perfect small boat. But for our next adventure, we are going to need something bigger. So the Blue Moon is for sale. She of course needs no introduction to the readers of this blog, but I will be providing particulars in my next post.
|After fall 2016 haul out -- freshly painted topsides and bottom|
She still needs a bit of painting -- I haven't had a chance to finish painting her deck -- but she has new topside and bottom paint, as well as all the work I've put into her in the last 6 years. I like to think she's in much better condition than when I bought her, and that's the most we wooden boat lovers can hope for. I will let her go for the same price I bought her: $5,000 (with a much better engine than she came with!) Her winter storage is paid through April.
If you are interested in more details, please email me or call me at (631) 327-4373.
Next Up: The Itch