Trip Start Dec 01, 2007
Trip End May 31, 2008

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Flag of United States  , Arizona
Sunday, June 22, 2008

Home is home .....as much as I love to cruise and be on the water still find home a necessity of living.  Big bed, big screen, soft couch, yard, pool, liquor cabinet ....all that stuff.   Perhaps that will change as we continue to do more and more cruising in the First Forty.   But unlike last time when we were "running for the barn", this time were just ready.  We also knew that the really hot and humid weather on the Chesapeake was right around the corner.  So we were ready to head to the really hot, but dry weather of the desert. 

As I write this epilogue, we have been home for three weeks now and in a tsunami of doctor appts, broken Internet, unattended chores and more administrative that I can take.  But things have begun to settle down a bit.  We have owned First Forty for an amazing two years now.  We have cruised this boat nearly 7000 nautical miles.... that is New York to LA three times or so.   Wow! 

So what about this trip and cruising in general?  Some of you who read this may be thinking of cruising or already  cruise your own vessel.  What is our take at this time in our cruising 'career'?

First and foremost our attitude about the boat and cruising has morphed dramatically.  Cruising has now become "baked in" and we have (to some degree) merged with the First Forty.  What started out as something we undertook as a 'get away'.  Now it is more of a lifestyle that any sort of a vacation.  It's what we do.  Things that used to seem unusual or even challenging are now routine.  Boat repairs and maintenance which used to be kind of 'in your face' and overwhelming are now an occasional bump in the road which you simply go over.   Has that taken the adventure out of this?....heck no.  It allows us to better enjoy the journey and better to enjoy the experience.  

Just as important is how we feel about our boat.  First Forty is (of course) 40' and she is not new by Norhavn standards.  We have gone back and forth about a bigger, more comfortable boat.  Now we have concluded that FF is really a good boat for us.  It lacks some of the luxuries and niceties found in many, more  elaborate boats but what she does she does very well.  And, perhaps, we didn't need those things anyway.   Sometimes she has more capability than we need given that we really do coastal not ocean cruising.  But its good to have a margin for safety.  

Both Sue and I started the season saying/thinking (in different ways of course) that we might keep First Forty for "one more season" or "we'll see if we want to stick with boating".    But amazingly, we both now say that we are in this for the long term.  So we have no intent on selling out.   In fact, we are almost counting the days until we fire up the big diesel again!   In fact, I am counting the days....  46 days to be precise. 

OK, lets think about best and worst of this trip from Norfolk - Key West - Baltimore.

Best Stop:
Key West.  You just gotta like Key West.  Great music, great food, fun people and the Mile Marker 24 Band at Schooners Wharf (http://www.schoonerwharf.com).  A great week.   If you ever have a chance, you must here the Mile Marker 24 Band (http://www.milemarker24.com).  

Biggest Positive Surprise:  Cumberland Island Georgia was a beautiful place.  We could have stayed a few more days.  Also Lignumvitae Key was really interesting.  If you go to the Keys, you will find this a great stop.  Also free moorings is a plus.

Most interesting thing we visited: the "Shot Tower" in Baltimore.  This is kind of a smokestack sort of structure perhaps 150' high.  A hundred and fifty years ago, lead was dropped from high inside the tower to fall as "shot" into a water.  It made bird shot and military ammo.

Biggest Negative Surprise
The weather in south Florida.  We had no idea there would be week after week of nearly consistent cold front winds.   It was fine for sitting in a resort, but not great for boating.  We never made it to the Bahamas despite lots of preparation. 

The trip down to the keys was also a disappointment.  The water is not that clear and good anchorages are no where to be found unless you have a much smaller boat and go 'inside'.

Best Anchorage: 
Sue and I differ on this, but I really liked the anchorage near St Catherin's Island in Georgia.  This is nearly unspoiled and offers dramatic marsh scenery and sunsets.   There is no place to go ashore, which is a negative to Sue.   The anchorage at Cumberland Island was a close second.

The day I would most like to repeat:
We had a very nice day on the water from Ft Lauderdale down to Pumpkin Key.  It was offshore all the way with powder blue water and hardly anyone around.  Can I do that tomorrow instead of my taxes?

The day I would NOT want to repeat:
The 'inside passage' from Ft Lauderdale to Lake Worth.  If this were what boating was about, I would play golf.  Crowds, bridges, racing/noisy and grumpy bridge tenders.  When someone yells at me on the radio and others use the "f" word, I'm out of there.   This was 6 hours of agony.

Scariest Moment:
We decided to do an overnight from Georgetown SC to Hilton Head.  We left the Georgetown River about 1800 and expected to get to Hilton Head by 0600  the next morning.  The sunset was beautiful and things were going well.  Around 1900 it was pitch dark....no moon.  We suddenly see an uncharted, fixed object pass by about 40 feet off the port side.  We didn't see it coming at all.  It was not on the radar.  Hitting this would have made for a very bad day.

Best Meals:
We loved the food in Baltimore.  Where else can you find such a multitude of neighborhood bars and restaurants such as Captain Larry's.  Go on Wednesday night: two giant crab cakes for $14 and great draft beers for $2.50. 

                                                                               * * * * *

Well that wraps up our winter season.  As I write this I am already planning the 'short season' we will do in September.  We will splash First Forty on 8-1 and cruise to Washington DC and then back to Norfolk before putting FF in hibernation for the winter.  Don't tell Art....."not another winter in the shed!    Squawk!  Squawk!".

Thanks to all who have read part or all of this ramble.  We wish you peace.
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cwstev on

Thanks for taking us along...
Gary & Sue,

We have really enjoyed your narration of your voyages. Particularly since we have sailed most of these waters.

As you begin to plan future adventures, I recommend that you pick up a copy of 'A cruising Guide to the Maine Coast' by Taft & Taft. It was a major input to our plans for perhaps our most memorable month afloat.

We look forward to following your next adventure.

Chuck & Nancy

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