THREE!

It’s been three years since we sat down and started the blog and YouTube channel for Sail Wandering Toes. It seems like a long time and also like it was only yesterday. I had wanted to do this for several years before it became a reality. Those wants, those desires start small and slowly. Personally I have so many dreams that they all get mixed up & confused and become a big jumble of unachievable mess with about as much incoherence as my dreams usually have. With the beginning of the blog, I finally had one place where I could sort out the thoughts in my head and help to keep our “Main Dream” of Cruising on track.

Dreams are like that. We see things how we want them to be and yet they are this ethereal wisp of nothing more than happy thoughts and wishes. We dream and hope that we can someday get to this “other reality”. So think about this for a moment. We have these dreams and ideas that require us to move forward and possibly even leave some comfort behind in order to get to, and yet I think that the stability and comfort of sticking close to home, keeping things the way they are and not going outside of our comfort zone tends to keep many of us from enjoying what could be great. There is no guarantee that what we dream about will ever live up to the hype that we or others make it out to be or that we will even be able to achieve what we set out to do. But in the quest, in the attempt, in just getting to the place where motivation towards positive action overrides comfort and the entropy of stability you have made the internal changes necessary to move you in the right direction.

Our dreams have taken years to mature. What we are just now beginning to achieve has been our gestating dreams for more than a decade. I’m always caught with laughter when someone remarks that we move so quickly and get so much done in a short amount of time. They don’t see the excruciatingly and painfully slow process that is the evolution of our dreams from incoherent feelings and partial wishes into somewhat more formed ideas, directions, plans, and into incomplete To-Do Lists of achievable actions that move us hopefully in the desired direction. The dream needs to morph into a plan, the plan needs to carry the weight of conviction, the execution of the components of the plan become the realization of actions and how it all turns out becomes something resembling but wholly other than the dream. Like the difference between dreamed colors and real colors. So does it make a difference if the reality is not exactly like the dream? Of course it isn’t the same. It would be childish actually if we believed we could live a sort of “Magazine Dream”, a nirvana where we never had any problems, where everyone and everything was perfect. But in the achievement that eventually comes, the reality is made clear and we get to experience our reality that what was once our dream, and the smell of the salt air is so much more real than our dreams could ever be.

Jolie Brise at Sheepshead Mooring
Marge and Captain Tom

 

 

 

 

 

 

We spent our first week in saltwater at the Sheepshead Bay Yacht Club in Brooklyn, NY on a mooring ball. The folks at Sheepshead Bay were so welcoming to us and made the facility our home for the week that we were there. The dock master Tom was a pure joy to spend time getting to know and had so many great stories and bits of saltwater wisdom to share. He helped us out in so many ways. He provided us with a water taxi and brought us to shore and back to our boats whenever we wanted, he filled our diesel cans and was genuinely happy to have us there and share any and all knowledge he could about the area. Tom has a beautiful boat on a mooring ball there and he hopes to take it back to North Carolina when he gets the chance, and we hope he does. What a wonderful guy. Sheepshead Bay YC was our shining beacon in the night while we were in New York and we will definitely be back whenever we are in the area.

Michel and Malic in NYC
Times Square subway station
Us in Times Square
Hot Dogs in Central Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next morning we got a text from Michel and Malic on Jolie Brise and they asked if we wanted to go with them into New York City. Being next to terrified of the idea, we also knew this was an opportunity that wouldn’t present itself very often and we liked the idea of going together as a group. So we quickly showered up, got ourselves ready and went ashore for our big city adventure. We walked for about a mile to a subway station, bought tickets that would get us into and hopefully back from Times Square. We figured out what train to board and hoped that we were heading in the right direction. Having four of us to look at and figure things out worked well and we could see that we were indeed travelling towards NYC. We hopped off the subway and climbed the stairs up and up and up. We exited the building and were right in the middle of Times Square in the heart of New York City. It was like being inside the TV with all of the iconic things we’ve all seen forever. We looked up and could see the mirror-ball that marked 2018, huge TV screens the size of whole buildings with advertisements, and people were everywhere! We found a Starbucks and went insider to get a coffee. I bought a postcard from a street vendor. Not knowing what to do and having no real agenda other than seeing what we could of the city we decided to walk up to Central Park and just gawk. We walked about 20 blocks north along Broadway to the southern end of Central Park and then walked for several blocks in the park before heading back south. We got a map of Central Park and realized that we had only seen about 3% of it even after walking around for almost 2 hours. We bought hot dogs from a street vendor, took pictures and saw many amazing things that are “Only in NYC”. We made our way back to Times Square along 5th, 6th and 7th avenues and ducked into Bubba Gump’s Shrimp for some lunch. Afterwards, we thought we should head back to the boats and not try to get caught in the city after dark. The way it was we found ourselves in the after-work mass-migration of people and rode the subway for 45 minutes back to Brooklyn and Sheepshead Bay standing up. It was an experience we will never forget. It all turned out well and we will feel empowered to go back to New York City and explore some more if we ever find ourselves here again.

Coney Island Boardwalk
Nathans Hot Dogs
Coney Island beach
Playing tourist in NYC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jolie Brise off the NJ coast

After a week of waiting on the mooring ball, grocery and boat store shopping, exploring the area on foot and visiting Coney Island, our weather window was finally opening. We had what looked to be about a two day long opportunity to get around New Jersey, and we took it. The only real way south from New York by boat is to go around New Jersey in the Atlantic Ocean. There are some inlets along the coast there, but they are really only accessible by powerboats that are shallow draft as most of them have only about 5 feet of depth or less inside. Our boat “draws” almost 5 feet, meaning that we are 5 feet deep to the bottom of our keel and we generally like to keep her afloat. This meant that we would need to make the entire run south around New Jersey in one hop. Our route was about 115 miles from Sheepshead Bay, NY to Cape May, NJ and would take us 20-24 hours. We left Sheepshead Bay at 9:30am on Saturday, September 29th and motored out into the Atlantic heading south. We had a fairly uneventful day of motor-sailing which is the best kind whenever things could be worse. The winds were from the northwest, the waves were from the south and the swells were from the east. This added a layer of complexity that we were unused to, but Ray (the autopilot) kept up and we just had to watch out for fishing areas and keep an eye on everything. If we went too fast we would get in to Cape May at the southern end of New Jersey too early and be anchoring in the dark so it didn’t make sense to go faster than about 5.5 knots. At the end of the day the sun finally set and we were plunged into darkness for the first time on the Atlantic Ocean. We furled the sails and decided to just run the engine overnight. Dave and Leslie closed in on us and took a position about 1/8th mile behind us so that we could stay close together during the night should anything happen. We lit a light in the cockpit to make it easier for them to see us in the dark and be able to follow us. The moon didn’t come up until about midnight and it was very dark. The waters were still choppy and without being able to see them it was a bit like being blindfolded inside a washing machine. Still, the boat is made for this and we just needed to manage our fears and go along for the ride. Until…. About 1:45am. All of a sudden the autopilot went crazy. Ray was turning us hard and fast in a circle. I was sitting at the helm under a blanket while Marge had eyes closed under another blanket in the cockpit. I immediately grabbed the wheel and threw off the autopilot. I corrected our course and got the boat back under control. Ray had lost his mind. He was spinning in circles. Apparently all of the mixed up water and winds and swells had confused the computer and he didn’t have a clue. We tried resetting him but whatever we did the compass was just spinning in circles. So, no more autopilot. Good thing I had napped a couple of hours earlier as I ended up hand-steering the rest of the night. In the dark it is very difficult to keep a heading and keep the boat going in a straight line. To keep awake we had chocolate covered coffee beans at 3am and Marge made steaming cups of coffee at 4am. By 5:30am it was getting light on the horizon. Without the lights from any nearby city, the ocean is really dark and we were happy to have made it through the night on the ocean. We were never in any real danger and we overcame what was thrown at us with only some tired muscles. Just before sun-up we motored into the inlet at Cape May, NJ and dropped our anchor just as the sun popped up above the horizon. We were tired, we were safe and we went to sleep.

Anchored in Cape May, NJ

We awoke around noon, groggy and out of sorts in the beautiful bay at Cape May. Very different from New York, we were surrounded by sea grass covered sand dunes, and more boats in one place than I think I have ever seen. Mostly fishing boats, the area was a constant parade of all manner of vessels going back and forth, in and out, here and there, coming and going. Cape May is a busy place. We got our dinghy in the water and the motor on her and went ashore to explore. We tied up to a dock in one of the local marinas and walked around for a while. The town is spread out and we weren’t able to see it all, but we saw what we could. We found some postcards and I got a slice of Key Lime pie and Dave and Leslie bought some fresh seafood. Still hazy from the strange day, we returned to the boat, had some dinner and went to bed.

Cape May lighthouse

Monday morning we took advantage of a favorable tide and raised the anchor at sunrise to head up the Delaware River. I spent some time reading about our autopilot and did a full factory reset on it. I was able to reset most of the settings and it seems to be holding a course now. We motored out of the Cape May inlet, around the southern end of the point and up the Delaware. The Delaware River here is so wide you cannot see the southern side as it’s over the horizon. There were many other boats also taking advantage of the tide situation and it was good to have the company. We were rested, the autopilot was behaving, and we had a beautiful day to move along. At one point during the day I counted 16 boats ahead of us and 12 behind us all going in the same direction. It was a massive parade of sailboats all presumably heading towards the Annapolis Boat Show! We took pictures of boats that we passed and others that passed us and tried to keep in contact with Gypsy Spirit and Encore. They had waited several hours before getting going and only made it half way up the Delaware and would need to catch up with us in a couple of days. We made it into the C&D canal (the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal) and found a place to stop for the night and drop our anchor. One of the boats that we passed during the day also came in and we were able to exchange pictures that we had taken of each other’s boats. We had a nice quiet night at anchor as we ate aboard and enjoyed the sunset.

Back Creek along the C&D
Crab Pots

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next morning we continued on. Anchor up, we motored the rest of the way through the C&D and out into the Chesapeake Bay for the first time. The river here is called Back Creek and I am anxious to do some research into the history of the area. There is also a Back River and some other Back Creeks and I know that this is where my ancestors arrived to America in 1739. When I figure out more I will definitely let everyone know. Our trip this day was made technical by many logs and floating masses of weeds that were in the water from recent rainfalls, and we were introduced to the famous “Crab Pots” that are everywhere in the Chesapeake. We must have weaved our way through a few thousand crab pots all marked with a single floating jug of some sort. They were everywhere, spaced about 100 feet apart and difficult to see. That kept us on our toes and we motored the 40 or so miles to Old Bay Marina in Jones Creek just off of the Patapsco River.

The gang at Young’s Boat Yard
Feast at Sail Inn

 

 

 

 

 

 

At Old Bay Marina we had a difficult time getting a hold of them and just tied up to a dock. In for the night, this is the place we planned on having our boat hauled and soda-blasted in preparation for a new bottom barrier-coat and ocean type bottom paint. There was no power available for boats here and we knew that was going to be a problem if we ended up staying here for a couple of weeks. In the morning we spoke with some people from the marina and they were very open about the marina owners and how slow they were to get around to business and difficult to get a hold of. They had the travel-lift in disrepair, a couple of people urged us to possibly go elsewhere for our work, and after getting the same vibe from several people, we quickly made plans to move the boat to another nearby marina. We were able to move Wandering Toes over to Young’s Boat Yard just across the bay where we had power and were able to speak with the marina owner Anthony who is a sailor and understands what our needs are. We then called Gypsy Spirit and Encore and gave them the change of plans and where to find us. That night we all went out to dinner at a local pub and had a wonderful dinner that lasted almost three hours.

So here we are in the Chesapeake Bay. We will be staying here for two to three weeks to attend the Annapolis Boat Show, get our boat hauled, bottom stripped and repainted and back in the water before continuing on. We hope to have time to just be quiet while we’re here. This will be the longest we have stayed anywhere in almost three months. Three months of moving across the country by boat, three months of living on the water, three months of not wearing any shoes (I’ve wore out my sandals and will need a new pair), and it feels good.

Cape May exploring

While sometimes scary, life has no guarantees. What may seem to others as terrifying or possibly even poor decision making has been the route our dreams have taken us. We have chosen to make radical changes at critical moments throughout our lives, believing and trusting in ourselves, and it’s been these major shifts in the direction of our dreams that have so changed our experience in a positive way.

 

 

Keep following your dreams, and we hope you keep following along as we follow ours!

David and Marge Back
s/v Wandering Toes, and RV Verne!

8 thoughts on “THREE!”

  1. This was an amazing read. I teared up a couple times how wonderful this is for you two! And yes…I agree with Kim…you should write a book. Thank you for sharing your life/adventure with us. It is wonderful to see your dreams coming true. Love you guys!

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  2. boy! Was that a newsletter and what an adventure. Love the pictures too. You guys amaze me. Love it. Love it. Love it. Hang in there. Hope you are or did enjoy the boat show, and as Buffy says, Sail on. LOVE you guys. Mary

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  3. You have had so many wonderful, beautiful, exciting and a scary nite on the ocean. I recall you telling me— Mom, I have auto pilot, and this map and that map and etc., etc. I know you are a really good sailor and so is Marge, so I am not worrying, but what adventures you are having. I’m proud of you. I love your blogs and travel logs. They are wonderful. Keep on sending everything. It’s great.

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  4. David, you need to write a book once you complete the first retirement tour.
    So, auto pilot, does it detect anything in your path and direct away from it? What an amazing venture you & Marge are on, a few bumps along the way that would freaked me out. Safe travels!

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  5. I love following you, keep up the posts! Make sure you have the latest software updates in your auto pilot CPU, it may prevent that from happening again.

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  6. Well that was quite a read. Going around New Jersey sounds a little scary, but I know you both are competent sailors and can handle almost anything. I give you both credit for following your dreams even though it can be scary at times. Now that you have had a rest? I’m sure you can hardly wait to get the boat back in the water. Sail On!

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