Ships Passing in the Day

After I wrote about buddy boating, one reader said that she was disappointed not to have heard about other neat boating folks we had met. Not to worry, she still liked the story, so I’ll keep writing for the website! After that I did start thinking about our contacts with other boaters. The great majority of them have been distant or fleeting. I am guessing that this has something to do with where we are and how we have been traveling.

Every place Cayenne has stopped so far has been close to the ICW. In other words, we haven’t gone very far from the freeway, sometimes just off on the shoulder where we still get wakes from boats going through. Sure, we were a day or two out at the Dry Tortugas and Key West, but after that we headed back inward. Whenever it was reasonable, we went out offshore for our passages, but once we came in to an anchorage or a dock, it was back by the ditch.

This is like an all-day interstate drive, done in slow motion: The oncoming traffic rushes by, and some boats zoom past you, while you slowly pass a few others, but you may stay with a boat all day, perhaps pulling a little bit ahead for a while, then waiting for the same bridge opening with them, but staying within sight all day. Perhaps you hear them on the radio all day, opening bridges or talking to their next marina, even though you can’t see them. Also like a freeway, sometimes you play “leapfrog” where you pass the same boat multiple times, perhaps over a few days.

Sometimes you spend a lot of time with a boat without really making contact. Persistence is a sloop with a light blue hull. One day, we motored in sight of them for about six hours, waiting for bridges, then getting ahead, and repeating the process. Another day they were one of the boats in an anchorage with us. We haven’t even talked to them over the radio, but if we do meet them in the next few weeks, we’ll remember those days.

We spoke briefly with the crew of a big 55 foot ketch, a father and son pair. They had been up and down this coast many times, and had some useful tips about places we were planning to go. (I hope we remember some of them…) The ICW makes cruising linear, in that everybody is going either up or down, so usually everybody has just been in the same places and is going to soon be at the same places. The seasons being what they are, we are almost all going the same direction too–another kind of snowbirds all migrating North for the summer.

Since we are in a pack of sorts, you might first notice a boat when somebody else asks about it. When we pulled into Southport, another boater asked, “Have you seen Pilgrim today?” Pilgrim is a smaller classic looking ketch owned by William and Nancy. They are a younger couple (i.e., not yet retired, unlike many if not most cruisers going up the ICW). When we passed them, we noticed that the boat hailed from Lady’s Island South Carolina, right around where Meps’ parents had had vacation property and then retired to. Nancy told us that her father had also been a professor and that he had moved the boat down from Urbanna to Lady’s Island when he retired.

William and Nancy bought the boat and spent the winter driving down and fixing up Pilgrim for the voyage back up to Urbanna on the Rappahannock river in Virginia. We are pretty new to full-time cruising ourselves, so I felt some connection to these nice folks who were just starting out with their first boat. I know it isn’t true, but it sometimes felt like everybody else already knew each other and had been up and down the ditch a dozen times, so meeting somebody who clearly wasn’t in that category was a memorable change.

We first met Southern Cross in Venice, Florida; we were in the middle of a bad evening and night that involved not having room to anchor, re-anchoring at every wind shift, then noticing Southern Cross anchored, and going by to ask them if they knew whether if there was any deep water nearby, perhaps better than our charts showed. As we went by, they cheerfully admitted they didn’t know, but would watch and learn from our mistakes…We next noticed them at the Dry Tortugas (They are the ketch with green sailcovers to the right of us in the photo currently on our homepage). Weeks later, we heard Southern Cross on the VHF, but figured that they were just another boat with that name. A week ago, we realized that they were the same boat, and had a long three-way conversation over VHF with them and Daisy Dee about where to anchor around the Alligator River. They both decided to anchor in Alligator Creek, while we went off in search of Lassie. Three days later, we were at a dock in Hampton, and Southern Cross came in a little later. This time we had a leisurely conversation at the dock, and (among other things) found out that they too keep a website going:

Sometimes you meet really wonderful people. I don’t expect we will be meeting better folks, I only hope we have more time to get to know them now that we are in the Chesapeake and “off the freeway” for a while.