The truth is that it’s been a long two months since we arrived in Florida. We came here at the end of January with hopes of fixing up the boat in a couple weeks and then heading back south towards the Caribbean, but that was way too optimistic. It wasn’t until Sunday morning that we finally cast away from in Fort Lauderdale with our friends Elliott (“Eli”) and Jimmy (“Swifty”) aboard, cracking jokes and high fiving each other as the famous 17th Street Causeway bridge opened up above us for the last time and finally set us free again into the Atlantic Ocean. 30 hours later, about half way between Key West and Cuba, we began experiencing electrical problems that prevented us from charging our main battery bank, then an electrical short took our new autopilot offline. With two major problems like this, we switched to our backup systems and quickly decided to make U-Turn for Florida rather than trying to fix these things somewhere further south. This experience is a demoralizing one and our spirits are touching new lows for this journey. If there is a silver lining it’s that we’d much rather have these problems here near Florida where yacht services are the best in the world, although we’re getting tired of repeating this logic to ourselves.
People considering a long distance sailing voyage should be cautious about what they read and hear. It is not the case that each day is filled with fun and excitement, in fact most days aren’t. Our hope is that by the end of the voyage we’ll look back at the whole experience and see that the effort was well worth it – that seems to be a reasonable expectation based on what other circumnavigators tell us. It’s also not true that sailing is the greatest challenge of a trip like this – the sailing part is actually pretty easy, the most important skills being diligence and patience. The real challenge is keeping the boat and its numerous mechanical and electrical systems working reliably. Boats like ours are incredibly complex – if you walk through a boat like Tamarisk and try to add up the number of pumps, pulleys, switches, circuit boards, display panels, hoses, motors, antennas, hinges, ropes, propellers, impellers, cooling hoses, heating hoses, thermostats, bearings, batteries, bulbs, modems, solenoids, sensors, and relays, all of which must be working at any given time to sail the ship safely, your brain might start to melt as you realize the sheer quantity of things that somehow have to not break each and every day. Layer onto this the effects of high physical stresses on many components, plus the corrosive effects of saltwater and salty air (particularly on electronic parts), and you’ll soon discover that no matter how hard you work the thing will never, ever be fully functional. If you’re a perfectionist, or can’t stand the uncertainty of not knowing what will break next or where you’ll be when it happens, our advice is to choose a hobby other than long distance sailing.
Our three day round trip from Fort Lauderdale has been a good test for all the new work we’ve done, most of which passed the test. We’ve also taken our fishing skills to a new level now, with an ability to trawl three lines at once, which yields far more fish than we can possibly eat. Six months ago we caught our first fish off the Spanish coast, now we’re reeling in serious sport fish with relative ease. We’re no longer at risk of protein deficiency. Our brief stop in Key West on the way back up had great potential, but with the strict dinghy laws here in the US, and already one citation on our record, the Keys might as well not even exist as far as we’re concerned.
We’re about 24 hours away from Martin Harris’s boatyard, our home for the past two months and probably the next week. Our most important job for the next few days will be trying to convince Uncle Martin (not really our uncle but it feels that way) and Pete (his mechanic) to hop aboard Tamarisk for a couple years of sailing…. if we can achieve that, we’ll have made great strides towards eliminating the major challenges that lie ahead.