Below is a list of all the things we have liked the most about cruising. This list has been evolving since we left four months ago and will no doubt change again as we experience new things and travel to new places.
The feeling of coming into a new place. As we enter into a new port, there's this feeling that's almost like magic. You see the land, dark green in the distance, or the anchorage or the city lights, and it's all new and all unknown. We have a few guidebooks, and useful as they are, they never really prepare you for the next spot, for the new beginning. I've been loving stepping onto land and feeling almost assaulted by the sounds and smells and sights of a place I never had a notion of. There might be challenges to come or downsides or the rolliest anchorage you've ever experienced, but for that first moment it's all possibility. I guess it's this sensation that keeps travelers inspired to move ever onward, to try the different unexplored route, and what motivated early humans to take that first step off the savana. That idea of what could be.
The dinghy ride. We both love our dinghy. Even with just our six-horse power outboard that had been sitting in various garages for an unknown amount of time, she can plane with two people aboard, and she's totally rowable. You know how a dog looks with its head hanging out the window of a car speeding down the highway? That's pretty much my expression too. Less drool, though. Even Vlad admits she was well worth the dinghy war.
Getting the boat tuned just right. My mom told me once that sailboats were like angels on the water. When we get the sails set just right and the wind fills them perfectly, it becomes a beautiful way to move, a mode of travel unlike any other, one in which the boat and the sails mix with the waves and the wind in such a way that there is nothing left for us to do but lounge in the cockpit, looking at each other and thinking life couldn't be better. Of course, the conditions don't always allow for that kind of sailing, but we really dig it when it happens.
Night sailing. You would think that this could never be the case. Before we left, I was nervous about night watches, alone in the cockpit in the dark. What if something went wrong? What if there were squalls or boats or rigs? What if I fell asleep? At first, Vlad did most of the late night watching because he stays up late anyway and I was having seasick issues, and he kept raving about how it was like some kind of fairyland. So finally, I had to check it out, and it was just spectacular. The phosphorescence almost sizzles in the water as the boat slides through the waves and is like a mirror to the stars, which are the brightest you'll ever see them. There is peace in night sailing that I wasn't expecting. Instead of being full of shadows, it was exhilarating.
The people. We have met some truly generous, thoughtful and beautiful people on this trip, who were nice or friendly for nothing in return. We've had strangers invite us to their homes, random people we met on a beach bring us dinner and a cruising couple lend us their spare outboard engine when ours was broken (like it always is!). We've had amazing conversations and learned much about other cultures and places and ideas through the people we've met, and we hope we have returned the kindness.
All the wild stuff you would never see any other way. Vlad and I often look at each other and say, "Can you believe we are really here doing this?" Dolphins have greeted us coming into Key West. We've seen rays jumping out of the water and barracuda as long as I am tall. Birds have hitched rides on our boat for a hundred miles and then flown off as unexpectedly as they landed. We've seen fisherman with handmade paddles and dugout canoes with 25-horsepower motors on the back. We've walked through jungles and cloud forests and along deserted beaches. We've followed leaf-cutter ant super highways and eaten street tacos on thick homemade corn tortillas deep in Mayan country. Sure, we could have traveled to all of these places via plane and stayed in hotels, but sailing has given us the chance to visit these places at a pace and from a perspective that no other type of travel provides.
The freedom. We can go where we want to go, pretty much when we want to. Should we sail to Colombia/go through the Canal/ cross the Pacific? Should we go to the beach/ride our bikes/snorkel the afternoon away? Should we clean the mildew off Vlad's shoes/rebuild the head/design a rain collecting system? Of course, there are always obligations that must be fulfilled, and there are limitations due to budgets or time or the weather. But overall, we can choose what we do, and it's beautiful. I love being able to work entirely on boat projects one day and then the next spend wandering down the beach or reading. I'm not saying that cruising is easy because it's most decidedly not all sandy beaches and umbrella drinks. We have to work hard daily to keep this whole shebang up and running. But there's something about choosing what you do and when you do it that I find incredible. It is a treasure, one that I will miss when it's gone.
Bettie. Our boat is the thing that makes this entire excursion possible. She takes us safely to every place we want to go, puts up with all of our mistakes and is genuinely a beautiful place to wake up to in the morning or snuggle down in at night. We love her, respect her and can't wait to put another 1,000 miles under her keel. Or 10,000.