It only took 6 years!
Well we were finally on our way and we were approaching our first obstacle, the 42 foot tall bridge. We had already leaned the mast back so all that was required was to pull the engine back and ease her through. So we did. And as soon as we pulled it back the engine went dead! Luckily the wind was behind us and we drifted under the bridge and dropped anchor on the other side to assess the problem. I bled the engine several times and tried time after time to restart. After throwing the wrench at it we decided to reset the mast and then come back to the engine. If all else fails we could sail downwind to a marina at Dragon Point, which is where the Banana river meets the Indian river at the Intracoastal Waterway (ICWW). So we got the mast back in place and started back on the engine to no avail.
This is where I first realized how helpless sailing can make you feel. Ren is wrenching on the engine and cussing for me to bring him tools. I’m cussing for him to hurry up! Losing your cool makes engine wrenching in rough weather pretty difficult. In the meantime, it’s raining outside. I understand, even at this early moment in our cruising careers, that this emergency is probably a level 1 on a scale of 1 to 10. This reality check makes me think we need more practice, at least communicating effectively under pressure.
As I’m contemplating our situation I realize that we are drifting back towards the bridge. My default reaction is to trust that Ren knows exactly what’s going on all the time. I watch the sweat drip down his butt crack and think, nah, he has no clue that we’re drifting. I dramatically scream out, “The anchor is slipping!” We both rush on deck. Ren begins pulling the anchor up until the rusty end of the anchor chain slips past the bow pulpit. Where’s the anchor you ask? Hell if we know! It’s about 30 feet on the south side of that 42’ bridge we mentioned. Probably creating an artificial reef for some pinfish. Good thing the boat was already equipped with two anchors up front and one in the back. We quickly dropped a second hook and continued arguing.
We contacted the closest marina and the draw bridge, both to our south and informed them of our predicament. For the first time we were under sail in our new boat! Just as if we were back home sailing our 18’ Hobie Cat, we maneuvered our 35 footer perfectly into the slip under sail, dousing the main and then the jib at the perfect moment to the amazement of the dockmaster who had been awaiting our arrival.
Back in our comfort zone, the arguing subsides and we are immediately in love again. At this moment, during our first sail in our new boat, I remember that I want to marry Ren more than anything else in the world and this new adventure we are dreaming about has become the ONLY option. No more sitting in traffic on my way home from the office. No more Ren working in the heat, coming home with bloody knuckles from manual labor (or so I think). No more paying bills! We are going to be cruisers and every day of our lives will be like this moment, a moonrise (full moon at that), a perfect downwind breeze, warm beers and a huge stretch of water between us and everything else we are responsible for. A naive perspective, yes, but the Polyanna rose colored life perspective I had hoped sailing would bring.
We tied up and I immediately began working on the Westerbeke 4-108. Actually the engine was manufactured for Westerbeke by Perkins so in fact it is a Perkins 4-108. Westerbeke buys engines from numerous manufacturers, paints them red and does the marketing and sales under their name. Anyway, within about 30 minutes I had the thing running again.
By now it was getting dark but to stay on schedule we had to make Titusville, FL which was 35 miles to our north. The adventure had just begun and we were already sailing at night and loving it! Throughout the entire trip to North Carolina I can count on one hand the opportunities where the wind wasn’t in our faces and we could actually sail. This first night was one of them. We were on our way!
We made it that night to Titusville and woke to a gorgeous morning on the space coast. After a calm night at anchor we motored into the Titusville municipal marina and had a huge breakfast at a local diner and were back under way by 9am. We really had no idea how far we were going but we knew we wanted to try and at least do 120 miles each day.