May 17 - Sale Creek Marina (We're Home!)
Shortly before 3:00 PM, 13,512 hours after we left in 2005, we tied up at the fuel dock at Sale Creek Marina. Funny--it didn't feel real to me until I was walking down the sidewalk through the trees, watching my feet move along the shaded concrete as I had done so many times before, hurrying forward on one task or another. A sidewalk rimmed with green, gravel steps up the bathhouse, was still there in my memory banks, as recognizable as a stop sign. In the days to come I will try to finish up our log with a few notes about how we are adjusting.

The title photo above is one of the first shells we picked up when we got to Pensacola...a reminder of how far we've come and how far we still have to go in our quest to learn to cruise.

May 24 - Sale Creek Marina
One minute you are anchored barefoot in the middle of the wilderness with everything you own and care about afloat around you, and the next you find yourself with your pockets bulging with keys, a wallet, and of course a cell phone, driving a mini-van in downtown traffic. Annie starts back at her job at Erlanger Hospital on June 4. I'm waiting to see what opportunities might come along for me. So far, after all those days on the move and nights at anchor, it feels good to be at rest for a while.

Chattanooga would be a great summer destination for cruisers who have already summered in the Chesapeake a time or two.

Laura on Bow View from Kayak Sale Creek Marina

Photos: (1) Seaductress had grown a most large mustache of Tombigbee mud on the bow which was not easily removed. (2) Our friend Clarence offered us the use of his kayaks while he and family are in Yosemite. (3) Sale Creek Marina at night is a peaceful, wonderful place.

June 1 - Sale Creek Marina
As I write this, I am "minding the store" at Sale Creek Marina, which means I am free to update the log between answering the phone and selling the occasional gallon of gas or bag of chips. It's a not a bad way to spend the afternoon, particularly since my knowledge and therefore responsibilities are somewhat limited, and it helps pay the slip rental. Annie is off with Laura doing laundry in town. We've been back at the dock for two weeks, and in that time we've eaten at all our favorite restaurants, bought a minivan and new clothes, and enjoyed seeing many friends. Monday will be Annie's first day of work at Erlanger. Me, I've been "exploring options," most of which revolve around Laura's schooling. We had planned to enroll her in the Montessori in Chattanooga, but they have no openings at this time. If we don't find a school that seems appropriate, it's possible I may just become a "Mr. Mom Stay at Home Dad." You know, that just might work.

We have dial-up Internet access at the dock now thanks to a borrowed phone line, but are still seeking fast access so that Annie can avoid making trips into the office in the middle of the night. Now that we're on-line hipsters, I've used that access to check in with some of my cruising inspirations, and found that Douglas and Bernadette Bernon are still making regular log entries even after selling Ithaca, their beloved Shearwater 39. The Bernon's log at paints a vivid picture of what it's like to cruise for six years and then move ashore. Like us, they came home not to resume their former lives but with the idea of reinventing themselves. Like us, they are seeking occupations are rewarding beyond simply earning a salary. Bernadette, the former editor of Cruising World, is doing freelance writing while Douglas, a psychologist, is seeing patients but hoping to find a position working with refugees overseas.

Other other cruisers with kids that we met this year have also been making decisions about their plans. While in Mobile we talked with Brett on Grace and learned that his family will be sailing the boat towards home, then jetting off to Switzerland where he has a job waiting. The log of the catamaran Spoony reveals that Mark and Jen and the girls will be selling the boat and heading to Italy. Sometimes in the morning I'll still turn on the SSB radio and listen to the faraway sounds of Chris Parker talking about the weather or all the usual suspects checking into the Cruiseheimers Net. The other night we anchored out all by ourselves just up the creek, and it felt like we were still cruising.

Rowing the Walker Bay Dog Grooming

Photos: (1) Nothing beats a picturesque row around the harbor with some new friends. (2) Laura makes another friend, this one of the canine variety.

June 4 - Sale Creek Marina
Before it all becomes a hazy memory, here are some final stats on our first cruise:

  • Our trip covered 17 states and four countries. We were gone from our slip at Sale Creek for 563 days or not quite 19 months. Based mostly on the hours logged on the autopilot, which was steering almost all the time, we spent around 1,600 hours underway and put at least 10,000 miles under the keel.
  • We visited 185 anchorages (including a few we visited multiple times). The longest we stayed in one place was three weeks.
  • We tied up for the night at 52 marinas, including several free docks which were greatly appreciated.
  • We picked up 21 mooring balls. A few of them were free but most involved some kind of modest fee.
  • We did a total of 17 overnight passages, all but two of them just one night. Our longest passage was a 48 hour trip across the Gulf of Mexico from Clearwater Beach to Pensacola.
  • With the help of weather guru Chris Parker and a little luck we encountered no nasty storms while underway. The biggest seas we ever met were about eight footers rolling through the passes at Pensacola and Warderick Wells, but those were just temporary. We did see some squalls with winds of 40 to 50 knots while at anchor. By making shorter hops, usually just overnighters or less, we were able to be in port for any rough weather. The toughest conditions we encountered actually came well inland on the Potomac River and the Chesapeake, where we ventured out into at least three days of winds over 30 knots. Of course, in some parts of the world, that's considered normal sailing.
  • Mechanically we had good luck with no major breakdowns outside of a long-running saga with our drive shaft, cutless bearing, and engine mounts. I had to rebuild the raw water pump on our Volvo engine and replace the freshwater pump, but these could be considered normal maintenance given the hours we were putting on the engine. Our Raymarine ST6001 autopilot began to act up but fortunately lasted long enough to get us back to inland waters where it wasn't needed (the problem is either in the computer or the fluxgate compass). We had to repair the foil on our furling mainsail three times and twice had to do repairs on the genoa--that sewing machine was heavy but we were glad we had it along.
  • The crew stayed in good health. Except for Laura having dry eyes, we had very few allergies while cruising (they were apparently waiting patiently for us at the dock here in Chattanooga). Laura caught a cold in Washington D.C. but otherwise we had no illnesses whatsoever.
  • We ate a lot of ice cream and played on a lot of playgrounds.

Tennessee Aquarium

Photo: Fun at home: everyone's favorite redhead relives her snorkeling days at the Tennessee Aquarium.

June 10 - Sale Creek Marina
Laura and I both had colds last week, while Annie soldiered on in her first week back at Erlanger Hospital. I have taken over the home schooling with Laura and I'm finding it to be a challenge. Friends had told us that it was tough to come back to shore after cruising, and I can see that even if I still haven't really come ashore yet. Laura and I are still living the cruising life here at Sale Creek, and it seems difficult to bear down and get much of anything accomplished beyond the daily school work. One of these days, I suppose, we'll get back in gear.

June 20 - Sale Creek Marina
We've been at the dock for a month, and have settled into a routine of sorts. Annie gets up early in the morning and goes to work, while Laura and I sleep later and then arise for schoolwork. In the afternoons we piddle around on little projects and generally get nothing done. I reluctantly spent one day installing a little window air conditioner in our companionway. Every redneck yacht needs one of these, and actually so do we, because it's getting hot here. A proper marine air conditioning system would cost $2,000, and even the one that drops over a hatch is $1,000, but our solution was just $100. Plus you get the exercise benefits of climbing over it every time you exit the boat.

On a more positive note, we achieved broadband Internet access! We'd been waiting in hopes the marina would get a satellite Internet connection installed (we still hope that will happen) but in the meantime Annie had to get some decent access for the nights she'll be on call for Erlanger. We've been using dial-up on a phone line but that was too slow to be workable for Annie. Although I had my doubts since our voice service isn't that strong here, I decided to try Verizon broadband and to my surprise it works quite well. We paid $100 (after rebate) for the USB720 modem, a $25 activation fee, and for $60/month we've got high speed Internet here at the dock and out on the lake as well. Fun! Now that we're hip to the Internet, I'm setting up a site on MySpace for our video and music. Since I only know one guitar chord so far, there isn't much music yet, but we're working on some videos of our cruise.

As usual, I'm not getting much writing done. Lats & Atts will eventually publish an article I wrote on Acadia Park. Charles Mason, one of the editors at Sail magazine, was nice enough to send me revisions of the article they will publish soon, probably in September. Alas, it is a piece for their "Voice of Experience" section, which is where sailors confess to doing dumb things. After weeks of fiddling with it, I finished a short article promoting the idea of giving boats "anchor space" and sent it to Cruising World even though they have been terribly slow at responding to my previous submissions. A day earlier, I had read an article in Southwinds by a cruiser who had gotten so nonchalant about anchoring in close quarters in the Caribbean that he didn't think twice even when a boat was riding just six feet off their bow. Maybe I'm just paranoid after seeing our boat get hit five times while at anchor, but I think that's cutting things a little close.

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Copyright © 2007 by Rodger Ling. All rights reserved.