Sailing Off Into the Sunset 

An Excellent Adventure

[Ponce Inlet Lighthouse]  
The lighthouse at Ponce de Leon Inlet, near the ICW in northern Florida.  

To make a long story short, we cruised south to Daytona Beach, Florida, and had a great time. We sailed down Chesapeake Bay, motored down the rivers, canals, and sounds of the Intracoastal Waterway, and made four overnight offshore passages. We had no significant problems, but that was hardly due to luck—the boat was very well prepared, we did meticulous trip planning, and we cruised conservatively.

That was my "year without a winter," the first I ever experienced. I spent six months in Florida, walking the quiet, near-deserted beaches, riding around on my bicycle (I was car-less for a year), and hanging out with the other liveaboards at the small marina. I saw three Space Shuttle launches (including a dramatic night launch), saw manatees (including one right in the marina), and enjoyed palm trees and flowers, splendid sunsets, and the agreeable climate.

Of course, I had boat work to do—that process never ends, remember? I had the mast unstepped and spent the spring replacing all the standing and running rigging. My favorite way of playing hooky was to ride my bike down to Lighthouse Park, at the southern end of the barrier island. There was a nice park with a beach, picnic tables, nature trails, a fishing jetty, and a tall red-brick lighthouse (Ponce Inlet Lighthouse). The view from the top of the lighthouse was spectacular. You could also just linger on the jetty and watch the pelicans and dolphins, and watch the waves break endlessly. It was a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon.

In early summer, I brought the boat back to Chesapeake Bay, this time by myself. I again had no significant problems, although I have to say, I prefer having crew. I spent two seasons working at a marina in Solomons, Maryland, then in the fall of 2001, I cruised south again. This time I stayed in Charleston, South Carolina, a beautiful and charming city that I thoroughly enjoy. When it was time to head north, I traveled non-stop up the coast, rounding Cape Hatteras (this time with crew). I am presently living aboard in Baltimore, MD.

Looking Back on the Process

[Moonrise over Solomons marina]  
An autumn full moon rises over Drum Point, Maryland, on the western shore of Chesapeake Bay. Taken at Town Center Marina in Solomons, MD (on the Patuxent River).  

Clearly, becoming a liveaboard cruiser took much more time, effort, and money than I expected. But I think that's part of what makes cruising so rewarding: it's not easy to get there. I think we grow as individuals by responding to challenges. And by responding to the many challenges, I'm sure I have grown as an individual and have become a better person. So on the whole, it was clearly worth it.

This was a major adventure for me, something completely new and different. By middle-age, our lives consist almost entirely of well-established habits. It's extraordinarily rare (and positively delightful) to have such a large adventure composed entirely of new experiences, day after day. As an engineer, another big enjoyment was learning and mastering new technical skills.

Cruising for me was a life-changing experience. I reinvented myself and found challenge, newness, and adventure. My interest in computers has waned—there's so much more to life than just sitting behind a computer. I have already tried working at a marina, and enjoyed it (although the pay was too low). I most recently had another adventure working as a long-distance truck driver (although that took too much time). Soon I'll reinvent myself yet again, on my current mission to replenish my cruising funds. After that, I'll be sailing off into the sunset!

[Containership by Charleston Maritime Center]  
Containership passing Charleston Maritime Center, on the Cooper River in Charleston, SC. Sunspot is docked at the Maritime Center, and the containership docked just north of the Maritime Center.  

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