“I’m not ready.”
Chris just smiles.
“You’re never ready. It’s time to go,” he says gently.
We are tied to a dock in the Titusville marina and a huge sailboat has just come in and tied up across the narrow channel from us, blocking access to the travel lift. The boatyard is essentially out of business until we leave. They’ve been very patient, but it really is time to go.
We finally have our new cooling pump installed and the engine both starts and runs without spraying water all over the engine room. The anchor windlass works, the genoa, our big foresail, has been re-sewn, and we have new battens for the mainsail. What else do we need?
“Okay,” I say dubiously.
The wind is gusting to 20 knots from the northeast, blowing us against the dock. Even if we do manage to get ourselves off, we could be blown into another boat before we’re moving fast enough to have steerage. That would be a bad thing here in the U.S., the land of litigation.
Two dockhands come to untie us and push us off. People appear on the boats around us, ready to fend us off if it all goes wrong.
“Okay,” Chris says to the men on the dock, and they untie us and push the bow out as far as they can. Chris guns the engine and as the boat slowly begins to pick up speed the helm starts to respond. We shave past the stern of the boat ahead of us with about six inches to spare. I look back and the dockhands are waving and cheering.
For the first time in almost two years we are afloat again. When we pulled the boat out of the water in Florida in March 2020 and headed back to Canada to wait out the pandemic, we had no idea we’d be away for so long. Boats are meant to float, not sit on the hard in a hot, dusty boat yard, and steel boats especially do not fare well without regular maintenance. We came back to the boat in mid November not really knowing what to expect but confident that we’d have the boat in the water and be on our way to the Bahamas before Christmas.
Sometimes life has other plans. A couple days before we were scheduled to launch, family illness called us back to Canada. No, not Covid—blood cancer. My brother-in-law was diagnosed on a Friday, given a blood transfusion over the weekend, and started chemotherapy the following Monday.
We spent Christmas at my sister’s place in Guelph, took our turn driving to and from the hospital, put up the tree, made pies. Good news came on New Year’s Eve: after two rounds of chemo, the doctors started talking about a stem cell transplant early in the new year. We flew back to Florida on January 5th and had the boat in the water a few days after.
After a couple of worrisome minutes—the helm didn’t respond properly until we worked all the air pockets out of the hydraulic steering system, Chris driving in a zig-zag pattern down the intracoastal waterway while I dripped steering fluid into the reservoir—we motored to a nearby anchorage and dropped the hook.
We spent a peaceful night at anchor, tucked behind the causeway to the Kennedy Space Centre which sheltered us from the still-gusty winds. The next morning it was calm enough for us to bend on our newly resewn foresail before setting out.
We unfurled the genoa as we left the anchorage, and as I watched it fill with wind, watched the play of the early morning sunlight on the sail, I thought here we go, on a wing and a prayer.
That’s all any of us can do, really, carry on bravely, trusting and hoping that all will be well. Perhaps the seas will calm enough for us to cross the Gulf Stream sometime soon. Perhaps the Bahamas will let us in. Perhaps we’ll spend the winter sailing over clear blue water, swimming, walking endless beaches.
And perhaps by this time next year my brother-in-law will be cycling from vineyard to vineyard in the south of France.