We are now in Cocoa Village, Florida. Floating in the calm waters of a wide ICW channel or river or maybe it’s a lake. I dunno. It looks like this:
From here, the rally continues another 160 miles south to Miami. We’d love to stay with the gang and arrive in Miami on Dec 15, as planned. However, a few things have conspired to change our plans. It turns our that this is our last stop on the rally.
We’ll be docking our boat in Cocoa Village and heading off the boat for a few weeks. Our kids will be joining us for some time in the sun in Miami soon. We’ve got a place and a car booked and we greatly look forward to hugging them, playing games and laughing with them. After that, we’ll be heading to Ontario for Christmas and New Years. In the early days of 2020, we will make our way further south and look for a weather window to jump across to the Bahamas.
Why are we leaving the boat? Well, to host our kids, we need a space bigger than our boat. So we rented a house for the week. Unfortunately, we had the house rented before we realized that it’s impossible to find a place for the boat within Miami. That’s why we are stopped here, 160 miles north of Miami. Next week, we will pick up a car here and head there to meet the kids.
Anyhoo, now seems like a good time to reflect back on the journey from Annapolis to here. What did we learn? How was it being in a rally? Would we do it again? Good questions, but my mind is a giant hole where memories are supposed to be. Maybe if I keep typing, we can dredge a few things up. I’ll put some coffee on. That should help.
Prior to the rally starting, we spent about a month in the Chesapeake. We met and became great friends with Jeff and Kimberly of Club Pegu. And we enjoyed meeting a few other cruisers as well. But I’m an extreme extrovert, and we didn’t have enough of a social network going on in Chesapeake to fill my energy tanks. So when the rally started, it was like a switch had suddenly been flipped.
I was suddenly part of a posse. We had common goals, interests and and a common agenda. We ate together, drank together, sang together, repaired stuff together. It was great! The rally gave us great new friends. When we weren’t underway, there was always someone to visit or someone coming to visit you. I’m sure we will be traveling again with many of our rally buddies at various times in the new year and beyond.
The particular rally that we were on has frequent social events. Sometimes, it’s just an impromptu pot luck, but other times, it’s a town or a marina that has decided to fete our rally with a meal or town. In Dowry Creek, NC, the marina hosted a barbecue for us. Here, in Cocoa Village, the town has found multiple meal sponsors. And then there’s St. Mary’s in Georgia, which feted not just our rally, but all cruising boats passing through over Thanksgiving. St. Mary’s really rolled out the red carpet and gave us the chance to meet with many other cruisers and celebrate Thanksgiving while away from friends and family.
There were a few times where I got restless and wanted to travel faster. In part, to get to somewhere warm faster. In part, just to keep moving. Sometimes, the planned social events of the rally would keep me in a place longer than I wanted to be there, which made it harder for me to enjoy. I would try to relax and just be in the moment, but there were a few occasions where I found myself in the middle of a meal that was generously donated by a town or a marina for which I was grateful, but conflicted. I’d be eating a burger, seeing other boats pass by, and thinking that I would have rather left at dawn and cobbled together my own meal from whatever dregs were on the boat.
Traveling with a group also meant that we had the skills and the resources of the group at the ready. This proved to be extremely valuable. While you might expect a rally to be composed of mostly newbie sailors, our rally was anything but. While only a few had traveled the ICW before, there was some serious sailing, canvas, mechanical and electrical experience among our numbers. I even found a few opportunities to put my computing skills to use, giving impromptu tutorials in using Aqua Maps (our navigation tool of choice), blogging tools, etc.
Another benefit of the rally is that you’re freed from a myriad of decision making. In every day of passage, there are dozens of marina and anchorage options to consider. And while there are reviews you can read, it makes for a lot of reading. And the reviews will never tell the whole story. So, having a rally leader that knows the area, knows which marinas are best, which anchorages will work, etc, is a big leg up for a newbie.
Of course, you’ve still gotta be your own captain and make your own decisions about whether you can successfully dock at marina x during current y. This was something we all learned collectively and vividly as we watched one of our boats suffer some expensive damage while docking into a strong current. At the time, I don’t think any of us were sufficiently aware of how difficult it would be to dock while traveling with a current into a dock. After that incident, I think we all reset our expectations a little.
If I was doing the ICW again, I would definitely like to try and find a few buddy boats to do it with. But I’d want to do it faster than we did – probably by going offshore a few times. But I’m not sure I would want to skip Georgia!
Georgia is often skipped by cruisers. It’s coastline is further west than the Carolinas or Florida, so it’s quite easy to sail outside and bypass it entirely. The shape of it’s coastline forms a bit of a bay that the moon can push a lot of water into. This gives Georgia much higher tides, which means stronger currents and more shoaling. And the ICW route through Georgia is also more wiggly in Georgia, so your progress southward slows. In short, there are lots of good reasons to avoid Georgia! But I loved it so much!
While it would be nice to have a great big good-bye party, the rally group has actually been dwindling in numbers as we’ve travelled. We are down to about half of the original boats. Some got restless and went on ahead. One went on ahead because of a family emergency. Two never planned to go further than Jacksonville, so we said good-bye to them a few days ago. One boat is having mechanical issues and is a few days behind the group. I’ve always hated long good-byes, but these frequent good-byes are not much fun either. I have that feeling that you get whenever things are transitioning and people are parting ways. It’s warmth, mixed with a sense of loss and a bit of anxiety about what’s next.
The next week is a bit lost for us. We have some chores we can do. But we won’t be clocking any more miles and we won’t be with family and we won’t be with our rally friends. We’ll try to catch up with with a few folks, if the planets align. We will be back in Ontario soon and we look forward to catching up with everyone then.