We didn’t have a honeymoon. We got married in Vermont, in mid-December. Outside, in fact, on the snow-covered village green about 25 feet from my grandmother’s front lawn, presided over by the Justice of the Peace and attended by family and close friends, and a few dogs in the mix.
We didn’t have a honeymoon right away, I should say. We were deep in preparations for leaving to go cruising, on what would turn out to be the first cruise. There was no time or money for crazy trips.
Our wedding presents included some china, a few place settings of silver . . . and a SeaFrost refrigeration unit, a Sailrite sewing machine, rolls of quarters (for laundromats) and a couple of cruising guides to the Bahamas.
Cue almost a year later and we’re sitting at anchor in Florida, watching the weather closely for a good window to cross the Gulf Stream. The destination is Bimini. The added complication for us is that we’re taking the dog with us, Toby the beagle, and the Bahamas seems to have a tight timeline for bringing in your pet. You’ve got 48 hours between having a vet sign off on a clean bill of health and presenting yourself to Bahamian authorities.
This presents a challenge. It’s Christmastime. We have no land transportation. Paying a vet twice over to check the dog is not in the budget. The Gulf Stream can be nasty if north wind kicks up. Do we trust the forecast? If we miss this opportunity to get to the vet, we won’t have another one for a week, and weather windows don’t come around too frequently.
We decide. Gulp. Get the dog checked. And stow for the crossing.
“Bonus,” says Jeremy as he checks the dinghy straps one more time. “We’ll get to the Bahamas on December 27. Not a holiday. No overtime fees.”
I’m not a fan of leaving at night, but that’s what we needed to do to get to Bimini in bright daylight. Since the channel is a matter of eyeball navigation and not exactly well-marked (at least not with marks you want to trust), the trip was 75 miles from Rodriguez Key, and we plan on 5 knots of speed . . . that’s 15 hours. Want to arrive at 10 am? That means you leave at 7 pm.
7 pm in December is dark.
This one was darker. No stars, no moon. Waves that were confused and huge (to my novice sensibilities anyway.) The wind started to back to the north, throwing more oomph at us. Do we turn back?
“Let’s just keep going. We’ll be there in a few hours.”
And then the squalls hit. Lightning, rain, wind. We lived in foul weather gear for hours, neither one of us really leaving the cockpit. We tried to ignore Toby’s howling; there wasn’t anything we could do for him, and he’d be far safer down below.
The sun took forever to come up, and when it did I almost wished it had stayed asleep. In the dark I could pretend the waves weren’t so big. In the dark the mess in the cabin looked less daunting. In the dark I could hide my fear better, or so I thought.
When we finally limped through the entrance into Alicetown, all we could think about was finding a dock where we could clear customs, get a shower, and find a laundromat. Every single piece of clothing, cushion, linens – it was all wet with some combination of salt and fresh water. The Gulf Stream had found leaks we thought we’d plugged, and some we’d never seen before.
Newsflash to us: December 27 for some reason that year, even though it was a Wednesday? It was when the government officials celebrated Boxing Day. Double overtime.
What a way to end our first year of marriage.
We've had a few anniversaries since then, even a few on the boat. There was the 2nd, celebrated in Trinidad. The 3rd, celebrated in Puerto Rico. Our 15th, when we decided to go cruising again. The year we took the kids to the Bahamas for a year, and celebrated our 16th in the Abacos.
This year will be 25 years. We've learned a lot about weather routing and passages. What's important about timing. We're better budgeters, better sailors, better trusters-of-ourselves. We're once again in cruising-prep mode.
I think we'd still have to do it the same way, at least once.
But not a second time.