Getting close to Miami, I can almost see the finish line.
The day arrived for us to leave Marathon and make our way to Fort Lauderdale. We said our goodbyes and left the marina. This would be a 2 day trip. One more night on anchor and then up through Miami and into the ICW towards Fort Lauderdale. It’s every loopers plan to end where you started to earn that Gold Flag! We spent a lot of time in Los Olas Marina when the boat arrived by freighter. When I called to get our reservation Jim answered the phone. “Hey Jim, we are headed back!!” He was the dock master and he remembered us from last year. He would be on the dock when we arrived.
We had a lovely cruise. It felt surreal to be closing the loop. As excited as I was to be done, I also felt a strange uncertainty about how I would really feel as we crossed the finish line.
Our anchorage was nice. We made dinner and chatted about all the events of the last year. Writing this blog over the last year has helped me remember a lot, because SOOOOO much has happened. So many new places, lots of new friendships, lots of boating miles and conditions. It is hard to put in words all the emotions and sum up all that we have experienced. I can tell you that I am not the same person. There were times I had to dig deep. You cannot escape when you are on the water in the middle of nowhere. I had experiences that I will never forget. I met some awesome people. I learned that being uncomfortable at times was character building. We had many many more times of wonder and joy and seeing parts of this country we had never seen. We saw little Towns along the East Coast where America began. There was so much history in these places. It was surreal to do a trip, on a boat, thru rivers, lakes and man made canals that made a continual loop through America. I am in awe of us! I think our relationship is stronger. This was definitely a team event. We had to rely on each other and trust each other.
Entering into Miami to traffic, mega yachts and bridges. Funny how one can miss these things that once were an irritation. It was a welcome sight. I had gotten used to the quiet of the keys over the last few months. I was ready for noise, people, chaos and mostly FINISHING this thing we sent off to do a year ago.
We passed mega yachts and cargo ships. This time it felt like no big deal. I remember the first time we crossed paths with these large ship, how our hearts pounded and how close they came to us. There was no real room to avoid them in the narrow ICW or the wakes they made. In the ICW might has right, so we give them plenty of room.
We left our anchorage early the next morning. Partly excited and partly wanting to get into Fort Lauderdale by the afternoon. Entering into the ICW meant a lot of slow or idle speed zones due to homes, marinas and also manatees. Even though we didn’t have a lot of mileage it was going to take a bit of time. I sat quietly reflecting. I didn’t feel as emotional as I expected I would. What I felt was a sense of accomplishment and pride. I felt tremendous respect for Andy, my captain, for navigating all these miles under all kinds of unfamiliar situations. I felt a stronger bond to him then when we started. I felt that this man was so incredibly capable, strong, fearless and well…..SEXY!!! He is all mine girls! You will have to find your own. I also felt immense pride at myself. I conquered a lot of fear this year. There were several crying attacks and shit fits along the way. There was anxiety of the unknown. There were days of incredible loneliness and there were days I could not behold the joy of the passage or the beauty and wildlife. Each opportunity to pull into an unfamiliar dock, tie lines in unfamiliar docks with current, shallows, wind or whatever that particular day threw at us became reason to toast another successful day.
As we neared Los Olas I began to shiver. THEN I wanted to cry. We were met by our friends Jody and Dan on Done Diggin. Jodi knew we were on the way and she video us making that final approach to the slip right next to them. I was overjoyed at this point and could hardly keep myself from screaming and sounding like a crazy person. Jim was also on the dock to greet us and grab our lines.
We jumped off, hugged and Jodi cracked open a bottle of champagne and strung gold beads around our neck. This is when I lost it!!! How grateful was I that they were there to welcome us. See, just 14 months earlier, in this very marina, I looked over to see that white AGLCA flag flying off the front of their boat. We were in deep clean mode from the shipping filth. When I could catch my breath, I walked over and introduce myself. Jody was my first looper friend. Her and Dan have been a breath of fresh air and a comfort. We crisscrossed with them throughout the year but always felt so happy when I saw their faces. I am grateful for Jodi’s listening ear and being my text buddy down the rivers. We each know the struggles and the glory of this trip.
We toasted with a glass of champagne (or rather finished the bottle together). We would change out the flag and walk for a celebratory dinner later.
We did it!! I am so happy and frankly proud as hell of us!! We have lots of stuff on the horizon for the next year.
We bought a house!!! We are in escrow until the first of April.
We will need to get AQUAMAN to its permanent home port in Venice. Meaning our cruise is not completely finished. We need to get to the Gulf side across the state through Lake Okeechobee.
We need to fly home and see our family who we have missed greatly. Our parents, kids and friends.
We need to pack what we did keep and decide what to ship to florida.
We need a break from the boat, running water, flushing toilets and a car to run around in. Space to stretch out and a respite.
The adventures will no doubt continue.
Lots of people keep detailed reports on the loop of milage, costs, gallons burned, marina costs. I started this and after a while I realized these numbers where not really important. We knew what we were in for so we stopped caring really. We knew we had plenty saved for the trip and we had no debt by selling everything prior. So I can tell you in rough terms some basic stats.
We traveled over 6000 miles of waterways: Ocean, Lakes, ICW, Canals, Rivers. It took us 14 months including several trips home, 3 months in the keys and a month in Alabama when we hauled out for basic repairs. We also did several rode trips along the way.
We did 138 total locks including the Erie Canal, The Oswego Canal the Trent-Severn Waterway, the Rivers all the way from Chicago to the Gulf of Mexico, and Lake Okeechobee.
We traveled thru 14 states and 2 countries.
We went to the Bahamas prior to the loop for 7 weeks including Bimini, The Berry Islands, Nassau, the Exhumes all the way to Staniel Key, back up to Nassau and over to Eleuthera, Chub key, back to Bimini and home to Fort Lauderdale. We left Abicos for this year. Not gonna happen now. SAD!
We ate really well and drank really well. We got groceries a few ways. We had a cute red wagon we pulled when we could walk. We rode bikes and loaded up backpacks and my basket. We took curtesy cars and we occasionally rented cars.
We had a total of 118 stops along the way. So that means out of 425 days (14 months) we had 118 travel days. Sure felt like a lot more moving then that! The red pins indicate a stop.
Laundry was always fun. Some marinas had laundry rooms, some not. Some had 2 washers/dyers and often times we girls sat to chat and wait in line. A few were awesome. That was when the blankets and towels got extra attention.
Friends were made at every stop. Just fly that flag and people will seek you out as one of their own. There were life long friendships made and people we met that we bonded with over this adventure. There were always people helping people, dinners collaborated that turned into a feast, and there was always a docktail somewhere.
WE DID IT! TIME TO FLY HOME!!