Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Azalea Line

Azaleas in Beaufort, SC

The endless winter finally seems to be ending.  There's more sunlight and less wind these days, and I'm starting to dream of blue water, of saying not "goodbye" but "see you later" to our St Augustine friends and places, and heading north.  We're already seeing boats coming through town, staying a day or a week but then continuing north, migrating back "home." (It's always fun to read about ourselves in the blogs of some of these folks, now new friends: Jim and Angie and Paul and Deb.)The first wave of boats that came through had hailing ports in Canada or New England and seemed in something of a hurry -- they have a long way to go.  Now those with more moderate goals in the mid-Atlantic (Annapolis!) are starting to appear.  

In the autumn, the hours of daylight are short.  There's a fairly narrow window of time between the end of hurricane season and the onset of winter and the nor'easters, so every good weather day (and even some marginal weather days) is spent underway for 7 or 8 hours to make miles southward, hoping the encroaching cold weather doesn't catch up to us.  "Grueling slog" is the way I remember that trip.  It's lucky I have a short memory or I'd never want to travel by boat again.  

But in the spring, it's a different story.  We can travel at our leisure and linger in interesting cities and towns, and the penalty for going to slow is only that the weather gets ever warmer.  Instead of the overwhelming sense of urgency we felt in the autumn, the theme of our trip north this summer is not to go too fast: never to be north of where the azaleas are blooming.

Some boats are seasonal commuters.  They migrate from their summer home, where they stay put for a few months, then a month or two underway, traveling as quickly as possible to their winter home, where they stay put for a few months, then travel as quickly as possible back to their summer home.  We've been those people, Annapolis to St Augustine and back again.  We're "home," then "away from home," then "back home again."  This year, though, we are inspired by the insights of two friends to make our trip more of a wander and less of a commute.  

Mark and Diana have a power catamaran.  They can travel faster than we can, and they don't have to wait for opening bridges like we do.  One day I was joking that they could make the trip north in far less time than the 5-6 weeks it would take us.  "Oh, no," Mark replied.  "Our goal is to make the slowest possible trip."  He went on to explain that they'd only travel for a maximum of 3 or 4 hours on the days they traveled at all.  That left plenty of time to kayak up the little creeks in the afternoon, read a good book, or explore the towns they traveled through.  Other longtime cruising friends Stuart and Nancie advised us to own nothing ashore.  If everything you own is with you, then home is wherever the anchor is set and you don't have the urgency to move on to the next place, the place where the rest of your "stuff" is stored.  

So that's our plan for this summer.  We're going to go slow, take a few side trips we've not taken before in our hurry.  We probably won't get all the way back to Annapolis, but we'll see some new things.  Maybe check out North Carolina's Outer Banks instead of sticking to the direct route.  Stay in some pretty anchorages an extra day just to watch the birds or go for a hike.  And for sure, stay south of the azalea line.

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