After surviving a hot southern summer and, hopefully, dodging any tropical storm systems the season sent our way, it’s time to get back aboard the boat.
For those who sought refuge from the heat in the cooler waters to the north, now is the time to flee ahead of the early winter cold fronts. Let’s welcome these snowbirds as they migrate into our southern waters, escaping the bother of winterizing their boats.
Perhaps it’s time to shakedown a new boat acquired at one of the many fall boat shows. Or maybe you’ve finally finished upgrading and provisioning your dream boat, and it’s time to launch into that long-awaited cruise to the islands. Whatever the case, this is a great time to be thankful for being on the water.
It was in November a few years ago that my wife Jo and I sat poised for our journey to the islands. We had spent more than a year thoroughly exploring the East Coast from Texas to the Chesapeake. It was time to see what that Caribbean paradise was all about. But first we had to hurry up and wait, anchored in Beaufort, N.C., one of our favorite historic towns. (Edward Teach used to drop his hook there before running his flagship aground just outside the inlet – so the town has welcomed sailors of all sorts since its earliest days.)
There were more than a dozen cruising vessels swinging on their rodes alongside us or snugged down in slips, all waiting for the perfect weather window before crossing the dreaded Gulf Stream. Day after day we huddled aboard as early cold fronts rolled down the coast, stirring an unruly chop in the offshore current headed the opposite direction. We took the time to enjoy tours of Beaufort’s historic cemetery, an art walk in the local galleries, and visits with cruising buddies over cups of hot spiced cider.
From our latitude, most of us had Bermuda in our sights (those aimed toward the Bahamas or the ‘Thorny Path’ generally depart from more southerly ports).
Eventually we received a thumbs up from Herb Hilgenberg, the weather guru of Single Sideband fame. He predicted a lull between fronts, and that’s what we got: a lull, as in zero wind in our sails. So all of the cruisers fired up their iron genoas and uneventfully crossed the stream.
The low-wind conditions persisted throughout most of our prolonged crossing, except over Bermuda where a storm system thwarted plans for a landfall. So we took a 90 degree turn to the right and headed for the Virgin Islands.
One result of our delayed departure and slow progress was that we found ourselves at sea for one of the more memorable Thanksgivings I’ve ever enjoyed. Rather than feast on turkey and stuffing, we cooked fillets of the mahi mahi I had reeled in the previous day. Instead of watching parades on the television, I listened to the Macy’s tradition on the shortwave receiver. It was definitely different than any Thanksgiving I’ve enjoyed before or since. (Of course, in my wife’s homeland in England, they have a completely different name for Thanksgiving. They call it “Thursday.”)
A different kind of boating Thanksgiving tradition takes place in Georgia each year. See our story on Thanksgiving in St. Mary’s. However you enjoy your holidays, we join you in giving thanks for another year on the water. And thanks for reading!