We set off from our home in south-western Australia in 2011 to buy a sailboat and go cruising. Now, six years on, the 20,000 mile journey is drawing to a close.
We set off from Marina Hemingway, Cuba, heading due north to the Dry Tortugas for a final experience of anchoring out before continuing to Tampa where Common Sense will be prepared for sale. The promising wind didn’t really develop and we motor-sailed the 90 mile passage, uneventful apart from Terry catching a nice small tuna for dinner. In the Dry Tortugas, Fort Jefferson dominates the low sand islands, which are a nature reserve and home to thousands of seabirds and several turtle colonies. Brown pelicans dive-bomb schools of fish, gulls, petrels and terns circle, and huge flocks of boobies are constantly put to flight by the menacing shapes of frigate birds and sea hawks overhead. Several ferries and two sea-planes bring tourists in shifts to walk around the fort and photograph the birds. It’s nice to be able to swim off the back of the boat again, but we decide not to go ashore - we haven’t yet checked into the US and this is not a Port of Entry, so we won’t complicate matters. The wind gets up and we end up staying for a couple of days to avoid an uncomfortable passage, but once the weather station gives a favourable report, we set sail for Tampa Bay.
|Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas|
And of course, the wind turns against us. We end up motor-sailing the two day passage, which is pretty tedious. Finally the vast expanse of Tampa Bay opens up ahead of us and we find a spot to anchor overnight near the Skyways Bridge. Next day we make the long trip up the Bay to Apollo Beach, where we are guests of the Tampa Sailing Squadron, thanks to Nick and the friendly sailors whom we met in Marina Hemingway when they were on the Cuba Rally. It’s an excellent club – everything is done by volunteer members rather than paid staff, and they all go out of their way to help us and make us welcome with shopping trips, repairs and social gatherings. A particular highlight is a dinner out at the Alpha Restaurant featuring star attraction, Elvis...
But we need to get Common Sense fixed up, clean and on the market. I am struggling with some of the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease, particularly stiffness and immobility in my right arm, hand and leg, slowness of movement, and balance issues. These problems in combination make life aboard a sailboat especially challenging. It’s time to move on to life ashore, grateful for the amazing things we’ve had the opportunity to see and do, and the wonderful people we’ve been privileged to meet along the way. Several people recommend Whiteakers Yacht Brokers to handle the sale, so we meet with Gary the broker and take his advice to move the boat to the dock near their offices at Regatta Pointe in Palmetto.
|Common Sense at Tampa Sailing Squadron|
This was a day trip through the Bay – you could spend weeks sailing around Tampa Bay, it’s enormous! We finally arrived almost at sunset, and manoeuvred with some difficulty through the narrow channels and into our slip. A few days later, we had a visit from Dave and Barbara Zeuli, Common Sense’s original owners who are now living in nearby Punta Gorda. We had a very enjoyable catch up with them, sharing stories of our travels and their reminiscences of life aboard.
|Former owners of Common Sense, Dave and Barbara|
The last couple of weeks have been mainly occupied with serious cleaning, and with fixing up all those irritating little things that you just put up with – until you want to sell your boat! We replaced the head pumps, plugged the holes left by broken soap dispensers, resealed the fridge, fixed a couple of switches, mended the spinnaker and the bimini. Importantly, in hot, humid Florida, we got the air-conditioning working after its five year holiday in the Med. We replaced the annoying taps on the water tank system and repaired the waste tank monitor. We threw out or gave away a load of stuff, and advertised things of value (wetsuits, BCDs, wet weather gear) on Craigslist. New batteries and a rigging check. Phew, no wonder I’m exhausted.
In between jobs, we’ve got to know our dock neighbours, especially Ingrid and Fred who are preparing their Beneteau 42 Solaris, for cruising. It’s lovely to think of them setting out on their travel adventures, just as ours are winding down - a bit like passing the baton. Being the USA, it’s been difficult to get around without a car (no kidding, the two of us, and the homeless, are the only walkers in town!) but we now have the loan of a vehicle for a couple of weeks, thanks to another neighbour – so we will have a chance to get around and see some of the sights. But now our first prospective buyers are coming for a look – fingers crossed!
|This is what happens when you plant a tree next to your house in Florida...|