The last few months of our lives were filled with many emotions. We are slowly getting used to the constant movement of the boat, most of the time a pleasant rolling back and forth, and other times a violent shake with untucked items flying everywhere as enormous motor boats fly by, leaving nothing but a disasterous wake behind. Jeff is getting up less frequently at night to check whether our anchor is dragging, as we gain more confidence in both our skills and our anchor.
We had a quiet celebration of Christmas and New Year on the boat and despite saving a drowning man at 4 am on New Year's day, it was uneventful. The man fell off his boat, hitting his head on a concrete dock and was too drunk to pull himself out of the freezing water. We felt pretty good about saving someone's life as the first accomplishment of the new year.
The marina where we stayed at the time was a nice spot, tucked away in a little cove on the St. Lucie River. It was there where we started to go out on a short, day sailing trips to get more familiar with the boat and how she sails. We had a short but pleasant visit from our Colombian friends, whom we haven't seen in three years and they happened to be in the area.
Cold fronts were hitting one after another one in December and January. One of them felt particularly violent and a little scary. A neighbour clocked winds up to 50 knots (93 km/h). We tied our boat to the dock with all the extra lines we had, and at times it felt as if the boat would be picked up and carried away by the wind. For us newbies, it was good to experience how a boat sounds, feels and moves in such strong wind, all in the comfort of the marina.
The major work on the boat was complete by mid-January and we were ready and anxious to go cruising. The Bahamas aren't too far away, but the Gulf Stream sits between us and our next destination. The Gulf Stream runs north at a pace and with the winds continually howling from the north, the seas in the Gulf Stream become hazardous, with waves piling up high as the opposing forces of wind and current battle each other.
As we left the marina for the open blue, we were joined by Sam, our good friend from Toronto. Znak was really happy to see Sam and even gave up his bed for the duration of his stay. The plan was to sail a bit further south, wait for a weather window and cross to the Bahamas. As we're quickly learning, sailing is as much about the weather as it is about the boat. For the two weeks of Sam's visit, the winds wouldn't allow for a safe crossing of the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas. So we cruised around southeastern Florida and still managed to have a blast!
Sam's got a wealth of sailing experience that we took full advantage of. He's also got an uncanny ability to turn negativity into fun scenarios, some serious late evening dance moves, and most importantly he taught us how to cook a delicious loaf of bread on the boat.
With some open ocean sailing, some motoring down the Intracoastal Waterway and some perfect sailing conditions on Biscayne Bay, we explored southeastern Florida from West Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale, Miami and some of the Florida Keys.
With so much development in the area, there were many places that weren't all to welcoming to cruisers and our dingy trips. We found some gems though and anchored outside of a few beautiful State Parks, the weather warmed a little, and we ate and drank like kings on our floating home.
It was sad to say goodbye to Sam and all the great times we had sailing, especially since we never made it to the Bahamas with him, but we've taken what we've learned and improved over those two weeks and are anchored at a beauty of a spot in Key Biscayne where we contently wait for a weather window to do our first crossing. With dolphins and manatees regularly swiming past our boat, we're making the most of our unexpectedly long stay in Florida.