While I was still working as a consultant, I was able to get away and made a number of trips on Wild Matilda.
The sailors living on the dock at Miami Beach Marina throw a nice going away party when I left the dock to begin full time cruising. It was held at the local Greek bar and involved a lot of drinking and I seem to remember some dancing on tables, but I could be mistaken and fortunately their are no pictures.
Chris and I departed Fort Lauderdale in June and headed north to the Chesapeake Bay, Long Island Sound, and Maine. The first stop was Charleston.
One of my favorite cities. It is one of the longest slogs in from the sea in a channel that seems to go on forever, especially when the current is against you. But, once past Fort Sumter you are there. Spent some time touring the restored navel vessels and seeing downtown.
We visited New Haven, Newport and the great maritime museum at Mystic Seaport. The stop in New Haven was for us to visit Yale. Chris was researching one of her books and wished to get location information. Newport is always a nice place to visit. Between the varied nautical attractions, stately homes, and the many great restaurants, there are a lot of things to do. Mystic Seaport is always a great place to visit.
Maine is a pleasure to visit. We explored the southern coast of Maine as far north as Tenants Harbor. Particularly enjoyed our visit to Maine Maritime Museum in Bath. We had an exciting passage from there to the Robin Hood Marina in typical Maine thick fog.
Chris and I took a land vacation to allow her to do research on a book that would be set in the Dominica and Guadeloupe area. The trip started out on an exciting note when our outbound flight was canceled. But, the later flight allowed us to spend Christmas Day in San Juan, Puerto Rico. We only arrived about 8 hours late in Guadeloupe. After waking the desk clerk we were finally shown our room in the wee hours of the morning. A very long day. The next day we set out to explore Point-a-Petri. The next day we took a local bus east to Saint Francois, A resort town centered around a large marina. From there we took a ferry to Les Saintes. This was my first visit to what has become one of my favorite destinations. From Saint Francois we took a bus to a small inn we had reserved space at, sight unseen. it turned out to be a great place to stay. We used the inn a point to explore more of the west coast of Guadeloupe.
From Guadeloupe we took a ferry to Roseau in Dominica. We stayed in a very nice hotel in downtown Roseau and explored Dominica. Many of the places we visited, would be place I would return to once i started cruising the Caribbean.
I took a land vacation in the Fall of 2006 to visit friends and family in Minnesota and Wisconsin. First stop was Minneapolis to visit Al. And then a drive across Wisconsin to Oshkosh to visit my cousin, Ginny. We then drove up to the Door Peninsula for a wonderful few days.
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Rather than spend the winters on the Chesapeake Bay, I took to taking the boat south in the fall and then north in the spring. It worked well giving me 12 months of sailing.
Al, Jake and Andria joined me for a cruise from Miami to Nassau and then to the Exumas. The theme of the cruise was relaxing and wine. We did this very well. So well in-fact that we ran out of wine in the Exumas and had to purchase another case. Jake had to leave early so he managed to hitch a ride on a 150 foot yacht and road home in class.
After deciding that living on Wild Matilda on the Chesapeake Bay during the winter was not something to consider, I begin to look at a place to keep the boat during the winter months where I could continue to live aboard. After looking at a number of marinas in the Fort Lauderdale and Miami area I settled on Miami Beach Marina at the foot of South Beach and on the Government Cut leading into the port of Miami.
Miami Beach Marina was a sleepy place when I first landed there in the spring of 1994. Most of the tall condos had not yet been built on the south end of South Beach and it was still the mecca of the winter photo shot for many of the spring and summer catalogs. But it was in the process of being discovered. I was fortunate to be on G-dock which came to be the live aboard dock.
I made the trip north to the Chesapeake Bay in the spring and south to Miami in the fall for many years. Then in the late 90s I decided to stay year around in Florida. Cruising the keys and the nearby Bahamas was great, but the down side was having to contend with hurricanes. Safer anchorages existed up the Miami River. So as a storm approached we would take our boats up the river and tie them up to weather the storm. Many times this was a false alarm. Though in one year we had four storms. The urge to venture further became strong.
I gave up my marine slip in April of 2007 and became a full time cruiser.
In 1993, I sold my townhouse in Alexandria and moved aboard full time. I needed to make a decision whether to add heat to the boat and live full time on the Chesapeake Bay or take the boat south to warmer places in the winter. I chose to go south.
The "Ditch" as it is often called runs from Norfolk in the North to the Keys in the South. Yes, it technically extends to Maine and does in fact extend along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. But when people think of the ICW they think of the Ditch. the first year going south we did all of the trip "inside" or in the ICW. In following years i would do more and more legs outside along the coast.
Leaving the Chesapeake Bay and enter the Elisabeth River at Norfolk one realizes how small a 43 foot sailboat is. Passing the massive Battle Ships (now gone and replace by equally massive Aircraft Carriers) just a stone throw of the channel. But quickly you leave the hustle and bustle of Norfolk behind and are in the backwaters of the Elisabeth River. After a stop in Coinjock, you are out in the sounds of Eastern North Carolina. A wonderful cruising ground all in of itself. Upon reaching the south coast of NC, you find Beaufort. It was to become a mandatory stop and break in the trip north and south. Most years it would be the point of heading off shore on the way south or returning to the ICW on the trip north. The overnight hop to Charleston was the most frequent south-bound destination. From Charleston the ICW enters the meandering rivers of the coastal plane of South Carolina and Georgia. Many wild areas are encountered and well as some nice cities. Once reaching Florida the waterway is just behind the barrier islands that form the east coast of Florida. With many bridges and boring land cuts, I most often traveled in hops off shore. Florida has few obstructions along the coast so we often were sailing with in a quarter mile of the beach. The tall condos of south beach were always a welcome sight.
From the time I moved to Washington DC in 1979 to the time I bought Wild Matilda in 1993, was a time of making plans for my future and learning to sail.
I moved to Washington DC and planned to continue flying sailplanes as i had done in Mississippi. Unfortunately one of the "gas crisis's" materialized and waiting in line for hours to drive to the glider site was not an option. Friends introduced me to sailing.
The Chesapeake Bay is a wonderful place to learn. Two hundred miles north to south, 28 major rivers and hundreds of coves and creeks to explore. Based near Annapolis, I explored all the creeks accessible to day and overnight sails and then when i could get time off from work, traveled further. Eventually exploring the bay from the C&D Canal to Cape Henry. It is a special place. Unfortunately pollution has fouled its waters, Over development has cluttered its shores, and the water men are an all but dying breed. But there are still places were the magic still exists.
This all started, as is often the case, quite by accident. I had sailed on the Chesapeake Bay out of Annapolis a few time with friends. One day, while walking through East Port in Annapolis, I said to my friend, Janet, "It would really be nice to own a sailboat someday". I thought that maybe someday, many years in the future, I would. A few minutes later we saw the office of a boat broker and we went in. I met Neil and six weeks later I owned my first boat, Decision. After six years of enjoyable sailing on the Chesapeake Bay and an aborted attempt to sail to Bermuda, I concluded that i wanted to sail further and Decision was too small. I went looking for a new boat. Quite by accident, while looking at another boat, I found Wild Matilda in Clear Lake Texas. it was love at first sight. It still is 25 years later.