August 17, 2017
Reaching this point is the product of what has seemed like a never ending range of emotions and decisions. At times, the clock has felt like it stopped completely… progress ceasing; hope waning; frustrations growing. Other times it has seemed like we can’t slow down enough to catch our breath… passengers on an out of control freight train; time racing past in blur; no chance to pause and contemplate or reflect. Rarely have things taken the middle ground. Either we are carried by a proverbial raging current in which we simply try to stay afloat or we are struggling to make any headway.
The moments of split second decisions in which we have to rely on instinct and preparation to guide us have arrived. The moments we feel like we have hit an insurmountable wall forcing us to press on even harder, sometimes moving sideways simply to keep from stopping completely, have also arrived.
Today represents another culmination of all of that expended energy, effort, money, and emotion – both a small milestone and a great leap. After years of dreaming, months of searching, weeks of sealing the deal, and finally six weeks on the hard sorting out parts issues, we have finally launched and today sailed for Back Creek, just outside Annapolis, MD. Dave Skolnick, who was in the works to help sign us off for our insurance requirements, has been indefinitely sidelined with medical issues. So we arranged for another skipper named Rick to assist us in getting Exit to the mooring ball.
Our maiden voyage was met with good weather and we were able to sail for more time than we motored on the 5 hour journey. We had a few issues with electronics en route but nothing that forced us to abort the passage. Though Rick had agreed to fill the role primarily as a delivery skipper, he passed on a great deal of insight along the way, for which we were very grateful.
Finally being on the water sailing was a huge rush and it’s hard to describe exactly how satisfying it felt getting to this long awaited moment. The fact that we were only traveling a distance that could be covered by car in about 45 minutes ultimately made this a fairly small milestone; however, sitting in the cockpit of our own sailboat with the wind carrying us along constituted a great leap forward for us!
For the most part, our day was trouble free. We were able to do some sailing exercises along the way that helped to reinforce the knowledge we gained during our training in Thailand; that we were doing it our own yacht made it even more poignant, satisfying, and relevant.
One classic moment occurred while we were doing some exercises and we suddenly received a call on the VHF radio identifying Exit by name. It was from a gigantic barge that we could see clearly on our port side; it had to be about a half mile away. The person on the radio asked us sternly “to identify our intentions…” Apparently, the watch-person on the bridge of the barge, looking through high powered binoculars, had assessed that we were potentially on a collision course with them and wanted to confirm what in the hell we were doing. We responded that we would “maneuver as needed to avoid them,” for which we received a friendly “thank you Captain!” The fact that there was an equally large cargo ship at anchor just ahead of us and a much smaller – though still very large and 50 times bigger than us – multiple sailed Coast Guard schooner (which resembled an 1800’s whaling ship more than a Coast Guard vessel) bearing down on our stern meant that we had to do a bit of slaloming for a short time but all was good!
As we approached Annapolis, a huge deluge of rain not unlike a proper Borneo tropical storm unleashed upon us drenching us to the bone in minutes. It seemed as though it would not materialize but quickly did with a vengeance, reminding us how quickly the weather can turn on you when you are on the water. Nonetheless, all was good… very wet, but good. We were sailing on Exit… safe and ecstatic!!!