We are in Fort Lauderdale. Margaux just got on a plane with Star to Lunenburg. Hanna and I, and of course Luc, are going to be the crew to sail the last leg to Lunenburg. There was not much good to report of Fort Lauderdale, except that the swimming pool at the marina was nice. For the rest the place typified all we dislike of big cities. There were no other cruisers in the marina, but plenty of enormous motor yachts, all very ugly and sterile with none of the owners on board, only crew to keep the dirt off. The marina had no interest in people like us and the place was run down, but still expensive. When we wanted to empty our holding tank we were told that the pump out did not work, but that we could call pump out service on the VHF and they would come with a small boat to do it. As we are good citizen we did this and ended up with a bill of $60 for the service. Yeah right, $60 to pump out the 30-gallon holding tank. Well, good-bye Fort Lauderdale, we will never return.
After this we were eager to leave and the next morning we headed out for either West Palm Beach or farther north if we felt like it. It was just the two of us and we didn’t know how we would cope with the night watches along the coast. There was also a heat wave and wild thunder storms appeared every evening. We had developed a healthy respect for those storms after encountering a water spout in the Florida Keys. We thought that this crappy weather was a Florida affair and wanted to get out of the state as soon as we could. We were about to find out in more ways than one that this assumption was not correct.
Nevertheless, we made good progress and decided later in the afternoon to continue onwards to Charleston in South Carolina. In fact we progressed so well that after two days we decided to go straight to Cape Fear and enter the Intracoastal Water Way there. The marina in South Harbor Village Marina was a great contrast with Fort Lauderdale. The people were super friendly and welcomed us in such a way that we decided to stay a few extra days. It proved to be a great start of a wonderful trip through the ICW all the way to Norfolk in Virginia. Everywhere we met nice people, the scenery was beautiful, and in all we were impressed by the kindness of the American people and this didn’t stop at the end of the ICW.
In Norfolk we got the sad news that my father back in Holland had died. He was 88. During the last few years I had visited him as often as I could and each time I left we had said our good byes knowing it might be the last time we saw each other. I thought hard about what to do. Should I go back for the funeral or stay with Hanna and the boat? In the end I choose the latter. My sisters in Holland had everything under control and I kept the image of our last goodbye as my lasting memory. Looking back I think that it was the best decision, but maybe not well understood by some people. Oh well, it is what it is.
At Norfolk we faced the decision to travel the Chesapeake Bay or to proceed more directly along the coast. We decided to take the more direct route; it was time to go home. We had only spent one winter in Lunenburg and were now eager to experience the summer. Also Anouk was preparing for her special art show at the Lunenburg Gallery and we wanted to be there to help her get ready. As luck would have it we went to Willoughby Bay and got a slip in Rebel Marina. It was one of those fortunate decisions that made our whole trip so special. The people were nice and interesting, we felt very much at home and it was hard to leave. This was the US at its best and like when we were in the Pacific Yacht Club in Marina Del Rey; we experienced friendliness that we will never forget. While we were at the Rebel Marina we were hit twice by some major thunderstorms. The last one hit 72 miles an hour winds. We were becoming a bit concerned for the trip along the coast. There was no real alternative and all we could do was hope that the intensity of the storms would become less as we progressed up north. Our hopes proofed to be in vain. We left Willoughby Bay and headed for Cape May. Our stay there was a bit of a contrast with our stay in Rebel Marina and we left after a day rest for a four-day trip directly to Lunenburg. Each day thunderstorms appeared at the horizon but we managed to avoid them. After two days with only two days left we felt excited to be so close to the end of our journey. I should have known better than to celebrate our progress. That evening we heard of a large thunderstorm creating some havoc in New Jersey. I checked the radar and told Hanna it was passing south of us and subsequently went to bed, it was Hanna’s watch. Not much later Hanna woke me up telling me thunderclouds were gathering directly over us. I looked at the radar and saw that the storm was almost all around us but that there was an opening through which we could escape. It was a very fast moving storm and after an hour the skies seemed clear and the radar didn’t show any new storms in a 24-mile range, so I went to bed again. Ten minutes later Hanna woke me up again. More clouds were forming around us and they didn’t look good. I couldn’t believe it, it came from nowhere and it looked ominous. There was no escaping this one. Maybe it’s only rain“, I said hopefully. A second later there was a thunder strike, about a mile away. “Don’t touch any metal“, I said to Hanna. Then the strike hit, a flash with instant cracking thunder. Luc crawled away giving us a strange look. We were hit; all electronics were out, no radar, depth sounder, GPS and chart plotter. Port sidelights were out. But the worst was the loss of the autopilot. The only electronic devise working was the VHF. We were stunned. It was pitch dark and I couldn’t keep a straight course. There was some commercial shipping a few miles of and I called on the VHF if any ship had seen us being hit and if they could give us a position. There was no reply. We were lucky to have a spare GPS stowed in a locker and it was not affected by the strike. Suddenly we heard the US Coast Guard calling Candlewin on the VHF. They had heard our call for a position and asked if we needed assistance. How nice it was to have them in contact with us! They told us that we should be heading towards Martha`s Vineyard if we needed repairs and that they would guide us into a safe mooring. All night they called us for an update of our position each hour and in the early morning hours we saw the Coast guard cutter that would assist us to a safe mooring. Thank you US Coast Guard!
Once on the mooring buoy we kind of collapsed. We had not slept the whole night, hand steering the boat trying to stay on course was exhausting. Tired, we were so tired. And to top it off we had to buy new equipment, all the expensive stuff, all the equipment we had installed less than a year ago: wasted! We were not insured for this type of damage. We kept telling each other how lucky we were to be alive and not be hurt by the lightening strike. Although, we both claimed to have a bit of a strange buzz in our head and noticed that Luc was not feeling his usual self either. I couldn’t stay focused for a long time, but needed to organize our repairs. We now wanted more than ever to be home in Lunenburg as soon as possible.
Years ago I had read a book about the building of a large wooden schooner by a company called Gannon & Benjamin. The story and people in it had intrigued me and now we discovered that we were moored in the same bay as this boat yard. I didn’t think that they, Gannon & Benjamin, would be interested in doing an electronic job on our boat, but couldn’t resist walking into the boat shop to take a look. Wow, what a place! It looked like something out of a movie. The setting, equipment, the people, the smell of tar and wood, it all was fascinating, with all the romance of building wooden boats. To make a long story short, they were glad to do the job and when I came back to the boat, Brad and Matt were already busy inspecting the mast. We looked around us and suddenly we felt part of the scene in our wooden boat. What was more, we felt proud to be among these people with their beautiful boats. It was just what the doctor ordered, we started to relax and enjoy ourselves in Martha’s Vineyard.
It took two weeks to do the re-fit and on August 21st we departed on a direct course to Lunenburg. For hours we pounded directly into the waves, getting a bit of a beating, but by evening things quieted down and so it stayed all the way for the next two nights. Actually we had one of the more relaxing sails of our entire cruise. It was so nice to enter the harbour of beautiful Lunenburg. We were home after having sailed 8000 miles in 11 months. All I want to do is sit on our patio with a drink and let it sink in. What a trip!