After sleeping for days at Rabbit Island, I felt the pressure dissolving. Slowly at first but then in a rush all the stress and worry and nervousness of leaving home (of finally cutting the dock lines) had left me. It had been good for that at least. We had partied and visited with friends and family almost continuously up to the point of our leaving and our bodies had been tired and our livers pickled. Our minds were both in a fog born of the mix of grief and excitement. We’d be leaving our families and friends but by God, we were on our way now!

A couple of days into our rest I started to wonder what we’d do next. We discussed the topic lightly over the next few days. We’d gotten so used to people asking us “when are you leaving” or “where are you going” that I think we both felt the need to avoid any discussion of movement. It isn’t that we don’t want to talk to people about these things but that we don’t have a satisfying answer because we’ve become slaves to the weather. The weather dictates all. And so the answer was always, “When the weather is good.” Which is not exactly a great and forthright answer. So we just danced around the topic not really discussing it.

However, once we had been at Rabbit Island for almost a week another type of pressure crept in. That of the cold. Louisiana got really cold and foggy and so every day Dani and I were living in bundles and layers of clothes and hardly daring to go outside at night for fear of rattling our teeth out of jaws with the shivers. Other thoughts began to creep in too. Was the boat *REALLY* ready? Were we *REALLY* ready? What about all the people that would ask us, “Have you done a blue water passage?” and then look at us slyly as though they’d discovered some secret when we answered no?

Something inside me brought me around the the realization that staying in Louisiana any longer was wrong. And that coast hoping might be fun in the spring or fall, but I wanted to get someplace warmer, and further, and perhaps deeper, I wanted to cross blue water.

I told Dani. We decided on the weather window we wanted. We planned to wake up early and head out on Sunday, but the night before neither of us could sleep. We both laid in the v-berth, bundles of raw nerves dreaming about what would come when we finally set off “for real”. Sunday came, I called the whole thing off. I thought it was pretty stupid to suddenly set some sort of arbitrary time table for leaving and Monday’s weather looked just as nice. So I told Dani we’d just wake up when we felt like it on Monday and go. It worked a trick and we slept better and woke up refreshed and excited to be leaving our home waters.

Despite the fog…
Marker out in the fog

And despite it taking an entire hour to raise the anchor, due to gobs of horrible Louisiana muck all over the chain, we made a fair departure and motored through the ICW and then cut under Cat Island to head in the Gulf Of Mexico. The early going wasn’t too bad and having AIS was very nice because we could track all the barges around us. Shortly after entering the Gulf, the fog lifted and we were in a very gentle swell with just enough sunlight left to engage our windvane for the first time. (I had finished rigging the lines while at anchor). So as the sun dropped low in the sky we set the sails and let go of the tiller, setting a course for Key West.
Sunset first night at sea

The first night at sea was the only night of the trip that the sky was truly clear. I took the first night watch and let Dani go below to experiment with domestic duties at sea. She made PB, her speciality.
Passage food peanut butter and things

And while I’m not one to complain about PB, the real bright spot that night for me were the stars. They were so bright I could see the deck by them. The dipper was almost unmistakable and I could see how mariners in times gone by were able to navigate by them. They’re so much more obvious than the sky we see from the cities. That first night I had a lot to the think about.

The night passed well and I came off watch and slept without any real problems. One of the things that we found interesting about going below to sleep was how intensely noisey it can be. We’d gotten used to the sounds of slapping halyards and banging boats and fenders in the marina. I began to call the mast’s the Devil’s wind chimes. But once we anchored at Rabbit Island we were in an aural hole. Almost complete silence. Now that we were underway again, there was again noise. The sound of the water on the hull, the sound of the wind howling through the rigging, the wood creaks, and sometimes waves crash. Luckily, we brought ear plugs. And I slept like a baby.

The next morning, we have coffee..
Dani clipped in having coffee on the first day
as became a sort of ritual. We make coffee in the morning out of freshly ground beans that we use a ceramic hand grinder on and then brew the coffee in an Aeropress. It makes for better coffee than I had been having at home all these years in a drip brewer. And don’t worry, it wasn’t all just Peanut butter almong the passage. Dani had made fresh loaves of bread and we cooked eggs for 3 of the nights.
Eggs for dinner 3 nights

After getting my sea legs though I actually got brave enough that on the last two days of the passage I was cooking real meals. Chicken and rice type dishes that went down exceedingly well after a long watch. There is just something about having a warm meal after a particularly cold and trying time. And there were times that the watches could be long and trying. Dani and I decided not to break it into the classic “4 hour shifts” but instead to just wake each other when we got tired. This seemed to work for us. Typically Dani would take more of the night watch and I would take most of the daylight watch.

What makes a watch hard you might ask? Well believe it or not, it has nothing to do with steering or sail changes. It has to do with stress. Late at night seeing a light far away deep in the fog sets your mind a reeling. What is that? Is it coming this way? Will I hit it? There were several watches that I was awakened so we could take bearings on a target and watch it for safety. Things like this are out there:
A Huge Barge out in the Gulf of Mexico

After a long watch:
Dani after a very long watch

Most of the time we’d hail the traffic we saw on the VHF in addition to making sure we weren’t on a collision course. Every one of them answered and saw us. Apparently all that double bubble foil insulation we put into the boat really lights up radars.

To make the nights a little less stressful I shortened sail every evening. It became a thing. In the evening take down sails. In the morning put up sails and throw flying fish off the deck.
Flying fish on deck

Speaking of sailing… We did really well for our boat. We motored for a total of 8 hours in the crossing. We also hand steered the boat for only 8 hours, those being the ones during which we motored. We rode a front from the north south making for mostly a a nice beam reach. Sail configuration during the first day was genoa only as the wind was actually out of the west for a time and variable. But after that we switched to a double reefed main depending on the wind or time of day, the genoa and full staysail. That gave us between 4 and 7 knots almost the whole way.

I’m truly convinced we could have made the trip even faster if I hadn’t shortened sail in the nights, but this being our first blue water passage, I didn’t want to “stress” the boat and I didn’t want to stress the crew. We could afford time. Only one night did the weather get pretty fierce. I believe it was the fourth night when the wind and waves kicked up to the point that I notified the mapshare/FB friends we’d no longer be able to respond to messages that evening. We don’t have a wind speed instrument on board but I estimate 30kts. The waves were probably around six feet. Totally manageable under double reefed main and staysail. We weren’t dipping the rail and all was stable and good, but it sounded scary. The wind would howl through the rig and the boat was going so fast that all you could hear inside was the sound of very fast moving water. Dani tried to sleep but had dreams the boat was breaking apart. Probably her subconscious mind at work with all that noise.

Where we slept while underway (table converted to bed so you can sleep on either tack):
Living quarter in salon during passage

But it wasn’t all bad. There were dolphins. And there was a lot of rest and just laying around being able to think and enjoy the sail.
Tate tied into the boat

We were also blessed by experience in one other way that helped us relax… The terrible mal de mar (sea sickness) Dani had at the Harvest Moon Regatta was an invaluable lesson. We both took meds the entire trip and both of us stayed free of the affliction. In fact, after about two days I believe I could have stopped taking it and been okay. I finally got my “sea legs”. Reading below didn’t even bother me and my hungry grew. It was a great thing. Dani had a bit of nausea in the really high windy weather but recovered quickly. The meds she takes had little to no side effects. I’m sure she will write of it later.

So somehow, before we knew it we were “almost there”. On the last day at sea the sun FINALLY came out. We enjoyed the beautiful blue of the real ocean. It was like nothing I had seen before. We scooped it up and put it in a glass and compared it to tap water and you couldn’t really tell the difference by sight. We’d never seen water like that. And when you’re sailing over parts of the ocean that are thousands of feet deep it took on a greyish blue hue that dazzled us both. And finally, on that day before landfall, we were treated to a sunset.
Sunset on the last night before Key West

That night we really had to slow down. We were going to make landfall before morning which is not good. You always want to arrive in daylight. So we timed it pretty well and dropped anchor safely in Key West the next day after having travelled 639 miles and averaging better than 5kts. We sailed in bigger waves than we’d ever seen and through 30kt winds. We were further from “help” than at any other time in our lives. We were living our dream. We were in love. And all is well.

Now, if all those words up there were just too much to read, please click on the video below and it will give you an idea of what it was like.

PS> We apologize if we cannot respond to everyone individually. We don’t have “regular internet” anymore and most of our time is spent uploading video or writing this. We love reading the comments and wish we could comment more back to you guys and also on the fellow blogger’s blogs. Just know we’re smiling and listening, if not able to comment back all the time. You guys are great.