Before I left my mom gave me a journal and suggested I write about the trip in it. It’s funny…the last time I wrote in a journal (dear diary, snickers) was around age 14. It’s something they used to push in school even allotting time for it in English class. Ugh, writing…Something I’m not particularly inclined to do. I think college soured writing and also reading “for pleasure” for me. With so much damn writing and reading for scholastic purposes I felt absolutely NO desire to do these things outside of school. This lack of ambition followed me beyond college and into my work life. That is, until I met Tate and we started this blog. At first it was hard to write and I didn’t know what to say or how to be interesting as I’m sure you can see at the beginning of this blog.

While I’m still not sure I’m actually “interesting” I do think my writing skills have improved and I derive a lot of pleasure when looking back at all we have done and because of this I didn’t fake a smile for my mom at Xmas and happily take the journal to resign it to a life of boredom, collecting dust on a shelf. No, at this point I realize the value of capturing life’s moments as they happen with all the raw emotion and inner self it exposes.

This was reverberated further by Tate’s world traveling best friend (and mine) Alan Comer. Recently he confessed to me how important it is to write everything down when you travel so that you capture it all in its virgin glory. Over time he said the experiences get dulled and it’s easy to gloss over in these interesting new places and lose that childlike view of wonder. I took his advice to heart and have been writing in my journal every few days and especially (when possible) during our first blue water passage across the vast Gulf of Mexico. Tate shared his point of view of the trip and because mine was a bit different I think it’s important to share it here, most coming from my journal.

“Monday Jan 12, 2015
Today the weather is finally better and we decided to leave. We are headed out into the Gulf of Mexico. The winds are coming out of the southeast and are predicted to come of the north for a few days until Thursday. This is the time to go! The anchor was very hard for Tate to get up. It was stuck way down in the clay mud. After he got it up I went forward with my rain pants and jacket and washed the deck with a salt water using a bucket with a rope and a brush. It was a lot of work but I REALLY enjoyed the activity.

We left under a dense fog but guided by our GPS we were able to see what course to take. It’s scary actually to be able to depend on a piece of electronics to guide you through foggy seas. What if we didn’t have it? I suppose things would take a lot longer while we waited in order to be safe. But it is really nice with one. We had lots of dolphins right off the bat. They were HUGE and got so close to the boat when they jumped out they scared Tate and I and even splashed us.

We are headed south now, out into the Gulf. I wonder what our families are feeling right now watching us on the tracking map. Soon we’ll raise the sails and start sailing to Florida. OH HAPPY IS TODAY!

Tuesday Jan 13 2015
After my night watch I rested and awoke to news that Tate has set course for Key West! That’s 450 miles from here. It’s ambitious and exciting! We have a great north wind on the beam for days and so we are heading east to then turn south. There are lots of family and friends watching our path online.

Wednesday Jan 14 2015
This is our third day at sea. Conditions are the same. Northwind 10-15 knots, waves 2-4 feet hitting us on the aft quarter. The motion of the boat is better today or maybe I’m just getting more used to it. I am not seasick at all! Which is super nice. I’ve been taking Meclizine (Bonine), 1 pill 25 mg every 4 hours and it keeps it at bay. I don’t have a lot of side effects from it either. The boat rolls back and forth but the motion is ok. Tate put up our double reefed main along with our jib and we are making 5 knots. Key West is 300 miles away. We should be there in a few days. How wild our arrival will be. I wonder if people will think what we did was exciting and brave or just run of the mill? Not to curse us but the weather has been so favorable for us. Nothing nasty yet but we believe in our boat Sundowner. This is what she is made for.

Night time is scary but it’s easy to stay awake for fear of hitting something. I’m constantly getting natural shots of adrenaline. Both nights so far it has been pitch black except for the dimmed GPS and the Tricolor light. Tuesday night was particularly scary as I came on at midnight and there were lots of barges anchored nearby and many other structures littered throughout the water, most lit. I couldn’t take my eyes off the horizon. The sails were set and the windvane was steering a fast course as I stared, frighteningly around the horizon scanning every 5 minutes or less. At 6 am at the end of my watch the boat came within 2000 feet of a tall and completely unlit structure. It was like a death beacon in the night. Over there was death and here was life. It’s wild for two fates to be so close together. Now we are in 1,000 feet of water and it’s getting deeper all the time. There’s nothing out here anymore.

Nightmares fill my sleep when off watch. The boat is so noisy with creaking sounds and water rushing by outside. The boat rolls in different directions at irregular intervals. I dream of the boat breaking apart, of sharks, death and other tragedies. But I trust Tate and he says we are safe. I also trust the Westsail and the thickness of the hull makes me sleep a little better.

Thursday Jan 15 2015
We saw Phosphoresce for the first time last night. It’s like the water is so clear and you can see the foam from our wake deep beneath the surface and also lots of little lightning bugs in the water. It’s beautiful and I feel a new spirit coming over me. I can feel the tropics getting closer. It’s a wonderful feeling. Last night around 2 am out here in over 2,000 ft of water a huge barge came within less than half a mile of our bow as we crossed paths. Events like this grip me with fear and anticipation. Are we going to hit it? What if it’s engine stops or they misnavigate?

This morning again around 8 am Tate was coming on watch and an hour later dolphins about 30 of them, smaller variety, started playing in the bow. This is the second day in a row that he has seen many dolphins and I have seen none.

The watch schedule has been natural. Whoever is tired can go to sleep first and the other will stay up until they can’t anymore and then wake the other person up. It’s been about a six hour watch schedule. Works for us especially since the windvane is doing so great. Thatโ€™s an amazing piece of equipment. I would have easily paid 10k for one, they ROCK.

It’s been overcast for DAYS! Since Monday evening really so while the water here is definitely a different color and very clear it’s gray in the overcast sky. Looking forward to the sun lighting it up. Speaking of the water, the water is so clear that we have started to wash dishes in it instead of the fresh water. We are still on the first 40 gallons since we filled up on January 6th. I wonder how long we will go.”

That was the last entry. Thursday night around 6pm I was trying to rest up for my late night watch and we got into some wind and waves. The boat sounded absolutely insane down below. The rail kept dipping over far and I could hear water shipping over the side and rushing back into the cockpit. Many times for the next 6 hours I opened the companionway to peer out and ask Tate if we were ok. He assured me we were. I couldn’t sleep a wink and came on watch at midnight. I wanted to be outside and see what the hell what going on plus I was almost seasick, for real. The boat was rolling and pitching so much even with all the medicine I was on the cabin was doing me in. Being outside helped a lot and also wasn’t as noisy. The tired picture you see of me is after that night.

Friday came with a little bit of sun and we were almost to Key West. We started to get super excited and couldn’t really believe we had come this far. I essentially lived in foul weather gear and I laid waterproof mattress covers over the salon cushions to minimize saltwater mess. The boat was very comfortable for being at sea for 5 days and Tate I worked together well as a team. It was wild and kinda scary being out there in the wild open blue water. More than being afraid of all the unknown things I was excited. I knew we ran the risk of death but I didn’t care. We needed the practice and this trip was life changing for the both of us. After this trip I can fully say that I am even more excited about our trip across the Pacific. We had plenty of food and can definitely stay under 80 gallons of water. It’ll be one of the highlights for sure of my journey.

We pulled into a VERY wavy northwest channel as we approached Key West on Saturday morning around 8 am, even taking a breaking wave on the beam that shipped about a 6 inch wall of water into the cockpit. We were still tied in and finally made it in just fine to Key West. We quickly spotted an anchoring ground and have been here ever since. This is us right after we anchored. We were mighty tired.
Dani and Tate on their arrival to Key West

The water color here is so beautiful and different from Louisiana. If it weren’t still cold (It is January after all though you forget in the 70 degree temps) we’d go swimming.
The Key West water color light green

A view of the boats anchored nearby. It feels weird to not be moving after 5 days at sea.
Key West anchorage off of Christmas tree island

Saturday we just chilled on the boat, cleaned up some and then Sunday and Monday we found a dinghy dock and have gone to town. Today we are about to go explore a nearby small island. More on that later.

Sundowner anchored in Key West, Florida
Sundowner anchored in Keywest

We are cruisers now. Hard to believe.
Sunset at Key West