It was a race with darkness, watching the sun set behind us, listening to the light breeze rustle the mainsail as the diesel burbled us forward at a speed a little faster than a brisk walk. The odd thing about making landfall is that you can be scouring the horizon for hours and after a long stretch on the water one tends to get antsy about confirming one's position so one keeps looking for the elusive first sight of land, in the manner of a member of Columbus's crew looking for a glimpse of the mythical Indies.
I spent altogether too much time standing on the deck under the weak and fading February sun looking for my first glimpse of Key West, our goal, more or less since we left San Francisco in the summer of 1998. I had friends and acquaintances in Key West and we hoped to stop and work for a while before setting off south again for a stint in the proper tropics of the West Indies where we had honeymooned six years previously. Our trip through the Panama Canal in the final months of US Administration had beset us with heat and humidity and we had enjoyed it. Cold was not on our list of to-dos.Key West held out the prospect of being a crossroads where travelers' tales could keep the dream alive we thought and keep us focused on further journeys. We had not been prepared for how tired we felt.
I was tired of fixing the boat in strange places. Even though the Gemini 105 is a light boat by most standards we had traveled well, and the boat, new in 1996 had kept us secure and dry through some terrible trials, tropical rain, horrendous waves and endless winds ancillary parts had a tendency to give up. I was an expert at disassembling and rebuilding the toilet, shit and all. The water maker was my essential companion. The lines and sails fell to my hands through force of habit, and the oil filter and fuel filters of the diesel a good deal less so. The boat was a home and an collection of pumps and engines and pipes and seals and crap that I needed to keep us going.
My wife had been cooking in a tiny space in the right hand hull. She made do with two burners, lamenting her six burner commercial stove in our home in Santa Cruz. The fridge, operated by propane gas was the size of two vegetable bins in our human sized fridge at home, and supplies came and went in ways that seemed more deliberately obtuse than random in our travels. We got used to buying what we saw when we saw it. We never assumed we would see it again tomorrow.She looks like Cheyenne but she was Emma, saved from the Santa Cruz SPCA and forced into a traveler's life that would have suited Cheyenne ironically enough but that Emma took up unwillingly to simply be with us.
We four, we happy band of travelers, exhausted, arrived in key West. It was Valentine's Day 2000.