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Gratification Aplenty Close To Shore

Coastal cruising has generated some of my most enduring memories and all the challenges I’ll ever need.
Swift Trawler 34


We spend a lot of time in the pages of Passagemaker encouraging you to go farther with your boats, to push boundaries, to venture beyond the reef. For those of you who might be halfway across the Pacific or a good way around the world, that’s the dream; that’s what the trawler lifestyle is all about.

But many of us don’t have the faintest desire to stray over the blue horizon. You may have already discovered the many pleasures of staying closer to shore. Maybe you’ve figured out that there is a lifetime of long-range adventures to be had within sight of land.

Coastal cruising has generated some of my most enduring memories and all the challenges I’ll ever need. It presents a set of variables that can place even greater demands on a yachtsman than venturing offshore. Managing tides and currents, monitoring depth, working around bad weather and boat traffic, and the need to find safe mooring each night can create plenty of challenges. Overcoming them and arriving safely at a destination is extremely satisfying.

I have a cruising buddy who swears on his last bottle of rum that a bluewater passage is much easier than many of our near-shore endeavors. I hear that. I recall a recent outside run from Fort Lauderdale northward to St. Augustine, Florida, on a 34-foot Swift Trawler. The opening leg was largely uneventful, with smooth seas and a sky so clear it was hard to tell where the water ended and the air began.

Just when boredom started setting in, having rounded Cape Canaveral with several more hours to go, a curious white haze popped up on the horizon. Within 15 minutes, the wispy white became an ominous gray. Weather radar confirmed a classic Florida summer storm barreling at us. By the massive dark-red blob on our devices, we deduced that it was a whopper.


Options were scarce. Turning around would only delay the inevitable. By the time we circled back around the cape, the storm would be upon us. The nearest inlet was on the other side of the red blob, and we certainly weren’t going to head out to sea. We concluded we’d have to go straight through it.

The first gusts hit, heeling us over to what felt like 45 degrees. Quartering wave crests quickly grew into 6-foot rollers. The horizontal rain was blinding, essentially reducing our visibility to nil. We must have buried the bow 100 times, plowing so much green water into the windscreen we could see fish.


It was harrowing, but we made it through. Tying up in St. Augustine later that evening, still shivering out the exhilaration of the moment, I considered two things: One, we were lucky to be on a trawler that day; and two, for every “Cape Canaveral” story, I can recite a hundred less hair-raising ones.

For me, the memories that seem to hold their roots best in my head are the ones like I just recalled, challenges that come on fast and test my sea sense and seamanship. I encourage you to get out there and take on whatever nature sends your way. Most of those journeys likely will be of the easygoing sort, and you don’t have to venture offshore to find them. 

As for the others, there’s always rum.

AP shot