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Cruising Alone

When Dave and I bought Sweetness II our plan was to cruise the ICW from New Jersey to Florida in the fall and then back again in the spring. It worked for a while but sometimes life just gets in the way of your cruising plans. Figuring out how to deal with the changes can often be challenging, but sometimes even a seemingly unwelcome change can have a few positive outcomes. For example, we have had some of the most fun while waiting at marinas for good weather to come our way, because if NOAA says "small craft advisory," Dave knows I am not going anywhere. But our biggest challenge came when my mother, who lives in New Jersey, got sick during one of our summer visits.

I asked her repeatedly to get to the doctor while I was still close by but I think fear prevented her from doing so. She finally went on the day Dave and I were pulling out for Florida. Along the route I was kept abreast of her condition by phone. Doctor visits, tests, specialists, second opinions. It was very trying as I was not there to help, and to make matters worse, Mom was the primary caretaker for my grandmother who lived around the corner from her. Grandmom was just a cute little old lady, as long as she was in her house. She had some dementia so she refused to leave her sanctuary. If Mom did manage to literally drag her out, fear would kick in and that cute little old lady was just awful to deal with. So you do what works. Having Mom check on her several times a day worked out well for everyone but it became a real burden when Mom got sick.

The final straw came one morning when Dave and I were in South Carolina and my mother called to say she had a terrible headache the previous evening and just went to bed hoping it would go away. When she awoke she was blind in one eye and was on the way to the hospital. Dave told me I had to get home. We both thought she was having a stroke from all the stress.

Making The Decision

Getting me home was a lot easier than getting Dave and the boat the rest of the way to Florida. Should we leave the boat in the marina? Pull it out? Hire a captain? Recruit a friend? Like most boating couples, Dave and I had developed a routine that worked for us. When leaving a dock, he does the electric, I do the water, and once the boat's engines are running he is not allowed to leave the boat. If the current or wind takes the boat away from the dock and he is aboard I know he can come back and get me, but if I am aboard it would be a different story, one that I don't want to think about. So to make me happy he lets me untie the lines and then jump aboard.

When approaching a dock I am ready to throw or tie lines. Well, to be honest if there are dockhands available, it's a piece of cake to just toss them the lines, and if the dock has piers I am pretty good at looping them, something I learned to do at Trawler Fest. But I have a fear of jumping when docking involves getting those lines on cleats. By the time Dave gets close enough so that I feel comfortable enough to jump, which involves not seeing any water in-between the boat and dock, he may as well just get off and tie the lines himself.

Even though I took the Women Aboard class at Trawler Fest and Dave has shown me how to operate the boat, I much prefer that he do all the driving. If we are on a straightaway and he needs to go below to use the head, I may drive for a while but I'd prefer not to. I just don't have the knack. I think I am lining up the markers and then the low water alarm goes off. It makes Dave use the head in record time anyway. I am much better at being the lookout and chef. Our big joke is, if I have to dock the boat, there better be an ambulance waiting to take him away.

Getting It Done

Anyway back to our dilemma in South Carolina, Dave decided he could take the boat the rest of the way by himself. I was worried about Dave not having a spotter keep him on the right course, but his only concern was docking by himself. Once he said that, I knew he would be able to handle the boat by himself. He really is good at docking. My main job is to get the lines ready when we dock together so we worked out a plan to put the lines on the cleats and loop them over the sides a bit. If he radioed the marina ahead and told them he was bringing the boat in single-handedly, we figured the dockhands could just grab a line and tie him up. Let's face it; dockmasters don't want boats bumping into things either. In the morning they could just untie him and loop the lines back on the boat again. It wouldn't look as pretty as having me tie and put them away for the day, but it should work. And it did.

Dave didn't follow the set itinerary we had planned either. For him there was no sense in docking at 2 or 3 p.m. when he was by himself. So he cruised longer days and shortened the trip. He didn't even eat what I had planned and prepared for him before I left. He ate at the local eateries or bars at night for some company and just a chance to get off the boat and unwind. And, oh yes, he did mention the female voice coming over the radio one day asking him if he was on the boat alone. He said he looked around and didn't see any boats close by, but I bet he was fixing his hair when he did it. Not that I don't trust him to behave himself while his wife is taking care of her sick mother and grandmother-I do trust him. What is that old saying? I think it's "I trust him as far as I can throw him." He called me every night to let me know how he was doing and where he was located and I kept him informed on my mother and grandmother.

The Rewards

Dave did get the boat back to Melbourne, Florida, by himself and he gained tons of confidence along the way, too. I could tell he felt much more comfortable piloting the boat just by the way he talked about the trip. Now I know on the next trip I can just be the passenger. That makes us both more comfortable and we know the time will come when we can take off again. We also know that even if, or more likely, when, we are faced with one of life's challenges we will be able to adapt and enjoy our time aboard Sweetness.