This is really a strange post for me to write. Our last “official” sail aboard LAHO as liveaboard cruisers. Weird. But in a good way.
What’s even stranger were the emotions running through Jer and I as we sat in the cockpit soaking up the magnitude of this final leg of our journey. Emotion-packed, bittersweet thoughts to say the least, with the sense of “coming home” stronger than anything you could imagine.
It’s really quite difficult to explain that extraordinary “coming home” feeling we had. It’s an emotion like no other. Excitement, warmth, nostalgia, anticipation, and so much more mixed into one really awesome feeling. And that is precisely what I want to remember from this last leg of our whirlwind journey. One that took us to so many exciting, beautiful places and allowed us to meet so many wonderful people along the way.
It’s feels like just yesterday that I was blogging about our maiden voyage. You know, the crazy one we made from St. Petersburg to Naples where we were surfing 10-foot waves and I was puking my guts out. Now, that trip was one for the record books. Sheesh! But to think we’ve come this far (literally and figuratively) over the past 13 months, and are now officially home in comfy cozy Naples. It’s mind boggling, really.
After weighing our options, we decided to make our final sail another overnight one. And here I was thinking our Gulf Stream Crossing the week prior was our final overnight sail.
An uneventful 110-mile sail brought us from Boot Key Harbor in Marathon, Florida Keys all the way home to beautiful Naples, otherwise known as square one of our 57-week journey.
And boy am I glad this final leg was uneventful seeing as we were once again dodging our way around a crap-trap laced mine field in the Gulf of Mexico. We figured we could make it through the majority of the traps before nightfall and continue sailing through the night to make it to Naples at a reasonable morning hour, instead of anchoring overnight at Shark River and eventually making our way to Naples by the afternoon or evening.
^^Headed back under the seven-mile bridge in Marathon.^^
We also heard it was nearly the end of crab season, and a few folks even told us there shouldn’t be as many crab pots out there since the trappers were bringing them in with season ending. I honestly can’t say I believe ^^that^^ logic after our experience last week. It was certainly another crab trap filled, trap-dodging sail, but the good news is, we didn’t hit any!
The sail was probably the hottest one we’ve had to date. Brutally hot. With zero wind at the beginning. It was so uncomfortable that I literally grabbed one of our portable fans, plugged it in, and sat hugging it in the cockpit. Sad, but true. We eventually got some much-needed wind a little later on, but those first few hours were rough.
We might’ve been lacking in the wind department, but we certainly weren’t missing out in the dolphin department.
Oh my gosh! We must’ve seen a minimum of 50 dolphin! Probably more like 75. It was crazy! Definitely the most dolphin we’ve ever seen on a sail. It’s like they were leading us home. At one point, a pod of four stuck with us for about 45 minutes. My guess is they thought we were some huge injured sea creature at the gruelingly slow pace we were making.
Oliver, of course, loved the dolphin action and ran around like the crazy poodle dolphin whisperer he is. We have lots of awesome video footage that I really need to take some time and piece together (hopefully soon!).
^^Jer capturing the action on video using our little Canon Powershot G12.^^
^^And Oliver having a mini heart attack every time we spotted more dolphin.^^
As usual, Jereme and I took shifts during the night. He had the first few four hours from 10PM to 2AM. And I took the 2AM to 6AM shift. We didn’t luck out with any sort of moon this go round. Totally moonless. Bummer. Unfortunately, with no moon on our last overnight, we had to whip out our trusty spotlight to continuously scan the dark waters ahead and check for crap pots.
Jer’s first shift was still chock full of traps so he was on guard for four hours straight, constantly scanning ahead and altering course as to not run over a trap in the dark. By the time I took the helm, we must’ve cleared the main crab pot area because I never saw a single pot, even though I scanned the water on the regular.
^^Our last sunset at sea was gorgeous!^^
By 8AM, we were motorsailing along the coast of Marco Island, anxious and excited to pull into the Naples City Dock. I’m certain we were also very very exhausted, but you would never have known since the adrenaline was pumping hard through our veins as we sailed the last few miles into Gordons Pass. It was such an odd yet awesome feeling to be in our hometown waters…seeing all of our usual landmarks and knowing we were only a short distance from home.
^^There’s Naples in the foggy distance.^^
^^All the pretty houses on the sail through Gordons Pass.^^
Once we were in the channel, we radioed the Naples City Dock and were greeted by familiar voices who were just as excited to hear us on the radio as we were to announce our arrival! Gosh, we really do love it here! And our friends on the Sweet Liberty tour boat lovingly blew their conch horn for us as we passed by.
We dropped our main sail just outside of the Naples City Dock and slowly motored into our new slip. Our awesome friends, Lisa + Wally along with Wally’s folks Cindy + Bob, were waiting at the end of our slip to surprise us with champagne, balloons, and lots of other fun gifts and goodies! We were honestly shocked to see anyone waiting for us at the dock, but it sure was the best feeling in the world!
^^They even framed our article from Florida Weekly! And gave us the coolest sail bag. How insanely thoughtful.^^
^^You guys rock!!!^^
And after all of that, we were home. Home sweet home.
We spent the rest of that first day back in Naples cleaning up the boat a tiny bit and squaring away our dock lines before Jereme’s mom met us at the dock and drove us back to their home in Naples…and also surprised us with even more fun “welcome home” goodies! We feel very spoiled to say the least. After some long hot showers with unlimited water, we spent our first night in Naples celebrating with our friends and family out on the town before cozying up in a big comfy regular-sized bed for an extra long sleep! …I’m pretty sure we didn’t wake up until noon the next day. Lol.
I have lots of thoughts on our transition back to land life, so hopefully I’ll get those cranked out on the blog soon, but for now we are still enjoying those hot showers, flush toilets, unlimited ice and water, and lots of quality time with all of our amazing friends and family.
PS – Oliver is also loving his unlimited access to a yard. ;))
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