The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. My father ingrained this basic geometric lesson in me young, jaywalking the streets of Chicago (it was cold and he was in a hurry; he’s otherwise a law abiding citizen). Twenty years ago, I could have jotted out an eloquent proof proving this basic geometric postulate. And most my life, I believed it to be true. Until we moved off the grid to a non-Euclidean geometric space where these basic principles couldn’t be any further from the truth.
The harsh reality of sailing is that you are completely at the mercy of wind, current and waves, and these forces will likely collude to keep you from sailing directly to your intended destination. The shortest distance between your point of departure and your destination is no longer a straight line, but often a series of long tacks back and forth zigzagging across the water. And if your destination is directly into the wind, directly against the current, and directly into the waves, you’re never going to sail there, no matter how many times you tack. As cruisers, we shoot for destinations that are reachable under sail and wait for weather windows, which works most of the time – until hurricane season approaches, and you’ve got to get your boat to safe harbor. For our insurance policy, that means above Florida or below 12.5N from June 1 to October 31.
Until a few months ago, we’d accepted that the dominant easterly trade winds would preclude us from easting very much, and we’d planned our cruising season accordingly, north and south up and down the Eastern Caribbean, west across to the Western Caribbean, and north up the Western Caribbean. Then we got greedy and decided it was feasible to sail back east to Bonaire for this hurricane season, despite the easterly trade winds and the westerly tidal current.
Every day here in Cayman, we checked the weather forecast hoping the winds would back north or clock south to give us a sailable angle east. Forty days waiting (ok, forty days diving the beautiful waters of Grand Cayman and monkeying around with very dear buddy boats), and the wind still hasn’t cooperated. If we can’t go east, north or south it is. We settled on sailing either back south to Bocas del Toro in Panama or back north to the east coast of the United States, and then we played chicken trying not to make the decision.
And the decision is: Start spreading the news. We’re leaving today. We’re sailing Blue Moon 1700 nautical miles back to New York Harbor where this wild and crazy adventure started nearly three years ago. It will be our longest passage yet if all goes well and we don’t need to tuck in somewhere along the east coast. We’ll stay in the city, sail up to Maine, and then back to the Caribbean this fall. We are giddy with excitement to bring big Blue home, and to invite our friends and family back on board. Sail ho!!