Going south – Just two words describing a simple action, nothing magical.
Sitting here on the boat, a light steady rain falls on the canvass following a couple impressive storms. A few remnant flashes of lightning signaled the end. I have time to consider – reconsider.
I’ve thought and planned to take Valinor south for the winter for at least two years. It was at the outset, the challenge – a stretch for me as a sailor. I’ve circled the DelMarVa twice, once in each direction, and explored much of the Chesapeake, both with friends and solo. Going around the world is a stretch too far this late in my life, but “going south”? That’s just a small technical challenge, nothing magical, just timing all the bridge openings and staying off the shoals – and burning a lot of diesel.
Then I mentioned it to a slip neighbor. “Wow, you’ll love it!” followed by stories of his previous trips, and good advice from his experiences. This is the common, consistent response from every one I’ve talked to who has made the trip. “How far are you going?” Key West and the Abacos. “Wow, I never made it to Key West, we always headed for the Bahamas from Miami” Plan to go see the Dry Tortugas too. “Man, wish I could go with you.” And the conversation repeats in various iterations with others who have made the trip. So maybe there is something magical after all.
As an avian biologist, I understand the drive that moves flocks of birds south every Fall. But what is it that drives sailors to undertake what is largely a motoring process? Certainly there’s good reason to move a boat, and its occupants, into warmer waters as winter approaches. But it seems to be something more than simple biology or thermodynamics. Once the decision is made and shared with others, it becomes clear that there is a community of like-minded sailors. They share a love of the water and adventure. They welcome newcomers into the inner circle, and reach out to share their experiences. There is a sense of family in this group of snow birds.
So it is that this year Valinor will retrieve her dock lines, point her bow south and join this group on the annual cruise. The trip will be made more easily and safely because of all the good counsel and guidance offered freely from those who have gone before. I have no doubt I’ll make new friends, accumulate experiences along the way and have good stories to share on return.
In reconsidering, Yes, I believe there is something magical about ‘going south’, and I hope to experience that magic and be able to share it with others who have yet to make the trip.