Florida Straights, Florida

The truth is that it’s been a long two months since we arrived in Florida. We came here at the end of January with hopes of fixing up the boat in a couple weeks and then heading back south towards the Caribbean, but that was way too optimistic. It wasn’t until Sunday morning that we finally cast away from in Fort Lauderdale with our friends Elliott (“Eli”) and Jimmy (“Swifty”) aboard, cracking jokes and high fiving each other as the famous 17th Street Causeway bridge opened up above us for the last time and finally set us free again into the Atlantic Ocean. 30 hours later, about half way between Key West and Cuba, we began experiencing electrical problems that prevented us from charging our main battery bank, then an electrical short took our new autopilot offline. With two major problems like this, we switched to our backup systems and quickly decided to make U-Turn for Florida rather than trying to fix these things somewhere further south. This experience is a demoralizing one and our spirits are touching new lows for this journey. If there is a silver lining it’s that we’d much rather have these problems here near Florida where yacht services are the best in the world, although we’re getting tired of repeating this logic to ourselves.

People considering a long distance sailing voyage should be cautious about what they read and hear. It is not the case that each day is filled with fun and excitement, in fact most days aren’t. Our hope is that by the end of the voyage we’ll look back at the whole experience and see that the effort was well worth it – that seems to be a reasonable expectation based on what other circumnavigators tell us. It’s also not true that sailing is the greatest challenge of a trip like this – the sailing part is actually pretty easy, the most important skills being diligence and patience. The real challenge is keeping the boat and its numerous mechanical and electrical systems working reliably. Boats like ours are incredibly complex – if you walk through a boat like Tamarisk and try to add up the number of pumps, pulleys, switches, circuit boards, display panels, hoses, motors, antennas, hinges, ropes, propellers, impellers, cooling hoses, heating hoses, thermostats, bearings, batteries, bulbs, modems, solenoids, sensors, and relays, all of which must be working at any given time to sail the ship safely, your brain might start to melt as you realize the sheer quantity of things that somehow have to not break each and every day. Layer onto this the effects of high physical stresses on many components, plus the corrosive effects of saltwater and salty air (particularly on electronic parts), and you’ll soon discover that no matter how hard you work the thing will never, ever be fully functional. If you’re a perfectionist, or can’t stand the uncertainty of not knowing what will break next or where you’ll be when it happens, our advice is to choose a hobby other than long distance sailing.

Our three day round trip from Fort Lauderdale has been a good test for all the new work we’ve done, most of which passed the test. We’ve also taken our fishing skills to a new level now, with an ability to trawl three lines at once, which yields far more fish than we can possibly eat. Six months ago we caught our first fish off the Spanish coast, now we’re reeling in serious sport fish with relative ease. We’re no longer at risk of protein deficiency. Our brief stop in Key West on the way back up had great potential, but with the strict dinghy laws here in the US, and already one citation on our record, the Keys might as well not even exist as far as we’re concerned.

We’re about 24 hours away from Martin Harris’s boatyard, our home for the past two months and probably the next week. Our most important job for the next few days will be trying to convince Uncle Martin (not really our uncle but it feels that way) and Pete (his mechanic) to hop aboard Tamarisk for a couple years of sailing…. if we can achieve that, we’ll have made great strides towards eliminating the major challenges that lie ahead.


  1. Peggy Shapiro

    Hang in there, fellas. You are experiencing the trip of a lifetime.

  2. Aidan Barrett

    Hi Guys
    I was in the middle of a note to you and it vanished – operator error no doubt?? Perhaps it went to you?
    I was commenting that these hassles will soon pass and the magic of your trip will return.
    Robin and I wish you a very safe passage from here. I enjoy your postings which I read with a lot of interest.
    Cheers and every best wish from San Diego.

  3. Bernie

    Hi Jason & Piers,
    We had a delightful dinner with your Mom and Dad last Saturday Night.
    It sounds as though you have your hands full with keeping it all together.” Uncle Martin” might be a handy addition if he knows something about eletronics.Better to sort things out now rather than when you are in the Pacific.Hope all goes well.

  4. Shirley Kiley

    As I was reading your blog this morning I couldn’t help feeling sorry for all the trials and tribulations you have had with your boat. But then it dawned on me, especially the paragraph starting “People considering”….ending in… ” long distance sailing” that it was rather like raising children. “not always filled with fun and excitement” “need diligence and patience” “brain might start to melt” “high physical stress” but by the end of the “voyage” you look back at the effort and know it was well worth the effort. 🙂 I know your parents will agree with me – they are so proud of you both.
    Safe sailing.

  5. Petra + Michiel

    Hi guys,

    at this pace, Petra and I schedule our next year sailing trip in Tahiti and meet up with you again :-).

    Don’t despair, it is all part of boat ownership. We have things break all the time on our daysails in the San Francisco Bay. As long as the mast is still upright and you have batteries in your GPS you will get there.

    Good luck and bon voyage !

  6. Mom

    I think you both get your incredible patience from Pop … this last U-turn has really put it to the test and we are in constant admiration of your endurance in handling these misfortunes. You must know Fort Lauderdale like the back of your hand… but it’s not a bad place to be kicking heels.
    Mom xx