From North Carolina on it was non-stop traveling. Our goal was to reach Baltimore by June 1st, and somehow we did just that. Our dear friends Kevin and Jan on their Cape Dory "Pearl of Eastport" became our traveling companions from North Carolina to their homeport Annapolis. Sailing in the Chesapeake Bay was an unimaginable treat after all those days eeking through the shoaly channels of the ICW. For the first time in weeks hauling anchor and setting the sails became a laid-back endeavor, where I no longer needed to pour over charts and cruising guides for hours ever day. Only the occasional squall or naval zone could cause us any concern.
My ability to relax and enjoy myself undoubtedly made for a better experience for my sister Ashley, who was beginning to see sailing as one catastrophe after another including Patrick nearly biting his tongue off, constant squalls, and boats that anchor too close to us and then accuse us of hitting them. But from Norfolk on that all changed. We stopped in many beautiful anchorages, and Annapolis itself was as mecca-like as we dreamed it would be. I felt John Rousmanier's spirit guiding us into Spa Creek for the first time. I toasted him and the Annapolis Book of Seamanship for their invaluable assistance throughout our voyaging.
The morning we sailed into Baltimore's inner-harbor was surreal. Even though the last month of cruising was spent working towards this goal, it had never seemed obtainable. We never spoke of it, but Patrick and I had secret fears that our engine would just explode or we would run aground and do serious damage before our trip came to an end. I am happy to say, no calamity of the sort ever befell us. Our sail through inner-harbor was calm and beautiful, and the city towered before us, beckoning and majestic. Neither of us had ever seen Baltimore before so it was fitting that our first experience was from the water.
Unfortunately Baltimore had just experienced a massive fish kill due to an out of control algae bloom that spring. It smelled like absolute shit. As we motored into our marina the bow was literally parting through heaps of fish carcasses. It was so foul we could hardly stand to cook dinner and eat onboard Swift Ranger that night.
We thoroughly enjoyed being stationary for longer than a few days in so many months, and our marina quickly became home to us. Early on we befriended an incredible couple, Sean and Meredith who were Baltimore natives and planning their own cruising adventure in the next few years. We also began making wedding plans. Having survived so many months on a 30 footer together and still being on speaking terms with each other really confirmed this long debated option. We kept it as simple as possible, immediate family only, ceremony on a boat. We didn't even bother with invitations! Sailing taught us so many valuable lessons...(ie: cheapness)
One thing sailing didn't prepare us for was the unemployment rate in Baltimore. Desperate searching for over a month and a half didn't result in as much as a single interview between the two of us. Our college degrees and our can-do attitudes didn't give us any advantage over native East-coasters. We are just too mid-west for our own good. After 8 months of living off our savings we were completely desperate. We had no patience to continue job-hunting in a strange city for another month, so with much sadness, we left Swift Ranger behind and journeyed back to Denver, nearly a year after we had left.
We were both rehired at our old jobs within weeks of our return, and moved back into our old apartment, resuming our old lives as if we had never left. Even today, it sometimes feels like none of it ever happened. We have a series of photographs taken at various anchorages framed on our living room wall as a constant reminder of our accomplishments...but it's a strange ending to a strange journey for us. The greatest reward was undoubtedly the discovery that Patrick and I were meant to be together--that anyone else on the boat with us for more than a week started to grate on our nerves and wear down our patience, but no amount of time alone together on that boat made us wish we were apart.
I certainly lost some weight, but I gained a husband.