The delight of a sunny cruise to New Smyrna was only slightly dampened by a difficult, windy docking. In marina docking, every physical setup is different—the width of the slip, the length of the finger piers, whether there are wooden pilings that you can gently lay your boat against for control, or whether the docks are metal with worn places in the rubber padding-requiring foresight in protecting your boat with fenders ahead of time, the availability and placement of dock cleats and whether they can be of use to control the boat, whether fenders are needed at all or whether they will be in the way—all these assessments and more have to be made in about 15 seconds when you get close enough to actually see the situation. Then there is windage: this is not a sailboat, but the isinglass surrounding the flybridge—the second story—often acts like a sail. Even if it is cold, we open it all up before going into a marina to reduce the risk of an unwanted sidewise push at just the wrong time. The ideal is to dock into the wind but “ideal” is rarely reality, and one must be prepared for unwanted cross wind or stern wind. Our years of docking sailboats taught us to keep enough speed for control. We are unlearning this now, as a trawler with dual engines and a bow thruster is better controlled very slowly, even coming to a complete stop to assess the natural forces at play. (The adage is, “Never go faster in a marina than the speed at which you want to hit the dock.”) Sometimes the dock hand is competent and helpful, sometimes he is a child with little interest in the finer points, pulling lines too tight and wrapping them willy-nilly around a cleat. All this to say, docking for us still is stressful as it continues to be even for seasoned boaters! After we had docked, we saw our new looping acquaintances on Misty Pearl, Dana and Doug Belknap from Scottsdale pull in. They appreciated our assistance with their lines and fenders, and after making plans for docktails with them, we found ourselves at the same restaurant for a late lunch. Afterward, they came aboard and we enjoyed a beautiful evening on the flybridge. We look forward to getting to know them better, as our plans are parallel for the next few stops.
The following morning we headed to Palm Coast, planning to wait out another spate of windy days. There may have been a few things to do and see there, in addition to ogling the stunning Italianate real estate as we approached town, but we didn’t get to them! Gold Loopers Charlie and Robin McVey on The Lower Place from Mississippi took us in like old friends, extending one invitation after another: docktails the first day, cinnamon rolls and coffee on the second blustery day, a 5-couple looper dinner the third. Robin showed me the t-shirt quilt she had made after their first loop (They started a second loop before they quite admitted that they had started again) and the coffee table book she had made from their blog. What expert mentoring they offered as to how to be a Looper, and once again we are reminded how good and generous the vast majority of people are—a much-needed lesson, as one watches U.S. news.