I've been thinking about some of the big lessons from our 1200 mile sojourn. The biggest one is, no doubt, the sense of community we had as a BCYC group but also as part of the larger boating/cruiser's community. People really try to be helpful in all kinds of ways. And once we got to Stuart, with a large mooring field and marina crowded with people waiting for a weather window to head for the Bahamas or simply hanging out in Stuart for the winter, I realized that there was a whole other sense of community here. Talk is incessant about where people are bound for next or where they've been or . . . of course, the schedule for the pump out boat! It has also been interesting so see, day after day, the same people dinghying into the dinghy dock and then unloading their coolers, chairs, books, laptops, Ipads, dogs, laundry, garbage, etc. They often fill up a dock cart and wheel it up to a general meeting area that they habitate in all day long, sometimes well into the evening. It is like visiting a KOA campground, with lots of people simply sitting around all day visiting.
For me, personally, the biggest lesson from our trip (aside from reinforcing the wonderful sense of community we had with our fellow travelers) was this: the certainty of uncertainty. Having boated for so long on the Chesapeake Bay, much of our travel there has become fairly routine -- it's mostly predictable; it's certain. But traveling 1200 miles, during which 1150 were uncertain, gave me a whole new perspective on life afloat. In the most sociological way, everything normative was called into question because it was so unknown -- learning to better use the chartplotter; radar; read the paper charts; dealing with current while underway and especially when docking or anchoring; every day entering places that were foreign; learning to talk on the radio in ways consistent with not only other cruisers but also tugboat captains. The learning curve has been very steep but well worth the challenge.
I had kiddingly said before we left Annapolis that our trip had become like the Mt. Everest expedition and that I would plant some Tibetan prayer flags once we got there. Time to break out the flags!!