"But wait," you say, "Richmond is inland. And has a class IV rapids. Red Ranger can't get that far up the James River."
Yes. That would be true.
This chapter of Red Ranger's cruise is drawing to a close.
Our tenure as full-time liveaboard cruisers is ending. We put our toe in the water, fitting out and living aboard Red Ranger. We can recommend liveaboard cruising as the single best way to see thousands of miles of shoreline, salt marsh, ocean, and coastal cities.
Cruising involves self-discovery. We've discovered how much we like big cities. The high points of our two years of cruising (in order):
Annapolis. The city is Right There.
Norfolk and Portsmouth. The cities are Right There.
St. Augustine. Um. Same reason.
Coconut Grove. Get the pattern?
Charleston. The city is a little awkward to get to, but the cool factor makes up from the logistics.
The draw of urban life slowly grew into our consciousness. We found ourselves measuring our progress by the cities, neighborhoods, bars, and restaurants. We like the modern conveniences: wifi, groceries, laundry, beer.
We also measured the things we missed: in-depth exploration. The cruising life is one of permanent transience. Some people like that. We found it unsatisfying. We felt the urge to move more slowly and look into an area more deeply than seasonal migration allows.
For some sailors, the ICW and the long stretches of wilderness are the goal. The voyaging is what they treasure. Wilderness is what they crave.
We liked to travel through the coastal wilds. Few things are as gratifying as a well-handled boat. Going somewhere new and dropping the hook in a different place each night is — I think — something that's wired into our brains.
Discovery appears to be an essential human thing. We can't stop ourselves from doing it.
Experienced cruisers will tell you that our two trips were merely scratching the surface of what's available along the ICW.
For example, the Wacamaw river was spectacular beyond belief. It has branches and oxbows that invite deeper exploration. The Albemarle and Pamlico sounds (and the Neuse river) were very inviting, also.
Outside the ICW, our offshore legs were (mostly) wonderful. The legs that weren't a delight, were still something we managed successfully. The Bahamas is a challenge, but were up to it and did quite well for ourselves there.
More than that, we discovered that we really like sailing in the Chesapeake Bay. The idea of weekend excursions to the anchorages within a day of Deltaville appeals to us a great deal. The 50 nm circle includes everything from Solomon's Island, Maryland to Norfolk, Virginia.
For the crew of Red Ranger, a paying job and a relatively smaller range of travel is our next chapter.
We also have to fix the things we broke. And there are some more upgrades we'd like to do.
We really like the idea that we could cruise on our own terms. There were no emergencies. No crisis. No breakdown on a foreign shore.
Our voyage of discovery revealed a desire to go back to high-tech work in a big city.