In 2010, we bought our first sailboat together, a Hunter 420 center cockpit, and we named her Blind Date. We were married by a captain on Blind Date in June 2010, and celebrated our nuptials with friends and family during twenty Ports of Call that summer. Afterwards, we sailed the Chesapeake, mostly on weekends, anchoring out in peaceful coves enjoying the bounty of the Bay. We did two charters in the British Virgin Islands, and it was there that we began to dream about adventures in clear tropical waters.
So we made a 3-year plan that included selling houses (one down, one to go), saving up a decent cruising kitty, notifying customers that our consulting practices would take a seven-month hiatus, and oh yeah—finding the perfect boat for cruising beyond the Chesapeake Bay. In August 2014 we bought a Gozzard 44, and named her Belle Bateau (French for Beautiful Boat). She’s cutter-rigged, built in Canada in 1997 as hull #11 of twenty-three G44s, with a 6’ bowsprit and traditional styling. She’s beautifully appointed, inside and out, and we moved on full-time in September 2015 after the sale of Cheryl’s Ellicott City home. No more dirt dwelling, as sailors say. She’s our waterfront home, with changing views.
We began our seven-month sailbatical in early October 2015, and left Slip C30 at the Baltimore Marine Center on October 19. The plan is to get to the Bahamas by the New Year, after a leisurely journey down the InterCoastal Waterway (ICW). And return to the Chesapeake by May 2016. We hope your will follow our journey.
Cheryl began sailing at the age of 8 when her dad bought a Snark to sail on small ponds and lakes near their Baltimore County home. Now don’t snicker and get snarky—that 11’ expanded polystyrene boat with a wooden dagger board initiated Cheryl’s love affair with sailing. As a young adult, she took lessons on keelboats, mostly J22s, but still didn’t have access to her own boat. In 2001, she purchased her own Snark (yep—same model as her dad’s, still available 36 years later) and sailed the 50-pound wonder with her sons on Tar Bay near their vacation home on Hoopers Island on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. She never missed the Annapolis Sailboat Show, and dreamed that one day she’d own a somewhat larger boat so she could explore the Chesapeake Bay and occasionally anchor out on weekends.
In 2007 Cheryl joined the Downtown Sailing Center (DSC) in Baltimore, and took more sailing lessons. The following year she stepped onto a DSC cruising sailboat and met Dudley Whitney on a blind date, set up by mutual DSC friends. And the rest is beautiful history.
Who knew that land-locked Atlanta was a wonderful place to learn to sail? Apparently it is, or so Dudley claims. His dad bought a San Juan 23 when Dudley was 14, and the family sailed on Lake Lanier. Dudley soon learned to sail the boat on his own, and continued to sail during college in North Carolina when 21 architecture students chartered three catamarans and set sail from Miami to Bimini. That’s when he gave up free beer—you’ll have to ask him to tell the story.
After graduation from NC State, Dudley bought a Cheshire Cat 16’ catamaran and enjoyed sailing her in many different lakes in NC, including Lake Jordan, Kerr Lake, and the Albemarle Sound. Ah, the beauty of a boat that can be trailered. He brought the cat up to Maryland in 1989 when he began his new job in Baltimore but sold it when his daughter, Kat, turned 1 year old. Guess he traded one cat for the next (drumroll please)! But we digress. The years passed, as did a few sporadic sailboat rentals in-between. Finally, life allowed him to join the Downtown Sailing Center (DSC) in 2007, where he became a sailing instructor. Although he was teaching keelboat lessons, and Cheryl was taking keelboat lessons, the two never met. It took the effort of two mutual friends with foresight to propose a blind date. And, as has been said, the rest is beautiful history.