Life in Motion

Sea Change, Under Sail,  Gulf of Mexico

Sea Change, Under Sail, Gulf of Mexico

After much preparation, planning, discussion and hard work, we have done it. We have actually started on our much anticipated voyage. We have no particular destination in mind and our aspiration is to make this be about the journey. Travel, meeting friends new and old along the way, experiencing a place different from where we started this trip, all of these are ambitions that we hope to satisfy.

If you have spent any time at all aboard a sailing vessel, you quickly come to realize that the boat ( and you) are constantly in motion. The boat rolls and bobs. I find myself reaching  to steady myself washing dishes, climbing the steps in the companionway, getting on and off Sea Change. I catch myself bracing my foot or my leg or even my back so that while sitting, I don’t move a lot. My body is quick to remind me that even when I don’t realize it, I am moving.  Each little ache or pain tells me over and over how much I am moving.

Since leaving Turner Marine in Mobile, Alabama, we have been in motion more that I had anticipated too. We made the trip across Mobile Bay and anchored our first night out in Pirate’s Cove (which can be found on the map designated as Robert’s Bayou). It was magical watching the herons building their nests and feeding their young as the day began. All was quiet back in the bayou and the water was still as the herons swooped across the water and returned with treats for the young herons still nesting in the tops of the pine trees. Then anchors up and on we go.

Herons in Pirate's Cove

Herons in Pirate’s Cove

Next stop was Little Sabine Bay at Pensacola Beach. We actually spent a couple of days here because cold and wet weather arrived. Rainy weather gives you the opportunity to find those pesky places where water will seep into your boat. We did boat projects and found many more that needed doing. I found myself regretting not packing more layers to wear.

Sunrise,  Lighthouse Destin Harbor

Sunrise, Lighthouse Destin Harbor

Then on to Destin where we pushed our comfort zone and made our way into the harbor at Destin Beach.  While the marine forecasts sounded a little ominous with 2 foot swells  and choppy water, we found that 2-3 miles off shore the sun was shining and the swells were easy. After a dose of Bonine to ward off motion sickness, I laid down in the sunshine and napped like a cozy kitten for most of our trip. Unfortunately, the effects of Bonine last a long time in my system and I slept for most of the 24 hours after taking it. I was awake for our approach to Destin however. The tide was coming out and the swells were crashing against the sea wall creating a surfer’s dream. Sea Change took the swells and rode them until the wave would break just forward of the mast. Each time we came down the wave, we would find ourselves in more shallow water ( making Michael anxious and concerned about breaking something).  Finally we were able to turn at the breakwater following a large motor yacht that had decided that the waves were more fun than they wanted to attempt. We saw them make it to the breakwater and then turn back.  The entrance to the harbor entails going almost to the edge of the bridge there (only 48 feet high with the mast on Sea Change at 52 feet) and then taking a near U turn and following the channel markers closely to stay out of the constantly shifting shoals so that we don’t run aground. We made it but I don’t know that I would recommend it to others. It was nerve wracking. Anchoring seemed a breeze after the gauntlet we had run.

The next morning it was anchors up and on to Panama City Beach. Again the swells were gentle and the sun was shining. The trip was easy and the beach is all that is advertised, white sand and bright sun. We stayed an extra day at Panama City and then made our way on to Port St Joe.

It has been ten days since we left Mobile and we have jumped from place to place. It feels like we have been in constant motion. We needed to slow down just a little and spend time catching our breath and looking around where we were. We spent time with friends, Randy and Linda Layman. Through the wonders of Facebook, we became reacquainted with Denise Holmes from Fayetteville who was in Florida on an extended sabbatical. She joined us when we met up with Andy and Judy Falls and with Randy and Linda and our sailing partners, Jimmie and Sue White, to have a fabulous time at Indian Pass Raw Bar having oysters and shrimp, all local and fresh. There was a lot of fun and love at the table that evening with good friends and good food.

Great Friends, Great Times at the Indian Pass Raw Bar.

Great Friends, Great Times at the Indian Pass Raw Bar.

In ten days, we have moved on to stay in 6 different ports. Now we will journey on and try to slow the motion just a little since we are not yet pushed by the clock. Now is the time for us to pause and look around and be present in this world instead of just passing through.

Pay it Forward

Soul Serenade,  Pirate's Cove

Soul Serenade, Pirate’s Cove

With almost every step of this journey Robin and I have had to overcome inertia. First there was moving from the great big hous to the apartment, and then on to the boat. Our last hurdle was to actually start this journey and break free from Turner Marine. On the one hand, it was exciting to make preparations to leave, and on the other it was sad leave to all the new friends that we’d met.

On March 14, we released the dock lines, headed the boat into the Dog River, under the bridge and out into Mobile Bay. With the wind out of the southeast for the entire day, we chose not to hoist sail. Instead, we enjoyed the sunshine and and a beautiful day as we made the 4 hour crossing. We crossed the ship’s channel and watched our buddy-boat, Soul Serenade, dodge a large tow. From our perspective, it looked close, but afterwards Jimmie indicated that he had “plenty of room”.

Entering the GICW (Great Intercoastal Waterway) we gained an additional half knot of speed; the tide was pushing us along nicely. Houses with docks and decks lined the intercostal as Robin took the helm and it was a nice boat ride to Robert’s Bayou also known as Pirates Cove. As Jimmie quickly proved, the entrance to Pirate’s Cove is quixotic. While Jimmie was being vigilant, Soul Serenade still ran soft aground in the channel just off the beach at Pirate’s Cove. For the uninitiated, running aground sounds particularly bad, but with less than 70 nautical miles on Sea Change, we’ve already touched bottom four times. Jimmie reversed his engine to attempt to back off the sand bar. The engine stalled immediately. Then things started to get bad; a prompt restart tripped the main battery breaker and Jimmie, Sue and Soul were dead in the water and soft aground. Mermaids come in a variety of guises and we all had our first encounter. Emma, a twenty-something live-aboard, who was enjoying a cold beverage at the bar, saw the trouble in the channel. So, she started her jet ski and and headed out to help Soul and her frazzled crew. She pulled them to safety and helped them tie to the dock. 
Meanwhile, it was time for Sea Change to run the gauntlet. We made it through, by simply avoiding the place where Soul went aground. The little channel to the Bayou opened up and soon we were surrounded by clear water, a tree lined shore, dolphins, and water fowl. We anchored and set the hook nicely for the first time on our trip. We paused for a few moments and relaxed for the first time all day.

Jimmie was able to get Soul Serenade going again and soon joined Sea Change at anchorage. We launched our dingy, picked Jimmie and Sue up and went ashore for drinks and some much needed decompression. Jimmie recalled the events leading up to the problem. After intense discussion, we were hopeful that the problem with Soul’s prop, was a stray dock line or ski rope wrapped around the shaft, but couldn’t rule out the possibility of a bent shaft, ruined cutlass bearing, or bent propeller. It was getting dark so giving in to our fatigue, we left further investigation and problem solving for the next morning.

When we awoke, in contrast to the previous day, it was damp and cloudy. I headed over to Soul in our dinghy to see what we might be able to accomplish. Jimmie, standing aboard Soul, finishing his coffee had a worried look on his face. He climbed down into the dinghy with his dive mask in hand. With dive mask in place, he slipped into the cold tannic water and swam under his boat to to assess the situation. Surfacing and boarding the dingy in one swift motion he announced that his propeller shaft was wrapped tightly with a large bundle of line. After locating a sharp knife, he donned one of my old dive wetsuits. Taking another stab at the prop problem, he soon found out that he was too buoyant to work under the boat and cut the wraps of lines away from his prop.

He dried off and we dinghied to Pirate’s Cove Marina to see about the possibility of enlisting a diver. Since it was Saturday, we thought our chances of finding someone with dive gear and time on their hands would be pretty good. We tied the dingy up to the pier and saw Emma and her little boy Harper washing dishes from breakfast on the dock. Much to our disappointment, there were not divers available, but Emma’s husband Joey thought he might be able to free the prop, especially if he could use a wetsuit. We returned to Soul, only this time with Joey in the wetsuit. He entered the water, and made breath-hold dive after breath-hold dive. After a few minutes, the water surrounding the hull was littered with tiny white rope filament;  after a few minutes more, Joey began surfacing with large sections of a crabbing or fishing line 3/4 inch in diameter. When the line was free, Joey gave the prop a few turns and checked the alignment. The prop was clear and the shaft was straight and true.

To show their gratitude and appreciation for rescuing Soul (twice in two days) Jimmie and Sue offered to pay Joey and Emma, they refused to take anything saying simply, “People have helped us a bunch, just pay it forward.”

So we will, when we can, look to pay it forward. Our world is populated with kind and generous people and mermaids too!

Rainy day in Mobile

Regina's Kitchen Mobile, AL

Regina’s Kitchen Mobile, AL

Michael  and I have been working fairly diligently doing all those things that people do, cleaning stuff up, putting away your mess, fixing things, and generally being the adults that we are supposed to be. We have taken time off for Mardi Gras in Mobile which was an experience unlike any I have had before now. It was a carnival, parade, party, and totally fun! Kids and adults got to participate and everyone was grabbing for the “throws”. It is hard to describe the free-for-all that the parades were but we had a grand time and visited (in true southern fashion) with the people around us learning about them and this city that they love. We caught glimpses of their dreams and their lives and it illuminated our own.

Today, we decided to spend the rainy day exploring a little more of Mobile. We headed north from the Bay and went into town where we found Regina’s Kitchen. OH MY! This is a little lunch place that totally rocked!!! We split a sandwich, The Schoel, a sandwich of smoked turkey, bacon and jalapeño cheese on grilled sourdough, and an awesome Midtown salad. Fresh ingredients and lots of love have to be their specialty here. The salad exploded with fresh basil, artichoke hearts, goat cheese, kalamata olives, sun-dried tomatoes, mixed greens and a homemade french dressing. Oh wow, I can’t describe adequately how good this tasted. You should check it out for yourself when you wander this way.

Bougereau at Mobile Museum of Art

Bouguereau at Mobile Museum of Art

Our goal for the day was the Mobile Museum of Art. Again, we were surprised at the treats we found. Mobile has a painting by one of Michael’s favorite artists, Bouguereau. Also, the museum had at least 50 works that were turned wooden pieces, some bowls, some vases, some just great art. I was excited to stumble upon a beautiful piece by Norman Rockwell there and a painting by John Singer Sargent that entranced me. The painting San Vigilio, Lake Garda really pulled me in to the painting and left me yearning to share the wonder of the place Singer Sargent saw.

After our cultural moment, we found a delightful coffee roaster, Carpe Diem. Great cappuccino and time together rounded out our day. Yet again, art reached out and grabbed me when the wall art in the women’s restroom made me smile. I’ll show you the scenery.

Bathroom Art at Carpe Diem

Bathroom Art at Carpe Diem

 

I hope you too get to discover the art in unexpected places near you!

Mardi Gras

The last week of February it was unseasonbly warm for Northwest Arkansas. This provided a great opportunity for Robin and I to remove the last of our things from the apartment.   It was a thankless and seemingly endless job,  there was always something more to move and at some point things that were important became trash.   We had hoped to leave on Thursday and head to Mobile but many times throughout the day, we despaired of that happening.

Somehow by late afternoon, the 4Runner was packed with all our clothing, the meager stash of food from our apartment kitchen, and some odds and ends. We left the little apartment in Johnson and drove across town to Jimmie and Sue’s place before leaving.    Sue had made the most wonderful “happy tizers” and an amazing spicy sweet potato enchiladas and she and Jimmie invited us to share.   The food was  amazing and of course Robin and I devoured both appetizers and enchiladas as we’d worked hard all day without much of a break for food.  Determined but exhausted, we made our way to Little Rock for the night.

On Friday evening, after driving much of the day, taking a side tour to avoid an accident, we arrived in Mobile. We dined at The River Shack and hit the bunk aboard Sea Change. Unlike the night before in Little Rock,  we slept great.  We were finally home and our boat rocked us gently all night.

With the 4Runner packed to the gills, we began moving duffels of clothing aboard,  all the while thinking there was no way that Sea Change would absorb all this stuff.  She did and soon we had a manageable place to sit, relax, and watch some television.

Mystic's of Time

We worked a bit on Saturday,  but were drawn to the Mardi Gras celebrations in Mobile.   So, we left the boat, and our chores, to play for a while.   We made our way to downtown Mobile for some people watching,  delicious fried food, and a walk along the parade route.   At 6pm surrounded by almost 100,000 people,  we watched in amazement as the Mystics of Time parade began.  There were about 20 themed floats, many dragons, interspersed with some of Alabama’s best marching bands and flag corps.  We even managed to catch a few beads, some moon pies, and a silly looking stuffed chicken, which somehow amidst all our unorganized stuff has earned a place in the salon overlooking blog writing, wine drinking, and dinner preparation.

Mystics of Time,  Dragon

Mystics of Time, Dragon

Robin and "Cherry"

Robin and “Cherry”

Sunday like moths drawn to flame,  on a fantastic spring-like day, we drove back to downtown Mobile and attended the Joe Cain Procession.  Joe Cain is credited with getting Mardi Gras restarted in Mobile after the Civil War. He is honored in Mobile with a procession in his honor led by Joe Cain’s Merry Widows   Unlike the night before,  this parade was different.  There were no bands this time and the floats were simple and carried riders with lots of “throws” for the parade go-ers.

We ended the afternoon with so many beads that Robin could barely carry them around her neck,  a purple T-Shirt, several moon pies, drinking cups, and other carnival oddities.   It was two hours of people watching followed by an hour long parade and above all it was pure fun.  We had a blast and finished the afternoon off in a local bar with a toast to our first Mardi Gras in Mobile.

The direction of our dreams

if-one-advances-confidently2

Last summer when it looked like our house on Jimmie Ave would never sell and we would have a hard time realizing our dream of living on our sailboat, I told Michael let’s just keep our plan to move Sea Change to Mobile Bay in November. I remember saying that let’s just act on faith and proceed forward as if everything was coming together just like we had hoped. So we did and it all began falling in place. At times it felt like a Tetris game with the blocks falling fast and furious and other times with pieces needing rotating and maneuvering to make it all work, but it has so far.

We have moved! With groans and aches and much more work than we had anticipated, we put our remaining belongings either in our small storage place or the Toyota for the trip to the coast. Every fifteen minutes or so during the drive south, Michael would mumble under his breath that there was NO way everything in the truck was going to fit aboard the boat but so far it has.(This was while I was fighting with my cherished pony-tail palm that Ashley, my youngest sister, has agreed to foster while we are live-aboards.)

We have been stowing things and making everything tidy on board with the truck acting as  a temporary storage place but the boat is feeling so much like home. Sea Change has definitely been our second home for the last three years but just that, a Second home. She now feels more like our real home than ever. Some moments it seems hard to believe that we have made it this far. Then I take a breath and take a few more steps along this path that we have chosen to follow.

I found the quote at the beginning of this post several weeks ago and wrote it on a scrap of paper that I tucked into my backpack. While packing up the apartment to head south, I found it again and realized that at least for us and at least for now, Thoreau spoke the truth.