Floridays

Life is an adventure and never more so than when traveling. Michael and I made it to

Robin and Conch on Manasota Key

Robin and Conch on Manasota Key

Florida and have since been focused on our next steps. We have stepped into a pause in our traveling. Perhaps this pause has been a necessary step in our transition to living on Sea Change.

Ringling Bascule Bridge

Ringling Bascule Bridge

Living on a sailboat is not like living in a house on land. All places need care and maintenance but it seems a sailboat needs a lot of love and care. Also, anything that you do on a sailboat entails at least three steps to start your project and four to put it all back up where it belongs. Stating the obvious, space is a precious commodity on a sailboat and if it’s not, your boat is much larger than ours.

So, Michael and I have been adjusting to living on Sea Change and adjusting to living this close to one another. It has not been without some bruised shins and bruised feelings. We have made St Petersburg our temporary homeport. There is much to do and see locally.

Cactus flower

Cactus flower

We have been making a conscious effort to take advantage of this. We have visited the Dali museum and the Sunken Gardens. We have walked the beaches in several places. We have watched the birds and alligator at the Sawgrass Marsh. We have been to Swing dance lessons in the Gulfport Casino Ballroom. We have done these things while adjusting to taking clothes to the laundromat and filling water tanks on the boat for showers, cleaning and cooking. We have been actively trying to make Sea Change a more comfortable place to live and work.

Afternoon clouds

Afternoon clouds

 

We have been looking at the weather and protection from the sailor’s demon, hurricanes. We have found a reasonably protected respite. We have looked into Hurricane clubs and “hurricane holes”. We have talked to others who live here and have been around for the last several hurricane seasons. We have listened to their advice and tried to find our own plan.

 

Fairy lights at MarVista

Fairy lights at MarVista

We are fascinated with dolphins. We stayed last night at anchor near Longboat Pass. The

Dolphins

Dolphin

dolphins have been all around us. You can hear them when they take a deep breath nearby. Often that is the only warning of their presence. There are peafowl on Longboat Key apparently. We heard them last evening with the whippoorwills at night fall. The whippoorwills would call and the peafowl would answer. It was a lovely and strange serenade. One of the local restaurants, Mar Vista, put lights up in the trees for outdoor dining. From the deck of Sea Change, it looks like so many fairy lights along the shore.

We are enjoying our Floridays. We know that we will move on at some time but for now, the sun and the sky with sparkling waters surround us and cradle our home, Sea Change.

Water colors

Sunset on the Gulf Well, we did it. We made our Gulf crossing from the panhandle of Florida to the west coast of Florida arriving at Anclote Key. Anclote Key sits just outside the entrance to the Anclote River that when traveled leads you to Tarpon Springs. We arrived with such a feeling of accomplishment.

Our Gulf crossing has occupied our thoughts and plans for the last several weeks and maybe even months for several reasons. One of the reasons is the crossing takes at least 20 hours even in a fast sailboat. Twenty hours means that, at least some of the time, someone would need to be awake and at the helm throughout all the little hours of the night. Crossing the Gulf also meant that we would be completely out of sight of land for more than half of our twenty plus hours. Considering that our joint sailing resume doesn’t include a lot of this type of traveling on Sea Change, we had a few moments of pause to think about the ramifications of this and contingencies ( what would we do if X happened? How would we handle this? ). Additionally, this leg of our travels would take us out of typical communication range. No cell phones, No internet would be available. We did, however, have our VHF ( with appropriate FCC licenses) and our EPIRB (registered with the US Coast Guard). Our other concern has been to pick our weather window to make our crossing. Michael has been studying the fronts, what winds were predicted and how high the waves should be. It looked like, as we got to Carrabelle, that our window of opportunity was opening and we would have a couple of great days with only a little waves and, unfortunately, little wind combined with warm temperatures. No rain or storms were predicted either.

So we got up and made ready with healthy doses of coffee and a light breakfast and began final preparations to leave. Sea Change was officially defunked and anything that could roll around or fly across the boat unexpectedly was stowed carefully away. We left at high tide on the Carabelle River with a playful breeze and the sun shining brightly. As land slipped out of view, the thing that kept coming to the forefront of my thoughts was the color. In fact, when I look back at our 23 hour crossing the thing that I find myself dwelling on is the color of it all. We think of water as blue and the Gulf of Mexico is not an exception to this rule. As we left, I remember thinking that the water wasn’t turquoise or even teal blue but a dark blue with lots of gray like steel blue with a light sliver sheen over the top. It is frustrating to not be able to describe the color better! We tasked Hal 9000 (our auto pilot) with the task of getting us to Anclote Key and let him drive Sea Change. ( He has been behaving much more gentlemanly as of late.) The sky was clear and faintly baby blue with a definite transition from sky to water at the horizon. Michael and I chatted and I read and we listened to the satellite radio. It was a lovely day on the water. We snacked and Michael started his project for the day which was to bake fresh bread during our crossing. Michael never one to turn down a challenge had been told that he wouldn’t be able to make bread while making the crossing and it became game on. Using a no knead recipe, he combined the yeast and sugar and let the dough rise while I babysat Hal and read a book.

Soul SerenadeAs the daylight fled, the waters of the Gulf became darker but remained a steely gray blue just deeper in color but the silver sheen became more pronounced and began to look like a layer of mercury sitting on the top of the water. The surface looked reflective and reminded me a an old fashioned mirror. At least that is how it appeared until you turned to look out toward the setting sun. Looking toward the sun as it was setting, the silver sheen became a deep and rosy colored gold with the water turning a darker, deeper blue. The sun took on a vibrant orange glow as it slipped away leaving us in the dusk of evening. When it went, the sun took our breeze and the water became very still. No ripples and no cat’s paws disturbed the surface of the water. I had not seen such a large body of water become so glassy and flat. Sea Change was creating the only disturbance in the water. As the twilight deepened, the stars and planets became our companions. Mars shone so brightly as it made its appearance, I thought at first that it was the light of an approaching vessel. Mars cast a fiery trail on the silvered surface of the still Gulf water. Jupiter sat at the apex of our part of the heavens and the stars were brilliant against the canvas of the darkened sky. At one point, I climbed out on the cabin top and sat listening to Sea Change as she sliced through the still water. My reverie was broken by the splashing and dark shapes of dolphins as they joined us for a while. First on one side of the boat and then on the other, they would jump and splash in the wake Sea Change was making.

We made use of all our resources and turned on the radar to aid Hal in getting us safely across the Gulf. Michael pointed out the lovely pink color on the radar that was the huge barge headed for Mobile as it passed us on our starboard. I could see the pink echo that was our traveling companion, Soul Serenade. Michael and I split a freshly baked pizza and ship-made bread, still hot from the oven, before settling in for the night. Michael and I took turns taking short naps. I had just woken Michael and was letting him get awake and oriented when we noted a new and unidentified pink echo on our radar. We seemed to be approaching it. I showed Michael and comparing it to the echoes of Soul and the previous barge, it appeared at least four to five times our size. Faintly on the horizon, we were able to make out a solitary light in the distance. Our echo appeared to be at anchor. We considered making course adjustments since according to Hal we would pass close to our unidentified vessel but chose not to make changes. Soul, however, seemed to be on a collision course and fell in behind us for a while. Passing by the vessel it appeared gray with lots of metal and angular surfaces. The single white light on its mast indicated it was at anchor but there were no other lights, no other markings. It sat quiet, hulking and dark as we skimmed by it in the darkness. We made up stories and possibilities of who was on the vessel and what was its purpose for the next several days but we left it undisturbed as we passed on our way.

Sunrise approached as we came closer to our destination. With the lightening of the sky, we could make out Anclote Key with greater definition until finally the sun popped over the horizon in its rosy majesty. Our plan upon reaching the mouth of the Anclote River was to anchor at the entrance of a small tributary near the local power plant. Reputation had this area as a safe and easy anchorage for a short sleep of a couple of hours and then we could make our way upriver at high tide to Tarpon Springs. The coffee colored water (due to high tannins from local vegetation) was shallow enough for an easy anchor. Our breeze had rejoined us before sunrise and in the shade of trees on the bank, Sea Change rocked me gently to sleep. Blue sky, tannic water, green leaves were the palette of the day.

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.

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!

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.

Inertia

While it is true that a body at rest tends to stay at rest until acted upon by an outside force, sometimes when the ball gets rolling it seems to pick up momentum. That would be a good description of how things are going at this time. We got an offer on the house. We moved the boat. The house passed inspection. We found a temporary apartment. We have nearly finished packing ready to move. The holidays are upon us and WOW when things start to happen, they sometimes go full tilt.

I have found myself looking around the house over the last few days and feeling sentimental. Michael and I have spent the majority of our married life living in this place. There are good memories and some not so good but our lives have been here for the most part. We have had Tree and PD live with us here. Dominic spent a good deal of his time here. We’ve had Christmases, summers, rain and shine, in-laws and out-laws have been here. Our house has been a home but it is time to move on.

The packing has been furious if not fast. Sorting through the accumulated stuff of nearly 20 years is time consuming and emotionally exhausting. Michael has suggested that I start a letter to the new owners of 2464 N Jimmie Ave. He thinks it will help me to be less sentimental (or weepy) as we finish our move. I started the letter last night and I think that I will leave it with a bottle of champagne. ( Another fine suggestion from Tammie). I have written about how to drive up the driveway and how to back down the driveway, where the owls lived when they nested here, which windows to look out to get the best views of the sunset and explained the hot tub twenty degree rule to keep from freezing body parts. I have many memories that are precious and some not so good from living here. I hope to hold onto the precious and learn from the not so good.

We spent our last night on Jimmie Ave. Michael prepared a lovely dinner of prime rib for two with butternut squash soup and spicy sautéed spinach. We had a nice bottle of wine and wished the new owners well. We have been happy here. I hope they will be too. RJMM

Light on the Horizon

I agree with Michael. Things finally seem to be moving in the direction of the horizon. We’ve made changes to the house in order to sell it. Progress has been made in the direction of a different job for me. It feels so strange to look at the upcoming year and realize that I have no idea how things will look for us in about a year. It’s scary and exciting at the same time.

I have had people ask if I am sad to leave our home. I realize that I am a little melancholy thinking about leaving our house. The important thing is that we are moving forward and while change is scary, it is also invigorating also.

Robin