I have been asking myself this question since over a year ago. It started coming to mind almost daily about the time I told the kids we are planning to cruise on Pelican, not for a weekend across the north gulf coast, but really cruise, keys, east coast, maybe even the great loop. It would require them to take on all of the responsibilities of the business that I had handled up to this point. I had been buying and merchandising for our Pensacola store, working off and on in our Mississippi store. Basically I was stepping out and leaving the kids with it all.
It felt strange. I worked really hard on trying to retire. I did fine and savored those long mornings with an extra cup of coffee. I did fine walking several miles each day in beautiful Destin, Florida. It was only as the day progressed that I often regressed. I missed my staff, my customers, my vendors, the industry itself. But I knew I would know when I knew we should go. We are sixty. People get sick, stiff, sour, sad and sappy. We just wanted to get salty!
The dream to take Pelican, our 42 Litton trawler, further than the 135 miles between Gautier and Destin has been taking shape since before our grandson Ben was born five years ago. We have taken her many times across Mobile Bay and even spent a football season in Tuscaloosa allowing us a great adventure on the Tenn Tom. We’ve mentioned this dream so many times to our friends that we really believe they might have a pool going with bets on whether it ever happens and when.
I never dreamed a dream could turn into a plan and then take so long to execute. We have spent countless hours preparing and repairing. We have sought so much advise, read so many blogs, joined forums, practiced boat recipes, paid too many mechanics, picked too many brains and prayed countless prayers. It just began to seem that maybe this wasn’t our year. There was a hurricane in the keys, a hectic holiday season, a hole in the siding at our house, the coldest winter in years, taxes to file, an air conditioner to replace, a Mom who needed me… as Father Hayes always said: The stuff of life! But we continue to prepare through it all.
God sent us many individuals as we prepared for this dream. John Gatlin, who has lived aboard in Marathon for years, was one of the first cocktails we raised with a seasoned mariner. His excitement for our plan was contagious. He gave us lots of great tips and advice. He was also back in Ocean Springs all winter because Marathon took such a hit from the storm. The Keys were out. There went the November departure plan.
Karen and Leland McClellan were holed up at Dog River long enough for us to go spend an
afternoon getting to know them. We became fast friends with similar dreams. Newly retired as well, they are taking the Great Loop over the next two years. The guys talked engines, systems, and apps for navigation and Karen and I gabbed about creature comforts and the typical day aboard. We knew when she said grace before lunch at the Mobile Yacht Club that we were with special people. I was able to join them for breakfast all the way around in Beaufort SC in mid March. When I asked them about their worst day so far they told me “Mobile Bay”. Been there done that many many times in all conditions. We got this!
A Sunday afternoon in the winter found us around Carla and Andy Voda’s kitchen table at their Dauphin Island place. Here we met Bill and Meredith Chastain. Having done the loop a couple of times and being the accountant that he is, he gave us an entire spreadsheet of prior trips with all times and distances, anchorages, marinas and more! Bill’s cruising guide! Carla let us know the last week in March that it turns out they are heading to Sarasota the week we are finally leaving Destin.
We have been hoping for another boat to join us in crossing the Gulf . We expected to meet some other loopers in Appalachicola or Carabelle. Instead God blessed us with these two angels to do our crossing! Not only is Bill a seasoned captain with knowledge of the engine and systems aboard but they have crossed the Gulf numerous times and they are conservative boaters like ourselves. Having him a hail away on the VHF for the entire journey was great comfort. Mac was able to consult and concur with him when things went wrong. Plus he had lots more toys for navigation so the C Time was lead dog.
When I was in Hilton Head for our annual girl’s weekend Mac was doing some trouble shooting and having nothing but trouble! Captain Bill McDonald answered his cry for help by showing up with Patrick Conway on the Monday morning of Saint Patricks Day week! By the time I got back to Destin Pat had Mac shirtless and slimy in the bilge giving him diesel training money can’t buy. Pat is truly a leprechaun! The green that he wears is diesel fuel, his heart is as huge as his stature and he is as crusty as week old soda bread. He would not release the boat until it was right. After a week of discouraging news from down in the bilge I was beginning to believe again.
Skye and Katie Decker happened into our lives this winter when he dropped the hook of his interesting trawler Great Life in Destin Harbor. We fell in love with them and their precious three year old Von over the stern of our dingy. They are from Galvaston, living aboard in Destin and seasoned captains and crew having transported boats for a living for years. If ever there were cheerleaders for our cause they were two of them. His expertise came in handy on many occasions this winter but never so much as when they came out in their dingy to bid us bon voyage last Friday. Our linkage got stuck as we pulled out of the slip. He pulled alongside, jumped aboard, climbed below and gave Mac a hand with the fix.
I know this post has gotten too long but if you are still reading my point of all this is to answer the question posed at the top. How do you know when you know that you know? As we crossed the beautiful waters of the Gulf on Monday with no land in sight it occurred to me that the feeling of peace and serenity I was feeling was my answer. We knew. The sun was shining. The seas were calm. The temp was mild. The boat was ready. The galley was stocked. The gear was stowed.The beer was cold. That’s how you know that you know that you know.