Quite a bit has occurred since our last post. Last Saturday As I returned from a great morning walk in Tarpon Springs Mike was hanging up on a call from home. Our dear Jane had died in her sleep over night. Jane had been like a mother to us and a grandmother to our kids for 35 years. Mike is executor for her estate and I had helped her plan her final arrangements. We rented a car and headed back to Mississippi.
The next few days were spent in a whirlwind of activities involving death and taxes. The good thing was we got to catch up with friends, check on the house, shop Lee Tracy and hug the girls, finalize the tax return, and celebrate my birthday with the Hinkel crew.
Jane’s funeral went nicely. Thank you to Father Mike for the service and thank you to all who attended. The Bradford O’Keefe folks were first class and the caretakers from Brookdale amazed us by showing in large numbers. Joe Clower you were the best! The Biloxi police gave her a seven car escort to her final resting place. We know she is fishing the big waters with Harry by her side again.
The change of schedule allowed us to talk our pals the Trigg’s into hopping aboard and riding south for a few days. We road back to Tarpon Springs in tandem. We enjoyed a greek dinner and stroll down the sponge docks then got tucked into Pelican for the night. Thursday morning we did several land chores and bid fond farewell to Mick at Tarpon Springs Municipal Marina. Mick was a delight. Big talker. Gave us lots of local knowledge. The marina is undergoing some renovations. The docks are going to be replaced with floating docks soon. Good thing! The finger piers are really scary! The nicely renovated bathrooms and shower made up for it. We dropped the lines in Tarpon and headed out for more adventures. You will just have to stay tuned to find out what happened the next few days.
Today was more stressful than the entire journey thus far. Who knew one could get so disconnected from real life so quickly?
We shared a rental car with Bill and Meredith . They took it yesterday and did their land chores.We waved them off the dock early this morning as they headed to Sarasota. We took the rental car loaded the laundry and headed to the laundry mat and grocery. It was to be returned by one. Our chores should have taken a couple of hours. Right? Of course right!
The laundry mat was doing some upgrading, today of all days. They were cutting off breakers right and left to install new machines. Our clothes were soaked coming out of the washer so the proprietor offers a rewash on him. Apparently he can’t just put them back in to spin again., they have to go the entire 30 minute cycle. Lesson learned. I go do my entire grocery run and return to find clothes finally in the dryer but clearly not drying. I put my hand on the front of the dryer and it’s tepid at best so it appears the dryers are as lame as the washers. UGH!
Mac heads out to the Auto Zone for the fluids we require to continue our journey. I babysit the wash. I become pals with several other frustrated souls who also want free cycles on their machines that aren’t performing well. (I’d hate to be this owner today. He’s clearly in negative revenue as of 2 p.m.)
On the way back from his Auto Zone run Mac decides to stop by Verizon. We’ve been discussing our lack of cell service all the way south. He investigates a transfer from C Spire, gets the skinny on it and decides we are going to do it. Once the wash and groceries are loaded we go to Verizon. Mac tells me, “The guys said it won’t take 20 minutes”.
Forty five minutes in, and with the car in overtime to be returned, I decide to have Mac take me back to the marina while they fiddle around with our phones. I have groceries that are needing to get out of the hot car. Oh, and did I mention there was a power surge that took out the entire center’s internet where Verizon was located so they are scrambling with hot spots to try to keep the sale alive.
When we get in the car Mac realizes he has left the five gallon drum of oil sitting on the sidewalk at Auto Zone. CHA CHING! Someone could walk off with that in a heartbeat! Thankfully the friendly staff at Auto Zone saw it and held on to it until we returned. So glad this is a small town!
Back on Pelican I stow the food, put the clean sheets on the bed, scrub the galley, put all the clothes away, download a plugin for my blog, put the cushions on the flybridge, chill and people watch for a good hour…meanwhile I’m watching the parking lot for the Enterprise rental to pull in. 3 hours later I see my man emerge from the parking lot having been dropped off. It really did feel like I was manning the widow’s walk!
Our first shore day was one I hope we do not repeat! Too much drama on land. Once you get to the point where your world consists of three decks of order you have little tolerance for the clutter real life brings. I think I will stay on the water!
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.
Saturday we ran the GIWW from Panama City to Appalachia. This is a beautiful pristine waterway. Mac might need to go back there sometime because his head was in the bilge and he pretty much missed it. I drove all day. He discovered a small drip that indicated a hose that was weak so he shut down the engine that was leaking and proceeded to fix it. As is always the case, a fifteen minute fix is more like two hours. At one point I thought he had fallen overboard because he didn’t respond to my signal and I got very very panicked. Turns out he was just elbows in and unable to hear. Lesson learned. We will communicate better from here on.
At the end of the windy waters is wonderful Apalachicola. We tied up at Scorpio Creek Marina, had a cocktail with Bill and Meridith and headed to dinner at Up the Creek where Mediterranean Oysters were my choice and Mac had a tuna poke. Both great!
After dinner it was live music and an interesting tip jar at Appalachacola Ice House. A great way to close a great cruising day!
Sunday we fueled up and headed for a short run of about three hours across to Dog Island,just south of Carabelle.
This was a beautiful anchorage much like our own Horn Island only there are a few homes on Dog Island and people actually bring old cars and leave them by the boat ramp so they can get around the island. We met several people spend their Easter on the beach.two couple in a pontoon and of all things a retailer! Kate is the owner of Hicks in downtown Thomasville Ga. A fourth generation store! We had to share a little shop talk.
Dinner was pork tacos and it was an early night so we could be up and ready for the big crossing day.
As I write this we are on anchor in Cedar Key. Mac just cranked the engines and I have duties to perform as we pull anchor and head out so I’m signing off and will fill you all in on our cruise across the Gulf as soon as I get to WiFi and can write on the computer instead of a phone.
“Jesus was a sailor
And he walked upon the water
He spent a long time watching from His lonely wooden tower.
And when He knew for certain only drowning men could see Him he said all men will be sailors then until the sea shall free them. ”
March 30…Good Friday 2018
Finally! We toss the lines for real. Destin is over our shoulder by 9 A.M. There is plenty of last minute drama. Now really, it wouldn’t be Mikey without that. A linkage in the gears refuses to obey so we hovered on the harbor for a few minutes. Our friends from the Great Life come to bid us farewell. He pulls up jumps aboard gives it a-quick fix and then it’s hugs and promises to see each other soon and we are underway.
Skies are cloudy but our spirits are high. As we pass under the Mid Bay Bridge we are saying a Rosary together to insure we have all God’s blessings for a safe passage. It’s Good Friday. What a wonderful day to begin the journey of our dreams. The rosary we use belonged to my grandmother. She had many exciting journeys in her day. We know she’s with us. We also know Jesus is close to those who live and work and travel on the sea.
Nine hours of cruising finds us tucked in behind a park on East Bay near Panama City. Tomorrow is a similar day, fresh air, miles and hours underway so it is early to bed. Thanks for all the well wishes we received from all of you today!
A lot of you have commented that you got worried when there was no “Day two” post. We did not sink! NLet me tell you day 2 until day 5 have been full of good friends, good foods, goodbyes and good news.
We spent four nights on the hook in the Destin Harbor literally in spitting distances of our condo. The intent was to see how we like the way things are running and how things are stowed.
We played all weekend meeting up with our kids, grandkids, and their friends and kids. Noriega Point is a great “nose up” spot where we love to sit and take in the action of the pass and the harbor. Our daughter Jacquie, husband Wes, and their pals were having a big weekend celebrating Wes’ birthday. A trip to Bochamps on Saturday with them did not disappoint! Always delicious! After that it was off to the beach. Sunset found us saying our goodbyes to the boys and Mom and Dad since we weren’t sure what Sunday would bring.
So after a salty day on the sand my much anticipated shower was instead greeted with not a drip…broken fresh water pump. Bring on the baby powder and dry shampoo! Glad it happened now.
Sunday found Mac back in the bilge repairing the pump that we were finally able to find at West Marine ( Don’t even try Walmart and Home Depot for this part. ) The guys at West Marine were great. They matched the price on the online version we found that would have taken until Tuesday to get.
A shakedown across the bay proved very successful late Sunday afternoon and we pulled into Noriega once again to tie up with Katie and Sky who are new-found cruising pals. They are here in Destin from Galveston and we are blest to have met them.
Sunday evening we just had to hit Bochamps crawfish festival and raise a glass with Teri and David , our neighbors in DYC. We will miss all of the yacht club crew!
Monday found us checking off the final prep list. I got a pedi and a haircut. We both got new eyeglasses (gotta see those navigational beacons, Mac!). Lots of land based chores were accomplished. Mac also spent a good bit of time sanitizing the bilge.
Today we have been tearing up the boat once again…ugh! I have nowhere to move for the tools in my way. More stuff came off that we decided wasn’t essential to life on board.
But the good news is we have friends coming in from Dauphin Island to cruise the next few weeks with us. They are heading to VA and possibly further. Bill and Meredith were introduced to us this winter by our friends Carla and Andy. We spent a great afternoon picking their brains about their travels on the loop. He shared a fabulous spreadsheet of info with us that we intended to use as our guide. Now it looks like they may actually be our guide! God is so good!
The wind is still blowing but it looks good for a Friday departure from Destin once Bill and Meredith get refueled and rested. It’s not hard to have to spend a couple of more nights in our beloved Destin Harbor!
It must have taken twelve trips from the car and condo but the Pelican is loaded and ready for this adventure of a lifetime. Today we stash and stow and figure out what can really stay or what has to go. Most cruisers probably don’t bring a guitar, sewing machine, drone, real books, bikes, and gamer gear. A smaller boat would never do!
The plan is to shake this girl to her timbers for three days in our local waters to test all the repairs made on the engines recently. If all goes well and the wind lays down a bit we head east next week.
Permission to come aboard!!
Ok yesterday was a bad day. It’s January. Too cold. Wet. All my pals (my cheer leaders) have left Destin to pursue their winter adventures and we are still waiting for a warming trend to happen so we can toss off the lines, push away from the dock and start this adventure. You know, the one that I left my business for, turned over my duties to family for, asked for all the gear for Christmas for, and now I can’t stand the “waiting for”! Bring on my sabbatical year.
Most of you would find this incredibly liberating and don’t get me wrong, I know I am blessed. While we are cruising on the Pelican Lee Tracy will run like a well oiled machine in the hands of daughter, Katie, son-in-law, Wes and sister in-law Diane. So here’s where I lost it today. I mean total meltdown. Katie is leaving to take her key people to New York tomorrow. It’s what we do every January only this year it’s she and them and not she and I. I guess I didn’t realize just how special those few days with my daughter (some years my other daughter has come along too) are to me; jumping slush puddles to hail cabs, freezing our southern tushes off as we navigate the garment district, eating room service dinners just because we can take turns in a hot bath . It’s what we have done every January for years! Can you tell I hate change? I cried like a baby realizing my plans to shove off have been pushed off and I could have been with them this week had I only known!
This morning she called and said “Did you book a flight?”. Of course not. I blew my nose, (put some Missisisspi Morning Miracle Eye Clay on my swollen eyes) and got over it. This adventure IS going to happen. Everything I am leaving behind is going to be worth the cost as we forge ahead. We both have excitement mixed with anxiety about what we might miss, who we might miss, but we know it’s our year to get on this boat we love and explore the things we love, the Northern Gulf, The East Coast of Florida and the Low Country.