Saturday, May 21, 2016

Going, Going

Texting and driving, 7 Mile Creek, SC
A few days before departing South Florida, I learned I’d be making the journey to Maine on my own.

The stress of preparations, and the realization of the extent of the trip ahead finally hit home about 10 hours before I planned to weigh anchor.  I burst into tears while dropping off my car with friends (hey, what are friends for!) and that would be the first of many crying spells to come over the next 3 days, though for the rest, there were no shoulders to cry on.

Banff in Charleston, SC
There is no way one can ever be 100% ready for a trip like this, and I could not wait for things to be just right.  There were plenty of unresolved issues as I weighed anchor from Lake Sylvia on the morning of April 19th.

I did have plenty of reassurance, which I frequently sought, from good friends via telephone, especially from one in particular (poor Banff!), as I dealt with the inevitable issues that arise whenever a boat is actually put to use. Slowly but surely, I have checked many of these off my list.

Sunrise, Middle of Nowhere, GA
Of course, in hindsight, I wonder what the hell I was so terrified of.  The fear of going aground, fear of engine failure, fear of the bilge pump quitting. While traveling within the relatively-protected intracoastal waterway, none of these possible snags are anything to fear, though the thoughts of dealing with them on your own does add something to the mix. Facing things alone always adds another dimension to any hurdle in life. It wears you down.

Some people count beads on their rosary in times of stress. I instead buy hard-to-peel oranges to occupy myself until a situation that makes me nervous has passed. It’s been working well enough.

I somehow am overcoming these fears, at least to the extent that I have been able to put almost 1100 miles at my stern. For me, overcoming fear does not mean letting go of it.  I’m still somewhat afraid of one thing or another each morning as I prepare to get underway. But, I go anyway.

Annick, Giles, and Dukey aboard Calista
And as my reward, I have met some awesome, awesome folks along the way, and have managed to reconnect with a lot of friends I haven’t seen in a while. Annick, Giles, and their terrier Dukey, also from Nova Scotia, have been frequent cruising companions since New Smyrna, FL, and I can't imagine what my trip thus far would have been without them.   I’ve walked deserted ocean beaches alongside wild horses, I’ve woken up in remote, pristine creeks, surrounded by tall grass and covered in dew. I’ve watched more sunrises in the last 30 days than in all my years living in Miami. I’ve seen ospreys returning to their nests, feeding their young, deer and raccoons scavenging the waters edge, and even one massive turtle, who apparently, somehow, did not see or hear me coming. I’ve even become acquainted with a few charming little towns I’d somehow bypassed on my previous passages through the same waters.
Cumberland Island, GA

Stage One of the trip, the inside route from Fort Lauderdale to Norfolk, is complete. Stage Two will soon begin; the offshore passage from Norfolk to Belfast.

Jodi & son
The most challenging part of the intracoastal, by far, were the hours (occasionally days) of solitude.  I know many of you will find this difficult to believe, but I sometimes over-think things.  So, these extended periods of time without outside input were occasionally unfavorable to my state of mind. I worried excessively about things that never came to pass.  The incessant drone of my engine hasn’t been helping matters, either. It has left me craving complete silence like nothing else ever could.

That said, I am facing the likelihood that this is my final trip aboard Annie Laurie. These last few days, she has a distinct skip to her step, like she knows exactly where she’s going, and can’t wait to get there. I’m less anxious than her for this all to be over. I have that feeling most days like everything is coming to an end, and that has been the other difficult part of this trip. I am writing my final chapter with her, and there is so much I am going to miss. Recalling the memories of the last 10 years has been bittersweet. I think of all the people I never would have met if it wasn’t for this boat.  Some, of course, I wish I hadn’t, but I can count them on one hand.  I’m not quite sure how I’m going to deal with the solitude of living ashore.
Sunset, contrails
As I watched birds land on the island sanctuary, just a stones throw from where I sat at anchor last week, with their wings tilted and their tiny feet and legs out, braced for landing, I was seeing tiny feathered planes; landing gear deployed and wing flaps fully extended.

And I was reminded what all this is for.

P.S. – I think I have had more inquiries on how Effie’s doing than how I'm doing. Rest assured, she believes she’s aboard an all-inclusive cruise, and has been eating accordingly.