Ocean Mist

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To put it simply, in recent months my sense of peace has been anything but a misty shade of ocean blue.     Clang. Clang. Clang…

From March to July, a persistent gale of 4G mobile internet established itself as a menace; thunderous headlines, blustery opinions, and somber data – walloping my shutters almost clean off their hinges.   Grappling with putting my phone down, a gloomy front moved in and stalled over our salon.  Severe skepticism hung in the air.   The Caribbean Blue fabric covering our settee no longer inspired living by island time but rather adrift in the doldrums.   

It sounds very silly, but a small natural soy blend candle, purchased from Marshall’s, would ultimately coax me away from the clutter taxing my disposition, and over to a space where brighter possibilities could exist. 

How extraordinary to cross paths with this candle.  I remember the moment well.  As casual as the moves of a seagull when it spies giddy tourists offering up French fries, the candle’s coconut white glass and solar kissed aqua letters O C E A N M I S T pegged me for a saltwater hippy the moment I rounded the aisle and came into view.  Whoosh.   Reaching over a crowd of Cranberry Croissant, Earth Worm, and Laundry Day scent candles, I plucked Ocean Mist from the debacle of marked-down merchandise…like a seagull swooping down for a fry.   

With obvious reason, burning a candle on a boat takes careful consideration.    My rules of thumb: no rocking and rolling; the candle is where I can see it; and Francis isn’t in a flit zing mood where he knocks stuff over.   Burning or not, candles bring to the table their own unique presence of persuasion.   And if I’m to be persuaded, it won’t be to do more laundry, dig for worms, or eat more croissants.   

Ocean Mist is a candle that starts my day with a bright and breezy “Good Morning” smile –  sand pushes up between my toes, blue sky and Azul water…a frangipani blossom for my hair… fragrant coffee…sliced mango, and macadamia nut bread offered and served in the galley.   

At dusk, Ocean Mist accompanies us to the aft deck.   With a ‘one, two, three’ by a rusty fire-starter, a flickering dance quietly begins, under the glow of the Evening Star (Venus).   Gazing the changing sky, memories return and stories are retold: evening runs with friends with Saturn and Jupiter pulling us along; checking out the planets with a friend’s new gigantic lunar telescope; watching the stars fall during overnight passages.      

Tranquil.  Uncomplicated.  Coastal.   But, certainly not subtle.  Ocean Mist is the coach with a megaphone, shouting from the sidelines, “TAKE THE SCENIC ROUTE.  How many times do I have to repeat myself?”   What the scenic route looks like, feels like, or sounds like is so very individual.  However, if I think about the generic interstate system and compare it to the more scenic roads, I’d guess the scenic way of life isn’t fast or efficient.  And that’s where I’m trying to apply the lessons by Ocean Mist.  

Several mornings ago, I was standing on our swim platform shaking out rugs, when a fragrant coastal aroma seemed to reach out a hand and whisper, “This moment is now.  You can take it.  Or you can let it pass.”   It was low tide, one of my favorite times for exploring mangroves; watching crabs scurry up and down freshly exposed roots, herons fish the shallows, a smell so pungent you can see it.  Kind of like the mist that blows in off the ocean.      

I took the road less traveled that day.  Over to the mangroves in my little red kayak; an end of the year clearance item from Walmart, discounted even more because the paddle was missing.  In my rush, I didn’t brush my hair, or change out of my twenty-plus year old – thread bare 7Mile Bridge Race t-shirt.  I forgot sunscreen, and water, and to apply any lipstick.  My phone stayed home.

I don’t know what it is about a candle that can persuade me to push the storms away, feel the ocean when it’s not there, take the discounted scenic route, or sit down and write about the very simple.  But I’m content to accept it.  Even without headlines, opinions, and data. 

In all seriousness, in addition to handling information overload, I struggle with getting into a daily habit of writing.  I can list a dozen reasons that have become excuses but none of that really matters unless I dare to make some necessary changes.  First blaming it on Facebook, I took a leave in order to have the time to write.  But that wasn’t the answer.  Thinking I needed a special place to create and think, I moved my laptop to the pilothouse and agreed with the Captain that as long as we were docked in a marina, the pilot house could serve as my writing studio (tropical writing nooks seemed too worked for Randy Wayne White and Ernest Hemmingway).   But that hasn’t worked either.  A rut of chasing down chores rather than jumping off into the sea that I adore, and pouring over the news…thinking about the news…absorbing the news…letting the news take my joy…is counter to taking the scenic route in life.  

My humble opinion,

Seamore Nautical Spirits

Docked in Manatee County, Florida for hurricane season.
Terra Ceia Aquatic Preserve
Bradenton River Walk at Sunset
Riviera Dunes
My Florida Panther
Check of the weather in the morning.
Time to curl up and read a book
Nautical Rummage Shopping. And what my brain feels like after reading the news.
Evening walk. Riviera Dunes.
Anclote Key State Park. We anchored 2 nights here. Very peaceful and pretty.
After the storm.
Paddling back to the boat after checking out the rookery on Anclote Key
Anchored at Gulfport for one night.
The Galley Spirit
BYOB
Morning Coffee
Clearwater: a sweaty runs with my friend (she also lives on a boat full time).
Some like their fruit blended (Captain) and other’s like it with hemp hearts and a squeeze of lime (me). Long ago a dear friend gave me some sage advice…take the time to cut up your fruit and serve it in a pretty bowl.
First attempt making homemade Vegan Pho.
Onions with a side of black beans and rice, and plantains. Not as good as my friends B&T make, but will have to do for now.
Storm Shelter for Francis. Thunderstorms roll in daily and Francis hates it.
Our neighbors. Will stay here thru hurricane season then go south.
Fiesta Ware Coastal. It is too pretty not to pose with our dock lines.
Candles bring to the table their own unique presence of persuasion.

Seamore Odyssey Playlist:

Needing Answers (Part 2: The 18 Mile Stretch 1992)

It was close enough to midnight when he stopped checking the clock, switched off the brass salon light, and turned towards the companion way.   Reaching for his flashlight, he used his other hand to loosely hold and guide himself up the creaky teak ladder.  Stepping out and into the dark, a curtain of humidity and stillness greeted him.  Drawing in a slow deep breath, he pulled his shoulders back, rolled his neck slowly to one side, and casually appraised what he believed to be every sailor’s idea of paradise; the Florida Keys.  Exhaling, his senses had already finished collecting and processing the moment: it was a pungent infusion of outgoing tide; exposed mangrove roots, seagrass beds, and millions of crusty barnacles on every piling – from Key West to Miami. 

He looked upward, along the mast.  Confirming Maria’s anchor light was shining bright, his curiosity ascended to the dome of brilliant stars that seemed to exist, if only for the sake of this one particular harbor.  Noticing the absence of any wind, his gaze settled onto an imaginary line of a hundred or so other swaying anchor lights – Maria’s neighbors.   It was a field so to speak, of nautical wheelers…Magic, Namaste, Wanderer, Free Bird.   

The music of Santana, wafting from Dockside had just stopped, signaling closing time and last call at the bar.  If he hurried, he might reach the dinghy dock in time for a Captain Morgan and coke.  Not his usual habit, but tonight it made sense.  He’d order his drink, and then check the worn corkboard located at the end of the bar for thumbtacked notes scribbled with the name, Maria.  Between the bartenders taking phone messages for the live-aboards, and the coconut telegraph, information got around.   None of the boaters in Boot Key Harbour seemed to miss or need a phone.  Consider it one less string attached.

Pleased there were no new messages, he tipped his glass to drain the last bit of vanilla infused rum when the glass sliding door signaled that Dockside was done for the night.  Stepping outside onto shadowed planks, he watched the last of the last fumble into their dinghies and putter home to their boats.  Smiling and very much awake, in spite of the late hour, he walked over to an outlying bench, sat down, and waited for her to arrive…any minute.

Minutes multiplied to an hour.  At least a dozen pair of approaching headlights had danced among the palms, growing brighter and brighter; each time, he watched and hoped it would be her car rounding the corner.  Where was she?  If she left work as planned, she would have had plenty of time to make the drive from Miami.  Yes, he barely knew her, but at the same time he really liked her…last time they spoke, she was looking forward to a visit to snorkel Sombrero reef.  Digging in his pocket for quarters, he made his way to a payphone, dropped the necessary change in, and dialed her number.  

                                                              ~

Hours and hours overdue, and no answer to his calls, he drove north to retrace the only route linking the Keys back to Miami.  Stopping ever so often to feed another payphone and leave another urgent message on her answering machine, the night had suddenly gotten very long and confusing. 

Early dawn, her abandoned Toyota 4Runner was found.  At a convenience store where the 18 mile stretch becomes north Key Largo.  The guy working the night shift confirmed he saw the red Toyota pull in and park near the door, during a particularly strong down pour.  A lady with long hair was driving.  What he knows is that after the rain let up, no one came in, the car remained in the same spot, but she was gone.  That was quite a few hours earlier.

It didn’t occur to him until now, that he probably should have called the police.

to be continued…  

18 Mile Stretch (Part 1) https://seamorenauticalspirits.com/2017/04/05/the-18-mile-stretch-1992/

Three years ago, I set out to write a short story about a particular event. I thought after the first story was posted, the second piece would come about rather quickly. But that’s not what happened. And that’s ok. When I woke up this morning, I had no agenda but to first enjoy my coffee. Within five minutes I was fixing breakfast for Captain Chameleon. Sometime between that second cup of coffee and drinking a glass of fresh squeezed Florida orange juice, the energy, the desire, the ability to sit down and create part 2 happened. It’s not polished but that’s ok also, because I fear if I were to sit on it…it would be another three years. These challenging weeks, this month especially, I really need a diversion from 2020. So I hope you enjoy a blast from the past…1992

Seamore Nautical Spirit is isolating on a boat in Tarpon Springs, Florida.

Prayers that you, your family, and friends are well, and that we find ourselves on the other side of this great challenge, as stronger, kinder, and more in love with life.

Seamore Nautical Spirits

Apalachicola
Story from a bottle. Mexico
Anclote River, Tarpon Springs. Sunrise.
Sponge Docks, Tarpon Springs.

Our Time

“What do you do all day?”

It’s a question that surfaces when the conversation goes to what it’s like to live on a boat.  And I get it.  At the end of some days, I often ask myself the very same question.  In my old life, a day was sized up by the commute, how many and how long were the meetings, if I managed to fit in a run, and whether dinner was take-out or quickly tossed together.  Essentially, if I didn’t fall into bed exhausted and pre-occupied with the past, present, and future – well then, I hadn’t really done much of anything that was worth writing about.  A salary was proof that my days were busy and that I was on the right track.   Time aboard Seamore Odyssey has gathered up all of the evidence that once measured my contribution in society, filed it under the name – I’m hard at work, very busy, and therefore a valuable employee (person), and threw it overboard.   

Today, thirty-seven feet of waterline is where I reside, find inspiration, and turn my attention.  I’m no longer rushing to join a traffic jam, or planning the night before what I’m going to wear the next day.   The time and energy that I once used to meet the outside world, now resides inward; creating my own spin on nautical domestication.  Prioritizing nutritious and yummy eats; maintaining a supply of fresh and fragrantly pleasing towels; having sheets and pillows that are soft and inviting; barefoot-clean floors; and a décor that slows to island time…those are the non-negotiables that I demand, working numerous hours every day in order to achieve.   

Yes, demand is a pretty harsh word, but so is the corrosive nature of salt water, wind, the sun, and sand.  I’m a sea monster, willing to work overtime, to keep mildew, grime, and foul odors off the boat in order to have my floating sanctuary.  For those familiar with boats, you know that every surface is fair game to the ill effects of trapped moisture.  Trapped moisture leads to problems, some of which pose safety hazards.  Prevention, detection, and intervention are at the forefront of most conversations we have on the boat.  There are a number of ways water can intrude.  Fifty miles off shore is not the place, in the dark of night is not the time, and rolling out of bed into seawater up to our ankles is certainly not how we want to discover a job that we missed.

Keeping our trawler, and lifestyle, in seaworthy state becomes the quintessential gift we live out each day.  Negotiating, between the two of us, our time, skills, and talents in order to move a project forward has in the end been very rewarding.   When two Yanmar engines and a diesel generator are stationed under the living room (salon) the job of changing oil filters, water impellers, fuel filters, and checking the engine mounts, belts, and hoses are tasks we plan and assist each other with…so that everything is cleaned up and put away before sunset.  A hot luxurious shower inside the boat, versus a cold quick shower in the cockpit, and the ease of our Vaccuflush commodes are some of the creature comforts we both really, really value.  But it means cleaning the slime out of the shower bilge on a regular basis….yuck.  Listening for changes in the sound of the pumps doing their dirty work; keeping the holding tank system healthy and happy between pump-outs; and eyeing the Tank Tender daily for freshwater and black water levels falls under my jurisdiction as Director of Sanitation.   Within this department, certain habits and routines are required, thus leading to my other title – Queen of Quality Control.  I earned this position because I’m good at pointing out when something might be overlooked.  Unfortunately for Captain Chameleon, it’s an area I over achieve in. 

On most days, Captain Chameleon and I are actually very compatible co-workers, with a seasoned ability to balance out the other’s talent.  Where one is a neat freak, the other is quick to clutch their pile and jump out of the way. If one is bossy with suggestions, the other will usually step forward with an impressive 180 degree eye roll – in perfect timing for the best overall effect.   We argue, I sulk, we ignore, we praise, we laugh, and we high-five our way through every single project.    Big or small, expensive or phenomenally expensive they are almost all the same. What we expect to be long projects become marathon projects and what should be short and simple projects; well they too become marathon projects.  

One important thing we have gleaned from observing other boaters as they grunt through their projects is at a minimum, two and half dozen items will be needed. Which means at the end of the day, for the sake of sanity and sanctuary – every single, solitary item that is used for a job, must also be put back, in its proper place.  And here lies, what I do all day.  I move stuff.  Or for the tiny ounce of professionalism still left in me; “I move product.”  

I can assure you that behind every mountainous array of tools, hose clamps, and spare parts, is someone with a robust talent for packing.  Although Capt. Chameleon is short on that skill, he is indeed very gifted with the ability to only need what is located in the very, very back and at the very, very bottom.  Because I’m the packer, I’m also the fetcher.  

Whether it’s to check out a system, tighten a fitting that the Captain can’t quite reach, or fetch an item …it’s always from the tightest of spaces.  It starts with a muffled grumbling moment, and then I gather my composure, focus on my breath and climb down into the dark depths of the belly of the ship for a session of boat yoga.  It helps when I remember to channel a vision of a soft pretzel.  Eyes on the prize, I make mental notes of how to better organize the space, look about for signs of moisture intrusion, then, like a mermaid I surface with my oyster shell!  Interestingly enough, it is quite gratifying.  

So for the curious, that’s pretty much what I do all day.  Unless we are underway; but that’s another story.

Captain Chameleon, the literary guy he is, sums it up in fewer words than I do.  He recalls the quote, “Being retired, is waking up with nothing to do, and going to sleep with only getting half of it done.”  Author unknown.      

PS.  I’d like to thank Captain Chameleon for all of the years he listened to me recount every bit of detail about my busy day at work.  I’m assuming he was just as busy at his job, but unfortunately there weren’t enough hours in the day or energy left to hear about it.  

Time in A Bottle by Jim Croce
Piece of Work by Jimmy Buffet & Toby Keith

Making Peace With My Possessions

Moving onto a boat required some serious head to heart conversations about what to do with all of my stuff – years and years of accumulation.  It had to be dealt with before moving aboard.  As Capt. Chameleon likes to say (over, and over, and over), “the closet on a boat is an expensive piece of real estate.”   

So, here I am – seven months aboard Seamore Odyssey and I’d say the cargo hold is actually quite light.  But until the drawers are no longer packed like sardines, the ‘head to heart’ focus group will continue to meet and work out their differences.  Fortunately those meetings are becoming more productive, which I attribute to the Rules of Engagement between mind, body, and spirit: no name calling (“pack rat”); no pushing the other over board (drowned rat), and no secret hoarding (rat trap).   Collectively, we have grown in the ‘art of letting go’.  But still quite a stretch from mastering it. 

Give away the immaculate Cole Haan boots I snagged from My Sister’s Closet consignment store?  Fine.  Pass along my prized estate sale treasure – a vintage pink London Fog trench coat?  Of course.   Reduce my raggedy ole 7Mile Bridge race T-shirt collection by half?  Not if you value your knee caps.  

What is it about those half dozen, falling apart T-shirts?  Or the glass oil lamp the size of an orange that I haven’t been able to get the wick to burn for years; but it’s from my friend who died four and half years ago?  And the platter, square bowl, and vase, so old they surely contain lead, but they belonged to my grandmothers?  

Last winter, after our home sold it was time to deal with the contents.  The profound relinquishing took me to the land of the loss; a heavy feeling that I was perhaps abandoning a memory, someone’s  affection, or the relationship connected to a picture, table, sweater, book, and book ends, wind chimes, saved greeting cards…you get the idea, just by looking around at your own things. 

I needed to get rid of most of my valued possessions, but how could I feel at ease with it?  The emotional grip of holding on felt icky and powerless.  It took an emergency board meeting, summoned by the head to heart negotiators to pull me from the clutches of declutter despair.   Their strategy was brilliant. They threatened me with mildew.   

I couldn’t shake a vision of my things after I’m dead and gone, rotting away in some forsaken, mildew spotted, smelly antique store.  Possessions stranded on a shelf with stories and memories muted forever.   It’s ironic how we can’t take material things with us when we die, but when we are alive, material things can tether us to a place indefinitely.  

With the fear of mildew, I set out on a journey to spread the love I had for my things, by matching them with new adoring owners.  In giving stuff away, stories flowed, memories resurfaced, and a sense of purpose immerged…encouraging a presence of mind to enjoy those material things, and when it is time, don’t hesitate in passing them on for someone else to have.

I laughed and cried with more family and friends in those two weeks of repurposing furniture, dishes, artwork, and clothes then I had in 16 years.  In downsizing, I found my peace.  Mildew free.

Good night, from Home Sweet Home, where the Captain has agreed to rent half of his T-Shirt drawer to me.  

Seamore Nautical Spirits

P. S.  This week we are preparing to travel upriver to Chattanooga.  We anticipate it taking us 3 days to reach Chattanooga, sight see thru the week then back to Ditto Landing. It will be our shakedown cruise, to get us nimble and limber with all of the bells and whistles of cruising. 


Applied the new boat letters. It will take a bit before old letters completely fade.
Starboard: Storm rolling in.

Possessions I brought along. Old. Fun. Functional items.

Pictures from frames now on fridge.
Spoon holder from 3rd grade teacher. Bowl from great-grandmother.
Pottery from my father and cousin. Anchor from a friend. Gifts from the Florida Keys to New Orleans, up to Springfield, Mo.

Neighbor “Lady”

Morning run along Aldridge Greenway Trail:

Songs about possessions and directions…

The 18 Mile Stretch (1992)

When my rearview mirror swallowed up the very last pinpoint light coming from Miami, instinct took over.  Shoving the cassette into the dash player, the right hand abandoned its DJ duty to take over the wheel – just so the left could be free to roll up the window.   When the window was down, the acrid smell of swamp, sawgrass, and Cypress slapped my hair at a rushing 55 miles per hour.  It felt good.  Same as the humid night that drenched every bit of space up to and including my Midwestern naïve skin.  Amazed, perhaps a bit disoriented at how intensely dark it was, rolling up the window seemed for no other reason than to keep my dashboard lights from disappearing in the same manner as the Miami lights had.

The two lane ribbon of luminescent road waged its own resistance against the darkness. The line between night and asphalt pavement was invisible.  In the very moment my tires made contact, I saw him; stretched across the road.  Blue tank top. Wearing shorts. Did I just run over a man on the 18 mile stretch?

Darkness of this sort all but has to lead to a showdown.  On this night, it was a South Florida standoff between a girl traveling alone and without a cell phone (because in those days only Miami Vice and drug dealers owned cellphones), an everglades road, a dead body, and a car on the side of the road with a guy inside….talking on his cellphone.  I certainly was glad I didn’t have to pause and explain this all to my mother.

The feel and sound of driving over a body is distinct.   Irrational thoughts and survival instincts competed for reality.  First my knees and legs jerked up, instinctive of running over a large snake.   Then remorse set in for running over a homeless person that took to a warm road and accidentally fell asleep. “No, no. That couldn’t be right,” cautioned my breathless voice.  But finally it was raw and controlled fear that ultimately surrendered, as I pulled in behind a lonesome car with eerie  beacon flashers.  “Was that actually a person in the road or was it staged to get me to pull over?”

Alone, at night.  On my way from Miami to the Florida Keys…on the 18 mile stretch.   TO BE CONTINUED.

Spring 1992, Dade County Florida.

Seamore Nautical Spirits

Stories in a Bottle

While in between the sea and the road, Seamore Nautical Spirits has enrolled in two  writing courses.  It’s a work in progress, meant for remembering, reflecting and honoring the past.

Odd-O-Sea

 

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Odyssey (noun): A long series of travels and adventures

-Encarta Dictionary 

Throwing on Captain Chameleon’s flannel quilted shirt, I unceremoniously rushed to the breezy rooftop deck to capture the last 2016 sunset; it was an impressive curtain call of dreamy blue, flamingo pink, Sunkist orange, and comfort gray. Occupied with mental restlessness since the sale of S/V Seamore Pacific three months ago, I’ve been on a quest to upright my upside – down identity. Seamore Nautical Spirits is having an awful case of sea sickness from being without a boat (an Ocean Kayak and stand up paddle board isn’t providing enough relief). Please hope the absurdity of chasing an ocean sunset, with an amateur digital camera, will in some nautical way offer me a bit of inspiration, a warm salty connection, or a friendly life line towards…our newly purchased 1998 RV .

The Captain offered a treasure of reassurance that the RV’s sea foam green carpet and granny style decorum are not age appropriate for a gal such as mwah, who freely admits she chases youth at every opportunity. He generously gave me the liberty to do some updating. My definition of updating our 38 foot road warrior was to let the essence of tropical delusion speak, borrow colors from a coastal landscape, and give her a fictitious island name – Seamore Cay.

dsc08829Seamore Cay tells her side of the story:

“I’m quite proud to announce that RV salesmen brag I look much younger that I am. I attribute that to sun protection. I lived in covered storage all my life, so naturally my sea foam green stripes are as smooth and luscious as the day I rolled off the assembly line. Most women are jealous at how well I’ve aged.  But beauty is skin deep and I’m very proud to let it be known that my cabinets are of hard wood, my carpet is without shoe prints, and my walls are burgundy. Burgundy and sea foam green are as timeless as 70’s Pop-Hits. Excuse me while I enjoy a memory …

 …Beautiful as the dream that makes you mine….baby, baby.  

Now, where was I with this blog post? Oh yes, it was how does an RV become an island? Well, I was enjoying the thistly cactus of landlocked Arizona when Captain and Tennille – I mean Captain Chameleon and his sea dizzy wife – came aboard. They yacked about a trip to Winslow, Arizona and following Route 66; visiting the Spanish missions in California, wineries along the coast of Oregon, and where ever destiny takes them as they search for their next boat. Oh yes, and the Florida Key’s came up a dozen times in the conversation. Let’s just say those two have a thing for sand, sea, and sun; hence, one reason I’m now gussied up and pretending to be an island.  

I’ll let ya in on a pirate’s secret: the Misses and I made a deal that I can keep the sea foam carpet, but she gets to add accessories in dreamy blue, flamingo pink, Sunkist orange, and comfort gray.  Throw in some palm trees and a hammock, I’d say we got us an island on wheels.”

Chasing sand, sea, stories, and sunsets,

Seamore Nautical Spirits & R/V Seamore Cay

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