There are multiple ways to begin. Continue reading
There are multiple ways to begin. Continue reading
When the rearview mirror swallowed its final pinpoint light of Dade County, instinct took over. Shoving the cassette into the dash player, the right hand then 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 Key Largo…on the 18 mile stretch. TO BE CONTINUED.
Spring 1992, Dade County Florida.
Seamore Nautical Spirits
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.
Odyssey (noun): A long series of travels and adventures
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.
“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
I don’t need to know how the story will end. But more importantly, how does it begin?
It’s this simple approach to selecting a book that also guides me through life’s choices. Do I accept the job? Do I sign up for a spring marathon? Shall we buy this boat? I credit Miss Edmonson, my grade school librarian, for demonstrating this approach to me. I refer to her as “my school librarian” but obviously she didn’t belong to me. She was however, in charge of every book, every check-out card, and the Dewy Decimal system at the elementary I attended. Her polyester reputation had preceded her so it was with great intrigue, even intimidation, to be allowed into her library. Deeply imbedded is the memory of her demonstrating how to select a book based on its cover or title, mark its place on the shelf with a wooden stick, and then peruse the first few paragraphs for any spark of interest. The finale to her demonstration began with a long pause, where she looked intently into each of our second grade eyes, then asserted this final but serious warning: “Never, ever skip to the last chapter as a means of selecting a library book.”
Instructed in the Edmonson way of making choices, it was easy for me to imagine foggy afternoons and cozy evenings aboard Bobby McGee, a 36 foot Freedom sailboat with two unstayed masts, tied to a dock on Shelter Island. Interested and excited, Captain Chameleon and I followed our broker out to the slip as he recited a list of Bobby McGee’s specifications. She was smaller than we desired and she didn’t offer the list of equipment amenities we had on our list, but Bobby McGee’s charm proposed freedom, possibilities, and connection to a nautical yearning that I carried from deep within. As Captain Chameleon and the broker chatted topside, examining fiberglass and stainless, I chose to get to know her from below, surrounded by her teak and holly sole. Sitting quietly on the portside settee, I sensed a bit of her essence; she was a long way from the Rhode Island boatyard and yachting heritage in which she was founded. Her name, Bobby McGee hinted at the life she had found on the West coast. Despite faded cushions, tattered carpet, and mismatched dishes in the galley, it was unmistakable – I really, really liked her. With the sound and smell of fog rolling in off the Pacific to swallow up another San Diego afternoon, the Captain and I agreed we had just met the boat that would sail us to Mexico…Seamore Pacific.
Purchasing Seamore Pacific was a lesson of letting go in order to let things happen. For years, we had dreamed of buying a catamaran and sailing to Mexico in both luxury and comfort. Subscribing to Sail and Cruising World the shiny advertisements yanked us closer and closer to actually looking for a boat. But even a used catamaran was going to cost more than our house. Instead of backing away, we put blinders on, found a beautiful catamaran, and devised a plan to pay for it. Kept at the San Diego Yacht Club Marina, the cat was showroom perfect. Postponing early retirement, in order to pay for her, seemed incidental if it meant having a boat like her. Working another five years would afford me a galley with a 180 degree view, stainless steel appliances, plush décor, and loads of space for entertaining. The finished product was the homemade spaghetti dinner that I imagined preparing and serving to our guests…by candlelight…on the aft 40 acre deck. It was SO perfect. From start to finish, it was almost everything we wanted. And then, the bottom fell out.
Layer by painful layer, the blinders came off. The haul-out portion of the professional survey revealed aspects about the hull that were unacceptable. I hung on hard, trying to deny the facts but ultimately we had to walk away from completing the purchase. For months I lamented on the spaghetti dinners that wouldn’t be enjoyed, the 180 degree view that wouldn’t be shared, and the perfect sailing that had slipped through our fingers. The Captain, he responded to the disappointment much like a clam does. The disappointment over dreams never coming true and that we were never going to have another boat….blah, blah, blah…lasted for too many months. But then an article in Latitude 38 about sailing on a shoestring budget disproved my wallowing pity party. We had our health, we had our dreams, and we had the down payment we were going to put towards the Queen Mary.
It was through that experience that we decided not to go into debt for a dream. Once we stopped trying to write the final chapter of our sailing story, the real adventure could begin. Captain Chameleon and I now strive to keep our story simple: we forego material and immaterial things that stand in the way of separating us from the ocean. It was Seamore Pacific that taught us that. She wasn’t the boat we were looking for but she was exactly the boat we needed.
The Captain and I are forever humbled and grateful for Seamore Pacific. So it is with immense emotion that we announce that as of this afternoon, she will be helping another sailor write their story. Last year, on a perfect crossing from the Baja to mainland Mexico, the Captain and I outlined a new chapter…eventually sell Seamore Pacific and buy a trawler that we can live more fulltime on and explore the Great Loop with.
Letting something go that I love is difficult and yet I know that to move onto the next chapter, means turning the page.
Bon Voyage. And, thank you to our sweet Seamore Pacific.
Seamore Nautical Spirits
Growing up in the rural community of Marshfield, Missouri besides reading, I listened intently to the lyrics, chords, and melodies of these songs. It was my window to the sea..
What I take with me from Seamore Pacific:
Seamore Nautical Spirits began a very, very long time ago; way before the dock lines were untied or sails raised and trimmed. It began when assembled years of quiet reluctance gave way to raucous longing. She was twenty-six years old looking down the barrel of a “good life.” But a mental image of the ocean, collected from a few trips to beaches in Florida, was like a painting that was half complete. Collecting dust on life’s easel, did she dare complete the painting?
It would require her to select a brush, choose a color, and paint herself in. Without being an accomplished artist and all, could she really be so bold as to believe she could pull it off? Move from Missouri to the ocean? Yes. Yes, she would. Just like she did once the professor went on a royal rant about her still life painting: unimaginative, predictable, safe, boring. She took his message to heart, “Trees don’t have to be green; the sky doesn’t have to be blue. DO NOT paint what you see. Wake up to what your other four senses see… and paint that. “
Hands quivering, she pulled the piece of paper advertising travel nurse assignments, dialed a 1-800 number, and asked about assignments by the ocean (according to NOAA, there are 95,471 official miles of shoreline in the United States). By the end of the conversation, having blindly accepted the only beach town assignment available, she reached for a road atlas that could give her some artistic guidance – to Torrance, California…
…But, it wasn’t California that I drove to. It was Florida. In the midst of tying up loose ends in Missouri, I received a call from the placement agency, wondering if I had any interest in working in Homestead, Florida. Not exactly a beach town, but it was close to the Florida Keys. I’d never been there, but funny thing, my landlord talked incessantly about his annual fishing trip to the Keys. The deciding factor was what a co-worker said to me when I told him I was moving to Torrance. “That place is all wrong for you. You don’t want to go to Torrance.” He was from California.
An ordinary person imparts an extra-ordinary impression. It is how Seamore Nautical Spirits began – artless, unscripted, and spontaneous encounters culminating into hundreds of oddball stories with modest charm. Countless moments become extra-ordinary years…years of living and working in the Florida Keys. Celebrating being 50 years old, I wanted, needed, to run along the Overseas Highway.
Last month, starting at mile marker 50 at 6:30 am and calling it a day at mile marker 0, just before 11 pm, I journeyed the distance with a girl from Cali that I met in Mexi’. We were accompanied by her Harley-man, who at dark escorted us under a bridge and past some “trolls”; Captain Chameleon who waved a Pink Flamingo party sign and pickles in his role as Crew Chief; another running girlfriend that I admire for her snake squeal and campfire song repertoire; a doctor turned cage fighter; and a Gorilla in a bikini, lurking from the mangroves…yes, the mangroves just before Kickin’ Back Food Mart and Mangrove Mama’s down on Sugarloaf Key.
Do you now have a better understanding of my definition of “extra-ordinary impression?” And, why trees don’t have to be painted green or the sky painted blue?
This post is dedicated to all of the ordinary people who helped me to “sea” more of life’s colors (you may or may not know who you are), and to the beloved Florida Keys.
Seamore Nautical Spirits
“If I could turn back Time, if I could reach the stars.”
The last few months passed by way too quickly. A sailing season that came and went so fast that there was hardly enough time to break out my Cher CDs, Lawrence Saunders paperbacks, or bikini – the one that I bought in 1993, at Bayshore Clothing just after moving to Marathon, Florida. No, the pink ruffled swimsuit doesn’t fit the same as she once did, and whether she is even age appropriate is a subject I’m woefully ignoring. But, she takes up so little space that it seems unreasonable and insensible to toss her out. Parting with her would be akin to relinquishing a piece of time – Key’s time. And I can’t do that. Because for every measure of time that was fraught with insecurity or distraction, there would emerge profound significance that very much matters to me today.
With our sailboat battened down in Mexico for the summer, Captain Chameleon has agreed to take me back to the Florida Keys so that I may retrace, reclaim, and relive…the very first time I climbed aboard a sailboat, maneuvered through a tack, took the helm for a spell, scrubbed barnacles from a keel, and learned that as far as material possessions, less is more. It is also where I completely and unexpectedly fell in love with seeing patients in their home rather than the confines of a hospital. At first it was almost too much to take in: commingling death and hope; courage with honesty; tears on laughter; and in many instances, complete acceptance garnished with tepid forgiveness for “what might have been if only things had been different.” Oh yes, running – the old 7 mile bridge is where I became a runner.
With a new Walkman cassette player, a Guns N’ Rose’s cassette, and a pep talk that sweating is not a terminal condition, my first run was the distance between two utility poles; about 250 feet. It was horribly awkward and I’m sure alarming to the tourist driving by. Consumed by the effort required to lift and extend my legs, I couldn’t begin to think about what to do with my hands, except use them to keep the sweat from drowning my eyes. The more my lungs burned, the wider my arms flailed to bring in precious air. With Slash playing guitar in one ear, and Axl Rose singing in the other ear, I gasped, sweated, and flailed myself across the imaginary finish line of the utility pole. We didn’t know that a runner had just been born or just how crazy far I would eventually be able to run. Fumbling with self-discipline, I depended on the musical artistry of those two to provide distraction and get me through a lot more newbie runs. Aside from my initial investment in the Walkman and cassette, it was a work out that didn’t cost me any money. Staying the course, eventually it happened, where the legs, arms, breathing, and mind started working together in happy fashion and I could run a mile.
I had complete contentment with running a mile. Not a thought in the world or a desire to run further than that…until one day I got stuck in traffic because the 7 Mile Bridge was closed for the Annual 7 Mile Bridge Run.
“What did that person just say?” One thousand, five hundred runners are racing across the bridge today. It’ll be an hour before it’s opened back up to traffic.
“You have GOT to be kidding me?” You heard it right. Somewhat of a cult-following, they come from every nook and cranny of the world to run this race. Thousands more want to participate, but are turned away each year. Crazy fools.
Hmmm. I didn’t quite know what to make of it. It didn’t seem crazy, but it didn’t seem like anything I’d ever want to do, or could do, even if I wanted too. “Obviously those guys are real runners,” I thought to myself.
To be continued…
Seamore Nautical Spirits is returning to the Keys to run 50 miles. A celebration of turning 50, it’s something of a pilgrimage back to where it all began. With the sun rising over the 7 mile bridge to greet her and the sun setting long before she is finished, she will find company with friends and memories along the way. A few will be at her side…but the majority are residing in her heart.
Final pictures from San Carlos 2016:
Three months into a marvelous sailing season and Captain Chameleon and I have yet to do any sailing.
Really, you expect us to believe that not leaving the dock is something to write home about?
It’s our third year to back away from a Monday to Monday gravy train and venture out to the Sea of Cortez; where every day is Saturday and two shades of pink lipstick is one more shade than I truly need. Keeping a sailboat in Mexico is for now, our means to simpleton. Spoken or unspoken, when people learn that Captain Chameleon and I divide up our time into 6 months of sailing and 6 months land dwelling in Phoenix, Arizona, opinions and perceptions abound. Prudent folks think it’s a bit careless to risk one’s career just to experience a few months of wind on cloth propulsion. The practical ones roll their eyes but stay on task. Thrill seekers are already bored. And the remainder, either heat intolerant or mermaids at heart wonder why we even bother going back to Phoenix. “Sail Forest, sail,” is their motto. Yes, it’s counter intuitive to believe a fantastic sailing season is possible when the main sail has yet to be unfurled. But my Dear Watson, that’s exactly how this mystery unfolds.
Being sailors we have our share of trying to keep up with the Sailing Jones. Limit sailing to 6 months a year and it doesn’t take much ambition to want to squeeze in as many nautical miles as possible. This year we whittled down our expectations, set aside Keeping Up with the Sailing Jones How to Guide, and the Outlook calendar. Turning the bucket upside down and giving it a good shake, our “want-to” list of places to travel came out with enough sticky tape to hang on the fridge for another year. No longer keeping a list, the bucket, when turned over, serves as a step stool for seeing hard to reach places…high places where gladness, ease, serenity wait patiently in the shadows. A part of me believes I needed a sailing season like this one, where I encounter the technical “touchy-feely” side of cruising. Even Picasso, the grand-daddy of Cubism and abstract art, first learned how to draw objects in perspective.
Seamore Pacific, like many other affairs in our life, submits to a schedule. But this year, without a bucket list, Seamore Pacific has pointed us to dock neighbors that share similar stories….that some seasons are meant for going places and other seasons are meant for staying put. Enthralled by their easy response to tedious projects, narrow time lines, and complex obligations north of the border, I‘m becoming a believer that cruising is not solely about sailing or keeping a schedule: it’s about meeting unexpected inconveniences without sarcastic resistance; noticing my breath…and that I hold it when I’m preoccupied; and waiting in the check-out line all day. And why not, I have all day.
But Seamore Pacific, nor her crew, are interested in being at the dock forever. So with a bit of luck we will stow away what we have gleaned these last several months, and take our bucket and go sailing this week. First, to Bahia San Pedro and then we’ll see after that.
Sea You Later,
Seamore Nautical Spirits