The Colors I Sea

Nautical Spirits

Nautical Spirits

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

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Racers

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Chilling

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Overseas Highway- Bahia Honda

 

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Flagler’s Railroad Bahia Honda

 


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Brave People

Brave People

Divine People

Divine People

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Ordinary People

Ordinary People

Spiritual People

Spiritual People

Nautical Spirits

Nautical Spirits

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Bird People

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Friendly People

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7 Mile Bridge

7 Mile Bridge

Pigeon Key

Pigeon Key

Boot Key Harbor

Boot Key Harbor

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Multi-tasking People

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Life Preserver

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I can’t see it, but I know the finish line is just up ahead.  By all accounts, the last marker that I passed said I had one more to go.  Even though the finish line is still out of my view, I know it’s coming up very soon and no matter what happens now…I’m there!  I’m almost “home”.  All I need to do if I doubt how close I am, is to listen for the excitement.   The finish line party.

Putting one foot in front of the other, one day after another, my mind goes into automatic.

“Ok, don’t get to excited.  Focus.  9 down.  1 to go.  9 down. 1 to go.  9 down.  I sure hope Captain Chameleon gets the water heater ordered.  And the new faucet-shower combo.  I really, really want to have a great shower this time.  Oops…mind wandering.  Focus…Wonder what other boaters are there?  OMG…less than 1 to go.”  And so goes my countdown to Seamore Pacific and cruising the Sea of Cortez.

Much like my marathon finishes, I am so ready for this finish.  So ready, that once I imagine how good it will be to step over the line, an autonomic nervous system response takes over, causing my chest to tighten, a lump to form in my throat,  and my eyes to fill with tears.  It’s not that I get soft and sentimental about the finish line, but rather I get excited to experience what is past the finish line.  What new things will I discover about cruising, the Sea, and myself?

These last couple of months have been a strange blur.  That’s the best description I can give it. I knew if I let myself image January 1st, that it would all be over.  My ability to stay focused on work would be in constant discord with wanting to be on the boat.  Plus, if I didn’t give my all at work, then when boat time came around, I’d be suffering with regret for not working harder.  So, to make life simple I have conducted my business as though I plan to work for another 50 years and haven’t the foggiest clue about any Freedom 36″ Cat-Ketch sitting at Marina Seca in San Carlos, Mexico.  The Sea of Cortez is where?  Salt water is for cooking pasta, right?  A life preserver is another name for a mint flavored life-saver, correct?

Tonight, the mental blur lifted like fog.  Anticipation, clarity of mind, and humble thanksgiving has set in and will take me to the finish.

She waits for us.

She waits for us.

Migration Pattern

Migration Pattern

Memories of B-dock

Memories of B-dock

Today’s Finish-Line Countdown:

1)  Order 13 inch by 13 inch water heater to replace the one that rusted out. The satisfaction that this small water heater  brings to us is a comical when we compare it to the size of the hot water heater in our Phoenix house.

2)  Order water conserving shower & faucet combo for the head (bathroom), to ensure I don’t rip through a tank of water taking a luxurious shower when we are somewhere south of somewhere.

3) Get Francis acquainted with his new life-preserver. 

Life Saver

4) Pack Ruby’s life-preserver in the “boat bin.”

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5) Figure out the best place to secure our stand up paddle board (SUP).  Captain Chameleon is leery it will fit on deck but I say, “Oh Ye of little faith.  We can make it fit.  This is small potatoes compared to what we have navigated through to get this far.”  Last cruising season we were fighting weather the whole time.  This time I’m hoping for gentle winds and calm seas.

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6)  Wait for our new Offshore inflatable life-preserver/ harnesses to arrive in the mail.  These are going to be way better than the ones we sailed with last year.  Safety plus comfort.  Thank you Black Friday and Mom and Dad.

7)  Finish my job feeling strong, competent, proud, and grateful.  I work for a loyal company that stays true to it’s mission.

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8) Enjoy each day as though there is no Seamore Pacific.  Even without the boat, life is pretty darn good.

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His and Her beach cruisers…. a must for desert dwellers.

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Cloudy days still have beautiful sunsets.

9) Stock up with Trader Joe’s Two Buck Chuck.  Mexico actually has some delectable wines but the ports we will call on, mostly carry boxed wine…not bad.  But, our favorite cruising wine is Charles Shaw (aka Two Buck Chuck).  Ok, so my standards in wine are not as high as some of my other standards. 

Go easy on the Tequila

Go easy on the Tequila

10)  Wave good-bye to the dense fog that encased any glimmer of anticipation for leaving work to go sailing.  It was nice while it lasted.  I’m glad I experienced it.  But I’m ready to get back to the boat.  Memories from last year are starting to come alive and stir excitement for some of the simple things I’m looking forward to…swing at anchor in the middle of breath taking beauty; go topside after a hot shower to pick out rising constellations; and have my sleep interrupted by a clanging halyard.

Shrimper going out for the night

Shrimper going out for the night

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Good night and sweet dreams.

Seamore Nautical Spirits

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Remembering Columbus Day.

DSC02713Twelve years ago, on this very weekend, I nonchalantly extended a, “How do you do,” to the Sea of Cortez. It was Columbus Day weekend 2002. I was happy to meet her, because she had something I wanted. Salt, waves, sand. Five months of ocean-free living was turning out to be harder than I expected, after Captain Chameleon and I switched lanes and moved from a little island in the Florida Keys to the big, dry, metropolis of Phoenix, Arizona. No regrets for moving away from paradise, where every day my view was of not just one, but two bodies of water (the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico), and yet I was literally feeling like a suffocating fish; on her last impatient breath to have someone drop her back into the ocean- in time for a Columbus Day Regatta.

My new co-workers, full of good intention tried to mend my homesick heart by suggesting I rent a houseboat on Lake Pleasant over Columbus Day weekend. It was the last straw. Go to a lake to celebrate Columbus Day? For pity-sakes, have they no respect for Chris? Or empathy for an ocean junky-island dweller-Frangy-Pangy-Key Lime snob? When an invite came to join Captain Chameleon’s sister and her family at a beach, one hour south of the border in Mexico, I was in!

“Are you sure that if we leave our house at 7:30 a.m. and drive south, south west, that by noon we’ll be sitting on a beach in Mexico?”

“Yep, I’m sure of it. We’ll be sitting on the beach, drinking Dos XX with lime, and sucking salt air in through our nostrils,” replied Capt. Chameleon.

“Yippy. In that case, I’ll take my Dos XX with Key limes!”

Our VW Bug was packed to the gills with every beach item that we owned, plus a Key Lime Cake, when we headed to sea. Our only regret was that it was just for one night. With only six weeks into new jobs, neither one of us were comfortable asking our bosses for time off to go hang at the ocean. It would be 11 years before we worked up that kind of courage.

I adore the Sea of Cortez but admittedly, my feelings for her were pretty nimble at first. That’s often how it goes for me though, guilty of judging a book by its cover. I’m wiser now, from years of being delighted by books with ugly covers. Now, when the urge to judge a book; Captain Chameleon’s travel plans; or a bargain hair salon send my snobbish chin to the skies, I’m usually able to find the where- with-all to pause, get my nose out of the air, and turn to the first page.

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“What do you think about pulling a camper down there and making it our second home?” Captain Chameleon was smitten with Puerto Penasco (aka Rocky Point) on the mainland side of the Sea of Cortez.

“No thank you.”

I didn’t say it, but I found the town ugly and dusty. Except for the beautiful beaches, it had nothing in common with the picture I was carrying around in my head. My “second home” picture was of Coastal Living homes, Martha Stewart gardens, and Bon Appetite cuisine.

But then something magical happened (or maturity, practicality, and down to earth thinking) and magazine living gave way to figuring things out as they came and on a boat budget. Saving, so that one day we would have options; options to buy another boat, go cruising, or just sit by the ocean and dream of more Columbus Day’s to come.

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What I saw when I looked up from mopping the floors. Beautiful.

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Favorite times celebrating Columbus Day with Capt. Chameleon:

  • The Annapolis Boat Show!   It was my first boat show and first time in Chesapeake Bay. It was spectacular. We drove from Florida to Maryland with a cooler of fresh stone crab claws. Arriving first in Bethesda to visit family, we cracked the claws and opened a bottle of regional Chardonnay. The wine was to die for. Lucky us, after the boat show we returned to family and spent a weekend wine-tasting our way through Maryland and Virginia.
  • Columbus Day Regatta off Eliot Key, (Key Biscayne) Florida. My first time to sail longer than a sunset cruise, we headed up the coast from Marathon to Elliot Key. What an experience. I was not prepared for the bodacious crowd but it was fun! To this day, when I serve up Red Beans & Rice and cheese bread it takes me back to that weekend.
  • Weekends at Corona Del Mar, our little oasis by the sea. It’s what kept us optimistic and committed to working hard, saving, and planning for our next boat adventure. It’s also the place we’ve forged incredible friendships with other adventure seeking people.
  • Twelve years ago on our trip to the Sea of Cortez where Capt. Chameleon looked over longingly to a man windsurfing. Without saying anything, Capt. Chameleon reached into the cooler, pulled out 2 beers, and walked down the beach to where the man sat resting. In several minutes the man lay stretched out in the sand, drinking a beer, while Capt. Chameleon took the guy’s windsurfer for a ride. Excited, I watched him slice through the waves, the colorful sail the brightest thing for miles around. Then, the sail went down and Capt. Chameleon sat on the board. Far off shore, I was worried he was injured. Silly me. He was sitting there enjoying a beer and his spectacular luck of windsurfing on Columbus Day. The board that hangs in our guest room reminds me of that day.
  • Shelter Island Boatyard in San Diego. Wow, has it been a year? This time last year, we cruised in from Catalina Island and hauled Seamore Pacific out for a bottom job, thru-hull, and electrical work in prep for the Baja Ha Ha XX.

The End,

From Puerto Penasco, Mexico

Columbus Day 2014

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Sea of Cortez

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Windsurfers make great room accents…

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A cheap shot (cheap camera) on my beach walk. The Sea of Cortez

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My beach cruiser Lulu. I ride her around Phoenix to remind me of being at the beach.

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Treasures from the sea.

Monkey Sea, Monkey Do

DSCN0607I cut off my eyebrows when I was four years old.  Asked for a Dorothy Hamill haircut when I was eleven.  And purchased vienna sausages, a gallon of water, and a flashlight because Hurricane Andrew was coming to town; I was twenty-six.  Agree, none were wildly successful moments, but in hindsight they became my stepping-stones to the sea, where half the year Captain Chameleon and I live aboard s/v Seamore Pacific in Mexico, and the other half of the year we live in a house in Phoenix, go to work, buy food, and consider whether our hair is too long.

Some people do well in life by setting 5-10-15 year goals.  They have my complete respect, but I tried that approach once and it felt awkward.  Awkward as in walking on the beach in high heels or sailing a skiff up river.  The Monkey-Sea-Monkey-Do approach is natural feeling. An alternative to goal setting and it takes little courage to execute.  One minute there are eyebrows and the next it’s, “look at me mom.”

So how does Monkey-Sea-Monkey-Do work?  Well, one day I saw my mom cutting hair and perhaps tweezing her eyebrows and it made sense to combine the two.  It had a long-lasting effect.  My brows didn’t fully grow back until my late teens.  By that time I was years past copying Dorothy’s spins on our kitchen linoleum floor.  Whether it was the drag of sock feet on linoleum or the limp texture of my hair, I never succeeded in getting my hair to lift to the heavens in a spin like Dorothy could on the ice.  Sadly first one, and then two strikes against the monkey.

The third time was a charm though.  On August 22, 1992 I received a frantic call from mom to say;  “There is a hurricane headed your way!  You better leave Miami now. Now, little missy.”  There was actually more to the conversation that I’ve edit out to make this a G-rated blog.  But essentially it came down to my not having any experience with hurricanes. Having moved to Florida from Missouri a few months prior, my interests were in soaking up the afternoon sun, pool side; working the evening shift at Homestead Hospital; and exploring area beaches and dating Captain Chameleon on weekends.  Life was good and it was about to get more exciting.  After hanging up the phone with mom, I headed over to K-Mart to see what others were doing to prepare for Hurricane What’s His Name.

Hurricane Andrew made landfall August 24th.  Just as my mother predicted, I took a direct hit.  Fortunately I wasn’t alone.  On hurricane lockdown at Homestead Hospital, my co-workers and I faired well and I am proud of the work and commaradery we displayed in caring for our patients in the ICU.  Once the eye of the storm passed the National Guard moved in and secured the area so that we could air-evac the patients out.  36 hours after reporting for work, I left tired, befuzzled, and grateful that I was merely a traveler and didn’t stand much to lose. My landmarks were gone.  A new kid in town, I wasn’t sure where I needed to drive to get home. I headed my hurricane ravaged truck north and followed the leader.  Monkey See-Monkey-Do wasn’t so bad after all.  I eventually made it home to find Captain Chameleon.  He had left the Florida Keys to avoid Hurricane Andrew and ironically met him face to face.   Despite the complex being in shambles, under guard, and without power we slept soundly that night.  The next morning I called my travel recruiter to discuss options.  He suggested I head north to Deerfield Beach.  No jobs in the Florida Keys, he said.  Hmmm.  Hmmmm.  Hmmm.  Going north didn’t feel right.  It felt awkward, as in walking on the beach in high heels or sailing a skiff up river.  But, just then I saw a monkey sailing south to the Florida Keys.  My life took a U-turn to paradise and it didn’t take any courage, goal setting, or big bank account.  It was the Monkey-Sea-Monkey-Do.  If others can move to paradise, why can’t I?  So I did!  With Captain Chameleon.

That’s my story of how I ended up in the Florida Keys.  I believe with all my heart that I was destined to be in the Keys and eventually I would have made it there on my own (I watched a 60 minutes program on Key West when in high school and felt a connection) but to get there fast, I followed someone and took their lead.

The Captain and I are 4 months and a few days away from heading back out to the boat.  Landlocked, this weekend we reminisced about Hurricane Andrew, pulled out our provisioning list for Seamore Pacific, and briefly chuckled about our long hair adventure.  Captain Chameleon let his hair go long 18 months ago and it looks super great.  Pepper and a bit of salt, his hair is gnarly and appealing.  My hair is also long.  Longer than most women my age.  The Captain likes it.  I like it.  But is it “age appropriate?”  Do I continue with long hair, knowing that many say it’s a sign I’m chasing my youth?  So many silly questions….  All I need to do is what I’ve done so far; Monkey-Sea-Monkey-Do. Here is to long healthy hair at any age!

I Got You Babe by Sonny & Cher

 

 

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Look & Sea. Photo by S. Baker/ Retirement Legs