Ocean Mist


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
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:

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…