A 12 year old girl on a family vacation to Florida, seeing the ocean for the first time was life changing; stirring restlessness for the sea to be my home. And one day, it happened. A personal celebration, these are stories of my journey to seamore…
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.
Seamore 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.”
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:
When the auto pilot failed in strong following seas…and I overcame my fear and was able to help the Captain by steering through high swells.
Our night crossings. Our tradition became that we both stayed in the cockpit instead of one going below. One would sleep wrapped in the brown comforter while the other kept watch.
Getting hit in the head by a squid as we were trying to find the inlet into Bahia Santa Maria on a blowing dark night…. my patience had already run very, very thin.
A whale swimming along side and rolling over to “wink” at us…off Los Coronado’s Islands.
Cleaning out the lockers, oiling the teak, sewing slip covers, picking out new galley ware, and making her proud!
Making spaghetti, homemade pizza, and margaritas for friends. Sharing time with friends in our comfortable (little) space.
Meeting new friends.
Rolling and pitching all through the night, at anchor…swearing I was going to sell her the first moment we came to a marina. Only to get over it and tell her how much I loved her.
Jumping over board into turquoise waters off Bahia Conception.
Falling asleep to lapping waves, clanking lines, and the bark of seals.
Exploring new places. Dreaming of future places. Tossing a message in a bottle over board….wondering when it will be found.
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.
“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:
Mamma Mia Pizza Maker
Home when home is being put away for the summer.
Seize a Mango
Hotel Clothes Line…where the sheets and towels are dried.
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
I can do this with one foot tied behind my back.
Common Ground. Walking the beach and talking. Are they childhood friends?
Just over two weeks ago I climbed back aboard Seamore Pacific. And nothing happened. It still hasn’t. Not a trace of adventure in any shape, color, or size. I even shouted out to the ocean that I had arrived and was ready to take on whatever was out there. “Come on, time is wasting. I have a self appointed timeline to meet. Send me a doozy adventure and I’ll write about it,” was beamed out to the universe, stark as a search light on a dark and starless night. What I got in reply…a sky full of diamonds, cold nights in the boat yard, and a memory of my grandmother having my brothers and I wash away the day from our grubby little feet, before crawling into her bed of crisp polyester- blend sheets.
Seamore Pacific, like hundreds of other boats in San Carlos, is dry docked during off-season. Captain Chameleon and I take our chances that she will fare better in a hurricane, perched on blocks in a field, than tethered to an unmanned and moving dock. But, this arrangement is a haul in labor and patience. It takes a few days in the boatyard to get her ready for dry storage and another few days once we return, to get her back in shape for the marina. One might think the boatyard is a lonely place, but just the opposite. It’s a social hub. A social hub of optimists, realists, and dreamers; grinding, sanding, and pounding until the sun drops over the Tetekawi Mountain, leaving another day’s boatyard dust and grime for the reckoning. Personally, I’d rather sand and varnish the Titanic if it saved me from the frigid waters of a boatyard shower. “Living the dream,” I sarcastically thought one night as I climbed down the cold metal ladder from Seamore Pacific, zipped my windbreaker tighter, and headed for the ladies shower. But then my dread was replaced with profound aww. The stars were magnificent! I couldn’t remember the last time I had seen them shining so brilliantly. I was actually a tiny bit thankful that I had been forced to leave the comfort of our boat, even if it was for a cold, stark shower. Mindful of how the moment was short on convenience and void of comfort, I thought of my grandmother and generations before her, leaving the comfort and warmth of their beds for a dark and drafty outhouse, or enduring uncomfortably tepid baths with water that required the labor of pulling it from the well by a bucket. In my grandmother’s case, her ongoing worry was the well running dry or at least that is what she would say at the end of the day where we had played long and hard on the farm. Handing each of us a clean washcloth, she gave stark instructions to wash the dirt first from our faces and then our feet. No dirt was to be tracked into her bed. Clamoring for who would get to sleep closest to grandma, three little kids would pile into bed next to her; proud of ourselves for the good job we did of washing our feet as instructed, and more importantly, relieved the well hadn’t yet run dry.
How clever. The universe had ignored my request for adventure and instead beamed back a memory from my childhood. In Mexico, a place my grandmother would have never, ever ventured, was speaking to me and giving me a darn good alternative. If a wash cloth spiffing up was good enough for Granny, it was good enough for me. No need to dread a cold shower on a windy night. Using a wash cloth and sparing water, like my grandmother had instructed, I meticulously washed away boatyard grime so as not to get Seamore Pacific’s fresh jersey knit sheets grimy and then made a plan to run the next day at noon….when it would be hot, hot, hot. A cold shower feels darn good after a hot, sweaty run.
As it turned out, we were in the boatyard for 10 days waiting for a high tide that could accommodate Seamore Pacific’s keel and 6 foot draft. Staying first in a quaint departmente’ (hotel), then on the boat while she was on the hard, I became acutely aware of the conveniences of running water, warm showers, cozy beds, and new found mental space to enjoy forgotten memories. It is ironic how sometimes memories come full circle and connect us to the present. A few days ago, Captain Chameleon and I met a very old man, while we were picking up rubbish and plastic from a field bordering the beach and this gentleman’s acreage. Happy to have the assistance of picking up trash, he invited us to wash our hands at his home. Setting up a small pale of water, and a fresh bar of soap, he sweetly ladled clean water, much like a faucet, so we could wash the dirt and sand off our hands.
We are now in Marina San Carlos and as I patiently await a doozy adventure to come my way, I am truly enjoying this special time aboard Seamore Pacific. She not only takes good care of us, but she gives me the opportunity to cherish formative memories.
Homemade Pizza dough
Ruby on her daily walk to S – Dock
Security. This dog has been at the boatyard for over a dozen years.
Over my shoulder is the safe path I strode for six months to collect sand dollars. And just to the other side of that is a point of view that pulls me back. It’s a boat. Compelling, awakening, and mysterious, the lure of the sea captivates me, but it’s living on a boat that whispers to my soul. So, it’s here that I am. “Here” is a point of view where intention, versus planning, is how I will connect to the Sea of Cortez this year.
This will be our third season in the Sea. It’s already shaking up to be unlike the other two times. It’s nothing major, just life in general, plus a heap of details and exceptions that fondly tag along, keeping sailors from going out to sea. “Life in general” would like us to believe that having a plan, a back-up plan, and an excel spreadsheet formulating a plan, is the reputable thing to do. A big downside to that approach is that when things don’t go as planned, my mentality goes to, “if it ain’t part of the plan then it ain’t supposed to be like this.” Once there is a plan, what is supposed to happen according to plan, is like a stray eyelash in my eye. Saline drops offer little relief to the stinging sensation and it’s impossible to ignore….imagine that for 6 months. Or, imagine something else. Like the smell and feel of salt spray hitting you in the face when the waves come across the beam; the stretch and coordination it takes to hold onto the stanchion and lifelines with both hands, reach for the dinghy with your dominant foot, and then step down in sync with the rise and fall of the waves; or the unceasing sound of water slapping against the fiberglass hull and knocking halyards against the carbon fiber mast.
Salt water, wind, movement, lines, fiberglass, diesel, cooking in my galley, reading a book in the forward berth, watching Francis and Ruby make sense of their nautical world, sand, birds, fish, whales, dolphin, rays, sunsets, northerlies, warm sunshine, dew on the deck, VHF sailor’s net radio, keeping an eye on the depth sounder, crossing my fingers the autopilot will work, pointing into the wind while Captain Chameleon hoists the sails, hot but short showers, shopping at tiny Mercado’s, meeting old and new sailing friends…surprises, irritations, inconveniences, elation, contentment, and connection. These are my unplanned intentions for the next few months of living aboard Seamore Pacific.
As the Captain and I transition from land life to boat life in the Sea of Cortez, we will be balancing what other sailor’s balance, especially those our age; family at home. I’m comfortable with that, because it’s really no different than 25 years ago when I decided to move from Missouri to the coast. In hindsight, it was a time of balancing the overall big picture of being by the ocean with a large amount of pull and uncertainty outside my control. In the end, it not only all worked out but it cemented a new perspective that was made possible due to reliance on intention rather than planning; being open and ok with some outlier possibilities; and trusting that I will know how to follow the road of least intensity to the place where I most want to be.
With eager intentions,
Seamore Nautical Spirits
P.S. This last week, Captain Chameleon and I returned to San Diego (by car) to have new life lines made for Seamore Pacific. It was great to be back. The last time we were there was over 2 years ago, when we sailed out of San Diego Harbor and down to Mexico with the Baja Ha Ha fleet.