We arrive at Charleston on Friday – incredibly relieved to stop traveling for a bit. I am ready to discuss all the things we need to do now that we are further north. Matt protests and says we are both exhausted and need to go into ‘protect mode.’ We do the minimum and celebrate our progress by going out to dinner and even ordering dessert. (downtown Charleston, Arthur Ravenel Bridge).
The boys swim on Friday and Saturday. Matt has rented a car to go back to FL to get the van. The transmission was dying so it was at the dealership. It ends up being a 10-hour overnight process to get it up to Charleston which begs the question of why we still have it (convenience, freedom, Lego storage device). We pass by this boat. I ask Matt why we don’t just haul the thing around with us.
I walk the boys down to the marina bathrooms for the 5th time today. My arm is slung over Malachi’s shoulders. “Mom,” he says, “I’m not sure what kind of career I want.” “Well,” I say, a bit taken aback that this has been occupying any of his cognitive real estate “you’re eight years old, so you still have lots to experience before you decide.” It reminds me of his announcement after his first day of kindergarten. As I put him to bed that night, he had declared, “Mom, I’m going to marry Tilly when I grow up. She’ll be my wife.” “Hmmm,” I responded, “That’s a big decision – you really don’t want to rush into anything. Let’s revisit this again once you’re in second grade.”
[PS. I promise to take my camera to a shop and get the black dot removed. Have tried to clean it three times – cannot figure out what’s going on. My mom would say the black dot is the Holy Spirit ; )].
We celebrate Easter on Jekyll Island then leave Monday (4/21) and anchor out at Teakettle Creek that night. As I’m getting ready for bed (at 8:50 pm!), I can hear the whoosh of a dolphin clearing its blowhole. This is so cool, I think to myself. The next morning, we get up early and see the sunrise while at anchor.
We cross St. Catherine’s Sound and sail for a while, slowing from 5 or 6 knots to 1 or 2. The silence is worth it – this is why we bought a sailboat. We land at Isle of Hope that night. On Wednesday we cross into South Carolina and spend the night at Harbour Town Yacht Basin in Hilton Head. Upon arrival, we are escorted to our slip by a dockhand in a dinghy. After securing the lines, he presents us with a bottle of wine and the marina brochures – this is my kind of marina. We get in early enough for the boys to swim and for me to have some time on my own. (Tashtego is on the left).
We take off the next day and see a family of dolphins and many pelicans. They are now, without a doubt, my favorite bird. Full of grace, effortlessly gliding just millimeters above the surface of the water.
We anchor out at Toogoodoo Creek and have a restful night’s sleep.
Matt and I have been hoping to be in a nice place for Easter and maybe find an Easter egg hunt for the boys. Based on the tides and the best time to cross St. Andrews Sound, our departure is set for 9 am. Matt and I were up around 5:30 am. We let the boys sleep but wanted to get off the boat before the day began. We walked into town around 7:30 with the boys. Matt is hoping to find a quick breakfast sandwich. It’s a cute but small town and we finally give up. Nothing opens until 9 am. I tell Matt we’ll make breakfast on the boat. We walk back toward the marina and pass the marina waterfront park on the way. What do we see? Of course … they are setting up an Easter egg hunt that begins at 9 am. We delay our departure by 20 minutes so the boys can participate. Perfect.
Technically, the term ‘hunt’ is a bit of a stretch. Even in the section designated for 6+ years, hundreds of eggs are just sitting on open grass. I tell the boys that next time we’ll bring a rake. We limit their haul to three eggs each and continue on our way.
The St. Andrews Sound is a bit rocky – the Captain in on-guard …
The crew is blissfully unconcerned …
We left Jacksonville intending to have a short day and spend the night in Fernandina, FL. After calling the marina, we found it was booked by a yacht group and had no vacancy. Turned away, we headed further north and landed in St. Mary’s, GA (crossing a state line is always good).
We got in early – before 3 pm but feeling a bit beat up. Two days of 30-knot winds and a near crash landing on the dock. The currents were so strong that our boat ended up being docked on the starboard side, rather than the intended port side where all our lines and bumpers were. Five people on the dock all yelling different directions and trying to fend us off the dock and avoid our bowsprit being slammed into a piling. We finally got in. “Well, you made it,” someone commented, which really is the bar for getting in ok – do you still have all of the bodies you left with and is there any damage to the boat? If not, it’s all good.
We have not showered since leaving Hammock Beach. The harbor master checked us in and gave us the codes to the bathrooms. “Close the door on the way out,” he said. “Those showers aren’t
for the general public – just for the marina.” I peeked in on them on our way back to the boat. Oh, how I miss Hammock Beach! They are the kind of showers where you don’t let your skin touch any surface, lest whatever is growing on those surfaces ends up growing on your skin. The fact that there is a lock-coded door to keep people from getting in rather than large BIOHAZARD signs posted to keep people out is a bit hysterical. After the boys did some schoolwork, we spent the rainy morning doing artwork. After lunch and quiet time, cabin fever was hitting so we donned our foul weather gear and headed into the small town.
The visit to NASA on Monday was great. The boys loved it and we enjoyed time with our ex-Cleveland friends. Unfortunately, the launch was cancelled 15 minutes before it was scheduled to leave due to a helium leak. Fortunately, someone had given us a tip not to watch it from NASA because the traffic on the way back takes about 7 hours. We were on the river opposite and were able to get dinner after we found it was cancelled.
We left Hammock Beach early this morning. The weather has been stormy and shows no signs of clearing. Winds are 20-25 knots which is not ideal but not dangerous either. Given our travel plans, we need to get moving. There are several instances of shoaling so I’m up and down helping Matt in the cockpit and taking care of the boys below. We make it up to Jacksonville, FL at dinner time. The wind is howling, the bumpers are screeching, and neither of us gets much sleep. The first night is always the roughest. It feels good to be moving again.
We spent the weekend getting ready to move again (re-provisioning the boat, returning library books, doing laundry, getting propane for the stove, ice for the fridge, etc.). Both of us are dreading it a bit and finally admitted it to each other. The actual travel days can be long and rough and, although we’ve been here a month, neither of us feels fully re-charged (which begs the question of whether it’s the situation or just us). Before we go, we are planning to take the boys to the Kennedy Space Center on Monday with a friend who moved to FL from Cleveland. There is a launch planned so everyone is excited. We had our final Sunday brunch at our usual place. A plaque in the bathroom reads “It’ll cost nothing to dream and everything not to.” Good quotation.
After 30 minutes of standing in line with the boys for a ride at SeaWorld, I realized we are not the kind of family capable of standing in long lines in a confined space with that much humanity around. I told Matt there was no way we could do Disney (which the universe sensed and therefore didn’t let me buy tickets). We ended up finding a place where we could pick oranges and go on an eco-tour. The eco-tour took place in a huge 4×4 bus which each of the boys got a turn to drive. After the tour, we walked through the groves to pick oranges and finally saw our first alligator in the wild! It was tiny (by alligator standards) – only about 20 inches – and Matt was the one who spotted him. Adorable.
There must be some kind of roller coaster personality test. I took the boys to SeaWorld while Matt was gone. Ten minutes after entering, we heard a bunch of screams and looked up to see a carload of people spiraling through the air upside down. Aghast, Malachi’s mouth dropped open. “What is that thing?” he squeaked out. Joshua, in contrast, had a delighted grin on his face as he asked if we could ride it. Malachi couldn’t even answer – looking horrified, he wordlessly just kept shaking his head no.
The plan was for me to take the boys to SeaWorld on Thursday. Matt would then fly in from Atlanta to Orlando Thursday night, stay at the hotel with us and we would all go to Disney on Friday. I was able to purchase the SeaWorld tickets and print them at the resort with no problem. I literally tried six times to buy the Disney tickets online and each time it didn’t work. I finally decided the Universe had its reasons and gave up.
The animals at SeaWorld are amazing (and no, we didn’t know about the whole Blackfish hoopla before we made the decision and yes, I promise I will watch the movie) but not as educational as it used to be, which was disappointing. Getting people to learn and care about these animals was the justification for keeping them caged up. Orca whales are some of the most beautiful creatures in the world – I literally cannot watch them without crying.
Our days are filled with the usual necessities (homeschooling, hauling 20 lbs of ice for the ice box, groceries, laundry, dishes, other errands). The boys are swimming every day and getting better. We sometimes bike to the beach to look for shells. We saw an adorable sea turtle and a large blue crab in the marina.
Last weekend, Matt took the boys to see his mom about 3 hours south so I had a blissful few days of quiet all to myself. I’m not sure I spoke to another human being the whole time they were gone. Then it was just me with the boys while Matt drove up to Atlanta, GA with his mom to attend a military memorial service for his grandfather. After doing school, chores, some swimming and lots of errands, we went to the library. I had signed Joshua up for a program called PAWS where beginning readers sit and read to dogs.
It was getting late and we were all tired so I decided to just eat out with the boys. When we finished, I told them to get their things together (mostly Legos) and that I was going to the restroom. When I came out, I saw them holding their toys and standing with the server who was frantically looking around. When she saw me, she said, “Oh, thank God! They told me that you had left.” I looked at the boys. “What?” Malachi shrugged. “We thought you left.” I’m not even sure what to make of that, although I did meet a mom who said that one day she got in her car (sans children) and drove west for about 3 hours before finally turning around. She told me this and we both started laughing hysterically. The thing is, having children turns you into a human rubber band. Despite everyone occasionally having thoughts of escape (to join a circus, become a rock star, a Sherpa or whatever) sometimes they are exactly who you want to escape to. Always waiting, always there with a cheerful “Hi Mom!”
For the 2nd time in just over a year, we decided to hit the pause button. The first time, when the idea of this trip arose, was almost this exact same time last year. Currently, this is our first intentional extended stay in any one place (all others having been determined by mechanical problems). After we saw how beautiful it is here, we looked at each other and said we didn’t want to leave. Frankly, the showers are what did it for me. They’re great – similar to a spa. After showering in all kinds of places, including the southern backwoods marina where I told Matt we could easily disappear and never be heard from again (“close the bathroom doors or the raccoons get in” we were told) having plush towels and toiletries provided is a luxury I wasn’t ready to give it up. For Matt, it was March Madness (i.e., college basketball season). The lounge has a TV and after 12 years without one, he is in heaven being able to watch as many games as he wants.
Walking from the bathrooms back to the boat alone one night, I was standing on the dock savoring this sensation. That we chose to stop. It felt great – and healthy to listen to that inner voice. To wave the white flag and say we need rest. Why is this so hard for us as adults? It’s easy for kids. I remember one long day of sailing. We had eaten lunch on the deck and then Joshua simply lay down where he had been sitting and went to sleep. For the next two hours, we stepped over him as needed to go down into the cabin. As adults, it’s too easy to refuel with caffeine and sugar. Why is it so hard to admit we are tired and need a break?