A Pause to Give Thanks
Weather has been a determining factor for us over the past 8 months, unlike any other time in our lives. We have learned a great deal about the weather (and about ourselves) as we have dealt with the power of it from the perspective of life on a relatively small vessel. We knew that some tough weather days were approaching as we continued east along the Florida panhandle, so we decided to take a short diversion to a small town called Port St. Joe. We decided that this would be a good location to sit for a while as we waited for conditions to improve for making the open water jumps across the Gulf to Florida’s west coast. We had gotten used to getting up early and moving the boat forward on our journey just about every day, but Port St. Joe was a great place to get another lesson in the virtue of patience as we waited for the cold rainy weather to pass.
During our week in Port St. Joe Marina, Stel and I read some devotional material on “gratitude”, appropriate for Thanksgiving. A quote by theologian Charles Edward Jefferson… “Gratitude is born in hearts that take time to count up past mercies”. He encouraged us to remember God’s past mercies, write them down and then read over these things often. When you let your mind be saturated with the goodness of God, you’ll be amazed at how the goodness of God becomes real! During the week, we took some long walks in the rain and spent many hours sheltered from the “Florida” cold, wind and lightning aboard Estrellita as she was tied to the dock. We had an opportunity to spend time remembering and listing some of the many things we had to be thankful for during our 37 years of marriage as well as the past 8 months on this special journey. It has made quite an impact on our level of faith, gratitude and joy!!
Although most of the week was rainy, windy and cold, we had one beautiful day when we took the boat from the Port St. Joe Marina to nearby Eagle Cove and anchored for the evening. We got to take a walk on a deserted sugar white beach, did some surf fishing, and then witnessed one of the most awesome sunsets that we had ever seen. After a few more rainy days back at the marina, the conditions finally improved on Thanksgiving Day and we cast off our lines while eating a turkey sandwich and a pumpkin pie that the dock master had given us on the way out. After a long day of cruising, we dropped the anchor in a quiet spot, anxious to make some holiday calls to our family and friends…..and then discovered that we were too remote to get a cell phone signal. We apologize to the family for our lack of holiday communication! Happy Thanksgiving.
“Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done” –Psalm 105:1
FINALLY Finding Some Warmth on Florida’s West Coast
There are two ways to cruise around the “big bend” of Florida’s Gulf coast, an area that does not offer the protection of the Intracoastal Waterway. You can cross the Gulf between Carabelle and Clearwater, which involves an overnight cruise. Or, you can make shorter day crossings from one small town to another as you make your way around the bend, which involves entering some very shallow water inlets. Because Estrellita draws relatively little water, Stel and I decided for the latter. Either way, the weather needs to be watched very closely for selecting the days when open water cruising will be kind to the boat and to the body. The weather was good for several days, so this 3-day jump across the Gulf allowed us to visit the small fishing villages of Steinhatchee, Cedar Key and finally Tarpon Springs. All three legs of the trip involved about 8 hours of cruising a day, which we did along side cruising buddies Andy and Julie on “Fruitcakes”. We will always have fond memories of our days and evenings with them as we finally made our way into a WARMER climate!
Stel and I have visited the west coast of Florida in the past, but have never gotten a chance to explore the waterways. We welcomed the clear and warmer water, but were surprised at the consistently shallow depths of the inland waterways and bays. We are starting to get used to it and have never been so happy to have a relatively shallow-draft boat. And with these waters come hundreds of dolphins! The sound of Estrellita’s engines combined with the forward wake from our bow seems to be a magnet for these wonderful creatures. We very seldom cruise for 15 minutes before a pod of dolphins comes along side with acrobatic jumps, turns and occasionally a flip. It brings us pure joy to watch them and we are confident that God put grace in their movement and a smile on their face to express their love for us as well.
Did I think that I was going to get away with not decorating our home for Christmas this year? Not a chance! Our Looper friends, Ken and Ann Shandley, invited us to attend their Christmas Boat Parade in Venice, so the pressure was on to get Estrellita dressed up a bit for the occasion. Our friends allowed us to use their car to make a trip to Lowes where we purchased the lights and garland needed to get the job done. To tell you the truth, I have never enjoyed decorating for Christmas more. The parade was lots of fun and we followed it up with a wonderful Advent worship service at First Baptist Church of Venice the following morning. We were officially in the Christmas spirit. And a extra bonus….I had promised to take Stel on a boat ride in Venice some day. Done!
Well….maybe not shocked, but pleasantly surprised by the abundance and beauty of the shells that can be found on the beaches of southwest Florida. We have been looking forward to this part of the Loop for its shelling and fishing. You can probably guess who prefers what, but I found myself really enjoying my time with Stel searching for different kinds of shells. We were able to find at least 30 different shell types, some of which we were familiar with, and some not. We are having a great time learning the common names and then finding color variations that make each shell a little different. Because of the abundance of beaches, shells, fish and natural beauty of the water, we have slowed ourselves down a good bit and spent a number of days at anchor around the islands of Cayo Costa, Captiva and Sanibel. We ended up in a marina on the south end of Sanibel, took the bikes off the deck, and spent 2 days biking the full length of the island. We have been to a lot of bike-friendly places on this journey, but nowhere quite like Sanibel. Great exercise and fun!
After leaving Sanibel, we cruised up the Caloosahatchee River a few miles and found a beautiful and secluded anchorage called Glover Bight. It was a great location to watch the meteor showers that were expected in the northeast skies on the night of the 13th of December. It was a cool night, so we wrapped up in some blankets and reclined on the bow for quite a show while we listened to some James Taylor. We spent 2 days and nights at Glover Bight doing over-due boat chores and some fishing in between. Some people have asked us whether we ever get bored on the boat for extended periods of time. We both are in agreement that we have not yet had a moment when we were at a loss for something to do. This life style is much simpler, but is extremely active and fulfilling. Boat cleaning, maintenance, buying groceries, doing laundry, planning, exercising, preparing meals, socializing, exploring, reading, blogging, keeping up with family & friends and the time spent cruising makes for full days. Did I forget fishing?? We even unpacked a few Christmas decorations from our “attic” (called lazarette on a boat!) and enjoyed some final decorating.
We look forward to making our way up the Caloosahatchee a little further to Ft. Myers, where we will pick up our son Sam from the airport. We will then make our way south, through the Everglades and on to Key Largo where we will meet the rest of the family for a tropical Christmas celebration.