My brother Andy called the other night, and we talked for a couple of hours as we are wont to do once in a while.
And before we settled into the heavy and intense family-centered topics typical of our conversations, he caught me by surprise with a comment:
“I haven’t seen anything new for a while on Bimini Dream.”
How about that. I thought no one had noticed.
As time goes by
I last wrote for Bimini Dream during Meander’s month-long stay in Charleston, SC; and shortly after that post, we left Charleston and headed south. We are now in Factory Creek on the north side of Lady’s Island, SC, across the Beaufort River from the charming riverfront town of the same name. On our maiden voyage down the ICW, this will be our southernmost stop.
The marina at which we are staying has a DIY boaters’ workshop equipped with many shop-quality tools which are the personal property of the facility’s many long-term liveaboards (bring your own tools if you can; ask permission before using anyone else’s), and we landed here intending that I should spend maybe four weeks knocking out a few boat projects: designing and building a custom composting head to replace our conventional wet head, getting the outboard for our dinghy up and running, preparing to extend our capacity to anchor out and save on marina fees.
And since we landed, many wonderful things have happened. Our stay in this small place eight miles from the Marine Corps Recruit Depot on Parris Island just happened to coincide with my niece Tina’s elevation into the ranks of the few and the proud; and we got to join her proud papa Andy, mama Brenda, and brother Anthony as they watched her graduate. Emerging from my blogging world, Marci and Steve of the sailing blog Zen on a Boat interrupted their travels north from Florida to Oriental, NC, to stop in for a visit, and we got to spend a wonderful evening together. (Ironically, they found me in the marina parking lot not because of my legendary good looks, but because they recognized Honey the Golden Retriever walking me.) Emerging from the blogging world Pam inhabits at Something Wagging This Way Comes, Amy and Rod of the pet travel site Go Pet Friendly paid us similar visits as they passed through Beaufort.
And, reaching out finally to my last employer in the architecture world in a bid to check the bleeding in our cruising kitty, I discovered I hadn’t burned my bridges with her so thoroughly as to forfeit the chance to make some hourly income in a distance working arrangement. (She, like so many others in my life, is obviously a glutton for punishment.)
I’ll say it again: Many wonderful things have happened.
But what hasn’t happened is the completion of more than one tenth the number of things on my project list. And since we landed, more than seven weeks have gone by.
A day in the life
The rhythms of an extended stay on a modestly sized liveaboard-capable sailboat are different from the rhythms of daily travel. In fact, they bear some resemblance to those on land. They’re just less convenient.
One gets up, showers in the marina building, eats breakfast, feeds the dog, and walks the dog; if one has paying work to do, one does it; one eats lunch and does the dishes (including the ones one swore to one’s wife one would get to right after breakfast); if one doesn’t have paying work to do, one might turn to tasks and errands, such as grocery shopping, laundry. . .
. . . planning boat projects, and doing boat projects—or not; one eats dinner and does more dishes; one streams free TV shows and movies whenever the marina WiFi will support it; one kills more time on social media than one would ever want to confess to one’s priest; one goes to sleep.
The next morning, one gets up again.
All the while, one is surrounded by life and beauty. The water, the marsh grasses and the mud flats over which the main docks are built are full of it: songbirds, snowy egrets, fiddler crabs peeking out of their holes and waving their oversized claws in deliberate little circles as if trying to hail a taxi. A dolphin in Factory Creek. A mink—a mink!–emerging from the grasses, slinking over the mud, and sliding into the water. A small stingray skimming its way across the flats just inside the water’s edge.
One would think that, surrounded by this kind of magic, one would have no end either of things to say or of the desire to say them. But routine has a way of asserting itself against magic, and can leave one, if one is not careful, with the illusion that one has nothing to write home about.
In the 2011 movie, The Descendants, protagonist Matt King makes this comment: “My friends on the mainland think just because I live in Hawaii, I live in paradise. Like a permanent vacation. We’re all just out here sipping Mai Tais, shaking our hips, and catching waves. Are they insane?”
Still figuring it out
By temperament, I am a moody bastard with tendencies toward sociopathy and existential despair. (I blame my manic-depressive mom, may she rest in peace.)
By upbringing and by choice, I am a Roman Catholic ray of sunshine with tendencies toward evangelical Christian fervor. (I blame my Roman Catholic mom, may she rest in peace.)
From either perspective, I have yet to figure out what to make of a particular claim often made about the cruising life, one I’ve heard over and over from enthusiastic cruisers we’ve met in the past eight months.
Namely, that the cruising life is the Best Life Ever.
Frankly, nothing in me is content to let that statement stand unchallenged.
If, for instance, the best life ever means the life of highest calling, then my Catholicism suggests a life of unceasing service to others.
But if we accept a lesser standard for “best”—one that aligns itself more completely with self-fulfillment, self-absorption, or just plain selfishness—then this moody bastard can think of plenty of other compelling, obsessive alternatives to the cruising lifestyle, most of which would not receive high marks from middle-of-the-road American society.
Leaving the exaggerations aside, however, I am glad to report today that the cruising life is, so far, a good life.
And it can perhaps be a great one. It’s just still too early for me to know what, exactly, it ought to look like.
But let’s be honest. The question of what life should look like wasn’t exactly one I had ever figured out on land, either.
Factory Creek, snowy egret, orange sky: Pamela Douglas Webster.
Pam and Honey, composting head, three sheets to the wind: Mike Webster.