Bender Blog #3 December 2008

We just had our 4 week anniversary of cruising and living-aboard and I don’t know where to begin!!! I would love to tell you every jot and tittle but will try to just hit the high spots. This reminds me so much of having friends thrust their vacation pictures upon you or pictures of their grandchildren whom you’ve never met…and you just have to suffer through…but this way you can hit the delete key and we’ll never know!!! This first month of our new lifestyle has been quite an experience and definitely a period of learning and growing. We so very much love our simple life which some would call “spartan” but we have all we need and love the freedom that comes with that! As difficult as it was several months ago to decide what things to keep and what to pitch, we are finding that we’ve gathered another pile of “things” to go to a local charity. Friends asked how we could get rid of so much and the simple answer is that all those collections of ‘stuff’ were in and from the past; none of which has anything to do with today. Stuff attaches itself to a memory that’s already in our heads and the only moment of any importance is right now!! We’re dwelling on this exact moment and look forward to what future holds. Possessions hold us back because we attach so much emotion to them. What a sense of freedom it is to leave it all behind!!! As I write this we are at anchor in St. Augustine, FL, beneath the watchful eye of the lighthouse.

We arrived here Christmas Eve, at the oldest permanent European settlement in North American. Its Spanish heritage is seen and felt throughout the city. The downtown area is lit with over 3 million white lights artistically outlining the buildings, reflecting the lines of Spanish architecture. The lights entwine themselves from the ground around the trunks of palms and up throughout their fronds. St. Augustine is transformed into a magical land with illuminated gardens and paths in, around, and throughout the Plaza de la Constitution which faces the harbor and the marina where we were staying. Christmas on the water is very special and so very different from the land’s view of Christmas events of malls, streets, and neighborhoods. Some boat owners spend huge amounts of time and money decorating their boats for Christmas—some tastefully simple; some a little gaudy but all in the spirit. Sometimes the decorations are only lights. Sometimes they include reindeer, galloping shrimp pulling Santa’s sleigh, Crèches, and other symbols of the season.

It’s special enough just because it’s on a boat but it’s also special because all of those lights reflect on the water making it a fairyland, turning anchorages and marinas into a different world, if only for a season. Let me digress. Over these past 4 weeks we have met so many interesting people, seen so many incredible sights, and have enjoyed fun marinas and quiet, peaceful anchorages. We spent a weekend in Beaufort, SC, and were able to enjoy their annual Christmas party that they’ve named “Night on the Town”. The main street was closed and food vendors were busy. Music abounded—a male acapella choir; black gospel church choir; children’s choirs; dancers; wonderful puppet shows; all things festive. In Beaufort’s beautiful waterfront park, The Night Before Christmas was read by their traditional reader; Santa and Mrs. Claus appeared and lighted the tree. We enjoyed the finale which was the Parris Island Brass Chorus playing some interesting renditions/arrangements of familiar Christmas music. The shops’ doors were open and the aroma of spiced hot cider and Christmas cookies wafted out onto the sidewalks beckoning us inside. This event really gave a feeling of community and Christmas in a small Southern town. It had that folksy, small-town feel that you can’t find in a city.
We’ve been in beautiful anchorages along the South Carolina and Georgia waterway where we’ve awakened to picturesque views of marsh grass glowing golden in the early morning sun. How peaceful and serene is this landscape! Some mornings at 1000 or 1100 we were having breakfast and feeling bad about that…not a’tall!!! “What another gorgeous day!!!”, we keep saying, but they keep being that!!! We’ve met such a diverse group of people—all from different areas of the world; speaking unfamiliar languages; but all with a love for the sea and the cruising life. When we left Calibogue Sound in S.C., the fog was so thick that we depended on our radar till fog began to lift but when we’d have times of momentary clearness, we found the views of the fog-crowned marshes to be breath-taking. We appreciate seeing our country via the waterways exactly as it was first seen by our forefathers so many years ago.
When we arrived at our anchorage at Dulpin River, SC, we dropped anchor under the watchful eye of a pelican that flew to our bow, landed in the water just where the anchor was being lowered, supervised that operation and when he felt we were secure, he flew away. That night was a full moon and we watched the huge orange orb rise just over the marsh. When it was higher in the sky, its light was so bright that our shadow was cast on the eastern shore of our anchorage.
Several nights and days we enjoyed St. Simons and Brunswick, GA, the latter being a well-kept secret and a quaint little town that was a joy to visit.
We spent 2 nights and one very long day on Cumberland Island, GA, spotting armadillos, turkeys, horses, boars—all ferrell. Despite Carnegie's Dungeness, we have no fond memories of Comberland Island!!! Long story short, we rode our bikes there (not a place for bicycles) and were most thankful to be alive, safe and sound aboard our boat just before sundown. Mid-afternoon it looked as if we might be snuggling up with wild boars and whatever else…but thanks to an angel in a white truck…! All about cruising is not rosy. We began having refrigeration/freezer issues---they were not adequately doing their intended jobs and pointed their fingers at the generator. We made a semi-unscheduled stop at Fernandina Beach, FL, on a Friday, and the great marina personnel had a gen-set guy there to help us out tout de suite. We rode our bikes all over this little town----as we did on Hilton Head and stops in GA. These little old places are so quaint and beautiful and absolutely exude so much history and seeing it by bicycle can't be beat.
After a few days we were “rollin’ down the river” and the inverter complained that the batteries weren’t up to snuff. We spent a night at Jacksonville Landing, FL, and realized that with Santa Claus coming very soon, we probably should go to a boat yard there and get fixed. We went to Sadler’s Point Marina/Boat Yard on the Ortega River for a couple of nights while we awaited 3 new batteries at 160 pounds each. What a serendipity that place was! Just spittin’ distance away was a “Book Mine” with over 2 million new and used books. When I went in there, time just stopped!!! Then there’s an old nautical store run by a very old lady who knows the location of every single thing in there! She's got it all—clothes, fishing gear, mops, dishes, kayaks, charts---you just name it and from her wheel chair, she’ll tell you where to find it…but watch your step because there’s stuff everywhere. If you can’t find what you think you need either at the book store or the nautical junk store, then you sure don’t need it!!! We met some very interesting people there-among them a newly retired USN pilot and wife who live aboard with 4 children. “Their stockings were hung from the bimini with care….” While we were out running errands we met a lady who also lives on a trawler and was in the same marina. She invited us over later that afternoon for Christmas cheer and added that several folks’d bring their guitars and we’d have a little music. We thanked her, wished we could stay but planned to leave when those guys got our batteries replaced. We returned to Jax Landing and enjoyed the lights and decorations there. We awoke Christmas morning to this picture of serenity in our St. Augustine marina.
This Christmas season has been very different from many of the traditional ones from our past—although we’ve enjoyed a few that wouldn’t fit the “traditional” description. “Hearth and home” has a different meaning for us this year but the meaning of the Season is the same. We have the gift of His love and an exciting new life. Home is where our boat is”. Children, grandchildren and other family were as near as a phone call and Picasa shots.
Bill went for a run, I went for a walk, and together we rode our bikes over to St. Augustine Beach.
We wanted to see the lighthouse and if Santa had visited there and indeed he had.
We spent a week just piddling around the boat, talking to passers-by, kayaking, and just enjoying the warm weather and life. Folks’ve asked where and when will be we next. That’s a really difficult question to answer. Our intended destination for this winter is the Exumas in the Bahamas, but we’re in no rush—have the rest of our lives and we’ll get there when we get there. We had only one scheduled marina reservation and that was to be in St. Augustine for Christmas. It really seemed that we had to hustle to make that “date” and this isn’t what this is all about. This isn’t a vacation dictated by daily agendas…but this is our life. We’re living it and have no intention of rushing it.
This last day of 2008, we departed St. Augustine and cruised south to Daytona Beach. The waterway has views for all tastes~~pristine beaches that have known no development; very modest, humble domociles and some not so humble with awesome landscaping.
As we bid a very fond farewell to this year that has held a huge number of life-changing events for us individually and as a couple, we wish for each of you a happy and healthy 2009.
Bill, Laura, and Bailey Dog
lying at anchor Daytona Beach, FL

Comments

townsendtales said…
Hi, Laura and Bill,

Bonnie sent me your blog. It is so much fun to read about your adventures heading south. Cruising the ICW is the definitely the highlight of my life. I will never forget it or stop wanting to do it again. Maybe someday we can do the loop.

I had to laugh about you getting rid of your cold weather clothing. I did the same thing but headed north to Nova Scotia. Stupid me nearly froze to death on our passage over. Our space was so limited I got rid of everything I THOUGHT I wouldn't need!

But you shouldn't be needing heavy clothing now! I am having a flood of memories about our trip - thank you! Enjoy and think of those who aren't there but know how wonderful it is!
Suzie and Kirby formerly of TOBIAS

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