99 Dockside at Vero Beach, FL

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Unmistakable marks in the sand told the story of a sea turtle’s shore visit to bury eggs. A wandering path lead from the sea up to a highpoint near the boardwalk we walked along. We stopped and sorted out the turtle’s activities. Up bound tracks disappeared into disturbed but trackless sand, the sea turtle nest carefully smoothed out by the turtle after her egg-laying. Then a new set of tracks started heading straight to the ocean. Continuing our walk we speculated about being there when the newly hatched turtles made their dash for the sea.

Early each morning shortly after first light we walk to take advantage of the slightly cooler temperature and lack of heat in the normally burning sun. Bunnies munching wet morning grass keep a wary eye on us as we walk by. One morning we detoured around a charming scene of mockingbird parents attempting to feed two very chubby chicks. They were just learning to fly but now blocked the middle of the sidewalk looking for breakfast from mom and dad and not interested in yielding to mere human walkers. One morning a possum lumbered along in the scrub along the road with a baby riding on her back.

Huge billowing thunderheads form and announce their presence with impressive bolts of lightning and rumbling thunder. We sit in the cockpit watching the show as the storms roll around the area almost every afternoon. The rains brought relief from the drought but no relief from the heat. The rain stops and within minutes the sun is out evaporating the water and raising the humidity even higher.

Afternoons we stop in and visit with mom. On occasion we vary our routine and take her out for breakfast, lunch or for an ice cream cone. At 88 she’s accepted with dignity the doctor’s prognosis of pancreatic cancer and six months to live at most. Medication controls the inevitable pain.

Slowly cancer weakened her body but her spirit and joy of life and people refused to yield. Her assisted living apartment was exchanged for a nursing home room. Tentative trials using a cane gave way to using a wheelchair, but then a walker. For one wonderful week she sparkled enjoying meals out with us, and looking forward to teaching a plastic canvas class in a few days. We were beginning to speculate about whether the diagnosis was correct. One morning we stopped to say hello but left when we found her was sleeping. Shortly after we learned she had died in her sleep. We’ll miss her.

Our five-month stay in Vero Beach has not been dull. It was rewarding making mom’s last days comfortable. Family came to once again enjoy being in her company. For us it was a treat providing us with a rare opportunity to get to know relatives a bit better. Our kids flew down for a long weekend over Memorial Day, and we had a wonderful time enjoying four generations of family.

Ruth had surgery we’d been discussing for a few years. It involved just one day in the hospital and follow up visits by a visiting nurse. We became hits with the visiting nurses once word got out that we were living on a boat.

Ruth and our quilted cockpit cushions

Ruth finished one quilt as she and mom chatted during afternoon visits. Then she got inspired and came up with an idea for quilted cockpit cushion covers. Linda had come to visit a second time with mom. She and Ruth worked permutations and combinations of colors and patterns. A run to the quilt shop produced a riot of colored fabrics that Ruth transformed into works of art.

A mechanic checked Odyssey’s engines. We knew we had a raw water pump impeller problem. However, after expressing our concerns about unusual corrosion we’d had and a few other concerns, we let the mechanic do a major check of both engines. Heat exchangers were removed and cleaned. Injectors were tested and adjusted. Leaking exhaust elbows were replaced. The work took time and our simple impeller problem grew to a major expense.

Mixed between family visits, boating friends seemed to have evenly spaced themselves so that as one friend departed another would show up. We’d swap travel stories with new arrivals and then feel sad as they left heading north while we watched wishing we too could be on the water moving again.

We met new boating friends and managed to visit boaters who have become land dwellers. A short visit to the Smokies provided a change of scenery and a breath of cool mountain air.

The photo of a boat lying broken over a dock caught our attention at the marina- sponsored hurricane preparedness seminar. Suggestions about how to spider- web our boats into narrow, wind-shielded cuts in the mangroves made us realize we weren’t prepared. We started a list of additional rope, duct tape and other critical supplies we needed. Then everything changed.

Mom died on a Saturday. By Thursday afternoon we’d taken care of her last items and were on our way. We didn’t get far. A half hour after starting we anchored. Boat speed was terrible. Both of us went into the water to clean the hull and props. It had been less than a month since our last monthly bottom cleaning but the hot weather and 85 degree water had accelerated hard marine growth on our unprotected props. Grass grew on the sides in spite bottom paint. Boat speed improved immediately and we headed north looking to get out of Florida ASAP.

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