141 Demopolis, Al to Jersey City, NJ

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In a blink we found ourselves snuggled in at Liberty Harbor Marina on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River. Tucked deep in the marina’s protected harbor all we could feel of the storm starting offshore was a slight gentle swell. Rain started falling as we reminisced about the miles we’d covered since we last took some time to reflect and record our travels.

Demopolis, AL is now a long way away both in time and distance. Odyssey rested there for two months while we traveled by RV west to Big Bend National Park in Texas. Now our RV, a Safari Trek, is stored in Demopolis waiting to be retrieved and relocated for its next journey in the fall. As a cold rain started falling, we caught our breath and chatted a bit about the 2,700 miles we’d covered since leaving Demopolis aboard Odyssey in mid January.

Freezing weather delayed our Demopolis departure. It was a good excuse to celebrate so we snuggled in at the marina’s restaurant. Didn’t take long before locals at the bar adopted us. Ruth’s unique ability to find where the treasure is buried quickly had our new friends telling us more that we ever, ever wanted to know. It’s evident that the Civil War still goes on and now ‘red neck’ has a whole new meaning for us.

Two hundred miles downriver we passed Mobile and stopped at Fairhope. Talking with the dockmaster we learned about one of Hurricane Ivan’s impacts on the Panhandle. Real estate prices were up by about 10% as sellers anticipated a flood of bargain hunters. They came and the higher prices were holding in spite of homes covered with blue tarps, those not so subtle reminders of Ivan’s power.

Continuing east along the Gulf ICW Pensacola Bay kicked up and gave us a couple of hours of teeth rattling as 20 knot winds kicked up short steep waves. It only took an hour or so before we were back in the more sheltered waters of the Gulf ICW.

We’d never been to Apalachicola and didn’t know what to expect. We knew it would be a bit different as we walked what felt like a balance beam to get off the motel dock. From there it only got better. The motel office loaned us an adapter since they’d wired the dock with outlets used for RV’s not boats. As we walked town its unique mix of odd shops and wide streets added interest. Shortly we were best friends with locals who’d been watching us from the second floor lounge at the motel and had been wondering if we would show up so they could ask us about Odyssey. It was quite an evening as we learned a bit about how Apalachicola was changing. It’s another area where big money is coming in driving up prices and forcing locals to move because they can’t afford to pay the tax increase as their home values spiral upward.

The rain continued and it got a bit colder. The cockpit heater warmed us up a bit and our reminiscing shifted to the many friends we visited as we made our 14th passage up the ICW during our eight years of living aboard.

Tom and Dianne met us at the dock at Crystal River and drove us to see their home. Afternoon slipped into evening and changed to late night as we covered a wide range of topics. For us their new home is wonderful. For them, they are still recovering from all the headaches the developer gave them during construction. A few weeks ago we learned they’ve completed the final step to a complete transformation to land dwelling. Their sailboat, Tomcat has been sold.

John and Bobbie just retired and had a beautiful Florida home built for them in an established neighborhood near Venice. In their case, Short Circat, a sister ship to Odyssey, is still on the Chesapeake and will be coming south after they spend the summer enjoying the Chesapeake and the Hudson River.

Time constraints and fuel cost modified our plans to go to the Keys on Odyssey. It was faster and much less expensive to travel by car for our planned short stay. Odyssey stayed in Fort Myers as we headed to Islamorada in a rental car to meet up with Ralph and Bonnie Jean on Ammy Boo and Dean and Linda on Seagull. We continued the fun time we’d all had together when we’d all met up in the fall at Ralph and Bonnie Jean’s home in the mountains, as the fun continued on the water.

Swinging lazily on a Vero Beach mooring we heard “Hello Odyssey.” Looking back, there was Jim in a small fishing boat. We welcomed him aboard and sat talking about the old days and the sailing friends we had in common. Jim and Kay have sold their sailboat, Serendipity and now live ashore in Sebastian. He has not been able to get the water out of his system and uses his small boat frequently for fishing.

We sat talking with Nancy, remembering fun times we’d had when John was alive and hearing about all she’d been through with her father’s funeral, her mother’s broken hip, and hurricanes that damaged her condo all at the same time. Her strength and force of will is an inspiration.

We touched base with Ruth’s brother Jim and enjoyed a leisurely lunch together catching up on family. It was fun seeing him, but all too short of a time. We’re trying to convince him to come north this summer for a longer visit and family reunion.

At Brunswick GA we caught up with Tom and Marilyn—friends from our first year cruising–and spent a few day enjoying each other’s company. They’ve accomplished wonders turning Talisman into a comfortable cruising trawler.

Just off the Potomac we improvised on our stop to visit Roger and Dee. The hurricane had taken out their dock. We anchored off, dinghied to a neighbor’s dock and celebrated our reunion. Later we learned they were successful in selling Pockets and are now looking for a slightly smaller boat to enjoy on the Potomac and Chesapeake.

Tying up to Purr-fection’s (a sister ship to Odyssey) dock and spending time catching up with everything Larry and Robin had been doing was fun. Time slipped by as they provided a slightly different perspective of living along the water. There is a bit of extra maintenance, but oh what a setting and view.

We met Lew for breakfast. He and Karen will be starting the Loop aboard Voyager, a wood Grand Banks he has spent well over a year bringing back to perfect condition. We all dinghied back to Odyssey to swap notes on the trip and suddenly found we’d spend most of the day talking about the route.

The cold in the cockpit was a good excuse for a glass of wine. Rain on the cockpit roof grew louder. Outside New Jersey’s skyline disappeared in the fog. NOAA reported 6-8’ waves off the NJ coast. All we could feel in our snug spot was a bit of wind and a slight tugging of dock lines. The cold felt a bit like the cloudy days when we were pushing north and had finally run the generator to add extra cockpit heat with our portable heaters. Our talk shifted back to coming up the ICW.

After a bit of thinking we realized we’d completed the Great Loop for a second time when we’d crossed our track at Stuart, FL. A bit of research revealed we’d traveled over 7,000 miles with all the river exploring we’d done.

We drank a toast to our Jekyll Island accomplishments. We’d ducked St Andrews Sound rough water by taking the inside route through the marsh and got settled in to again enjoy the island. Usually we bike around the north end of the island. This time we walked the 10 miles at a brisk pace. Poking at the annual historic district art fair we found a interesting Royal Tern water color that is now patiently waiting for it’s new home on one of Odyssey’s artwork walls.

We talked about the photograph we’d just added to the artwork wall. It shows woods and just a bit of water sparkling in the sunshine; a tiny cove just big enough for Odyssey we’d found along Mill Creek near Reedville. This year, instead of exploring, we moved fairly quickly through the Chesapeake. There just doesn’t seem to be enough time to do all the gunkholing we want to do.

Rain started to ease off and the fog thickened as we started our last glass of wine and remembered some of our foggy traveling. We only saw the Potomac’s shore on radar as we headed up the river. Rain, fog and cold continued after our arrival turning us to TV watching. This time in DC we got hooked on CSI. Our focus was to beat spring to Washington, DC, and we succeeded as we arrived on March 23rd. Weather improved as spring transformed Washington into a palate of colors. Daffodils, magnolias, cherry blossoms and then tulips complimented the greening of trees as we explored seeing the now completed WW II monument and American Indian Museum we watched being constructed over the years. Hillwood, Marjorie Merryweather Post’s home/museum is beautiful as a museum but a bit over the top as a place to live. However having tray tables that attached to sofa sides for movie watching was an interesting touch for a home filled with priceless treasures.

Our last few sips of wine seemed especially good as our reminiscing caught up with the present. Three days earlier in Annapolis our plans changed so we could meet Ruth’s sister, Linda, in NYC in a week. The next morning in the midst of lowering the dinghy to go ashore in Annapolis we changed our minds, secured the dinghy and left for Cape May.

This morning before first light we were on a mirror flat ocean heading north along the New Jersey coast. The approaching front was just starting to paint wind ripple patterns on the surface as we approached New York harbor. Wind was just starting to build as we tucked into the marina’s inner basin.

Words trailed off as we each got lost in memories of events that slipped by so quickly. We sat enjoying the moment hearing the occasional fog shrouded harbor sounds and Odyssey’s gentle movement.

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