Thursday, June 6, 2019

Real Time & Recollections

I finally got around to updating the "About Istaboa" section of this blog. Istaboa's new interior inspired me to take a few photos and pictures often trigger an itch that only writing about them can scratch. I guess every picture does tell a story.

This is the final installment of a multi-part section that covers finding N57-26 back in 2006 and the years aboard Istaboa that have led up to now.
For those into 57s, there's a lot about N57s in general and Istaboa in particular — See the column to your left.

Real Time

10 Years After

It's now 2020: The economy is booming, everything's great, —however— the boats are getting bigger and the docks are packed with them. Many of our favorite marinas have been bought out by large corporations, gutted of their personalities, and it seems a knowledgeable dock staff is a relic from days gone by. Due to this current illusion of prosperity, the boat fixers are busy, most are arrogant, and they're all elusive. 

I'm getting older (and grumpier) and time is flying by, but it seems things have changed dramatically in just a short time —Flashback to 2014
I guess we miss the easygoing days of the plain old "good" economy, however... we tentatively adjust.

Still — life's good.

Now a decade since moving aboard and putting Tennessee behind us; almost 20 years since we first started traveling about in boats, Mel and I have covered a lot of water. And in all that time, at least one thing has become apparent, our boating lifestyle is never glamorous and rarely exciting, but it is the life we chose and for the most part it's exactly what we dreamed it would be  — probably in our DNA, but for sure our life aboard is not just a line item on a list of things to do before we can't.

Like us, our boating habits have matured, as has our boat. No longer full time liveaboards, we have a home in Jupiter, FL. (Mel and I finally asked the question, "wanna live here?", one time too many.) We love our little beach house and the simple life there we share with our dogs, nevertheless 90% of our time is devoted to boats/marinas, and still, 3 to 6 months a year is spent aboard.

Georgetown, SC
Our M-O

For us, and I'm not promoting our lifestyle as the boat life everyone should subscribe too, but — for us —  a good boat trip is to comfortably motor around till we stumble on an out of the way place that's interesting but not too crowded, then slowly blend in and make it home for a while.
That's the beauty of this boating thing: home is where the boat is.

Last year we spent 6 weeks in little Georgetown, SC and had quite a nice time, however, I don't think we would've felt that way 10 years ago. Georgetown's a very calm and tranquil little harbor town — at this point in our life, tranquility's a blast.


The Abacos
Years ago, The Abacos, Elbow Cay specifically, was home for a while. We once tied up at Sea Spray Marina thinking we'd stay a few days and 2 months later we left.
That year the late spring winds, as they often do, blew hard and incessantly into the summer months. The weather kept us tethered to the dock, however that didn't stop us from making the best of the situation.
Mel and I made lasting friendships during that long blow that have stood the test of time and in retrospect, if it weren't for those unfavorable conditions, none of us would've ever taken the time to get to know each other.
During that, "Whisky Wind" (as Junior Maynard, the Dock Master, called it), no matter what kind of boat you owned or what your socioeconomic status was, we all played a part in each other's good time: everyone dressed similarly, ate the same food, drank the same booze; we were all trapped in paradise together, and life was good..

Every Saturday night was a Junkanoo and a big celebration.
Every Sunday morning was breakfast with Brenda's Bloodies providing post party pain relief.

The Exumas

We once lived at Compass Cay in the Exumas. for a while. Life around the Pipe Creek area was simply special, and after some time we were welcomed to be honorary members of the Rolle family: an honor we're very proud of.
About two months into that stay, our stores of food and drink were depleted and we learned to get by as the out-island folk do. Departing friends and boaters would generously leave us their unused provisions, weather permitting and if the mail boat showed, we'd make runs to Staniel Cay where the Blue Store or the Pink Store might have some vegetables, and on a regular basis the local boys would bring us fresh fish.
Tucker taught me how to waste not, "Clean da head, don't tro it away, dat's da best part", he'd say. Tuck was right, fresh fish head, eyeballs and all, made an excellent stew. (I'd eat the eyeballs, but just for effect... they really have no taste)
Following a nice Bahamian lady's instructions, a few onions, potatoes, lady peppers, Bahamian thyme, a big clean Grouper head, thrown together and slow cooked in a big pot fed us all for 3 days. Spider crab, lobster, conch - as soon it was known we would cook, things just showed up on the boat and became dinner for those who wanted it. Tings to do wit fish

Maybe it was the overwhelming expanse of blueness, possibly the absence of complication, probably the combination of all that and more, nevertheless that long stay really was mind altering and forever changed my perspective. This is when we first experienced the zen of being  -or- How to exist in the Exumas and not lose your grip on reality.  It took a while, but eventually we settled into island think. Need food? Go fish, or conch: Don't worry about the small things, never get excited, find some shade with a good breeze, and in between naps, watch the tide roll in and out, and the tour boats come and go.
Kicking back in one of the ragged lounge chairs scattered around the shade of the Compass office overhang, it was amusing watching the many big charter yachts running pell-mell up and down the Exuma chain. Their crews were always busy picking up or dropping off charters at Staniel Cay then anchoring at Big Majors where their guests would take selfies with the pigs then, as they turned to walk away, have one of those cute pigs bite them on the ass.

In the mean time, back in the shade, (and disrupting my naps, I might add), the ancient VHF radio would be constantly crackling, "Compass Cay, Compass Cay"  and if Jamal answered, the yacht Caps would chat him up in hopes of scoring a slip and shelter from the impending storms.

There was good work done. We brought communications to places where there was none. Those projects took much longer than they would have in the states, but no one cared. Soon it becomes apparent, the aim of Exuma life is to make the best of the moment. You "be".

We'd take our little Albury to visit the other islands and do what shopping we could, and soon, Mel and I became acquainted with some remarkable and eccentric private island dwellers. They too were happy to have fresh company to get to know.

The Pickle Barrel Houses on Wild Tamarind Cay

Running up and down Pipe Creek everyday was like living in a dream. Sometimes I'd just stop the Albury, look in all directions, and take in the view, absorbing every shade of blue imaginable. Not a day went by without thinking how lucky we were to be experiencing all of this, and being part of it.
Like backstage passes to paradise.

Late summer, sans tourist, the place is really amazing.


As evidenced by the video below, Compass can become very crowded during season - gentrification strikes again - still a beautiful place, though.

Cat Stevens - Longer Boats
Longer boats are coming to win us
They're coming to win us, they're coming to win us
Longer boats are coming to win us
Hold on to the shore, they'll be taking the key from the door

All of this became the norm and soon I grew confident running the Albury around the little-known routes through the rocks and shallows; understanding which run to take at different tide levels, almost as good as the natives. Every rocky point, every shoal, the water color, it all means something. Like obscure road signs, you'd better pay attention to the details or you'd quickly end up on a coral head, high and dry, or worse.

Hurricane Sandy - Over Yonder Cay

This was a magical time for us, however the spell was broken by September and the peak of hurricane season. It became apparent that it was time for us to move on and we left just days before Hurricane Sandy blew hard across the Exuma chain.

Yes, that four months was an amazing experience and we still like to return "home" and fall back into Compass life on occasion. We understand and respect; it's not our world, it's there's, and we're thankful the Rolles share it with us.

We'll not wear out our welcome.

The Chesapeake Bay

The Chesapeake still holds a certain charm and we'll often bump around up there during hurricane season. Annapolis is our favorite city, Solomons and the Herringtons are our favorite hangs, but many of the historic, boaty little towns are cool.  

A bit like the panhandle of Florida, the food is simple and good. Think local crabs and oysters prepared so many ways.

We really like being around the folks on the Chesapeake. For the most part, they're an authentic live and let live, good natured bunch; they love the Bay and everything about it. We've made many memorable acquaintances and some great friends there over the years; we always enjoy going back.

Wherever we go - there we are

We feel fortunate to be able to take our time, keep plans open-ended, and become up close and personal with the many marinas in the many harbors along our way. From Tennessee to Nassau, too many places to list, we've made ourselves at home. In all our travels there's one thing we've always found to be true: *No matter where you go, there you are. (*credit either Confucius or Buckaroo Banzai)

If one has a curious eye and takes the time to look around, there's almost always something unique and compelling to be found. (almost)
Maybe a funky little restaurant that serves up the best shrimp and grits, like the Beaufort Cafe, the familiar comforts of Brunswick, GA, sometimes it's just simple naturalness and the transcendental "being" thing happens, think Compass Cay. It can be as contrasting as the helter-skelter of an urban harbor like Nassau or the stillness of the Sassafras River, it really doesn't matter where you are, if you're experiencing life from a boat, it's probably pretty good.
"And remember, no matter where you go, there you are."

We also love this verse from "The Boxer" — we too look for those places.
Laying low, seeking out the poorer quarters
Where the ragged people go
Looking for the places
Only they would know
Lie, la lie

So now we've become seasoned boaters, which is a kind way of saying we're getting older, (which is a kind way of saying we're approaching old AF) and the days of ambitious boat trips may be winding down for us. Never say never, though we're quite content bumping around familiar places.

So with all that said, I'll sum it up with this mental image...

At the end of a long day, there are few things more comfortable than following an old track line into a peaceful harbor and tying up in the sunset.

That's pleasure boating

Now hold on to that mental image and press play below