Yes, that’s what it looks like. Life on the hook. Well, on anchor, that is. The technical definition is “living on a boat and anchored some place not attached to firm land or bottom.” (http://manateefritters.com/2012/07/13/going-to-live-on-the-hook/). Gorgeous, ain’t it? I know now how great it can be, but, I have to tell you – this whole time – I did not. I didn’t know how mind-blowingly blissful the sailing lifestyle could be. It’s like when the doctor asks you what news you want to hear first: the good or the bad? You always say the bad. Get it over with right? Right. I think that’s exactly what I did.
For this entire Gulf Crossing, transmission busting, Dasani-bottle fluid catching, mast-climbing, greasy, sweaty, exhausting ride we’ve been on, I had yet to see the real reward, the true benefit of the sailing lifestyle: LIFE ON THE HOOK. Realize, I had yet to even know what it feels like to drop the anchor (not once) and have the boat stop in the middle of the water. Just STOP. No worrying about depth, or the wind or transmission fluid. No hoisting sails or pulling in lines. No checking the engine, refilling the coolant, watching the oil temp, watching the horizon for wayward ships, buoys or crab traps. Once we dropped the anchor, the boat … just … stopped. And she was safe, and secure, and poised right in the middle of a beautiful cove about 100 feet from the shore. At first, I didn’t know what to do with myself. Without any “work” to be done, I was a little lost. You mean, I can just sit back and have a drink and enjoy the sunset? Phillip said, “You can do whatever your little heart desires.”
Ahhhh … life on the hook. Let me give you a little taste. Here’s where we went:
It was about a 3-hour sail (that, thankfully, ended much better than Gilligan’s tour). Pensacola Bay is huge and catches a lot of fetch. It’s a great sailing bay and seems there’s always enough wind to do something with. We headed over to Red Fish Point, near Fort McRee (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_McRee). It is a barrier island covered with sugary, white sand and a federal park to preserve the remnants of the civil war area fort that remains. The park is accessible primarily only by boat and appears to be lost in time, preserved and serene, like it’s a thousand miles from anywhere. We had a beautiful sail over.
We were just thrilled to have the boat back in the water, the lines tossed and the two of us headed out for anchorage.
As I sit here today, I really can’t think of a better feeling. Oh, wait, sun on our skin!
I told you clothes come off when we sail. And, we were sailing! It felt so incredible. It’s like the stress and toil of the shore you’re leaving behind just seems to stay there. It doesn’t come out there on the boat with you. The most important thing is the wind. That’s the only thing you’re concerned about. Sailing is incredibly freeing.
The minute we dropped anchor and I had the option to “do whatever my little heart desired,” I dove right in the water, first thing.
I know. Looks kind of like a dolphin, but I assure you: ‘Tis me!
My little heart was soaking this “life on the hook” gig up. Loving every minute of it. It was quite a haul, but we swam all the way to shore. The sand was a brilliant white that felt cool and smooth under our feet.
And, it made sort of a crunching, squeaking sound when we walked on it.
Fun little fact for you:
Did You Know?
The stunning sugar white beaches of Gulf Islands National Seashore are composed of fine quartz eroded from granite in the Appalachian Mountains. The sand is carried seaward by rivers and creeks and deposited by currents along the shore.
I mean … was there life before Google? (I’ll credit my brilliant friend Meagan for that revelation!)
We spent the afternoon swimming to/from shore (clothes on), then dried off and poured some wine to sip on while we watched the sunset.
As usual, she did not fail to impress. It was absolutely gorgeous.
But, after all the swimming, we were ready for dinner. We set up the grill for the first time, which was a bit of an event for us. It hooks on the stern rail and connects to the propane supply on the boat.
Phillip hooked her up like a champ and threw some chicken on the grill. I sauteed some spinach and baked a fresh loaf of bread down below and – voila! – we had ourselves a right and proper feast!
I know, right there in the cockpit, a four star dinner? I was amazed. This anchorage stuff was totally tolerable. We did have one mini fiasco, though (as is always the case with us) when we were cleaning up for dinner. There is certainly no garbage disposal on the boat, so you have to be careful not to let any food particles go down the sink drain. You either have to put a strainer in the drain or scrape the dishes over the side of the boat before washing. We chose the latter. Phillip stacked the plates and everything in the pot we used to cook the spinach and went topside to start scraping. I heard him fidgeting and struggling with something and he finally stuck his head down and said “It’s stuck.” Stuck?? What’s stuck? “The plate,” he said. “In the pan. I can’t get it out.” He brought it down to the galley and I had to laugh. It truly was stuck.
One of the dinner plates had slid down nice and snug in the base of the pan and, with a little soapy water underneath it, it was suctioned in there like a leech in the wrong place.
Don’t worry, I “stood by” Phillip and tried to help. I got that pot on the stove and tried to extract the plate with a screw driver and a hammer, using some real technical surgical skills I picked up in Nam.
Phillip even gave it a go, but that thing wasn’t budging.
We had wedged a knife in, but even that wasn’t working.
So, we decide to heat things up. We put that baby on the burner and lit her up, hoping the steam from the water below would free the plate. She started bubbling up, and popping and sputtering. I thought the plate was going to explode. I was skeered.
With one final pop and no free plate, Phillip decided it was time the plate made a sacrifice. He went topside with the screwdriver and hammer and I was sure he was planning to demolish it. I heard some banging and a rousing “Eff you plate!” and he came down with an empty pot and plate shards. I kept a piece to go along with the bolt head that sheared off during the Crossing, costing us the dinghy. I’m going to make a wicked shadow box someday.
With the dinner fiasco finally resolved, we poured some more wine (yes, more) and watched the moon rise and the stars come out. Again, it was perfection.
But, it certainly paled in comparison to the sunrise the next morning. It was my first on anchor and it was magnificent. I think I shed a tear or two, it was so beautiful. Okay, I didn’t, but I certainly took a lot of pictures! This is only 4 of the 59 I snapped that morning so know that I culled it down for you:
We spent the day swimming, reading, napping, eating, drinking, swimming some more, napping some more and enjoying every minute of the day. Life on the hook makes you truly appreciate every moment. We whipped together another gourmet dinner that night. Our go-to shrimp feta pasta (recipe here: https://havewindwilltravel.com/2013/09/23/may-25-2013-no-comment-the-crossing-finale-not-very-pc/), paired with some crisp rosé and enjoyed the sunset and dinner in the cockpit.
Sunset turned into moonrise and
like magic, I was “hooked.” This mate was ready to anchor anywhere! We were right here at “home,” just outside of Pensacola Bay, but, I swear, we could have been anywhere, the Keys, the Islands, half-way around the world. This boat was ready to take us there. It was that night, we started planning our grand adventure.