November 22, 2013 – Day Three: The Local Riff Raff

After some serious Annie muscle, what I believe to be a minor rotator cuff injury, and — Phillip’s infinitely better idea — a little patience (turns out we had flooded it), the outboard finally cranked.  It seems even when you buy a brand new one, outboards are just finicky critters that you have to baby about.  Go figure.  But, chilled to the bone, we puttered on back to our boat and hunkered down with Mr. Heater.


Aside from the oven, engine and long johns, it is the only heat source on the boat and this little guy cranks out some serious heat.  As chilly as it got during that trip, I never found myself cold on the boat with this little heat machine running.  We cooked up a feast (lamb chops, sauteed mushrooms and kale salad), set a kerosene-lit table for two and curled up for another night at Fort McRae.

IMG_4635 IMG_4640

The next day, we pulled anchor around noon and headed on over to Pirate’s Cove, which was about a 3-hour jaunt west:

West map2

We were able to sail for a couple of hours before we made it to the tighter parts of the ICW that require the motor and actually passed some friends on the way who were out kiting at Johnson’s Beach.

IMG_5127 IMG_5126

We made it to Pirate’s Cove around four-ish, secured the boat and settled in at the dock.

IMG_5144 IMG_5142

Instead of a cozy night in, we decided to get out and throw back a few with the locals at the Cove.  Now, anytime we pull into an old salty harbor, we always expect the local riff raff to provide some mild form of amusement, but, what we got at the Cove was — aside from that random midget burlesque show we caught back in the spring — one of the most entertaining and bewildering nights of our lives.  I swear to you – every bit of this is true.  And, thanks to the Pirate’s Cove live webcam (I’m serious: and my phone – it was also documented in vivid detail by yours truly for your viewing pleasure.  Enjoy:

We walked in around 6:30, I guess, looking for a drink and an outlet.  The place was littered with a few run-down looking regulars.  Hell, we probably looked like a couple of run-down regulars.  Without saying a word to anyone, we started roaming the perimeter for a usable outlet so we could recharge our laptop and phones.  Living on the boat, we had no qualms plugging in anywhere.  Well, I say we, but Phillip is actually worse.  I threw a shy smile to the bartender as I mozied around each wall, subtlely, or so I thought, looking for two available prong holes, while Phillip unabashedly started shimmying behind the soda machine and shaking the cords that ran from the back of the machine and the coffee pot, shouting loudly enough for anyone to hear, “Which one is this?,” as he shook it violently.   “Trace it back.  If it’s the coffee pot, unplug it.”  I looked around suspiciously, thinking the electricity Nazis would surely come and kick us out, but Phillip, who was half bent over the soda machine by now, one leg kicked up in the air for balance, said “They don’t give a shit, unplug it.”  So I did.

With the computer juicing up, probably coincidentally so I could memorialize this tale the next morning, we finally made our way to the bar.  And, as it always seems to turn out, Phillip was right.  They didn’t give a shit at all.  They could have cared less whether we walked the perimeter five times, spat on the doorstep, barked and walked away.  It was unlikely anything we did could interfere with their “atmosphere.”

We were at Pirates Cove, which I believe is technically in Josephine, Alabama, but by reading the haling ports on most of the dilapidated old boats in the slips there, I took it for a “place” all its own. The building itself was basically a pile of driftwood and sheet metal fastened together in some manner with rusty nails and caulk.  I was actually surprised they had electricity at all.


The floorboards leading in and out of the main door were worn down at least an inch by foot traffic alone.  Well, let me take that back, mammal traffic.  They were at least four dogs roaming around at all times, one of whom was equal in weight and stature to a small pony with black, wart-like growths the size of baseballs formed at each of his elbows from years of laying on wooden floors.  His name was Tiki, but the bartender repeatedly referred to him (yes, him) as a “needy bitch.”

IMG_5130  IMG_5129

Rick, the bartender, looked like the lead singer of the Grateful Dead—that Jerry character that I believe is since long gone.  He kept pushing sweaty, wavy hair back from his face and stroking his white bushy beard.  He wore a purplish luau-like shirt that buttoned down, although I don’t think it would have reached around the massive beach ball of a belly that protruded from his mid-section.  It seemed to function more as a wearable handkerchief than anything as he would occasionally pull the tail end of it up to his face and blow his nose in it without ever missing a beat.   But, for a bartender, he was exceptionally well-spoken and delightfully entertaining.  Engaging each of us at the bar only when provoked and even then, only ever so lightly, with an interesting tale or observation.  He was, by far, the best “soft-sell” barkeep I’ve ever encountered.  He had greeted us with an appropriate “Hey guys,” when we walked in but had left us entirely alone while we walked the walls of his establishment suspiciously and fiddled with his drinking equipment, but it was as if he sensed it when we started to turn his way for a drink.  His salutation then changed to “What’ll it be?”

You gotta love the live webcam.  Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I was able to refresh it throughout the night on my phone and capture these shots:


Here’s Rick – sporting his luau shirt-slash-hanky:


We ordered two rum runners and settled in on two of the sturdiest damn bar stools I’ve ever had the privilege of resting my rump on.  They were made out of exactly four pieces of wood, two sides, a seat and a support bar/footrest about halfway down.  Each piece was at least eight inches thick and the whole stool weighed about forty pounds, a design I personally believe was intended to prevent stool tippage and usage of stools as weapons as we later witnessed a 300-pound patron who went solely by the name ‘Bama’ teeter on one repeatedly but not fall over.  Phillip and I wrestled two stools up to the bar just about the time Rick Garcia slid our drinks in front of us.  He then let us be to soak up the banter that was already brewing up nicely and acclimate to the atmosphere.

There were two regulars seated next to us who had clearly had a few but their slurred small-talk was still incredibly entertaining.  The man next to Phillip had a full, blonde seventies shag and liked to try to speak with an Australian accent (although they both attempted German and Brittish throughout the evening).  His comrade to my right was a clean-shaven, crew-cut gentleman who I believe actually was German, or at least had mastered the accent far better than his “I’m okay, you’re okay” compadre.

Shag   German

As Phillip and I perused the pizza menu, I heard the Shag say “We need a really great toast, something like ‘To the Fuerher!’,” which appeared to please the German.  They shouted the sentiment with raised glasses and downed their shots with fervor while Rick Garcia was already making them another round.

Intrigued by the Hitler exchange, I had missed the stringy pizza man that had snuck up on Phillip.  He was holding a pizza box open as if it contained some illicit substances, looking back and forth quickly over each shoulder and speaking in low tones.  I leaned in to get a better listen.  “Now, you want to get the MaryAnn’s mess with extra artichoke and spinach.  Always extra spinach,” he said to Phillip in a whisper.  The kid was probably all of twenty-one, with a grungy toboggan hat slid to one side on his head, cheek bones jutting out from underneath it and bony prominences sticking up along the back of his neck like a rooster’s mane.  As quickly as he had appeared, he slipped a quick peak over his shoulder, closed the lid to the pizza box and slinked away.  I asked Phillip what had sparked that encounter and he responded with only a slow shake of the head and a long pull of his drink, but with a smile slowly stealing over his mouth.  We knew then and there we were definitely staying.  We were certainly not going to find any entertainment better or free-er than this.

The whole crew:


We followed the junkie’s advice and ordered the MaryAnn’s mess – extra spinach – and another round of “rummers.”  The Shag and the German were debating again over some previous exchange they had had at that very same bar last week, the Shag apparently recalling it one way, and the German, another.  As the Shag was clearly making up details, “Yes, yes, I recall, I was wearing my flannel shirt and sipping a bourbon, when – yes, that’s it, I can see it clearly now, I’m having a flashback to … ”

“Your other personality obviously,” the German pitched in, “because you don’t wear flannel and you sure as hell don’t sip bourbon.”  That did me in.  I couldn’t then hide the fact that I had been watching them unapologetically like a movie.  Blissfully staring.  But, I couldn’t help it.  The German was sharp and witty and the Shag was a perfect stupefied surface for his comments to bounce off of.  But, unfortunately, as it happens, laughing at an old drunk’s joke at a bar is like feeding a dog at the table.


You’ll never shake him then.  The Shag turned to me and widened his eyes, like a flower blooming before me.  “Oh, what do we have here?”  Oh boy, I thought.  Here we go.  But, he and the German both turned out to be incredibly smart and wildly entertaining.  It was the fiftieth anniversary of JFK’s assassination and they both recalled, with vivid detail, where they were and what they were doing when they got the news.  Although the Shag claimed it it must have been the memory of his other personality because he wasn’t actually that old.  Rick Garcia piped in with an entirely inappropriate but perfectly-timed joke about someone who, legend had it, asked Jackie-O upon her return, “So, aside from that, how was your trip to Dallas, Jackie?”  This quip garnered a roar of laughter from the bar-seated audience and was repeated, re-hashed and utterly used up by the time the night was over.  The Shag would come back from the bathroom saying it smelt of copper and cat urine, to which we would all respond with “So, other than that, how was your trip to the men’s room, Shag?”  The German griped about the piss-poor drink he had got on his last flight, and we would all respond with a “So other than that … ”

What we had failed to notice, however, during our bonding with the regulars was the bond that had been forming between the junkie with the pizza box and Bama, who had been stumbling in and out of the joint all night.  Bama and the Junkie had somehow found each other in that sparse, dusty bar and were now hunkered together at a sagging picnic table behind us, one arm draped over the other’s shoulder as they belted out “on the cover of the Rolling Stone, the Rolling Stone, the Rolling Stone … ”  Bama was a smooth baritone and the Junkie, a raspy alto, but they made a decent duet and us bar hounds raised our glasses and swayed a few times in honor of their harmony.  This was entertaining, at first, buy they repeated this verse every nine and a half minutes, approximately, throughout the night and by the fourth rendition we all began a collective eye-roll when they would strike up.

Two drinks in, our pizza finally came, a heaping, melting mozzarella-covered miracle and Phillip and I dove in, dipping whole slices in ranch, wiping swaths of grease from our face and washing it down with rum drinks that seemed to get stronger by the pour.  The Shag had hunkered down and was scribbling something on some receipt paper he had pulled from the register.

IMG_5135  shag2

I figured he had fallen prey to his intoxicants and was reaching that head-hang stage where one finds himself capable of only mono-syllables and drool.  But, mid-way through another “cover of the Rolling Stone” revival, he emerged with a snap, flipping his blond wig back mightily and shoving his receipt paper drawing before me.  “Ahhh .. a Lyden original,” Rick Garcia said, eyeing the piece.  The drawing was actually an incredible sketch of a woman’s face, exceptionally detailed and shadowed, particularly considering it was drawn with only a ball-point pen.


Original, I thought.  Rick, ever the ‘reader,’ sensed my inquiry and responded, “He’s an artist.  Won something up in Fairhope for painting that … what was it Lyden?  The swan over a crack?”

“A creek, Rick.  It was a creek.”


The Shag, now known as Lyden, handed me a business card that boasted the incredible swan over the crack with his name and website on the back.  He was indeed an artist.

And a handsome one at that, pre-shag:


I fumbled the card around a bit, trying not to utterly destroy it with the massive quantities of pizza grease that coated my every finger, while I watched Rick Garcia use his purple luau cloak to simultaneously wipe the grease from his own face and blow his nose single-handed.  “It serves many a-purpose,” Rick said completely unapologetically as he continued splashing together another concoction for Bama and the junkie at the other end of the bar.

While they were momentarily silent, enthralled by watching the mammoth Tiki eat a piece of cheese, the German engaged Rick in yet another riveting topic: employee theft.  “So, how did you stop them?”  He was asking about the apparently many-preceding bartenders who had managed to, night after night, sneak a few key dollar bills from the register, to which Rick Garcia responded by merely pointing up toward the corner of the bar to a camera.  “We filmed them,” he said.  “It’s amazing how accountable people get when they know they’re being videotaped.”  Phillip and I eyed the camera intently while Rick continued.  “We just put it on a live web cam so we could watch from afar, and we haven’t had a thieving ‘keep since.”

“So, we’re live right now?” Phillip asked.  “Well, live, in a sense,” Rick Garcia responded.  “It refreshes every two minutes.  Here, let me show you.”  He started fumbling around with his phone trying to look up the website, grumbling to himself that his “smart phone” was in fact “retarded.”  He looked up with a frown and told us, “It seems I don’t have enough lapband.”  Lapband?  Phillip and I shared a confused look.  “Lapband.  Band-lap.  What is it?”  Garcia asked.  “Bandwidth?”  Phillip and I said in unison.  “Yeah, that.  I’ve had the lapband too – didn’t seem to have enough of that either – but bandwidth, that’s it.”

Luckily, it turned out I did have enough “lapband” and I looked us up on the old riffraff webcam.  The first image that came up was of Phillip and I, eyebrows raised, watching the junkie/Bama band in yet another encore of “the Rolling Stones … ” an event that had occurred two minutes earlier, and so, by our calculation, was then set to occur again in approximately seven minutes and thirty-four seconds, give or take.   When we refreshed again, I was pointing vigorously at Rick Garcia, making, I’m sure, a refreshingly witty comeback to his Lapband mishap.


We continued to refresh the webcam throughout the night, reliving each moment, exactly two minutes later, and enjoying immensely the greasy pizza, recurrent Stones revivals and the engaging banter of the Shag, the German and Garcia.

After three hours at the bar and four rummers in, Phillip and I found ourselves immersed totally in their “atmosphere.”  I watched intently as a new couple sauntered in, keeping their distance, initially, from our group.  The woman wrestled a massive barstool into place and nudged her partner when she first noticed the mammoth Tiki, a sight that was now normalcy for us.  The Bama/Junkie duet struck up again, and I watched the couple share the same look Phillip and I had shared only hours prior.  Oh, we are definitely staying.  I knew, in just a short amount of time, they would join us at the bar and, before long, feel we just as we do now – like part of the local riff raff.

November 13, 2013 – The Best Laid Plans

I guess that’s the thing about plans.  That’s all they are until they come to fruition.  Phillip and I had planned to travel east over the Thanksgiving holiday and make a straight four-day passage across the Gulf to Carrabelle, but, as it always does, life seemed to have something different in store for us.  We had planned to leave on November 15th and had spent the week provisioning and planning and getting the boat ready, when I got a call mid-week from my Dad that changed everything.  My grandmother, better known to all as “Big Mom,” the strongest, most stubborn southern woman I’ve ever met, passed away on November 13, 2013.


Now, while any death is sad.  It’s the end of a life, the severing, or distortion, at least, of a connection you made with someone.  It’s a loss of something irreplaceable, a person.  It’s sad.  Always.  But it’s also inspiring and stirring.  What better motivator could there be than a humbling reminder that our time here is most certainly limited.  That every moment passed is one lost forever, and that, no matter how long it may seem when looking forward, looking back, life is nothing but undeniably all too short.  My grandmother lived eighty-six full years on this earth, fuller, even, than I had imagined.  It’s funny how we forget that the people in our lives exist outside of us.  I learned, while sorting through old photos for her funeral that, long before I was even a gleam in my father’s eye, Big Mom had already experienced a lifetime of adventure.  I found pictures of her hiking in Alaska, riding a furry Clydesdale-looking horse in thigh-high snow, splashing around in the ocean at the ripe age of eighteen, skiing, skating, dancing and laughing, always laughing.  I even found a picture of her in a pretty ‘racy’ bikini for the times (1955) and have to admit I was nothing but proud.  My grandma was hot!  While I didn’t know her as this adventurous spit-fire, that was before my time, I do remember the many years she spent schooling, scolding, spanking and shaping my Dad, my aunt, my brother, my cousins, all of us, into the people we are today.

05-09-04 018

And I do mean “all of us.”  Spanking was allowed by anyone in the “village” in those days, and kids behaved in those days.

So, instead of packing the boat for a voyage, Phillip and I packed a couple of suitcases with our black Sunday bests and headed up to north Alabama for the services.  And, holding true to my belief in the power of stories, I chose this one for the funeral, as I believe it captures the essence of the woman we lost that day:

I was quite the cowgirl when I was four.  Well, I made a good run at it least.  My Dad was the actual cowboy and I was his handkerchief-wearing, boot-and-spur sporting miniature.  If Dad was getting on a horse, so was I, in the front, right up next to the horn.  One day, I was riding with my Dad on one of his new roping horses, Rusty.  My brother had hopped on the back so we were three-deep, horseback and walking along the gravel road from the pastures down yonder up to Big Mom’s house.  

Now, I can’t tell you what happened exactly.  I barely remember the actual fall, but Dad tells me the horse was stung by something.  A hornet, probably, based on the welp he found on the horse’s hind quarter later, but Rusty reared back on his hind legs, his fronts doing that classic Black Stallion bicycle kick, and threw John right off the back.  He then came down, firmly planted the’ fronts,’ and gave a massive buck with the back, launching my Dad and I up and over his head.  Now, it was a good thing my Dad held on to me tight when the horse reared back so I wouldn’t fall, but not such a good thing when the horse bucked us over his head and we smashed into the ground, me on the bottom and all two hundred and ten pounds of my Dad on top, and slid across the gravel road and into the ditch. 

My Dad had a look of horror on his face when he rolled me over, pushed a blood-soaked swath of hair and bits of gravel from my face, and asked me if I was okay.  I tried to respond but, although I can’t explain it, I had a clot the size of Kansas in my mouth.  I do remember that.  I also remember the world jostling around me as he scooped me up and started running toward the house shouting for Big Mom.  And, Big Mom was, I guess, all of fifty-nine at the time, but she hoisted me up close to her body and hauled me up every stair in the house, saying, just as calmly as ever, “Now, let’s see what we got here.”  In the bathroom she started drawing a bath and I saw a couple bottles of hydrogen peroxide on the edge of the tub, a home health product I was all too familiar with.  That was the stuff that made a tiny little cut that didn’t hurt at all bubble and fizzle and burn like acid.  I knew what it was capable of and I saw Big Mom dumping bottles (bottles!) of it into the tub.  I started wriggling out of her grasp, protesting and wailing and begging for “Anything but that!” 

But Big Mom wasn’t having it.  Even my most fervent rebellion was not going to stop her from doing what she knew was right for me.  With strength I had never imagined her capable of and not a single word, she plopped in that vat of acid and every laceration on my body started fizzling and frothing until it looked like a bubble bath.  I was flailing and sputtering and shrieking at her in protest, when she grabbed me by my bloody, foamy chin and–this part I will never forget–said “Awww hush, you’re alive ain’t ya?  It ain’t that bad.  Hell, I swish with it.”  And, then she did the unthinkable.  Big Mom tipped the bottle of hydrogen peroxide up and took a swig.  I sat there dumbfounded, totally silent, only the soft sound of my fizzling skin floating between us, as she swished that foul stuff around in her mouth three of four times, her eyes locked tightly on mine.  She then spit a white foamy mouthful out next to me in the tub and gave me a firm “hmmpph” look that shut me up entirely.  I forgot completely that my skin was burning off, that I was in pain everywhere, or, even, that I had fallen and skid across gravel.  Clot?  What clot??  Big Mom had just swished with hydrogen peroxide!?!  Could there be anything worse?  And, just like that, I stopped complaining, I stopped crying and I agreed with her.  It really wasn’t that bad. 


And, it was a lesson that stuck.  There have been many times in my life when something that seemed tragic at the time happened to me and, for whatever reason, my mind flashed back to that foul bath, my fizzling skin and the look on Big Mom’s face as she swished and spat.  You’re alive ain’t ya?

You’re damn right I am.  And, I don’t intend to waste a minute.  Phillip and I knew we were going to have to push the trip back and, likely, plan a different route, but we didn’t mind.  We didn’t care where we went, really, as long as we went.  While we prefer sunshine and cocktails, we know rough seas and foul weather are going to be part of it, too, and will likely be just as memorable, if not more so.  Either way, as long as we’re alive, it just ain’t that bad.  We still had time left and a voyage to plan.

September 24, 2013 – A Story About Home Depot


I feel I must tell you a story.  It is remotely related to sailing – as the whole purpose of the errand that developed into the story was a trip to the store to pick up boat supplies – you know, duct tape and super glue and other important things.  But, more importantly, it is incredibly embarrassing and, therefore, exceptionally entertaining and, correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe that is the whole point of this blog, no?  To entertain you.  So, without further adieu, I give you a story about a girl at Home Depot.

HD 1

This story begins on an average Tuesday.  As I’m sure most of you know, I am an attorney and I found myself on this particular Tuesday sitting happily in court in Bay Minnette on a debt collection matter, awaiting my turn to repo a boat from “some deadbeat” who had stopped paying on the note.  Eighteen percent on an $18,000 loan for a used fishing boat?  I probably would have stopped paying too.  But, he had signed the papers, taken the money and bought the boat.  He owed the debt, and I was all set to win.  This guy, we shall call him Mr. Detter, was also pro se, meaning unrepresented by counsel, so I didn’t even expect him to show.  As I’m sitting in the back of the courtroom with the rest of the good ‘ole boy attorneys telling them tall tales from sea and joking that I couldn’t wait to get back to my boat to make myself a hearty rum drink, the judge calls my case, and the man whom I thought to be just some other attorney sitting behind me stands and straightens his three-piece suit.  But it’s not an attorney.  It’s Mr. Detter.  He’s been there all along, a sheep in wolf’s clothing.


I fumbled, tried to recover, gave him an out-stretched hand and a “Glad you could make it,” to which Mr. Detter responded with a “So you’ve got a boat too.”  Nice dig.  I swallowed audibly and proceeded with kid gloves.  “Your Honor, if it’s not too much trouble, we’d like to take Mr. Detter here’s boat away from him … ”  I got the writ of seizure to repo Mr. Detter’s boat, but it was not my finest hour.  A great story, in and of itself, but tuck that away for later.

After the hearing, I headed to Home Depot to pick up a few things for the boat before heading back to Pensacola.  And, remember, I just came from court, which means I’m wearing a slick back suit, my hair is twisted up in a Queen Elizabeth French twist and I’m clacking around in five-inch heels.

Executive woman in black suit. Isolated on white.

Yes, five.  I always wear five-inch heels to court.  I like to look my opponents in the eye.  I click through the store ignoring every eager, doe-eyed, orange apron-clad employee that tries to help me.  “No thank you.  I know exactly what I need.”  I move swiftly through the store picking up the five things I need: (1) a hose extender so we can shower on the deck; (2) a PVC plumbing fitting to connect the hose extender; (3) an outdoor rug for the dock; (4) a shop vac for obvious reasons; and (5) a look at the outdoor cushions for more material to convert into fun boat accessories.  I make these rounds and grab what I need quickly, waving off all assistance from the buzzing orange bees that continue to swarm me at every turn.  I get up to the cash register, all ready to check out, load my junk and get home.  It’s around 1:00 o’clock.

I pay and fold up my receipt and hoist the shop vac up on my hip with the rest of my bags hanging off me while I continue to refuse help from the orange drones.  “No, thank you, I’ve got everything under control here people.”  But, I most certainly did not.  As I started to head out the door, heaped up like a pack mule, I start fumbling around my pockets and wallet and realize I don’t have my keys.  I do not have my keys.  You can imagine the exaggerated sigh of exasperation that hissed out of me as I set all of my crap down and started looking around the register, the floor around the cashier, through my bags, etc.  I ask the cashier to check around her area several times for a little bunch of keys.  The minimalist that I am, I keep my keys on one little ring that clips to my wallet.  It looks like this:

photo (17)

And I was looking for those in a store that looks like this:

HD 2

Like a needle in a haystack.  So, I start re-tracing my steps, and I say “start” because I re-traced that path probably ten, twelve, thirteen times before it was all said and done.  I head back to the dishwasher accessory department where I got the hose extender.  No keys.  The plumbing aisle where I got the PVC fitting.  No keys.  The rug department.  No keys.  The aisle with the shop vacs.  No keys.  And, lastly, the outdoor furniture cushions.  No keys.  Everywhere I went, there were no keys.  I re-traced the path three more times and, remember, in my suit and heels, I look about as “in place” as a beauty pageant contestant at a tractor pull.  The orange drones, while initially reluctant to help me as I was so welcoming and grateful for their help initially, begin to feel sorry for me and started to swarm in.  I tell them I can’t find my keys and soon the entire floor staff knows I’m the blonde that is looking for her keys.  It is announced over the loud speaker several times for all employees and customers to keep a lookout for “a woman’s keys.”  I’m not sure why the “woman” qualifier was needed there.  Perhaps women’s keys look different than men’s keys?  If not, and it was simply to emphasize the fact that a man wouldn’t lose his keys at the Home Depot, then it still wouldn’t be needed, am I right?  While the “woman’s keys” reference puzzled me, it was repeated over the loud speaker several times over the course of the afternoon.  I felt like they were going to accost every new customer that came through the door with a “limited offer” for 20% off their entire purchase if only they would help find this “woman’s keys.”

And, as I continued my repetitive trek through the store, going to the same five places 89.47 times, each time an orange-clad clerk approaches me, the first thing they ask me is:


“Do you remember where you went?”  I was asked that question probably twelve times, and by the tenth, I would start to respond with “No … my goodness, no.  I have no idea.  I’ve just been wondering around the store aimlessly looking in all of the places I did NOT go!”  I’ll admit.  I was out of patience, irritated utterly with myself and taking it out entirely on the award-winning Home Depot crew.  I was making a real scene, turning over boxes, lifting rugs, looking everywhere.  No keys.  I go out to my car several times thinking maybe I left them in the ignition.  No dice.  I head back in the store to continue roaming around like an idiot and guffawed with unnecessary exaggeration when the guy in the little booth who makes key copies asked me if there was anything he could help me with.  As if he didn’t know me.  The blonde, haughty woman who had lost her keys.  I decided to humor him out of spite.  “Sure, I seem to have lost my keys.  Do you think you could help me with that?”  To which he responded, completely un-phased, “Of course, ma’am.  I can make you a copy.  Do you have the original?”  I let my face drop visibly before him and just walked away.  He wasn’t worth the breath I would waste mocking him.  And, don’t even get me started on the cashier who appeared to have the memory of a goldfish.  Every time I came back to her, she would look puzzled at the fact that I wasn’t holding merchandise for her to ring up and say “Can I help you?”


Yes, my keys, the keys, a woman’s KEYS!  Have you yet found a set of keys or had someone turn in some keys?  Do you recall, in any manner, that I am the WOMAN WHO LOST HER KEYS!?!’” 

Two hours had now passed with me traipsing through the store, my slick “up” hairdo now shaking out in clumps and my suit jacket reeking of sweat.  I decide to get scrappy.  I am going to leave here in my car dammnit.  I ask the guy in the hardware department if I can borrow a crowbar just for a minute.  “I want to break into my car to make sure my keys didn’t fall onto the floorboard as I was stepping out.”  Oh, and it may help you to know that I drive an old 2001 Volvo that you have to actually stick the key in the door to UN-lock it and push the button as you’re getting out to lock it.


Meaning, unlike today’s “smart” cars, my car is easily dumb enough to allow me to lock the keys in.  The hardware guy looks at me dead pan, not responding initially, and finally telling me he can’t allow me to “borrow” a tool for that purpose.  “Okay, fine, I’ll buy it for that purpose.  Which of these fine instruments would best serve me to break into my own car, sir?”  Realizing I was going to do it regardless, he finally surrenders and hands me an old beat-up crow-bar from behind his counter.

I head out to my car and start pushing and wedging the crowbar between the door and the frame and eventually make a crack that I can slip perhaps a credit card into.  I’m struggling and grunting and sweating, and getting nowhere.  I throw off my suit jacket in a huff and push a blond clump of hair from my fair when I hear a voice from behind me.  “Ms. Dike?”  Oh Jesus, what imminently important person could this be witnessing me in the middle of this debacle?  I can feel his eyes burning into my back.  Whoever it is seems to be gaining a large amount of pleasure from my current state of affairs.  I turn around to find the one and only Mr. Detter.  Mr. Detter.  Really?  Yes, really.  He is smiling from ear to ear.  While I may have been the victor that morning, he was clearly the superior now.  But, to his credit, after a few light and well-deserved jabs – “Look who’s in trouble now?”  “Resorted to repo’ing them yourself now, huh?.” – Mr. Detter went dutifully to his truck and pulled out a little gismo that looked like a car antennae with a hook on the end.  He said he’d used it several times to crack open his wife’s car when she’d locked the keys in.  He slipped it through the crack I had wedged and tried mightily to pull the lock up.  Mr. Detter and I are out there sweating and heaving (me, in my dress and heels mind you – Mr. Detter apparently had the wherewithal to change into work clothes before heading to the Home Depot) and pulling on my Volvo door when another voice beckons from behind us.  “Excuse me ma’am?  Sir?  Can I ask you what you’re doing?”  I close my eyes.  Lord, what fresh new hell is this? 

It’s the cops, that’s who it is.  Yes.  A Daphne P.D. Captain Something-or-Other trying to stop two master-mind criminals, Mr. Detter and I, from stealing some good, up-standing citizen’s Volvo.  And, you might be thinking, “Okay, she has to be making every bit of this up.  Like the cops would really just show up at that moment.”  They did, and let me prove it to you – so you will never again doubt the integrity of my stories and the depths to which I will go to entertain you with my misfortunes.  The cops came because the Home Depot in Daphne is located right next to the Daphne Police Department.  I kid you not:

Daphne PD

The whole force must have been sitting in their office, stale coffee and jelly donuts in hand, watching me come out to my car, throw my suit jacket off in protest, and begin breaking into my car with a Home Depot crowbar and, finally, when I solicited the everyday do-gooder, Mr. Detter, to assist me with my dirty deeds, that was it.  They had to come investigate.   And I’m sure things didn’t sit well initially with Captain Something-or-Other, when I struggled to explain why I was breaking into the car and who Mr. Detter was and why he was helping me.  I believe I introduced him initially as “my colleague” which, I agree, sounds sinister.  But, thankfully, I think the shear magnitude of my utter mortification began to sink in and the Captain believed I was, in fact, simply trying to break into my own car to find my own keys.  Amused by my situation, he decided to pitch in.  He broke out his official car breaker-into device and popped my door right open.  He had me sign a waiver acknowledging it was, in fact, my own car we had broken into and that I was, thereby, releasing the Department of any liability in connection with his act.  Not knowing my occupation and me looking nothing like a put-together lawyer at the time, Mr. Detter got a hearty laugh out of the cop’s explanation to me that “liability” was just a fancy “lawyer word” for fault.  “Sign here.”

But, alas, having broken into the car, found no keys and signed my rights away to the Daphne PD, I headed back into the store to once again re-trace my steps through the various departments.  The cashier gave me that “Can I help you?” look again as I walked in, and I just held up a hand to her and walked by.  With the best of intentions, Mr. Detter asked me, “Do you remember where you went?” to which I responded, “Yes.  Electrical.  I spent the entire time in electrical.  Will you please go check there?” just to shake free of him.  And, just as I was about to give up, call Triple AAA or some of my seriously sinister colleagues to hotwire the thing, a dopey orange-clad employee came up to me and asked if I was the “woman looking for her keys.”  I stood there dumbfounded for a minute, my hair sweaty and stringy on my neck, my dress smeared with grease and dirt from the crowbar and door jam and, still, the heels (I mean, I had no other shoes), and nodded fervently.  “Here you go.  Some customer found them in a box of fittings in the plumbing aisle.”

And, there in his meaty paw, were my keys.  My keys!  Thank the ever-loving stars in heaven!  I squealed and gripped him tight in a bear hug that pulled him right off the floor.  While I wanted to look in the plumbing aisle where he had found them and figure out how in the hell I had dropped them there, I honestly did not care.  I had my keys!  My thoughts went immediately to getting the heck out of there.  By then, I was nauseous at the sight of the Home Depot and anyone wearing a color remotely resembling orange.  I hoisted all of my crap at the register on my hip and jogged out to my car, hoping Mr. Detter wouldn’t see or hear me.  Our exchange had already been awkward enough and I didn’t want to endure an equally uncomfortable farewell.  I just wanted him off my back.  Then, it hit me.  My back.  I reached back and, sure enough, my dress was unzipped all the way down to my waist.  I am not known for owning impeccably-tailored clothes.  Rather, I am the type that will squeeze into a dress two sizes two small and strap up the part that won’t zip with some string or ribbon or Velcro flap I’ve created.  Or, in this case, I will throw a suit jacket over it because, surely, I won’t have any reason to take my jacket off, will I?  Of course not.  The entire time I had been man-handling my car, interacting with the doe-eyed Mr. Detter and talking with the cop, my dress had been unzipped all the way down my back with my criss-cross bra blaring out for all the world to see.  Something along these lines:


I am just that classy.

But, the best part of this story was, when I came to Home Depot, I was irritated by my embarrassing display in court that morning, annoyed that I had to stop by Home Depot in my heels and work outfit and dreading the drive back to Pensacola after a long morning in court.  Now, I was the happiest woman alive.  I had my keys!  I could crank my car!  And, I could drive it and leave the effin’ Home Depot forever.  Literally, I have yet to return to the Daphne Home Depot and I don’t think I ever willthe thought sickens me.

I was all smiles and sunshine as I pulled out of the parking lot, three hours after I had pulled in, leaving Mr. Detter behind to dutifully overturn boxes of electrical cords and fittings in search of a “woman’s keys.”  I sang every song that came on the radio all the way home.  Even sappy eighties love ballads got a peppy treatment – nothing could dampen my mood.  It took a sweaty, mortifying afternoon at the Home Depot with Mr. Detter and the Daphne P.D. to teach me if you think your day is going badly, know that it can always get worse.

May 25, 2013 – The Crossing Finale – Duct Tape and Dasani

There we were, with fluid dripping out of our brand new transmission like a leaky faucet and we were two hours from Carrabelle, two hours from Apalachicola, at least two hours from any port. It was like a geographical oddity.

Geo Oddity

We were two hours from anywhere!

And with only a half-quart of transmission fluid to go on. Having run her completely out of transmission fluid the last time, did we think to pick up more to have on board in case we needed to add more to the new transmission. Of course not! That would be way too effin smart. Nope, this was the same half-quart the infamous Mitch tried to hand us when we were topping off the fluids the morning she locked up in the Carrabelle River (You remember the Irony! I’ll bet his greasy fingerprints were still on it. I can just see Mitch now, leaned back, fingers steepled, his body racked with the bellowing “Muuuu-ha-haaaa” laugh of an evil villain.

IMG-20120902-01963 (2)

Okay, so I couldn’t find a picture of Mitch arched back in “villain mode.” Every picture I have of him he looks so sweet and blue-eyed. Mr. Innocent. But I know better. That Mitch is an evil, dynamite-laying, mustache-twirling villain. Deep down. A real Boris, that man.


And I just have to point out the “irony” of this Boris-comparison because Mitch’s real-life “Natasha” is not nearly as … vertically inclined.


You see. Gorgeous? Yes! Tall? … not so much. But, we love Michelle. You’ll see more of her soon, I can assure you.

But, Mitch and “Natasha” and all other evil transmission villains aside, we had really found ourselves in a bit of a pickle. Every drop of fluid that splashed to the bilge put us one drop further from home, and we had a long way to go. Let me put things in perspective for you. Here’s the trip we had yet to make to get our boat from Carrabelle to Pensacola:

Last Leg Revised

Yeah, that’s right. Quite a ways to go. And, the first leg of the passage, from Carrabelle to Panama City:

Carrabelle to PC Revised

is about 90 nautical miles, roughly a 22 to 24-hour trip.

Then the last leg, from Panama City to Pensacola:

to pensacola Revised

is another 24 hours, easy. Like I said. Quite. A ways. To go. Hence, the pickle. The transmission drip was kind of a big dill. (Mmm-hmmmm … that’s right. Pickle jokes. Man I’m on fire today!)

Remember, we had very little wind that morning. It might have been blowing 3 mph. Maybe. But it was blowing out of the southwest, right on our nose, so it certainly wasn’t working with us. We weren’t going to get anywhere sailing even if I jumped up on the deck myself and blew into the sails.

And I’ve got a mighty set of lungs!!


Chill folks … That’s just me blowing up a rockin’ marshmallow number for Halloween last year. You remember ole’ Stay Puft??


Damn that was a great costume!


Okay, back to the tranny. Fortunately we still had cell reception so we called Mechan-Eric to see if he had any brilliant ideas. UN-fortunately, he didn’t answer his phone and we had to leave a message. You can just imagine the agony of the next few minutes while we watched little tiny pink drops fall to an untimely death in the bilge, one after the other, while I constantly checked my phone.

Slide to unlock. Click. No messages.

Tick, tock.

Click. No messages.

Drip, drop.

Then. Finally! My phone shimmied and vibrated on the nav station, like a happy little bee. Such a glorious sound. I clawed and clamored and clicked that thing open faster than I ever have before. It was Eric calling back with what he said was “good news.” If you recall, the guy we bought the new transmission from had bought it brand new for his own project boat, that he, as many men often do, couldn’t seem to find the time for. So, the transmission sat on a shelf for over a year. Eric said he had seen that happen before, when a new engine component sits for a while the little rubber gaskets inside dry-rot and have to be replaced. Eric was sure that was it, just a simple little 97-cent gasket. An easy fix. “Just keep pouring more fluid in and you can replace the gasket when you get home,” he said. “Good news, right?”

Wrong Eric. Very wrong. As you know, we didn’t have that much “more” to pour in. (Cue the evil Mitch laugh again).

I explained our half-quart dilemma and Eric must have been on fire that day, too, because he did have a brilliant idea. Catch it. Capture it. Find a way to save those little pink drops of gold and pour them back into the transmission. Reduce, reuse, right? I nodded slowly and gave Eric the old “mmm-huh” as my inner gears started spinning. I relayed the news to Phillip, who responded with a blank, mind-boggling stare. “Do what??”

Thankfully, for Phillip, for the boat and for that damn transmission, I grew up country.

Me and Patches (2)

That’s right. Country. As a child, I “summered” on my Grandma (aka “Big Mom’s”) farm. In Alabama.

CIMG3312 (2)

With cows.


And dogs.


And a four-wheeler!


Man, farming’s exhausting …


But, if there’s one thing I learned on the farm, if you can’t get there in mud boots or fix it with duct tape, it’s probably not worth it.


So, my country instincts kicked in.

“Phillip, I’m going to need that Dasani bottle.”


“And some duct tape.”

I cut the top off of the Dasani bottle and flipped it over to make a funnel into the bottle and taped it on.


Real high-quality engineering. Then I taped her up under the shifter arm of the transmission where the drip was coming from.



The drip was coming from the base of this bolt here and would then fall into the Dasani funnel:


The fluid would then pool in the bottle and voila!


We’ve now successfully “captured” the transmission fluid and can pour it back into the transmission as needed. See? Nothing to it. Just takes a little country ingenuity is all. … And some duct tape.

With the ability to recycle the fluid, we were then able to keep on trucking across the Gulf. We set our sights on Panama City and never looked back.