May 13, 2014:
We woke to a hand-painted pastel sky after our night of UN-rest on the Plaintiff’s Rest.
The oldies-but-goodies mixed tape soundtrack of Island Time kept playing through my mind as I put on the kettle for coffee. “You can’t hiiii-iiide your lying eyes,” as I lit the stove. “And your smiii-iiille is a thin disguise,” as I pulled out the french press. Phillip and I felt a little bittersweet to be leaving. We’d had such a good time in Port St. Joe (twice on this trip!), but we were excited about our last passage. We kept humming old tunes while we readied the boat, shoved off and headed back out into St. Joseph Bay.
And, it felt as if the Gulf was calling us back, pulling us out of the bay, back out into blue waters and then gently pushing us home. The wind was light most of the day, on our stern, but with the following seas we averaged 6.0-6.5 knots most of the day. Phillip calls it “cooking with Crisco” and it makes me smile every time because I haven’t seen that white lard stuff in years. It was kind of like a childhood friend growing up. I remember that nostalgic blue cardboard can with the plastic lid.
We used to keep it up on the top shelf back home in New Mexico, and my brother and I had to climb on the counter to get it down. Two scoops of that in the ole’ Fry Daddy and you were ready to fry up anything! We used to drop in gobs of pancake batter in and let them fry up. Maybe they call that a funnel cake, I don’t know. My brother and I called them fry cakes and drizzled them with Hershey’s syrup. Very un-Paleo.
With the favorable conditions, Phillip and I spent the entire day on a beautiful run, holding the wheel just for sport, spotting dolphins and shrimp boats, munching on fresh, non-fry cake snacks and soaking up every last bit of the denim-blue horizon on our way back to Pensacola.
We had to motor for just a few hours in the afternoon, but the wind kicked back up around dusk so that we could sail through an exquisite sunset. It was a bit bittersweet knowing it would be the last time on this trip that we would watch it set on the Gulf. There’s just something about seeing the vast reach of the sun, when she’s uninhibited and stretching as far as your neck can turn. It’s like being in an IMAX.
Phillip took the first night shift and apparently tried to sneak some lady flying friend aboard while I was asleep, but I wasn’t having it.
“You best find your way off this boat, you hussey!”
We barely had enough time to get two shifts in before the lights of the Pensacola Pass starting to blink on the horizon soon after midnight. It’s always neat to see that great big lighthouse flash on the horizon, still guiding us in the way it’s done for hundreds of boats before us for hundreds of years. Kind of makes you want to put down all of your little mobile gadgets and just marvel at the timelessness of it. While we normally don’t like to come into a Pass at night, this was our Pass, our bay, one we’ve sailed through dozens of times. This was home. Even at night, under a puffy moonlit sky, it looked and felt familiar.
I think my feet first landed on the dock around 2:30 a.m. when I hopped off to tie the first line. Pensacola. We had made it back.
I actually couldn’t believe we’d been gone so long. Six weeks may seem like a long time to head out on a sailboat, when you’re back at home, planning, plotting and trying to block off the time to do it. But, when you actually set off to do it … six weeks zips by in the blink of an eye. It seemed like maybe last week, I’d tossed the last line into the cockpit and we headed out the Pensacola Pass on our way, for the first time, to the Florida Keys.
But, it wasn’t last week, or the week before. It was April 3rd, almost six weeks prior. Sure work was calling. Sure we had lives to get back to. But, did we also want to keep going? Keep cruising? Of course! This trip had only solidified what we already knew. We want to do this. We love to do this. We love the work, we love the play, we love the chilly nights on passage, we love the hot bakes on the deck in the sun. We love it all. Any time we leave, we’re always going to want to go further and longer. But, we had certainly gone far and long this time. All the way to the Keys and back–our first year after buying the boat. That may seem pretty small time for some, but it seemed like kind of a big deal to us. While we were glad to be back, big, huge beating chunks of us wanted to stay out there.
After a wobbly walk back to the condo and a quick, dizzying shower, we laid in bed that night replaying a spliced reel of images from the trip.
For me, having stepped onto a sailboat for the first time only a year prior and just now really learning what it takes to sail and be a capable cruiser and for Phillip, having finally realized his dream of owning his own sailboat and finding a fun, rough-and-tumble mate to sail with him, we were both kind of puffed up by the fact that we had actually sailed our boat, just the two of us, all the way down to the Florida Keys and back within the first year of buying her. Our minds started to wander to all of the places we wanted to take her next time and all of the things we wanted to do to her to ready her for the next, further-longer trip. There’s so much more in store for the crew of the Plaintiff’s Rest. We’re excited to show you everything we’ve done since the invigorating trip to the Keys, the lessons we’ve learned and the places we’ve been since. We’ll tell you some stories along the way. And, some truths too. Stay tuned!
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