Wednesday 31 JAN 2018 – West Palm Beach, FL
Before I put my feet down on the floorboards this morning, something feels different. Glenn is up already, lounging on the settee and reading from his iphone as I poke my head out and look toward land. “It’s calm,” I say.
We have spent the past seven days being pulled hard by the brawny horizontal forces of winds and currents. For the duration of this particularly long weather pattern, the forces have been unremitting. Unlike a steady force like gravity, winds and currents are tumultuous brothers. Their powers are continuously perceivable because they are irregular in form and always in flux. In the span of ten seconds, for example, we will dip down then up, we get jerked forward then back, then to the left, then forward again, down and left. All the while the anchor line not slackening even a little. It’s a motion that, given it erraticism, I thought would be hard to ignore, but eventually, like all jarring things, slips into the background.
It’s a strange feeling to be tethered on a leash, hostile forces trying to knock us off our game. It’s fine for a little while, but in the long term it’s a harsh reminder that we are not on solid ground. We hang on with our big anchor buried below us. “It’s oversized,” Glenn had beamed proudly after he found it on a shelf in Florida last year. We hope now it’s in the right position, we hope there’s enough good ground for a good bite. In the past, at times of doubt, we have dived below to check, but here we don’t. It’s too cold and too deep, I guess. Here we just hope.
And we haven’t always held. Once in the Bahamas we dragged anchor so far out of a bay we almost fell of the edge of the ocean. We hadn’t noticed because we were napping. Luckily, a fast-rowing priest came up on our broad side to warn us. He knew the bay. He had been both a missionary and a live-aboard for twenty-five years in the region and he knew all of the kelp-free spots where anchors should be placed. He rowed back close to shore and waited over the exact place he said contained good holding. It took us a while to get there because our engine wasn’t working and we had to zig-zag sail into the wind. When we did eventually reach him, we dropped the anchor right on his indicated “X” and stayed put for days of storms. He went back to his catamaran refusing our offer for beer because he didn’t drink.
Around here, over the course of this blustery week, two boats have drifted. Maybe it was more, but we only noticed two. And both were unoccupied. One small, dark hulled, sloop with tattered sails moved with its mooring to a new spot considerably down river. It is now very close to another moored boat, but no contact is being made. The other boat, a slightly bigger navy blue sloop, was the closest boat to us for two weeks. She has disappeared altogether along with her mooring. Looking in the direction of the current current, the field is dense with boats. Surely, if it broke loose it would have hit a boat or two along the way, but I see no damage or paint smudges. I also see no washed up hulls on the shore. I wonder if she’s still on the move, running toward more stability or relishing her freedom.
With today’s calm, I jump at the chance to go ashore for some walking and laundry. We pile our bedsheets in bags, and, learning from last week’s laundrogeddon, we head for a local laundromat instead of using the club’s facilities. The big industrial machines we find cost a bit more but they actually clean and dry our things, which is a nice bonus. Plus, we can do all of the loads concurrently and be done in an hour and a half. Plus plus, in between cycles we get lunch across the street at a small, local market that makes delicious veggie wraps and serves us a juicy sliced orange as an appetizer while we wait. “On the house!” says the friendly Russian owner.
We are back at the club with clean laundry and full bellies, by two o’clock. We stay to take showers, charge our batteries and generally hang out catching up on email and Stephen Colbert. When the bar opens at five, we learn that it’s Sean’s birthday. Sean is the Irish artist who works tending bar two nights a week here at the club. We have gotten to know him to the extent that we know that Alvar Aalto is his favorite architect, a wise and slightly esoteric choice for a lay person I think. Tonight the club is celebrating Sean’s big day with a buffet dinner of enchiladas, which is offered free to all the partiers.
As the evening wears on I meet two people about whom I don’t want to write. The first is an attractive woman who, as she slides onto a bar stool across from the three of us, tells us we should all “Smile! Y’all look so glum.” Oh, shoot, I think to myself, did we forget to entertain you with our happiness? Real life not being an Instagram meme, I can’t freeze myself into a “picture” of myself holding up the two corners of my mouth with my middle fingers. Instead I engage by telling her that her statement (request?) is quite controversial these days, referring to the current critical atmosphere aimed at the patriarchic control over the (mis)conduct of women. She wants to retreat, which I appreciate. She uses the tactic of telling us that she too is plagued by RBF, which I don’t appreciate. “Do you know what RBF is?”
“Yes,” say all three of us with as much eye roll as possible. She proceeds anyway on a lengthy explanation which centers on her face’s affliction with the condition. Eventually I cut short her blather and say only, “we said we know what it is.” This ends the confrontation but leaves everyone with a bad taste. I regret not my words, but my bluntness. It will be days of spinning this encounter around in my head before I realize what I should have whispered in her ear: “Your face is beautiful exactly as it is. Why should it change? You don’t have RBF because no woman does. Please don’t change anything about your face to please beholders and stop demanding that the rest of us do too.”
The second encounter is a lot lengthier and more difficult. Jeff, who had been sitting on my right for a while I already know, because of his own lack of concealment, as the possessor of a concealed weapon permit. I already know him, too, because he is a walking far-rightwing propaganda cliché. There is not a single point on which he seems to disagree with the talking points handed down by the current perverted White House, as filtered through Fox and Hannity, of course. He goes entirely with their floe. Still though, I rarely get an in-person glimpse into this position. I want to understand what is driving his perspective and I want him to understand what is driving mine. If I’m really honest too, I can’t help but think I could shift him a bit. And I recognize the same glint to shift me in his eye. So, we talk. He’s ex-military, a veteran, a bit older than me. I reveal things about myself slowly, strategically, first my job, then my immigrant status, then my parents’ escape story. We are interested in each other, but no matter how long we talk we don’t move each other. We are each tethered, but moving to completely different winds and currents. The weather is strong, but so are our anchors.
As Glenn, Ava, and I ride back to our boat for the last time I see Jeff’s boat. He had described it to me at the bar as a big white ketch and now I see that we are anchored next to each other. Out here our boats are pointed in almost the same direction. For an instant I imagine the two of us becoming unmoored. Today, in the calm, we would stay exactly where we already are, but tomorrow when the winds and currents pick up again what will happen?
Thursday 1 FEB 2018 – West Palm Beach, FL
I have been having a lot of anxiety about returning to work. It’s still so far away, but we are now on the second half of our trip, the downhill, so maybe it’s natural to start to worry think about the next step. The source of my anxiety is buried somewhere in my desire to make this time away of significant value to the next part of my worklife. Regardless of the many goals, some true… some utter lies, that I told others about how I wanted to use this sabbatical, I had only one real ambition, to become a writer. This would have sounded preposterous to many people for many different reasons, but that was the secret wish I harbored. And it mattered, matters, to me more than I can admit outside of these pages. Whether or not that goal is or will be accomplished, I realize now, is not important to me because what I discovered along the way, what I am still discovering, is that I am rather destabilized by the surprising fact that I am fulfilled by writing. Why is this hard to take? Because now I want to write, but what if, what if… ? I mean, it’s lovely to find something, at any phase in life, that stirs me, but how will I find a way?
Friday 2 FEB 2018 – Boca Raton, FL
This morning we wake up and depart our anchorage at 4AM to get out to the ocean early for a long day sail to Miami. With our motor on, we struggle through the strong tide, take a right turn into the West Palm Beach inlet. The large ocean swell is upon us immediately. Barely moving we take a right turn again swinging south into the ocean proper. The swell continues, there is no wind, and the current is against us. We are traveling only between 3 and 4 knots as we climb up the waves and then down their backsides in long, choppy motions. I realize now I shouldn’t have eaten breakfast. I give Glenn my most makeitstop look. “Should we turn back?” he makes me decide.
Back at anchor we sleep until 8AM and then depart leisurely, this time on the ICW. We arrive in Boca Raton around the start of party time, which is, by the looks of it, all the time. There are people everywhere in the Lake Boca anchorage, waist-high in the water, drink in hand, needlessly shout-talking as if they’re in a nightclub or speedway rally. For a while Glenn and I debate, without decision, which is worse this place or the rolly ocean ride we would be enduring right now. Luckily the sun starts to go down, the water comes up, and the bros head home.
Saturday 3 FEB 2018 – Boca Raton, FL
spirits winds keep us in Boca one extra day.
Sunday 4 FEB 2018 – Ft. Lauderdale, FL
We motor to Fort Lauderdale today, but did we go anywhere? It’s exactly the same drunk, wading loud talkers. Fortunately, the place clears out as everyone goes home to watch the superbowl. Go Eagles!
Monday 5 FEB 2018 – Bill Baggs Cape State Park, Key Biscayne, FL
A beautiful motor-sail on the ocean to the Baggs State Park area of Key Biscayne. Dinner at a not-so-great restaurant that regardless of what Patrick says, is most definitely NOT Cuban.