Day 19: A New Itch
Don’t think our three-month plan was confined to the boat. We had to take in some sites from angles that didn’t include leaning over the gunwales. Our excitement in the days before hitting Destin, Florida, was sparked by thoughts of a little beach time on the Panhandle’s white sands.
We should have been a little skeptical, however, about a place nicknamed “Crab Island.” It wasn’t crabs that had us flopping back into the boat with painful, invisible stings on our legs, though. We suspect the culprits were sea lice — microscopic jellyfish larvae, which are common in warm waters like the Gulf of Mexico. We learned that using diluted vinegar or alcohol, or applying hydrocortisone, will relieve the stings. We also found out that the smaller the swimsuit, the better, because sea lice get trapped in the material and then sting as a defense mechanism. This was a new peril for freshwater boaters from the northwest.
Day 32: Strange Meeting
After surviving the opening day of scallop season on Florida’s Gulf Coast, we were cruising south against heavy Fourth of July boat traffic headed north. We were trying to get to Fort Myers. Everyone else was trying to get to Sarasota for the cigarette boat races. The convergence of boat wakes had created the perfect dolphin playground.
“Can I touch it?” I asked.
“I don’t know. It’s still a wild animal, isn’t it?”
One especially friendly dolphin had swum alongside our boat, bobbing his head and waving his flipper. I wanted to reach out and pet him, but our jovial playmate had an intimidating mug — his snout was mangled and scarred. He dove under the boat and surfed below our prop from one side of the wake to the other.
“Cut the engine,” Elizabeth screamed. “You’ll hit him!”
I figured the dolphin had done this a thousand times. Rather than surprise him with an abrupt change of speed, and perhaps clip him with our prop, I maintained speed. When he finished playing with us, he went on to entertain other boaters.
Day 43: Generational Clash
After leaving Beaufort, North Carolina, we spent an entire day in rough water crossing the Pamlico Sound and heading up the Alligator River. We, and the entire boat, were soaked from the wild water that had spilled over the gunwales. The weather was sour and we were tired.
“You can’t stay here,” said the marina operator without diverting her attention from the groceries she was bagging for another customer. “no trailer boats allowed.”
“Ma’am, we don’t have a trailer and we’re 3,000 miles into our trip,” Elizabeth pleaded. “We don’t even need electric or water hook-ups — just 16 feet of dock space.”
We also had just purchased full tanks of gas — only 18 gallons, but still, $60 should have given us a little eye contact.
“You’ll have to pay for the 25-foot minimum,” she finally conceded.
After charging us $50 to grudgingly allow us to rest our fenders on her empty dock for less than 12 hours, she sternly reminded us that she didn’t want to find us “sleeping on the floor of my shower room either!”
We did stay at a motel, not because our plans of sleeping on the floor of a public shower had been thwarted, but because thunderstorms were in the forecast. The motel owner apologized for the rude reception we’d received at the marina. His grandmother had been a good friend of the marina owner.
“Sometimes older women have strong views about what’s proper for younger women,” he said. “I think you two are stressing those boundaries. They didn’t do stuff like this.”