Monday, April 23, 2012

Crossing the Gulf of Mexico: Part 4

All the Cool Stuff We Saw

I feel as though I haven't given the Gulf of Mexico the credit it deserves. I've told you guys all about the storms and the crappy wind and the crappy waves and the vomiting and all the stuff that broke, but I realized I have yet to express just how amazingly cool being out in the middle of the ocean actually was. It's so remarkable, such an intense experience, that to be honest I have trouble coming up with the words to describe it. I would sit on the deck with my brother in the morning, eating instant oatmeal and watching the world go by, except that the world all around is water. The view is always the same, yet always moving. And the water seems so different than it does in a lake or a bay. For one thing, it has the color of a piece of steel when the sun is setting and the deepest blue during the day, and another is that the way that the water moves becomes almost hypnotizing, like total chaos that you know is a product of each specific movement that came before it. Each dip and leap and splash could have happened no other way. 

We sailed over these strange topographical formations in the Gulf, such as the Lund Valley and the Henderson Ridge, but we never saw what they looked like because they were hidden under 5,000 feet of water. David and I saw a weird glowing orb floating in the water, and Vlad spent one late night sailing on completely flat seas at four knots with phosphorescence sparkling everywhere in our wake. He said it looked like magic.

And, of course, we saw dolphins, more than a dozen playing in our bow waves. Each time we looked back we'd see another one rushing up as though they were all saying, "Hey, they're finally going fast enough for us to have some fun!" There were two mommas with their babies as well, and the babies moved in perfect synchronicity with their moms. I have no idea how they do that but, wow, was it neat to watch. Also, I have yet to master photographing dolphins while on a moving boat. It's not as easy as it looks, folks!
David on dolphin watch.

So, see, it's not all throwing up and not showering for a week. It's a whole lot of absolutely incredible too.

Coming into Key West

When we first saw land, I was kind of excited. Not so much that there was land and I could soon have a pina colada - though there was that too - but mainly because the GPS had actually worked, which for some reason I wondered about when we were out there. I mean, it looked like we were going in the right direction, but what if all of our navigation equipment was wrong and we had actually been doing circles 100 miles off the coast of Tallahassee for five days. 

Anyway, all my internal fretting was for naught because we were in actuality looking at Key West, though, of course, it took us a long time to make it into the harbor allowing us to hone our after-dark anchoring skills. Here are some pictures I took as we were coming in:

Isn't that the most incredible color of water?

A Surprise Visitor

When my mom was sailing in the Mediterranean during the 70s, she and Bill stopped in Gibraltar to have my older brother David. Just before David was born, my mom was sitting in the cockpit of their boat, and she heard a whistle. But not just any whistle. It was the specific, ear-piercing succession of notes that her dad would use to call her and her two brothers home in the evening. She looked out toward shore, and there stood her brother Jeff waving his arms.

Well, she wanted to do the exact same thing to us when we dropped anchor in Key West, so she and Bob left Arkansas on Thursday and drove to Florida. Unfortunately, our late arrival and the Miami traffic snarled her whistling plan somewhat, but when we anchored I decided to see what all of her cryptic text messages were about. I called her, and she said she was in Key West! I've never been so surprised and excited! When we were more than halfway across the Gulf, I just really wanted to talk to my mom. It's not as if we haven't gone 10 days without talking on the phone before, but for some reason I wanted to hear her voice, to tell her about all the stuff that happened, what went right and what went wrong. I guess she must have heard me even without cell phone service. 

Thanks for driving all that way, Bob!

She and Bob spent the next few days ferrying us around, helping us get our laundry done and generally spoiling us silly. It's funny, but you think that with a trip like this it's all about meeting new people and discovering new places. You never consider how much better it could be if you got to begin that exploration with someone you know. Thanks so much for the surprise, Mom. I'll never forget it. 


  1. This was the post I was waiting for. =)


  2. Hey, man, sometimes it takes me a little while! It was pretty incredible. Can't wait till y'all head this way too.

  3. Replies
    1. I was pretty stinking happy. It was sooo nice to see her!

  4. Man, between Steve and Lulu Yoder seeing whales and whale sharks, and you doing the whole poet thing about how beautiful the sea is with all its incredible colors and magical glowing orbs and lights, and dolphins and all, I'm just about dying a slow and painful land-bound death here. Great post for those of us raring to go. It makes me even more determined! I'm so glad you had moments of beauty mixed in with the nausea. :)
    And Go MOM! That's very cool.

    1. She's incredible! And it might take a little while to get everything ready, which can be frustrating, but it's definitely worth every second.

  5. I heart this post so much. I love this picture of you and your mom - it's so sweet that I kinda teared up. Thanks for being a great story teller.

    1. Isn't it cool what her brother did? She said it was the most amazing thing, that she thought she was going crazy when she heard that whistle. I miss you, chica!

  6. Enjoy your mom. There is an incredible bond between and mother and a daughter, something that can never be replaced. Im so glad you got that experience and thank you for telling it. Tear