Homeward Bound

Please don’t tell her I said this, but I’ve been a little disappointed by what my mom has given me for Mother’s Day over the past few years. THIS YEAR, though, this year she really outdid herself and gave me the best Mother’s Day gift a son could ask for – a new edition of Mom’s Corner! Check it out!

Since my last post, I’ve transited south Georgia, north Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. I’m currently in the Dismal Swamp, which is not nearly as depressing as it sounds. It’s actually quite lovely. The odd name dates back to when the area was discovered by a female European explorer. In a cruel twist of fate, she stumbled upon this beautiful marshland during “that time” of the month, and the rest is history. Wait whoa! I don’t mean THAT time of the month! Get your mind out of the gutter – I mean it was a crescent moon, so at night it was very, very dark and dismal. I’m pretty sure I read that in a book.

Anyway, the last few weeks have been filled with action. I met up with my friend Steve in Savannah, GA, who came aboard for the trip to Charleston, SC. We spent a full day & night in Savannah, which is known as one of the most haunted cities in America. We did have quite a few dark encounters with dangerous spirits, but the spirit was always rum, and the encounters were both dark and stormy. We woke up early the next morning (although not as early as we’d planned…) to launch on a 2-day trek to Charleston, with a stop in Beaufort, SC, in the middle.

The intra-coastal waterway does quite a bit of winding along the coastline, and passes by a lot of inlets of varying sizes that carry ocean water in or out depending on the tides. The result is that the currents (i.e. whether the water will be moving with you or against you) can be funky and tricky to predict. What I’m trying to get at here is that I have an excuse – I know, I know what they say about excuses – for the fact that I did a bad job of trip planning and we were basically fighting against the current the entire way from Savannah to Charleston. When your boat goes 5-6 mph, and the current runs at 1-2 mph, it makes a big difference…and we had some long days on the water. The weather was occasionally nasty too (this was during Tropical Storm Ana a few weeks ago), but Steve handled it all well. For the most part. He did get seasick during one particularly wet & wild stretch, which raises my rate of visiting friends puking to about 60%. And people are impressed by Ted Williams hitting .400 one year? Please.

Once we got to Charleston, we acted as aristocratic as we possibly could, and fit in pretty well for the most part. I saw my first alligator of the whole trip! It was captive in the Charleston aquarium, and it was an albino alligator – totally white body with red eyes. Pretty creepy. And yeah, I still haven’t spotted a wild gator…unless you count the University of Florida spring breakers who made me get a UF tattoo on my butt cheek. I guess it’s better than an FU tattoo? Just kidding mom, none of that actually happened.

Steve flew out of Charleston, and I’ve since continued to meander up the ICW. As I inch closer and closer to home, I’ve noticed something dangerous happening. Various small holes have been developing in my boat. But that’s just because I’ve been doing some interior decorating and drilling holes to hang pictures, so it’s not the dangerous thing I’m talking about. The dangerous thing I’m talking about is that I’m starting to let my guard down. For the first few months of the trip, I was terrified at all times because I was still figuring out how the boat worked, how to navigate, etc. And then the riskiest part of the trip was traveling offshore around Florida and through the Bahamas, so I made sure I was on my A-game for that too. But now that I’m back stateside, traveling on mostly protected ICW waters, it’s easy to get lazy and go into mental auto-pilot mode. And I’ve had a few mishaps, partially as a result of that mindset. And partially because I may have wronged Poseidon.

Let’s break this down courtroom-evidence-style.

Exhibit A: Back when I was way down near Daytona Beach, FL, I was motoring along the ICW, in all likelihood listening to a Katy Perry song. Having returned from the Bahamas not too long before, I was very happy to be back on American soil. Until the boat came to a sudden halt and I realized that I was actually on American soil. I had been making sure that I was staying between the red and green buoys, but not paying much attention to my charts…as it turns out, the visual markers sometimes don’t tell you everything you need to know, and I’d plowed right into a shallow muddy shoal. I tried to put the engine in reverse and back out, but had no luck – I was stuck in the muck. Fortunately, about two minutes later, another sailboat came by and called me on the radio, asking for the name of my vessel. I said “Chiefly Driftin’,” and the guy said, “you’re not chiefly driftin’ at the moment – are you?” (I’ll admit I deserved that one). I thought about getting him back with a YO MAMA joke or something along those lines, but he kindly offered to help pull me out of the mud, so I refrained. And he was able to yank me loose – crisis #1 averted.

Exhibit B: A couple of days after leaving Charleston, I pulled into a little town called Georgetown, SC and dropped anchor in the harbor. Georgetown has a pretty narrow harbor, lined on one side by a mostly deserted island, and on the other side by the town waterfront, with a scattered mix of public and private docks. About 20 minutes after I anchored, a guy yelled over to me from an outdoor bar/patio and said that he’d buy me a beer if I rowed in, hung out, and told him how a boat from Connecticut had ended up in South Carolina. Sounded like a good deal to me, so I took him up on it and had a fun night chatting with him and a few other local charter captains. I went back to the boat, fell asleep, and woke up at about 5am to a gentle thud, thud, thud on the side of the boat. When I poked my head out, I found that the wind had picked up overnight, and my anchor had dragged across the harbor. This was NOT where I parked my car! The boat was now resting broadside along a few wooden pilings at some random private dock. Whoops. The situation could have been much worse (dragging aground, or into a concrete wall, etc.) or much, MUCH worse (hitting somebody else’s boat). I had read that the anchor holding in the Georgetown harbor was shaky, so I should have been more careful and set a couple of alarms throughout the night. I was lucky it didn’t turn out worse – crisis #2 averted.

All things considered, the boat is still in one piece and I’m in pretty good shape. Well I’m actually not in shape at all, but you know what I mean. I’m planning to reach Norfolk tomorrow, spend the weekend rocking out at a beachside music festival in Virginia Beach with my friends Andrew (who is flying down from NYC), Peyton (who lives in VA Beach), and Lynyrd (who is performing, last name Skynyrd) and then start moving up through the Chesapeake Bay next week.

I should be home about a month from today, which means it is almost time to start turning into a real person again. As somebody who always likes to be prepared, I’ve recently spent some time studying society and trying to figure out how the scene has changed since I left civilization last July. The most important thing I learned is that there’s an election coming up on the horizon, and candidates are beginning to emerge. I don’t want to sound like a dim-witted numbskull when somebody asks me who I’m voting for, so I’ve been doing plenty of research. And in spite of his scandalous past, his advancing age, and the fact that many people don’t think he was born in America (news flash: he was), I’m planning to vote for Alex Rodriguez to start at DH in the MLB All-Star Game. Sure, call me a partisan Yankees fan, but the guy is hitting over .275 with 11 home runs so far this season. You may agree or disagree, but I’d encourage all of you to get off your butts, exercise your right as an American League fan, and vote for somebody.

Oh, and one more piece of news – I added a bunch of new photos! As it turns out, I’d been neglecting the “reel” portion of the blog since like last August. Huh, who knew. So you’ll now find pics from Canada all the way through the Bahamas. I had neither the time, energy, nor initiative to add captions for all of them, so it’ll be more like a self-guided tour of the Loop. Don’t get lost in there.

Kevin

Advertisements

Aruba, Jamaica…

I know it’s been a while since I posted, and I’ve been told that my “it was really hard to find internet in the Bahamas” excuse doesn’t hold up under scrutiny…you know, considering it’s been almost a month since I got back to the motherland. And the more I think about it, the more I subscribe to that old saying about excuses: they’re like assholes – everybody has one, and they all stink. So I’m just going to admit that I don’t have one. An excuse, that is. I’m just going to admit that I don’t have an excuse.

The last time I slacked off and didn’t write for two months, I felt like the “and then” lady from “Dude Where’s My Car?” as I boringly listed all of the places I’d passed through…so this time I might bounce around a little instead of just telling you where I’ve been. I did update the map on the “route” page, so feel free to scope that out if you’re a chronological order kind of person. If you’re more of an un-medicated ADHD kind of person like me, then buckle up your seat belt, focus on the road instead of that spot on the windshield that your wipers can’t reach, and let’s do this.

If you were to stroll over to your neighborhood Barnes & Noble to pick up a Bahamas cruising guide, the first thing you’d probably read is “closing soon” on the front door, since book stores are SO 1999. But once you walked inside and found the cruising guide, the first thing you’d probably read is that you should start having nightmares about the Gulf Stream at your earliest convenience. The Gulf Stream is basically a massive river (hidden within the ocean, wearing Groucho glasses) that’s 30 miles wide and runs north at 4 miles per hour, right between Florida and the Bahamas…and it gets notoriously nasty in bad weather.

I had invited my friend Grace to join me for the trip from Key Largo to Nassau, partly because she’s fun to hang out with, but mostly because she has a lot of offshore sailing experience and I knew she wouldn’t be overwhelmed if conditions got bad. Just kidding – Grace had minimal sailing experience and no idea what she was getting herself into. In other words, she was a lot like me when I started this whole trip. Minus the beard.

Most people will hang out in Florida and wait for a good weather window before they cross the Gulf Stream, but we were on a bit of a schedule – Grace had a flight to catch out of Nassau, my other friend Tim was flying into Nassau to meet us, and there was a knitting convention at Atlantis that I wasn’t about to miss – which meant that my standards for “good enough weather” were lower than they otherwise would have been. The majority of my stories that involve “a woman” and “low standards” aren’t that fun to recap, so the ingredients for a disaster were all there.

Fortunately, there’s no disaster to report…but it was certainly not a relaxing voyage. The wind was blowing 15-20 mph, directly against us, the whole way to Nassau. It was basically the boating equivalent of your crotchety grandfather’s story about walking 10 miles to & from school in the snow every day, uphill both ways with only a flip phone to entertain himself because his parents wouldn’t pony up for an iPhone 6. The seas were probably 6-8 feet high (and it was a particularly unforgiving 6-8 feet) in the Gulf Stream on our first day, and while they got a bit more gentle after that, it was never a comfortable ride. But Grace handled it all like a salty sailor – I mean, when she got seasick, she even cleaned up her own puke!

In Cat Cay, our first stop, I was greeted with open arms by the Bahamian immigration official…the kind of open arms where his palms were facing straight up and he was yelling at me. He wanted to know: A) why we had been in the country for 20 hours before clearing in (answer: we got bad information from a cop who said we had 24 hours to check in, plus I procrastinate everything, always); B) why the bleep I had let myself into his office and was sitting there by myself when he walked in (answer: ehhh, it was unlocked?); and most importantly, C) if there was any reason he SHOULDN’T put me in jail for aforementioned violations A and B (answer: well officer, have I mentioned the community service work I did in high school?)

The good news is that I survived that encounter unscathed, and the even better news is that pretty much every other person I met in the Bahamas was awesome. The Kazickas family showed Grace and me a great time in Cat Cay (and even said they would’ve bailed me out of jail if the immigration debacle had ended poorly). We ran into the Escobars, parents of Grace’s friend, in Chub Cay, who took us to dinner and introduced us to Bahamian crack, aka conch salad, aka crack conchaine. Even the blackjack dealers at Atlantis were nice, happily accepting all of the money that Tim and I could recklessly throw at them.

There was the perfectly nice Canadian couple moored next to me in Spanish Wells who invited me over for drinks, and the perfectly nice American couple moored on the other side of them who joined us. And then there was the perfectly nice political discussion that those two couples got into, which eventually turned into a screaming match as the silent 5th wheel (me) sat there awkwardly drinking as many beers as I possibly could. It ended when the Canadian guy said “John Kerry was a traitor in Vietnam and should have been shot!”, the American guy said “I went to Yale with John Kerry, he’s a great man and should have been fucking President!”, and then the American couple stormed off the boat into their dinghy. It was an impressively dramatic exit until they had to politely ask the Canadian hosts to untie the dinghy.

There was my mom’s friend Susan, who hosted me at her house in Spanish Wells (Shower? Bed? Non-canned food? Yes! Yes! Yes!). There were my eight new National Forest Service friends that I was moored next to in Hope Town. There were the Kuhners, family friends from Connecticut, who happened to be in Hope Town at the same time I was and had me over for a DELICIOUS french toast breakfast while we swapped stories. And of course, there were all of the contagiously friendly Bahamians who made this turista feel at home with no qualms whatsoever. Or maybe they were somehow making money off me? Eh, I’ll take it either way…

Back to Nassau – Grace and I managed to find Tim when we pulled into the harbor, which was a minor miracle because trip planning basically consisted of a text from me the week before that said “we’re leaving Florida now, won’t have cell reception, see you in Nassau next Saturday.” Grace stayed for one more night, so we all went to Señor Frog’s (an old spring break destination) to hang out with drunk high schoolers and remind ourselves how old we are now. Here’s the motley crew:

IMG_1638

The next morning we woke up very hungover and had one goal for the day: float down the lazy river at Atlantis. (NOTE: we also ate some candy that morning we’d bought, and quickly discovered that a prankster and/or criminal had laced it with marijuana…which, of course, only magnified the appeal of the lazy river). Devastatingly, upon our arrival, we found out that you had to be a resort guest in order to use the pools. It was a problem that only had one solution: buy a hotel room. The cheapest room was $500, which was a little rich for our tastes, so we agreed to put $100 each on the blackjack table to see if we could collectively win the remaining $200. Does this all sound like a horrible idea in hindsight? Yes, of course it does. But we were, uh…how should I put this…REALLY HIGH. So you’ll be shocked to hear that we ended up losing all of our money, and we never even saw the lazy river. We decided afterward that it must have been the most effort anybody has ever spent trying to get into a LAZY river.

Grace flew out of Nassau later that afternoon, and Tim and I left the next morning to head south for the Exumas. We spent a night anchored in Allen’s Cay and then a night anchored in Compass Cay. After an entertaining night in Compass Cay, we woke up to find that one of my dinghy oars was mysteriously missing (I don’t have an engine on the dinghy). Which meant that for the rest of the week, anytime we had to go anywhere, one of us had to row the boat with one oar like Pocahontas, while the other guy lounged in the back. It must have been quite a sight.

We spent the rest of the week in Staniel Cay, which might have been my favorite stop in the Bahamas. We putzed around the island in a golf cart, did a bunch of snorkeling (including in a place called a Thunderball Cave, site of a famous Bond movie), watched March Madness, and made lots of friends at the yacht club. Tim flew out after 3 or 4 days on the island, and I was on my own again.

OH! I almost forgot – there’s an island right next to Staniel Cay that has wild pigs living on the beach. So we really didn’t have a choice…we had to stop and feed them Cheetos:

And yes, that monstrosity of a pig really did get orange Cheeto mouth:

photo 1

Staniel turned out to be the southernmost point of my whole trip. From there, I went north through Eleuthera, stopping in Rock Sound, Governor’s Harbor, and Spanish Wells (with a side trip to Harbor Island). Then I crossed up to the Abacos, spending a couple of nights in Hope Town and a couple of nights in Green Turtle Cay. Leaving Hope Town, I went to shift from forward to neutral and felt the transmission give out – my shift cable had snapped, and I had a Serious Transmission Debacle on my hands. The STD was fortunately curable, but doing repairs in the Bahamas can be a pain because it’s expensive & slow to get parts shipped from the U.S. The boat could still go in forward, and I was planning to cross back to America later that week anyway, so I decided I’d just make do without neutral or reverse until I got back to Florida. It made for some pretty funny docking and anchoring techniques, but I did survive.

From Green Turtle Cay, it took two days to get to the West End, where I met up with my uncle Bob, who’d flown into Freeport to join me for the trip across the Gulf Stream back to Florida. You may recall that Bob also helped me across the Gulf of Mexico back in February, so his eagerness to come aboard again meant one of two things: either A) he had such a great time that he just wanted to hang out with his FAVORITE nephew some more; or B) he was horrified by how unprepared I was and would have felt personally responsible if I crossed back to Florida solo and anything went wrong. Or maybe a little bit of both.

Unlike the first Gulf Stream crossing, the weather cooperated this time and our trip was pretty calm. We landed in Fort Pierce, where I then kept the boat for almost a month. I spent Easter with my good friend Tara and her family in West Palm Beach, flew up to Boston for two weeks for the marathon (which I had to drop out of beforehand due to a lack of commitment on the part of my IT band), and then spent a couple of days replacing the transmission cable (I fixed it myself!) before finally getting moving again about a week ago.

I’ve been making pretty good time so far, and am now out of Florida and into Georgia. I’ll be arriving in Savannah tomorrow night to meet up with my friend Steve, who is flying down from Boston to hop aboard for the trip from Savannah to Charleston.

It feels strange to say, but I am officially on the final leg of my loop. I’m shooting to be back in Connecticut sometime in late June or early July, and then I’m starting at school in August. Which means the two month countdown is on. Even though this has been a one-way trip from the start, for the first time, it feels like I’m heading home.

My parents’ basement awaits.

The Sunshine State

Since we last touched base, I’ve traveled more than 500 miles, and I can confirm that’s a long way. I would not walk 500 miles, and I would most definitely not walk 500 more, just to be the man who walked a thousand miles to fall down at your door. No chance. Sorry.

Way back on February 15th, my uncle Bob flew into Tampa, and I rented a car to go pick him up. It was a 5-hour drive each way, which gave me plenty of time on the return trip to fill him in on all of the various problems with the boat (broken compass light, no depth finder, no knot meter, missing two sail batons, missing a few spare engine parts, malfunctioning chick magnet, etc.) that I’d conveniently forgotten to mention when I asked him to join me for the 180-mile trip from Apalachicola to Tarpon Springs. We spent most of the next day fixing what we had time to fix, spent the rest of the day sampling the local brew selection, and then pushed off from the dock at approximately 0730 on the 17th.

We pulled into Tarpon Springs at 1430 on the 18th, 31 hours later. It was rainy (and COLD) for the first 20 hours, and the seas were a bit bumpy and confused because it had been blowing out of the south for a few days before swinging around to the northwest the morning we left. But the sailing conditions were actually pretty favorable (15+ knot wind on our tail the whole way across) and made for a fast trip.

Bob and I alternated standing 1.5 hour watches throughout the night so that we could each get some sleep. Because it was overcast, there was no moon and there were no stars, which made for an incredibly dark night. At one point I was out on deck by myself and started seeing white flashes in the water all around the boat. I was about to accuse Bob of lacing our water supply with hallucinogens when I realized that the streaks were actually dolphins. There are little algae in the water that light up when they’re disturbed by motion, so the dolphins essentially had glowing trails behind them. I was telling this story to my friend TJ, who remarked: “that sounds like some Avatar shit.” And I think that’s a pretty good description. They swam with the boat for about 10 minutes – it was so cool, and I will remember that Avatar shit for a long time.

Once we got to Tarpon Springs, we decided it would be prudent to sample the local brew selection there as well, and then my Uncle Harry and Aunt Lynne drove up from Sarasota to meet us for a delicious Greek dinner. Lynne & Harry left that night, Bob flew home the next day, and then I was a Lone Ranger once again…but not for long.

I’d gotten a call from my mom about a week earlier. When I saw the phone ringing, I was afraid she was calling to hit me up for money, or thought maybe she was going to apologize for leaving her diehard Mom’s Corner fans out to dry for the past 5 months (she swears there’s a new edition coming soon). But, as it turns out, Mom had been scheming. And unlike Bernie Madoff, she was getting her sons involved and bringing us down with her. Down to Key West. To surprise my dad for his 65th birthday.

I had an early flight and got to Key West at about 8 AM, whereas Brian (who lives in Oakland) had a much longer trip and was set to get in around 10 PM. That meant Dad got two surprises, which of course meant that Brian and I were competing to see who would win the surprize for most surprising surprise.

SPOILER ALERT: be alerted that there will be no spoilers.

But what happened was that I lost. When my dad saw me, he was definitely surprised and acted excited, but I could tell he wasn’t really THAT excited. I thought maybe it was because we’d just seen each other two weeks earlier, or maybe it was because I was standing on his boat wearing women’s lingerie with sparklers in both hands, having just jumped out of a big fake birthday cake. Turns out I was wrong on both counts. A few hours later, we were eating lunch (along with my parents’ good friends Tom and Lynn Anderson) and my mom dropped a very revealing nugget: that morning, my dad told her, “you know, tonight could be a good night for…” SEX. HE WAS TALKING ABOUT SEX. And then I showed up to stay with them! Surprise!!!

Okay this is the part of the blog where I have more questions than answers. Is that what you do after being married for 30 years? You just schedule sex in advance? Wait, do millennials do this too?? Set up shared google docs and mark down the dates you’re available for intercourse??? Am I out of the loop on this because I haven’t had an actual girlfriend since the Great Recession???? How does one go about acquiring one of these so-called “girlfriends”????? AHHH SO MANY QUESTIONS AND SO MANY MORE QUESTION MARKS.

So anyway, long story short, which is a saying that doesn’t apply here because I’m just wrapping up a long story I already told – I walked into a hornets’ nest and then Brian showed up later and my dad was genuinely shocked and thrilled to see him. Ugh.

I got back to my boat on the 23rd and have spent the past week and a half making tracks. I left the Tampa area on the 24th and covered about 50 miles per day, arriving in the keys on March 1st. The most interesting stop was a place called Little Shark River – a very remote anchorage in the Everglades, with more dolphins (and SHARKS!) swimming around than I’ve encountered anywhere else. The most surprising part was that I could actually see them through the approximately 15 million mosquitos that were clouding my line of sight. The bugs were so bad that I slept fully clothed, in a sleeping bag, sweating profusely in 80 degree weather with only my nose and mouth exposed (you know, to breathe)…and woke up with swollen lips because the mosquitos had been munching on them. Miserable. On the bright side, it was the most action I’d gotten in weeks.

I got to Key Largo on the 4th, which is where the boat is sitting now. Next stop: Bahamas! Almost all food & drink is outrageously expensive in the Bahamas, and I’ve also heard it’s hard to find ice (which means no perishables for Captain Kev since I don’t have any auto refrigeration), so I went on a massive grocery run yesterday to stock up on booze and canned goods. It’s amazing how many different pasta/sauce/beef/cheese combos Chef Boyardee has been able to concoct, and it’s even more amazing that I’m the sucker who bought them all.

At the moment, I’m actually sitting on a Delta airplane heading for snowy Laguardia airport (editor’s note: we had a skid-free landing) while I write this, so whether you realized it or not, there have been some jokes in here that flew right over your head. I’m heading to Boston for a marathon fundraiser that Jeff and I are hosting. Those of you in Boston – come hang out! We’ve reserved the 2nd floor at The Point from 7-10 on Saturday night. Those of you not in Boston – please donate to a great cause anyway!!! Our fundraising page, with many more details, is here:

https://www.crowdrise.com/campshriverBoston2015/fundraiser/jefflounsburyandkevinderegt

When I get back on Monday night, after freezin’ my royal Rastafarian nay-nay’s off in the northern tundra for 3 days, I’ll be joined by my friend Grace, who is coming aboard for 5 days to help with the trip from Key Largo to Nassau. Unfortunately since Chef Boyardee already claimed his spot as my first mate, we had to demote Grace to a poop deck surveillance role, but she’ll have every opportunity to rise through the ranks as the week goes by. Upon dropping Grace off in Nassau, I’ll then be joined by my buddy Tim, who is flying in to hang out and putz around the islands for a week. It’s funny how much more popular a guy gets when his boat is in the Bahamas instead of Missouri, isn’t it? Like I’ve always said: a true friend is somebody who, no matter what, will always be there for you when it’s convenient for them. So I consider myself a lucky man.

I’m not sure exactly how much internet I’ll find in the islands, so no promises about when you’ll hear from me again. But I’ll try to sneak a blog in before I get back to the mainland (most likely in early-mid April). Until then, bon voyage!

I’m Wet!

About two weeks ago, some great news came across my desk: Brian Williams announced that Katy Perry wanted ME to be the left dancing shark during her Super Bowl halftime show. Unfortunately it turned out that Williams misreported the story, and Perry chose some other shmuck for the part, but amidst my disappointment I got some even better news: my repairs were finished and it was time to get back on the water.

I spent a couple of days re-provisioning the boat, remembering how to float, and saying goodbye to all of my new friends in Mobile (boat neighbors, bar staff at the Mobile Yacht Club, babes at the local grocery store, and of course, Chandra, the truly awesomely great office lady at Turner Marine who scalded me because my last post didn’t mention “the awesomely great office lady that helped me out so much at Turner Marine”)…and then I was off! The wind on that first day was perfect, so I had an awesome sail down Mobile Bay (my first time sailing since I was on Lake Michigan in September), saw a bunch of dolphins, and yelled “FREEDOOMMMM!” so many times that it might’ve made William Wallace blush. Speaking of Wallace, I spent my “prima nocta” anchored in a cool spot called Ingram’s Bayou, and then had a short trip the next day to Pirate’s Cove.

Way back up in Illinois, when my friend Jeff was visiting, we met a cool couple from Arkansas who were taking their sailboat down the river. They had previously spent some time on the gulf coast, and said that when I got down here, I HAD to check out this place called Pirates Cove. They said the scallywags were friendly, the pARRRRties were great, and the booty was as spectacular as it was plentiful…or something along those lines. I pulled in on Super Bowl Sunday, planning to watch the game and then most likely leave the day after. The people were so hospitable and entertaining that I ended up leaving the day after the day after the day after.

The most memorable moment was definitely on day #2, when I was in the restroom going #1. A pirate-looking guy stepped up to the urinal next to me, opened his fly, and pulled out a little wooden tiller. I couldn’t help but notice it, and blurted out, “Whoa! You have a tiller instead of a penis!” He looked at me and said, “Aye, it’s drivin’ me nuts!”

Alright fine, that didn’t actually happen, but it is a pretty good joke to file away for International Talk like a Pirate Day 2015.

From Pirates Cove, I crossed the border into Florida, poured out some O.J. in celebration, and parked the boat in Pensacola for a few days to fly up to DC. My uncle, Bob Reichart, was retiring as a Naval Captain after 30 years of service, and I wasn’t about to miss the ceremony. Full disclosure – it was sort of like a Bar Mitzvah where I went to the ceremony just so that I could show up to the after-party without feeling guilty (just kidding Bob). I got back to Pensacola this past Saturday, and then spent a couple of days with my step-grandfather’s daughter (I’ll let one of you guys figure out what that relation is technically called), Claire, who has a condo there.

I left Claire’s place yesterday and am now moving east once again. Before leaving, I did some engine maintenance, successfully (knock on wood) changing the oil and replacing the oil and fuel filters. If you’ve been following this trip from the start, you’re aware that I understand engines at the equivalent of like a 7th-grade reading level, so I was actually proud of myself for completing those elementary tasks. In fact, with oil stains on my shorts and sweat on my brow, I felt so masculine that I considered rewarding myself with a couple episodes of Glee and a petite dish of Pinkberry fro-yo. Alas, I resisted, and then was brought crashing down to earth yesterday when I met my mechanical match.

After a great sail across Pensacola Bay, I anchored and then noticed that my bilge pump was running every ten minutes…in other words, an unhealthy amount of water was coming into the boat from somewhere. I traced it back to a leak in the rudder post and was able to tighten the nut a little bit by hand, but water was still coming in, so I did what any self-respecting, self-sufficient sailor would do: called my dad for help, tried to tighten the bolt some more, sliced my finger open on either rusty metal or old fiberglass, and then desperately tried to remember the last time I got a tetanus shot. And THEN I got hit with the worst news of the night: Jon Stewart announced he’s leaving the Daily Show.

(By the way, was anybody else pleasantly surprised that I didn’t make a joke about “tightening the nut” earlier in that paragraph? I think I’m maturing.)

Anyway, I survived last night (although I definitely could’ve used some Pinkberry, Glee, and a nice bottle of Cab at that point – amirite ladies?!?) and made it to Shalimar Marina near Destin, FL today…and got great news! The rudder post repair was a really quick fix. So, I’m spending the night here, and then planning to leave tomorrow and keep bouncing east for a few days, at which point I’ll rendezvous with my newly retired uncle in either Panama City or Apalachicola. The armpit of Florida is hairy because it’s really shallow, and it stinks for sailboats. So instead of hugging the coastline, I’m going to cut across the gulf to the Tampa area, and I was able to convince Bob (it wasn’t very hard) to fly down and join me for the offshore voyage. More on that next time…

BUT! One quick tangent before I sign off…and seeing as though every store I walk past has big red hearts hanging everywhere – which I assume means this is Heart Health Awareness Month – I think it’s a pretty relevant tangent. The aforementioned Jeff and I are running in the Boston Marathon in April to raise money for a fantastic organization in Boston called Camp Shriver. Shriver is a summer sports camp (funded by the marathon team) for children ages 8-12. Half of the campers have intellectual or developmental disabilities, and half do not. It’s an awesome cause – there’s much more info on our fundraising page. Jeff and I have pledged to raise $15k, and if you have any money to spare, we’d REALLY appreciate a donation! Link here:

https://www.crowdrise.com/campshriverBoston2015/fundraiser/jefflounsburyandkevinderegt

On a personal note, my training has gotten off to a rocky start because I’ve been hurt (something called IT band syndrome), so I’ve just been doing the whole rest/rehab thing (which probably suits me better than actual training, and definitely requires less effort). All in all, I’m about two months behind schedule, but there’s GOOD NEWS – I think I’m finally getting healthy! I went on my first training run yesterday before leaving Pensacola…it just so happened to be a “beer chug mile,” which two of our friends (my New Orleans compatriots Rob & Will) required us to complete before they donated. I’ll leave you with the video, which will really hit the spot if you’ve been wondering what a continuous 15-minute selfie looks like:

Until next time…

Kevin

Living in a Fiberglass Case of Emotion

Remember when I hit that rock back in Canada? Here’s what I wrote in the aftermath:

I’d only heard/felt one impact, which I decided was a good sign because it probably meant the keel had hit the rock, but not the propeller or the rudder. I kept moving forward (SLOWLY), got out of that skinny stretch and into some deeper water, and then stopped the boat and jumped into the water to survey the damage and rinse out my underpants. I held my breath as I went to take a look at the keel (because I was nervous, but more importantly, because I was underwater), and fortunately found that there appeared to be minimal damage…some paint scraped off, a tiny bit of lead chipped off, but structurally everything looked intact. The prop and rudder looked totally fine. I’m going to do another, more thorough inspection tomorrow, so I may not be totally out of the woods yet, but (knock on wood) it seems like I avoided catastrophe.”

If you ever had reason to doubt that I’m a total nincompoop, and I’m sort of winging this whole boating thing, you can lay those doubts to rest. Because I’m here today to tell you that saying “structurally everything looked intact” now ranks among the things I’ve been the very most wrong about in my life. The list looks something like this:

  1. “The other people in this work meeting will definitely laugh at my somewhat inappropriate joke”
  2. “It’s better to just do your taxes yourself than pay for one of those stupid services”
  3. “Structurally everything looked intact”

57. “Grades don’t matter at all once you get to college”

10,947. “I’m a total nincompoop, and I’m sort of winging this whole boating thing.”

Ever since I met that rock, I had a creeping sense that something was wrong, mostly because my automatic bilge pump started running more frequently than usual (translation for non-boaters: a little water was seeping into the boat somehow). I’m generally a glass-half-full kind of guy, so part of me just ignored it and assumed everything was fine…but I also definitely didn’t want to be a boat-half-full kind of guy. So when my parents asked if there’s anything in particular I wanted for Christmas, I didn’t ask for a few more pairs of whitie tighties, like I usually do. I asked if Santa could pay for my boat to be hauled out of the water so that I could have a knowledgeable professional take a look in order to reduce my chances of sinking somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico or Atlantic Ocean and needing to pull a Rob Konrad.

Santa also thought that was a good idea, so when I got back to the boat a couple weeks ago after spending the holidays in Colorado, I had the kind folks at Turner Marine (in Mobile, AL) pull her out of the water…and as you’ve probably guessed by now, structurally, everything was not intact. There was a chunk taken out of the lead keel, which I already knew, but there was also significant damage to the fiberglass that connected the keel to the rest of the boat. Once the boat was out of the water and hanging in slings, one of the guys at the yard pushed on the keel with his foot and it swung side-to-side, which is most definitely not what it’s supposed to do. There were a couple of little cracks where the keel meets the bottom of the hull, which is where the water had been seeping through.

The first question that the guys at the boatyard asked me: “So, you hit something?” The second question: “So, you have insurance?” I fortunately do have insurance. Wait, let’s try that again…I FORTUNATELY (THANK GOD AND THANK THE FLYING SPAGHETTI MAN AND THANK MICHAEL JORDAN) do have insurance, because the estimate for the repairs was thousands of dollars…and like, definitely more than just one thousand. I learned that if repairs cost more than 65%-75% of the value of the boat, insurance companies will usually consider the whole thing totaled. I was basically right at that threshold.

It took a few days before the local insurance representative showed up to survey the damage and make a decision, so I had some time to think about what I would do for the next 7 months if they elected to take my boat and replace it with a big check. I could have worked to save dogs from local animal shelters, or built houses for disadvantaged people in the Mobile area….alright, fine, I admit it, I’m in somewhat of a self-serving period of my life and didn’t think about any of those things until now. I probably would have gone to ski bum somewhere for the winter and then figured out a next move from there. But that will remain a hypothetical situation, because even though the insurance guy probably thought I was a total lost cause, he decided that the boat wasn’t.

So, for now, the boat is a fish out of water:

067

Temporarily without a keel (they needed to take it off to fix the fiberglass):

068

The inside of the cabin looks like this:

065

Which means I’m living on my bed up front:

070

Climbing in and out of this hatch:

063

It’s occasionally a little boring, usually a little claustrophobic, and always a little stinky. This is sometimes me. BUT, it’s not all bad.

I’ve been in Mobile for about 6 weeks now (with a 2-week vacation built into the middle), and after 5 months of moving all the time, it’s been nice in some ways to stay in one place. I’ve made friends at the marina, connected with some old Dartmouth football teammates (Milan, who lives in the area, and a few others who were here for the Senior Bowl this week), and have found myself embroiled in a love triangle with two large women who work at the local grocery store. It all started when one of them was checking me out (in more ways than one I guess), surveyed my groceries, and said “wow, you a single man, huh??” I decided I should probably start buying more vegetables.

But for the most part, I’m antsy as hell and ready to get moving again. I escaped to New Orleans this past weekend to meet up with two of my best friends from college, Rob and Will. I had a little bit of an adventure getting there, and had to call 911 on some crazy guy on the local bus who was ripping the bus apart with his bare hands and threatening the bus driver and me with a fire extinguisher…in hindsight, that might have been the tamest part of the weekend. We rented an Airbnb apartment at the very edge of the French Quarter, and after three days, found ourselves at the very edge of our physical (and moral?) limits. The story that probably best sums up the weekend: Will won a bunch of money at the casino on Saturday afternoon, which we aggressively celebrated before hitting a wall at like 9pm and deciding to take “hour naps” to recharge for the night. When we woke up, it was 3am. We decided to go out anyway…and at 4am, there were still lines to get into some bars, and the city was very much alive. New Orleans is an incredible place.

Sorry, did you think I was going to actually tell a story with details? Come on, I have an image to uphold.

I’m back on the boat now, finally feeling normal again after a few days of recovery, and the repairs are coming along well. I’ll hopefully be in the water and moving again in the next week or so. But one thing is for sure – I WILL KEEP YOU GUYS POSTED!!!

I Am a Swamp Person

Greetings from Alabama! I hope you all enjoyed Thanksgiving and had some time to reflect on what you’re most thankful for. I chose instead to spend my time saying “you’re welcome” to everybody I saw, but to each his own – I just happen to be a firm believer in supply & demand.

Let me start by saying that I am thoroughly enjoying my time in the south. I know I joked about it before, but I have genuinely become a country music fan now. That’s in part because it’s the only thing on the radio, but mostly because it’s actually good. In fact, the music has spoken to me so much that I’ve been inspired to find a girlfriend down here. Not because I’m looking for love – just so that I can get dumped, drink my sorrows away, and stew over how much she didn’t deserve me in the first place.

People are also just incredibly friendly down here. It turns out that southern hospitality is a real thing. I do have a nagging feeling that a lot of these friendly southerners have a super intense layer right beneath the surface, like in the sense that if wronged them, instead of calling the police (like any good New Englander would), they’d just grab their shotguns and deal with me themselves. But FORTUNATELY, I’m not too worried about that side of things, because I’m a law abiding citizen (unless life jacket requirements and/or international trade embargoes are involved) and also have a natural knack for ending conversations with “roll tide,” so I can keep a low profile.

A few of you may recall that I spent some quality time in bear territory while I was up in Canada. At some point along this southward meander, I’ve stumbled into the domain of a new apex predator with big teeth and a sub-par football team named after it: the gator. As an AVID fan – dare I say student – of the television masterpiece that is Swamp People, let’s just say that over the past couple of weeks, my alliga-dar has been running on overdrive. But whereas there’s a pretty clear protocol for how to act if you come across a bear, there doesn’t appear to be a consensus survival code when it comes to alligators. The most common information I found on google:

  • “The vast majority of alligators are scared of humans. If an alligator does not appear to be scared of you, that’s when you should be worried.” Very insightful.
  • “Alligators rarely attack humans, and most attacks occur in murky water because the gator can’t tell what it’s eating.” I think that article’s target audience was people who are NOT living on boats in murky water.
  • “The alligator has one of the most forceful bites in the animal kingdom, but the muscles it uses to open its jaws are very weak.” Whew! Maybe if I cover myself in peanut butter, the gator will only be able to chomp me once before its mouth gets all stuck together.
  • “Similar to sharks, alligators can sense fear, so don’t panic if you see one. They can also sense ignorance, so don’t act too calm. And lastly, they can sense when people are scheming, so don’t have a plan.” Okay fine, I might have made that one up and added it to the Wikipedia page on alligators.

After my research was complete, I decided that if I came face-to-face with a gator, I’d just stick with what’s worked so far, say “roll tide,” and hope it’s an Alabama fan.

For Thanksgiving, I parked the boat in Columbus, Mississippi for about a week. As it turned out, my brother was flying out from California (where he lives) to Jacksonville (where my parents were) for the holiday, and my mom offered to pay (don’t tell my dad) for my flights to join so that I didn’t feel left out. Since my parents are living on their boat, we went to a restaurant for Thanksgiving dinner…and it was the worst meal any of us had eaten in quite some time. And then that weekend, we went to watch the hometown hero Jacksonville Jaguars play against the New York Giants, who are two of the worst teams in the NFL. But EVERYTHING wasn’t the worst, as we had good weather and got to march into some cool areas like St. Marys (which is actually in Georgia), St. Augustine, and the St. Johns River. In a few months, assuming I actually make it that far, I’ll be cruising those same waters, so I was able to do a little scouting as well.

After flying back to Mississippi last Thursday, I dropped my bags off on the boat and then made a quick turnaround to head to the local Buffalo Wild Wings and catch the Bears/Cowboys game. I got off the boat, onto the dock, and was walking up the ramp to shore when something moved directly beneath my feet. Right there, under the ramp, just about where the water met the shore, I saw a flash of armory scales and then a set of eyes, looking directly into my eyes, no more than 10 feet away. I froze, and it froze. Seconds felt like hours. And I have to be honest – freezing would probably not have been the best tactic if it was an alligator. Fortunately, it was just an armadillo. It blinked first and ran away, and I laid claim to victory in the staring contest.

I’ve since traveled about 120 miles from Columbus to Demopolis, Alabama, and then another 100 miles from Demopolis to my current location (more on that in a bit). I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled for gators, and still haven’t seen one, although I’ve had about 50 false alarms…it’s amazing how many gator-shaped logs are floating around out there. But while I haven’t been able to confirm a visual, I have a cold case that I need to fill you in on. To set the scene, this past Saturday, I woke up at the crack of dawn and spent a long day motoring down the river, but fortunately had a great distraction: I listened to all 10 episodes of Serial. For those of you living under a rock and/or on a boat, Serial is an awesome podcast that takes a deep dive into a 1999 murder case and re-examines whether the accused guy (who is currently serving a life sentence in prison) is actually guilty or not.

I got to my destination, a pretty remote anchorage with no lights or signs of civilization around, right as it was getting dark. I’d just finished the 9th episode when I dropped the anchor, so I poured myself a drink, sat down in the cockpit, and started listening to the 10th. About a half hour later, I suddenly heard leaves rustling on shore about 50 feet behind me. Having just sat through 7-8 hours of a tense detective thriller, I was in an investigative mood, so I turned the stereo off and just listened. There was a lot of rustling for the next minute or so – and it sounded like something big. At that same moment (and this sounds dramatic but I swear it’s true), the full moon rose over the horizon to my right. Between the moon and the rustling, it was a pretty eerie scene. I still couldn’t really see anything though, and definitely couldn’t contain my curiosity, so I turned on a flashlight and scanned the shoreline. The rustling suddenly stopped, and I couldn’t spot anything among the bushes and trees on shore. After about 30 seconds, I gave up and turned off the light…but then no more than 10 seconds after that, heard a big splash in the same area. I turned the light back on, and saw the ripples in the water where my mysterious companion had jumped in, but didn’t see signs of anything swimming along the surface. I obviously want to believe it was an alligator, but have no idea – does anybody know if gators like to play in leaf piles?

Speaking of Serial, there’s one detail in the case that I find endlessly fascinating (and I promise this isn’t really a spoiler for those of you who want to listen to it). The guy who was charged with the murder couldn’t come up with an alibi because by the time he was accused, 6 weeks had passed since the day of the murder. He said he basically couldn’t remember any specific details about that day because it was just a totally normal, nondescript day in his life. There is a really compelling case that he’s actually innocent and is telling the truth, and the narrator questions whether any of us could remember many details about an average day 6 weeks ago. I thought about it, and found that inconceivable. Even without looking at texts or emails to jog my memory (which this guy didn’t have the benefit of in 1999), I actually think I remember details (and not just the easy guesses like “I didn’t exercise”) about every day in the past 3-4 months.

The more I chew on it though, I don’t think I could have made that claim when I was spending the majority of my waking hours in a cubicle. These days, I remember the details because I was either in a new place, or I had a new boat problem (i.e. the boat had a new operator problem), or I actually cooked rice correctly (no idea why I struggle with that so much). In other words, once I remember one detail about a day, I can use that to remember most of the other details because each day is a chain of generally unique experiences strung together.

You know how when there’s a big change in your life (like starting at college, or moving to a new city, or starting a new job), the first few days seem to go by SO slowly? But then you get through that first week, and you get in a rhythm, and all of the sudden the weeks and months are just flying off the calendar? I love that feeling of time moving slowly. So, when the first couple weeks of this trip CRAWLED by, I was really happy with that. But since then I’ve gotten used to this new lifestyle, things have gotten less stressful as I’ve gotten better at maintaining and handling the boat (yes, I did just jinx myself), and I feel like I blinked and suddenly 4-5 months have passed. I’ve been a little bummed about that…like a hollow feeling that I’m getting too comfortable and not getting enough out of this whole experience. But realizing that I can recall all sorts of details about a random day 6 weeks ago is a reminder that I really am living out of my comfort zone and keeping my brain active. And I think once this voyage is over, I’m going to keep living by the 6 week rule – if you can’t remember details about a day 6 weeks ago, life has gotten too monotonous and it’s time to spice things up. And not just so that you have an alibi if you get accused of murder.

Okay enough of that jibber jabber, back to the ACTION!!! I’m sitting here now at a place called Bobby’s Fish Camp, about halfway between Demopolis, AL, and Mobile, AL. I think technically the name of the town is Middle of Fooking Nowhere, AL. Bobby’s has a 150’ dock, a restaurant, some fuel, some cabins, some seemingly friendly people, some Wi-Fi, some snake-conducive habitat, and not much else. My plan is to stay here tonight, eat catfish for the first time (which is the local specialty), and then take off in the morning for Mobile. That trip takes about two days, which means that I should officially be out of the rivers and (sort of) onto the Gulf of Mexico by Saturday. I’m then planning to be in Mobile for a while, and leave the boat there for a couple of weeks to fly out and see family & friends for the holidays…but I’ll plan to throw up another post before that.

Until then, roll tide.

Hello, from an Old Friend

Hi guys, I’m alive! It’s been a busy week or two since my last post, so let’s dive right in. Wait, what? It’s been seven weeks since my last post? Sorry about that – it’s November, something called an “arctic freeze” just swept the nation, and I’m living on a boat without any heat – time flies when you’re having fun! When we last touched base, I was in Ottawa, Illinois. Since then, I’ve passed through (in no particular order): Connecticut, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. It’s a long, compelling story that I’ll have to tell you about sometime.

How does now work?

I left Ottawa and headed south down the Illinois River, spending a night at a free town dock in Hennepin, IL before arriving in Peoria, IL. Peoria has a free dock as well, and I stayed there for three nights. Quite a few towns offer free docks, with the general idea being that boaters will help the local economy by spending money at shops, restaurants, bingo halls, speed dating events (not that I have any personal experience…), etc. A free dock is a nice alternative to racking up credit card debt at a marina, but there’s one big drawback…

When you pay to stay at a marina, you are one of many boats, and there’s generally some type of security in place. At a town dock, you are often the only boat, and you’re on public property. So there’s limited privacy and unlimited characters loitering around. While at the dock in Peoria, for example, I met a guy who said he’d drifted down the Mississippi River 40 years ago on a 12’ x 16’ raft, a woman who looked like the pigeon lady from Home Alone 2 and asked if my boat “always floated,” and two guys who had just been released from federal prison and were living approximately three quarters of a mile down the road in a halfway house. That was approximately all the way too close for my liking.

That said, the dock was right in the middle of the city, within striking distance of some fun bars, and it was a great stay. When I left Peoria, I continued south (you’ll notice that’s a theme these days), anchoring for a night behind a little spit of land called Quiver Island, which I was hopeful had no relation to Shudder (Shutter?) Island. I got there at around 5pm and was pretty tired, so I figured I’d take a quick nap before cooking dinner. When I woke up, it was still light out, but my phone informed me that it was actually 9am the next day and I had been asleep for 16 hours straight. 16 HOURS!!! At least I can officially list “hibernation” in the hobbies/interest section of my resume from now on.

From Quiver Island, I traveled another 30 miles south to Beardstown, IL, where my facial hair and I fit in so perfectly that we decided to stick around for two nights. For about 88% of my stay, you could’ve found me at the Mile 88 Pub, where I made some friends (one of whom said he used to have a beard so big that when he put a t-shirt on, he had to then pull his beard out of the shirt neck) and watched a ton of football. When I left Beardstown, I scoured the map for other places I would’ve fit in, like Lonelyville or Stinkytown, but couldn’t find any so I had to settle on Hardin, IL. When I pulled up to the dock in Hardin, a guy who looked exactly like my dad was standing there – and it turned out to actually be my dad! It would have been the craziest coincidence of my life if we hadn’t planned it.

He had a free week and was in the mood for a road trip, so he drove out from Connecticut to get in on all the fun that I was having. That following weekend, my friend Joe (he of the infamous bachelor-less party that I wrote about a couple of months ago) was getting married to my friend Haley (who I met through our mutual friend, Joe), right outside of New York City. I figured that while I was back east, I’d stick around for a while to catch up with friends & family, so I needed a place to leave the boat for a couple of weeks. And there was only one reasonable choice: Hoppies Marina.

Hoppies is a famous stop for people doing the Great Loop, mostly because the owners, Hoppie and his wife Fern, are legends. When I called to make a reservation, though, I came away from the call with more reservations than I’d bargained for: Fern sounded old. Like really, really old. The way the logistics worked out, after my dad met me in Hardin, we drove his car down to Hoppies (which is just south of St. Louis), and then took a taxi back up to the boat in Hardin. That way, he could hop on board for a couple of days, and then once we got to Hoppies, we could just hop into the car and head back east. When we dropped the car off, we met Fern briefly, and she seemed pretty old in person too. I was worried I might have caught Hoppies a few years too late.

We had a great couple of days on the river, spending one night in Hardin and one night in Grafton, IL, where the Illinois River feeds into the mighty Mississippi River. In Grafton, we met (i.e. drank too much with) a few people who were canoeing the entire Mississippi from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. The following day, we made the 60-mile trip down to Hoppies, which took us right through downtown St. Louis. As we approached Hoppies at the end of the day, I called Fern a few times on the radio, but there was no response. My dad and I looked each other, but before we even had a chance to complete full eye rolls, there was a crackling on the radio – FERN!!! She gave very specific instructions about where to tie up the boat, and as we pulled up to the dock, we saw a sight I’ll never forget. Fern was lounging in a chair, ripping a cigarette, totally in charge and ordering around these two random guys who she had just pulled off a nearby boat. We threw our lines over, she told these guys exactly how to tie them (which is a little bit tricky on the Mississippi because there’s so much current), and made me feel like a total moron for ever doubting her. That woman is going to live longer than I will…unless I keep sleeping for 16 hours every night.

We got in the car that night and drove east, spent a night near Indianapolis, and then continued to Pittsburgh the next day. My dad was heading to D.C. for the weekend, so he left me in the Steel City, where I HOPPED on a train to New York. I was one of Joe’s groomsmen, and the wedding rehearsal started at 6pm on Friday. My train was supposed to get into Penn Station at about 4pm, but was late, so I ended up walking into the rehearsal at about 6:05.

To set the scene for you, everybody else was standing around in a hotel lobby, everybody else was in formal attire, and everybody else was staring directly at the guy who had just walked through the door. That guy happened to be in train passenger attire (i.e. sweatpants, sweatshirt, flip flops), and had neither shaved nor gotten a haircut in about four months. I’m not sure exactly how close the mother of the bride was to fainting and/or kicking me out of the wedding party altogether, but it was definitely close. I escaped to a safe oasis (aka the bathroom) ASAP and changed into my suit, survived the rehearsal and the rehearsal dinner, and met a whole bunch of people. Phase 1 of my master plan was complete. Yes, that’s right, I had a master plan.

I woke up the next day, went outside, and walked into the first barber shop I saw. I showed the guy a picture of what I used to look like, took a minute or two to convince him it was actually me, and asked to look like that again. Here’s a before, during, and after photo:

Tuxedo beard

When I showed up to the wedding later that day, my friends obviously recognized me, but anybody who I’d met the night before had no idea who I was. It led to some awesome exchanges:

  • Me: “I feel like we’ve met somewhere before…”
  • Person X: “At the engagement party in July?”
  • Me: “Nope, don’t think so, I wasn’t there for that.”
  • Person X: “Hmm, I’m not sure then.”
  • Me: “Oh! Now I remember, it was last night at the rehearsal dinner.”
  • Person X: “Are you sure?”
  • Me: “Yeah, I had a beard and a lot more hair back then.”
  • Person X: “OH MY GAAWWDDDDD!!! That was YOU sweethahhht?!?!?”

And yes, they did all turn into 40-year-old women from the Jersey shore at the end. After the wedding, I stayed with my friend Tim in New York City for a few days to catch up with friends, and then took a train back out to my hometown in Connecticut.

As it turns out, my parents are heading south for the winter on their boat, and they were planning to launch from Connecticut right around the same time I was there. The first leg of their trip was going to be an open ocean passage, since it was getting late in the year and my dad wanted to get south and do a straight shot from Connecticut to Norfolk, VA. Since that required sailing through the night, my dad wanted a big enough crew to have a few different watches, so I joined for the trip along with my Uncle Bob, Uncle Lee, and two of my parents’ friends (Bob and Zeke). My mom decided that being trapped on a boat with that many unwashed men didn’t sound fun at all, and just drove down to meet us in Norfolk. The whole passage took a little less than 48 hours, and there was only one time we thought we might sink, so we chalked the whole thing up as a success. The rest of the crew left when we got to Norfolk, but my schedule is pretty open these days so I stuck around to hang out with mom & dad for about a week.

I had fun with the ‘rents, got back to the boat about three weeks ago, and a lot has happened since then…but there’s one thing I came here today to tell you, and one thing only: It. Has. Been. COOOOLLLLLLLDDDDDDDDDDDD!!! Ice cold! For a two-week stretch, I wore about seven layers of clothing every day, and my long johns basically became a part of my body. I attacked the arctic cold front with a multi-faceted approach combining long-term warming strategies (getting south) with short-term warming strategies (getting drunk), and the coalition experienced limited success at best. The standard morning involved waking up to a sight like this:

Icy cold

And all of the lines on my boat started freezing each night, which looked like this:

456

Docking a boat when you’re by yourself presents a little bit of a logistical challenge in the first place, and when your lines turn into the equivalent of fortified wire coat hangers that you have to forcibly unfold, it definitely doesn’t make it any easier to tie up. I was so cold last week that I finally caved and bought a little propane heater, which works great, but unfortunately adds “carbon monoxide asphyxiation” and “propane leak” to the always growing list of ways this trip could end poorly. BUT, if that’s the cost of warm feet?? It’s a price I’ll pay.

From Hoppies, it was a 160-mile stretch down the Mississippi, which I did in about three days. The Mississippi then meets the Ohio River in Cairo, Missouri, and I did a one-day trip about 60 miles east across the Ohio to the Cumberland River. It was then a 30-mile ride up the Cumberland to Green Turtle Bay, an awesome marina in Kentucky where I stayed for a few days to warm up, make some friends, and re-supply. From there, over the course of a few days, I went 75 miles south on the Kentucky Lakes to a place called Birdsong Marina in Tennessee.

I left the boat at Birdsong last weekend, rented a car, and drove 100 miles east to Nashville, where my good friend Lane happened to be staying with his parents, John and Barb. They were VERY hospitable and let me crash with them in a HEATED (!!!) hotel room and tag along for the weekend. Nashville is an awesome place, and my knowledge of country music has expanded exponentially. If you want to know anything about dirt roads, day drinking, saying “yeahaahhh yeah,” or how to do something like a cowboy – just pose your questions in the comments section, I’ll get you up to speed.

Over the past week, I covered another 115 miles on the Tennessee River, and as we speak I am on the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, docked at Aqua Marina near Iuca, Mississippi.

Now that I’ve pounded away on this keyboard for a few hours, I just re-read the post and feel like I spent too much time talking about mundane stuff like how many miles I did on each river, and not enough time talking about the much more interesting minutia that makes up my everyday life. I think that’s because I had too much too talk about, so I hereby pledge to start posting updates more often. And I also hereby pledge to delete that last sentence if I get sidetracked or lazy and don’t post again for another month and a half. I guess we’ll see how this plays out.

Oh, and also, I have been nominated for a very prestigious award! More on that next time…