Our Boat

Caloosa Spirit

Catalina 42 mkII

Log #97 A Blessed Interlude

We actually made it this time—all the way to Marathon and Caloosa Spirit. Other than an ugly girdling of bottom growth, she seems to be fine and fit. So far, everything is working properly. The boat floats, the engine runs, and the head flushes, so today is a day in paradise. The weather is warm and breezy—just the way we like it.

As most readers here now know, Mom spent only a week in the Ruth Lilly Hospice Unit at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. She died quietly and peacefully one mid-night, surrounded by her plants, music, and people who cared for her. We made the following days a celebration of her life and times as we went through visitation and a funeral at Speedway United Methodist Church in Indy. Everyone involved in the planning and execution of the whole event was just wonderful. I can’t express here enough appreciation to all who shared their sympathy and concern, who provided sustenance through food and hugs, and who generally gave us loving support as we wended our way through that difficult time.

Soon after, we began the ominous task of clearing Mom’s apartment. That having been her home for over 23 years, she had managed to accumulate some serious “stuff”. At first we thought we couldn’t possibly get the job done and still attend to the boat. We have for some time been acutely aware of how long Caloosa Spirit has been sitting unoccupied, and we felt the urgent need to get back to her, at least for a short time. Mom is due to be buried in Massachusetts next month, so we have a short window of time to spend aboard. We made the decision to push through the task of emptying the apartment in just one week. Everything fell into place in securing a storage locker adjacent to our existing one, finding a parking space for Mom’s car, and renting a truck for two days to move furniture and boxes of stuff that we weren’t yet ready to part with. It felt like a marathon of long days, and I wasn’t sure I would be able to handle the emotional aspect of the ordeal. But soon after we started I realized that, as the apartment looked less and less like Mom’s, it really was less and less hers. Even as the tears fell I gained a degree of comfort in looking through things that I hadn’t really seen in years, as well as a degree of wonder at finding things I never knew existed. I keenly felt and treasured Mom’s presence in it all. One other thing that kept us in Indy for that week was a performance by our church choir of the Requiem by John Rutter. It is one of my very favorite pieces of music, and I felt a need to participate for Mom. It was one more significant way to honor her memory, and the performance was inspirational.

So two days ago we set out on the long drive to Marathon. Blessedly, the drive was uneventful, and we’re now at home. We’re extremely grateful to Jon and Roberta on Freedom for keeping an eye on Caloosa Spirit for the last couple of weeks, and for a dinghy pick-up to get us on board. We’re equally grateful to Tom and Barbara on Encore for their loving care while they were here in the harbor, as well as to Dawn and Bruce on Ladyhawk for the same. What would we ever do without the support of other cruisers?

Our plan at this point is to get Caloosa Spirit ready to sail, and to head north at our first opportunity. We have a slip reserved at Gulfport Marina in St. Petersburg where she will remain berthed for the next several months. We plan to remain in Indianapolis for a few more weeks after the trip east for Mom’s burial until after my next CT scan in mid-May. I’m hoping to avoid any plans for surgery until later in the summer, so that we can return to the boat and do a little summer cruising in the Tampa Bay area. For right now, though, it feels good to be here.

Have I mentioned recently what a great place Boot Key Harbor is for socializing? No? Well, let me reiterate. Yesterday upon arriving we got a dinghy ride from past acquaintances Jon and Roberta on Freedom; we noticed that the boat moored directly ahead of us was Sea Trekker with Jim and Lani aboard (more past acquaintances); we met Pat and Stu as we passed by Tiger Bay (another Catalina 42) nearby; and we later saw Jade with Pat and Kat aboard tie up a few moorings away. Late this afternoon, after spending a leisurely day unpacking, we visited with Jim and Lani to catch up on the several cruising seasons since last we saw them. We hope to catch up with our other acquaintances in the next few days. This is the best part of cruising.

Boot Key Harbor
A last Boot Key Harbor sunset for a while

We did indeed have other social opportunities. After visiting with Pat and Stu on Tiger Bay and getting an eyeful of some really neat Catalina 42 upgrades, we spent the rest of a delightful evening aboard Jade with Pat and Kat. They are headed tomorrow for the Exumas, and we wish them fair winds and safe travels.

We’ve done more than just socialize, however. Unpacking has taken us about three days, and we still don’t have everything stowed. Light provisioning, cleaning, and attending to mail and finances have also eaten up our days. We hope to be ready to leave within a few days.

What a change! The wind is no longer howling! We understand that it’s been a very windy winter, and there are numerous boats in the harbor that had no intention of staying so long. Any desirable weather window for a Bahamas crossing has been elusive for the last few weeks, it seems. In so much wind, though, Boot Key Harbor is definitely the place to be stuck. The protection and community can’t be matched. The wind has been blowing a steady 20-25 since we arrived several days ago, but today the wind is down to less than 10. It seems eerily quiet.

We really can’t believe we’ve missed most of the cruising season here. When we left we were still expecting many more boats to fill the harbor, and now many have been and gone and are still going. We rather hate to leave, but it appears that we’ll have a good window to head north in a couple of days. Today we accomplished laundry and having the bottom cleaned, along with some route planning, so we’re making progress in getting ready.

There’s nothing quite so reassuring as observing the sky lighten and brighten after a long, dark night on the water. Each sunrise brings a renewal of God’s covenant, and this morning the dawn was most appreciated. We left yesterday morning from Marathon with a plan to sail through the night to arrive at Boca Grande early today. As is often the case, though, NOAA’s prediction for 10-15 knots of southerly wind never materialized. So we motor-sailed through the day yesterday, but when darkness fell we shut down the engine to avoid any unfortunate capture of crab pot lines in the propeller. As a result we poked along at 2-4 knots—much slower than we had anticipated or usually travel—with only 6-8 knots of wind behind us. When the sun finally rose and visibility of the sea around us returned, we once more cranked up the iron genny to gain some ground. Fortunately, the wind did finally pipe up and we were able to sail most of the day today to Boca Grande. We’re anchored off Useppa Island, one of our favorite spots, prepared to make another run to Longboat Key tomorrow. A good night’s sleep will be gratefully welcome.

Florida Bay sunrise
Sunrise on Florida Bay

Yesterday’s downwind sail was quite lovely as we ran on a 15-20 knot southerly with just our genoa. The 3-5 ft. seas were a bit much as we turned into Longboat Pass, but that rough ride was just another adventure.

Genoa flying
Flying on only the genoa

We’re glad to be back at Longboat Key after an absence of a couple of years. We have only another four hours or so to get to Gulfport, but that won’t happen today, it seems. We awoke this morning to rain—something we haven’t seen for some time—and clouds that continue to threaten. So we’re staying put for the day. We expect tomorrow to be a good travel day, so we’ll be off early.

Caloosa Spirit will be tucked in and bedded down at the Gulfport Marina for the next several months. Next week we’re heading back up to Indianapolis for Easter, then to Lunenburg, Massachusetts, for Mom’s burial on April 14. For another month we’ll remain in Indy; then, if my doctors concur, we’ll return to our floating home in late May. We’ll keep the slip in Gulfport through hurricane season, so we’ll have a home base through the summer. We look forward to some leisurely summer cruising.

Fair winds and a faithful wake until next time,
Alice & Jim Rutherford
s/v Caloosa Spirit

Posted Friday April 3, 2009

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