Or Captain Morgan and the Way Home
"Where to now?" Amy queried as I pulled out of the Sonic parking lot and headed north on Courtenay Parkway.
"Home." I answered.
After I said it, I wondered at exactly what point our Morgan 41 had become that for me: Home. I was pretty sure that just a couple weeks ago, my answer to that same question would have been, "Back to the boat."
What exactly makes a house, or a sailboat, or a trailer, or a carboard box, a home? Is it quantity of time spent there? Is it the number of memories made? Is it the personal touches added? I'm pretty sure it's all of these and more, but when did "the boat" become "home" for me?
I turned right and merged onto A1A, heading back to the marina. Because my wife is smart and intuitive, she noticed I was processing something in my mind and allowed the silence to continue.
Home is obviously a lot of things, but I think it mainly has to do with comfort. Emotional comfort: Home is where you feel most like yourself. Relational comfort: you reside there with those who you are most in tune with, and don't have to wear a mask for (I mean that in the pre-2020 sense). Mental comfort: it's where you do your best thinking. Physical comfort: it's where you can sit around in your underwear with your feet on the furniture.
It's the place where if it's been too long since you've been there, you start to feel not-quite-right. It's the place where no matter how great the vacation was, you can't wait to get back to it. It's the place where you go to hide from the world when the world is cruel. It's where you can re-charge to face another day.
As we pulled into the marina parking lot, I thought of all those who would not describe their homes at all like I have. Those who's homes are where the world is most cruel. Those who look for escape from home and find their havens in stranger's beds, smoky barrooms, or drug houses. Those who would rather be anywhere but home.
The smell of brackish water and the heavy, evening air enveloped us as we strolled slowly down the dock toward Born Again. As we passed by the vessels on both sides of us, I wondered how many of them were homes, and of those, how many people living in them wanted to escape them. That's when it occurred to me that everything I had thought of as being home, could be found in Jesus. If only we fleshly, sin-plagued Christians could somehow perfectly live out what we say we believe about our God, we could feel at home wherever we are, and whatever the circumstances. If we could perfectly abide in Christ, we wouldn't need homes. Like Jesus, we could have nowhere to lay our heads and be OK with that.
Of course we'll never do anything perfectly as long as we're in these tired, old bodies (some older and more tired than others), so as we stepped down the companionway into the inviting comfort of our salon, I thanked God for blessing me with such a wonderful, temporary home, for His promise of an even better, eternal one to come, and I re-affirmed my commitment to use this vessel as a means to show others the way home.
Those of you who have been following our journey for a while, probably remember me, not long ago, making up fictitious flash-forwards of things that I thought were likely to happen in Amy and I's future, and using them for my blog intros. With no sailboat yet, and still living in Monmouth , it seemed the only way to make them interesting. Some of those flash-forwards have occurred remarkably as described in those writings.
Last Wednesday evening, as people began filing onto Born Again for a bible study, we began to run out of room in the salon. I went to the V-berth and grabbed a large, flat plastic tool box and set it outside the forward head to use as a chair. As I sat down on it, I realized that we were living out almost exactly the scene I had described in one of those earlier posts!
Other's of those scenes haven't played out yet and maybe never will. Still others didn't happen at all as I had imagined they would. In any case, I'm pleased that we are far enough along in our journey, that I can use actual events, and that they are far enough outside most of our readers experiences, that they are hopefully of some interest.
It's been seven weeks ago that we moved aboard Born Again and frankly, I don't hardly know what to write. Not for lack of subject matter, but because there are so many different things I could cover. I've decided that probably the best way to handle this post is to do a little interview with myself.
I am going to respond to the questions that I would ask me if I were you. And the beauty of this is, if my questions aren't what you want to know, you can contact us and ask your own questions. You can even direct them to one or both of us. We will either answer them directly, or in the next post. How's that? Sound good? Here we go...
Tell me about the highest high and the lowest low you've experienced so far?
I'm a save the best for last kind of guy, so I'll start with the low.
I honestly think the worst thing of all so far has not been a moment, or an hour, or even a day; It's been the bugs. Worse than replacing both toilets, worse than the major plumbing project under the galley sink, worse than any of the surprise expenses that have come up, and worse than any seamanship error committed, have been the relentless, invisible, demonic, no-see-ums.
We've tried everything to keep them at bay from store bought repellents, to home remedies. We've tried everything to help with the itching from pills, to ointments, to a torturous little device called "Nu-bite" that heats up to 122 degrees and gets placed on the bite for 30 seconds. None of it makes the slightest dent. It's enough to drive a person insane. I cannot begin to count the number of hours I have lain awake at night, tearing into my legs until they're bleeding. It's been horrendous. Many people are un-phased by them. We have not been so lucky.
The good news is, and I say this with hesitation not wanting to jinx it (yes, it has come down to superstition at this point), is that they seem to have finally eased up the last few days as fall weather begins to settle in. For those of you in the Midwest, Fall in Florida means high 70s to mid 80s rather than the high 80s and 90s we've had up until now. The humidity backs off a bit too.
As for the highest high, it was definitely a time at sea about three weeks ago. Amy and I had taken the boat out about four times previous to this, but had either been in the ICW (a more protected body of water normally navigated under power rather than sail), or had another, more experienced sailor with us to help with lines and sails, and look to in moments of uncertainty. I knew what our problem areas were going to be with just the two of us, and I had put a lot of effort into planning how we would overcome them. I laid out the strategies I had come up with to Amy, we ran through them a couple times to make sure we were on the same page, and off we went. We executed them very well, displaying great teamwork, and they proved to be very practical, successful strategies in the real world of sailing.
We left the marina, went up the barge canal, across the Banana River, through the Canaveral Locks, under the draw bridge, out the channel and into the mighty Atlantic Ocean. We hoisted the mainsail and the genoa like a couple of seasoned pros, shut down the motor and gave ourselves and our vessel over to God and his incredible creation. Seas were 3 -5 feet - enough to know you were in the ocean, but not enough to be uncomfortable. A 15 knot breeze from the south had us sailing nearly 7 knots on a beam reach. Dolphins surfaced around us. The sky was a vibrant blue with those huge, puffy white clouds. Every manner of sea-bird circled overhead.
Everything from the last year: all the studying and research, the selling of all our possessions, leaving our home and jobs, all the good-byes we endured, all the moments of uncertainty, all the boat shopping, all the boat work, all the prayers for guidance and wisdom - in that moment they all came together. We were exactly where we were supposed to be. It had all been absolutely, completely, and totally worth it.
The worst thing about that day was tacking the boat around and heading back to the marina. I just wanted to keep sailing. We had everything we owned with us us. What reason did we really have to go back?! I could just imagine us sailing for two days and nights and pulling into a anchorage in West End, Bahamas, and starting the ministry that God had laid on our hearts. But alas, reality invaded. This was not God's timing.
We had a mini-van back at the marina that couldn't just be abandoned. We had to tell the marina we were leaving if we expected to get any of our deposit back. We had already built the kind of relationships you don't just walk away from without saying good-bye. And if I was honest, neither we, nor Born Again, were quite prepared for that part of the journey.
We eased our home back into her slip just before dark. It was a near perfect docking. It was definitely the best day of this journey so far, and probably in the top 50 best days of my life.
What have been some of the unexpected aspects of the journey so far?
There have been many. Most of them have been blessings, and most of them have been pretty insignificant, but not all.
One of the things I never thought about, but have enjoyed immensely is never wearing shoes. More days than not, I never even put on flip-flops! I'm just always barefoot. If I have to go into a store or a restaurant, I put on flip flops. For church on Sunday's, I put on my Converse. So yeah, I wear shoes about 2 hours a week, and sandals, about the same. It's glorious.
Another one is being rather frequently referred to as "Captain". It always takes me a second to realize that I'm the one being addressed, and then when I do, I find myself standing up just a little straighter. Something about that title brings home the amount of responsibility I have, and somehow it stirs up both pride and humility in me at the same time.
Of more significance for the mission at hand, has been a greater desire to broaden our circle of friends and acquaintances. Those of you who know me well, know that I'm very much an introvert, and while I can and will socialize when a situation calls for it, I'm not one out looking for opportunities to mingle. But I feel like God is stirring something up in me that is changing that a bit.
It's been a year now that I have been asking the Lord to grow me in whatever ways I need to grow in order to better accomplish the mission that we are undertaking. I believe he is answering that in this area. I am more inclined to seek out conversations with those that I don't know, or barely know, than I think I ever have been. That has most definitely been unexpected. It's also how I know it's God answering prayer. If it was me just forcing myself to be more social, it would be work, but it's really been a natural thing. A change in me, not just in my behavior.
Final Question: You've left Monmouth and moved aboard the boat in Cape Canaveral. You've been living in the marina for seven weeks getting yourself and your sailboat ready for bigger things. What's next?
We are, I believe, about 10 days to 2 weeks away from moving to the next phase of our journey. There are two projects that need to be completed first, and you never know when a project can become much bigger than expected, but assuming everything goes reasonably well, that should be an accurate time frame.
I've come to see the marina as a bit of an umbilical cord connecting us to land. There's security in that connection, and it's been a good thing for this transitional period, but it's time to cut that cord.
After taking many things into account, the decision we've made is to sail to Boot Key Harbor in the Florida Keys. This decision makes a lot of sense for many reasons.
Our desire of course, is to go to the Caribbean, but there are three reasons why that is not the best choice right now. First, the Bahamas is the logical starting point for that, but their COVID restrictions are very strict, and changing so often it's hard to keep up with them. It seems like a distinct possibility that even if we were to jump through all their hoops and go there now, we would end out being made to leave.
Second, is our vessel's paperwork. Simply put: we don't have any. Born Again is a USCG documented vessel (which means that it is "U.S. soil" no matter where in the world it is), and the Coast Guard is way behind on their document processing. The bill of sale and the copy of the application for documentation is perfectly adequate in most circumstances, but I wouldn't want to try to enter a foreign country with just that. We don't know for sure when to expect our documents.
Thirdly, there's our insurance. They will not cover us if we leave U.S. waters. ("Well Russ, why did you get coverage that restricted you to U.S. waters when you knew you were going to the Caribbean?" Answer: Because between our inexperience and the size of our boat, I was having trouble finding coverage at all. And there was a hurricane bearing down on our new boat! I had to act fast.) While I have no intention of letting an insurance company dictate our journey, it is one more reason that the Keys make more sense right now. Perhaps they will expand our coverage at renewal.
Financially, Boot Key Harbor makes a lot of sense as well. We are currently spending about $900 a month for our slip in the marina. (Which believe it or not, is a good price.) With the projects we've needed to do, it's been necessary and worth it, but once these last couple projects are complete, we can no longer justify it. While many things in the Keys are more expensive, a mooring ball there will only cost us $325 per month. We can also legally get jobs there because it's still in the U.S..
Boot Key Harbor is the premier cruiser's spot in the Keys. In fact, if we don't get there by Thanksgiving or soon after, we might not get a spot at all. All 226 mooring balls are full all winter, every winter, with a waiting list. This means that we'll be surrounded by exactly the people God called us to minister to. In our marina here, we are surrounded by boaters, but these are land based people; they are not cruisers. We've built some relationships and ministered here because that's what we do wherever we are, but Boot Key Harbor is going to put us in the midst of the cruiser's that we set out to reach with the gospel from the beginning.
It will be another transitional period as we get used to not being able to step off the boat onto land, or hook up to the land-based power grid, but c'mon, it's the Keys! We'll finally be getting a bit of what we were willing to trade all the convenience and comfort of our land-based life for: Incomparable sunsets, crystal clear waters, world class scuba diving, fresh-from-the-ocean seafood.
So is heading to the Keys a bit of a compromise? Yeah, it is. It's not the Caribbean. But it's close to the Caribbean, and given all the circumstances, we believe it's the best choice right now. We're very excited about it.
Our journey south will be a big leap forward for our sailing experience. It will be our first time navigating unfamiliar inlets and harbors, and will likely entail our first overnight sail. We're excited about it, but there is also some anxiety. Please pray for God's hand to be upon us on this passage.
Again, if there are any questions you have, we'd love to answer them. We thank you for following our adventure, and we hope you enjoy what we share of ourselves and our journey.
You can keep up with our more day to day activities by liking or following our Facebook page. You can read my story here, and Amy's story here. And if you feel inclined to support us financially, you can do so here. And don't forget to get your awesome Born Again in Blue Water apparel here.
Thank you for reading. God Bless. Fair winds and following seas to you all.