Bob & Dee Moore, discover the joys of shared adventure on their trip from Ft. Myers to the Chesapeake on their appropriately named 34z #48 CARPE DIEM (Seize the day!). That's what MJM's are designed to do.
As Dee and I began discussing with friends the possibility of traveling the IntraCoastal Waterway from Fort Myers to the Chesapeake aboard Carpe Diem, our MJM 34z, a very consistent pattern emerged. From those who had made the trip, many said, with a wistful look in their eyes, “I’m envious.” From those who had not made the trip, we received numerous offers to join us as crewmembers. So it was with heightened anticipation and curiosity that we began our journey, not just to experience the ICW, but to understand WHY? What is it about this journey that evokes such strong emotions in people? And why would we undertake this voyage, lasting 18 days and consuming 640 gallons of diesel fuel, when Southwest Airlines would gladly transport us to the same destination in 2 ½ hours at the cost equivalent of 70 gallons of fuel?
One of the first things you notice is that the importance of current events in the news begins to fade away. Hours upon hours of cruising with your best friend, seeing water and sky and wildlife, have a way of moving your thoughts away from the mundane world you were leaving. Whether it was a conscious effort or not, it feels therapeutic to let go of the stories about Wall Street greed, power-drunken egos in Washington, or the latest escapades of Tiger.
After just a couple of days, Dee went from being the most navigationally challenged person I have ever met, to a “Master” of charts. Her skills proved invaluable, helping to keep Carpe Diem off the sandbars that menacingly await just out of sight. Docking with heavy currents and wind, not part of Bob’s training at the Gulf Harbour Marina, became more routine. Along with multiple shared adventures, such as learning how to navigate locks and our first waves crashing on the windshield, we gained increasing confidence that maybe 67 years olds were really not crazy to embark on this adventure after all.
As you travel north, history lessons, the details of which had dimmed through the years, suddenly come back to life. Explorers such as Ponce de Leon at St. Augustine and the more contemporary ones at Cape Kennedy, the first battle of the Civil War at Charleston, the architecture at Beaufort, the settlers around the Chesapeake Bay - all assumed their rightful place as part of the great American fabric.
People come and go in the normal course of everyone’s life, some proving to be more memorable than others. We feel so fortunate to have enjoyed so many interactions with the widest imaginable cross-section of wonderful people - people who help make America such a special and divergent land. We witnessed first hand the human struggles of so many - hurricane scarred marina owners Mary Lou in Clewiston ( 3 million dollars in damage) and Preston at the Narrows Marina at Gwynn Island (it wasn’t just the crumbling docks that told his story, but the heavy lines on his weathered face and hands so dirty he refused to shake my hand); Julie, front desk manager at the Beaufort Inn in South Carolina, whose dream of an inn of her own was shattered by the real estate collapse; Buddy, who said he could not read, but whose mechanical skills saved us in Harbourtown ; Germaine, our driver in Harbourtown, who most certainly “Done did!” moonshine; Yvonne, the driver in Michaels, Virginia, so steadfastly proud of her children she was trying to rear to a better life; Lindsey, our waitress at The White Dog Inn with the great sense of humor, who viewed her move to Michaels as a step up; Bill, our homeless driver in Clewiston, whose missionary work in South America prepared him to give us a little lecture on the value of “community” and “love”; Jason, our waiter in Titusville, not afraid to express the fact that he was thankful to have a job, who gave us one of the best laughs of the trip by saying, “He had never eaten in the restaurant where he worked.” However, in every single case, they all held their heads high with a confidence that, through hard work, things would get better. Their spirit was infectious, their belief in the American dream overwhelming.
After a couple of weeks on the water, a certain serenity settles in, almost a dreamlike state of well being. A routine has been established, a sense of self assurance grows. Then, as we cleared the harbor at Norfolk, suddenly we were faced with the broad expanse of the Chesapeake, fog shrouded and rough, with markers much further apart than we had experienced up to this point. The GPS gave me confidence, but Dee, momentarily lost on her charts, was shaken. She needed a stern reminder that everything was OK. I had not realized how the charts had become her security blanket, as the GPS had become mine. A question kept popping up in my head - “What were they thinking, those unbelievably brave explorers nearly 500 years ago? Embarking for the ‘New World,’ without a GPS to guide them!” We gained a new appreciation for the enormity of their adventure and
for all who test life’s boundaries.
Soon came other jolts back to reality. As we skirted a military secure zone in the Chesapeake, a helicopter kept a close eye on us. Later, near Patuxent Naval Base, fighter jets screamed overhead on training missions. We still enjoyed the water and sky and wildlife, but with a stark reminder that we were easing back into the real world.
From the fine cuisine of Charleston and Harbourtown to the comfort food in Titusville, from the professional service of some marinas to the bare bones approach at others, from the solitude along hidden stretches of the waterway to the U. S. Navy’s awe-inspiring presence at Norfolk, from the magnificent yachts of the ultra wealthy to the struggles of everyday citizens, it was a mind expanding experience without peer - so many contrasting views of our world, so much time to reflect on how very fortunate we are.
All of our life’s experiences are reduced to memories, which become a diary we carry with us. We seized the day, our diary now overloaded.
And at the end of the day, we now know WHY?