We were scheduled to depart for the Gulf of Mexico last Thursday. Unfortunately, after checking the forecast one last time, we had to make drastic alterations to our plans. An incoming front was bringing 20-knot sustained winds, gusting to 36, torrential rain, and 6 to 8 foot seas offshore.
Our 52′ sailboat is perfectly capable of withstanding such weather but, since the boys haven’t yet been offshore in No Tan Lines, I didn’t think that type of adventure would be nice for them. Quite the opposite, in fact.
The boys were expecting a vacation and, gosh darn it, we were going to give it to them! So, we quickly made a brand new list, packed different provisions (including the dinghy and outboard motor), and made reservations at a campground on Marco Island. The boys had never slept in a tent so they were very excited! We reserved a cabin as well, just in case the weather got too bad for primitive camping. And, we had a great time!!
The first night was soooo very cold but a lot of fun. We cooked sausages, hot dogs and corn on the cob over an open fire. We were going to have s’mores but somebody (me!) forgot the marshmallows.
After dinner, we played a game – Cards Against Humanity. We tried to keep our raucous laughter to a minimum but it was difficult.
The tents and sleeping bags were comfy but it was still pretty cold. The wind child was in the lower 40’s, which is unusual for Florida this time of year. In fact, it was 90 here one day last week so shivering that night was quite a change!
The next morning, Friday, we took the dinghy to the boat ramp, and took turns zipping up and down the river. Max and Mason have been learning how to run the motor and steer the dinghy over the past few weeks. Max went first. He was a bit nervous but he did a fabulous job. Mason took me for a ride and, I tell ya, that kid is fearless! We were zipping all over the place! He was able to launch from the boat ramp, change gears, steer perfectly, and get the dinghy back on the boat ramp. He can even lift and lower the motor, despite his small size.
We also went fishing, and caught two hardheads (saltwater catfish). There were some huge fish feeding voraciously near us but they weren’t interested in our bait (dead shrimp).
That evening, we had steaks on the grill, and s’mores for dessert. Yes, we’d picked up marshmallows earlier in the day. We sat around the campfire, entertaining the boys with funny stories about when we were children and we were exhausted by bedtime.
On Saturday, just after breakfast, we ventured out to a national forest, and hiked for a few miles. We didn’t see any big wild animals but we saw thousands of buzzards! There was a ditch that was starting to run dry and there were thousands of small, dead fish in it. The buzzards were feasting in that, sitting on the trees surrounding it, and flying overhead. And, the smell! The SMELL!!! But, it was a cool experience for the boys.
Just before we finished our hike, it started sprinkling. By the time we got back to the cabin, it was pouring. We spent the afternoon indoors. After a nap, we watched movies and I dashed outside every 10 minutes to cook burgers and corn on the cob on the gas grill. I thought they would need to cook longer than they did. When I checked on them the last time, all the burgers were black all over. The corn was pretty scorched, too. I carried everything inside, assuring everyone all was well. I then turned my back to everyone, and went to work cutting the black parts off the burgers. I then covered the mutilated patties with slices of cheese, which quickly melted, and, voila! You could (barely) tell I’d scorched the heck out of them!
Later, Mason said, “Mom! This burger is awesome! I like them crunchy!!”
On Sunday morning, the sun was once again shining but more rain was in the forecast. We’d gotten so much rain that we had to back the truck onto the boat ramp to drain the bed. After breakfast, we took the boys to the shuffleboard court, and taught them how to play. It was a very competitive two hours with lots of laughter. The boys weren’t missing their laptops and phones at all!
But, after we got back to the cabin, the rain started again so we had a lazy afternoon watching movies. That night, we had grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, all cooked on the grill. We were so glad we’d brought a small cast iron skillet!
On Monday morning, we packed the truck, stopped for a quick breakfast, and then visited the a wildlife sanctuary, which we all loved.
On the way home, we stopped at Bass Pro Shop in Ft. Myers to buy the boys some new sailing clothes for the summer. Those will sure come in handy, if it ever warms up! Today, it was windy and only 60 degrees and the boat was pitching all over the place. Whoo hoo!!!
Since the boat is prepped and ready for a trip, we’re going to watch the weather daily. When there are a few good, calm days in the forecast, we’ll once again attempt our first high seas adventure.
Mason was sitting quietly, staring at the fire with a marshmallow in his hand. I said, “Mason, are you finished with your s’mores already?”
He replied, “I’m really full right now. As soon as I burp, I’ll have another one.”
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Angela Hoy lives on a 52' Irwin Center Cockpit Ketch (sailboat) with her family and pets. She is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, BookLocker.com, and AbuzzPress, and the author of 19 books. Keep up with her family's adventurous liveaboard lifestyle at GotNoTanLines.com.
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