Monday, November 12, 2007

Boats, Ex-Wives, Salt Marshes and Small Worlds

From the time I was very young, I have been very uncomfortable in boats. I'm sure it all began when my father purchased a sailboat and thought that weekend sailing would be a great family tradition. What he didn't count on was how absolutely seasick I would get everytime we went out. I believe I threw up nearly every outing. Fun. I finally figured out a way to avoid heaving on the open seas... I trailed my feet or my hands in the water, as it raced by under our boat. As long as I could get one or the other into the water, I was okay - even if the waves tossed us about like cats playing with catnip mice.

But I still didn't like it. My father and my uncle bore an uncanny resemblence to Laurel and Hardy when they sailed together, and never was it more evident when they managed to sink the boat in six feet of water. We howled with laughter from the safety of the shore as they bumbled the boat into its watery grave. I don't think Dad ever forgave us for that. It doesn't help that the boat they sank was called Kansaka - "trouble" if I remember correctly.

My grandfather on my mother's side was a sail maker by trade, and always had a boat handy. On one of the very rare occasions that we went to visit him and his amour du jour, my father took me out on one of Grandpa's boats. It was a warmish day and we were out in the waters off the coast of Cortez - unfamliar waters. I suppose it was only a matter of time before we ran aground. The center board was stuck and we tried all kinds of things to get it back up into the boat. I remember bending over, my face above the hole where the centerboard lived, and my father giving a great yank which brought the centerboard up suddenly free of the sandbar and straight into my face. It's a wonder my nose wasn't broken or that I didn't lose consciousness. As it was, it swelled up horribly and gushed great draughts of blood. My father is not good with blood. The very sight of it makes him woozy. In desperation, he pulled off his socks and wrapped my nose with them. I'm sure it was a very good thing that I had absolutely no sense of smell at that moment.

I managed to avoid boats for a very long time after that. My father bought another sailboat much later, whose name in Welsh translated to "Little Darling on the Side". It was a lovely little boat, and being a much older and wiser person, not to mention, mostly over seasickness as a rule, I once again ventured out into the Gulf of Mexico in a little boat piloted by my father. Let me say that the years had done wonders for his ability to sail without causing terror in his passengers, and we had several lovely trips out, complete with cocoa and MREs (meals-ready-to-eat compliments of my Army brothers). But a mistress is an expensive habit, even if she is made of fiberglass and metal and when my parents moved farther away from the coast and nearly into the next state, "Little Darling" came out of the water and lives in a pole barn on their property.

Silly me. I thought I was through with boats.

Enter Darling Man, who loves to go fishing and kayaking. I cannot say that we've had any mishaps. We had a little aluminum boat that leaked like a sieve and I was too busy bailing to worry about much else. We had a tiny fiberglass boat with an equally tiny motor at one point. He took me out to fish on the Aucilla River in that one. We were putting along and I looked over towards the shore, noting the downed trees along the side after a recent hurricane. Imagine if you will, my horror when one of the tree trunks MOVED! It turned it's head towards the sound of our little motor, then slid into the water, heading in our direction. Obviously not a tree, but rather the largest alligator I had ever laid eyes on. Sixteen feet at least. It disappeared under the water and we cranked that motor up as high as it would go - 5 miles an hour!!! The alligator was totally submerged, so we couldn't see it and it took a long, long time for me to relax again.

The summer after we got married, Darling Man got laid off and our friend Bobby hired him to work some freelance editing for him. Bobby literally kept our heads above water for a couple of years - and I am profoundly grateful for that. Bobby, on the other hand, was deeply grateful to Darling Man for his wonderful work, upholding the quality reputation of Bobby's company. To thank him, Bobby presented Darling Man with a kayak. For DM, it was like every Christmas of his life all rolled into one. He went out almost daily in that kayak, exploring the shoreline of our wild county, learning how to fish out of it and scallop out of it (though he does not recommend the scalloping thing with a kayak). Once in a while, he would borrow another kayak from Bobby and take me out too.

Freak city. I already had a very healthy respect for boats and water. I feel like we are the aliens in that world and I really don't wish to visit aquaworld if I can help it. It's an odd attitude for a native Floridian who grew up going to the coast almost every weekend. It's bad enough when you're in a fishing boat or a canoe and sitting up above the water a bit, but a kayak gets you right down there at eye level with lots of denizens of the swamps and marshes. Manatees aren't bad, but alligators up close and personal tend to freak me out a little.

So, after this rather lengthy introduction, you're probably wondering WHEN I'm going to get around to the subject of my title. The answer would be... now.

Darling Man's ex-wife Bea was in-state for a conference and rented a car to come up and visit SSKurt and GDK - and us. Thankfully, we are all friends and enjoy doing things together - even sharing a vacation once in a while. And honestly, one of the things I adore about Bea is that she loves to DO STUFF. She goes on cross-country bike rides, hikes, camps, and is game to try just about anything. On this particular visit, she wanted to go kayaking.

We still own the one kayak, but are in no way equipped to deal with five extra people going on an outing like that. Lucky us, Bobby is a partner in an outfitter business, located right on a salt marsh creek. Darling Man called him and made the arrangements, and we all drove down this morning for our adventure.

As you can imagine, I was of two minds about this whole thing. First of all, boats - kayaks, in the wilds of a salt marsh, where the alligators live. Shudder.

But on the other hand, we were all going to do something really cool with Bea and it was a beautiful day, not hot, not cold. Big smile.

We arrived in three cars... Darling Man and ZBoy in one, me in another, and Bea and SSKurt with GDK in another. Darling Man had to go to work, and needed to be able to bug out on his own. And the rest of us would go our separate ways when our adventure was done.

Bobby met us in the yard. I hugged him, hadn't seen him in several years. He exclaimed over how tall ZBoy had grown and greeted SSKurt and Darling Man. He was shocked at GDK - she'd been a tiny baby the last he'd seen her. And when Bea got out of the car, we introduced her. He looked at me and asked where she fit in and I pointed to Bea, saying "First wife" and to myself, saying "Second wife." Ah, understanding... then, as they say, the other shoe dropped. Turns out that Bobby is great friends with Bea's brother-in-law (her second husband's brother) and had heard stories about the Bea and Darling Man in family context without realizing that the DM in the stories was MY DM.


Then Bea asked about how Bobby knew us. Actually, I'd known him since the late 70s when I was a teen. He met DM quite independently of me, in fact, before DM and I had even heard of each other. DM worked for my father for about seven years and never knew he had a daughter. And a couple of years after he stopped working for Dad, I came to work in the same place he was working and that was how we met. Oh, and incidently, Bea is married to one Darling Man's friends from high school.

The world keeps shrinking.

So with that particular oddness out of the way, we embarked on our adventure. Bobby had a couple of two-seater kayaks and a one-seater, so Bea and GDK were in one, Darling Man and ZBoy were in one, SSKurt had the one-seater, and I was in Darling Man's Pungo, which we brought with us.

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Darling Man and ZBoy are figuring out how to launch the kayaks from the dock, while
Bea zips GDK into a life vest.
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Bea and GDK got off to a good start, but the low tide made the gangplank down to the
floating dock meet it at a sharp angle. When SSKurt got on the floating dock, the gangplank
slipped off and wound up UNDER the floating dock. SSKurt was a little abashed, but apparently this is something that has happened before. It was fixed shortly after we set out.

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Some beauty shots for you... North Florida salt marsh. Lots of birds, a couple of turtles and yes, there were alligators, but none came close. And there were lots of baby alligators. The largest one we saw was maybe four feet at the most. Little guys.


Confab - which branch of water do we take here?

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We made it back in once piece and it was an absolutely glorious afternoon. A little outside my comfort level, but well worth it. When we got back, we carried the kayaks back up to the shed where they're stored, and Bobby asked ZBoy how he liked the trip.


Darling Man took off to go to work, and the rest of us hung around a little before deciding to go to a local BBQ place for lunch. Bobby gave us directions and promised to meet us there shortly, so Bea and SSKurt left first (that's the rental) followed by me and the kids. This is a beautiful road and fairly representative of the area we were in.

Beautiful, isn't it?


bermudabluez said...

Hi there, I actually came to read your Fun Monday post, but this was interesting! It sounds so very much like the story of me and my husband and his ex....we always do stuff together or spend the holidays together! We're all friends, so it's all good! Makes it so much easier on everybody!!

Sandy said...

Beautiful pictures and a wonderful story of a shrinking world. Thanks for sharing.

apricoco said...

Neat connections in your (extended) family. I love florida marshes. I'm one of the oddities in So.Fla. having been raised here, that I LOVE the everglades. Well, except the bugs.. Those I could do without.

Glad to see that you had a nice day.

I.A.M.L. said...

My ex husband hangs out with us sometimes too. Most people think it's weird, but it works for us too :-)

Good to see you had a good time.


min said...

I miss floating down the Florida Springs! I was never scared of the gators, but the gar terrified me.

I wouldn't be caught dead hanging with my ex-husbands ex-wife...but then, I'm not that crazy about my ex-husband either.

karisma said...

Looks like lots of fun. I love long roads with lots of trees. Just Beautiful.

Stepping Over the Junk said...

I love the photos. I was talking to Steam recently about how good it is that since he owns a few boats and practically lives on his boats in the summer, that I like boats too. If not, no point of being together, really.