Tuesday, April 28, 2009

My Final Blog--We've Crossed Our Wake!

(We have been home now for eight days. Last Thursday, I was literally in the final stages of writing this last blog when I hit a wrong key and deleted the whole story. Sadly, all attempts at retrieving it failed—even with the expert assistance of our daughter, Geni. So this will be an attempt at recreating that blog before all my memory fails!)


We left Georgetown Saturday morning, in a lot of wind, headed for our final night at anchor with “C-Life” and their family at the Oxbow cut-off just south of Myrtle Beach. Passing through the Waccamaw River on our way up, we saw the most concentration of ospreys on this trip we’d ever seen and heard of two alligator sightings. The Waccamaw River is a coffee-brown, rich-tannin, cypress filled, narrow passageway—very unusual, but very picturesque. We had a wonderful evening rafted together—with Kay & Robert grilling hamburgers and hot dogs and Louis making his ice cream and signature grilled Twinkies—and in fact, Robert said, “If it gets any better than this, please let me know!” Amen, Robert.

So Sunday we pulled into Barefoot Landing at North Myrtle Beach just in time for Louis and me to grab a quick lunch/salad at T-Bones—a must stop for any overnight boaters there. After lunch, we walked around the fun shops and enjoyed a beautiful, warm afternoon. There were two mega-yachts right there at Barefoot Landing with us, one being 110 feet long and its owner was one of the members of the band called “Hootie & the Blowfish”—such a pretty boat too.

On a “drizzly” Monday morning, we said good-by to “C-Life” and headed out solo for the North Myrtle Beach Yacht Club. That would be our home for the next week. I needed to do several loads of wash and we had plans to get together for dinner with our dear friends that evening, Ann & BJ Maynard who live near-by,—which we did do and had another hilarious several hours together “catching back up” with our long time friends. Thanks, you two—we can’t wait for the next time to get together!

Just after lunch Tuesday, Geni and our four grandchildren came to visit us—it being their Spring Break. For the next three days, we had a fast paced, fun-filled time together. We had a room just beside us at the Holiday Inn reserved for them, and the grandchildren took turns sleeping on the boat at night with us—the boys one night, the girls the next. In those days, we went to see the IMAX movie, “Under the Sea” in 3-D, we spent half a day in Ripley’s Aquarium (which is fabulous), we went shopping (how do you like your “Wheelies” Clay?), we saw the endangered blonde and golden tigers, we visited with the Creeches’ grandchildren, we ate Mexican and Mongolian food and lots of pancakes and ice cream, and we went to Calabash with “Nightingale” and “C-Life” one night for seafood (all 15 of us!). However, Geni, Gail and I will not be eating tartar sauce for quite a while—we all got sick from it!

We can’t believe how much our grandchildren have grown since we last saw them at Christmas. HT is now 13, so smart and taller than I am—unbelievable. Clay at 8 is sprouting too—and lost a tooth on board one night, much to our surprise and delight. Katie is 5 ½ and reading on a level far beyond her age (big words too)—she starts kindergarten this summer! And our precious sweet Taylor at 4 tries so valiantly to keep up with the others—and is doing a great job at that—she came home covered with “boat bites” on both shins! We so enjoyed having them on the boat with us, cramped as we were though with all our stuff.

Friday, Geni had planned all along to go back to Oxford with her boys for soccer games on Saturday. Catherine, who had planned on coming to Myrtle Beach on Thursday afternoon, would be staying with us for the next few days with her girls. Good planning for all. But during the time Geni was with us, Catherine and Travis got a “full price” offer on their just listed house in Cary. The problem arose when the contract stipulated they move out by May 22nd—and thinking the market would be slow, they hadn’t even begun looking for another house! They had no house to move into—yipes! So, with us trying to help out with the situation, we changed our plans and kept Katie and Taylor to give Catherine & Travis a few precious days alone to go house hunting. Having already done fun things with all the grandchildren, we decided to head back to Morehead City—forgoing our plans to drag our feet in returning home and skipping a few days in Wrightsville Beach with friends. (We’ll definitely catch up with those fun people later on this summer!) Catherine could meet us Sunday afternoon at our marina and take the girls back to Cary. Everyone was happy with that plan—most of all, us!

So Friday noon, we said good-by to Geni and the boys and Myrtle Beach, got refunds from the Holiday Inn and the marina, threw off our lines, and headed the 30 miles or so up to Southport—to spend the night with Kay & Robert, now Gold Loopers—congratulations are in order! We had an easy trip—the winds seem to slow down a bit, and the girls enjoyed being on the boat—especially since they were getting a “long boat ride” and their cousins weren’t! Taylor took a long nap in my lap up on the flybridge and Katie surprised us when she didn’t—boat rides have always put our children to sleep!

On arriving into Southport, just like we’ve done so many times, we pulled into a slip right beside “C-Life”. But this time was very bittersweet—Kay and Robert have finished the Loop and we won’t be together daily like we’ve been for months now. We are so close to home now also and finishing our loop as well—everything feels sadly different. But we were all so happy to see one another again—had it only been three days since we had been together—seemed longer! Our girls quickly got off the boat and had a great time running barefoot in the Creeches’ front yard and playing with all of “Miss Kay’s” wonderful yard toys and her sandbox. It was such a pretty afternoon—we got to visit again with Debbie and Buddy Barnes (hurry up and buy a boat!) and we were treated to pizzas by the Creech family—Katie and Taylor eating almost a whole one themselves! After the girls took baths in Miss Kay’s tub, we all walked back down to our boats and quickly fell into bed. Kay and Robert haven’t moved from their boat back into their house yet—wanting to extend the experience as long as possible—understandably so. We thank Kay & Robert and Sharon & John for their continued hospitality—next time we’re together, it’ll be up our way!

Before we left Myrtle Beach, Geni had taken me to the Dollar Tree and I had loaded up on craft supplies for Katie and Taylor to keep them busy during our three days of cruising. Knowing full well that spotting the occasional ospreys and dolphins would not keep their attention for long, I was determined that they not do anything “electronic” while on the flybridge and being underway. With our flybridge looking like a schoolhouse art room, we all were happy at the amount of time the girls took using their creativity and imagination. Consequently, the girls never got bored and we now have several “pretty pictures” as lasting mementos of our final two days on the Loop.

So we left Southport (and our now life-long friends) Saturday morning and headed for Topsail Island—a long day’s travel through several bridges which needed openings—to Beach House Marina. We got there with ease and pulled into a nice slip—Katie quickly reading the sign for the near-by Dairy Queen. For the next hour all we heard from the girls was, “When are we going to Dairy Queen?”! After a disappointing seafood dinner at a near-by recommended restaurant, we walked over to the DQ for a promised dessert—color both girls and Louis happy! Again, bedtime was easy and early.

Sunday, April 19th, was to be our last day on the Loop—if everything went as planned. We had an easy time getting away that morning from Surf City on Topsail Island and the girls were happy doing their crafts—by now all well worn and used. We came through Swansboro feeling so comfortable in our familiar surroundings—we felt we could almost close our eyes and make it back safely the rest of the way to the Coral Bay Marina. And as fate would have it and as we crossed under the Cape Carteret Bridge, (we later learned) we had a witness to our coming home that day. Liz and Bob Stagg were at that moment coming over the bridge in their car and saw us as we were coming under them—they honked and waved at us, but not looking for them, we didn’t hear or see them at all. As unexplained and wonderful things have happened to us all along the way, that was a very befitting and special thing to happen to us on our last day—the Staggs were the first Looper couple we ever met and they have been such an inspiration for us all along our journey. We’re so honored to call them special friends but we never seem to have enough time together because there’s always so much to talk about!

We traveled another few miles up the so familiar waterway and just before we were to make our port turn off the ICW and head into our marina, we stopped the boat and Louis put up our gold Looper flag (thinking of you, Margie & Larry) signaling that we had finished the Loop. And at 1:56 pm the afternoon of April 19th, 2009, we crossed our wake—our journey now complete. Realizing that we had told our family and friends we were coming in the following Saturday and thus thinking that only Catherine would be waiting for us at the dock, we rounded the corner and were treated a wonderful surprise at our slip. Lo and behold, joining Catherine, were Kay & Robert & Debbie—shouting and jumping up and down with excitement and waving a yellow poster, with champagne and “gold medals” in hand & honking a very loud air-horn over and over! Precious things, they had driven up from Southport to properly welcome us home—Looper style! Louis and I couldn’t believe they were in Morehead City, but knowing them as we do now, of course they would have wanted to have been there when we crossed our wake. We had a marvelous time on the dock clinking glasses and toasting each other—all of us saying several times, “Wow—what a ride!” (We insisted that they all three stay with us overnight at the house, but they declined and drove back home.) Both Louis and I felt it was a perfect ending, albeit early, to our year-long journey.

Since being home, many people have asked us basically the same two questions: “What was your favorite place?” and “Would you do the trip again?” One we can answer, one we can’t. After nearly a year of traveling almost 7,000 miles; going through 163 locks; making our way through eighteen (!) states and two provinces of Canada; crossing the Georgian Bay, the North Channel, the Great Lakes, the Gulf of Mexico and the Everglades; spending five weeks in the Florida Keys—we couldn’t possibly say which place was our favorite, they were all so unique and different. Every day and every region was wonderful and special—we saw spectacular things few of our family and long-time friends will, sadly, never see. We were “wowed” almost daily—I tried to document most of them here. And in answer to would we do the trip again—“you bet” we say, “in a heartbeat!” And we’re not selling our charts or the boat anytime soon either.

So, what have we learned on our journey?
*First, we learned things about both Louis and me that we thought, after 40 years of marriage this year (!), were impossible not to know—we both admit a year is a long time to constantly be together 24/7 in a small, confined space. I remember someone we met at our first rendezvous in Charleston telling me that, and I didn’t believe her then—but she was right.
*Second, we learned not to load our boat down with excess “stuff’ ever again! We wound up using the second stateroom as an attic/pantry—limiting our enjoyment of having an extra room for guests and cluttering up our boat—shamefully so. We had almost 175 pounds of charts, maps, guidebooks, etc. that we did need with us on a daily basis, but we had way too much excess of clothes and canned goods, a few tools and linens. We found out we really did have easy weekly access to shopping (love Wal-Mart!) and we found out we could do very well with limited amounts of clothing—like everyone else, we would wear it, wash it, put it in the “clean” pile, and put it right back on! It was embarrassing when it took three long, back-breaking days to unload “Bella Luna” with things some of which we hadn’t even touched in a year!
*Third, we learned that it was all the many people who “made” our trip—not the places we went to, as we had thought would. We met so many kind and generous people all along the way both on land and on the water whom we’ll never forget—beautiful faces all along our amazing journey. And we’ve met a whole “boatload” of wonderful Loopers whom we now call “family”—special friends we’ll have for a lifetime. They have helped us, guided & led us, laughed and cried with us, and enriched our lives in too many ways to list here now or ever. We treasure those faces and friendships immensely and can not imagine our trip without any of them.
*Fourth and lastly, we learned how lucky we were to ever be able to take this trip. Even more so now, we realize how fleeting the years are and by “slowing down”, as we tried to do daily, how quickly time is still passing us by. We both knew we had maybe ten “good” years left to be able to physically do this particular and sometimes exhausting trip. When planning this over a year ago, we were both lucky enough to have good health; we both had good energy and lots of enthusiasm; we both wanted an extended adventure; and both of us had the time and good fortune to afford a long journey of this type. We were not afraid of the unknown or our inability, we were excited! Our children and grandchildren were at “good places” in their lives—we were too. We were lucky and blessed; we knew it and were so thankful for it all. If we were ever going to do the Loop, we needed to do the trip before any of the above changed. So, taking advantage of it all, off we went saying, “We have no schedule and we’re sticking to it!” We were very lucky indeed.

In closing, I’ve been thinking for a year now “in blogs”. When we’d see or experience something worthy of remembering, I was constantly figuring out how to word it for a lasting memory here. Writing these blogs was very time consuming, yet all the feedback (even from people we’d never met!) made it worthwhile—I was surprised by those who read it, and crushed by those who I thought surely would, and who didn’t. But along our route I found a long, brown sign which I bought (while Louis was off with the guys!) and Kay & I proudly placed it in the salon of “Bella Luna”. It simply says what we believe our fantastic journey was all about from beginning to end—and one I thought befitting to “wrap up” this last blog. So in a fond farewell and summary of all we have been witness to and accomplished in this marvelous, exciting, and rewarding year, I end and complete my journal with:

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but rather by the moments that take our breaths away.”

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

You don't know who I am, but I have been following your blog from the beginning.I can't say how enjoyable reading it has been. My husband and I hope to someday do the Great Loop also. Congratulations on completing such a memorable journey and know that all your time blogging was enjoyed by many.

Team Brazo said...

It has been great following your blog from the beginning. Our hopes are to complete the Great Loop in the near future. Congrats and thanks for taking the time to share your adventure.

Jay Stockard said...

CONGRATS you two! To complete such a monumental trip and still be well/happy/and still together is QUITE a feat! I never knew you were so literate, and I commend you on the fantastic job that you did in documenting the journey! Now you have to work with Geni to integrate the pictures that match the events listed here! Once you have it married up, I want to publish it for you and the family. I can think of no better way to memorialize the trip. WELCOME home you two! I only wish I could have gotten there in time to be part of the celebration!

Jay

Anonymous said...

Hello and thanks for all your time and effort in presenting your blog of the Loop. A mutual friend, Sam Rich mentioned Bella Luna to me in Sept, I found you and have been following you ever since..I have been reworking a 34 ' Albin and have intentions on the Loop in '11

Tks Again, David Finison, "Molava"out of Mackeys, NC

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Diane & Louis !!! Diane , I know that keeping up the blog was very time consuming of your time you could have or might have needed to have spent resting or relaxing,but it kept us in touch with you both and let us enjoy this special journey with you. Your blog was something that I looked foward to each week and sometimes daily,the details and excitment made us feel like we were there with you !! We look foward to seeimg and spending time with you both this summer. Earl Lee [ps thanks Louis for driving the boat !!]

Second Wind said...

Wow! My heart was full as I read your final entry. Your writing has captured this incredible journey beautifully as well as the heart and soul of folks who call themselves "Loopers." Wonderful job, Diane, and congratulations to you and Louis both.

Seeing Bella Luna come under that final bridge was a joy. We knew just how you felt. Bob and I are thrilled to have the Wades back on the coast of North Carolina so we can sit on the deck, with gin and tonic in hand, and re-live this amazing adventure with you.

What a ride!

Fondly,
Liz and Bob Stagg

b3hh@yahoo.com said...

Diane,

You do not know me but, while swimming in the ocean at Atlantic Beach last June, I met you brother. He told me about your plans to do the Great Loop. I have followed your blog with great interest. My wife and I plan to do the loop starting next May. We have an Endeavour 36 powercat. We keep the boat in the canal behind our house in Atlantic Beach. Congratulations on crossing your wake.

Jay Branch

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