THE SONIC BOOMER
My husband Mark has returned from his exciting ocean-going voyage. This venture took two years of dreaming; two months of expensive preparations; and two weeks of waiting for parts when the 40-foot bilge began filling with water the first day out.
Virtually everything I told him was going to happen on this trip happened. But, as every husband in America knows, I am only the wife.
Mark’s plan was to head from Jacksonville south down the coast, picking up kids and grandkids along the way, for a merry sunshine journey to the Bahamas. Everyone would be dropped off on the way back north, and Mark would continue on alone, doing what enthusiastic mariners call “The Great Loop” — up the east coast of the U.S., across the Great Lakes, into the Canadian Heritage Canals, then back down the inland rivers. But I was nervous about Mark’s trip, having overheard two 30-year-olds on YouTube bragging, “We did ‘The Great Loop’ in just a year!”
A year?? “What about your mail? Your doctor’s appointments? Your medications?” I worried. “How are the kids going to join you when they have work? The grandkids have school! Are you telling me you’re going to miss trick-or-treat night? You love that! Who’s going to give out the candy?”
“It’ll all work out,” he answered.
Once the bilge pump was replaced and the bottom of the boat emptied of water, Mark wisely decided to stick to the Intracoastal Waterway for this first leg of the journey. I was glad to hear that because the weather had turned cold. Storms were rolling in that got so bad the Coast Guard was asking the cruise ships not to go out. Small craft advisories were issued daily.
One day the water was so rough that he lost his anchor and had to stay up all night — it was too dark to dock. He found the thing the next morning, wrapped around some other part of the boat.
The next night, he dropped anchor but couldn’t pull it up in the morning, as it had become entangled around a chain left by some previous sailor who had given up and cut his anchor off. Mark lost two hours in the fight — and the boat’s bimini top.
He got to West Palm Beach and his son, but his son had to work. Grandson had school. They came aboard, looked around and went home. He got to Key West, and his other son had to work. Grandkids were home from school, but nobody had time to go to the Bahamas. Mark missed Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. His only brother died on New Year’s Eve.
Mark got the boat back to Jacksonville and made it to the funeral on Jan. 13, where I joined him. I don’t know what I expected to see when he met me at the airport, but I was full of sympathy, ready to bundle up my battered and broken man and take him home.
Mark lumbered out of the car, threw my suitcase into the back and exclaimed, “What an adventure!” — happy as a storm-tossed clam.
Because you only live once.