. . . Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. (Luke 24:36 KJV)
We pulled into the Florence Marina on Monday afternoon, it was our last day on the Tomten Waterway. The sun sparkled off the water, and puffy clouds reflected off its stillness. We had been at this marina seven springs ago; a spring break trip that was cold and rainy. The memories of awe and frustration lingered in my mind. Awe because it was one of the first times we locked down a river system, and frustration because I was imagining a sunny, warm vacation where I’d come home with a tan.
On this afternoon, I could NOT remember staying at this marina before, but we both knew we had because our intention this trip was to connect the points on the river that we had previously visited to draw the line of our boating experiences from Kentucky Lake all the way down to Panama City Beach, Florida.
As I have mentioned previously, endings are bittersweet for me. And I tend to stop enjoying myself, and press into “Can we just get this over with?” mode. But this trip, I wanted to end differently. I imagined myself enjoying it all the way until we parked the boat back in the storage lot near our home.
And I am happy to report, that so far, so good. When we first dreamed of owning a boat, we made a promise to ourselves that packing and unpacking, and cleaning and putting away the boat would be part of the “fun” and work of having this great gift. Since we trailer the boat to where we put in, and then leave the truck and trailer there, at the end of our trip, we have to rent a car to retrieve them.
Tuesday morning, we woke after a restful evening in the marina. We did our usual routine of making coffee and walking the dog, and then the rental car place picked up Les to get the rental car. When he returned, we piled into the car with Kokomo. Driving through the back roads and highways of Alabama, keeping my eyes open for the wonders of the countryside paid off. We noticed a cemetery with flowers on every single grave. An Easter tradition? We thought it odd that a road sign read “Police Jurisdiction.” And we enjoyed the dogwoods dotting the pine forests that lined the highway down to Demopolis.
At the Demopolis marina, our truck and trailer waited for us. We thanked the marina manager for letting us store them there, and I followed Les in the rental car to travel back to the Florence marina. A round trip total of eight hours, but definitely less time than taking the boat back down the river. It’s part of the adventure.
We got back in time to visit with some neighbors on the D dock, who have been living on their boat since October. They used to live in south city St. Louis. Small world. We enjoyed sharing tidbits and the mutual dream of navigating our boats through the Great Loop. (The Great Loop encompasses the Mississippi river, the Tomten waterway, around Florida and up the Intercoastal waterway to the Hudson river across to the Erie Canal, and then a canal through Canada that dumps into Lake Huron, then Lake Michigan and through Chicago, and for us, back to St. Louis on the Illinois river.) Whew! That will be quite the adventure, but in the meantime, we do sections at a time like we did this spring.
We walked over to the marina restaurant, and mentioned we were newcomers. The hostess asked if I wanted to “fire the cannon.” I immediately said, of course! The gentleman who escorted me to the end of the dock explained that the admiral of a ship would have one of the crew fire the cannon at sunset to tell the harbor that it was time to take down the ensign, and call it a day. I hit the little cannon with a mallet hammer and it sounded off. It told the occupants of the marina that it was time to end their day, and enjoy dinner etc. It made me smile, because being asked to participate in their tradition endeared the place to my heart, and now I’ll never forget the Florence Marina. We went back to the boat satisfied that our time on the river and getting ready to go home were worth all the work.
As I started to write this blog last night, thunder and lightning gave their own signal to call it day. Albeit, a little anxiety producing because as the rain and wind whipped up, the local tornado alarm sounded. I was curled up in the hull of the boat trying to write this post, when I shut down the computer, and called the dog to come up on the bed with me. (She’s not allowed on the bed normally.) I told her we’d be safe together and even if not, an unexpected peace blanketed us. Les looked at the radar, and said, “I guess we could take cover in the bathrooms up on the parking lot.” I just stayed in the bed, and snuggled with Kokomo. Thankfully, the storm passed by without any harm. The wind rocked us through the night, and Les shooed the dog back down to her spot on the floor, so we could get a good night’s rest. We would be getting the boat onto the trailer in the morning, after returning the rental car, and enjoying a breakfast in town.
As I write this now, we have the boat on the trailer. Getting the boat on the trailer can be tricky, but this time, even with the marina manager watching I drove it on the trailer like the seasoned sailor that I am, and we pulled the boat back onto land to ready it for travel home. Peace accompanies us home, and we dream of future adventures on our Intuition.