Friday, December 11, 2020

Back in Louisiana .. After All, It is 2020!


From the Florida Panhandle to the Honey Island Swamp .. we're back in Louisiana! I took this photo from a friend's boat recently .. it sure does bring back memories of our high school years playing on the Pearl River!

It's been 8 months since I've written a post .. I'm sorry I'm such a slacker!  Before I catch ya'll up with what's been going on in Louisiana, I wanted to share our time in Pensacola and everything in between before our trip back home.

Ken and I absolutely loved Pensacola! After spending many years a few miles further East in Destin, we were surprised how much we preferred Pensacola. It's not near as congested or expensive, and the places to go boating are awesome!  We didn't feel we were in a tourist trap, but instead in boater's paradise. We were finally living on Nirvana in beautiful water and on the ICW! With COVID in full swing in the Spring & Summer, we were grateful to be able to spend time in such a beautiful area with white sand beaches just minutes away. I think the outdoors was the only thing that kept us sane!

We did a couple of nights at anchor, which were beautiful and such a great way to escape the happenings of the world ...

We also inflated our kayak and explored the area .. our favorite paddle was across the ICW from the marina to a barrier island .. the Gulf of Mexico was just a short walk to the other side!

We never got tired of the beaches!

What we did get tired of was the numerous storms that would cause us to lose sleep at night. Being on the ICW, any bad storm seemed severe. We'd never seen Nirvana rock so much, and a couple of times we had to sleep somewhere else! During one particular bad storm in May, we decided to escape to Alabama for some camping. We hadn't camped in forever, and with our long-time friends joining us .. we had a blast. Who knew Alabama had so many hills?!

After realizing how vulnerable Nirvana was on the ICW, we decided to sail her back to Louisiana for hurricane season. We struggled with this decision, as we loved Pensacola and hoped that after COVID, we could experience some of the things we weren't able to do due to the virus. Most of the bars were closed, and the live music that we loved was nowhere to be found. We knew we'd have some amazing experiences if we left Nirvana in Pensacola and held out for COVID to be over. But, we were headed to Colorado in mid-July for the birth of our grandchild and didn't feel comfortable leaving Nirvana so vulnerable with us being so far away. By the end of June, we grabbed a weather window and were headed back to Louisiana .. it was bittersweet. However, looking back .. we made the right decision. COVID is still going strong and even worse ... a hurricane hit Pensacola and the marina we stayed out was totally destroyed. Nirvana would have perished! Several of the friends we made there lost everything. Again, we are grateful.

Knowing we'd be leaving Nirvana for at least a month while enjoying our family and the mountains, we treasured every minute of our journey back to Louisiana. 

Just as on the way to Florida, we stopped at Lulu's .. always a fun place (and we were impressed by their social distancing).

We anchored overnight at Petit Bois barrier island in Mississippi .. the same place we anchored when headed to Florida. We had a little more anchoring experience by this point, and we had a gorgeous evening at anchor! I swear, when at anchor all the problems and stress of the world just melt away!

Another night at Gulfport Marina and then we were home. As I took the photo below of the sunrise for our last day of our passage, I wondered when I'd see another sunrise from the water. It's so beautiful!

We arrived in Louisiana in the early afternoon and had no problems with our passage to Florida or back. We only got caught in one light rain storm, and luckily never got scared out of our minds! After all the years of prepping, we realized sailing to Pensacola (or most likely motoring) is not near as intimidating as we'd thought. We should have done this a long time ago!

Now here comes the crazy part .. we put Nirvana up for sale and she sold almost immediately! I know if seems crazy after all of the hard work and time we've put into her, but it was best for us at this time. You see, we try to be realistic with our future and some things occurred that gave us a wake-up call. We had COVID destroying our dreams of sailing to the Bahamas in Winter 2019 (we know folks that had terrible experiences due to lockdowns), and we had not one, not two, but three of our rentals become vacant since we left Louisiana in November, 2019. When we received the third notice of vacancy in May, we knew we had some thinking to do. It was a difficult decision, but when an offer was accepted with a purchase date before we left for Colorado .. we took it. 

Again, while our dreams have changed we feel grateful. We were fortunate to have a quick sale, and even better .. we sold it just two days after moving into one of our vacant houses! The timing was perfect, as we were able to unload the boat to the house and then get settled just long enough to head to Colorado.

I know some folks will say we bailed .. or failed, but after over 3 years of living on Nirvana and so many experiences .. sailing to Mexico with a friend, buying (and selling) a house in Puerto Rico, helping our daughter & her family move to Colorado, exploring California while doing an emergency stint for 3 months as insurance adjusters for the wildfires .. and so many other things, we don't have any regrets. We lived! We tried different things, and we made adjustments for our situation. Sometimes dreams don't go quite as planned, but the experiences along the way can't be ignored. The memories that we created couldn't have happened if we weren't living on a boat at the time. So, I know some folks will be disappointed, but believe me .. the adventures are not over! I have a passion for travel and do not plan on stopping!

Again, looking back I sometimes think the universe guides us if we listen. Nirvana would be under water at a blown away marina in Pensacola if we'd have kept her there. Also, the Bahamas would have been blown off again this November//December due to COVID and possible lockdowns again. We respect the virus and we practice social distancing, so we wouldn't wanna go for the first time with not much socializing on our part. Finally, the house we're now living in was built by us about 4-5 years ago with the intention of moving into someday in the future. It's an adorable little 2 bedroom, 1 bath cottage that we designed and love! (Picture below is just after we built it). When our tenant gave his notice in May, we felt like it was the final push in our decision to sell Nirvana. We had an excellent tenant and didn't want to risk a bad tenant trashing the place .. it just felt like the right time.

So, we got back from Colorado about 4 months ago (already?!) and have been spending that time making our house our home. I'm not gonna lie .. I love having a hot shower, a full kitchen, and a laundry room! I've really gotten into cooking too! I used to hate to cook, but after cooking on a boat for a few years and buying an Instant Pot .. piece of cake! Our home is cozy for Christmas and while we definitely miss the boating life, we're where we want to be right now. We're just minutes from Lake Pontchartrain, we're near our ole friends (COVID go away!), and we hope to buy a small power boat this Summer for boating and fishing. We've already been out on our friend's boat a few times, and we've even gone crabbing! How lucky are we to drive 5 minutes, park our car, and drop some nets into the bayou?!

I hope ya'll stick around. I have more posts to write about our camping trip to Colorado and back, and more travels are in our future after COVID. We plan on building another house to replace the rental we moved into, as well as a couple more every now and then for income. We don't want to go back to the 40 hour work week! Freedom is something we're determined to hold on to.

If you're dreaming of sailing away on a boat, don't give up! We loved our time on our boat, even though most of it was in our home state! I'll write more about my thoughts in another post, as this is enough for now. Keep workin' towards whatever you dream .. and adjust the sails as needed!

Hasta leugo .. until then. Mid-Life Cruising!

Monday, April 20, 2020

Cruising With Corona Virus?!

Like always, a lot has happened since our last post in January .. A LOT!  Who knew that when we were celebrating the start of year 2020 .. a worldwide pandemic was brewing! Before I share my thoughts on that, let me back up a bit. As mentioned in a previous post, we moved into one of our vacant rentals in Louisiana in December to fix it up & try to find a good tenant. We also had another rental about to become vacant, and long story short .. both rentals are now occupied. We moved back on “Nirvana” on March 17th in Pensacola, Florida. While in Louisiana, we enjoyed our time there and made a few visits to “Nirvana”. 

In January, we were celebrating with the College National Champions on their campus at LSU. Our daughter graduated at LSU, so we wanted to attend the parade and festivities. There was a huge crowd of fans, and we really enjoyed seeing the players ride by on the floats as the marching band played. The crowds cheered and there was so much positive energy! My how things have changed since then! I wonder when the world will be able to celebrate in such a fashion again.

While on our way back to the boat in January, we stopped at the Bay St. Louis “Mac & Cheese Chili Cook-Off”.  For $10 bucks, we ate all the samples we could stomach .. with two free beers. It was so good & really fun, but we felt like we were gonna explode when we left!

By this time, the Mardi Gras parades were in full swing and we went to quite a few of them. We usually go to the French Quarter on Mardi Gras day, but we didn’t go this time because we had two appointments to show the rental we were living in. Looking back, it was a good decision. One of those showings turned into signing a lease, and unbeknownst to us .. the virus was spreading in New Orleans! 

On another visit to Pensacola, we attended the “Bloody Mary Festival” on the boardwalk. We don’t care much for Bloody Mary’s, but we enjoyed the scenery and live music. 

In early March, we were aware of the virus but didn’t realize the severity of it at the time. We celebrated St. Patrick’s Day (the week before the holiday) with friends at a parade in our hometown of Slidell. Today, Slidell has the most cases of the virus in the parish! Luckily, we don’t know anyone that has gotten sick.

Shortly after the parade, we were getting prepared to turn over our rental and head back to “Nirvana” for good. Our other rental was rented on March 1st and we had nothing holding us back .. or so we thought! As we drove to our boat after turning over our rental, the seriousness of the virus was starting to sink in. The Mississippi beaches had just closed, as were many other places throughout the country. We stopped at one of the beaches on our way to Florida, and while beautiful & peaceful .. it was surreal to see it so empty!

We returned to Florida and were excited that winter was over, our rentals were occupied, and we were “home”! However, we were beginning to realize that our plans of enjoying the Florida Panhandle’s beaches, festivals, live music, and  “ happy hours” may not come to fruition. Even more, our thoughts of possibly sailing to the Florida Keys in April seemed unlikely.

Before we knew it, the nation was in full lockdown and our lives (and everyone’s lives) were changed. We now wash our hands constantly, are aware of everything we touch, and reluctantly go to the grocery store & laundromat when it’s necessary. We leave our non-perishable groceries to sit in our cockpit, and in the sun, for several hours before bringing them into the boat. We call our family often to make sure they’re doing the same. These times make us even more aware of how precious they all are. Thank goodness for “FaceTime” and photos sent by phone! We sure do miss this lil dude and their parents!

 We’ve been taking this virus seriously, and making sure we practice “social distancing”. It sucks when there are so many nice folks here at the marina, but we can’t get to know them better. The days of cocktails shared on our boat (or theirs) are gone in fear of the virus. We probably appear “weird” and/or “anti-social” to those nearby that aren’t practicing social distancing. Yeah, it sucks to be the outsider, but we wanna remain healthy so “weird” we are.

The marina has a great place for parties .. someday!

Even though we’re on lockdown, we still find a lot of ways to pass the time. The first couple of weeks were spent cleaning every nook & cranny of Nirvana’s interior. After almost 4 months of sitting in cold, damp weather ... she needed it! Since then, we’ve been taking scenic drives and lots of walks. There’s a beautiful little subdivision next to the marina that we love to walk through. It has winding roads adorned with oak trees & beautiful homes surrounded by white picket fences and flowers. Smelling the flowers & watching people work in their yards brings a sense of normalcy for a little while.

We’ve also found some waterfront parks to walk around for a change of scenery. Pensacola is a lot bigger than we realized, with so many pretty areas to explore!

When we’re at the marina, there’s always lots of activity ... there’s dolphin, paddle boards, kayaks & boats of all sizes on the ICW, people fishing, and even a free air show by the “Blue Angels” every Tuesday-Friday morning! Around 11:30 on those mornings, we are treated to about 30 minutes of practice by these cool Navy jets. They perform tricks & literally fly right over our boat! I’m working on a little video of their show, so watch for that in the near future.

I’m really good at killing time, so I fill the remaining hours with yoga & strength training workouts, calling friends & family, cooking (more than ever thanks to pandemic) & washing dishes. Let me tell ya .. cooking & washing dishes on our small sailboat takes a long time, and I seem to always be washing something! Another thing that takes longer to wash .. ourselves! The marina doesn’t have showers, so we’re taking showers in our cockpit. It’s really not bad, and there’s something about it that’s kinda freeing. If we were at an anchorage with privacy & the ability to jump in the water, it’d be great! 

I even started taking free ukulele lessons online by “Fender”. I’m just getting started, and unfortunately those 3 years of childhood guitar lessons have been no help. I’ve forgotten everything!

Another thing I haven’t done since I was a child .. color in a coloring book! Our daughter gave me a coloring book with colored pencils for Christmas a few years ago, and I finished my first masterpiece this past Friday. It’s more detailed coloring, but it was fun and I’m ready to start another one soon.

As the day comes to an end, we often sit in our cockpit to watch the sunset while listening to music and drinking a couple of beers. 

I swear, I sometimes feel guilty that I’m able to kill so much time not doing much of anything. I still have a book to read, friends to call & movies to watch. I wanna get a fishing pole & fish off the marina’s dock. We have a kayak ready to be inflated, and anchorages to explore with “Nirvana”. I haven’t picked up the ukulele in over a week, and it took me over a month of being on the boat to write this post! 

Our mornings are lazy, with coffee and watching the news on tv. The news is sobering, and we probably shouldn’t watch so much of it every morning & night. There are so many folks suffering, and we are truly living in unprecedented times. By the time I finish coffee, do my workouts, get cleaned up, watch the “Blue Angels” on most days, eat lunch, wash dishes, call family, check Facebook (more than I should throughout the day), take a walk or drive, hang out in the cockpit, cook dinner, eat, wash dishes ... the day’s over!

This past weekend, we decided to visit downtown Pensacola and support a local distillery by purchasing their homemade hand sanitizer and a Bushwacker .. so good! Love the guy’s t-shirt .. we’re doing our part!

We then supported a local brewery by purchasing a couple of beers. We drove to a nearby park and drank them while watching folks picnicking & walking around .. while keeping their distance. Ken likes the IPA’s and I like the dark coffee stouts!

It felt good to walk around downtown & see others walking around and buying beer, pizza, ice cream & stuff “to go”. While the streets were sparse, there were enough people around to make things feel almost normal. Businesses were making money .. and people were spending! It gave us hope that things will get better soon.

We sometimes get anxious during this pandemic, and we feel lucky to be “stuck” in such a beautiful area.  Stepping outside .. or just out into our cockpit, helps us relax. I’ve always said that getting outside & in touch with nature is great medicine, and it sure does help to be living on the water. We’ve been kinda frozen mentally with taking “Nirvana” out. This pandemic just seems so surreal & we’ve been trying to wrap our heads around it. I think we’ll be taking her out soon . and inflating that kayak too! 

Our cozy lil cabin inside ain’t so bad either! We’ve been keeping the bed set up in the salon .. perfect for lounging and television.

I hope all of you reading this post are doing well. Our hearts go out to all of those suffering from this virus ... there are so many. They’re dealing with illness, death, financial hardship, isolation, loneliness .. it’s just so sad. We’re doing okay, so we’re thankful. We hope you’re doing okay too .. and remember to wash your hands!

Hasta luego .. until then. Mid-Life Cruising!

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