Not all presents come in pretty packages neatly tied with a bow on top. My gift to me this year was only possible because I made a promise. I promised myself I would make a real effort to slow it down a notch and do my best to enjoy the season, spend more time with friends, and enjoy as much quality family time as I could fit in. Because I made that promise to myself, I kind of gave myself an early Christmas present and I didn’t feel guilty at all.
Even if that meant doing less, not decorating as much or writing fewer posts.
Last week after rescheduling tons of appointments, switching around posts, sponsors and work that was due, dealing with the loss of a family pet and major eye surgery on another one, I still cut the landline ties and spent 5 days cruising down the east coast of Georgia to Florida on the Intercoastal Waterway with my Dad. Just the two of us, covering just over 300 miles.
My gift wasn’t just the trip.
It was the time spent together.
Time to slow down and follow through with what I said I’d do. Enjoy the season and the people who matter.
I want to share a little of my gift with you.
Cruising is always an amazing experience and unique in each body of water. This was my first east coast cruise. We started on the St Mary’s River in Georgia, a tiny scenic town. This is my Dad’s boat, a 32 foot Nordic Tug, which is his floating home for the next several months.
On the water there are always magnificent sunrises. This ship was tied up next to us in the St Mary’s marina. I couldn’t resist taking the photo as the sun was rising before we shoved off on our adventure.
The Landscape changes dramatically on the ICW from Georgia to Florida.
It can be isolated with very narrow channels.
Or wide open where it feels like the Atlantic Ocean.
Traveling on the ICW is like a highway on the water. There are lots of other boats traveling too. There isn’t a fast lane to speak of, but there are rules to follow. We’d hail (call) a boat in front of us on the marine radio to pass when we got near them. You always slow down so your wake (water behind the boat) doesn’t disrupt the other boat too much. Like our land highways, there are good drivers and not so good drivers.
Dolphins were everywhere around us, so were pelicans and lots of osprey. Georgia and Northern Florida had the most incredible white pelicans. I’ve only seen the white ones at the aquarium before, so experiencing them in their natural habitat was a huge treat. This dolphin was from a cruise we took last year in the gulf. I wasn’t fast enough with my camera to get any good dolphin shots this time.
Cruising is pretty comfortable in this style boat. Unlike our sailboat where we steer the boat from an open cockpit, this one has an enclosed pilot house. This is my Dad, at 83 he has a lot of backbone and energy. He made most of the journey from Delaware to Georgia by himself, which is a huge endeavour for anyone at any age!
The kitchen on a boat is called the galley.
The living area is called a salon.
This would be called my office on the go 🙂
When you’re cruising to a destination and covering a few hundred miles with only 2 people on board, there’s not much time for work, or relaxing for that matter. Especially since we were traveling with a huge storm cell in our path. It wasn’t bad enough to make us hunker down in a marina, but it was big enough to keep us very busy.
On a cruise like this one we use between 3 -4 different navigation aids at once. This chart below, the boats GPS system, navigation apps on our ipads and a few weather sites , constantly switching from one to the next. No one navigation aid alone is sufficient and any one could have dated or incorrect information at any time, so we check and double check all the important items for safe passage. Most of our time is spent looking through binoculars spotting markers, updating charts and monitor screens while the other is steering. Both are active jobs.
Cruising is always an adventure!
Just as the storm was blowing in we decided to change the location of our anchorage for the night to find better shelter. The area we were in was wide open without any shelter for 17 more miles. That doesn’t sound far, but when you’re on a boat traveling about 8 knots (close to 10 mph) and the sun is setting, it sure seems far!
We found ourselves in this big blue area (open water) on the map below, in the dark , in rough seas without much more than the GPS guiding us and hardly any flashing beacons to be found. I had my life vest on and safety line tied to the boat as I leaned off the side with a powerful flashlight to help my Dad see. It was an adrenaline booster to say the least;) Can I tell you how good that glass of wine was when we finally tucked in into our anchorage in the lee of the wind (on the shelter side of the wind) beside a big bridge and just as the rain started coming down hard.
Since we worked so hard the night before, the following day we moored (tied up to a floating ball) in a city marina for the night and gave ourselves a much shorter day 🙂
Only to start again bright and early the next morning for our last day together. Yes, we still had rough and rolly seas. I worked on my post for the DIY Sunday Showcase standing in the pilot house as we pitched and rolled with the swells. If you noticed a lot of typos and sentences that didn’t make sense last weekend, that was why.
…thankfully, I don’t get seasick 😉
Luck was with us as we arrived a little early to our final destination just as torrential rain came pounding down on us. This was where DH & my father in law swapped places with me and are now with my Dad on the last leg of his 1500 mile cruise south to our house for the winter. Of course they now have perfect sunny cruising weather:)
Making /taking the time time to spend 5 days cruising with my Dad was the best gift I could have given myself this year. We had lots of fun, awesome teamwork in a challenging situation, yes, we got on each others nerves a little, but we also laughed a lot and got to know each other a little bit more too.
In part this was gift from you all too. Because of you guys, I get to have a job that allows me the freedom to work from almost anywhere at any time. I don’t have a clock to punch, or an office where I have to physically be at each day. You guys are the best & I thank you from the bottom of my heart!
Now it’s your turn. What’s the best gift you could give, or have given to yourself? Share in the comment section below!
Wishing you all… Happy Holidays
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Jeanie @ create&babblej says
Such a lovely and meaningful gift – not only for you but for your dad, too. You are both so lucky to have each other to be able to share an experience like this!
Hi Jeanie:) You’re spot on, we are lucky to have this time together out doing something we both enjoy so much. Happy Holidays!
Marie from The Interior Frugalista says
What a beautiful post! From the photos, the story, how spry your dad is in his 80’s, to the gift that will keep on giving with cherished memories.
I’m across this great land of ours in Southern Ontario for a few days and the gift I’m giving myself on this trip is a manicure. Sounds simple but I NEVER get manicures. Being a furniture flipper my nails are always splattered with paint and a mess from power tools and sandpaper. This will be a big treat tonight followed by a glass of wine and dinner with Mr. Frugalista.
Hi Marie! Such a beautiful gift to give yourself! Enjoy your time with Mr. Frugalista, you deserve the relaxation away from the paint, sandpaper and power tools:) ..and yes, Dad has more energy than me a lot of the time. Happy Holidays my friend!
What a lovely post! Here’s to many more years on the water for you and your dad!
Julia…Thank you so much for saying that! Sometimes I wonder whether I should share this type of post and if my readers would find it interesting or not. We are hoping to plan a few days of cruising that’s for sightseeing and leisure time instead of a destination cruise where we are on a tight timeline to arrive somewhere. The stop and smell the roses thing… or, in our case the sea air;) Thank you so much for your kind note & Happy Holidays!
Wendi, seeing your dad at 83, active, and living life, is inspiring!! I still want to be on the water in my 80’s and 90’s. I’m sure many of your readers are in the same age demographic and it’s great to know that it can be a reality if you just keep on moving! I’d love to hear more about the “guys” leg of the trip!!
The funny thing is, they had beautiful weather with clear skies and mostly calm water. Due to an issue with the head, they spent each night in a marina and had it easy;) The locks were a lot of fun, I think there were seven. The stories they had were interesting too but, there weren’t any good photos to share. I’m hoping to make that part of the journey when my dad heads north again in the spring and I will share it:) You’re so right too, being active keeps you active. I hope I’ve inhertited those good genes as well!
What a beautiful gift, and beautiful journey. The pictures are gorgeous, you did a great job capturing it all. I’m so sorry to hear you’ve lost a pet, and have another on the mend. These times are so hard. Blessings to you my friend. Haven’t had much time to post lately but I’ve been thinking of you. I so loved your JOY Christmas decoration.
Hi Janell & thank you. I knew it was coming up and with this type of journey you have to keep the calendar open because there are so many factors like weather and our pets that can change the dates. Sometimes there never seems to be a good time to take off and I was determined to make the time. I’m glad I did..even if I am still catching up;) Thanks for your sweet note & I hope you aren’t loosing your mind in the holiday crush this season!
Wendi, your dad is amazing, a real salt haha. your story brought back some great memories. I lived in Florida for twenty years and we had a boat that we would cruise the ICW and the Gulf and the Atlantic. I used to love how the dolphins would follow us they are such amazing creatures.
I think that was the most wonderful gift you could have given yourself and your dad, that is a memory you made that is so special and you will keep it close to your heart always.
Hi Patty… He IS an old salt! LOL. Oh my gosh, I’ll bet you completely pictured what I was talking about! Especially the dolphins, I’ll never get tired of seeing them. Sharing this trip with my dad was really special and you are right, I will always treasure it. Happy Holidays!
Mary-the boondocks blog says
Wendy what a beautiful experience. To be able to slow down like that and spend some time with a loved one is something that cannot be bought. Bless your dad who obviously has so much stamina… I couldn’t do what he does. The pictures are bautiful and you had the best time. I was really surprised that it is a 1500 mile trip. Where did your dad start his trip in Georgia or further north? And you must really be far south for it to be such a long trip. But then again America is so big! Glad to hear you had some quality time with dad, you deserve it my friend.
Hi Mary, I thought of you as I wrote this post since you always have such amazing coastal photos of where you live:) Yes, my dad has more energy than me sometimes & he has a huge amount of backbone to make the journey on his own…but then 2 years ago he walked 200 miles of the appalachian trail, alone. Climbing vertcle cliffs and sleeping in the snow…I hope I’ve inhertited what he has;) He started in Delaware, a state in the northeast on the coast. Traveling down the ICW to my house is about 1500 miles. I’m glad I took the time to do this with him. Last year I wasn’t able to make any part of his journey north and I promised myself I wouldn’t skip this chance. Happy Holidays!
Heather C says
You will always look back on this trip and be thankful you took the time, what a wonderful gift for both of you. I enjoyed taking the trip through your blog, it sounds like this was not your first time on water, thanks for sharing with us and thanks for showing us it isn’t a pretty present wrapped up, but sharing of our time that is a gift most of us want.
Hi Heather, You are so right, I will always remember this trip. I’m glad I made the time, and made the crazy schedule we live in stop so I could be part of my dad’s journey south. We are a water family, both mine and my husbands parents have sailed for years. Sharing our passion in a cruising trip made our time spent together even more special. Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment & your visit today. Happy Holidays!