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Cure for the Winter Blues

My good friend Mary South wrote a wonderful book in 2007, The Cure for Anything Is Salt Water. It’s an entertaining read with a laser-focused title. I found myself laughing and empathizing from the first sentence. (Mary also serves as our publishing group’s editor-at-large and the deputy editor of Soundings and Anglers Journal.)

Early on, Mary recounts how she left a prestigious publishing job to go cruising. She got up from the conference table during an arduous corporate meeting, went out for lunch, and never came back. Today, I’m fairly certain she knows that I’m stalking her when she leaves the office for lunch. Nothing creepy—I just want to ensure she returns.

On a recent cruise on my in-law’s boat, with my wife Lindsay, Mary’s book was resonating with me. I, and all of my colleagues, had just come off a hectic three months of new projects and boat shows. 

At the tail end of this cycle, I had to attend a press event on Captiva Island, Florida. Hmm, maybe I can add on a little escape to this junket. After all, the boat was right there. Sure, the timing was far from perfect. But will we ever have a fully clear schedule to get away? The hell with it: I told Lindsay to come on down, we needed some saltwater elixir. 

After an idyllic weekend of island hopping around Pine Island Sound, Lindsay headed home and my friend Chris DeBoy and I delivered the boat to Ft. Lauderdale. During this trip, I made a few discoveries I want to share you.

First of all, sorry if I offend residents of the east coast of Florida, but the west coast may have you beat on cruising grounds. After only a few days, we’re planning a trip in February. If you haven’t been, go. If you have been, make sure you go again. If you go often, please send me any cruising tips you’re willing to share with our readers. What a sliver of paradise. 

I realize it’s possible to actually taste your stomach lining. All that is required is for the depthfinder to drop to 0.0 at the precise moment your chartplotter locks up, while squeezing between two sandbars in unfamiliar waters. (We actually had  4 feet. Chris fixed the unit’s setting when he came onboard.)

I suggest you not mumble “Uh-oh” when the aforementioned events happen, unless you have an endless amount of available time, and are fully prepared to give your mate a precise debrief of your exact situation and what it all means. Yeah, I suggest stone-cold silence, and avoid all eye contact.

I still get as enthusiastic to see dolphins frolicking in our wake as I did when I was six. And I’m just as excited when I spot them five minutes later after the previous spotting. Lindsay finally shot me a glance that said, “Okay, calm down, little fella.”

A working coffee pot is just as important as diesel. And keeping the broken coffee pot onboard, to remind you of your epic fail, is simply cruel.

I realized the saloon of a Sabre 36 anchored up the Little Shark River makes a better office than an Ikea desk above a Dunkin' Donuts in Boston.

After almost a week of cruising in 6 feet of water, I noticed that when you see 10 feet, it feels like you’re crossing over a deep, endless canyon. 

I’m now willing to admit, there may indeed be something to the whole southern hospitality franchise. Both my parents are born-and-bred New Yorkers. So it’s in my DNA to try to figure out the angle when someone is, well, just being nice. At the beginning of the cruise, I was confident that behind the smile of the little blue-haired cashier at the hardware store hid pure, concentrated evil. Not so: People in this part of the world were just nice and accommodating! And it added to the entire cruise.

Above all, I discovered that spending even four nights on the boat after a hectic few months is all that is required to hit reset. Mary is right; the cure for anything is salt water. See you out there.