Our life aboard Aftermath is filled with many things. Sometimes sights are of gorgeous scenery, other times we pass through busy cities. Some days are filled with the joy of seeing our family or meeting new friends, and other days we witness the heartbreak of the misfortune of others. If nothing else, our voyage on AfterMath has given us an appreciation for what we have, for each other, and for the opportunity to experience so much from our floating home.
We waited with anticipation to see it as we left Niceville, FL on October 26th. The news on our computers showed countless pictures, but still it didn’t seem real. Only when we saw the devastation caused by Hurricane Michael first hand did we really understand what it must have been like for those in its path. Our hearts sank for the losses of the people of who suffered.
For two days we traveled past Panama City and the Mexico Beach area, and all we saw was devastation. We spent one night anchored in a cove in a neighborhood where every house was destroyed. Boats littered lawns, trees were snapped in half, and homes looked as though they were just under new construction as siding was stripped off and windows were completely absent. We saw a 200-foot, brand new boat that had been almost ready for delivery to Alaska sunk and laying on its side in shallow waters. Hotels and apartment buildings were vacant and ruined. And it went on and on for miles and miles. And yet, life seemed to go on. Blue tarps, leveled buildings, broken trees, beached boats, and destroyed docks were everywhere, but workers were busy cleaning up, repairing, and toiling to get life back to normal. It will be a very long time, I’m sure, until life returns as it once was along Florida’s northern Gulf Coast, but it will eventually be all right again. It is good that people are so resilient.
Finally, on October 28th, in Apalachicola, the damage seemed to begin to lessen, and we passed through towns that looked much more like those we had seen when heading north. We traveled with our friends aboard DougOut and made our way to Dog Island, just off the coast of Carrabelle, FL. Anchored off the island, soon I was able to spend some time on one of the whitest beaches I had ever seen. Dog Island, a very low lying spit of land that almost disappears at high tide, didn’t completely escape Michael’s wrath, as was evident by one home completely missing the set of stairs needed to enter the house. Another sign of the strength of the storm was the new presence of washed ashore wooden ships that were shipwrecks from the Carrabelle Hurricane of 1899. It was great fun to explore the ships and to walk the beach where huge, beautiful shells were just there for the taking.
After a restful night and morning at Dog Island, we were ready to embark on our last overnight trip of our four-year adventure (thank goodness!!!!). The twenty-five hour journey to Tarpon Springs was without any issues, but in all of our travels I have never learned to adjust to an overnight trip. Happily, when we pulled into our dock at the Tarpon Springs Municipal Marina, we were greeted by Jason, Lisa, and Jace. Jason hopped aboard AfterMath to help with the lines and we were quickly tied up and enjoying a relaxing lunch at the Shrimp Wreck Restaurant just a few steps away.
For the next few days we remained at Tarpon Springs, visiting with Jason and Lisa, taking in the sights and scenes of this little Greek town where sponges and Greek food abound. We toured the tiny aquarium, visited the cathedral, walked the docks, shopped in little stores for olives and cheese, and, of course, looked at all of the varieties of sponges in the shops around town.
Finally, on November 5th, it was time to leave and head to Clearwater. Jason and Lisa, who had been on AfterMath many times, had never actually been aboard while we were moving, so they joined us on the trip to Clearwater Municipal Marina. We had a great time riding together on a beautiful day and then extended the fun by boarding the Jolly Trolley that took us to Dunedin. After walking around town and stopping for ice cream, John and I returned on the trolley to Clearwater and Jason and Lisa continued on a trolley back to their car in Tarpon Springs.
As always, we treasured our time with our son and his family. We loved traveling with new friends and exploring new places. Our deepest sorrow goes out to those who lost so much this year, and we hope they soon recover both materially and emotionally from all they have been through. Life is a series of ups and downs, of great joys and great losses, but with family and friends and adventures to follow, it’s easy to find some good in every day. Call a friend today, smile at a stranger, wave at a little child, and bring a little more happiness into the world. Most of all, search for your own adventure; make your life the best it can be.