KATIE & JESSIE

aboard lovely Louise…


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Jungle

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The C & D canal, Delaware Bay, and the entire state of New Jersey passed by without me stepping foot on land. To make up for lolly gagging in the Chesapeake Bay, we traveled 251 nautical miles in less than 3 days. There comes a point in exhaustion that can not be made up for with any kind of sleep or caffeine. Sometimes just powering through seems like the best option when there is no such thing as catching up.  With a goal to reach New York City by the 4th of July, the consensus was to make an overnight trek off the coast of New Jersey… skipping over the state all together. So we did.

Five miles off the coast of Jersey, 50 feet of water underneath Louise, wind blowing us towards the “Big Apple”, and waves shoving us westwards towards Jersey. In 22 hours we traveled 120-ish miles from Cape May, NJ, to Staten Island, NY. Patrick (Simrad auto-tiller) drove us through the entire night off shore. My love for Patrick strengthened to that of a human. Patrick – you are something else, thank you for your help. Katie and I do two hour shifts on overnights. For the most part, we are both awake in the cockpit all night. It’s too hard to fall asleep on overnight passages anyways. The adrenaline of being in the pitch black on open water alone, is plenty enough to keep your mind alert. We were both so tired, but the glow of New York City gave us a compelling focal point. Sometimes the thing that scares me the most, is not being two somewhat in-experienced sailors on the open ocean – but what Katie and I are capable of making happen when we put our heads to something.

Suddenly we are on a series of trains, ferries, and subways trying to get to Brooklyn to surprise one of my best childhood friends on her 25th birthday. Like true rookie tourists, we navigated our way through the sweaty jungle with luggage, an oversized camera, and a 50 pound dog. Reggie found his placement quickly on the subways, appropriately spreading his appendages for balance as if he were on Louise. I lost my balance several times, and had to look to Reg for advice. Fortunately, the subways are so packed with humans that they block your fall when inertia flings you forward. The view consists of armpits, necks, chest hair and the occasional breast in your face. Every single human was either looking down at their smartphone, or at their feet. I am curious as to the possibility of us all becoming robots. When each individual comes with a hand held computer, there is no reason to look any where but at it. The only time I saw people talking, was into their headphones to someone on the other side of the line. The only time I saw someone smiling or laughing, was when they were looking down at their smartphone. I’m not gonna lie, I got really weirded out. Do we even have brains anymore? We are all guilty of staring at these things too much. But holy shit, the world is changing and I am slightly frightened to change with it.

A woman pushing a stroller with a fake baby, pushes her way through the crowded subway station in search of a place to dump an un-used fake diaper. A ravenous drifter with an eyepatch, relentlessly bangs on the telephone pole on the street corner where we wait to cross. A little boy who seems to have lost a parent or two, curiously lingers over my shoulder attempting to take my phone from my hand. Musicians preform on every block. Wait, these people are really talented, why isn’t anyone stopping. Why aren’t I stopping? Because stopping means a good chance of death by stampede. Three hours, and 157 different kind of smells later, we arrive at Olivia Gilmore’s doorstep. SURPRISE! Happy Birthday. I love you. Where’s the vodka?

We spent several days wandering Brooklyn, the neighborhood of a few close friends. It’s fascinating how many people choose to live in a jungle, where nature and silence do not exist. I had to remind myself to walk through the city not as if I had was fresh off a sailboat, but as if I were a little kid who had never seen such a sight. I’ve been to NYC several times in my life. But this time, was different. Not comparable to prior visits, I felt like a true foreigner whose brain didn’t believe her eyes. Friends, incredible cuisine, culture, music, art, and entertainment reminded me of what brings people in, and what keeps them there. The opportunities are seemingly endless, which is what makes New York City – New York City.

The thought of waving goodbye to the Atlantic ocean once we head up the Hudson River, is very, very, VERY bittersweet. Neither of us are in a rush to leave the jungle. New York City, you have marked our journey’s progress. We have both dreamt about the day we would wake up to the cities skyline from the cockpit of Louise for over two years. I am not going to bother explaining how remarkable that was, because honestly I don’t really know how.

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Lots more City photos to come…..  and if your bored …. www.jessietakespictures.com 

 

 

 

 


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I will most likely ship my children off to do this whether they want to or not.

chesapeake-6 Half way up the Chesapeake Bay and today marks the longest day of the year.  Summer Solstice. Katie and I have been living in a summer-like season for a while. This day represents nothing to me besides the fact that us Grandmas will struggle to stay awake for the evenings late sunset. Flipping back in time through my journal to exactly one year ago, I was writing about the bittersweet day we decided to turn around in the Exumas and head back to the states. Ironic because just moments ago we were discussing turning around right now, to head back to the Bahamas. My thoughts a year ago happen to be identical to today’s. Conflicted. There is a wild something pulling us back to Michigan. The completion of America’s Great Loop keeps us moving. It doesn’t have to be the end, just a mission completed. The Chesapeake Bay is marking our northerly progress. Distance between us and home now feels closer than the distance between us and the Bahamas. It’s silly that 365 days prior I was completely torn between wanting to go on forever and wanting to go home. You’d think I’d have it figured out by now. I don’t. Actually there are a lot of things I thought I’d have figured out by now. The weather in the Chesapeake Bay is equally as confused as us gals. Like our moods, constantly changing and unpredictable – it evolves every half hour. Hot, cold, chilly, sweaty, wind, no wind, gusty, glassy surface, choppy, little waves, big waves, clouds, no clouds, sunny, rainy, pouring, etc. It finally feels like we are on the East Coast that I had imagined. Open water, dreary skies and ever-changing weather. Hanging out in my yellow bibs, anticipating the next rain cloud since they come out of nowhere. Within moments a blue sky turns black, and a calm surface becomes aggravated. My bibs are my mothers from the 80’s. I look like a fisherman, not a sailor. Yesterday we ran aground in a narrow channel exiting our anchorage. It was foolish for us to leave when we did. We knew the day before we had entered the channel at high tide, with only a foot under us. In the morning, when we hoisted up the anchor you could tell that the ground was nothing but soft mush. With that knowledge, we figured pretending to be invincible meant we could exit the shallow channel at low tide, driving over/through the mush. Not so much. We gently ran Louise onto the ground, and waited nearly three hours. The local fisherman were perturbed by Louise’s placement in the center of a tiny channel. The Osprey in the nest a boat length away, also made it apparent we were overstaying our welcome. Finally the rising tide spoke, “Okay girls, you can go now.” The East coast’s dense population of family and friends has us zig zagging the Chesapeake. These towns endlessly surprise me with their charm. Annapolis, which neither of us knew a thing about, quickly hurdled to the top of the ongoing “places to potentially live” list.  I think I love the East coast. Who knew? I mean, this side of America is pretty cool. Everyone should travel the Great Loop. I will most likely ship my children off to do this whether they want to or not. This circle holds many lessons I don’t think could be learned any other way. chesapeake-5 chesapeake-4 chesapeake-3 chesapeake-2 chesapeake-10 chesapeake-9 chesapeake-8 chesapeake-7  chesapeake-15 chesapeake-14 chesapeake-13 chesapeake-12 chesapeake-11 chesapeake-20 chesapeake-19 chesapeake-18 chesapeake-17 chesapeake-16 chesapeake-25 chesapeake-24 chesapeake-23 chesapeake-22 chesapeake-21 chesapeake-30 chesapeake-29 chesapeake-28 chesapeake-27 chesapeake-26 chesapeake-35 chesapeake-34 chesapeake-33 chesapeake-32 chesapeake-31 chesapeake chesapeake-39 chesapeake-38 chesapeake-37 chesapeake-36 We want to give an enormous shout out to everyone who took us in and spent time with us as we traveled through the Chesapeake. Haley & John Demyanovich, Bill & Bonnie Sweeney, Martha & Jake Mitchell, Jim & Elizabeth Gamble, Aunt Midge & Uncle Mike, and Merissa Cope. You guys are amazing, thank you for everything.      


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Dismal swamp ladies.

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This water is more black than my french press. I am known to concoct a strong brew, but the Dismal has brewed a comparatively thick swamp. Outlaw country provides todays soundtrack. The leaves, flowers, branches, twigs, stumps, and low flying birds are perfectly mirrored in the stagnant swamp. If Louise’s ripples were not validating travel through water, I would be pretty certain we were moving through air. The dragon flies, are the size of humming birds, and are also reflected off the surface giving each fly a stunt double. Iridescent acrobats rule this land.

In the late 1700’s, this 22 mile canal (The Dismal Swamp) was hand dug by slaves over the course of 12 years. Here we are cruising through it in a single day at 5 knots. I’d never thought I’d say this, but I feel like we should slow down. It feels rude to plow through. I would hate to miss anything. There is so much to look at. So many living things. This swamp amazes me. If I am more fascinated by a swamp than by the tropics, does that make me a redneck?

The trees are forming a canopy overhead. If only I were Tarzan. Unfortunately the thick foliage doesn’t let any breeze pass through. Instead it creates a maze for tall masts. Obstacles avoided by boats are typically underneath the water, not up above as well. But in this case, large floating logs make this maze more interesting. Things to dodge in every direction. This is a fun game. The canal is very narrow. In some areas, I am unsure If I could even flip a bitch. Lets just hope theres no reason for that. No traffic here. It’s been 4 hours and we haven’t seen a single boat. Where is everyone?

It’s still early. Today is predicted to be 98 degrees. Wind blowing at a whopping zero knots. I am not looking forward to the heat of the afternoon. We all know it’s my worst enemy. But we did do one thing right – 4 bags of ice are stowed inside for cold drinks and ice baths. Ice will keep us sane and patient while traveling through the swamp when it transitions from heaven to hell. Before the bugs congregate, the air thickens, and the humidity plague us, every minute will be enjoyed. We pass through two locks today, which is kind of exciting… we have not been through a lock since Lake Okeechobee. We associate locks with friends. Because thats where 25 year old women make friends. Right?

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Katie won’t stop talking, I think she wants me to stop writing.

 

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May 17

“There is zero wind. Not even a breath. We motor against the current under 3 knots. I have to remind myself to be patient. I could walk faster than this. Frustration usually wins this battle.”

May 18

“I am currently navigating us outside of the marked channel, because the marked channel takes us 4 miles in a direction we don’t want to go. If I can make it over what is charted to be un-navigable, it will save us almost 2 hours. There is a very good chance I am about to run us aground. Katie’s lack of opinion is saying that if anything goes wrong, I will be the one to blame. The tide is high. I am hopeful.”

May 26

“My eyes sting at the end of every day. I need better sunglasses. If I didn’t insist on only buying 5 dollar sunglasses, maybe I wouldn’t have this problem. My sandals finally broke. Better yet, all of the food and drinks from the last few days seem to be finding a home around my mid-section”

May 28

“We have a new game. It’s called ‘dock poaching’. Who can find the best abandoned dock to tie to for the night”

May 31

“A black, opaque sky quickly traveled our direction earlier. Like robots, we closed everything up, and put on our rain gear without complaint or conversation. We stood in the rain and got soaked through our “rain -gear” like it was protocol or something. The rain passed quickly,  thankfully the cool air decided to linger.”

May 31

“I am scared for all of this to come to an end. I feel like everything important I am supposed to learn, will happen here, on this boat.”

June 1

“ I only care to be noticed by those who pay close attention. And talk only to the ones who are actually listening”

“Sunday fun-day here along the Myrtle Beach ICW. Sea-doos, kayaks, paddle boards, wake boards, speed boats, rap music, alcohol, lots of noise. Wakes are ricocheting off the sides of the very narrow canal. Louise is in a washing machine, on the spin cycle. At 3.5 knots fighting the current, gas sucking spaceships are lapping us. Where did they all come from? Where is everyone going? Why is everyone going so fast? Why don’t they get in a convertible and drive on the freeway or something? A teenage girl just had her bathing suit at her ankles, and ass hanging off the back of a pontoon to pee. Those were some parts I didn’t need to see. I am overwhelmed.”

June 3

“I thought that traveling the “great loop” would help me pinpoint an area of this country to settle. Instead it is doing the opposite. Almost every day I think “I could live here”. But I can’t live everywhere. Or can I? The East coast has completely taken me by surprise. Now, I have no clue where I want to end up.”

“I feel no need to be sailing off shore. Off shore means we would be missing every thing I’ve fallen in love with so far.”

June 4

“Today I feel like a princess. Don’t ask me why – I don’t know. I am happy. Louise is my palace.”

“I am starting to get sad every time I watch these towns and people disappear behind me. Always saying goodbye. A trend I can’t seem to shake. Will I always be saying goodbye? “

June 5

“Katie won’t stop talking. I think she wants me to stop writing.”

June 6

“Nervously eating chocolate. I am sitting in a dark dungeon that is spinning around in circles. Streaks of lighting spider-vein the sky. I can’t even see out the window. The thunder crackles so loudly I can feel under my feet. Shit. I hope the anchor doesn’t drag. Katie is frantically trying to find where the heavy rain leaks through the deck. It’s really coming in. A waterfall inside the hull is pooling underneath Reggie’s bed and on the bathroom floor. I can’t bring myself to do anything but eat chocolate and write faster.

Funny I felt like a princess the other day. Today I am an dirty, greasy, peasant, locked in a dungeon that can’t even keep out the rain. Where the hell am I?”

June 11

“Day 3 in the boat yard. The heat is so disgusting I actually want to throw up. It’s 8 am, I am sweating and haven’t even moved yet. My house is a microwave. I am not made for this part of the world. It’s rare that I become this irritable and mean. Break my heart, talk about me behind my back, betray my trust, I can handle it. Don’t put me in unbearable heat with nowhere to run. I can’t handle it.”

June 12

“I must try to figure out a way to make a living doing this. But how? I don’t need much money. The more money people have, the more they justify spending it. In the end, a little bit or a lot of money means nothing to me.”

June 13

“Three days is all it takes to have strangers feel like your new family. Hard work, uncomfortable days, sleepless nights, breakdowns, shitty weather, and we are always rewarded in people. The people we meet have been our prize since day one.”

June 16

“Okracoke – you hold a fraction of my heart large enough to return someday.”

“Dinner this evening with my father’s high school friend and his family was really something. A beautiful family. The kind that makes you want your own. I could stay here forever.”

“I hate feeling rushed. I hate how often I miss what’s around me. I hate when my mind is preoccupied with things that don’t matter.”

June 17

“This is it. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Why haven’t more people caught on to this? I could do this forever.”

June 19

“How do Katie and I still enjoy each other’s company? We have become confident in our cruising abilities. Problems are handled rationally. We are way more relaxed than we once were and satisfied in our intuitions. Quietly we face the shitty days. Loudly we celebrate the great ones.”

June 28

“Drive a boat, get in bed. Drive a boat, get in bed. Drive a boat, get in bed. Drive a boat, get in bed. “

June 29.

“It’s been a long couple of days. I don’t know if I have yet to reach this kind of exhaustion. Off shore and sailing into the night. Making myself queasy looking at my laptop. Right now, feeling queasy is better than feeling nothing. I am having a hard time keeping my eyes open. Gravity is pulling my eyelids down. It is more strenuous to hold them up than to do 50 push ups.”

 

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Living in a treehouse.

“Well girls, do you want the good news or the bad news?” Asked a lovely man by the name of Kirk Hathaway. Who had just hauled himself out of the water, looking like a coral reef after scraping Louise’s undercarriage.

“Neither?” we are both thinking.

“The bottom of the boat is all clean, I put a new zinc on, but your propeller is chipping away, and you might want to look into having your cutless bearing replaced. I can move the shaft around, and hear that there is metal on metal, which could be the cause of your recent tiller vibrations”

What the hell is a cutless bearing? He motioned us to the dock, where he continued to give us a lesson on zincs, electrolysis, cutless bearings, and potential repercussions, if in fact, our cutlass bearing is worn down. Sitting indian style, we nodded like bobble heads listening to information we wished we weren’t hearing. Katie whispered she was happy she had just taken a xanax. I had a hard time processing it all, considering it was not long ago that I was in the water inspecting the region. Had I not been noticing the things I most importantly should have? Apparently not.

Kirk referred us to SailCraft, a boat yard a few days away in Oriental, NC. We spent a few days, discussing our options, making phone calls, getting opinions, and dreading the thought of getting hauled out. We of course took a look at the situation for ourselves, before making any decisions. The propeller did in fact, look like it had been dug up from a 17th century shipwreck. The the prop shaft did indeed have play where it passed through the strut. Kirk, you were not lying.

“Yah what do ya want?” My father finally answers the phone.

“Cutless bearing. Tell me about it” I come back.

“It’s very important” He responded.

There are certain things that come out of that man’s mouth, I know to trust. If anything, it’s boats, and diesel engines. All I had to hear him say was “it’s very important”, to understand that there was no possible way of avoiding this situation. We knew better than to try and make it back to Michigan under such circumstances. When compromising the blood pumping heart of your boat – Louise’s “little engine that could” – the least we owed her was a minor, yet costly operation.

Watching a large metal machine with a man pressing buttons and pushing levers hauling your house from the water isn’t relaxing. Somewhere around 9,000 pounds, suspended in two straps, swinging in directions Louise would not normally choose to swing. 7,800 pounds of haul, and the rest in toiletries and Budweiser. Louise was power-washed, and carefully blocked in our new neighborhood for the week.

Spending time in a boat yard is a odd thing to explain. It’s confusing. It’s contradictory to a boat’s real purpose. It compares a sailor’s version of “house work” to one’s average idea of “house work”. Fiber-glassing, sanding, barnacle-scraping, waxing, painting, varnishing, is nothing but a sailors version of mowing the lawn, watering flowers, sweeping the deck and washing the windows. It is a place for dedicated dreamers, and diligent workers. A trap where time disappears, and your tentative plans to be a fish out of water extend for days, weeks, months, and for some, years. No one really believes each other when they say they are getting “splashed” (put back in the water) in a matter of days. Everyone knows our kind of yard work happens slowly. If anything is to be learned in the yard – it is patience. Day by day things get accomplished, but it seems that with each day passing, comes a new reason for not being ready to begin the real journey.

In the yard, you awake to footprints, electric sanders, hammers and voices. You climb a ladder to reach your cockpit. When you step aboard, the boat does not react to your foot placement. Instead, her stability high up on jack-stands sits still with weight shift. When you lay down to sleep at night, the hull is not cold from sitting in the water, but is still warm from the heat of the day. There is no water lapping the sides, no swinging in circles, and no breeze finding its way through the hatches because you are not pointed into the wind. When you pump water in the sink, you can hear it fall out of the bottom and hit the rocks below. Everything feels different, sounds different, smells different, but inside the boat, it looks exactly the same. In the yard, we are not living in boats, but in tree-houses.

This tree-house community however, holds something remarkable. We are all working towards the same thing. We all have the same goals. Competition does not exist. With like minds, equal frustrations, comparable victories, and close quarters, you are connected to your neighbors whether you want to be or not. When you don’t have the right tool, the guy next door does. When you are not positive about how to go about something, the gal over there is. When your irritation is noticed, someone tosses you a cold beer. When your mission is accomplished, smiles and recognition come out of the bones. I interacted with our neighbors more in 5 days, than I ever did in the neighborhood I grew up in for 18 years. The amount of borrowing we did could not be compared to the cup of sugar you ask your neighbor for as a kid. Proof, that the boat yard, tree-house living life will connect you to something you didn’t even know existed. By the time we had to say goodbye, it was actually sad. Hugs given, information exchanged, and sincere wishes of fair winds.

The cutless bearing was replaced. We found a propeller at a consignment shop, with the same pitch, but an inch too long in diameter. We waited three days to have it machined down to the right size. In that time, we spent some long, sweaty hours scraping barnacles off the bottom in preparation for a new paint job. Temperatures in the high 90’s lingered until we left. The sky rocketing humidity had us moving very, very slowly. It wasn’t until we were mid-way through painting the bottom, that it started pouring. Just our luck.

The better half of the week had passed before us. That big metal machine came and re-situated Louise back in the water were she belonged. Happy with the week’s accomplishments, and even the size of our bill. I highly recommend SailCraft for any work that you need done – in or out of the water. The employees are beyond knowledgeable, and are not looking to rape you of your funds. Ask for Allen, tell him “the girls” sent you. Obviously the people who live there, are the cherry on top.

Thanks guys. Time to hit the road in our new spaceship.

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Ladies know how to work too.

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The uneasy moment.

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Big, scary machine.

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Power washer. I want one.

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Where’d our bottom paint go?

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Was that thing really making us move forward?

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If you ever get repairs done at SailCraft – ask for Daryll. Daryll’s the man.

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Safety gear. Don’t get “ON-OFF” acid wash on your skin. It burns.

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New cutless bearing/old cutless bearing. This brass thing, is lined with grooved rubber to self lubricate with the surrounding water, where the prop shaft passes through it’s supporting strut. Learn something new every day.

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Prop we found at a consignment shop for 35 bucks. Plus an additional $90 to send it off and have machined to the appropriate diameter.

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New paint job ended up being successful, even after the first attempt getting rained out!

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Splash.


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Birthday Crashers

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A year ago, we were living like princesses in a mansion in the Bahamas. Please know that when I say ‘living’ I am referring to a week at most. Why? Because the island handyman, who was not only our mechanic, but the caretaker of several homes, opened the doors for us while we were waiting for a new transmission to get shipped in. Louise was out of commission, as well as becoming a noseum sanctuary.

We tip toed around the house, taking up only one room amongst the five others. Like little mice, we ate the m&m’s in the freezer, and microwaved popcorn. In moderation, a frozen waffle, or pack of oatmeal went missing, we had to be incognito, but just pretended we were like the “Borrowers”. We sat on the wrap around porch and read books all day, over looking the glassy, blue anchorage, where the rest of our kind swung in circles. Overlooking where we belonged, sailors looked back at us thinking we just had rich parents. I smiled every time I walked by the framed photo of the homeowners next to Barack Obama, on my way upstairs the do laundry. Just hanging out…. in the presidents friends house…. in paradise…. for free…. and there was m&m’s. How could this be possible?

Why am I talking about the presidents friends house a year ago… Well towards the end of the week, the house next door filled with freshman college boys. One of their families owned the house, and the boys were on a fishing trip. It was a small island. You couldn’t walk by an occupied home without striking up conversation. Not to mention we were the only ones on the island under 30. Naturally, we befriended our neighbors, and played it off like our families also, owned the mansion we were staying in. One of them in particular, nick named “Campbell Soup” was born and raised in Savannah, GA. Over the past year, we have all kept in touch via email regarding our whereabouts. Just recently, we were in a position to finally cross paths again.

Campbell raved about a place stuck in time, his favorite place to hide out, and his best friend Drew, whose family history dates back to the islands first footprints. Campbell passed on our contact information to Drew, who called and invited us to tie to his dock on Dafauskie Island. It was his girlfriends 23rd birthday, they had friends arriving all weekend. From strangers to friends, grandma’s to birthday crashers, salty sailors to girls in dresses, our time on Dafauskie Island was exceptional. Drew knows everyone on the island by name, and has the answer to any and every question you could want to know about the island. I don’t know if I have ever been surrounded by such a welcoming, genuinely kind, and fun crew of friends. It blew my mind. It seemed almost as unreal as living in a mansion in paradise. All it took was one conversation a year ago, that connected us to one of the most notable weekends of the year. Southern hospitality is a very real thing, this is how it should be, everywhere.

Inside the house, on Louise’s ceiling, we have started a list places we could see ourselves living post-cruising life. Dafauskie Island, is the first on our list. Those of you who have heard of it, or have been privileged to spend some time there, understand why it’s on the list. Those of you who have never heard of it…. well maybe we should keep it that way : )

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