Update, April 8, 2011

If our sailing season had gone according to plan (which it never does) Richard and I and Elizabethann would have been in Cuba for some time now, and would perhaps be looking for a place to store the boat there. But no, here we are in Tarpon basin, one of our favourite anchorages. We creep into the town side of the bay when we need to get to land via the dinghy docks behind the Munro County building. When we tire of the traffic noise and want to swim and shower without getting our bathing suits wet, we go back to the north side.

When I last wrote, we were in Everglades City, a funky little place that has lost bits of its formerly grand self to fire and storm over the years, and is now a small town way off in the mangroves. When we left there, we went back out into the Gulf of Mexico and sailed south over placid seas, into Shark river. A nearby cruiser brought us fresh fish, a snapper and a trout. We would have liked too stay longer to enjoy more of his largesse, but Cuba was still calling at that point, so on we went to Florida Bay. No evidence of oil, but the turquoise water wasn’t clear, like it is in the Bahamas. Perhaps it never is. Or it could be the dispersant. I don’t know.

Our Florida Bay anchorage was among shoals, which we couldn’t see all that well, but were able to navigate with the chart-plotter. It was windy, and there were waves, but the shoals kept them away from us. After a full day of sailing and motor-sailing, with the wind behind us all day, we got to Boot Key Harbor, where we thought we would be for a week, but where Richard ended up staying a month, all alone. When we got there, I took Elizabethann to shore, where she took a bus to Key west, to get reorganized for our trip to Cuba the next week.

Richard had been iffy about Cuba, but was now reading the cruising guide and looking at the charts, even planning a route. My father’s ninetieth birthday passed, and he slept through most of the party, but was happy to have made it. After that, his health started to seriously decline, and an email from my niece convinced me to go home, to spend some more time with him before he died. My siblings and I took turns visiting him and Mom at Beattie Haven, and I started reading brother Bill’s sixth book to him. We had four weeks until it was obvious the end was near. Five of us took turns doing six-hour shifts beside his bed, as his body slowly shut down. He said all of the parts were wearing out. He stopped eating and then drinking. Then he stopped speaking. His last communication was to squeeze Virginia’s hand really tight, the day before he died.

A week later, after the visitation and funeral, where I met many people who had known Dad, as well as seeing everyone of our large family, here I am, in Tarpon Basin, back on the boat. We have five weeks of cruising and two weeks of going north left before June first. We’ll float around in the Keys and fix things. A visitor or two will come down and we’ll act retired. Cuba next year.

Sharon Lehnert

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