It has come to my attention that I have been (once again and even more notably) remiss in my updates. Since I’m not on social media anymore (and I’ve not posted here in months), a few concerned friends have begun to wonder: is the crew of the Shanti even still afloat?
To put your mind at ease, yes, we are. Though, given the circumstances, it’s easy to see why there might have been doubts when I suddenly went radio silent.
So let me catch you up. I believe I left off with our harrowing winter passage from New Orleans to Gulfport, Mississippi.
After two full days of being battered by five- to six-foot waves on our beam, we lurched into the Gulfport Municipal Marina, eager to not spend anymore time in the Gulf for a while. We went ahead and signed up for a two-month lease and secured Shanti in the comfortable, if corporate-feeling, marina. For the first time in more than two years, we had the good fortune of having both money and places to spend it. We fully indulged, dining out extravagantly and working in air conditioned coffee shops. We even made a trip to the mall and splurged at Books-A-Million and Spencer’s. After being sequestered on the Industrial Canal for so long, broke and without transportation, it was a dream come true.
Of course, you can guess the rude awakening from the dream when, two weeks into our stay in Gulfport, the city closed down due to the pandemic.
Fortunately, Jack and I follow world events, so we weren’t caught off guard. We’d fully provisioned food and medical supplies in advance of the general freak-out, so we didn’t get caught up in the Soviet-style grocery lines and the toilet paper mayhem. In fact, we found ourselves at an advantage owing to our years of roughshod living. We were fully acclimated already to discomfort, inconvenience, uncertainty, anxiety, and a daily sense of impending doom. We were already working from home. Fain was already studying from home. We were already authorities on isolation. We were already master chaos wranglers.
We just kicked it up a notch.
Jack picked up a few pepper plants, a tomato plant, and some herbs, and I began to practice Depression Era rationing, just to be on the safe side.
Otherwise, nothing much changed for us.
Except the nagging fear of the looming hurricane season.
Naturally, the season kicked off in full gear, and the Gulf showed its ass straight away with Tropical Storm Cristobal. We’d slept through tropical storms in the past, so we weren’t too overwrought, but we also kept in mind it’s June 2020. No reason to assume a little tropical storm can’t spiral into a catastrophe. We’d already begun to make plans to hightail it up the Tennessee-Tombigbee River to Chattanooga in June, so we split town early and headed east to the back bay of Biloxi, where we figured we’d be a little more sheltered than we had been in Gulfport, sitting out in the Gulf.
We booked it to our new marina along with a few other sailboats, spotting dolphins (see the video of me freaking out here) and enjoying the breeze along the way. We were feeling pretty self-satisfied in our decision when we nestled into our new slip, a tight fit between two wooden finger piers on Friday, June 5th. We waited for Cristobal with bated breath.
He did not disappoint.
On Sunday, the water began to rise, and soon, the finger piers were submerged beneath two feet of water. The rain was torrential, but it didn’t seem like it was as bad as it could be…yet. Then, the wind began to pick up. It howled like a deranged animal and slammed Shanti among the pilings. At one point, our forward cleat ripped out of the deck, and Jack had to climb up onto the bow to secure the lines to our large, new anchor, which we’d kept up top, and the bow pulpit. I watched from the cockpit with the wind blasting directly at me from the east, horizontally, like tiny slivers of glass. My eyes burned for hours afterward.
Obviously, we survived. Indeed, one of us slept through most of the ordeal. I’m sure it will surprise no one to know that it was the sixteen-year old. We’d forced him to stay in the forward cabin with us until the storm blew over, just to have eyes on everyone in the event of a worst case scenario.
It took a couple of days for the water to recede as the rain continued long after Cristobal had moved inland, so we were stuck in the muggy, cluttered cabin, but we were well, and we felt even more certain of our plans to head north.
If you’ve guessed yet that this plan, too, was brought to a premature end, you’d be right. You’re catching on to how things roll out for the Shanti. I can’t say I was surprised either when I learned that two of the locks we’d need to cross to get to Tennessee were closed through the end of July. In other words, there would be no respite from a potential Pandemicane.
Which brings us to today.
We’ve settled into a routine in our new marina, a cozy spot on the back bay. It’s our favorite yet. It feels more scenic, and I’m convinced the trees and the wetlands on either side keep it slightly cooler, though our days are regularly in the 90s (and feel like they’re in the 110s, according to my weather app, which I’m not inclined to disagree with). Dolphins occasionally pass through the marina’s fairways, herding fish and doing somersaults. A colony of catfish live under our finger pier, and I feed them regularly and delight in the piggish noises they make trying to gulp down our leftovers. (I’ll tell you something interesting about catfish. Their favorite foods are the foods that they’re often served with. I’ve taken to calling ours pre-seasoned, pre-stuffed catfish though I’d never eat them personally. I’ve grown too attached.)
Not much is going on of note, which is why I haven’t been writing. I did exit social media a couple of months ago, and I don’t have any plans to re-enter. I’ve found that I’m enjoying the time that I’ve reclaimed to read, and I’m enjoying the space in my head that I’ve reclaimed from intrusive, anxiety-inducing content. In lieu of doomscrolling, I subscribed to the New York Times and a couple of online magazines for actual information, and I’m reading a lot of books for entertainment. I’m writing letters to far-off penpals and regularly texting the group of friends Jack calls my “online coven.” As it turns out, social media isn’t really necessary for a social life in isolation, and it definitely wasn’t good for me. I feel much happier without it, even in the midst of a pandemic. Maybe especially in the midst of a pandemic.
However, I do recognize that some friends were wondering what’s become of us, and we do have a blog, which presumably I set up for just that purpose: keeping friends posted. So if you’ve been waiting to hear from us, I apologize for the delay. Now that I have more time and mental space, I’ll try to do better. In fact, I was thinking maybe I’d tell you a little about my own daily routine as we go up against the brutal summer heat while isolating on an unfinished boat, especially about the books I’m reading and Fain’s amorphous academic pursuits, which might put your mind at ease about your own attempts at homeschooling. I’ll sincerely work on that this week. Honest.
In the meantime, think buoyant thoughts. We all need them now more than ever. We’ll do the same on our end. Stay in touch. Leave a comment or email me at autumn@theseashanti if you want to talk. I’ll be here. Just sweating.