I can only wonder what the early immigrants to the US felt like as they passed through Customs/Immigration at Ellis Island, NY after the long, arduous journey from their mother country, but now I have a little better idea. That’s sort of what it felt like getting off the plane from Panama City (Panama) and clearing through United States Customs and Immigration in Miami with nothing but the clothes on our backs, our cat Spike in a cramped little carrier, and wondering what the future would hold.
For those of you that don’t know us, we lost our 50 ft. Gulfstar sailboat on a reef in the San Blas islands in eastern Panama on January 18, 2015. You can find the story of that tragedy in a blog post called “The Last Voyage of Firefly”. It was not only the boat we had worked on for the last 2 ½ years to outfit for cruising in the western Caribbean Sea, it was our home, our only home. It contained all of the possessions Carrie and I own together in this world. It was our 3rd sailboat we owned cruising together over the last 9 years, and in the space of 5 hours one night in the San Blas Islands, it was suddenly gone.
Some wonderful friends of ours who were already in the San Blas took us in without hesitation, providing us with toothbrushes, deodorant, shampoo, anything they had. Mostly though, they feely surrounded us with a great deal of love and compassion. They allowed us to stay on their boat as long as we needed to, which not only gave us a place to rest and recuperate, but a comfortable place to competently deal with our insurance company to complete our claim. It also gave us something else we thought we’d lost, a chance to enjoy the beautiful San Blas islands, bays, inlets, people and the reefs we had worked so hard to get to, even if only for a few days.
Other friends in the San Blas went way beyond what was necessary and helped us recover some valuable family treasures: an old ship’s wheel that belonged to my Father, and some jewelry that meant immeasurable things to my wife Carrie. They too unselfishly gave us what we needed most; a feeling of security and safety that we felt had been ripped away from us when we lost Firefly.
You don’t find friends like that too often. We feel tremendously fortunate to know them, and also to have received the many well-wishes from family and friends all over the world. We know that many of those other friends would have done the same thing if given the opportunity, and we hope we find the opportunity to pay those gifts forward somewhere along the way.
Now that we are back in the States we are faced with starting over in many ways. No, really. The few things we carried on to the airplane along with our cat were all the material things we owned in the world. We’ve decided to follow a different path going forward, one that will exchange the Cruising Life for living and traveling full time in a Recreational Vehicle, commonly called RVing. We leave behind a life upon the water for a life on the road, exploring the many sites and meeting people around the US.
We took delivery on a used Class A motorhome in late February, but following the reimbursement by our insurance company we will begin the daunting task of replacing all of the things that will make it our home. Clothing, dishes, cookware, bedding; the list is enormous, but it also gives us the opportunity to think about what is really needed to live comfortably.
There are many similarities between cruising on a sailboat and RVing, but there are many differences as well. Some are obvious and some are not, and many we haven’t even realized yet. This blog will relate our experiences and insights into the rebuilding process as well as our experiences while exploring the country we grew up in.
We are very excited about the future, as some of the best sights in this world may well be right in our own “backyard”.