Raindrops fall heavy and consistent against our rainfly. The wind brings gusts that fill the rainfly and tent, causing it to temporarily cave in a bit on the windward side. I peek through the air vent within the vestibule at Solvi. Her boom tent is experiencing a similar sensation as our rainfly, but no one is inside to observe that perspective. I see some rain getting in her boom tent, but she looks mostly dry; this makes me happy because tomorrow morning will be easier not having to bail so much water. I observe the sky, smeared rain clouds of different shades ranging from dark gray to such a light white that I can almost see the blue sky behind. The sky has changed so many times today, bringing many different moods, activities, and experiences. We rowed away from the tree we were tied up to last night around 7am. The rain started at 6:30 but by 7 there was a small break. Heading down river with a beach that had been suggested to us by the friendly people in Savanna in mind, we set out with rain jackets and gear tucked away. We didn’t experience any rain during the 4 miles we rowed down river, but as soon as Solvi was pulled up on the beach it began. Starting with light raindrops, then suddenly a torrential downpour, then back to light raindrops. During the less intense rainfall we would move quickly to set up our tent, the boom tent, and get everything we would need in case we had to spend the day in the tent. Once camp was set up as dry as we could make it, we decided to take advantage of the fresh water falling from the sky and shower. It was so refreshing to have fresh rain water to rinse with. I felt like I was taking an actual shower! The raindrops were so big and so often that they soaked us within minutes. I observed all the drops falling on the river. Each individual drop landing on the water’s surface and causing a tiny splash. We caught one more break in the rain and threw the frisbee on the massive beach we had all to ourselves. When the pouring started again we sought refuge in the tent and made some coffee and overdue breakfast. By the time the coffee was steeped I could tell that it was lighter outside. I peeked out the vestibule and it was clear that the sunshine would soon be out and drying our beach. I absolutely loved watching the storm pass by. Within 10 minutes the idea of what our day would be like changed completely. The sky had been so dark and the rain so heavy we expected to stay in the tent the entire day. But as all things do, the storm passed and provided the most magical day we have had thus far. When the sun came out, it came blasting through the clouds. It was such a contrast that we both found ourselves looking out over a quarter mile of beach, hands sprawled behind us like a bird flying in the wind, faces towards the sun, smiling, yelling, and quite literally soaking up the sun with our entire beings.
Kyle spent some time cleaning out the tent from all the rain and sand that had accumulated during the first storm, and I spent my afternoon fiddling with Solvi, doing laundry, making designs in the sand, listening to music real loud, singing, and dancing. Marvelous is an understatement. I probably spent about 2-3 hours washing clothes. We don’t even have that many clothes, but I was just having such a good time. I hung lines up in all directions. From Solvi’s mast to a nearby log, and then across Solvi’s length. I would wash the garment in the water, soap it up, and then go out farther where the water was clearer and rinse. I took my time to splash in the water, spin in circles while dragging a shirt through the water’s surface watching it’s ripple effect. I would then hang the clothes up on the clothes lines and take my time to change their positions, turn them over, and move them around as the sun and wind dried certain areas. In between doing laundry I cleaned Solvi, ran up and down the beach, and took photos. I must mention something very important and special about the day- from 7am until most likely tomorrow, Kyle and I saw absolutely no one. No boats, no people. We are on a huge sandy beach and completely alone. I look down river and see islands, bluffs, and more water for miles and miles. I look up river and can make out the slightest shapes of what is probably a small river town. If I didn’t know better I would think it was just us in the world. We played tag, ran the length of the island, splashed in the shallows, and climbed on top of driftwood and yelled at the top of our lungs for no reason. I have never in my life felt as free as I have felt today. Never have I let go so deeply, so fully. I now understand something I don’t think I fully understood before. I now understand that this is it. It doesn’t matter how far we make it, how much money we have, how many miles we make a day. None of that matters. This is what matters. Revolving our entire day and its activities on the weather and the sunshine. Staring at each other in disbelief of how absolutely wonderful the day has turned out to be. I promise you there is so much to life. There is so much to do, see, explore, and to feel. We must embrace our time here.
Just since I have been writing this the weather has changed yet again. The storm that came this afternoon that we had taken the time to prepare for has already passed, just like the one this morning. Because of that, I have just opened one of the vestibule doors to let the wind in and to look at the sky. The view from the open vestibule door provides two islands, the western shore of the river, the sand of the beach we are on, and some driftwood that has washed up on shore. The sky ranges in colors, to the far East it is a steady gray-blue shade. It then fades to a lighter white, until slowly the clouds open up to a small opening of blue sky. The sun is shining through the clouds to the right of the blue sky, and it creates a glowing within the cloud coverage. The water is mostly calm, but has ripples caused by the current and the wind fighting each other. Just this morning the water was so calm that it was resistant to give way to waves, but this afternoon it is alive with small ripples traveling in all directions. I wonder where everyone is. I don’t think we’ve ever had a day with no boats. The isolation and solitude that has been experienced today causes me to be grateful. The level of isolation we have experienced is part of what caused me to act so freely today. I spent the entire day going on instincts. I was in the middle of making lunch and had an urge to run down the beach to look at a bird. I left the knife I had halfway through a block of Swiss cheese and skipped down the beach to the white egret that was hanging out on a log. After he flew away I went back to making lunch, but there were lots of moments through the day that I acted a bit sporadic and random, simply because I could. I danced and sang to the Beatles’, “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and laughed real hard when the line “Picture yourself in a boat on the river!” came out of my mouth. How fitting.
Didn’t have much motivation to write on this day, so just took some notes:
21 miles today. Most of which were under sail, got some reaching in, but mostly pointing to weather. Had a real fun day though- laughter and light heartedness. Got to a railroad bridge that wasn’t marked for height. Chart said 18’ feet so we thought we could make it, but the mast hit. Good thing we were prepared and were going so slow. No damage of any kind. Called the R.R. Bridge on the radio and they opened for us. Bridge built in 1909- really cool and old. At campsite on Illinois side. On an island and there is a table connected to a tree that Kyle was really excited about- perfect length for cooking without having to bend down. He cooked while I set up camp. Easy going and care free evening. Potatoes and peas- garlic mashed with sweet potato- so incredibly good. Kyle burned garbage and I tidied up Solvi. Sun setting lower and lower behind clouds during the evening. Kyle standing on tip of driftwood playing harmonica in the sunset. Water lapping on shore. Sun bright on the water’s surface. Focusing on doing dishes in the sand bottom river. Harmonica beautiful. Wood burning fills my nose with warm aroma. Bliss. Joy. Easy. Simple. Normal. In the moment. Got in the tent early. Watching sunset through vestibule. Blue sky- baby blue with pink, pink clouds. Some purple, some orange. So vivid. Strong. Bright. Have sunsets always been like this? Or am I just starting to see them differently? Nothing else in my mind. No labeling, no brain chatter, no internal voice. Quiet. Like what I try to accomplish when meditating. Quiet inside, quiet night in tent. No talking. Just going about our evening. In love. Train horn blows. Clouds changing to blue, sky turning pink. Marvelous.
Yesterday was a long tiring day of sailing to weather. I am not quite sure why it was so tiring, but we only made about 15 miles and it took all day. The sun was out which helped, but sailing into the wind on a small boat takes a lot of effort and constant attention. We do find it less exhausting than rowing into the wind. We decided to stop at marina before Lock and Dam 14, which is where we were going to camp near. After buying some ice and filling our jugs, we started rowing towards the island near the lock. A couple minutes later a pontoon came up next to us taking photos. Kyle joked, “Hey! That’s a dollar per photo!” They laughed and then asked if we had somewhere to stay for the night. We took them up on their offer to stay at their home. We followed their pontoon across the river to a house right on the water. We were able to pull Solvi up on some rollers and tie her off. We were in Bob’s yard and Judy, his neighbor, offered for us to stay in her spare bedroom. We declined that offer as staying in the tent on dry grass with Solvi nearby sounded more wonderful than staying under a roof. It’s funny, we were offered a shower, bedroom, running water, and we both declined all. Not because we didn’t feel comfortable, but because our tent and the river have slowly become our home. Our normal. Soon after arriving I was on Judy’s golf cart and Kyle was on Bob’s. Cold beers in hand, we were taken on the most wonderful tour of their awesome little neighborhood on the river’s edge. We got to see Judy’s house, their neighbor’s yards, the railroad, and lots of land along the river. The land they live on is owned by the Army Corps but they lease it and then own their homes. Because of that, the area is still really undeveloped and quite unique. I can’t explain how excited I was to be able to take a tour on land. We travel by so many different river communities and I always wonder about them. It was a real treat to actually get to see one and meet folks who live there. Bob and Judy were so incredibly kind to us. They gave us canned tomatoes, salsa, chili, a book, and note we aren’t allowed to open until we get to Missouri. We ended our tour around 7pm and all went our separate ways for the night. This morning they came to say farewell. I am so grateful for the generosity they showed us and all the laughter and conversation. Thank you Bob and Judy!
At this moment I am sitting on the starboard bench with my feet outstretched in front of me. We have two reefs in the sail as it’s a bit gusty. Kyle is handling the tiller and the main sheet. We are trying something new today- taking shifts to see if it makes sailing to weather less tiring. Although soon the river turns and we should be able to run with the wind which would be a wonderful treat. We awoke to a gray, blustery, rainy morning. But with the hopes of a north wind and sunshine we headed south. It rained on us while in the lock, but now just 30 minutes later the sunshine is here cloud blasting through the sky. The sail is casting it’s shadow on me, causing me to be in the shade, but the sun is shining real strong on my feet. I can feel the warmth slowly traveling up my body from the tips of my toes. I love the sunshine, especially on blustery days like today. The gusts are pretty strong right now. About 15-20mph. I can hear them howling past the hood of my green rain jacket. My ears are real happy to be covered. The water is a bit choppy and because of the gusts the surface of small waves looks really textured. For some reason when the sun isn’t out I get a tad nervous in these conditions, but with the reefs in and the sun shining bright, I feel safe. Comfortable. Alive!