Well I guess I spoke too soon yesterday! Right after I finished my journal entry the waves got much larger and we decided to turn back. It is always such a tough decision to turn back and head north, but the waves were just too big and the wind too strong to be comfortable. We were both getting soaked with spray and after checking the chart it was clear we’d be beating into it for hours. I must say though, I am rather proud of myself. The conditions were less intense, but rather similar to those on our first Lake Pepin try. But this time, I didn’t have fear. I trusted Solvi and Kyle and I’s ability much more. I giggled when I would get splashed, not cringed. I think the biggest thing was just that I changed my perspective. I observed the conditions, saw they were intense but not dangerous, and decided to give it a try. Even though in the end we turned back and found refuge on an island, the exposure to a situation that caused a little uneasiness and discomfort was important. It’s those situations which I feel cause the most growth. Challenging myself to find comfort outside of my comfort zone. Anyway, we turned back and headed north for a couple miles before finding a nice camping spot out of the wind and waves. Getting Solvi up on the beach was a bit challenging because the beach was narrow, but thanks to our rollers we made it work (Thank you AIRE and Dan! This trip would be very different and difficult without our rollers). We spent the afternoon drying stuff out, reading, setting up camp, and reflecting on the day.
Kyle has really seemed to have found a rhythm with this trip. He doesn’t worry about miles, time, distance, the end goal, etc. To me it seems he is really thriving in our “no schedule and no rush” goal. I, on the other hand, am still adjusting. I found myself bummed yesterday when we had to turn back and lose the 8 miles south we had made. I sometimes worry we aren’t making enough miles or need to spend more time on the water. But fortunately with Kyle on my side and my eagerness to truly and fully let go, I am moving past it. Because in reality, none of that matters. We are still on schedule to make it south, and I have no doubt we will, but most importantly it’s okay if for some reason we don’t. Like I mentioned in a previous entry that’s not the point of this travel. It’s a goal, a direction, but it’s not the journey. The journey isn’t to get from point A to point B. It is to enjoy every moment. To live in the moment. To grow, learn, and be joyful. And as I write this we are currently sailing under a bridge just north of the Quad Cities. We are past the point we turned back yesterday. The water is calm, the breeze is just enough to keep us moving comfortably, and the sun is shining tall and bright. I have deep feeling of ease and happiness. I don’t care how far we go today. I am smiling because I can hear Kyle singing silly songs behind me and I can hear the rushing of water under Solvi’s hull. I feel as though I am almost free of my expectations, barriers, and concerns. Until then, I will treat them with love and patience and continue onward.
10am: Distant church bells sound to my left, filling my mind with images of stained glass and beautiful steeples. Kyle is behind me talking to the wind about how beautiful her gusts are and how wonderfully we are flying along. The sun reflects on the water’s surface, causing me to squint when I look at it. A small reminder of the sun’s strength. A water taxi just passed by, creating a heavy wake and I grin as Solvi bobs up and down, her sail and boom banging against the the mast for just a moment. I lift my head from my journal and observe as the water taxi’s wake makes it’s way to the river’s edge; causing splashing and noises that remind me of our home near the ocean. The leaves are still beginning to change. Majority of them green, but more and more each day beginning their transformation. Soon we will be rowing due to a change in the river’s direction. But that’s okay, because for the first time in a while, the wind is calm and gentle. Just a slight breeze bringing burst of reprieve from the hot sun shining down.
1:20pm: Kyle just relieved me from my hour shift on the sheet and tiller. I have our seats set up in a way that allows me to lay out flat in Solvi’s small interior. The clouds above me are so white and puffy, and the way the sun shines on them, they are glowing. There are so many scattered in what seems to be an even couple of layers. The sky behind the clouds is the purest of blues. Black birds fly in front of the white clouds and blue sky, causing their depth of color to be even more striking. What’s crazy is that the sky isn’t actually blue. That is just how we perceive it. I ponder this for a moment which leads me to contemplate the idea of perception vs. reality. I stare up, past the clouds, past the birds flying 20,000 feet above me where the air is thinner. And I know that beyond all that, the stars are shining, I just can’t seem them right now. It make me think of the Flaming Lips song, “Do you Realize?” We are in an 11 miles slough that runs parallel to the main channel. All the trees are full and the deep forest green color. We have sailed about 17 miles today and it’s only about 1:30. It’s been a special day, one full of light heartedness, laughter, sunshine, and a feeling of being free. We both seem to be thriving today. Life is good, I can see it and feel it all around.
2pm: I am laying flat on my back on the windward side of Solvi as a ballast. I can feel the hard fiberglass covered cedar against my back bones. The sun is shining so bright and warm my tanned skin. Whenever Kyle tells me we are tacking, I have figured out a way to slide my body across to the other side without getting up. It’s quite relaxing. I am really enjoying these 1 hour shifts. They break up the day and allow much more time for reading, napping, writing, and contemplating.
Wow well I am still quite speechless from yesterday. Not only did we make 30 miles, 21 of which were under sail, and the 9 under oar were actually quite fun because we were cruising along so fast, but we also received the most amazing river magic. It all started when we dropped the sail due to lack of wind. A red power boat pulled up and asked some questions about our journey. They then suggested a beach 5 miles down river for camping and said we might run into them there later in the evening. With a sandy beach as motivation we continued rowing. We rounded a corner when a group of people in a run about called us over. We rowed over and were greeted by really kind folks who provided laughter, local information, quite a few cold drinks to take with us, and a nice little break from our day. Cassie and her friends and family from Bluegrass, Iowa- your kindness will not be forgotten. The smiles and fun you provided were a huge moral booster and something we will remember as we venture onward. Thank you!! After saying our goodbyes and taking some photos we left the slough and headed for the main channel to find the beach that had been suggested.
We were greeted by Paul, his wife, and kids in the red power boat; they suggested a place for us to pull up, and that’s when it all began. There is a group of beautifully kind people also from the Bluegrass Iowa area that spend their Sundays on an awesome sandy beach along the river. They were all there when we arrived and within minutes of pulling Solvi up on the beach they all made their way over to us. There, in a group of about 10-15 people we spent the next couple of hours. The conversation and laughter was endless. Never have I felt so welcomed and comfortable around what started as complete strangers but became fast friends. Not only were they all so nice and encouraging of Kyle and I and our adventure, but they gave us so many goodies. Chicken, cookies, gardettos, beer, ice, fresh peppers, bbq chips, and bottled water. More things were offered but our little boat can only hold so much 🙂 I wish I could remember everyone’s names, but that’s neither here nor there. If any of you are reading this right now, thank you. From the bottom of our hearts. All of you together lifted our spirits, motivated us to continue, and showed the most genuine kindness. You are all amazing folks. And so fun! Keep up your Sunday tradition on the river. Kyle and I will forever be grateful for the kindness we received yesterday.
After we said our goodbyes to our new friends, Kyle and I were left standing on the beach alone. We hugged and smiled and thanked the universe for all the magic she provided during the day. Just as we were about to cook dinner, with the sun setting behind the island and the mosquitos starting in on their nightly symphony, we received another surprise. Two people paddling a canoe paddled by and stopped at the end of the beach. Claudia and Adam- a couple about our age that are canoeing down the river, playing music at venues along the way. We had a wonderful evening chatting with them, sharing some the kindness we had received earlier, and laughing about similar river stories.
Yesterday was just one of those days that makes the hardships and ridiculousness of this journey worth it. One of those days that restores our faith in humanity and society as a whole. A full day of reminders of how great this life is and how living your dreams pays off. Thank you to all the people who shared their light and stories with us.