Last week I had another article published in Fort Myers Beach Island Sand Paper. In case you missed it there you can now read it here:
I am not coming back
The water along the inland rivers that I came down towards the Gulf of Mexico, was mostly muddy and brownish. It even turned black more and more often arriving at the Alabama swamps. Especially when I had to sneak for a night in smaller creeks to anchor away from barges and currents.
That is different from sailing on an ocean: Offshore water is always clear and the same time very colored. Inland Water is mostly dark, filled with mud and often even worse.
Looking over an ocean its water varies with the sky, turning from an intensive blue on sunny days to green, when covered under a light haze. It provides a feel of freshnes. Although sometimes, on a rainy day it is just a lifeless gray; but still a clear one.
Bending over the side one can easily see the boats kiel, rudder and the windvane shining through. The color seems to be somewhere deep behind it, like when looking at a wallpaper through an ice cube. Somehow this is a fortune: One of the most important skills a sailor on a long passage needs to keep from becoming insane, is to see the ocean in a different way each time he looks at it.
Leaving Alabama into the Gulf finally the water turned back to these colors. It was still apart from the the light blue which I first saw arriving in Nassau Harbor a few years ago. Ever since it was that color that was kind of pulling me to the back to southern salty waters. Driving me through Mid-West, being my symbol for the Caribbean I was heading for.
A few days later I bypassed Tampa Bay, to late to make a landfall and so I just kept going into a third night at sea. A nasty squall sneaked off shore and crawled up to me with no thunder and lightening, well hidden in the dark and causing a sleepless night and some damage around midnight.
As the sun rose I aimed for the nearest port I found on the charts. – And coming closer to shore, there it was: My Light Blue, from white sand reflecting a high sun in shallow water just off Sanibel Island; the color I had aimed for since leaving Lake Michigan.
Passing Bowditch Point Park it was gone and I sailed through brown again. It was OK for me. I had had my fix of blue and even if I would have loved to spend a summer in more clear water, I did not mind staying here. I swam off the beach, dived around the boat and going back and forth in my dinghy there was barely a day without being somehow in direct contact with the Water that came in and out of the Pass.
All that changed around June. The brown became darker. On a calm day at slack tide the surface was often covered under a thin oily looking film. And patches of brownish algaes float by. Still we saw weekenders towing kids in tubes along the pass and could only hope they would not have to suffer from this. Unnatural for someone living on a boat, to prevent water contact became a sudden challenge. Then one of the boaters in the mooring field got sick. A swollen leg, fever turned out to be a water born infection from a little scar cought while cleaning his hull. Finally he spend a few days in a hospital, filled up with antibiotics and lost a good chunk of money that otherwise was meant for living here.
The Water became a topic all over the mooring field even before the media picked up the enormous water release from the Inland. Talks on the dinghy dock turned more and more from „how nice this place is“ to „how nasty this water is“. And not few days went by with someone saying what is the biggest loss for community that lives on tourism: „I guess I am not coming back here again“.