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  • Maggie Tate

Solitude

Sitting on the bow I was alone with my thoughts, the warm summer breeze was wafting through my hair with the salty fresh air mingling with the distant lights of the Miami skyline and fading sunset. There was so much to take in, and though we shared a mooring field with 200 other boats, we were very much alone. The emotions were new in some ways as we'd never seen the skyline from a large city from our own boat. In some ways, the emotion underneath was faintly familiar, though the word describing it playfully danced around the boundary between my consciousness and subconscious thoughts. Eventually, the word let me get just close enough to catch it.


Solitude.


In many ways, the loop was about solitude, a break from the pressures of a new business, or a pandemic, or heart disease, or the politics threatening to consume us all. We bought a boat *because* it would let us move our office to a place where we could both rest.


We've written pages about the community surrounding this great adventure. As we've traveled from one stop to the next, about a third of the time we've traveled with other loopers. We ran with Argo through a chunk of the TennTom waterway and many of the coldest, most difficult nights on our journey. We ran with No Agenda down from Demopolis through the other Alabama rivers and Mobile bay, learning to set an anchor or even choose a spot to wait. Our brief time with Indigo taught us how to navigate through crab pots. The rest of the time, we ran alone.


Solitude was many things for us. Sometimes, it was a crucible. At one moment, the uncomfortable fire melts away our bad habits through the force of our mistakes as it did when we briefly grounded our boat. We learned to be polite but insistent as we communicated with staff that's often in a hurry. In the next, it sharpens our marriage through tension and friction as it does when we navigate the small spaces on our boat or between crab pots.


Sometimes solitude's crucible makes us patient. High seas and winds mean waiting in port. Failing to follow that advice humbles the best of captains. Running alone insists on higher safety margins and changing plans.


Other times, solitude leads to unexpected beauty, unbridled joy, or insight. On the day the dolphins played with our boat for the longest time, we were running alone. We could set *our* pace, and set out the perfect conditions for a personal waterpark. Without other boats around, we attracted a whole pod of these aquatic acrobats, enabling one of the highlights of our loop.


Running through the Gulf crossing allowed us to have the perfect amount of planning time, just enough for our friend to join. As there were no other boats in Apalachicola, so we had several days to give to one another, deepening our friendships and giving us time to dream together. Sam is a brilliant photographer who captured the crossing in the way only someone with deep relational knowledge can.


Running alone through the Florida Keys made us flexible enough to change our plans to adapt to the changing weather. We left a park a day early and had a long slow run through the picturesque stark-white beaches with sea and skies shaded in their own perfect blues, framing the deep green mangroves. The seas were so clear we could see the coral formations on the bottom, usually no deeper than a half dozen feet.


Anchoring alone in the Everglades let us experience the place through our own eyes, taking our dinghy into the mangrove mazes that shoot in and out of the rivers and coastlands. We did not experience nature as we wished it was or through the eyes of a guide, tainted by dozens of other people and boats. We saw this tiny slice of Florida as it actually was, with the pungent soils and teeming wildlife, complete with both clouds of biting bugs and dolphins so close we could hear them breathe.


Mostly, we've learned there's a place for solitude on our loop. Now, we know where to find her!





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