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As we sailed north from the Norfolk area, I was finishing A Blast to Sail, the third Connie Barrera Thriller. A lot of the action in the book takes place on the Chesapeake Bay. Writing about Connie and Paul cruising on the Bay coupled with our physical presence there evoked strong feelings of nostalgia. It was tempting to dally, to revisit some of our favorite places, but I remembered the words of the policeman in West Caicos a few weeks ago. “Just stick to your mission, captain, and you’ll be okay.”
We were indeed on a mission, though not the one to which he had been referring. We were on our way to Annapolis, Maryland, to store the boat and buy a car; we wanted to get reacquainted with family and try living ashore in the States for a while. After living on Play Actor for 15 years, we both felt the need for a break from our life afloat.
The prospect of such a big change in our lives was exciting, but it was also frightening. We’ve visited the States several times since we took Play Actor to the islands. We’ve been shocked every time at the pace of life and the dramatic changes that have occurred during our absence, but we’ve had the comfort of knowing that we’d soon be back on the boat and living on island time again. This time, we won’t have that escape. Play Actor, our only home for the last 15 years, will be out of the water, mothballed in Annapolis, and our belongings that were aboard will go into storage with the furniture from our old life ashore.
I was able to escape into Connie’s and Paul’s adventures in A Blast to Sail, but Leslie didn’t have that option. When I finished the first draft and gave it to her to read, we were in the midst of consolidating our belongings in storage. By then, we had purchased a car and were staying in a motel in northern Virginia, commuting from the storage facility to the boat in Annapolis as we tied up loose ends.
Well before we were ready mentally, we had finished our tasks. We loaded our belongings into the car and took off, driving cross-country to California to spend some time with Leslie’s family. We would visit for a while, and then head back east to Texas to see the children and grandchildren. After that, we planned to explore some of the parts of the U.S. that we had not seen.
We were excited, but our excitement was tempered with pangs of homesickness already. The boat was no longer our refuge; it could be again someday, but not now. We had some difficulty with the idea that we didn’t have anywhere of our own to call home. Besides that, there was the shock of adjusting to life in the States.
We had just spent two months traveling almost three thousand miles on Play Actor, moving little faster than the pace of a brisk walk. Now we were driving at 80 miles an hour in the slow lane on the Interstate. We covered the next three thousand miles of our journey in four days. We’re still reeling from the change of pace.
We’re in California with Leslie’s parents. I’ve published A Blast to Sail, and we’re coming to grips with the notion that home is just a metaphysical construct. It’s an idea, not a concrete place. It's certainly not Play Actor, as she sits high, dry, and empty in a boatyard on the other side of the country. But part of me is already back in the islands with Dani and Liz as I listen to them shape their next adventure. While I write their ninth Bluewater Thriller, I’ll be living in the islands on Vengeance. It’s the next best thing to being there.