When you “meet” a city — or a country, for that matter — it sometimes helps to look beyond first impressions and seek the full story. (Same with people.) St. Joe, as the locals call St. Joseph, was once the site of a French fort. It was a trading post. A shipping center. A manufacturing center for household appliances, especially washing machines. (Whirlpool still has a big presence here.) Today, though, it’s a city that seems somewhat weathered, as if seeking its new identity.
To be fair, my hometown of Hancock, Michigan gives the same impression. To be even more fair, I haven’t seen that much of St. Joe, and perhaps not the best of it.
We’re here for a 3rd night, along with several other boats that planned to leave today, due to … you guessed it, winds. We aren’t complaining. Whatever my impressions of the city, the waterfront and beach and marina are jewels. Same with some of the people we’re getting to know while we all await fair winds.
The people we meet in marinas are a different kind of people, but not all alike. Marinas are sort of like gated communities — often protected by actual gates — that are populated by those who can afford to use or live in them. This makes me feel a little weird at times. Even though our boat is humble compared to many around us, I’m aware that we can afford to be here. To do this. Many locals cannot.
That doesn’t mean we’re surrounded by snobby people. Even the owners of the big (and expensive} boats have been very cool. And of course, one never knows how boaters came by their boats. Some sold their homes. Some may be in debt. Some are very frugal. Some just find a way to make it work.
There is one boat in this marina, also doing The Loop, which is even smaller than ours. It’s a 22-foot C-Dory, a practical and efficient and very cute boat. (For context, Jeff’s boat is 34 feet. Most “Looper” boats we’re seeing so far are longer than that.) The name of this boat is Kittiwake, which is a type of seagull. Many boat names are plays on nautical words, like Sea-batical and Top Knot, or indicators of their owner’s history, like My Last Wife. (We’ve seen several references to divorce in the past month. Maybe it’s connected to the concept of “boat widows!”)
Kittiwake‘s owners just liked the sound of it.
We’ve enjoyed getting to know Tasha and Sebastian on Kittiwake. Like all of us, they have a story. Tasha was born in the U.K. and Sebastian in France, but both are American citizens now living in Philadelphia. They’ve taken a break from their jobs to do The Loop. Sebastian got an early start with sea-faring; he was only six when his parents took him across the Atlantic ocean on their boat!
Another interesting pier-mate here is Christine, the skipper of the 49-foot Sea-Batical” which is tied up next to us. She and her husband sold their house and live on this boat. She does most of the driving and docking, and he is clearly proud of her skill. They are also doing The Loop. Like several Loopers we’ve met, they take a time-out now and then to attend family events.
As I end this post, I hear the sound of taps at the nearby Coast Guard Station, marking 2200 or 10 p.m. It reminds me of those who have died in Afghanistan this week – and over the past 20 years! — and those facing Hurricane Ida right now. Jeff set out on this adventure to live his life fully while he’s able. (He’s a Type-1 diabetic approaching 60, so you get it.) But it’s a good goal for all of us. We shouldn’t need the reminder of wars, pandemics and natural disasters to remind is, but so it is.