Anna Maria Island, FL

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The University has a fall break on the semester calendar and classes are canceled Monday and Tuesday. I had

This is how I organize my writing - a little odd but works for me

originally planned to go see my daughter Jessie in south Louisiana, and had given my Friday trauma class an Internet assignment. We ended up rescheduling so Jessie can come home over the holidays instead. So I found myself with an unexpected free long weekend. My college roommate, Debbie, has a condo on Anna Maria Island and invited me to use it. I took her up on the offer and decided to capitalize on this weekend and call it a “writing retreat”. The condo is directly on the beach and a perfect location for inspiration. I got the keys from Debbie, went to the grocery store and picked up a few items, and spent the rest of the day getting organized and ready to write. You can see from the picture to the right how I organize my thoughts. Each piece of paper represents a chapter of my book, and each sticky note represents a sub section for each chapter. Then I talk about each sticky note as if I was delivering a lecture or conducting a workshop. I have voice recognition software that types as I speak. Since I talk for a living, this method works best for me. It’s like having my own personal assistant along for the weekend. Wish me luck for tomorrow – and hope the inspiration comes.

Friday, October 7, 2011This morning I got up early this morning and took a three-mile walk along the beach. It was just before sunrise and I shared the experience with dolphin, a manatee, sandpipers, seagulls, and several great blue heron who were fishing for their breakfast.When I got back to the condo, I started my work. My friend Randy White, who writes for a living, has always

Capt. Octavio - sunset to the stern

told me that he sets a word limit that he must accomplish before he does anything else. He’s very strict with himself with this formula and that keeps him from being distracted. Since I’m easily distracted I think this is a good philosophy and I try to follow it. Today the hours flew by. Before I knew it, it was well past lunch time and I had exceeded my expectations in what I would accomplish today. So to reward myself I started looking for something to do in this evening. I always use TripAdvisor when I travel to find restaurants, hotels, and things to do. I saw that Anna Marie Sailing ( was voted one of the top four activities to try while on the island and I crave being on the water. The captain answered the phone and assured me he had space for me that evening, so at five o’clock I boarded his boat, was given a rum and coke and we set sail to watch the sunset.

Travis - loving every moment!

When you sail on Anna Maria Sailing, you get the real thing. A real working sailboat, as many drinks as you want, and a captain who enjoys his job. This is not a martini-with-your-pinky-out kind of sailing. It’s a flip-flop-if-shoes-at-all kind of experience. No pretense, just the love of a boat and the wind. Originally from Cuba, Capt. Octavio Utrera has been running Anna Maria Sailing for four years. He is quick with a joke, enjoys teasing, and has a knack for reading what his customers want. There was one other couple on the boat besides myself, Heather and Travis. One of the things I enjoy most about travel is meeting interesting people.

Travis designs methods to market and increase traffic for Internet websites. In fact he

Heather - an inspiration!

gave me tips on how I can better utilize this particular travel blog. He is an aspiring captain himself, and Octavio allowed him several opportunities to sail the boat. His fiance Heather is one of those quiet steel magnolias. Two months ago she had a serious accident, spent a month in the hospital and this subsequent month undergoing extensive rehabilitation. This sunset sail is the first big outing she had had since the accident.. Even with limited mobility (Travis stowed her wheelchair down below deck)- a gutsy woman.

The weather was perfect for sailing and the sunset was gorgeous. The three-hour tour (sing in the Gilligan’s Island song here-because Travis actually had a date with the real Marianne from Gilligan’s Island – long story, but cool) ended up being closer to four hours because Capt. Octavio had to “dance around” the rain that was moving across the island. He succeeded and we got into port after the rain had finished.


I was starving, and Octavio recommended a restaurant called The Starfish Company across the bridge into

The Starfish Company sign

Cortez village. I got there about 8:30 PM and found out that their kitchen closes at 8. But it looked appealing to me so I’m going to go back tomorrow. I ended up at the Sandbar restaurant at the north end of the island. The food was only average, overpriced, but still filled with tourists. I should’ve known better. When traveling, it is always best to ask the locals where to eat.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

I woke up this morning at war with myself. Capt. Octavio had invited me to be his guest for a morning sail around the Bay. “Only two hours”, he said, “from 10 AM to 12 PM”. The responsible side of me said “I came here to write – not to play.” The-child-within me said, “But it’s a boat… You can’t say NO to a boat…” The-child-within won as she often does so I met the captain at the Bradenton Beach wharf. The wind was stiff, the sun was shining – it was a perfect day. Octavio allowed me to steer and instructed me through some pretty dicey channel markers over to Longboat Key. Memories of the best parts of my childhood flooded me – the best parts of my father, the smell of salt and sea grass, the feel of the boat in my hands. God – the brain is an amazing thing.

This side of the bay is buffered by mangrove islands and once through the open channel we got a little break from the wind. There were dolphins everywhere so I assume fish are abundant in this part of the bay. I spent the

I'm a Florida native, but never fail to be excited by this

morning steering for a while, sitting on the bow taking pictures, and chatting with Octavio. I have no idea what time we got back to the wharf but I am pretty sure it was after 12 PM. – and I didn’t care.

Once tied up at the dock, Octavio offered me his ubiquitous rum and coke. “Just one”, I said (I now had the-child-within firmly under control as you can see). We sat on the boat tied up at the wharf, drinking rum and coke and talking. Before long we were joined by his friend, Mark, and the three of us sat drinking rum (well, two of us- Mark doesn’t drink), smoking cigars, and talking about whatever our manic minds produced. Yo ho ho – before I knew it was 4:00 PM. and I didn’t care. I thanked Octavio the best I could for an amazing day – he is very generous – and took my leave and weaving my way up the wharf – the wind was blowing very hard!

The activities of the day had made me ravenous so I drove back across the bridge to the Starfish Company Restaurant in DeSoto village. The weather had turned nasty, and most of their seating is outside under umbrellas so I decided to order my meal to-go. Everything on the menu looked delicious – I ordered enough for an army; steamed clams, conch fritters, and the seafood sampler. While waiting, I absorbed the ambiance of the little fishing village. It reminded me of what the Florida Keys used to look like many years ago – working fishing boats, working people, and a way of life that is fading away. I loved it.

Steamed clams & conch fritters

I took my food back to the condo – and with the doors open to the Gulf listened to the storm and had a

Oysters, fish, scallops, shrimp & cheese grits - I'm a Southern gal

feast. The seafood was fresh and delicious. And since there was no Army to share it with, I have lunch and dinner all set for tomorrow.

The responsible part of me might say that I wasted an entire day and got no work accomplished. But I left the wharf this afternoon feeling immensely satisfied.

In the overall picture of life, the memories I created today far outweigh whatever writing I could have done. The funniest part of that revelation is that the book I am writing is about happiness and action – taking control of our lives and creating our own happiness. And I actually debated with myself on how to spend the day. Just sayin’…..


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