My friend Pam in Ft. Myers Beach is the publicity person for FMBAA and lives on the same street as the local Island Sand Paper editor. She mentioned to the editor that she had an artist friend traveling through the area while on a year long boat trip and wondered if the paper might want to do an article on us. The editor liked the idea and passed it along to Jo List, one of their reporters who specializes in human interest stories.
Long story short, Jo came to the art center and to the boat to gather material for the story and this article was published in the next week's paper. Jo was with us on the boat for maybe an hour and we talked non-stop. It was a really long article, starting on the front page and continuing on into the paper. She recorded our conversation, which accounts for some of the detail she included in the article. She also did a great job linking to references made about the Loop, Mary Baumgartner, etc. I told her afterwards, her research skills were worthy of praise from a librarian. ;-)
This article is published here with permission from the Island Sand Paper.
Cruising the Loop
There are many cruisers in our community. Some call Fort Myers Beach home port, but for many, like Wayne and Doris Prichard of Knoxville, Tennessee, the island is but one port of many along The Loop, that includes the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, Gulf Coast, Mississippi River, Great Lakes and countless rivers that feed those waterways (go to www.captainjohn.org for maps and details about this massive system).
When the Prichard's were ready for their first live-aboard cruise using the loop waterways, they spent some time in 2008 in the Town's mooring field. "It was a great experience," Doris says with a smile (she smiles a lot). Their second cruise to the area in 2010 brought the Prichard's to Snook Bight Marina (just before it was extensively upgraded and renovated) and Doris remarks that it wasn't the best facility at that time. "It was a great location, though. And when we tried to reserve a spot there for this trip, they were completely booked." Checking out other marinas in the area, Doris found the Pink Shell Marina wasn't quite right for them. And though she says Legacy Harbor in downtown Fort Myers "is gorgeous", its location would not serve well her main reason for coming to this area - to hook up with her fellow artists and friends at the Fort Myers Beach Art Association, where she has been a member since the Prichard's first trip in 2008.
Doris is a painter who works primarily with water media, not altogether surprising considering her lifestyle choice to spend so much time on the waterways. And the course she set that has led to her pursuit of her art and her relationship with the Art Association is a bit of loop itself. "I didn't always paint, no. I've always liked to do things with my hands, though, like crochet and needlepoint. I made a lot of clothes for myself and my son David, much to his chagrin," she says with a laugh. But she also had the notion that she wanted to do watercolor painting, and took a course in one of those adult education classes offered through public school systems. "I enjoyed it, but at the time, I was still working and just didn't have the time to pursue it."
But in 2003, Doris retired from her position as Medical Librarian at the University of Tennessee (UT) Graduate School of Medicine, and immediately went out to find her muse. She has a friend who teaches art at the university, and asked him what he thought about her going back to her alma mater for a degree in art. He asked her what her goal was, and she told him it was to paint, to do art. "He recommended that instead of a degree, I should go out and find workshops and painting groups, so that's what I did." After trying a few classes and workshops offered around town, Doris found a teacher - Mary Baumgartner (www.
With their son David grown and off to make his own way in the world, Doris found herself earnestly pursuing her art, while Wayne - after 15 years with IBM - went off to work for himself. Being an avid boater and diver, one of Wayne's first pursuits was the design of a tracker system that would allow the boat operator to locate any diver, and any diver to locate the boat from which they dove, using acoustic-based or sound wave technology. Dubbed "The Navigator," a company in Switzerland agreed to produce the product, and it won a Popular Science award (circa 1990's). A few months after returning from their first year-round cruise, Wayne started up his own Internet company "Cruiser Marine" - he ran all aspects of the business from home, selling products avid boaters and cruisers need. He sold that to a company in California last year.
For their trip this year, Doris had to do a bit of research to find a place to tie up for a while. Using "Active Captain,” an online resource listing all the marinas and anchorages in the area, Doris saw Fish Tale Marina. "We had eaten at the Fish House many times, but had the impression that Fish Tale was a much smaller marina than it really is. I just took the chance and called to see if they could accommodate us, and they said, 'Sure, we've got room'. So here we are. On Doris' blog (ourjourneytracks.blogspot.com
Their 32' trawler boat 'Journey' has been home since October 2014 to Wayne, Doris and their 9-year-old miniature schnauzer, Lucy. It's a small space, so stowing supplies can be a bit of a challenge, but the Prichard's have been practicing the fine art of downsizing for at least a decade now, and they are up to the challenge. "After our first cruise (on a 43' Californian Trawler), when we got home, our house seemed so much more than what we needed." They sold the house in the neighborhood with the pool and all, and got a much smaller house on a lake in the same area. That worked well for them, but after their second cruise, they decided they could trim their life's accouterments further, and bought a stand-alone condo, still in the Knoxville area. "There is something very freeing about having a small place to take care of and having very few possessions," Doris says, her quiet contentment with this way of living showing clearly in her face and demeanor.
Living on the boat for long periods of time has changed the Prichard's in many ways. "You learn to be patient with delays. You learn your schedule must always be flexible," Doris says as she begins to consider the ways her downsized lifestyle has affected how she and Wayne view the world and how to do even the most ordinary things. "First of all, the weather is always the gorilla in the room. You have to bow down to it when you're cruising." Doris says the big box stores are no longer appealing or even practical for them, with limited storage on the boat and in the condo. But having a different perspective on the amount and size of things in their life is not the only effect of downsized living. "We don't get the daily newspaper while we're out. We don't see a lot of TV. You don't have all that aggravation coming at you. I feel like we are spared a lot of things that we had to contend with before."
Doris and Wayne both believe you should pursue those activities and situations that make you happy. One gets a sense that cruisers know something not everyone figures out. "Maybe life is not meant to be hard all the time," Doris says with a note of compassion for those who find life difficult. "We love where we are in our lifestyle. We are around happy people mostly having fun all day. It makes you feel good to be around happy people.”
In the Art Association Loop
The big attraction to Fort Myers Beach for cruiser Doris Prichard is the Fort Myers Beach Art Association and the many good friends she has made there since joining the group seven years ago, on her first trip to Fort Myers Beach.
Following the advice of a friend in Knoxville, Doris has pursued the art of water media through attendance at workshops and painting groups in her hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee, and in just about every port of call. But clearly, she has made dear friends, like Pam Flaherty, while pursuing her art.
Like musicians who will seek out bands to sit in with when they are visiting somewhere, and who keep in touch with each other and share music with each other whenever and however they can, artists like Doris seek each other out to share their work and their techniques.
"I take advantage of the workshops and painting groups here.” On Tuesday morning, Doris, Pam and a few other members were setting up for an Experimental class. "We share a lot, and try new things,” she says, adding with a chuckle, "It’s adult play time.”
In addition to classes, workshops and annual events like the Plein Air "Paint the Beach” Art Festival, the Fort Myers Beach Art Association will be offering a new fun event on a somewhat regular basis called, "Masterpiece and Merlot.” Led by artist Patty O’Kane (not to be confused with artist and Association member Patty Kane), Pam Flaherty says this is similar to Vino’s Picasso, where all supplies are included in the fee. "But Patty O’Kane is an excellent teacher. You will learn a lot from her.” This event will take place next month on Tuesday, March 10th.
For more information about all the classes, workshops and events held by this active group go to www.fortmyersbeachart.com