Toby Hemingway 10

As The Clean Line entered Pensacola Bay pass, a few young dolphins swam alongside before rejoining their pod heading into the bay. Toby loved the species’ spirit of play, and their sheer exuberance as they rode the bow waves. The winds were not particularly strong yet it was hard to tell when running before the wind. On a run, a sailor worries about jibing–a sudden collapse of the sail. With the sails full out, and the jib and mainsail wing-on-wing, it was difficult to see ahead. She studied the coastal waterway map to make sure not to stray into the shallows. The sun beat down; she lathered up with sunscreen and entered a state of alert meditation.

Alone, in silence, on a sparkling, translucent-green ocean, Toby studied the landscape–white sand beaches lined by oak forests, little bayous and inlets, and the horizon dark blue against an azure sky. Tears welled in her eyes in moments like this when all the elements of place, heart, and circumstance converge to a perfect moment. Then it vanished, just-like-that, the gods teasing with a taste of heaven.

She noticed an excursion boat with tourists straining to haul in a good-sized catch. Was it drum? She found her binoculars. It was Wahoo. Rows of sharp teeth, long dorsal spines, big bifurcated tails, blue/gold scales, and a tenacious spirit, the fish had spurred the local baseball team adoption. The Blue Wahoos were an up and coming regional team and national talent incubator. The Gulf was reflected in the cities along its edge with images, architecture, cuisine, fashion, and mascots.

Brown Pelican

As Toby headed downwind, she anticipated her meeting at the Institute, and reviewed what she hoped to learn. She pulled her pink hat low over her blue eyes, tightened the jib and let out the mainsail. A long train of brown pelicans flew at her side, broad wings arched for lift, eyes scanning the waves for the dark shapes of mullet that were running out from the bays and bayous to the shoreline to dine on shellfish.

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