We departed Dog River with a flurry of last minute tasks, one of which was to visit the shop of outboard engine repairman to get a lesson on the tricks of this old and unusual Mercury engine. Paul hadn’t found anything wrong with it, but he was also testing it in a 50-gallon oil barrel. Not learning anything particularly new, we thanked him and loaded it into the courtesy truck, uncertain that anything will change its poor performance. And so we departed Dog River with a couple of repairs yet waiting for the right time, the right parts and equipment, the right frame of mind, and the right budget allocation.
We cruised directly east across Mobile Bay, feeling vulnerable as we crossed the heavily-trafficked shipping lanes and recollected sobering stories of other cruisers’ close calls with huge commercial vessels. A short cruise of 20 miles landed us in the tiny and beautiful town of Fairhope, Alabama, dubbed America’s most romantic town. Founded in 1894 by a group of 28 people, 9 of which were children, it was a socialist community based on the Single Tax Theory of economist Henry George. The town’s proximity to Mobile was strategic in developing their trades. Also notable in Fairhope was the formation of an organic “no fail” school in which the well-being of the entire child was valued and much of the learning was hands-on. This school continues today as a private school and is able to avoid the testing climate by side-stepping state accreditation. The town today continues to be a pocket of intellectualism and progressivism in a very conservative state, and more published authors live here per capita than anywhere else in the United States.
We called an Uber to go into town and were greeted by streets lined everywhere with blooming red tulips, cheery daffodils, and cool dusty miller amid sprinklings of pansies, dianthus, and sweet alyssum. We savored brunch at Julwin’s, “Baldwin County’s oldest restaurant where country cooking is a tradition and customers are our passion,” spent a pleasant hour at the historical museum with friendly docents, and walked out on the long community pier. Dessert at Sandra’s, whose coconut cake has been featured in Southern Living Magazine beckoned us, and then we retraced our steps all the way back to the pier for my lost scarf—sadly, still a necessity these cold days. After browsing some boutiques in the attractive business district, we hit the market for garlic, and the two bags of provisions we exited with precipitated our return to the boat. Come evening we took a short dinghy ride to Sunset Point, a local favorite which has been featured on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.” The seafood lettuce wrap and the mahi mahi fish and chips did not disappoint, and even though we did not need it after our afternoon cake, we had been told not to miss the key lime curd. Essentially a piece of pie turned on its head in a jelly canning jar, it was topped with a deliciously crisp Grahm cracker crust. So delicious.
“Most romantic town?”….perhaps!