Category Archives: sailing

And We’re Off

My fingers were shaking and my heart was racing as I turned the key to lock my clean, empty home.  Everything was out.  Our beds, artwork, and vast array of books were tucked into the outbuilding we recently constructed.  The canoe was nestled into our walled off, half of the garage with our bikes, gardening tools, and dishes.  While my home was empty of its stuff, my mind reeled with memories as I mopped the floors.  Babies born, friendships forged, songs sung, meals shared, books read, games played, projects created, gardens grown are all part of the richness that Joey and I created together within these walls and on this little plot of land.

And ever so quickly, under the cover of night, we were gone.  The car was loaded down and a bit squirrely under the weight of 700 feet of line, an anchor, chain, books, games, art materials, and clothes.  If you do anything with boats and you find yourself in Bellingham, WA, you must make your way to Pacific Marine Exchange (www.pacificmarine.com), a store of previously owned marine equipment and supplies.  We saved an incredible amount of money there.  Now we just have to share the car with our bounty.

We are spending the day with family like friends in Kirkland, recovering from three days of a mad dash to get out of the house.  We are resting and getting ready for the long drive to more family and friends and finally the boat in Charleston, SC.  While we all feel some sadness in leaving our chosen clan, incredible friends, inspiring community, and lovely life in Bellingham, the joys of travel are upon us.

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And we have a Bristol…almost

It looks as though we have a boat, although nothing feels absolute until the paperwork is in hand.  We negotiated a realistic price for us dependent on an engine survey, which luckily checked out just fine.  The check goes in the mail tomorrow.  The name will have to be changed. Lazy Faire just won’t do. 

We also have a great family renting our house, a huge relief.  We push-off from Bellingham at the end of January.  Currently, our path will take us through Colorado, down to San Antonio, and then to the Carolinas.  We never have been good at traveling in a straight line.  Hopefully, we will set sail out of Charleston harbor come early March.  Fingers crossed for fair winds.

Where One Door Closes….

Things seem to always have a way of happening differently than expected. I arrived in Beaufort, SC, fresh with three hours of airplane sleep (on a twelve hour trip, door to door) and an hour and half drive. The broker took me to the boat, a 27′ Albin Vega named “Isis”. Walking up to her, I was not immediately excited. Down below, I was even less excited. Her cabins were in disarray. Nothing was stowed properly, just stored in big plastic bags. There was mildew on the bulkheads and aluminum foil was used for part of the heat shield by the heater. I couldn’t figure out where we could possibly stow all of our stuff. It was small. On a brighter note, the sails were crisp, the engine started right up and sounded great, the anchors were in good order, the running gear was fine, and the electronics were more than sufficient. I tried to think rationally, keeping in mind our limited budget and the reality that less money in a boat means more money for cruising. I could clean and organize the boat. The major systems were in place and functioning. The only problems, aside from lack of space, were cosmetic. So, I gave the guy an offer, and then felt like I needed to vomit.

“You just got a boat. You should be happy.” the guy said. “Congratulations!” said the people in the boatyard. I did not feel happy. I did not feel congratulatory. In fact, the only solace I found was knowing that I could recoup my deposit anytime during the two week acceptance period. I did need to consider, however, that the surveyor would be there at 9am the next morning. I was not interested in paying for a survey on a boat that I did not want. It was 1pm. I needed to make a decision within the next four hours. I felt rushed. So, I went for a run through the Spanish moss lined streets of downtown Beaufort. Running somehow makes everything better and clear.

Joey had mentioned a 32′ Bristol in Charleston that was in our price range. Off to Charleston I drove. I walked into Peter Dodd’s office at 4pm. He reminded me that I should be happy about buying a boat. If I was not happy, then I shouldn’t be buying it. And of course, he had the Bristol for me to see. The owner was desperate to sell, he informed me. It was a deal waiting to happen. The boat was a bit of a drive away and I would have to wait until the next morning to see it. After a few phone calls, my next morning was rearranged. Tommy Eve, who I am convinced is the best surveyor EVER, was super flexible. He said that he would be on call to survey whichever boat I chose. He also reminded me to like a boat before choosing to purchase it.  At that point, I sort of knew that regardless of my opinion of the Bristol, I didn’t really want the Albin Vega.

Wednesday morning I followed Peter Dodd to a marina by the old naval base on the Cooper River.  Bristols are known for being pretty and this old one still had her charm. I had to check in with myself and question my priorities- function or fashion. Why couldn’t I have function and fashion? Honestly, I want to like looking at my surroundings. The owner had gotten it ready for cruising, I was told. Upon inspection, it appeared he had gotten it comfortable and nice for living.  However, he had not prepared it for functioning as a sailboat. It needed sails and new running rigging. Where the Albin Vega needed mostly cosmetics, the Bristol needed most of its major systems reworked. What the Bristol did have though, that the Albin Vega could never have, was space. Five feet are a huge difference on a boat and I could see my family actually being comfortable on the Bristol. And the owner really needed to sell. Was this the deal we were looking for? I still felt a bit rushed. In a perfect scenario, I would live closer and not need to schedule a survey on the same day. Oh well, this was not my scenario. I had this one day, so the survey was on.

Mr. Eve met us down the Cooper River at the boatyard. He was immediately encouraging and kind. He took his time and talked me through everything. His main concern was ensuring that the boat would be safe for the kids. Having raised two girls himself, he knew what to consider and what advice to give. I felt as though we struck gold with Mr. Eve. And I could listen to his soothing Savannah accent all day. After the haul out inspection, we sailed back to the marina. The Bristol sailed nicely in the lovely 10 knot breeze. Porpoises came up for air all around us and pelicans flew overhead. Back at the dock, Mr. Eve and I worked for the rest of daylight discovering all the best and worst of this boat. Structurally she is sound, many systems need to be reworked, but she has the foundation of what we need.

I am back in Bellingham in the midst of negotiations. The owner has come down a lot on the price, but not quite as far as we need him to. We are waiting to get the written survey in hand before making any final decisions. I am reminding myself that the right thing will work out. It always does.

Sacrifices

Last May we were visiting my brother and his family in Georgia.  My sister-in-law asked us to talk with my nieces and nephew about our upcoming sailing trip.  Specifically, she wanted us to talk about the sacrifices we had to make to fulfill this dream.  At the time, I struggled to come up with something.  Sure, I saved all of my earnings from Little Birdies Childcare for five years, and there must have been things we could have purchased with that money.  In all honesty though, this never felt like a sacrifice.  I’m not really much of a shopper, and buying most things in this modern consumer society usually has a price tag of guilt associated with it for me.  So what have I sacrificed?

This past fall, I had a bitter voice in my head reminding me that I had not gone for my annual solo hike on Baker.  It was a beautiful autumn season here in Bellingham.  Every time I saw Mount Baker rise up in a blue sky, I just knew I was missing out.  I tried reasoning with myself.  It was not as if we spent the whole summer working.  Well, at least the girls and I did not spend the whole summer working.  Joey pretty much did.  My part in that was taking the girls, so that he could get the work done.  The girls and I had fun entertaining our many visitors, and we swam and rode bikes a lot.  I also had some great moments to myself- runs on Galbraith, swimming at the park, and dancing in the late night.  Somehow though, I was still longing for a whole day of wilderness and solitude.  Luckily, snow came early this year and we got some family time up on Baker.  It wasn’t solitude, but being in such snowy mountain beauty eased my soul. I was finally able to let go of my regret, kind of.

Tomorrow I head out for a solo journey to check out this boat.  I’m excited to travel by myself, to see good friends, and mostly for the potential of it all.  It will be quick and exhausting, but I am okay with that.  My only problem now is figuring out when to go skiing again.  After all, I’m thinking I’m not really one to make too many sacrifices.

Pearl and June, December 2010

Switching Gears

We’ve been searching for owls A LOT lately. Juniper is obsessed and owl hunts help motivate Pearl out the door.  Last Sunday though, the sun was bright and I was eager to show Pearl the “winter guests” I had recently seen at Derby Pond.  I prepared us for a proper birding adventure, complete with binoculars and bird book.  As we reached the access road at Whatcom Falls Park, a woman told us an owl was perched up in a tree ahead.  We eagerly scanned the forest as we walked to the pond.  We were two-thirds of the way down the road when I felt as though I should look behind us.  And there I saw its silhouette sitting on a branch we had just passed.  We stayed with it for a long time. It just sat- watching, turning its head back and forth, and enjoying its little patch of sunshine.  Its eyes were blacker than black, a deep endless sort of black.  There we were ready for ducks, when we were blessed with a Barred Owl.  And wouldn’t you know, there were no winter visitors on Derby Pond that day.  We did not feel slighted in the least.

As much as we humans try to mold our experiences, other forces remind us that we have little control in how it all plays out.  Didn’t I just write that I have taken a break from preparing for our sailing adventure, happy to relax with my kids for the holiday season?  Oh well, guess I’m not meant to take a break because I think we may have found a boat deal that we need to jump on, literally, as I fly out next week to Charleston, to sneak a peek.  She’s a 27′ Albin Vega- small, not pretty, but a sea-worthy, dependable design.  I long ago realized that we could have a pretty boat or we could go cruising.  Our financial status in life does not yet support both endeavors.  I’ll gladly take fun times over aesthetics any day though.  As for this old boat, a retired ship’s engineer prepared her to go cruising with his wife to the Bahamas.  They made it from Canada to Beaufort, SC where she became ill, and they decided to abandon the adventure.  This tale reminds me why we are doing this now.  I have seen so many people wait until retirement to have fun, only to have sickness or death strike.  Of course I realize that bad times can strike at any age, I just want to at least try for something great while the odds are stacked in my favor.  So, the boat is for sale, cheaply, as is, and loaded with the essentials for cruising in the Bahamas.  And cruising in the Bahamas just so happens to be what we want to do presently.  Joey misses the girls and they miss him.  Lucky me, I get a plane ride all to myself and seventy degrees for two days.  I guess I’m now taking a break from Christmas.

Clearing Out the Attic and Easing a Worried Mind

I am finally dealing with the stuff in my attic.  I see this as my greatest obstacle for getting out of the house and on our merry sailing way.  Thoughts of clothes, fabric, and Joey’s collection of charts for the Middle East, and other places we are unlikely to explore, have been lurking in the recesses of my brain, subtle yet present.  I’ve had this fear that it will all be thrown in the garage in one big unsorted pile.  I already have one such pile in my Mom’s basement in North Carolina.  I am told I must conquer it on the next visit.  It must be dismantled.  I try to think of myself as organized, but in facing the many piles around me I realize this is not entirely true.  I like to get it organized, but I am too distracted in my daily life to keep it that way.  It starts slowly.  One random object is left in its random place and like a magnet it beckons other assorted trinkets to join.  In light of this, I know that I can never own a large home.  I’m also delighted to trade my 900 square feet for 30, especially now that my attic is cleaned out.

My Platform

I recently learned that in order to be a published writer, I need to develop “my platform.”  Meaning that I need to devote myself to hours behind the screen making myself popular in cyberspace and beyond.  Facebook, Twitter, blogging are now to become daily habits.  And all along I thought I could make it in the world simply by digging in the dirt, hanging out in the woods, and making art.  At least my life is about to take a new direction in adventure and fun.  I’m not so sure the world needs another blog about snotty noses, whiney kids, and the monotony of the modern family.  Please do not mistake me.  I often need to gain inspiration about how to deal with my children’s seemingly irrational behavior.  It is nice to know that all kids are crazy and it is not some huge parenting mistake on my part.  I’m just happy that I will be able to create a platform by writing about adventure, travel, sailing, living simply, learning about other cultures, making art, and spending quality time with my family away from the modern hustle and bustle.  Of course though, my kids will still be crazy and I will still have Facebook.