It’s been awhile since I last wrote and I have been batting around a few writing topics for a long time. Sometimes I think that my greatest writer’s block comes not when there’s nothing to write about, but rather when there’s a lot on my mind and I have trouble sifting through it. To get past the block, I just have to sit down and write about what comes to mind first. And the biggest thing on my mind is our most exciting plan. I can’t write about anything else until I put it on virtual paper. Somehow writing makes it all so much more concrete. And sharing it with you makes it even more so. It’s real. It’s happening. We’re working on our bucket list.
When the Captain and I met, we were both living full-time on sailboats in the Caribbean. Eventually we landed on the same boat teaching study abroad programs to college students and exploring the world by sea. We still spent tons of time in the Caribbean but also spent a summer sailing the Mediterranean, then down the coast of Africa and across the Atlantic. Later we cruised the east coast of Australia before crossing north to explore Borneo, Bali, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. Sometimes I still look back at the photos and can’t believe we were actually there. It was an amazing time in our lives.
So when we finally moved back to land, one of the first things that we did was buy a boat. Then we bought a few more. In fact some we didn’t even buy. They just came to us somehow, like a stinky, lovable mutt that shows up at the door of an animal shelter. Before we knew it, we had a fleet of vessels all in various states of disrepair. There was a little Boston Whaler that got us to the beach and back but seemed to be taking on water somewhere. (No big deal, they’re unsinkable!) Then there was the 19-foot Lightning sailboat that I spent months refinishing but never actually finished. And of course we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to adopt a friend’s 32-foot gaff-rigged cutter which, of course, needed a dinghy thereby adding two more leaky boats to our fleet.
The Kids Arrive
During his first summer, Junior spent many afternoons on that leaky old sailboat with us. We’d nestle his carseat into the cockpit or rig a net across a bunk as a makeshift playpen. On our mooring, he’d splash in an overturned hatch cover. It was a simple, perfect time. We never minded that the boat wasn’t perfect. We were just happy to have it. But wooden boats take a lot of work just to maintain, never mind improve. When Little Bear arrived in May of the following year, coming home briefly only to promptly land himself back in the hospital until his one-month birthday, we started to fall behind. When the boat never touched water that summer, we sadly hung a FOR SALE sign on her bow shortly before passing her on to another young starry-eyed sailing couple. It was the end of an era, but not of our dream.
Since those early sailing days we have long dreamed that someday we’d do it all again, this time with our family and our own agenda. We did it for years on someone else’s terms. Someday we’d get a chance to do it our way. This dream was always a hypothetical distant vision, something we’d talk about often after a few drinks. We had a mental wish-list for the perfect boat and we collected charts and hoarded gear when it came our way. Junior has a fall birthday, so he will start kindergarten late. We always said we’d use that year, the bonus year, to go sailing. But suddenly that year is coming right up. Junior turns five in October. That year is here and we aren’t going.
But we refuse to let the dream pass us by. For over a year, we have been casually browsing boat listings. We sent out a few emails, kicking tires mostly. Then more recently, we buckled down and started seriously considering a few options. We spoke with the broker of what looked to be a perfect boat on Cape Cod, but then found out it didn’t have standing room in the galley and, though it hadn’t been on my original wish-list, I declared space to stand while cooking a sudden non-negotiable. Then we kept circling back to a boat in Nova Scotia, a 20-hour drive away. Should the Captain fly up on his own to look at it? Should we both go? We tossed a few ideas around but never settled on a plan. There were a few others too, but nothing seemed just exactly right. If you’re a boat person, you know how they will speak to you. We looked from the Chesapeake up to Cape Breton, and everywhere in between.
As fate would have it, we finally found our boat ten minutes down the road. I found the listing, which included a single grainy photo which I sent to The Captain. His reply was one word: YES. We received the survey in December, viewed the boat in January and signed the sales agreement in February, on the 21st anniversary of my Aunt Karin’s death. She would have loved that boat too. Sometimes life has a way of lining things up just so, when you didn’t even think it was possible.
But what about the bonus year? It will still happen, just not on the timeframe we’d originally planned. We’re currently planning (and this is very, very tentative still) to move aboard in fall 2017. This is the year that Junior would be starting kindergarten. He will still start kindergarten with his classmates. I’ll still get to take his cute little picture on the front steps with his new backpack before we walk to his first day at the elementary school. I can still spit-slick his blond cowlick down and thumb-rub the last remnants of breakfast off his chin before he disappears behind the door. I can still cry with the rest of the moms in the parking lot. We can still hit all the milestones that matter to sentimental moms like me.
But unlike the rest of his class, he won’t be there for long – just for hurricane season probably. Once the rest of the pieces are aligned (and there are many), we’ll clean out that new backpack and replace the folders and books with a snorkel and sunscreen. We’ll pack a bag and cast off.
Of course it’s actually much harder, but that’s the simple version.
In the end all the tedious prep work, stress and micromanagement will be left behind when we slip those docklines and point the bow south. We’re making it happen. The bucket list is turning into a to-do list, slowly but surely. We’re making it happen. We’re going sailing.