Saturday, July 08, 2006

An Introduction

So I've been journalling a while, about our summer adventures rebuilding a boat and learning to sail, but critics have deemed my early entries to be a little too pessimistic. Perhaps rightly so--this is a big mountain that we've given ourselves to climb. Still, though, I've decided that an introduction might be the best way to begin.

If you've read my profile, you know that Karl (or Big County, as he's known in hiking circles), and I met on the Appalachian Trail in 2004. Upon meeting, it took us eight months to get to Maine, hike Katahdin, and finish the trail, for reasons that have been better explained last year. We spent the winter of 2004 in Maine, at Karl's farm there, contemplating building an organic commune there. Eventually we decided that we hadn't done enough hiking yet, and set out for the Pacific Crest Trail in April 2005.

For many reasons, again best explained elsewhere, we decided to move on from hiking after doing 800 miles of the PCT. Karl bought a beat-up touring bike in Bishop, California, I had mine shipped to me, and we set off to bike to Canada. We had a great time, but we didn't get too far.

Upon returning to New England (after participating in the birth of my sister's beautiful baby girl), we discovered we were fresh out of adventures. What to do? We had had enough of hiking, at least for the time being, the bicycling hadn't gone so smoothly, we weren't sure we were settled enough for the organic farm, but a host of other possibilities awaited. The most appealing of those to our imagination was a little scuffed-up boat up on jacks at the boatyard a mile from Karl's mom's house.

It was a 1971 Ranger 33, to be exact, and in all of our angst and indecision, we found ourselves gravitating towards it. It was the barren cold of a coastal Massachusetts winter, but kept sneaking down to the boatyard, looking it up online, poking around the cabin after we discovered the helpful owner had left an old wood ladder lying at its base. He had also left a little globe on the nav desk, and as we poked holes in the half-rotted wood, and scraped at the peeling paint, that little globe captured my imagination the most.

Oh the places we could go! The Pacific islands we could visit! The tropical sunsets over the clear green Caribbean sea, which we could watch nestled snug in Secret's cockpit... That was the little boat's name, and as October changed to November and into December, we got more and more serious. We did research. We read books. We surfed the web, and eventually decided to get enough cash together to put together a tiny little offer for the boat.

It was far less than the previous owner deserved for his beautiful but slightly battered boat, but it was all we penniless adventurers could afford. We left it in the hands of God, or fate--if he didn't take our offer, we'd get to our next adventure another way. But he did, and as of 2006 we were left the proud but completely ignorant owners of a brand new boat.

To give you some context, Karl had never been on a moving sailboat before in his life. I had sailed, yes, with my father, before the age of ten, a handful of times, mainly on those catamarans with the vinyl trampoline thing between the two hulls. Neither of us had a clue. But on the very first night that we met, the night we mark as our anniversary, Karl had asked me to move onto a boat with him, and I had said yes. Now the dream was ours, and we didn't quite know what to do with it.

The next seven months were dreary and miserable. We bled. We cried. We fought, more than we've ever fought before. We fought about money, about time, about housing. But that tired old boat slowly came back to life. Karl recored the entire deck, an exhausting process. I worked as a waitress, funding the gallons and gallons of epoxy we had to buy. We bought a sheet of teak-and-holly plywood and added accents to the cabin. Karl and his father repaired the roller-furling system and painted the bottom of the boat. Ralph, Karl's stepdad, painted the entire interior for us. We read the entire Cruising in Serrafyn series, about newlyweds who circumnavigated in a 24' engineless wooded sailboat they built themselves. We corresponded with strangers about fiberglass. I didn't even know what fiberglass was in December.

Eventually, as of July 7, the boat was in the water, a month and seven days past our deadline. In retrospect, this seems astonishingly fast. People spend three years buying, financing, and rebuilding their boats, if not more. We had our strokes of luck--someone gave us a brand-new dinghy, another friend supplied us with a free mooring, a random stranger at West Marine gave us $300 worth of used charts that he was replacing, my best friend gave me her old computer (which I'm writing on now). And now our departure date is set for September 30, believe it or not. I don't know if we're brave or just plain crazy. I guess we'll find out.

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