Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Second, and third, thoughts

I’m supposed to be rowing out to the boat right now, by myself, for the first time. But I’m a little nervous, I guess, which is ridiculous. We’re getting ready to set sail. Next week, allegedly. I should be able to row a dinghy to the boat. Karl’s decided to help his friend pick cranberries for a week or so, which will pad our bank account a little bit, but isn’t helping with our procrastination. And it’s left me along to begin to bring our earthly goods out to the boat and to tie up the loose ends that remain out there.

One of the cranberry bogs Karl is harvesting, with floating cranberries.

The closer the departure date gets, the more nervous I feel. Do we really know what we’re doing? No. Should we really do this? Yes. We have to. I’m sure we’ll be fine—many other people have done this with even less experience and preparation than we have, but it’s still nerve-wracking. Our friend Rob, the friendly neighborhood West Marine salesperson, is afraid for our lives. He’s helped us out a ton on gear, but he thinks we need more sailing experience before we set off.

We do need more sailing experience. I honestly thought we would spend more time sailing this summer, and I’m disappointed that we haven’t. I’m not sure why we haven’t. We probably would have been better off if we had spent less time reading and buying, and more time on the water.

Both of us have felt some wariness. We love the sailing, but avoiding sailing is a way for us to avoid looking this adventure in the face. You can’t hike fulltime the way you can sail fulltime. You can’t live on a trail the way you can live on a boat. This journey will either be an utter failure, which wouldn’t be a failure at all, really, or a semi-permanent lifestyle change for us. We haven’t done any one thing for any longer than six months, in the whole course of our relationship. But we could end up living on a sailboat for five years. It feels like the end of my youth and the beginning of my middle age.

I’m getting far too ahead of myself, of course. The bigger chance is that we decide we hate sailing and find a new adventure, which would be par for the course. In which case, I’m going to be really sad we spent $400 on canned goods and $300 for snazzy new raingear. Not to mention the $600 on various navigation aids, the $200 on books, the $800 on epoxy.

I recently listened to a podcast with Larry and Lin Pardey, and they said the number-one trend they see in sailing today is people not spending enough time learning—they just want to hop on a boat and circumnavigate. And I wonder: is that what I’m doing? Do I need to spend three years bending teak timbers for a wood boat and sailing a dinghy around the harbor to be ready? Should I have a thirteen-year plan to save $3 million, just to have enough money to buy the perfect boat, the perfect gear, and a lifetime supply of American goods at island prices? Do I need $3 million and a Swan just to cruise the Caribbean? What about go simple, go small, go now?

I know I don’t have the sailing experience I need. That’s why I’m sailing the Intracoastal Waterway, not to Bermuda. When I think about the alternative, which would be getting a job, a real one this time, finding an apartment or a permanent mooring, shrink-wrapping the boat for a god-awful New England winter, making Karl get a job he’ll most likely hate, working days and nights for another year or more just to cover the expenses of life in these United States as well as all the boat improvements we’ll convince ourselves we need, I want to shoot myself. I know I’d rather face forty-knot winds and twenty-foot waves than deal with a single day of that. We have a boat. We can make it go. Isn’t that all we need?

This journey is pulling us onward, irresistibly. That boat found us. She pulled us to herself and now she’s pulling us south, towards the Equator and distant horizons. I can’t resist, even as my conscious mind fights. The story will have a happy ending, one way or another, even if we end up with a wrecked sailboat and a farm in Maine. If I really believe that God is bringing all things toward completion, then the story will have a happy ending however it ends. And no one will be able to say we didn’t live bravely, ferociously, gloriously.

Enough. I have some dinghy-rowing to do.


ebbtide 33 said...

Ya'll will be fine- just be super cautious with the weather, take it really slow. This trip will test your patience, but if you're cautious and careful and take care if each other, you'll gain an awesome amount of eperience and confidence. I can't wait to read about it. My only advice is to watch your wind direction- don't get caught with a lot of fetch and wind blowing it onto you- esp. in big waters like Mass Bay and Long Island Sound and off New Jersey.

Melissa said...

Thanks for the advice and best wishes--I'm sure we'll be fine, too. Patience is one thing that we are good about.

I'd say New Jersey is the place we're most worried about. It's a long haul down that coast. But like you say, we'll just watch the weather, watch the wind direction, and gain a ton of experience. Thanks again. I can't wait!