Friday, 14 August 2015

boats, boats, boats

Some years ago - never mind how long precisely -
 having little or no money in my purse, 
and nothing particular to interest me on shore, 
I thought I would sail about a little
 and see the watery part of the world.
 (H. Melville, Moby Dick)

Sailing in the Bay of Islands
(with our new sails!)
When you are on the move, a sea gypsy traveling on an old yacht at the whim of Mother Nature, you spend a lot of time thinking about your boat. You think about the leaks, the worn out sails, you calculate how long it might take you to sail to a speck of an island in the middle of the ocean, and then you just go. All the while, you try to take care of your boat, try not to chafe that reef line again, or you hope that she’ll be able to handle steering with the wind vane even though the wind is close to dead downwind. You keep an eye on corrosion, provisions…

More than one person has asked me, “Isn’t it overwhelming and scary out on the open ocean?” To which I have replied, “Well, it’s like this. You eat, you sleep, you navigate, mark your position, keep watch, download weather gribs, check the systems aboard – over and over. It’s easy for the yacht you’re traveling on and its very immediate surroundings to become your entire world." Fear is not part of the routine. Of course, there are those times when you look at the endless waves and think of bigger things, but mostly, you are working with your boat and thinking about your boat, and living on your boat. And she takes care of you.

Nyon anchored next to Moturua Island
Since we’ve been in New Zealand, Rick and I still think a lot about our boat. We still live on her. We still sail her. And this year we are tackling a lot of big projects – Nyon is due for an overhaul. We have been busy saving money, and now we’re taking care of her. But, here’s the catch. Other boats have crept into our thoughts and conversations.

We’re not buying a different boat, that’s not it. We both work with boats. We live in a tiny place that is all about boats (it’s a marine industry hub out in the boonies,) and the Bay of Islands is considered a cruising gem among boaters. In fact, I write this anchored off Moturua, one of my favourite islands in the Bay.

Sailing on a tall ship
Yet, I have now sailed some of this coast on a much bigger boat – as crew on a tall ship. That ship has crept into my mind, and I can’t deny I have a soft spot for her now too. She’s not home, but she’s a training vessel for adolescents. She’s taught me to love traditional sailing, and performing as part of a larger crew. Though I mostly work from the office and not aboard the ship, I still get to talk and think about a tall ship all day. And right now, Rick is part of a crew building a large alloy catamaran… And that’s only one boat-related responsibility he has at work.


From the ground up
We can’t help it, most days, we talk about boats. I wonder if it’s because we’ve had a real taste of life on the ocean – our desire to go on voyages has not dimmed, perhaps that’s why we seek anything that involves boats – it keeps us linked to our family of sea gypsies.

I remember when I first sailed on a boat. I don’t mean the large ship that took my family across the Atlantic from the Netherlands to Canada many years ago. An actual sailboat. I was 12 years old – family friends had a yacht, and we sailed it on Lake Michigan for the day. I climbed down below and sat in the cabin taking it all in, even though I became a little seasick. Back on deck, I felt the boat lean from the wind and push forward. I was captivated. Though it wasn’t until 20 years later that I sailed again, this time, on the West Coast of Canada, and only for an afternoon. Between that and a tall ship festival – the desire to jump on a boat grew. It led us to crew on a small yacht in the Mediterranean for a summer. We sailed and anchored off France’s southern shores and the west coast of Italy. We both fell in love with the simplicity of the lifestyle, the immediacy. That’s when we decided we needed to leave land to see the watery part of the world.

When I look back on my life so far, boats have only really been a part of it for 10 years. But talk about being front and centre now. To put it simply:

Love boats. Live on yacht. Will sail anywhere. 

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