Sunday, June 25, 2006
"Keep the red channel markers close on your port side," shouts the old fisherman at the dock.
"Thanks," I reply.
We wave goodbye. I turn Periwinkle around and head down river, hugging the edge of the narrow channel. It's a quiet, gray afternoon. Fog is rolling in from the ocean. The only sounds are the steady rumble of the diesel engine, the call of the sea gulls flying overhead, and the pounding of my heart.
Yesterday Periwinkle was launched.
Thank you to the many friends who have put up with me these last couple of months as I navigated the tricky waters of purchasing an older boat and getting her ready to launch. Thank you for understanding when I didn't return emails promptly, when I turned down social engagements because I had to work on the boat; and worse yet, when I broke appointments because of last minute launching details. My apologies. You will be among the first aboard.
Thank you to the boat yard guys - the crew who did all the things I couldn't do myself, especially the foreman who fielded my daily phone calls gently nudging/nagging/whining/demanding/cajoling - basically doing whatever I could at the other end of the phone to move things along. I think he was happier than me to see us finally leave the dock yesterday.
Thank you to the other boaters at the yard who offered advice and encouragement along the way. Lobstermen, sailors, pleasure boaters, fishermen, all eager to share stories and warn me about the mud flats to avoid on the way to the harbor.
Thank you to the readers of my blog who wondered what happened to me.
This is what happened to me.
I fell in love with a sailboat.
I never really understood before why boats were referred to as 'she' and not 'it'. I've owned other sailboats, and they were always 'it' to me, not 'she'.
"It handles nicely, " I might say to a friend. Or "Its name is Simplify", or "It's blue".
But Periwinkle is different. Or maybe I'm different.
Now I understand why for eons men have referred to boats using the feminine pronoun - somehow they transform from inanimate objects to objects of desire. They become the focus of an outpouring of emotions: love, commitment, frustration, joy, heartbreak.
For me, I was attracted to her from the moment I first saw her photo on the internet. (Before I go any further, let me just say that I am devoutly heterosexual, except when it comes to my sailboat)
A friend found her on yachtworld.com and sent me the link. Thank you Mark for the introduction.
Then I met her in person at her home "on the hard" at a boatyard in Rhode Island. Her previous owner clearly loved her - it showed in every detail. He had five large loose leaf binders filled with documentation, notes, maintenance schedules, manuals. I love to read about things, so that alone was a major turn on.
She was adorable, but I really wanted a larger version of the same boat. I spent another month looking at other boats, and after each encounter, "she" looked more and more appealing.
I made an offer, then spent a cold day in April on board with a marine surveyor, checking every system and fitting, going over the rig and the hull and the engine. About half way through, when it looked as though there were no major issues to deal with, I said to the surveyor "I'm starting to love this boat". He laughed and said "She's looking very good".
Negotions followed, along with many trips to Rhode Island, and finally she was mine. Just after Memorial Day she was hauled up to the boat yard in Beverly, but still "on the hard" waiting to be rigged and painted and have all the minor repairs and mainenance items tended to before launching. I would drive to the boatyard after work, getting there with at most two hours of daylight left, and I would putter around, fix things, clean stuff. I removed the old name and applied the new one, offering the appropriate prayers to Neptune and Poseidon and gods and goddesses unseen. Sometimes I would just sit in the cockpit and eat a take out dinner and watch the sun set over the Bass River. One of the other boat owners confessed that he enjoyed seeing me, sitting at the wheel on dry land, with a far off look in my eyes. He understood how I felt, how eager I was to be on the water, sailing her, testing her and myself at the same time.
While she was on the hard I got to know her slowly, and loved her more all the time. I loved her when I scrubbed the decks. I loved her when I learned how to crawl into the engine compartment and empty water from the fuel filter. I loved her when I refinished the teak woodwork. I wondered what she would be like when she was on the water, how she would handle, what she would do well, what she would need to be coaxed to do, how she would respond to my touch. That's when it began to feel more like love, that eagerness to know another, to experience how we would be together, to imagine the exhilaration of sharing a day on the open ocean, spending the night in a cozy harbor, gently rocking to sleep with her.
She's on her mooring in Salem now. I think of her often and wonder when I'll see her again, and what we'll do together.
If I leave now, I can get there before the rain comes.