The lovely Elska.
She’s home! The trip was last weekend, she’s actually been home for a week. I’m late updating the blog thanks to a stressful week of mess and deconstruction (the flood remediation guy uses the much more colorful “demolition”), but the whole process finally seems to be getting officially underway this weekend, so relief is in sight. Living without a working kitchen is tougher than I thought. I have such an unstable and moody working relationship with both my kitchen and the food in it, I didn’t think I’d miss it when it was gone. I was quite wrong.
On Saturday, my parents drove myself, Greg, and my Aunt Ginny and Uncle Mark up to Oak Harbor. We were so grateful for the ride. If we’d been on our own, we’d have had to coordinate driving up and pick the car up later, or taking the bus. I’ve actually been taking the bus more often in the past few months, and enjoying the peace of not having to battle traffic or find parking. But the trip to Oak Harbor from our neck of the woods, by transit, would have been four hours. For someone in normal health this would be exhausting. With fibromyalgia, it would have entirely gutted my energy for the day, and most of the next one. So the ride up was very much appreciated.
On the way up, I knit. I can’t read in the car, but knitting causes no nausea, and I’m grateful to have an escape from my awareness that I’m hurtling in a metal box down a narrow road filled with other hurtling metal boxes, piloted by people who seem to enjoy texting while driving. I don’t like cars. What gave it away? Whenever I have a new knitting project, I pack it with me wherever I go, and it begins to take on the stories and experiences of what happens while I’m knitting. It’s sweet, until the knitted thing isn’t useful anymore, and then I can’t let it go because I’m attached to the memories. I need to learn how to un-knit a thing, to pull it apart and reuse the yarn for more projects and memories. At any rate, this hat is now the Bringing Elska Home Hat (I finished it last night, and wore it to bed after I realized I’d neglected to turn the heat on upstairs).
Here we are at the ferry in Mukilteo, waiting to ride across to Clinton, on Whidbey Island. Clinton is at the south end of the island, and our destination is at the north end. You can actually drive an overland route if you’re so inclined, but I love taking the ferry.
We dropped my aunt and uncle off at their motel (there’s no way we could all four sleep on Elska), picked up a few groceries, and then my parents dropped us off at the boat. I was giddy, I couldn’t stop smiling the whole way through town. Camping on our Flicka! Overnight! First time! SQUEE! Everything felt exotic. Here we are, in distant Oak Harbor Washington. On our boat! It’s the same climate and evergreen-dotted scenery as anywhere else in the Pacific Northwest, but I felt like I was a million miles away, on an amazing adventure. I was flooded with the same familiar excitement I felt as a kid, whenever I’d get to pack up a backpack and go somewhere new for an overnight, or on a trip somewhere. I loved to travel.
But this wasn’t just me and a backpack, this was Greg and I, and Elska. She’s our new satellite home. A sailboat isn’t just a means of transportation, it’s a thing of elegant beauty, a guardian, a friend, a being all its own, a place all its own. Maybe not everyone feels this way about their boat – that’s too bad.
Me, I’m transported, just in stepping aboard. Elska is the perfect size. I continue to get stares and lulls in the conversation when people ask me why I’d want to go from a 30-foot Hunter to “this little thing”, and I just grin hugely and say, “I wanted something I could manage on my own.” Most sailors consider 30 feet to be easily managed alone, and many solo sail happily at 40 feet and even above. I get it. Maybe if I were in better shape or better health (or both would be nice), I’d feel differently. But I don’t think so. It isn’t just that she’s manageable to sail for someone with fibromyalgia. It’s that she’s just….right. She’s like Goldilocks’s boat.
I’ve read a great deal about the tiny house movement, and it strikes me how consistently and emphatically people will express joy in the concept of just enough. That’s how Elska feels. All my needs are met. She’s small, but just….sturdy, capable, cheeky, beautiful, sassy, strong. She’s just right.
I parked my boots under the dinette table, and we made some tea, and sat in the cockpit. The lights from the cabin were warm an inviting, but we both wanted to soak up the evening light. We read our ebooks. And then here it was, our first sunset off the stern. My face hurt from all the smiling I was doing. I thought, this is what it’s like when a dream comes true. It’s a pretty great feeling. I popped back into the cabin to get something, and Greg said, “Come see!” I stepped back into the cockpit, and looked where Greg was pointing. In the water, right below that dinghy on the stern of the boat behind us, a great big grey seal slid by, looking first at us, and then at the other boats in turn. His gaze was so intelligent and observant, I almost expected him to whip out his notepad and pencil. He rolled around a few times, and then slid under the water and left.
We ate cold pizza for dinner, and went to bed early. Greg crawled into the quarter berth, and as is his way, was asleep ten minutes later. I lay in the v-berth all snug and cozy, and for a long time I did nothing but stare up at the heavy bronze portholes and into the darkness outside. It was too cloudy to see stars. It was cold, but thankfully not so cold I couldn’t keep warm. I thought about how this was the start of everything. I haven’t felt the specialness of a transition like that, the movement over a line from this is the way it was to this is the way it is now, since my kids were born.
Then I read my book, did a little more knitting, and watched part of a movie on my iPad. This is all normal for me – I’m a terrible night owl. Finally I felt the familiar pull to sleep, and put everything away. I turned off my headlamp and buried my face in the pillow. I could hear the water lapping against the hull. Must be windy. I said goodnight to my boat, quietly. I felt safe in her arms. I slept very well.
The next morning, Mark and Ginny showed up bright and early at 7:15am. Dave and Sherrie, the lovely couple from whom we bought the boat, came to see us off. We gave them back their marina keys and took pictures of all of us, and finally I just had to hug them. I couldn’t help it. They actually pushed us off the dock, a lovely symbol of the boat passing from their hands into ours. We found out later they’d driven to Langley to watch us motor by – how sweet! See what boats mean to people? It’s a special bond.
It was rainy and cold, but we all settled in for the long ride home. Admittedly I was probably the only one beaming with joy through the wetness.
Ginny and Mark were so kind to come up and do this with us, it just meant the world. They’ve both been sailing for years and have offshore experience, whereas Greg and I have much less experience. We were both exposed to boating and sailing as kids, but we never learned to sail until we were adults and I got the crazy idea (thanks, Dad) to get lessons. In the three years we had our Hunter, I think we went out just a few dozen times, and our longest trip was about 11 nautical miles. This trip was 43. And it was our first voyage on a boat we had no familiarity with. So, to have two experienced sailors say, “Sure, we’ll sit in the cold and rain with you for an entire day, and help out if anything goes wrong,” well, it’s a big deal. I bought them a bag of peanut butter cups, but that didn’t seem like enough. So I kept thanking them all day.
That’s my Aunt, and her cute hat, that I will someday lift when she isn’t looking. For all the grumpy weather, we had a very pleasant trip. Flickas are small, but they have a very heavy hull and a full keel – that means the keel goes from the front to the back, versus a fin keel that looks like, well, a fin. This means she’s very stable, and you could really tell as we headed into Saratoga Passage, with the waves kicking up and the spray hitting us, how little she was getting batted around. She didn’t lurch or roll, she just put-putted happily through the mess, steady as she goes.
We alternated who sat at the helm. I took two short naps, because fibro is a cruel mistress. Mark taught me all kinds of navigation information as we went along, it was great. We ate lunch, Ginny made us tons of tea and cocoa, and we looked for dolphins and orcas but never saw any. I loved having my family with me, what a treat. If the outboard failed or we struck a log, I was relaxed knowing that we had two heads on board with years of experience. That’s right, I didn’t mention the debris, it was crazy; a gazillion logs littered the water, we assumed it was all from the crazy windstorm the weekend before.
Here’s Greg at the helm. Ginny brought these gloves, and then left them with us! They were so toasty warm, and rubberized so you could grip the tiller. I think they’re for gardening, originally. My hands were turning beet red from the cold, but these warmed them right up.
We made quite a mess. I’d like to say this looks nothing like our kitchen at home, but I’d be lying. That little tiny bottle, with the white cap and the orange $1.00 price tag, behind the barrier in back of the bananas, is a teeny tiny bottle of ketchup I bought at the marina cafe. It was SO WEE that I just couldn’t help it (gee, sounds like another purchase I just made, for considerably more money). It looked like this teeny tiny bottle of dijon mustard, which I will also now have to procure. Teeny tiny boats require teeny tiny condiments.
Almost home! The lighthouse is where Shilshole Bay Marina is, our home port. It’s so odd how different everything looks from the water. I’m usually pretty good with maps, but in an urban environment you don’t realize how your landmarks are so often man-made and quite distinct. On a map, it seems obvious where the towns are that line the shore, but when you’re actually in the middle of the water, it’s like one landmass, another land mass, some hills, some other hills. Everything looks like everything else. I can see why people are so in love with their GPS units.
We made it home in 8.5 hours, which I thought was pretty impressive. We kept the outboard going the whole way, and it covered the whole 40+ miles with one 6-gallon tank of gas. Wow. I loved having an outboard. So much quieter than a diesel, much less teeth-rattling vibration, and no stink! Diesel smell makes me queasy, and once it gets in your clothes and sleeping bags, it takes a miracle (or 27 consecutive washings, as I discovered with my red windbreaker – I just threw it in with every load until it didn’t reek anymore) to get the smell out. I will never go back to diesel. Mark my words.
Finally, home sweet home! Safe in her slip, after delivering us safely home.
But before I go, I want to share a few pictures of a this lovely little something or other that was docked at the same marina as our Flicka. Such a beautiful little boat! I stopped every time I walked by to take a quick look. Her name caught my eye, Nil Desperandum. I looked it up, it means “never despair”. Tonight I looked up the actual boat, and lo and behold, her owner wrote an article about her. Here’s Lawrence W. Cheek writing in the Seattle Times about the rewards of small boats.