WARNING: This is only the first few pages of what I hope to be a book, the tale of 'Serenity' and my adventures as a liveaboard. As I've never written like this before and as I'm so close to the subject, its difficult for me to judge its clarity and how engaging it might be for others to read. The photos are raw and sporadic, each paragraph could/will be expanded on, the imagery is also inconsistent. I hope later when inspired or suggested to go back and expand and/or embellish as needed - this is where you guys could be of help if you're so inclined
As I attempt to entertain, I also hope to guide those you may be interested in undertaking a similar adventure - so bear this in mind should you choose to critique, I may fail to explain needful details and overlook the apparently obvious as I have been boating for some time now and may take for granted some base knowledge.
BTW, the choice of the name 'Serenity' was actually a fortuitous coincidence, I hadn't seen the television series at that point - yet I was pleased and amused at both the coincidence and by the parallels I could draw.
From the glimmer of an impossible dream to the first night aboard I submit to you my ramblings...
I’m a bit mechanically oriented. System analysis, diagnostics and potential repairs. Evaluating for efficiency by balancing effort and reward. Breaking down to the smallest detail I ask myself, is the end result worth what goes into it?
Strange things happen when you apply this to your life.
Wandering is almost inherently the definition of independence. As a result I’ve spent most of my life figuring how to cut dependencies of all types. Hybrid systems, solar arrays, wind, and hydro – these all are a golden grail of sorts for me. While researching off-grid homes and building yet another hybrid bicycle just for fun, a friend gives me a tattered old hardcover. Little did I know how absolutely this would change my life. Within the stained and torn pages I found the saga of a young couple who shard a similar outlook, and a method of achieving it like no other I’d ever seen. Landlocked most of my life I had never played with the watery realm, viewing boats as pure recreation. Like snowmobiles or dirt bikes, boats were only for play and for a very limited season. Though like any other I love to recreate, my more practical side dismissed it as a frivolous waste. To be a liveaboard however was the epitome of efficiency and system combination. An all in one package for my portable life. I read on, utterly enthralled.
All projects forgotten and dropped by the wayside, I started frantically researching all available information on this concept. One by one all of the things that I hold dear clicked into place. This wasn’t just a mere byline in my varied interests, this indeed summed up everything that I held as truth. Independence mandated, travel inherent – I couldn’t get it out of my brain. There was simply no choice in the matter, I must get a boat. Not just any boat, only a sailing vessel would do. Conveniently enough at the time I lived on a Lake Champlain, a fairly large body of water bordered by Vermont, New York, and Canada. Buying the first phone Id had in years I began to call marinas and boat dealerships. Knowing I had absolutely no experience in this I wanted to start as small as possible, taking the advice found in that book, I looked for a 23’ sloop. Time after time I failed to find what I sought, apparently most Americans are fascinated with style and speed, pure recreation with little thought to efficiency. Fuel guzzling play boats abounded. The few sailboats I found were jealously guarded by their owners, the ones in the size I sought the most so. This I took as a good sign.
Recruiting that friend who so corrupted me, we began to drive. Going from marina to marina, always not quite finding what I sought. Three-quarters of the way around the lake, in a neighboring state, almost resigned to shelve this project to the long term we happen upon a huge marina specializing in fantastically expensive pleasure yachts. Sighing, I mumbled that although there was no way in hell I could possibly afford anything found there, we might as well look if only to see the way these were laid out and dream. Surprisingly friendly to one as scruffy as I, they happily let us roam the forest of masts with huge hulls looming overhead we poked about. My friend being a bit nautical, loosing me in the gibberish of terms and descriptions.
Feet tired, brain swollen from too much input too fast, we finally reach the very end, a back lot of the stranded and forgotten. There, slightly crooked on their trailers sat a pair of boats. Both the same model, both a bit dirty, looking defeated with their masts down and rigging strewn. But wait... They both were exactly the size and type I sought, even the brand recommended to me by others. Of course only the worse of the two had a for sale sign on it. No matter, I’ve found that you learn the best when restoring. Heartened by this small glimmer of hope I trotted back to the sales desk. Confused, the salesperson had no idea what boat I refereed to. As they focused mainly on multimillion dollar yachts it was no surprise that the bedraggled old sloop was forgotten. Dragging a rep to the back lot I pointed and said that one, how much. Completely at a loss, we returned to the showroom and I poked about at the glamorous toys while they tried to find some record of the boat.
Finally after what seemed an eternity in my anxiousness they returned to sadly inform me that that boat wasn’t actually theirs, it had been brought as a trade in for a deal gone awry. Dismayed I asked if there was any way to contact the owner, they said no, that the boat had been abandoned and they were working on getting it disposed of, but without paperwork, they couldn’t sell it. Dismayed I made my farewells and left. Just as I was about to get in the car with my exasperated friend, a man came out of the door and bade me wait. He was the owner of this marina and he asked me, "What of the other boat, the one parked next to it?" Shocked, I asked if it actually was for sale as there was no banner or sign. Laughing he says yes of course, everything here is for sale – for the right price. Deciding to overlook this inconsistency and drop the matter of the boat I just tried to get, I happily proceeded to the back lot again to investigate the other boat.
Nameless and forgotten, forlorn and decrepit it sat askance and filthy. Running my hand down the hull I looked for cracks or scars. While off color from oxidation the hull seemed sound. Clambering on board grayed teakwood, weathered from the elements. No matter, as a woodworker this was a small thing and mostly ornamental. Below decks was a mad jumble of cushions and strewn gear. Yet all seemed whole, actually complete and in fine shape under a patina of neglect.
Scrambling to extricate myself from the tangle, I ask how much. The sales rep said that we need to return to the office to check. Smiling to myself, recognizing this habitual gambit for what it was, I follow a bit anxious. As we reach the building, I see my friend sitting in his car. I mentioned that he might want to go get lunch as negotiations were about to begin. Being that I didn’t have a large sum of cash and given the type of place this was it could be a while. He just smiled and nodded.
A flurry of paperwork ensued, chanting the list of included gear and professing the quality of the model and the exemplary trailer it was on, suddenly that old forgotten hulk in the far off field was a hot item, who knows but that there would be a line of potential buyers tomorrow. Finally, squirming, they name a price just out of reach of what I have. Admiring this skill as I hadn’t said what I had in my pocket, I ask the price without the trailer. As I would be launching it immediately and then eventually heading south, it would be an unnecessary burden. Shocked refusal followed.
Apparently, though the trailer’s worth alone was equal to or even greater than the boat itself, separating the two was unacceptable. Why could I not sell it myself? For what seemed the thousandth time I had no interest, that I had more than enough stuff to get rid of as it stood. Back and forth the bantering continued in this vein. Finally, reluctantly, I said that it was a shame but there was no way I could complete this transaction. I have only so much and no more. Standing, I make my goodbyes and walk out the door. As I approach the car my friend looks up grinning, curious, seeing my crestfallen look his smile fades. “Wait!” an unknown voice calls from behind. Pausing, I turn to see who calls. The owner of this marina walks up to me and proposes separating the trailer, and in which case, asks what I would be willing to pay. With a sigh, my friend returns to his book as I follow back into the office.
More coffee, more deliberation, the dance continues. The trailer, so wondrous mere moments ago was now shabby and ill suited, no surprise really. I mention that the coffee is getting to me and I need the restroom, that I would be back shortly. In the privacy provided by the facilities I count out my money, separating my price from the rest. I wash my hands and return. Placing the bills in a slightly strewn pile on the desk, I state that that is all I have, there is no more and will not be. If this is unacceptable I will continue searching, there simply had to be others in my range. As the two confer, I glance out the window to see if my friend still waits. Picking up my coat, I begin to ready myself to leave. The conference continues unabated. Shrugging, I gather my cash and say that I can wait no more, my friend is impatient. This had taken far to long, almost five hours now and it was time for a simple yes or no. They said yes. There is still a power in cash I suspect.
After almost another entire hour of paperwork and disclaimers, I sign and become the proud owner of my very first boat, a 1989 Oday 23 foot sloop, the price a meager $2500.
Sitting in my rented house that night I contemplated my possessions. I had been in Vermont for quite a while, obsessing over various projects and trying my hand at small business. In the process I had accumulated quite an amount of stuff. My restoration woodshop not least of this pile. I knew the value of these items, even at radically discounted prices they could bring quite a sum – I had already sold some items but had hardly made a dent. I had a week to rig the boat and set sail, anything longer would rack up dockage fees, no small amount given the marina I was at. In addition to this pressure I knew I had absolutely no boating experience, hadn’t the faintest idea how to sail and although it was early spring I had a very definite time limit as I was on Lake Champlain.
Connected to the Intercoastal Waterways (ICW) by both the Erie canal and the Hudson canals, nevertheless both of these canal ways closed for the fall season a significant time before the winter freeze. I had a lot to learn and a long way to go, with one short summer to do it in.
I looked at the piles of possessions in expiration. Huge power tools, even the small ones useless and requiring too much power. Quite the respectable library, most of which irrelevant and all prone to mildew in such an environment. “Project” cars, furniture, appliances, computers, stereos, cookware, extra clothes, bedding, and televisions. The list went on and on. The mental inventory was staggering, yet I had managed to accumulate all of this in a mere five years or so. The boat was very small.
Exasperated, I began with the list of what I would need. While my actions may have seemed impulsive from an outside perspective, I had actually researched as much as possible for the previous two years. Not having direct internet access and finding that most local boaters didn’t even know that Lake Champlain was part of the ICW made this research a bit more of a challenge. Using my travel experience as a background, I had decided to treat this as a long term camping expedition into the unknown. Taking into consideration my limited income potential, I would doubtlessly run out of supplies. I also decided to plan for limited contact with others and prolonged inaccessibility to towns. I knew better, my research had shown how densely populated these areas were for the most part, but best to plan for the worst. Research alone has little chance of truly preparing for reality.
I had charts and my navigation skills were acceptable, as recreational aviation was another hobby. Warm and cold weather clothing and rain gear were obviously necessary, as was bedding and cooking gear. The basic tools for repair and maintenance already packed. As I had done so many times before, I used the basic checklist found in The Boy Scout Handbook. Interestingly enough, I still haven found a better basic list than that. The admittedly dated book ‘Cruising in Sarrifynn” had depicted the prolonged travels of a young couple in a sloop if similar size as mine, in fact had helped my choice in such a small craft as a cruiser. In those treasured pages I had gleaned more information than I could actually apply, as I needed to see for myself to appreciate the value of the advice.
Gathering a meager pile of necessities, bagging it all in plastic, then into various packs and duffel bags I considered the mountains of items that remained. Evaluating as I went, so much was useless and only an encumbrance to my plans. Entertainment is actually a necessity, without it madness prevails. Yet I also knew that I was much more driven when a lack of distraction was imposed. I packed very few amusement items. A laptop, some music, a handful of fiction books. The reference ones were already packed securely away. Consulting the lists, I found I had finished already, I had packed more than what the inventory dictated actually. Still, you wouldn’t have known anything was missing if you looked around my house. Drawers open and the contents strewn, the blankets missing from the bed, these was the only signs of my pending departure.
Tired and frustrated I considered possibilities. Ads were out of the question as I didn’t have the time to wait for publication. I had few friends with similar interests, the few items they would want were most likely the ones I wanted to keep anyway. Fortunately I had sold my ultralight aircraft and the more valued cars already, selling quickly as I had deliberately under priced them. Yet so much remained. I thought about a yard sale. This was a awkward situation. It was early in the week, unfortunate as the bulk of shoppers prefer weekends. I lived down a dead end dirt road off of another dirt road, not exactly a main thoroughfare by any stretch of the imagination, although hunting season got quite exciting that was mostly in the fall. I knew the tools would sell well in this small rural community, yet this would undoubtedly still leave me with piles of less desirable items. Worst yet I would actually have to stay here in case anyone actually stopped by. I had a meager week to rig, launch and outfit a boat that was about a two hour drive from this place, without a car of my own. With that in mind I decided to sleep as my ride was showing up at three in the morning, my generous friend driving me up to the boat and back again in time to go to work. The junk could wait.
Like a kid before Christmas, I hadn’t slept much. I was up and pacing with coffee churning in my gut when headlights panned across the wall. Grabbing a backpack I hopped out into the frosty cold darkness to greet my friend’s silhouette. It might indeed be spring, but Vermont doesn’t listen to silliness like calendars sometimes. Voices pluming in the air we talked about the load the tiny two seat hybrid could take. Looking back I decided most would actually fit, leaving two bags for another trip. Agreeable, my friend mentioned that the second trip might have to wait. He had family matters to attend to that evening and the best he could manage was the following day. Aghast that he had considered driving eight hours a day for me, I hurriedly said that it didn’t matter, in fact he could drop me off, I would overnight in the boat and save him some drive as he could go strait to work. Besides, I wasn’t likely to be able to sleep very well obsessing as I was. Laughing, we packed the car, locked the house, and drove into the night.
As we drove and he talked, I considered this friend that had shown me these things. He was a natural historian, although his job was making wind generators at a small company. Quiet fellow unless he knew you, then he would mummer on and on incessantly about the seemingly most unrelated things and stories of another time. Older now, he had built a house on a remote wooded hill completely off the power grid, long before such things were fashionable. Modest and interested in other things, the uniqueness of his life was only evident if you were invited to that house. His wife’s first words were always an offer of cookies, treats, or dinner if there was time, the walls of the house plastered with tales. A faded picture of a grinning beard standing astride an old BMW motorcycle surrounded by snowdrifts reveled that he had ridden a motorcycle year round, regardless of weather. His only source of transport until his growing family mandated more room than a sidecar. I too had done this, abet further south. Model airplanes dangled from the ceiling, a reminder that we both shared the marvel that was flight. We had flown our ultralights in formation, even chased geese from time to time. With similar interests and a willingness to try the path less taken we had much in common, yet there was a few major differences. At less than half his age and with no family at all I had little to no constraints beyond my own hunger. I was shamelessly stealing his life’s dream, one now unobtainable for him and he was happy to help me do it.
Here presented an elegant solution. I told him of my predicament, my inability to decide what to do with my old life and the difficulties inherent with each solution. I didn’t have any emotional attachment to anything and the finance while it would be helpful, wasn’t worth the bother. He should keep it all, selling what he didn’t want. Anything else could be disposed of by my landlord, who was indifferent. I had done this before countless times, it was by far the easiest way to deal with such things. He required some convincing. I pointed out that its breaks like these that were inherently necessary to travel as I did and after some debate he acquiesced. With this a huge burden was lifted and I was free once again. Thanking him profusely, I sat back in my seat to my churning thoughts as he began to once again regale me with tales of colonial settlers, zeppelins, black powder rifles, bicycles, and the most efficient charging cycle of a twelve volt deep cycle battery. Left unsaid was just how much I would miss this vast knowledge and his friendly company.
It was still dark as we pulled into that back lot, boats sparkling with frost in the headlights. We hurriedly unpacked the car and made our farewells as my friend was already going to be a bit late for work. In that surreal red world of taillights, my breath pluming in the frigid air, I quickly made sure I had all my gear. Satisfied I hadn’t left anything, I happily waved as he drove away. It was only then in the absolute silence of predawn that I realized that I had no way to board the boat, let alone cumbersome with heavy packs. It sat slightly askance on a trailer with the gunnels towering seven feet from the ground at the lowest point, too far to carelessly throw my few valuables aboard. Befuddled at my own stupidity I began looking about for a ladder, a crate, anything to help my predicament. As I wandered amongst the strange shapes of hulls looming in the faint glow of starlight, boots crunching the frozen ground, I slowly grew nervous as this was private property after all and this was far from opening hours at the marina. Sighing, I went back to scramble aboard the best I could.
Naturally clumsy, I’m very cautious about things like climbing and icy decks. I manage to board without too much trouble and begin rummaging deep in the hold for a rope to help retrieve my possessions. Upside down with little but my feet poking awkwardly out of the hatchway and blood beginning to pound my ears, to my happy surprise I find not one, but two boarding ladders entangled in amongst the strewn gear. As the wet cold numbed my fingers, I couldn’t help but wonder if the second one was purchased simply because the first was so badly knotted in lines and forgotten equipment. Emerging from the hold to hook the ladder to the side the first streaks of dawn, that welcome promise of sunrise begins to revile those ghostly forms as other sailing vessels also stranded on stands and trailers. As I gazed at the beauty of form and function combined, all those graceful curves with bowsprits jutting proud, I yet again realized with a shock no less for its repetition that I not only owned one of these romantically mysterious craft, in fact the very one I perched on was my new home.
Stricken yet again and slightly slack jawed by the repercussions of this I couldn’t manage to start squaring away the boat or my gear. I just sat alone on the frozen deck with my cigarette unlit and forgotten, dreaming and living a dream simultaneously. Were my eyes watering from just the cold? This overwhelming moment is the whole point of life and I might, just might have found a way to live it perpetually.
Free and unfettered by loans or debt, the world owed no favors I have wandered, a state becomes a township a country but various neighborhoods. Should I choose culture and excitement, I pick an urban center for a while. Harsh beauty and peaceful solitude easily found in the nearest mountain range. Sometimes just passing scenery, others a time for rest and a chance to learn a place. Fuel was cheap, laws lenient, and I was young.
This is not some habit to be set aside because of inconvenience, expense, or expatiations however. Time and time again I have thought I was done, I had found a home. Again and again I found this was just not true. Growing bored and restless, the thought of adventures again beginning to outweigh the memories of solitary hunger, I pull my shallow roots and bade farewell to friends well made. I was born to live on a boat, yet I had only just learned of it now.
We are so hampered by laws and prices, rules and obligations. There is a life other than this, a harsh one to be sure but vibrant an rich with experience. While it is still quite possible, it has become difficult and desperate to wander the countryside alone these days. Very recently all that was necessary to enjoy life on the road was a friendly smile and a willingness to work. Picking jobs as if though apprenticeships I was paid to learn things of interest or tasked simple mindless labor for some quick cash.
We have become far more serious as a country these past few years. Your value increasingly judged by your debt, you become what you have, not what you have done. Fuel prices skyrocketing from greed and dependency, the automobile license has also become a mandatory passport, your papers must be presented and current at all times. Awkward indeed for one who considers the country his home state. Dependency builds on dependency, a car requires a license, a license requires an address, an address requires obligations to others. Even afoot there is no square inch of land not claimed, payment required.
Not true with boats, this last haven of freedom. Overlooked by most, considered frivolous weekend entertainment by many, the forgotten protections of a bygone era are still in place. You may anchor in any bay, for any duration, for any reason. Though some few states do persecute due to local ordinances, it is still your right by maritime law. No mandatory insurance to hemorrhage cash in a fool’s lottery, no license is required to prove your existence. No property tax to drain from your cupboard, you need not even register small sailing craft such as this one should it be chosen to go without an internal combustion engine. You have far more rights as captain of a vessel than any homeowner, let alone a renter. Pessimist that I am, I registered anyway. I’d need an engine to get me through the canals and I had no faith in law enforcement’s ability to conform to their own rules, particularly when it tried to deal with a lack of them.
Freezing now, shivering I wake from these thoughts to a full and glorious dawn. There is much work to be done, a launching awaits. Below decks its chaos. The boom and sail bags take up most of the room, my possessions the rest. Thwarted in my attempts to organize I start taking an inventory of hardware, jotting down a steadily growing list of the broken, missing, or just inadequate. Flashlight clamped in my mouth and drooling slightly as a result I scribble “batteries, 12v deepcycle/2 min & 12v auto bulbs/single & dual.” I had solar panels already, but useless for now as there was nothing to charge. No stove in the galley and no fuel tanks for it anyway, the head just a chemical toilet but lacking said chemicals. All the seat cushions were also missing, including the pad for the bunk. While I knew the previous owners had them stored to prevent rodent damage, I cynically took measurements for potential replacement anyway. A cozy berth is one of the highest priorities for a home.
The list grew. While the boat was well equipped with the basics needed for sailing, the items necessary for long term habitation were unsurprisingly lacking. An unloved and forgotten impulse purchase, the poor boat had never even been named let alone used and equipped. “VHF 2-way radio & antenna, 3” adhesive lettering/name?” More entries, in no particular order or importance made it into the tattered notebook. This could get expensive quick, the list would need to be categorized by type and importance later.
I slowly extricate myself from the mayhem of jumbled gear, no less disorganized for my efforts. I slam the back of my slolder on the sharp edge of the main hatchway for the first of many times to follow as I fall into the cockpit. The pain as I rub the bruise brings a flash of clear reality to my daydreaming and I decide to assess and prepare the mast and rigging for launch, I would take care of the rest when I had more room to move about the cabin. Any needed replacements for that took precedence anyway and could easily be the most costly.
There was little I could do. Completely ignorant of even basic boating let alone sailing, the only recourse I had was my general understanding of machinery. If it looks broken, it probably is. How would I know if something was missing if I didn’t even know it existed? Exasperated, I decide to disembark and take a walk to clear my head, checking to see if by chance an employee had shown up early or if there was a boat owner about to grill for information.
I wander about, examining the various craft hoping to glean some insight. I look at the various anchors nestled on bowsprits to see if there was a style or type more common than others. I look at engine mounts, railings, binami tops, and swim decks. Details swimming in my brain, anxious to get started on my own launch I make yet more notes. So close to my dream now, yet still I’m limited to just this. Its almost more than I can bear.
I see a boat owner now, quietly cleaning his gorgeous boat. Whatever mysterious agent he is using is marvelously effective, the stained hull wiping clean with no effort. I approach, made a friendly greeting as preamble to my interrogation only to find it will forever remain a mystery as the captain is French-Canadian. Ether he doesn’t speak any English or is wise enough to know my intent. I amble away in hopes of finding another victim.
Though the marina still isn’t open, employees have begun their various tasks. Obviously preoccupied, I choose to leave them be as I’ve been plagued before in such a manner., yet I must find distraction. The stress of anticipation straining every fiber of my soul now, I chain smoke furiously. Not even eight o’clock in the morning yet my feet are beginning to hurt from the relentless pacing. I’ve walked the entire lot now multiple times and its no small place.
On my way back to my own small vessel I spot a hapless employee opening the door to the main equipment store, a place rife with toys and treats. Half trotting to catch her I ask if there was coffee available anywhere, was there a convenience store nearby? I must have looked a fright, disheveled and wall-eyed in my angst and need for she stammered quick directions and closed the door behind her before I could offer a thank you. Taking her reaction under advisement I decide to walk to town and get some breakfast. It would not do to terrorize the poor people here, I would need their help soon enough.
Secluded in a rural area, the marina is farther from town than would be a normal stroll for me. I go anyway in need of both caffeine and a chance to clear my head. I tell myself that this was my new lifestyle, walking long distances to get supplies or just to socialize was going to be the norm now, I had better get used to it. I jot “walking shoes, bicycle” in my poor notebook and trudge on.
Its early in the spring, no green life is yet to brave the hostility of this cold world, yet small creatures have already begun to venture forth. The chirping song of birds, the sudden dart of movement in the dead leaves, all of this I take more pleasure from than I had in a very long time. Drawing deep into my chest the crisp, clean air I smell the damp decay of last year’s foliage, a pleasant reminder of this favorite of seasons. My mind begins to uncoil from it’s trembling tension, the rhythm of my footsteps hinting songs to my ear. I smile and nod sympathetic at a passing motorist on their way to work.
Work. Jarred back to reality by the reminder, I wonder if the tentative plan I had would be enough to sustain me and the needs of my home. I had been making batches of a small rug making tool as a sideline in my woodshop for quite some time now, more as a favor for a friend’s small business than as any substantial income supplement, there simply wasn’t much to be made from it. We had fortunately talked about it and agreed to the general idea already. Raw materials and finished product would be exchanged by postal drop, entailing a minimum of a three day layover in any town that had a post office close enough to walk to. The “punch needles” as they were called were small and light, even in batches of sixty, so the expense in long distance shipping was negligible.
The catch was the income generated by this was fairly small and often quite sporadic. While my payment was more than fair, it was a tiny “Ma n’ Pa” business run out of an attic. Though they now had national sales and it was doubling every year, there were only so many little old ladies making rugs. I estimated that I would have a income of roughly fifty dollars to a hundred dollars a week at the very most. Not very much at all, but it should be enough to cover my basic need, I walk on.
The town is small, as picturesque as the many other rural communities in this area. Northern New York is dotted with these towns, there colonial heritage plain to see with post and beam buildings common. Always painted white and with the obligatory green shutters, brick walkways and a scattering of red barns for flavor.
This is no farm town though, at least not any longer. Maple syrup imported from outlaying townships, this town is obviously inhabited by the well off and SUVs and shiny sports sedans in the driveways without a pickup to be seen. The convenience store turns out to be a country store, complete with sit down dining. I slide up to the bar and order a sausage, onion, and cheese omelet and coffee. Its quiet with only a one or two other patrons, the waitress bored yet busy. I’m bursting with my news, my wonderful plan but there is now one to tell, no one who would care. I reread the menu again and sip the bland coffee, waiting for my food.
I’ve found myself in similar diners time and again in my wanderings, their similarity a comfort to the hurried and wearied alike, the only differences the décor. The food if good if uninspired, the portions are generous though. Impatient I bolt my food, pay the bill and leave. Usually I love these small outings, but I have larger interests today and it can wait no longer.
Impatient, I stride back the way I came. The journey seems longer now with the sights seen and the distance known, the relaxed feeling gained from the walk passing into anxiousness stale with it’s familiarity. For too long I had been waiting for this moment, not just the past week but in retrospect, my entire adult life. I just hadn’t known it, but the seeking had been there pent and struggling.
Legs beginning to ache from the unaccustomed distance I catch sight of the marina and immediately my mood brightens. Here was the solution I had found and the sight of the other masts a reminder that it was no longer mere plans and dreams, this was my reality.
I head directly for the manager’s office. Bursting into the lobby, I see there are no customers as of yet, but the staff looks busy in there morning tasks. I notice with a wry smirk that there is a pot of free coffee gurgling away surrounded by confections and snacks. No matter really, the walk served me well regardless. Naturally the manager isn’t in yet, my queries regarding the launch met with blank stares of incomprehension. Apparently although the docks were in the water and had been for some time, no one was interested in launching this early in the season excepting one obsessive new boater.
Grumbling quietly, I help myself to another cup of coffee, an admittedly dangerous move as pent up as I am. Wandering about the store I check the prices on some of the items I’ve jotted down. This would not be the most economical place to purchase gear, the markup bloated due to the locale and the convenience. I do need some things, but it would be best to wait till after the launch, Murphy’s Law dictating that no matter what I got in advance it would have been the other I needed.
Time and again some hapless sales person would approach warily and query as to whether their help was needed, I would ask if they could do something about getting my boat in the water, my tone becoming more and more curt as time continues to crawl. I suppose I must have looked a fright for they would stammer excuses and flee. Yet again I go to the main desk and ask about the manager’s purported imminent arrival. The woman behind the counter is a different one this time and with a look of surprise she happily chirps that he wont be in today, that he never works on a Monday. Completely exasperated and fearing my potential reprisal I abandon the store. Half running I make a beeline directly for my new boat, scramble aboard, and curl up in the bunk to try to sleep, my only prayer at this point to avoid an utter emotional melt down.
Coffee and omelet churning unhappily in my gut, poked and prodded by bits of equipment, sleep is simply impossible. Brain completely irrational, half formed thoughts evaporating to be replaced by others as short lived, shaking with nervous anticipation, I am a small animal trapped, heart racing and wall-eyed. That wondrous feeling like a kid on Christmas eve has matured to outright anxiety. Though at this point I’m completely useless, I begin to unload every last bit of gear from the boat, arranging and sorting it on the ground by order of importance, a pointless task as I have little idea of it’s actual necessity yet I simply must occupy myself somehow. The cabin naked and empty now, it seems tiny and drab without sign of use or habitation.
The rest of the day passes like this, in a blur of stress and confusion. Finally the sun slowly slides down behind the far off mountains, its beauty ignored in my preoccupation. Exhausted both physically and mentally by the trials of my fanaticism, I once again worm into my sleeping bag, this time to finally fall into the welcome oblivion of sleep.
Muffled voices intrude my slumber, I open my bleary eyes to blurred whiteness and cold. Trapped, swaddled by my sleeping bag and uncomfortable with my head lower than my feet I have no idea where I am. I try to sit up and smash my head on a sharp object, dislodging a miniature snowstorm of frost. Falling back I rub the soreness and peer at a smear of blood in befuddlement. Squinting, I realize with a burst of shock and awe that I’m in the bunk of my new boat. Dream replacing dream, I search for my glasses lost in this new place. They are on the floor of course, “deck” I remind myself with a twinge of surprise.
My clarity slowly returns, assisted by the restoration of my sight and by my awaking mind. Perhaps it’s only the frigid air but this morning my senses seem more alive than any other time I can recall. With stranger’s voices mumbling in the background I smell canvas and cigarettes, a touch of mildew. My sight is far more detailed, picking out each individual grain in the mahogany, tracing the checked pattern of the floor, enraptured by a single speck of dirt. My hand caresses the fabric of a sail bag, skin tingling from the weave of interwoven threads.
Suddenly a halloo shatters my entrancement, startling me so badly I once again smack my head on the low ceiling. Rubbing my poor skull once again, I pop open the forward hatch to see what gives. Its my friend, with the manager standing next to him, the time has finally come to launch my fantastical dream.