03/16/2009, Atholl Island, Bahamas
We all know the well known adage, "there are many ways to skin a cat". And though we have hopefully never done it we still know its meaning. This leads me to say there are many ways to jump in the water from the back of the boat.
Yesterday, Sunday, we departed the swanky marina and went searching for our own piece of sand in the lee of a quiet island; hanging on our very own anchor, clear from all coral head or resting starfish. (We literally changed our anchorage for the life of a beautiful golden starfish.) The following morning we woke to the crystal blue surrounding us in every direction. The next obvious thing to do was to run back inside and grab our suits and goggles, oh and our niffty new underwater camera.
Amy and I have demonstrated two ways of entering the water. My first inclination when I walked down onto the swim platform which sits just 5 inches off the water was to simply walk straight off the edge and plunge into the "refreshing" 80 degree water. I was completely and thoroughly sure of the place we had finally arrived after nearly 2 months of organizing, packing, plane flights, beating to windward through the night and long watches. I took my opportunity and walked staight off. Down I went. Salty bubbles everywhere. Ahhhhh.
I looked back to the boat expecting Amy to be jumping joyfully right behind me.... Amy had made the mistake of dipping her legs into the pool first. She was now wrapping herself with her arms and wondering how to cross this bridge. Knowing herself well she had now tell herself why she had come here and literally walk the plank.!!!!
Although it sounds warm, 80 degrees is chilli when you have jumped staight out of bed.
Many ways to jump in. mOre to come.
03/16/2009, Nassau, Bahamas
I don't think either of us expected to come on this boat and do so much
2. Throwing old, rusted, useless, tangled, moldy, gross stuff away
Since Shawn came back from Florida (with not even enough time to spare to write his own blog entry, even) it has been a non-stop festival of junk on every surface of the vessel. First, we had the boat survey for insurance and our new registry in the Marshall Islands (and for extra safety measures before we head for Panama and the open Pacific on May 1). So everything had to be taken out of every hold anyway to examine the seaworthiness, security, and perfection of the boat for the examiner.
While this was done it was impossible not to notice how disheveled things had become, whether through neglect or ambivalence on the part of the former captain. Perhaps it was just less than stellar organizational skills--but my Captain and I do possess the desire and facility to whip any space into a freakishly perfect order when we do so choose. And this is now the titanic effort we are putting forth.
Add to that a rather initially benign request from the owner's wife to get all new dishes, glasses, sliverware, etc. for the galley and to generally spiff the place up to make it more welcoming and then it becomes an all-consuming project. See, it's not like we can just march on down to Ikea or the local Target and trot out our petty cash and go home with our spoils.
Not so much. It took us the first two days, driving on what we, in our US-centricity call the "wrong" side of the road, to try to hunt down places that sell such items. Who knew that you could buy throw pillows at the auto parts store? It wasn't until we went in looking for alternator belts for the engines that we ourselves discovered this Bahamian phenomenon.
Now, after five days of rental car and better bearings, we have now proudly purchased items we hope will meet the rigorous aesthetic standards of the very elegant Europeans for whom we now work.
And we've taken M-H out to anchor to spiff her up and get her ready.
Then we're going sailing for a few days, then back to Nassau again to pick up the owners on the 27th for a month-long trip with the whole family.
In a happy twist of fate, we were able to line up the stars, internet access and pirated YouTube videos enough to watch all three parts of this last week's episode of 30 Rock while we were still at the Marina. Though it was an ill-fated effort on her part main character Liz Lemon gave us the happy title for this blog--the love child of decorating and organizing that has consumed our daylight (and some long night) hours this week.
We are confident, though, that when complete, anyone could step aboard and find whatever they need, in good order, clean, unrusted, free from mildew and other stench, and enjoy a pleasant trip aboard this boat.
We hope the bosses agree...
And maybe we'll even post before and after photos.
Hope springtime is coming fast for everyone.
03/06/2009, Hurricane Hole Marina Nassau, Bahamas
What do you believe in?
I've been asking myself this question a lot lately, having left behind a life I loved in a place where I felt I totally belonged. Shawn is away in Ft. Lauderdale until tomorrow on boat business and I've had quite a number of hours of quiet time to think while I rearrange, clean, organize, and scout out stuff we need here in Nassau.
We decided to give it all up--the briefly settled life we had--for this adventure, and, of course, a steady job in a dismal economy. We had to believe in this hardcore to make the efforts we did to make it happen and we have to continue to believe in what we are doing to maintain our optimism and strength when things get difficult.
What we have given up is substantial: we sold our much loved cars, put all of our stuff in storage, sold it, loaned it out or gave it away. Every item, as it got loaded onto the moving van, reminded me of a moment in our marriage or in our Maine house that I cherish. Riding our old bikes over the Sheepscot River bridge to Edgecomb to have breakfast, the rug we lounged on when we had no furniture, the couch we bought at a yard sale, the rocking chair from my childhood bedroom, Shawn's great library table where we lit so many candles and shared so many meals with friends and family. It is hard to say goodbye to all of that. I think of all the people whose homes have been foreclosed and how those people have had to go through the same process but are moving into apartments or sometimes worse. We are lucky and we know it. And we are entirely grateful.
I've been asking myself this question about belief when I encounter something new on this journey, which is just about every day. I have foundered a few times so I have thought that I believe that I will eventually figure out how to be behind the wheel of this boat without a panic attack--learning to steer the boat just plain freaks me out. I think it's being in charge of this massive thing I don't yet understand. That one I'm still working on, though I have gotten better at holding us into the wind when the sails have to go up. And I'm indebted to the Autopilot which, once, I admit, I turned on surreptitiously while my Captain wasn't looking so I could take a deep breath. (Sorry, Honey. I didn't leave it on long...)
Simple as it may be, tying a bowline knot also had me flustered on every occasion Shawn tried to teach it to me, his competent hands making a purposeful, neat clutch of line every time. Blast. I just couldn't get it. I believed I could get my hands to do this new thing, to remember it, to know it, but it just kept not working! And I kept feeling like a loser about it. I can tie lots of rock climbing knots, after all. How had I been on boats this long without knowing how to make this knot correctly?
But tonight, under duress (and thanks to an informative YouTube video), I practiced another 837 times and I got it. I had to fix the lines tying us to the dock after the wind shifted and kept blowing us away from the pilings. I could no longer exit the vessel because we were now too far away. Before I was ably assisted by a neighbor, I managed to tie my very first correct (I hope) bowline knot to make the loop we needed to go around the piling. I have dreams of future immediate, repetitive fluency with this daily-use knot.
So, I believe I can learn these new, sometimes scary things, that I am eventually smart enough to catch on to a new skill when I practice often (same with re-learning French, as we are trying to do) and that I can have the courage to face the 78 other things that scare me.
I forgot that I believe that wind-dried laundry is superior to what comes out of the dryer--it's miraculously unwrinkled and delicious smelling when dried out in the warm air.
When we are sailing at night and I am alone on watch, it is so dark in the middle of the open ocean that there is no boundary visible between sea and sky. It feels like floating through space. I am not as much of a fan of the disorientation I feel when it is this dark and there is not a single thing visible and the wind is howling through the shrouds and the waves are tossing us. But when the wind is a breeze and the seas lie down and above the mast are millions of stars, I have begun to believe that it is the essence of peace, of solitude, of grace.
I have always loved small houses but this is the epitome of a small house, and you know what? I love it. There's not much to choose from--sometimes even what we have feels like too much. We have about 5 books each, a few toiletries (not the ridiculous scads of pampering crap I had at home--no one, NO ONE needs 7 different kinds of moisturizer!)
This kind of experience takes you and strips you of everything but what is essential. It is that game of "What would you take to a desert island" in action. I like that we have furniture and stuff at home with which to build a land life again someday but only because it's stuff I'm sentimentally attached to--art my brother Scott and Shawn's sister Fawn made, Shawn's brother Rich's pottery, furniture I inherited from my late parents--stuff like that. Otherwise, I'd be happy to have let go of everything. I think once you get used to living in this small of a space and feeling happy with it, or if you like the snug feeling like I do, it is pretty easy to contemplate a more permanent boat life.
What I imagine is that someday we'll build a small house that feels a bit like a boat--smart storage, not very large, pared down furnishings, proximity to water and lots of useful outdoor space. That's the great thing about the boat. The interior is small for good reason--most of the time everyone wants to be outside anyway. That's the kind of thing I'd really appreciate in a house.
So, those are a few of the things I'm coming to believe in here on Marie-Helene. The core of what I'm coming to know about my new home will form the shape of my life here, all the skills, ideas, things that I learn.
A couple of other new convictions: close all the hatches if it looks like rain, don't spill beer in the galley and always check the lines in case the wind changes.
It is a little like a dream but in fact, it is all very real. Just a few weeks back we got connected with this boat and her owners and signed contracts to be her new crew.
Suddenly, we were on a path that led us to an airport terminal in Miami--meeting up with the owner, Jacques and his son, Hadelin--flying paper airplanes and drinking coffee and playing cards during our layover. Then to here, to St. Martin, to the Marina Fort Louis on the French side of the Island. We met the outgoing captain, Jean-Michel and tried to glean from him whatever detailed knowledge we could before he headed back to France. Despite our fast-paced move from our little beloved Maine house and into storage, we hit the ground literally running. We are the new Captain and Mate/Chef on this vessel.
We can only hope that our adventures take us to places that enrich our life and bring us insight and joy, that we take the tough times in stride and that this goal we're fulfilling to sail together is everything we hope it may be and more. I have this feeling that it is like those other bold things in life that we do--people often refer to this when discussing opening a restaurant or having kids--that if you knew how much it would challenge you before you did it, you might not do it in the first place. So here's to a bold step in a mysterious direction that we hope will yield a fascinating, graceful experience for us as professionals and as partners in work and in love.
Here is the place to find out how it all unfolds. Our blog. Photos, videos, posts whenever we can, updates on Google Earth...Amazing how just a few years ago none of this technology would have been possible. What a lucky time to take a trip such as this.
If you wish, follow along with us as we go....