Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Saying goodbye to the Seahorse

It all started with the Free Yacht Saga. Four years ago my brother and I decided to buy a derelict 27' sailboat. Four three and a half of those four years, I've wanted a bigger boat.

In the photography world it's called GAS -- Gear Acquisition Syndrome -- you can never have enough. I'm not sure what boaters call it, but it's the same principle. "If only my boat was a couple feet longer, I'd have so much more space," you think. "I'd be able to install that genset with a water maker that I'd definitely need if I ever left the marina or if zombies attack." And all of these rationalizations seem very reasonable. I looked at bigger boats weekly on craigslist and yachtworld.

Four years later, the derelict, sunken boat was more or less done. I mean, a boat is never really done, but all my upgrades had been made, and for the first time I could say, "everything works." She'd been re-powered, re-painted and repented. She was the Seahorse.

When you've spent that long pouring sweat into a boat, you get to know it really well. I crafted the bulkheads. I crated in a motor. I crawled into the depths of every nook and cranny with hoses and wiring. 

I still wanted a bigger boat, but I also wanted new cameras, and I wanted to take a real vacation this year. I'd gotten very zen about it all. I could accept the shortcomings of my 27' vessel. I could live without a refrigerator or an oven. It wasn't so bad for weekends and day sailing. I was comfortable and confident. I knew I could single hand her.

But I wasn't sailing solo anymore. I had a very lovely crew member that was here to stay, and in March we set off together on our first sail of season to Galveston.

It wasn't a bad trip. Yes, we got beat up by the waves all the way there on day one. Yes, everything in the cockpit stayed wet all day. Yes, I almost went overboard trying to drop sails. Yes, we could barely make coffee when our friends were on their dry boat making fresh pumpkin pie. But it wasn't a bad trip. It was an adventure.

Although I was focusing on the zen and thriftiness of the Seahorse, Mary was focused on her phone, sending messages to brokers on Yacht World.  Before we got back to Kemah Sunday night, she had an appointment to see a new boat on Monday.

Owning a boat is not a decision that one makes in a weekend, but great adventure can sometimes lead to sudden clarity. While Fred and I have been sailing for a couple years now, it was not until a very stormy and difficult autumn that I realized how important it was to me to be the captain of my own ship so to speak. My fall was filled with some difficult family times, long hours at work and 17 hours of post-grad classes. There were nights when I was horribly sad and things in my life seemed unendurable. I would find hope by imagining a different life where I had a great job and great friends, and for me, buying the boat symbolized the completion of this picture. Since last August I have seen so many of my goals reached. I hardly feel like the person I was then, but I am so grateful for the hard times. Sometimes we need something to fight against, before we know our own strength.  

During our weekend in Galveston, I think it was the deep reflection that can only be caused by having nowhere else to go that got me to assessing my life. The moment of realization was strangely familiar, like it had been close for some time. The time has come! I felt like I was nearing the top of the mountain I'd been climbing for years, and it was time to claim my prize. Honestly, being a woman, I picked the very first sailboat I looked at. Fred is going to kill me when he reads that! It wasn't completely fool hardy though. We had made a list together of qualities that we needed to have in our new boat. The list was highly practical, and I stuck to most of it.

When I really think about selling the "old boat," I try not to let Freddie see tears welling up in my eyes. After two years on that boat I really owe her a lot. She will always be not just where I fell in love with my boyfriend, but also where I fell in love with a piece of myself that I may have never have seen otherwise. There is something about being caught at sea in a storm, or walking barefoot on a dock that makes you feel rawly genuine. It's difficult to explain how simple, yet real things feel to you when you're out at sea.  

While it's going to be very hard to let go of the Seahorse, I can't wait to see what great adventures Gimme Shelter has in store for us. I hope that in the future, during good times and bad, this boat will remind Fred and me of how much we have already overcome and the strength we have inside of us.