Who’s driving the boat?

Who’s driving the boat?

I was beyond confused.

It was dark, Colin was lying next to me, snoring. If we were both asleep, no one was at the tiller. How had we let that happen? I tried to remember where we were going, but the situation only came to me slowly, piece by piece. Pristine was safe in her slip in San Pedro. Colin and I were in a bed — on land — in his mother’s house. No one needed to be driving because we’d already arrived. Phew. I put my head back on the pillow and slept for twelve more hours.

This adventure has challenged both our bodies and our psyches, but every step has made us better sailors and happier people. In some ways (as a therapist would probably deduce from my dreams), we have yet to fully believe we’ve done it: Emptied the house, cast off the dock lines and sailed 450.2 nautical miles down the coast through all sorts of conditions.

At this point, we’re very excited to have a little time on land (family! showers! laundry!), but as we’ve cleaned out Pristine and readied her for a few weeks in a slip, it’s also become clear that in less than a month she has truly become our home. We’re taking the same loving care of her bilges as some people do with their rose bushes. We’ve emptied her out in order to re-pack even more efficiently now that we know which items become projectiles in large seas. When we return from our trip to Ireland, we’ll also be culling our possessions further as we’re finding we actually need less and less.

There is a strange relativity when it comes to stuff. Einstein — who famously had a limited wardrobe to avoid taxing his mind with unimportant decisions — probably had a secret theory about this. All I know is that once upon a time, I was a person with closets full of designer clothes, shoes and purses. Now my fancy outfit is the ‘other’ pair of cut-offs. I used to have a massive collection of books that covered whole walls. Now I have an iPad and a couple paperbacks. Our immersion blender is a fork.

It wasn’t always clear this would work out so well. We were initially optimistic about the transition to a near stuff-less life, then a little terrified. In the midst of preparations several months ago, we left our two bedroom house and drove to the boat. For the first time, we realized only one person at a time could be in the forward cabin unless the other was in bed. I measured my ‘closet’ and confirmed it would qualify as a carry-on suitcase. Colin’s ‘workshop’ would have to consist of a few tool bags, none larger than a football. We confessed to each other that this might be a lot harder than we’d initially expected. 

Then, life offered an amazing opportunity to feel comfortable with our choices. Outside of a grocery store, we saw a guy on a bike with four panniers. He looked like he was on an adventurous trek of some kind. A weekend adventure, maybe? 

A conversation revealed he’d been on his bike for over a year, criss-crossing the Rocky Mountains. Colin chatted with him, while I did the mental calculations of what he could possibly fit in those tiny panniers. A rain jacket? Soap? A sleeping bag? Almost nothing else.

Marie Kondo, eat your heart out. 

And just like that, my boat allotment of five bikinis made me feel like a hoarder. 

As Colin and I drove to the next errand that day, we talked about what was really important to have with us and what wasn’t. We were in agreement on most things, though Colin did question whether I truly needed the towering stack of notebooks I’d planned to bring. “I know you’re a writer,” he said, “But how many will you use?”

Whatever it says about my priorities, it was far easier for me to give up clothes and kitchen gadgets than notebooks. If Maslow ever charted my hierarchy of needs, the pyramid would have read food, water, shelter, notebooks. I tried to find a way to help my beloved understand the utter necessity of having enough fancy paper products.

“What if I said there was no room for beer on Pristine?” I asked. “It’s heavier and takes up more room than my notebooks.”

“I’d go naked before I’d go without beer,” he said, not needing to think twice. “Though,” he added, eyeing me with his Irishman’s twinkle, “Once I ran out of beer, I’d have trouble going out to get more.”

So we came to an understanding. We’ve let go of almost all our physical stuff, and over the coming weeks will cull even further, but Pristine will always be well stocked with beer and notebooks — and just enough clothes that we will never have difficulty re-provisioning her.

Fair winds and following seas 

Trying to cross the busy Monday line-up of freighters, using AIS to calculate our closest point of approach to at least a dozen ships, Colin was inspired to spontaneously create of a new tune, sung to a punk rock beat. Lyrics included “Playing Frogger with my life.” :)

Trying to cross the busy Monday line-up of freighters, using AIS to calculate our closest point of approach to at least a dozen ships, Colin was inspired to spontaneously create of a new tune, sung to a punk rock beat. Lyrics included “Playing Frogger with my life.” :)

At last, free of the shipping lane and headed for home

At last, free of the shipping lane and headed for home

Sailing past Colin’s home surf break on the way to Los Angeles Harbor, the final stop of the shakedown portion of this journey. (Or, as we like to think of it: Just the beginning of the rest of the adventure.)

Sailing past Colin’s home surf break on the way to Los Angeles Harbor, the final stop of the shakedown portion of this journey. (Or, as we like to think of it: Just the beginning of the rest of the adventure.)

Who better to greet us as we entered Angel’s Gate — the busiest modern port in the U.S. — than an old square rigger? This is the Irving Johnson, technically a hermaphrodite brig, launched in 2002 after some plan adjustments made by our favorite naval architect, Bill Crealock.

Who better to greet us as we entered Angel’s Gate — the busiest modern port in the U.S. — than an old square rigger? This is the Irving Johnson, technically a hermaphrodite brig, launched in 2002 after some plan adjustments made by our favorite naval architect, Bill Crealock.