You can’t argue with this: Thanksgiving is not really about food. If it was, we’d be perfectly happy to eat turkey in a restaurant. There’s an entire episode of Mr. Ed about how horrible that would be.
In 2008, Barry and I planned to spend Thanksgiving with my brother, Stevie. He didn’t call, and he didn’t arrive, and by noon, I realized our plan had fallen apart. Barry and I were in a boatyard, hauled out, with no invitations to a big family meal. There wasn’t even anything appropriate to eat on the boat. I shed a few tears of frustration and loneliness over my sorry plight.
I’d heard a rumor that the God-fearing Baptists in town would be serving dinner for nomads and wandering sailors. I’m no Baptist: You could call me a Baptist-fearing Goddess! But I was willing to face my fears for some turkey and cranberries.
We drove the Squid Wagon into Beaufort at 1:30. “We’re not serving until 3 pm,” said the nice man in front of the Baptist church. “You should go over to the Methodists.”
We headed over there, about a block away. When we walked into the Methodist church, we found that we’d missed their dinner, but they were eager to load us up with leftovers. We staggered out to the Squid Wagon with to-go boxes of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and about a dozen desserts.
Then we climbed back into the front seat of the van and had a debate: Where should we eat our dinner? “I don’t want to eat Thanksgiving dinner on a park bench in town,” said Barry.
We decided to take a one-hour walk and then go back to the Baptist church, where they welcomed us with open arms. Their food was simpler than the Methodists, but we found the camaraderie we were looking for. We were treated as honored guests, not strangers.
Over dinner, we discovered that many of our new Baptist friends were in a hurry to eat and get going; they were going home to share a second Thanksgiving dinner with their families! That explained why the Methodists served so early, why there were so many leftovers.
At the end of our meal, we were urged to take even more leftovers! We were chuckling as we drove back to the boatyard with plenty to share with my brother, who arrived a day later. I pray the God of the Methodists and Baptists forgives us for double-dipping. We gave thanks for every bite, but it was not about the food.
In the last month I’ve gone from North Carolina to Florida to Brazil, back to Florida, and now I’m back in North Carolina. It is often near freezing at night here in North Carolina. February is often the coldest month out of the year, but today’s weather is almost warm enough to belong more in Florida than North Carolina–up in the ’60s, and the next two days should hit the ’70s.
So why again am I moving South for warmer weather? I suppose it could stay decently warm up here. But nope, I’m heading South now.
Err, well, not really. Going “South” on the ICW from Beaufort, I follow the coast and go due West. I am trying to head South, but the compass won’t be pointing that direction for another week or two, given the shape of the coastline.
Today I’m noticing how many smaller things in my life have shifted already. Before, Flutterby and I were in the boatyard, with projects and chaos sprawled out in too many directions. The feral cats we’ve been feeding seemed to be getting more attached to us, and even tame–Nancy has head-butted Meps’ hand, and Kenny rubbed against my legs a few times. He will eat cat treats from either of our hands, and they would both jump onto the deck of our boat to ask for their dinner. Or sometimes they just came over to say hello, even after they had eaten their fill.
Last night I said goodbye to them. I didn’t use words–I just fed them dinner and treats like I usually do, and talked to them. I can say the stupidest things to them, and all I think they notice is the tone of voice. Sometimes I just meow back at them. Either way, they don’t understand goodbyes, and I don’t like goodbyes much anyway, so I didn’t waste words on that.
Today, we saw dolphins in the water crossing our wake. I don’t know when I’ll see those cats again, but I’m sure I’ll be seeing more dolphins in the next few days.
We are unplugged from shore power again. So I took two electric space heaters that had been running every night at the dock, and wound up the cords and put them away. I got out a small propane powered space heater and tested it. It is now dark, and cooling off. I’ll probably be using this heater for real in another hour. I’ve put away the AC power supplies for the computers and the phone chargers, digging out the 12V versions. Most people wouldn’t even notice, but I feel better knowing that I can run on my own power.
More important is being at anchor, swinging in the wind again. And next time I leave the boat there will be a dingy or a kayak to launch instead of just pulling the dock line in a bit tighter and stepping ashore. This motion is what a boat is supposed to do, and feels much better.
Yesterday, I spent an hour shuffling stuff in and out of the space under the V-berth, the deepest, largest, and (nearly) hardest to access storage aboard Flutterby. There are still things to stow, but she looks more cleaned up than she has in months. We had a short day (not even 15 miles) and are having a lazy afternoon, but I already sewed some clasps onto the mast quilt our friend Karen gave us this summer.
I have trouble figuring out which direction I’m going these days, but it sure feels good to be in motion again.
But we are three thousand miles away, on our way to Burning Man tomorrow. For the next 12 days, we’ll be incommunicado with 50,000 of our closest friends.
What should we do?
Not this: “When in trouble or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout.”
Instead, this: Practice non-attachment.
Sure, we’ve done some preparation. We left the boat on the hard in one of the best boatyards in the country. We removed everything from the deck before we left. A good friend has secured the dinghy so it won’t fly or float away. Another has agreed to check on the boat once the storm passes.
There’s nothing more we can do, physically. All the work now is mental and emotional. The worst thing that can happen is not damage to our boat, but pain or injury to dear friends who live in the path of the storm.
It’s just a matter of perspective. I lost my brother this year. Losing a boat would be nothing compared to that. A mere scratch to my psyche.
So I wait to see what happens, and I send calming thoughts to my friends in the path of the storm. I head to Burning Man with the knowledge that an entire city can be built and removed in the space of a week.
Flutterby has been “totaled” in a hurricane before. She was built and rebuilt, and rebuilt, and rebuilt. She can be repaired and rebuilt again, and we have the skills to do so. I’d gladly rebuild her again if I could have my brother back. As I often say, “It’s only stuff.”
Hurricane Irene: Keep it in perspective. Stay safe. And keep breathing.
On the big day, when we launched Flutterby, I didn’t pour all the champagne over the bow. There was some left in the bottle, so a bunch of us went down the dock to where a little wooden shoebox, about six feet long, sat waiting. Kris and Barry picked it up and dangled it down to the water by its painter, letting it down with a splash. Way, way down there in the water below the high dock, it looked for all the world like an abandoned piece of furniture. Somebody tossed a couple of wooden oars into the shoebox-bookshelf, and then they all turned to me, expectantly.
There it floated, nine years in the making, waiting for the builder to test it. I felt like the ancient Roman bridge designer who had to stand under his bridge when the first load went across. What if I was too heavy? What if it flipped, or worse yet, slowly sank? I could hear the blub-blub-blub in my imagination. But it’s amazing what adrenaline and an audience can do. White-knuckled, I climbed down the ladder into the tiny vessel that I had given birth to from a pile of plywood.
I was still hanging onto the ladder with a death grip when Barry handed me the bottle of champagne.
It felt like a toy boat, something that should be christened with Kool-Aid. But I wanted the gods of the sea to take this thing seriously, so I poured champagne over the “bow.” (Since the boat doesn’t have a pointy end, it’s a little hard to tell which is the front and which is the back. It would probably row just fine sideways, if I mounted the oars that way.)
“I christen thee Flutterwent!” The name was Kris’ idea. It rolls off the tongue better than Flagondry or Rockcoach, two bug-based Spoonerisms that sound a lot worse than Flutterby.
Before I knew it, Barry was climbing off the dock to join me in the boat, I think because I had the bottle of champagne. Or maybe because he wanted to swamp it and go swimming. Surely this thing was not rated for two adults, was it? Thank goodness the Coast Guard wasn’t around to see the open container in an overloaded vessel with no lifejackets.
But she didn’t ship any water when he climbed in. We sat there, facing each other, grinning, and passing the champagne bottle back and forth. Meanwhile, the current was carrying us away from the dock. Whoops! Time to do something about that!
Using ridiculous 7-foot oars as giant paddles, we paddled through the marina and over to the ways, where Flutterby awaited us. The scariest part was getting back out again! I didn’t know how stable it was, but I knew how stable I was — not very. I guess the adrenaline got me out of the boat as well as into it, although by now most of our audience had lost interest and wandered off for happy hour. I was already plenty happy.
You might be wondering, why would anyone use such a strange-looking, tiny dinghy? Normal cruisers go back and forth from their boats in stock gray inflatables with stock outboard motors. Why not the Flutterbies?
For years, Barry wanted to build a 34-foot sailboat with me. This terrified me, because I was afraid of power tools. I’d had an accident in college with a bandsaw and nearly ended up eight-fingered Meps.
In 2001, our housemate, Sharonne, signed up for a beginning woodworking class. For the first four weeks, the students built toolboxes using a table saw, joiner, planer, biscuit-cutter, and sander. For the remainder of the class, they worked on their own projects. At the end of ten weeks, Sharonne proudly brought home the toolbox and a tall bookshelf that she had built with her own hands.
I signed up for the next session and built the same toolbox. Then the teacher sat down with the class and told us we were free to start on our own projects. He went around the room and asked each person to say what they wanted to build. “A CD rack,” said one. “Toys for my grandchildren,” said another.
When he reached me, I said, “A boat.”
“A toy boat?” asked the teacher.
“No, a real one.”
The rest of the class stared at me.
“This is Woodworking One. You can’t build a boat on Woodworking One,” said the teacher, with a smirk.
“Don’t you remember Sharonne, from last term? She built a bookshelf. I promise my boat will be just like a bookshelf.” He rolled his eyes and made me stay after class to convince me that I couldn’t build a boat.
The following week, I showed him the plans. Phil Bolger’s Tortoise dinghy looks a lot like a floating bookshelf, so he reluctantly permitted me to start. A couple of months later, Barry and I loaded my plywood dinghy on top of Peepcar and brought it home. I’d done the final assembly in Woodworking Two, with a more encouraging instructor.
The good news was, I still had all my fingers. (So did the instructor from Woodworking One, who’d nearly run his hand through the table saw helping me cut the framing.) The bad news was, it wasn’t a boat yet.
It was a thing of beauty, constructed of luan plywood with pine framing and copper ring nails. For the first year, it sat on our back porch. For the next five, it hung in my in-laws’ garage.
I was proud of my accomplishment, so I told people that I’d built a boat. But whenever Barry heard me say that, he’d correct me. “No, you didn’t. It’s not finished.”
In 2008, I painted it with epoxy resin to protect the wood, and we tied it on top of the Squid Wagon. We drove from Seattle to Flutterby in Beaufort, North Carolina, via San Diego, with that tiny, funny-looking boat on top of the van.
It looked like an ant on top of an elephant. All the way across the USA, we got reactions like the guy with the toothpick in his mouth who sauntered over to Barry, not noticing me nearby. “What is that?” he asked. “Some kind of storage pod?” “No,” said Barry, “It’s a boat.” The guy looked more closely and said, “Oh.”
Then Barry added, “My wife built it.” The guy cracked up laughing. He thought it was the punchline to a really funny joke.
The epoxy wasn’t UV-resistant, and by the time we crossed the country, it already needed sanding and painting. We didn’t have anywhere to store it out of the weather, so we rented a 5×7 storage unit and stuffed it inside, using it to store other items — just like a bookshelf!
For another two and a half years, when I said, “I built a boat,” Barry said, “No, you haven’t.” I’d glare at him. Couldn’t he just shut up?
That was getting really irritating, so last summer, I took the poor neglected dinghy out and put it under Flutterby. It was time to finish it, a job only I could do. If I let Barry help me, then, when I said “I built a boat,” he’d still have an excuse to correct me. “No, you didn’t. We built a boat.”
My sawhorses sat on some turf with boatbuilding history. Between 1983 and 1995, Bock Marine built and launched over 30 boats in that spot, including the 122-foot White Dove Too. Like the WDT, my dinghy was brought from another location and completed on that hallowed ground. But there are some differences. Their ships were steel, launched using a dramatic side-launching technique (this is a hilarious photo of people running from the splash) instead of our painter-dangling end-launching technique. I calculated the ratio of length-to-time-under-construction: At 6.5 feet and 9 years, Flutterwent’s ratio was 505. Knocking out a couple of 85-footers a year, Bock’s was 2.1.
I finished the dinghy in the heat of the summer, using all the woodworking, epoxy, fiberglass, and painting skills I learned on Flutterby. While I was working, I wore headphones and hearing protection. Not because of the power tools, but because I was tired of all the men in the boatyard wandering over to stare. I was tired of explaining that I was not building a hard dodger to cover the companionway.
When I was done, I said to Barry, “I built a boat.” Then he hugged me instead of correcting me.
It still wasn’t completely done, having no means of propulsion. But it’s past midnight, and I am done for tonight! Tiny boat, big story. I’ll put the photo essay below and save the rest for another time.
Paparazzi: It’s not something I ever expected to experience. I’m no celebrity, let alone a beautiful one.
Flutterby, though, is a beautiful lady. So on the afternoon of Tuesday, November 30th, when we finally launched her, there was a veritable army of friends and photographers on the dock.
We woke up before first light that morning, knowing it was going to be a Big Day. First, there was a lot of work to do, like sorting docklines and fenders (and dealing with the icky nest of giant cockroaches in the box with them), completing the steering installation, and emptying and cleaning the fuel tank (also icky, but the ick didn’t move as fast as the giant cockroaches).
Suddenly, it was time to launch — and to be celebrities. For from 2:04 pm, when the Travelift roared to life and headed in our direction, to 3:05 pm, Flutterby was the subject of more photos on more cameras than I’ve ever faced at once. There were over 100 photos taken of and by us in 61 minutes.
Unfortunately, I had not dressed for a Big Day. I was wearing my usual unflattering boatyard clothes, which I hated with a passion. I planned to throw them in the dumpster before leaving the boatyard. Now I wish I’d done so before launching, as they are immortalized in all the photos. (A few days later, I gleefully tossed the pants, shirt, and shoes into the dumpster, keeping only the socks and underwear. Kris’ pants were disposed of in a more interesting fashion. More on that later.)
The entire experience was a blur. Was it hot, cold, or windy? Did it rain? Dale and Richard are wearing foulies in the photos, but I don’t remember weather hampering our efforts. Who was behind all those cameras on the dock? Did I eat anything that day? From the photographic evidence, I suspect we ate tortillas, carrots, pork rinds, and chocolate. (Not at the same time — I’d remember THAT.) I do remember the champagne. It was definitely not consumed at the same time as the pork rinds.
When the excitement was over, we floated serenely in the ways, leaving an empty space where our boat — and our hearts — had been for years.
Photos are below (on the web)…but not all of them.
Lottery prizes come in many sizes. There are little wins, just enough to buy another scratch ticket. A medium-sized win of a couple hundred bucks feels pretty good and might pay for a weekend getaway. Then there are the big ones, the Mega-Super-Millions kind, that turn your life upside down forever, but in a good way.
If you’ve ever had a friend bring you chicken soup when you were sick, you’ve won the Scratch-Ticket Friendship Lottery. About a week before Thanksgiving, Barry and I hit the Mega-Super-Millions Friendship jackpot.
The grand prize in the Mega-Super-Millions Friendship Lottery is this: One of your favorite friends gets on a plane in Capetown, South Africa, and flies halfway around the world. He shows up at your boat, which is propped on jackstands and surrounded by a mess of tools and toxic chemicals, and asks, while unloading a suitcase full of gifts, “Have you left me something in the job-jar?”
Barry and I had known for months that Kris was coming to the US for a vacation, but his plans weren’t fixed. He had about a month to visit his boating friends on the east coast before rendezvousing with his family for a skiing vacation.
Kris is currently between boats, but says that his wife gives him “time off for good behavior” to mess about on friends’ boats. Since everybody who meets Kris likes Kris, he has lots of friends with lots of different boats. On this trip, he started up in Connecticut in early November and boat-hopped his way down to Annapolis. Then he caught a plane to the tiny New Bern airport, where we picked him up. We were standing outside the door of the airport (I told you it was tiny — it only HAS one door) with a giant sign that said, “Welcome, Kris! We love you!”
That first evening, the three of us visited friends in two different New Bern marinas, then trooped over to Cap’n Ratty’s, a New Bern icon, for a celebratory dinner. Much later, we drove back to the boatyard, about an hour’s drive, and gave Kris a tour of Flutterby. He made a nest for himself on the port settee, which affords the most privacy but is a bit narrow for comfortable sleeping. At the time, the headliners weren’t installed, so his bed companion was a roll of insulation, at least three feet tall and four feet in diameter.
At this point, some of you are probably wondering how three people can live on a 33-foot boat that that doesn’t have separate cabins and is crammed with boat parts, Barry’s tools, and Margaret’s accordion. The trick is something we call “implied privacy.” Your crewmate is changing clothes? Turn your back! He or she just farted in the head? Turn off your ears!
Those of us who have crewed on many boats have figured this out. Kris is an expert in all kinds of unusual living situations, both on land and at sea. He’s been crew and captain of plenty of boats, and has done several trans-Atlantic crossings.
So, on our first morning together, we figured out each others’ routines, made a few minor adjustments, and everything went smoothly. The three of us sat down in the cockpit for a crew meeting, to see what exactly was in that job-jar. Then Kris selected a Flutterby uniform, so he would fit in with the crew.
Flutterby’s boatyard uniforms were, for the most part, completely unflattering, hideous, and mismatched. Each component was marred by paint, expoxy, or unfortunate holes. The trousers selected by Kris sported all three, along with a button fly that frustrated him so much, he simply left it half-buttoned. I would have thought doing up all the buttons would help keep him warm, since he was already complaining about the unique patented air-conditioned crotch.
Something about those pants must have been magic, though. With Kris helping, we started getting 200% more work done.
Perhaps the magic was really in the trailer. Kris had been working with us for a day or so when he needed a tool that Barry didn’t have. “Take him over to the trailer,” Barry instructed me.
You might recall my earlier comment that Barry and I had become “Keepers of the Keys.” The most important keys that we watched over were the keys to Charlie’s trailer, which he’d brought down from Ohio to work on his boat. He had left it stored in the boatyard when family duties called him back to Ohio, almost a year ago. This was the same trailer in which Buttercup had given birth to kittens the prior year.
I didn’t give Kris much background on the trailer, just walked him over there and unlocked the door. He took in the table saw, the drill-press, the circular saw, and the vise. I pointed out some of the other tools — routers, sanders, drill bits, and hand tools. Then I left him to do the job.
He came back, a half hour later, his eyes wide and his voice hushed. “Ooooh — it’s like Aladdin’s Cave!” What Kris had discovered was actually Aladdin’s Man-Cave. Any tool that Barry lacked (not that there were many), Charlie had in that trailer. Between Kris’ efficiency and Charlie’s tools, each job was executed quickly and checked off the list (or pitched out of the job-jar).
In just over a week, we were ready to launch Flutterby.
The three of us had: Replaced one hatch, reinforced and rebedded stern cleats and pushpit, reinstalled the binnacle and steering system, installed engine controls, sanded the bottom, painted it with epoxy barrier coat and bottom paint, discovered and repaired a problem with the rudder, and cleaned the fuel tank.
Regarding that last job, I should not say “we.” Some of you might recall that I am an experienced fuel-tank cleaner, having practically crawled into the diesel tank on Kris’ boat to clean it before we went to the Bahamas in 2007. I do not shy from what might be considered the nastiest, most uncomfortable, smelliest, job in the jar. But Kris seemed to think that one good turn deserves another, so this time, he cleaned MY fuel tank. Bless his heart. That’s like another million in the Mega-Super-Millions Friend Lottery.
Along with all this work, we’d also enjoyed a bit of local color and celebrated Thanksgiving. On the holiday, we worked all day and went to the Backstreet Pub at dusk for their annual potluck. Although I was sore in new and unexpected places from crawling around under the boat with a paint roller, I was soaring. I wanted to shout, “WOO HOO! EVERYBODY! I PUT BOTTOM PAINT ON MY BOAT TODAY!!!!!” But I stayed quiet, knowing that nobody at the pub would understand my elation. “Yeah, sure, pass the cranberry sauce, will ya?”
Despite all this talk of a job-jar, the real Flutterby list was on the computer, in Excel. Every to-do item that Barry and I could think of was in that file. A big red line separated the must-do-before-splash items from the rest of them.
The wonderful thing about Kris wasn’t just the third set of hands, it was the third, more experienced, brain. We’d been immersed in our giant set of projects so long, we sometimes lost sight of the goal. It was great to have him point out the jobs that didn’t need to be done right now. Those jobs were “below the line,” and some of them got deleted forever.
Finally, on November 30, there was nothing left “above the line.”
Mercy, mercy, I do declare,
If half the fun of goin’ is-a gettin’ there,
Mercy, Percy, you better start rowin’,
‘Cause the other half of gettin’ there is goin’.
— From “Old Fat Boat” by Gordon Bok
It’s amazing how swiftly life turns upside-down, and suddenly, you’re zooming down a new path (OK, maybe “zooming” is not quite the word at 5 knots). While it feels great to be on a boat that is floating, and in Florida no less, I can’t believe it’s not a dream. I keep thinking I’ll wake to the morning roar of the Travelift any minute now.
As our friends on Panta Rhei recently pointed out, “your website doesn’t tell the final chapters of the haul out story.” Perhaps if I put some of those events down on paper, it will seem less surreal.
When Barry and I returned to the boat in October for what turned out to be the final assault on the mountainous to-do list, our lives changed substantially. The reason was this: We had left the Squid Wagon on the west coast and were now living ten miles from town without our own car. This was not as onerous as it sounds, because there were lots of interesting vehicles available for us to borrow.
Beginning in 2008, Barry and I somehow had become the “keepers of the keys.” A number of cruising friends had asked us to watch over their stored vehicles, and at one point in 2009, we had 9 sets of keys on the boat! We even got to deliver some vehicles to and from exotic locales with unusual side benefits (the trip to St. Augustine in Wind Lore’s Camry netted us the only Britney Spears song in our collection).
As a result, we’d learned from our friends’ experiences that for cruisers, owning a car can be a bother. At one point, our friends on Ocean Gypsy were on the boat in Connecticut and had one car at Bock’s and another at the train station in Rocky Mount. They’d spent four days and many dollars moving a car to follow the boat — two days of driving one way, two days of riding the train the other way, plus hotel stays along the way. At that point, Ted called us out of the blue, and the conversation began with the usual, “Where are you?” “We’re in Raleigh, looking for a way back to Beaufort. Where are you?” “We’re in Essex, but we left a car near Raleigh!” It was a little miracle that got us back to the boat, with wheels, and saved them yet another day of car-ferrying.
So we started working on the “list” again. I was depressed, because we still didn’t know how long the work would take. Then my Dad called at the end of October with even more depressing news. His eye doctor had found something suspicious during a checkup. A second opinion with a super-specialist was scheduled for December, but the doctor wanted him to prepare for eye surgery — and total blindness during recuperation — in January.
I put the question to Barry. Could we launch the boat and motor to Florida by January, in order to serve as floating caregivers? While Dad was recuperating, we could even use his garage to make our sails.
Barry choked a bit, then agreed. Suddenly, we had a deadline — one month to get the boat moving! Yikes!
The news spread through the boatyard like wildfire. People started coming up to us, saying, “Is it really true? That you’re going to launch your boat after all these years?” Emotions ranged from congratulatory to incredulous to accusatory. “Traitors! You’re not really going to leave us, are you?”
The truth was, the engine work was done. The major fiberglass work was done. Nine portlights and two hatches were replaced. The masts were up, their lightning protection systems installed. Rewiring, replumbing, new bilge pumps — done. The ground tackle was ready to go.
What was keeping us here, besides inertia, was a bunch of projects, but nothing we didn’t know how to do. Paint the bottom, replace another hatch, rebed the stern rail. Reassembling the steering and engine controls would be tricky, but Barry wasn’t intimidated. What did intimidate him was dealing with the material “stuff” we had amassed during three years in Beaufort.
There was a section of our friend Kevin’s garage devoted to our “stuff.” More “stuff” was arranged in piles and bins around our keel. Until Ocean Gypsy arrived, we even had some “stuff” (an enormous but lightweight roll of insulation) stored in the back of Ted’s car!
We began tackling the projects and the “stuff” with an unbelievable amount of loving patience towards each other. The pressure was immense, but now that the path was clear, we were able to get up at dawn and stay focused all day long. This was partly due to the fact that a connector on our wi-fi antenna had chafed through, so we no longer had internet on the boat! In order to check e-mail or order parts, we had to walk about a block to the lounge with a laptop. I stopped logging into Facebook every day. Barry stopped reading Sluggy Freelance.
Our boatyard friends were encouraging. “Keep your chin up!” said Audrey. “You’ll be launching your ship soon, and it will be EPIC!” said Logan. Friends from afar sent their encouragement in emails. “…congrats on moving forward with the boat… I look forward to hearing about the journey down the ICW,” wrote Nancy, from Seattle. “You aren’t burnt out, are you?” wrote Kris, from Capetown.
With the loss of our sailing mentor, Bill Brown, in October (who once told us, “Living aboard in a boatyard has gotta be the postgrad course in tolerance.”), Kris was the single most encouraging friend we had. Since we met in a Lunenburg laundromat in 2004, the three of us have had a number of fun times together, either messing about on boats or talking about messing about on boats. In October, Kris sent us this encouraging message: “Check the job-jar, keep looking till it’s empty, shake the jar to make sure it’s empty, and start singing ‘it’s 5 o’clock somewhere’ ….. Something will happen soon, I promise!”
He was right — something happened soon. I’ll tell you what in Part Two, tomorrow.
Now that we’re out cruising, I have a little time to review old writing notes and find stories to share with you. Here’s one from October in the boatyard, with a special treat — a video!
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I was walking across the boatyard one morning when I saw a pirate.
I rubbed my eyes, but the image persisted. He was standing on the catamaran named Fellowship, which for years had sat forlornly out in the boneyard. Now Fellowship was parked smack dab in the middle of the yard, in the spot normally reserved for the crane.
At this distance, he was the spitting image of Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean — shoulder-length black curly hair, black goatee, red bandana, black leather boots, black eye makeup, torn jeans, and something that I would call a “blouse.”
Women wear blouses. So do movie star pirates.
I went into the office, where Carolyn was staring out the window with a look that could only be called “flabbergasted.” I probably had the same look.
“Er, what’s with the pirate?” I asked.
She shook her head. “He says he’s going to buy that boat.”
Now the pirate was hoisting a large black flag with a skull and crossbones that said “Choose Your Poison.” He had a huge grin on his face.
“Is he legit?” I asked.
“I don’t know — I told him he needed to talk to Kenny. The guy said he’d be over on that boat, and he said, ‘Tell him to look for the pirate!'” Carolyn rolled her eyes, and I couldn’t help but giggle.
Carolyn added, “He FLOUNCED. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a man flounce like that.”
Over the next few days, all the boatyard gossip was about the mysterious, dramatic pirate: “Instead of hello, he says ‘Ahoy!'” — “I saw him take down his pirate flag at night, like an ensign.” — “He calls all the boats ‘ships.'” — “He told me he’s more of a Disney pirate.”
The first time the pirate spoke to me, I was sitting in the lounge with my laptop. The door opened, and he walked in carrying a strangely familiar kerosene lantern. This was completely anachronistic, since he went straight to the new high-tech Coke machine, with its illuminated display and fancy purple lights. “Ahoy!” he said by way of greeting. Like several of the older denizens of the yard, I ignored him. We were all afraid of losing our composure and laughing uncontrollably if we spoke to him.
The pirate turned out to be a fairly industrious man by the name of Logan. (“Sheesh, that’s no name for a pirate,” I grumbled.) Even though it was his first boat, he was able to get her launched in about a month. Folks in the boatyard provided him with lots of well-meaning advice. He listened politely, like a traditional Disney pirate, and then did things his own way, like a traditional scurvy knave.
Eventually, Logan-the-pirate started hanging out at Happy Hour. He had a grandiose scheme for Fellowship. He was going to paint her black — black hull AND black deck — and have black sails made. He planned to mount cannons. Then he was going to offer pirate charters aboard his “ship.” Her new name: The Black Lotus.
When I heard the plan, all I could say was, “Brilliant!” Even if you are not a fan of things piratical (yes, we are talking about scoundrels who murdered, raped, and pillaged), it’s a clever business idea. Charter boats are a dime a dozen. But pirate-themed charter boats, with black sails and foot-scorching black decks? And Jack Sparrow impersonators and cannons? There will be only one of those. I know a couple of people who’d sign up in a heartbeat.
Once I gave up being a curmudgeon and started talking to Logan, I decided that I liked him a lot. He was full of infectious enthusiasm. After many years of sailing and a few years in the boatyard, I was losing sight of the goal — this stuff is supposed to be fun! So why not dress in crazy clothes and call “Ahoy!” to strangers? Why not carry a lantern instead of a flashlight? Why be “normal?”
The first time I actually had a conversation with Logan, a few of us were sitting around in the dark, talking and sharing libations. It was too dim to make out details; each person was just a shadowy figure and a voice. I mentioned something in passing about Burning Man, and Logan suddenly sat up.
Aha — another Burner in the boatyard!
This explains a few things. We Burners wear costumes even when it’s not Halloween. Hence me, in my pink-and-white bunny ears, carrying a hula hoop around the boatyard. And hence Logan, the Disney pirate carrying a kerosene lantern. (Which he says he ordered after seeing the ones used by Lamplighters at Burning Man!)
When Fellowship, soon to be the Black Lotus, left the dock, Barry and I were on hand with cameras. Logan-the-pirate was at the helm, grinning from ear to ear. A few moments later, as they approached the bridge, he turned the wheel over to his friend and made his way forward to the mast. Wearing his black leather pirate coat, he climbed the mast steps, some twenty feet to the spreaders. As promised, he danced an ecstatic little jig on the spreader, looking just like Jack Sparrow in the introductory scene of Pirates of the Caribbean — with one exception. Logan’s boat — er, ship — was not sinking.
Well, we have checked just about everything off our list of things to do to get the boat ready to head South. OK, there are still a few small projects, but they are nothing compared to what we have already done. Except for one last job.
I feel like Alice falling down the rabbit hole. One minute, I was in my nice, cozy boat, on the hard, with the sturdy ladder leaning against the side. The next minute, I’m FLOATING. In water. My whole view on life has changed. No longer is the water “over there.” Now it’s “right here.”
Flutterby left the water on December 13, 2007, at 1421 hours. She returned to her native element on November 30, 2010, at 1448 hours. Our three-month project took us three years.
After the launching, things got very exciting. Ted handed me a bottle of champagne, courtesy of Malla, who always knows how to do things right. Barry was already on the boat, checking the bilges and hauling up the centerboard. I clambered across the plank that Richard laid down, and we rechristened her by pouring (smashing is only for big ships) champagne over the bow.
“I christen thee Flutterby!”
When I looked up, there were about a dozen people on the dock and six cameras pointed at us. It was a very, very happy and exciting moment to share with the dear friends we’ve found here at Bock Marine. Kenny took some pictures for Nancy. Even Carolyn came out of the office to see us floating in the ways.
Now it’s quiet, except for the sound of water lapping against the hull. (And Kris snoring.)
Very soon now, we’ll be slipping our lines and heading south to Florida. So my trip down the rabbit hole continues. Or maybe I just feel that way because I’m going to be upside down in the lazarette for the next few days, stowing things for the trip.