Sunday, June 7, 2009

the serendipity journals

this is the beginning of a few episodes i wrote about years ago when we first had "serendipity", our little boat. much has changed, and i promise i will write some new ones, but these are the first, and probably the best. enjoy!

"Journals of a reluctant sailor…

Having a boat is hard work!

Dennis and I just spent our first two nights aboard “Serendipity”, a little 25-year-old Taiwan-made 36-foot cutter with an ocean-friendly full keel and a retro look that is very endearing. Let me tell you about “Serendipity”…

(In case you don’t know, you must refer to boats as female people. Therefore, Serendipity is a girl and shall be referred to as “she” hereafter.)

She has a fiberglass hull (“petrified snot” as it is cuttingly referred to by the “wooden boat” magazine people) that is designed to look like wood. Her deck is teak and everything below decks is teak as well. None of these modern, sleek white walls and wide windows for Serendipity. Oh no. She is deep and dark and snug, wide in the beam and slow on the water…like a middle-aged woman with comfortable hips and broad arms.

Our co-owner (I’m not sure which half of the boat is his, but I do know for sure that all the stuff aboard is his, and it would fill a spare-parts junk-shop!) is Steve Cadd, a fellow missionary whose boys, Jesse and Benjamin, went to school with Josh and Melody, our two youngest. We bought half of his shares in Subic Bay Yacht Club as well, that was part of the package. He is actually in a company called “get out of metro manila fast” and those were the shares we bought.

Anyway, he is out of the country most of the time and so we will have the monopoly of Serendipity for the next six months…long enough to get acquainted and attached.

As I snuggled into the v-berth aft (wait- it shall all be clear later) into the womb-like curve of the dark wood, with the low ceiling, the tiny night-lights, the upright racks on the walls for books, the little electric fans blowing to keep us cool, the hatch open to the sky and the stars, and the gentle waves rocking the boat, I fell asleep and slept like I haven’t since I was a girl in my bunk bed on the farm in Sprague. Woke up after 12 solid hours to sunlight streaming in and Dennis sorting through the dozens of shelves and drawers filled with miscellaneous tools, batteries, medical equipment, extra pieces of things, unbelievable…

We spent the whole day cleaning…wiping up cockroach droppings (how do cockroaches get aboard a boat, I ask you?) scrubbing the tiny inconvenient galley (kitchen, for you landlubbers who don’t know nautical terms) opening and sorting out every single locker on the boat (cupboard, again not a landlubber term) stubbing our toes on the very limited floor space occupied by curved edges, locker hinges, and ladders…and in general getting acquainted with our new home away from home! Oh the darling brass portholes…the sunny skylight…the charm of the tiller wheel, an actual teak circular one like you see in the movies…see attached picture…

…a happy day…we took the dinghy out for a trial run. Dinghy’s are necessary for sailors. They get you to shore when the coastline is too rough to get close, and they apparently can save your life when the boat crashes on a reef, capsizes, or springs a leak in a gale. (sailing is an expensive way to try to commit suicide- this is what I gather from some of the sailing magazines Dennis has passed my way, in hopes that I would be less pessimistic. I personally call them the magazines of death…)

moi, pessimistic? When my only wonderful sailing experience has been two capsizings during our previous sailing days in Saskatchewan, both of which almost drowned me- Dennis clutching my wrist and dragging me along in the wake of the boat with my poodle Magic clawing at my face and my kids watching aghast from the shore??? (I still have nightmares…”I’m going to drown, and all my kids are watching!!!!!!!”)

Anyway…I only had one accident as we tried out the dinghy. Dennis rip-started the motor and clocked me full on in the back with his elbow. Took my breath away, I tell ya! Fortunately I was wearing a lifejacket which absorbed some of the impact. I only whined about that for an hour. 

We left the next morning at 4 am to come back to the city. As I mentioned, it’s a 3 hour drive. It had been monsoon raining all night, which was lovely for sleeping, but not so nice to go out in. Pitch dark. Cold. (for the tropics…about 70*) Dennis had already made the first trip laden with all the cushions to take home and have them washed…I had an adventure as I tried to get off the boat. Picture it. I’m laden with his briefcase (15 kilos) and my purse (5 kilos, no seriously, it’s only 5) in either hand, plus a couple of other bags. No umbrella and it’s pouring rain so I poked holes in a garbage bag and put it over my head and arms. Staggering in my wet sandals cuz I had left them outside the hatch, I stumbled to the edge of the boat and attempted to step off onto the pier.(note to self: never wear sandals on a boat- should be full shoes, laced up tight) Felt a sliding and a catching…the briefcase caught on a stanchion (the post thing that holds the fence-wire that goes all around the boat, I’ve forgotten the name- oh yes, the dodgers) and down I went in the rain in my garbage bag at 4 am. Resigning myself to falling into the ocean, I desperately held on to the briefcase, knowing that if I dropped it my dear sweet husband would not be a happy camper…er…sailor.

Snag….the little floater thingies that attach to the side of the boat to keep it from bashing against the dock caught me just above the water line in the dark in my garbage bag at 4 am. Saved! But stuck! Can’t move! Bags too heavy! Rain too intense! Slowly sling the left-hand bags over on to the pier, oh thank you Jesus they made it. Reach left hand over to grab briefcase and other bag, sling them on to the pier. Hallelujah, didn’t drop the briefcase. I can’t believe I’m still alive and not in the ocean! In the dark in my garbage bag at 4 am!!!!!!!! Slowly claw my way up holding the cables…expecting every minute to lose my grip and topple into the space between the boat and the pier…but the mercy of God was with me and I fell forward onto solid concrete.

Oh my stars. Bruised and blinded, I staggered up to the truck with my two armfuls of luggage, only to be met by a guard who had the gall to ask me, “Is this your truck? Are you a member here?” to which I not very sweetly replied “Yes and yes” and climbed wearily into the truck (sailors have to have trucks, not unlike farmers in Saskatchewan) and wrapped the sopping pillows around myself as protection against the airconditioning which one must have on to keep the windows from fogging up. Dennis finally appeared (he had gone back for the final load and to lock up Serendipity) and we began the long drive home. Made it safely. Rain stopped on the east side of the mountains. Manila was dry and hot.

Next Monday we are going to take Serendipity out for a spin and unfurl her sails. Why are we doing this, you ask??? Well, at mid-fifties, you begin to realize that if you don’t live your dream now, you never will. To see my husband’s face as he unfurls the mainsail and hoists the spinnaker (oh how he loves that spinnaker…it is spread all over our living room even as I write, drying out) makes it all worth while. Evan will come with us- he’s going off the deep end I’m afraid…talking about mounting automatic machine-guns on the port and starboard bow as protection against pirates. Having read about the murder of a round-the-world sailor somewhere in the islands of the South Pacific or something….

A Fresh Wind Blowing

One day I’ll go out with a fresh wind blowing,
(And no one will know that I am going!)
And all the dreams that didn’t come true,
I’ll leave to another captain and crew.

My craft will be sturdy- my sails new and bright-
I’m downwind and tacking- almost out of sight!
I’ll dump all the cargo I have in the hold,
Treading deep water- carefree and bold!

When I sail out with a fresh wind blowing-
May God take note that I am going…
And hold the compass and charter the sea,
While I sail for the harbor intended for me!
-Vivian Page Wheeler

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