Saturday, December 29, 2012


So, the Triton left Seattle on Wednesday morning with Jeff onboard. Juliet and I drove him down to north lake Union and dropped him off at the ship. Later that day we drove to the Locks and waved goodbye as they locked through. He looked pretty happy and right at home on the foredeck.

We've made it through the first week back here on Kwaietek on our own--Juliet and I. Aside from a cold empty bed with nobody to rub my icy feet and shopping for too many mouths still, I think we're doing pretty well.

At night before bed, Juliet and I pull up the Marine Traffic app on my Droid to locate Jeff's ship. It helps us feel closer to him while he's out there, especially as the cell coverage is non-existent in many of the areas in which he is traveling.

We've done this before, in a way. The year that we put our house on the market--after I closed my business. Juliet and I (along with my pitbull Sasha), moved onboard the Zodiac to spend the winter while Jeffery remained back in Seattle to finish the last of the remodel projects. We got to see him every weekend of course, and cell phone reception was a little more reliable... but still.

Here's a portion of the chapter called "Live Aboards" from Prepare to Come About: 

 ~ Chris

Live Aboards

            Zodiac awaited us at her dock. Her towering masts soared above the adjacent ferry terminal’s roof and greeted us as we drove through the parking lot. Juliet rolled down her window and hung her head outside to get a better view of the ship. Sasha crowded in as well, instigating a tussle in the backseat. Before the dog-daughter encounter had a chance to escalate into a gang fight, Jeff pulled up to the gate. “Everybody out!” 

            We piled out of the car and stretched. The salt breeze relaxed me instantly and I got that familiar sensation of grounded contentment—even though I was embarking on a life far from established and one on the water instead of the ground. Standing outside the car for a few minutes, I took in the view. Zodiac bobbed slowly in the swells of the bay. Her decks were deserted and clearly in mid-restoration work, but the familiar brightwork still gleamed in the sunshine. 

            We popped open the trunk and unloaded our belongings into several dock carts. I packed enough gear and clothing to last for the next three months and Juliet’s bags of stuffed animals and home-school books took up an entire cart to themselves. “Don’t forget the dog food!” I called back to Jeffery.

            I went down the ramp first, with Sasha dragging me toward the dock. The two seagulls that stood several yards ahead of us picking apart a starfish eyed her suspiciously. They waited until the clear and present danger of a charging pit bull made it necessary to flap upwards to safety, leaving behind a perfectly good meal. Sasha rushed to where they’d been just seconds previously and snorted as she sniffed their leavings.

            After a few trips back and forth for all the loaded dock carts, we piled our things onto the deck of the ship, and I stepped below to turn on heaters and some lights. Zodiac was cold, damp and deserted. In the darkness, I poked around the engine room and found the switches on the old diesel-fired boiler. I flipped the ignition toggle, and the circulation pumps clicked on to begin driving the warm air into various sections of the ship. I peered down the passageway to the foc’sle and could barely make out the bunks and staterooms. It was an eerie contrast to the bustle and energy that usually filled the old schooner during her cruising season. Sasha grew tired of waiting for me and darted back to the salon, crisscrossing around to stick her nose into each of the lower bunks on her path. She jumped onto the bench seat in the center of the room and looked back at me with her tongue hanging out the side of her mouth, her eyes alight with excitement. “Yep, this is your new home for a while, Pig-dog.”

            The past several months of the winter’s refit projects were evident all around me. Tools and refuse from construction and varnishing littered the salon, the galley table and the charthouse. A thick coat of dust had settled upon all of the surfaces, and even the usual glowing mahogany panels were nondescript and dull. I glanced toward the kitchen part of the galley and sighed, dirty dishes covered the counters near the sink from the last work party. “Well, let’s get to it,” I told the dog.

            Jeffery and Juliet pounded down the companionway loaded with boxes and bags. I directed Juliet forward to where her bunk was located and relieved Jeff of a portion of his burden. 

            “Wow, the place is a wreck,” he commented.

            “Yeah, looks like I’ll have plenty to keep me busy for the next couple weeks.” 

            Sasha rushed past us to the foc’sle, intent to find Juliet and, no doubt, cause havoc with the unpacking. Predictably, we soon heard the aggravated screams from our youngest. “Sa-shaaaaa! You stupid dog! I hate you!” The dog came barreling back through the galley on her way to a hiding place in one of the salon bunks. 

            “Ah, it feels just like home already!” Jeffery said.

            We brewed some coffee and unpacked the chocolate chip cookies Juliet had made for the occasion. Then the three of us sat around and talked about the many plans we had for our next few months on the Zodiac, and Jeffery’s plans at the house, and strategy, if all went well, for what we would do once we were able to buy Kwaietek. I wanted to keep talking, to keep the verbal momentum of solid planning, of our new lives, going; but Jeffery wanted to hit the road back to Seattle so he could get some remodeling things orchestrated for the next day, fix dinner for the other kids, and get to bed early so he could start before dawn. It was time to say goodbye, and it hurt so much to see him go. The reality of our situation became crystal clear as he walked back up the ramp. Barring too-short weekends, we would be living apart for several months. Juliet’s tears did nothing to help my attempt at stoicism. “Don’t be so sad, Bug. Dad’s going to be back up every weekend to see us. And we have Sasha here to keep us company.”

            “I hate that stupid dog!” She stomped below.
                                                            . . .
            Lying alone in my bunk that first night, I listened to the unfamiliar noises of our new surroundings. Freight trains rumbled along the waterfront every few hours, their whistles heralding their arrival and road-crossings and departure. I could interpret the strength of the wind by the frequency and volume of the flag halyards banging against their metal poles outside the ferry terminal building. What I didn’t hear was the sound of Jeffery’s breathing next to me, the cedar tree scraping against our bedroom rooftop, and the quiet noises from my children as they settled in for the night in their rooms. I lay awake in the dark, with Zodiac’s subtle rocking, and grieved for my old life. 

            Sasha stirred in the bunk below me and sighed in her sleep. I rolled over and looked at my dog; she, at least, seemed unaffected by the big change and smiled in her doggy-dreams. I crept out of bed and walked across to Juliet’s bunk, just outside my stateroom door. She was curled up in her blankets and snored lightly. She’d already taped family photos and her drawings onto the walls encircling her bunk, making it appear cozy and uniquely hers. Okay, if Sasha and Juliet can handle this, then so can I.

            For the next several days Juliet and I cleaned house, or rather boat. I scoured the galley and main salon while she swept and dusted. Soon Zodiac looked her old self again. By the time Jeffery returned for the weekend, we had a homey, familial routine established onboard, and I felt almost like a home-maker welcoming my man after a hard day’s work. 

            “Has Tim been by to see you guys yet?” Jeffery asked as we cleared our dinner dishes from the salon table. 

            “Nope, he phoned to check on us two days ago, but I haven’t seen him.”

            “Well, he’ll be pleased with how you have her looking.”

            Our days and nights on the ship became a normal routine. Juliet sat in the charthouse with me, immersed in her home-school lessons as I worked on the marketing campaign for the  ship’s next season. Captain Tim began dropping by the ship once or twice a week and we chatted over coffee in the galley before he set to work on his projects in the shop across the parking lot. And for two days a week we had Jeffery to ourselves. He showed up for dinner on Friday evenings and left at dawn on Monday morning. The tears that Juliet shed during Monday breakfasts faded as the weeks wore on.

            As we settled, I felt desperate to do something more tangible than sit at the computer doing market research and paperwork. I asked Tim if I could do some painting below decks. “Take on whatever you’re willing to do,” he replied. “She needs some freshening up in almost every compartment.” That next day, I started Juliet on her school assignments and went up to the shop. I returned laden with white gloss enamel, thinner, sandpaper, buckets, tarps and brushes. By mid afternoon the galley and companionway were sanded and prepped for paint. I threw myself into the physical work, and it somehow helped me to not think about Gracewinds, the house, the kids, our old friends, or the simple fact of the unknowns facing me. Once I let my mind wander down those lanes, it usually resulted in those same empty and hopeless emotions that paralyzed me last winter. I didn’t want to go there again.

            Besides, as long as I didn’t let myself dwell, for the most part I enjoyed living full time with Zodiac. And it was as if I was living with her and not simply onboard her. She became like a friend to me, and I could tell that she liked having people around her. She was warm and dry, her passageways sported new coats of paint, and there was a constant smell of baking cookies or bread emanating from her galley. Plus there was a joyful child and rambunctious dog skittering across her decks every day. I imagined she could only be happier with a full crew and passengers on board, and her sails filled, out on the seas somewhere. In my characteristic manner, I had already anthropomorphized her to the point that we could carry on conversations. I spoke to Zodiac often, especially when she misbehaved.

            One evening during a substantial south-westerly blow, Juliet, Sasha and I lay in or bunks listening to the wind whip around the rigging; her shrouds particularly noisy. Zodiac creaked and groaned as she pitched and rolled in the choppy water. Juliet finally called into my stateroom, “Mom! I can’t sleep. It’s way too noisy.” 

            “Yeah, she’s getting banged around a bit, huh?” I climbed out of my bunk, reluctant to go up on deck and face the chill of the winds but knowing I should check on things. Throwing on my jacket and slippers I walked past Juliet’s berth. “I’ll go have a talk with her and see if we can’t calm her down a little.”

            “Okay. Tell her I’m trying to go to sleep.” Juliet flung herself around to face the wall of her bunk.

            When I pushed open the charthouse doors I was struck with a severe blast of cold wind. I braced myself and stepped onto the deck, but staggered like a drunken sailor as Zodiac rocked from side to side. Once I regained my balance, I went back to her quarter-bits and checked the mooring lines; all good. I then walked forward and confirmed that her bowlines were fast. “Well, girl, what’s all the fuss? You’re making quite a lot of racket up here.” Another big gust blew past me and I heard the moaning thud that had been pestering us below. I walked around the charthouse and watched as the fore-boom swung back and forth.

             “Hah! So that’s what is going on…. Come here, you.” I picked up the short preventer and tethered the boom to a cleat near the gangway. With her boom cinched in tightly, she quieted right down. 

            “That’s a girl!” I patted her mast as I walked back toward the deckhouse. “Now, how about let’s all get some rest tonight, huh?”

...... t.b.c.

~ Chris

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