Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Singular thoughts in Mid-Winter

"Be on your guard, there are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world."       ~ Gandalf

It's the week before Christmas. We are steeling ourselves emotionally to see Jeffery off for several months. He'll be leaving at four in the morning the day after Christmas to join up with theTriton, an ocean-going tug. They'll depart immediately for Port Alberni on Vancouver Island's west coast, and tow a log barge down the coast to Coos Bay. ...back and forth from January through April. Hopefully, he'll be able to take a run or two off after the first month to come back home. We aren't quite sure how the whole thing works right now.

"Triton" tug boat

Jeffery is looking forward to this new adventure. The last few months have been pretty slim for us and he has grown tired of scrounging up the next shipwright project while still trying to finish up the current one. (The last yachtie he worked for kept "forgetting" to pay him on time--that didn't help one bit either). Since he has been hoping to get in with a union tug company as an AB "able-bodied seaman"--a merchant mariner certification for deckhand, this opportunity has set him on that path.

Juliet is pretty anxious about saying good-bye to her dad for such a long time. Even the promise of backpacking trips to Shi Shi beach with Jeffery this summer are not convincing her it will be worth it. The holidays are pretty blase' around here these days because of it. The strong winds and biting cold haven't really helped the general lack of cheer.

Last night I crawled into bed all alone. Jeff was occupied with the diesel stove which decided to blow out on one of the windiest nights this month. The temperature in our stateroom was so cold that I could see my breath. For the life of me I couldn't get warm enough under five blankets to thaw out my numb feet. After 45 minutes, I crawled out of the covers and pulled one of the cast-iron skillets from out of the oven. Fortunately, there was enough heat left to keep the skillet toasty hot. I padded back into my bunk; wrapped a towel around the cast-iron pot and stuck my feet around it.  
Shit-balls...this is what it's going to be like for the next three months. pulled the blankets tightly around my chin and tried to shut out those thoughts.

I am consumed with lists. Lists that appear in my brain like a scrolling 'Star Wars' movie intro as I try and fall to sleep at night.
...what about the flu on the diesel stove--we haven't cleaned it since we got the boat--that's why the stove kept being fluky last night... what am I going to do if the bilge pump craps out again?...If we get a big Nor'easter, how am I going to keep the boat warm enough without the wood stove?... the fuel lines in the laz tank are going to plug again, I know they are... on and on and on, ad infinitum. 

Now, I am no stranger to anxiety... Hell, I used to be a small business owner!
If I could have counted my 2AM-5AM strategy/stress-out session as billable CEO hours, we woulda' made a million bucks. The frustrating difference between worrying about my scheduling and staff versus fretting about pumps, 32-volt systems and potential flu-fires is that I usually could affect change once I'd spent all night problem solving.

There are still so very many things I need to learn before taking over complete responsibility of a 90 year old wooden boat. I was just starting to feel pretty good about the skill-set I'd developed with the Gardner diesel. I hadn't started learing how to trouble-shoot generator crap-outs or diagnose and track down clogs in the stove's lines. I am not a big fan of scenarios where there is a high likelihood of chaos. Why am I so nervous about this situation? 
When we put our house on the market three years ago, Jeff remained in Seattle to finish up remodeling left-overs. Juliet and I lived on Zodiac by ourselves all winter long. We survived just fine. We became familiar with the various sounds of  all those pumps and instinctively knew when they didn't sound quite normal. We were able to ride out nasty blows there at dock, occasionally having to run up on deck and tie something down before it blew away. 

As self-sufficient as I like to think of myself (and believe me, I am), I've recently fallen into a comfortable safety net--competent guys there to back me up.  I've always had Tim with me up on the big ship. It's easy to focus only on my strengths and stick just to the jobs I felt secure with because he took care of the rest, or was there to help me out. On Kwaietek, I've been able to select the duties I wanted since Jeffery loves tweaking systems and tracing down little anomalies, (like hair clogs in the sump-pump).  I don't mind admitting that his initial, chivalrous offer to assume the pumping-of-poo job was immediately accepted with nary an argument on my part.

I spent seven years as a single mom while enrolled full-time at the university, I worked as a costumer in the theater department and waitressed in the evenings. I lived on my own with my sons, drove 'em back and forth to soccer and football and ran my own household... while carrying 20 credits and designing award-winning costumes.  Why have I recently given away part of that amazing confidence? Is it because I'm now on a boat and dealing with situations that I'm unfamiliar with... is it because I'm just getting older...lazier?   

No answers. Yet.

Juliet and I will have to pow-wow about dividing up chores once she's back in school. We'll work together to problem solve when things crop up (she's much quicker to pick up on abnormal sounds and smells than me).  I shall manage to push the pump-out cart down the dock without grumbling (too-much), about the 'gender-specific division of labor'  and still get the laundry, dishes and meals done.  We'll make it work regardless of my insecurities.

Nevertheless, I really hope that this new situation gives me back a little of my old confidence and willingness to "get back in there' once again.

We'll miss Jeffery very much, but I know this is going to be an exciting time for him. 

...... And--well heck, just think about all the different stories we'll both be able to start posting in a few weeks!

~ Chris.


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