I had put the boat up for sale, sold or given away equipment and books, and shlepped still more back home, convinced that my days at sea were over for the time being.
That was back in September 2016, after three seasons of glorious cruising in the Mediterranean and Atlantic. My partner had just decided to go back to a life on land. This left me literally high and dry and I spent the winter in a meditation retreat in California. In spring, the boat had not sold and I decided to sail the Mediterranean for another summer, taking along friends and family but also spend time at sea alone. I discovered that I really liked sailing in this way. Just being underway, arriving was secondary.
The cool days of fall 2017 came, I put the boat on the market again and spent ten months in retreat. The boat still did not sell and I decided to take her for a spin along the French Côte in September, preparing for a rough October stint from Marseille to Tunis and back. For the third time I tried selling over the last winter, because a back injury seemed to force my hand. But…, you might guess the answer.
Despite all the odds, I felt that my window of opportunity for sailing this boat was not yet closing. So, I decided to take her off the market and sail out into the Atlantic this coming year. Of course, just then a serious buyer showed his interest and job openings back on land seemed within reach - as if to test my resolution.
All of this may sound like I know what I want and make decisions easily - nothing could be farther from the truth! How does one actually reach a decision in any matter? Figuratively speaking I spend an endless time in the doldrums (a zone with no wind). Being tossed around by the waves of my thoughts with no wind to give me a direction of movement. It is very interesting and can be quite unsettling to explore every little step of the decision making process, if there is such a thing. In my case, it was a rather humbling experience to realize that at a deep level I do not have much control over it.
So here I am, a few days from travelling to the boat once again. This is two months after major and largely successful back surgery, saying my goodbyes to family and friends, storing my stuff, subletting my apartment, and all the other numberless details of wrapping up a life on land. Once again I am lugging equipment and books back on the boat, crossing my fingers that all the contracted work on the boat will have been carried out in a professional and timely manner, with about ten days of maintenance projects still awaiting me before I can set sail.
I know it will be good to feel the wind pressure in the sails heeling the boat, the gurgling of the water along the hull, the moving deck, and the sun warming my skin. But after that, who knows? Many things can happen and one that has changed from a few years back is that I do not make plans for more than about six months. Although challenging and scary at times, facing this unpredictability of travelling at sea must be one of its main appeals and, in my view, beckons to be recognized and respected.
For the more technically inclined, after these rather personal notes, I would like to list some of the boat projects undertaken this winter and spring.
After checking with my insurance I realized that the original rigging on my 17-year-old boat has gone beyond its expiry date, so we replaced all the wires holding the mast and the turnbuckles to go with them. The in- and outhaul on the main will be lead back to the cockpit, so that reefing the main will be possible without leaving the cockpit.
The same was true for my old life raft. It was replaced with a Plastimo Transocean self-inflatable raft for 6 people.
The seals of the three deck hatches had started to leak in heavy seas or rains. In the process, we also replaced the acrylic windows of the hatches themselves.
On a few occasions our 27kg (55lbs) Delta plough anchor did just that: plough through the sea floor! Apart from damaging the sea bed this does not make for an easy sleep at night. So, I decided to upgrade to the latest generation anchors. Anchors are religion to many sailors, so deciding was not easy and in the end it came down to a Spade 140 weighing in at 33 kg and with a much larger surface area and resulting holding power. Hopefully it will fit on the bow pulpit…
Additionally, the hull will be polished to a nice shine, the consumer batteries will get one more added to them to increase capacity, and I am especially looking forward to crawling on my knees on deck to trim the excess rubber standing proud from the seams of the teak deck...