For those who know me well, you may have been witness to my moments of superstition. Touching wood when necessary, not stepping on cracks, not walking under ladders. Most don’t know that this has extended into almost OCD-like behaviours from time to time, especially in moments of higher stress. Stu blames it on my Father’s Catholic upbringings (which he’s sure I absorbed, despite no specific teachings). I suspect it was just preparing me to be a really good sailor.
A quick google search will bring you to all sorts of sailor superstitions. While you don’t run into them as much these days, older salty sailors are often the ones who can be pretty particular about the things you can and cannot do while on a boat. Thankfully most will now permit women on board, but some still don’t take on bananas (there are good reasons for that, among them the fact bananas release ethene which causes ripening of other fruit), and most wouldn’t ‘step’ their mast (put it back up after it has been taken down) without placing a coin at its base.
Probably the tradition I’ve always been most familiar with is the bad luck that comes with changing the name of a boat…that is, unless the proper steps are followed.
In any event, the Canadian government has finally approved registration of our vessel and the (second) name we chose for her, so it was time to actually address what it meant to change her name. After extensive research, and some crowd-sourcing of information via the genius of Facebook groups, I tracked down an official ceremony for purging the old and ringing in the new.
On Saturday we invited some of our new boatyard friends to be (socially-distanced) witnesses, and we performed this official ceremony:
Then we drank all the champagne…some white wine, rum, mescal and a whole bottle of scotch to celebrate it. Sunday was slow. For those who couldn’t hear the video properly, here is the script:
“Oh mighty and great ruler of the seas and oceans, to whom all ships and we who venture upon your vast domain are required to pay homage, implore you in your graciousness to expunge for all time from your records and recollection the name Sea Shifterwhich has ceased to be an entity in your kingdom. As proof thereof, we submit this ingot bearing her name to be corrupted through your powers and forever be purged from the sea.
In grateful acknowledgment of your munificence and dispensation, we offer these libations to your majesty and your court.
Oh mighty and great ruler of the seas and oceans, to whom all ships and we who venture upon your vast domain are required to pay homage, implore you in your graciousness to take unto your records and recollection this worthy vessel hereafter and for all time known as Skookum V, guarding her with your mighty arm and trident and ensuring her of safe and rapid passage throughout her journeys within your realm.
In appreciation of your munificence, dispensation and in honor of your greatness, we offer these libations to your majesty and your court.
Oh mighty rulers of the winds, through whose power our frail vessels traverse the wild and faceless deep, we implore you to grant this worthy vessel (Insert your boat’s new name) the benefits and pleasures of your bounty, ensuring us of your gentle ministration according to our needs.
Great Boreas, exalted ruler of the North Wind, grant us permission to use your mighty powers in the pursuit of our lawful endeavors, ever sparing us the overwhelming scourge of your frigid breath. Great Zephyrus, exalted ruler of the West Wind, grant us permission to use your mighty powers in the pursuit of our lawful endeavors, ever sparing us the overwhelming scourge of your wild breath. Great Eurus, exalted ruler of the East Wind, grant us permission to use your mighty powers in the pursuit of our lawful endeavors, ever sparing us the overwhelming scourge of your mighty breath. Great Notus, exalted ruler of the South Wind, grant us permission to use your mighty powers in the pursuit of our lawful endeavors, ever sparing us the overwhelming scourge of your scalding breath.”
As we’ve start the countdown to our departure, and are beginning our ‘goodbyes’, the two most frequently asked questions are, “What’s the plan?” and “How long will you be gone?”
I find these understandable, yet interesting questions. I suppose in some respects, it depends whether one views this next adventure as a ‘trip’, or as moving to our next home. While wanting to give our loved ones (and ourselves) comfort that we will see each other again, the answer to the questions above are, quite frankly, “There is no plan!”. We recognize this can be difficult to grasp in a culture where we plan for and cram our days with so many organized items that apps have been developed to specifically schedule rest into our days.
We do know a few things about our no-plan plan: We know where the boat is currently located, so we know our starting point. We know we have two very young children, and they may or may not like living on a boat and we may need to consider something different all together. We know we have weather-related parameters for where and when we go where we go (ie. hurricanes, cyclones, temperature). We know that, from time to time, and internet connection will be essential (if only so Stu can work on managing our savings). We know things happen, people change their minds and, in this current pandemic climate we’re all navigating, anyone’s health can change too.
So, that being said, the plan is to dream:
Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all is a form of planning.
Sure, we have big dreams, and we don’t intend yet to dismiss any of them:
Since I was a child and watch “Swiss Family Robinson” and read “Island of the Blue Dolphins”, my dreams of the South Pacific were ignited (and yes, I recognize that the former is set in the Caribbean and the latter is technically based off a story of a girl who survived on an island off the coast of California, but I didn’t know that at the time!). Close family friends of my family also set sail for the South Pacific when I was a young girl, and I’ve had romantic notions of their adventures ever since. I remember many days sitting in their living room after their return, holding exotic shells and treasures from these far-off islands, and knowing I would have to visit them one day.
Stu dreams of sailing into Belfast Lough, arriving to his home port from the sea, and sitting at dock in the Titanic Quarter (for those who don’t know, Titanic was constructed in Belfast by one of the world’s most famous ship builders, Harland and Wolff. To sit under the shadows of the incredible Titanic Museum and the two enormous ship building cranes, Samson and Goliath would be very special, not to mention the opportunity to show family and friends our floating home.
Stu also dreams of crossing oceans. Like, the big crossings. The Pacific, the Atlantic, the Indian etc. The thought excites and terrifies me which, if history serves, means there is a strong likelihood we’ll be doing it at least once.
Ellie definitely wants to see Moana and her island of Motonui, and recently she’sbeen asking whether we’ll be seeing Mr. Ray, which of course we’ve answered with a resounding ‘yes’!
Lily….well, we’re pretty sure as long as there is food to eat, things to climb, and lots of cuddles with her Daddy, she’ll be happy wherever we go,.
To someone that hasn’t done it, cruising likely seems like the ultimate exercise in planning. Planning where you’ll go, planning for weather, planning for maintenance, planning for when you leave and how long it will take, planning for food (or, provisioning for the less educated in boater lingo). But, the fact is, cruising is considerably less about planning than it is entirely about preparation. The reality is, at least as far as I’ve seen, experienced and read so far, is that if one were to truly plan in the cruising life, they’d spend the better part of their time disappointed. In fact, the running joke is that the word ‘plan’ is a four-letter word in cruising. When you’re contending with weather, boat maintenance, paperwork, immigration, different cultures, language and understandings, the best one can do is to prepare oneself, and let go of any notions of sticking to ‘plans’.
And, as for how long we’ll be gone, as aptly put by our coaches and new friends, Behan and Jamie Gifford of Sailing Totem, the decision to continue rests on a form of ‘three legged stool’: 1) We’ll go as long as we all want to keep going. For us, that means the girls get an equal voice in this decision (knowing day to to day this can be a little blurry), 2) We’ll go as long as we’re all still healthy. Obviously, this has a particular meaning in this pandemic-influenced era. But, honestly, this can mean not just physically healthy, but also mentally and emotionally, and healthy as a family together, and 3) We’ll go as long as our finances are working for us. Stu will write a separate post about our ‘plans’ in this regard, and how we hope to make this work for us.
So, yes, we don’t know really where we’re going yet, nor for how long. For the first time in my life, I’m pretty ok with that.
One of the key steps when purchasing a boat is the survey and sea trial. Being that Sea Shifter was located in Puerto Peñasco, Mexico, we had to make some quick decisions about whether this boat felt right for us, and whether it was worth the time and cost of Stu travelling to see her in person, which ultimately meant:
Fitting it into the remaining time we had Kennedy hanging with us (as Erin was still working full-time);
Expense of flights, hotel and food;
Expenses of engaging the surveyor, dropping Sea Shifter into the water, conducting an engine oil analysis, and returning Sea Shifter to the ‘hard’ in the boat yard; and
Stu having to self-isolate within our home in order to comply with the Government of Canada quarantine obligations upon his return (which included sleeping in a separate bedroom, mask-wearing and social distancing within our own home, which has its challenges with two small children)
With a modest amount of reflection (fit in between work, wrangling kids, sorting and purging everything we owned and preparing to move by the end of November) we decided it was worth everything for Stu to make the sojourn.
Stu’s journey from Whistler, B.C. began with an early start at Vancouver’s International Airport, YVR. Travel was smooth and easy from their to Phoenix, Arizona, with strict COVID-19 protocols in place and a near-empty plane. From there Stu caught a shuttle with Las Nenas Shuttle Company, which took him from Phoenix straight to the USA/Mexico border crossing at Lukeville, AZ. We had wondered if Stu would be permitted to enter Mexico via the land border, but he was able to walk across with the border guard not even opening passport (but conducting an obligatory drug-smuggling check of his carry on luggage). From there it was a Mexican minivan ride to Puerto Penasco surrounded by cacti a colourful sunset, typical of what we’ve seen before on the Baja.
Stu and the owner of Sea Shifter, Ken, met up for some tacos and beer and share stories of Ken’s ventures aboard, and our dreams for the future. The next day start bright and early (for Mexico) with meeting the boat surveyor, Tim, and heading to the boat yard to start the process. While Tim and Ken chatted, Stu had time to do some exploring and start exploring the items we needed to discuss about Sea Shifter’s condition. Sadly there was little wind for the sea trial, but Stu did get a few minutes on the beautiful Sea of Cortez to see how the sails hoisted and a catamaran performs. Items were identified, lists were made, discussions were had.
Soon the day was over and Stu was meeting up with our new friends and coaches, Behan and Jamie Gifford of SV Totem. For an example of an incredible family and their adventures, as well as a plethora of information and advice, check out their website here.
The next day brought about further inspections and discussions, as well as discussions with the awesome owner of Cabrales Boatyard, where the boat is currently being stored, making sure we’d be well-sorted for storage ‘on the hard’ (out of the water in the boat yard) until we are able to get to Mexico. Stu was able to enjoy some more tasty Mexican fare with Ken, as well as another visit with SV Totem and the family from SV Pablo.
The adventure really took off when Stu started his journey home. We had suspected that there might be difficulty for Stu crossing the land border from Mexico into the USA, but we’d heard mixed reports from a variety of sources, so figured it was worth the attempt. Unfortunately, our fears became a reality as Stu approach the boarder crossing and the very kind border guard stopped Stu as soon as he saw the front of his passport. He very kindly acknowledged there wasn’t much logic about the fact Stu could cross by airplane into the States, but wasn’t allowed to cross by land, but that Stu would be best to find a bus to a larger city some six hours away, Hermosillo, and to catch a flight home from there. What had been slated to be a 12 hour journey home then turned into a 42 journey, including taxis, buses, and aeroplanes. Stu made it to Hermosillo by nightfall, and waited out the night at the very lovely Hotel Lucerna before catching a flight to Phoenix the next morning. The next day started with the Uber trip to the airport, the flight from Phoenix to Seattle, and then from Seattle back to Vancouver before the drive back to Whistler where he finally arrived safe and sound at 1am the next day.
And so one chapter closes……and another rapidly begins. Come the end of November, we will be handing the keys of our Whistler dreams over to the new owners. December 31 will officially be Erin’s last day practicing law, and as soon as we can we will be casting off the lines and ‘Mulling A Boat’ into the horizon.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”