Sunday, June 1, 2014

Beginning, Middle, End, Part I: The End

(This is the first of three related posts.)

Try imagining a place where it's always safe and warm.
"Come in," she said, "I'll give you shelter from the storm."
                                        -- Bob Dylan

Back in 2000, we had had a particularly lucrative year. We decided to splurge and buy a boat.  In November my husband and a friend flew to Michigan and the boat was lowered into broken-up ice so they could check it out. We had it shipped to North Carolina and I first boarded her in early 2001.

She was a 1978 Bertram, a classic, with a 10x10 salon, a head with a shower, and a V-berth for sleeping. A well-kept freshwater boat.  After listening to a lot of good music to pick the name, we chose Coatimundi after a reggae song we liked. 

Our first home port was Wrightsville Beach.  It was a great place to begin our boating journey because our boating relatives lived there, the Wrightsville Beach Marina was staffed with helpful and understanding people, and the dockmaster is a gem. My dad also had a condo there and my sister lived there so we had good family time.

During the time we've owned her, the Coatimundi has also been docked at Southport, Bald Head Island, and Oriental twice.  

I have many a photo of  Durham and me or friends and family members sitting in white deck chairs on the back of the boat. I found a few while cleaning; the album was stiff and the photos were stuck to the plastic. We all looked just what we were--years younger

Besides trips to move her, we've also been to Charleston and Okracoke.  We've anchored out with friends or alone and seen some of the most untouched land this country has to offer. We've seen birds of all kinds, alligators, fish, jellyfish, crabs, marine wildlife at its most prolific.

We've had some rough times too.  Once a group of teenagers we had aboard decided to swim for Masonboro Island all at once. One afternoon a storm came up at Rich's Inlet and we had to break anchor in thunder and lightening.  On a trip to Charleston, we ventured down a finger of the waterway and sat for hours on the piles of an abandoned pier until the tide came in and we could float off. We've been shot at. There have been some, let's say, heated discussions between my husband and me in that tiny space. But 99% of having a boat has been great.

When we got the Coatimundi, our oldest daughter had gone to college. Three years later they were all gone. At a time when some long-married couples look at each other and ask, "What do we do now that the focus of our relationship--our children--is gone?" we grew as boat people, as a team. 

We replaced the engines, carpet, cabinets, deck, air conditioner, spigot, canvas, curtain hangers, stove, refrigerator, mattress, lines, hose, cords, furniture. My husband knew that boat literally from stem to stern.  He could fix anything on it.  But squeezing into tight places began to wear on him, and finally we decided to sell her. A buyer came up with our price a few weeks ago, and it was time to say goodbye.

My husband went down Memorial Day and started cleaning the boat out. It was ridiculous how much we had accumulated over the years. Today, as we hauled off the last of the containers, I felt that not only were we lightening the boat in a literal sense, but we were unburdening her for her next adventure. My husband kept smiling and saying, "Listen!" as he'd take something off, pretending that the boat was sighing with her added buoyancy.  

Everything we did this past weekend, our last one on this dear vessel, took on a sharpness.  The roads leading to the marina were full of wheat ready for harvest, and the grass around it a contrast in its spring colors. The marina where we've been for the past couple of years seemed even more pristine and beautiful. Even the light coming through the slats at the garbage can was enchanting!

The boat was a refuge for me. A place where I spent a lot of time with my husband, fixed simple food, read, rested, enjoyed nature, took zillions of photographs, watched movies, floated and swam, daydreamed, visited with friends and family. After 9/11, we spent the weekend on her to escape from the television, and as we cruised the waterway with my dad and other family members I asked for a sign that all would be well. I got one. If you're a regular reader here, you know I often post about what this boat has meant to me. The first Thanksgiving after my dad died, we took the boat to Georgetown. It wasn't Thanksgiving like my dad did it, inviting relatives and friends for a big spread, but it was peaceful and gave me some room to grieve.

Yesterday and today I kept saying, "This is the last time I'll [...] on this boat." Last night we sat on the deck and used the IPad to name the stars, which are outstanding at our marina, and after we went to bed, I stared out the pop-up vent at them until I fell asleep.  It was the first time I'd done that in all the years we had owned the boat, and I was annoyed with myself for not doing it more often.

The weather of course was exactly what you want: cool breeze over sunshine. Both days.

Today the new owner came early. The Coatimundi was ready. Empty, washed and wiped and vacuumed. I wasn't ready though and felt irritated when I saw him haphazardly toss aside the cover  my husband had just washed and dried, and when his friend put things roughly on the counter. I wasn't ready to walk away from this most amazing adventure I've been on, this time on our boat. But the owner was in a hurry to get underway as he was headed for Hatteras for the first leg of the journey to New Jersey.  So we hurried too, down the dock to our car where we couldn't hold it together another minute.

I have no idea what's next. We've agreed to do nothing for a couple of months at least.  I know something better is up ahead but right now I want to look back for a little while and remember the Coatimundi and our time in her company.

No comments: