When We Were Five

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We weren’t the first and won’t be the last to live on a sailboat. There are many people like us who think buying a boat and learning to sail is a fine idea. In fact, I’m reading a book about a family of seven who is enjoying the cruising life -- after preparing for six years (Seven at Sea, by Erik and Emily Orton).

To save time, what we did instead is that thing where you mentally picture an activity and count it as if you’d actually done it. It’s called “visualization.” Apparently if you do it right, you get the same results as if, for example, we’d practiced sailing in a boat on the water.

To be fair it was mostly Marty who did the visualizing. He had his sailing merit badge and knew words like ahoy and matey. I was preoccupied with figuring out how we were going to keep three boys ages 5, 3 and 1 from falling off the boat. It turns out there’s something called a harness. You put it on the child, snap a long line to it and attach it to the boat. Good idea in theory, but whoever designed these was picturing a kid who sat in one spot and never got tangled up in the line designed to haul up the mainsail.

I visualized pulling up to a marina in sunny south Florida to find a sailboat suited to our family of five. I forgot the part where we drove from Oregon to Tallahassee to Orlando to Jacksonville to Ft. Lauderdale and ended up just south of Crawfordsville in a little marina called Shell Point. There lay our dream sailboat. In other words, we finally found a boat we could afford because the guy selling it was so desperate to be rid of it that he offered to owner finance it.

The thing about the visualization method is that you must know what to think about – before you do it. We didn’t know we needed to visualize living in the sailboat while we redid the flooring, refinished the “bright work”, replaced the headliner, and much of the galley, hauled the whole thing out to repaint the bottom, got carbon monoxide poisoning, saw a cockroach and learned a new vocabulary while trying to get the boat out into the Gulf of Mexico and practice man overboard maneuvers. Turns out I didn’t understand Marty’s wild gesturing (he says controlled Captain hand signals) from the bow. We never saw that inflatable turtle again.

This process did not happen in the two weeks we’d allotted. I’d like to compare it to childbirth. You know it will be hard but no one tells you how after the baby is born you have to sit on a blow-up donut for two weeks. I thought I was prepared for the humidity. Instead we got sub-freezing temperatures that, combined with our propane heater, created way too much moisture in our lockers (clothes cabinets), and every item of clothing, every sheet and towel was covered in mildew. Thank you science.

The good thing about the delay was that we were not tacking and jibing along during hurricane season. Which was good, because we had more than an inflatable turtle go overboard, but that’s another story.

Yes, we are looking for a sailboat. We figure we have maybe a 10-year window before we’ll be hauling out the walkers. Are we visualizing? What do you think?



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