Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Blog is Back: Dirt Dwelling

As the boat was out-of-sight, out-of-mind this summer, we caught up with family and friends, tootled around on the motor bike, and played with the new tractor. When not on the boat, we live on a small farm in central Alberta, about 2 hours north of Calgary in the North Saskatchewan river valley. We have 70 acres of field and forest and the mighty river is only a kilometre away, held at bay by an island lined with marshy lowlands. We share the woods with elk and deer, bears, several beaver families, and dozens of bird species including cranes, hawks, song birds and an occasional bald eagle. We have seen traces of cougars (tracks and sightings by neighbours) but were graced by the presence of this mighty creature on our deck in July. He was not in any way intimidated by us as we yelled at him from behind the screen door, and he continued to prowl around the cabin looking in the window before sauntering back to his river migration trail. I was awed by his size (we estimate over a metre from claw to shoulder) and the power in his legs and shoulders. He was a small lion. A human would not stand a chance if he were hungry. We don’t have grid power or running water so our outhouse became problematic that night as Craig and I ran out and back in as fast as we could.

Building the new gate
Feline company
Craig and his dad

The flash from my camera catches the reflection from the window and I can see my book of nautical knots in the pile. Although we have a few sailing artifacts around the cabin, I sometimes forget we live on a boat. In August we were at the west coast on Vancouver Island walking along the beach watching a fiery sunset over the water and coastal mountains. “I wish I lived near the ocean,” I sighed. Craig stopped and replied, “So living ON the ocean doesn’t do it for you?” 
Our trip last week to the Annapolis sailboat show in Maryland began my psychological shift from land to sea as we caught up with 4436 and 4437, Antares boat owners whose hulls are about to be launched in Argentina. We sometimes refer to each by hull numbers. We are 4431, the first Antares hull poured in Argentina and construction of hulls 4436 and 4437 was just starting when we left Buenos Aires last year. It is a thrill to know that they are almost ready to head north along the beautiful Brazilian coast and their owners are weaving their ways through provisioning and paper work. 
In getting ready to go back to the boat, my identity shift from dirt-dweller to yachtie continues. FYI, “yachtie” is not necessarily an endearing term in nautical lingo. It can imply an ostentatious, high consuming, North American quasi-sailing disposition and is used more often with disdain by hard-core minimalist mono hullers. Many sailors have a comfortable land home and more minimalist boat. We have the opposite situation, with our quaint solar-powered, no-running-water land cabin and luxurious, fully decked out boat. I embrace my yachtie-ness with pride as as we head back to Trinidad and two accessible toilets.

My sister in law, Cindy, and I sewed window coverings for the boat using fabric I picked up in Trinidad. I am not an experienced sewer and we have a no-holes-in-the-woodwork rule so putting up traditional drapes or shades is not an option. I thank Wendy from our sail to Brazil. She had wrapped a T-shirt over the open port hinged window and it served as a privacy shade while allowing some fresh air in. Now we have a lovely, simple set and we’ll see how they work. In the meantime, it is back to packing our bin (only one this year) with new boat toys and saying farewell to my poor fellow northerners as they brace for winter.
The Blog
On our flight back from Annapolis via Chicago, a passenger sitting across the aisle from Craig tapped him on the arm and leaned over, whispering, “I want you to know we are really enjoying your blog.” We were surprised and amazed. It seems our fellow traveler recognized Craig from the blog photos. We met others at the boat show who recognized us from the blog so I’d best get back to regular writing. There are closet wannabe sailors all across the prairies (and all around the world it seems) who use our story as a catalyst for wistful confessions of secret dreams to sail. I love hearing about such aspirations because they can lead to action, even if it is only to try out a dinghy on our Glenmore Reservoir. Sailing is sailing, regardless of boat size and shape, location, living aboard or an afternoon on a lake. It shakes one out of complacency.
Song From the Ship

The wanton water leaps in sport,
And rattles down the pebbly shore;
The dolphin wheels, the sea-cow snorts,
And unseen mermaids' pearly song
Comes bubbling up, the weeds among.
Fling broad the sail, dip deep the oar:
To sea, to sea! The calm is o'er.

To sea, to sea! our wide-winged bark
Shall billowy cleave its sunny way,
And with its shadow, fleet and dark,
Break the caved Tritons' azure day,
Like mighty eagle soaring light
O'er antelopes on Alpine height.
The anchor heaves, the ship swings free,
The sails swell full. To sea, to sea!

Thomas Lovell Beddoes