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A Live-Aboard Retiree’s Day

Updated: Sep 1, 2022

Just like that, we no longer have jobs, a farm, or 95% of our possessions. Over the last several days, I find myself pleasantly confused about my post-career identity. I feel anonymous without a title to define me. Those who have worked with me over the past several years know that I am an avid bullet-journaler. It's a practice that allows me to organize my days, tasks, information and thoughts. I have started a page in my bullet journal that serves as a directory of our neighbors at the marina. It includes each boat name, make, crew, and pets on board. It seems that my identity has quickly become half of Karma's crew, who walks our cattle dog Jade around the marina several times a day. It’s a pretty simple identity, and that’s great for me right now.

One of the reasons that I have held on to my bullet journal practice is that it brings structure to our days. Absent that, I fear we might sleep in, drink coffee in the cockpit until nap time, grab a pizza for dinner, and watch Netflix for the balance of the day. In order to meet our goal to leave for Alaska next June, we have to make progress each day.

Animals Everywhere

Yesterday morning, John worked with Gordon, our marine electrician, to tear apart the boat begin the install of new gizmos to replace old gizmos.

Jade and I thought it best to make ourselves scarce, and explored Dosewallips State Park, which is just down the road from the marina. She was glad to be in the woods again and is slowly getting used to the constraint of a leash, which was not part of her former life as a farm dog.

The park has a lovely river as clear as bathwater.

At the end of the trail, we found an awesome nest (probably 5-6 feet tall) but we didn't see any eagles coming or going.

Next stop…the post office. Now that the farm is sold, I have been pondering whether I have a residence. I'm not sure if our slip at the dock is an actual residence, or whether we are nomads who haven’t gone anywhere yet. It's another thing I'm confused about in this in-between time of my life. We have a post office box, though, and the highlight of going to the post office is driving past the elementary school to see if Brinnon’s elk herd is there. Today they were, with spotted calves, and males growing velvety racks. I wonder what the school does when the elk herd wants to use the yard while school is in session.

Dinghy Master

Back at the dock, I committed to attacking a chore I’d been putting off: scrubbing the waterline. Over the winter, Karma had grown a thin green belt where her hull meets the water–very unbecoming. Cleaning it meant facing a fear: the dinghy.

A dinghy is a small inflatable boat and for cruisers, it is like your car. When you are on anchor, it allows you to zip to shore to take the dog for a walk, buy groceries, or visit other boats, so the dinghy = freedom. However, I have been afraid of the dinghy because from Karma, you have to step down into it from the deck, which is about ten feet…okay, it’s only three feet, but equally terrifying as if it were actually ten. From the deck, one steps down onto one of the dinghy’s pontoons, then into the boat. That first step makes it feel like the dinghy is going to flip and throw me into the briny blue, a fate that I am trying my best to avoid. However, while watching a video about dinghies last week (I know…pathetic), I realized something: while it might feel like the dinghy is going to flip when I step on the pontoon, it actually won’t. For the past year, flipping that silly rubber boat has just been one of my many ridiculous unfounded fears. Yesterday was the day I faced that fear head-on.

I donned my life vest, grabbed two scrub brushes and a bucket, and stepped into the dinghy. While I would like to believe it was a graceful descent, I know better, but I wasn’t terrified, and I didn’t fall into the briny blue, so I am taking it as a win. Once in the dinghy, I maneuvered around Karma, scrubbing off the stubborn green growth, and giving her white topsides a good cleaning. Believe it or not, seawater is good for this task, so I was able to dip my scrub brush into the water for cleaning, but when it was time to rinse, I had to maneuver the freshwater hose from the dock around Karma and onto the dinghy, then maneuver the dinghy with the hose around Karma to rinse. I am sure that it was entertaining to watch me struggling with this. I had hours of fun, the boat got cleaned, I got soaked, and I faced my dinghy fears, so we’re calling it a success. And this morning, I realized that it was quite the workout, too.

After the topsides were cleaned, I was finally able to affix the lettering to proudly display that Pleasant Harbor, Washington, is our hailing port–information Karma is required to display as a federally documented vessel. No matter where in the world we sail, Pleasant Harbor will be known as her home.

TRU Coaching

While you might think that was enough excitement for a retiree for one day, we still had more day to do: our first appointment with Jamie and Behan Gifford of Sailing Totem, with whom we have contracted for mentoring as we adjust to the live-aboard lifestyle and prepare to be cruisers. They also provide support in trip planning and weather consulting, which will be valuable as we set sail. Jamie and Behan are fellow Northwesterners. who have been cruising the world for 14 years with their three children. (Whoa!) It was fun to get to know them during our first Zoom meeting, including affirmation that we have the right approach to our transition as live-aboards. We got a homework assignment to plan a couple of longer sailing trips this summer. The first one will be to…wait for it…OLYMPIA. Wait…didn’t we just move from there? Totem assures us that it will be a lot of fun to see the South Sound from the boat, anchorages will be less crowded, and it will be a good learning trip, so we’re planning our voyage for later in July. As an added bonus, for those O-Town friends who haven’t been able to come to Hood Canal to see Karma, she will come to you. Stay tuned for more info about when we’ll be where. Maybe I’ll give you a ride in the dinghy.

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