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Nomads in the Making

Eight weeks after moving aboard, we are loving life on Karma. Settling in is taking time; it’s hard to find the right place for everything when all of the spaces are oddly shaped. While it is possible to organize things in bins and boxes before putting them in lockers (the closets and cabinets on a boat), all of them have to be different sizes because our home is boat-shaped, not box-shaped. I am figuring it out while avoiding the urge to stash things in any random available space for fear that when I need that thing, I will be like a lost squirrel who cannot remember where she stowed her nuts for winter and will be throwing lockers open in a fever trying to find it. Settling in will take time and discipline.

Pleasant Harbor Marina is a great place for us to call home–if only temporarily as we spend this year getting ready to start cruising next year. It would be a fascinating setting for a TV show, with people from all walks of life, educational, socio-economic and political backgrounds living in the same teeny tiny neighborhood. What we have in common is our love of boats and the travel adventures that we are either preparing to take, in the middle of taking, or took many years ago before parking the boat at the marina for good. Down the dock from us are two young couples who are on their first boats and preparing to go cruising next year like John and me, even though they’re half our age; an 84-year old who sailed the world for his career and is refitting his 94-year old tugboat; and all ages in between. There are boats that cost ten times more than ours, and boats a tenth of Karma’s value. Some folks fly the Let’s Go Brandon flag, while others authentically support the President. The remarkable thing is that when we’re standing on the dock, or meet up in the hot tub, we have lots to talk about, genuinely enjoy one another, and find that the ways that we are different are far less important than the things we have in common. America would be a better place if our nation did more of this.

At the same time that I am enjoying this community, I cannot forget that sailors are nomads–and now that includes me. As someone who enjoys having deep roots in my town and with my family, I have found this to be disorienting. There is a woman on the boat across the dock from us that I genuinely adore. She is like an auntie: a little older than me, had an interesting career, and is just a lovely lady. Three weeks ago, as John and I shoved off the dock for a 18-day trip to the San Juans (travelogue coming soon), she came out to give us a hand with the dock lines (the ropes that we use to tie the boat to the dock.) As we left, she asked when we were coming back, and I told her it would be September 1. She said, “Oh good! We will still be here.” You see, she and her husband will take their beautiful trawler and move along to another port later in September, and our friendship will literally float away, just as it is getting started. It’s likely that we will come across them in an anchorage somewhere someday, but today I have been thinking about how I have joined a community of nomads. I understand that cruisers often find other cruisers that they have met in one place in many other places all over the globe, and when that happens the serendipity must be simply scrumptious.

On my birthday, we were in one of our favorite places: Reid Harbor on Stuart Island. As Karma drifted into the bay, I recognized Joie de Vivre, another sailboat from our marina. We have made their acquaintance around the docks and have been looking forward to getting to know them better. Next thing we knew, they were in their dinghy motoring over to Karma. This had never happened to us before. What's the etiquette? We invited them aboard, but they said they'd like us to join them for wine and cheese aboard Joie de Vivre. They zipped back to their boat, while John got L'il Karma (our dinghy, recently named by John's mom, Wanda!) in the water, and off we zipped for our first sundowner on another boat. We simply had the best time beginning a new friendship with them. Lest we forget that even sea nomads are tied to life on land, through the twists and turns of conversation, we learned that the first mate of Joie de Vivre also grew up in Vancouver, Washington, where I grew up. She lived next door to my high school choir teacher's family and was best friends with her oldest daughter. The world is vast and small, all at once. It is fun to discover that, over and over, from our boat.

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