What a beauty she is! My DH just loved-loved-loved his boat. I took the picture at sunset.
A couple of weeks ago I told you that Dave’s sailboat is in escrow, and she has to have her sea trial this week, and some kind of an inspection to make sure she’s as seaworthy as I’m saying she is. I’m having lots of bittersweet feelings about selling her. Do I get seasick? Yes! So therefore, do I sail? No. Do I want to maintain her? Gosh no. Do I visit the yacht club regularly? No (too many memories there and it’s 90 miles away besides). And yet, selling her is tantamount to selling part of me, too. Dave and I bought this boat together. Me, for the entertaining aspect; Dave for the boat herself, to sail her, to go places on her (like the Channel Islands and Catalina). Whenever Dave got edgy, itchy, slightly grumpy (friends who knew him will say what? they never knew Dave as anything but up, always), he’d go to the boat and even a part of a day, or an overnight would put him back in tip-top mental shape. He’d come home with windblown hair (well, that was from driving his convertible with the top down) and the smell of the wind and the ocean in his sweatshirt. He liked to do almost all the work on the boat himself. You’ve heard the phrase, if you’re a sailor, the best day with a boat is the day you buy her and the day you sell her. I don’t think Dave would have agreed, but he did grumble sometimes about all the work on the teak. She has lots of wood up top and down below. Sea air does all kinds of rotten things, as well as the Southern California sun, to the condition of a boat.
There’s the crew in the cockpit: Yvette (Joe’s wife) sipping red wine, my best friend Cherrie, John (Dave’s old friend who captained the boat, and yes, he was reaching for the wheel), me, daughter Sara, daughter-in-law Karen, and Sara’s husband John with his back to the camera.
Anyway, last Sunday I gathered my local family and Dave’s closest friends and we went out on a last sail on her. We had a nice lunch at the yacht club first. There were 12 of us, I think (more than the boat can really handle in comfort, but we managed). John, the captain that day, and his wife live aboard their power boat at the yacht club, but he and Dave used to race sailboats years ago. I was so grateful for John’s help. I suppose I might have been able to maneuver her out of the slip and to the ocean, but I’m not a credible sailor.
In photo at left, daughter-in-law Karen, Joe (the dear friend who visits me now and then and spend the night when he’s in Orange County for business), son-in-law John (the back of his head), Bud (Cherrie’s husband) standing in the companionway, up top is son Powell leaning over the mainsail, and grandson John mostly invisible.
Once we got everyone aboard, John started the engine. I was sitting in the stern, and that was the first (of many) times that I “lost it.” Just hearing the engine start up was emotional. How many times had I sat in the comfy cockpit over the last 30 years and watched as Dave started the engine. It’s a Yanmar (diesel, of course) engine, and Dave would probably say he loved that engine. It never, ever gave us any trouble. It’s a unique gutteral, deep-throated chug-a chug-a sound. I’d recognize that motor anywhere. Kinda silly to be emotional over the sound of a diesel engine, huh? But this grief thing – you just never know when you’ll be hit with a memory. That was one.
Captain John got all the guys and grandson John to prepare to pull out the jib. This boat has a roller furling – so much easier to manipulate and maneuver than a full sail you have to stow down below. It rolls up on a special kind of main stay/mast on the bow of the boat. But when you’re underway, and there’s wind, it’s a job sometimes to get the sail out. In the photo at right is Joe, with Sara who was beside me, working the winch/crank, trying to get the jib out full. Finally got it. Son Powell was working some getting us out too. I was so proud of him – despite saying he doesn’t like to sail (it isn’t that – it’s that he doesn’t like the work required to own a boat) – he’s very adept at sailing and knows what to do and when. He was keeping his eye on Vaughan, though, their 7-year old who doesn’t know a whole lot about sailboats.
Here’s a photo of Vaughan, though, at left, standing up next to me at the helm. Grandpa Dave used to let him captain a little bit. When he was about 3-4 years old, Dave let him do that for the first time, and Vaughan got real peeved when Grandpa had to grab the wheel. He was SO funny, “no, Grandpa, I’m steering!” He screamed bloody murder as Grandpa held on to avoid a buoy or some boat. On Sunday, he couldn’t wait to take the wheel, which he did for about 15 minutes, then he was tired of it. John was watching him every minute. Vaughan was looking for some building John had pointed to, that Vaughan needed to steer towards. He did a really good job! That’s me beside him.
The downtown San Diego skyline. Wow, how that city has grown in recent years. It was absolutely plu-perfect weather on Sunday – 70° and a light breeze. Cherrie said Dave must have ordered it for us from heaven. He’d have been so happy to have all of us – most of his favorite people in the whole world aboard his boat!
We sailed down the harbor for about 45 minutes or so, to the Coronado Bay Bridge. Here we are just about to go under it. We made a u-turn after that and headed back toward Point Loma.
As soon as we turned around, of course the wind changed, so we tacked. We were going into the wind, so Powell had both of the kids lie down flat up on top of the bow. Then the sail began to luff and the sheets (the lines/ropes that hold the sail) began flapping all over everywhere. When you’re under sail, the noise of that can be deafening as metal fasteners and the lines themselves slap against everything in its way. Vaughan and John-John thought it was all very “cool.” Somebody had to crank the sheets to get the jib adjusted just right. No problem – we had no lack of manpower. We sailed back up the bay again and the boat heeled over some. Usually you don’t heel over much with only a jib sail up, but we heeled some because there was enough wind. If you’re a true sailor, you love to heel over, which means there’s plenty of wind!
There’s Sara and me as we sat in the stern. We had just both had a teary moment. Doesn’t look like it, but we had. I shed a bunch of tears, some of them no one noticed because I was wearing dark glasses, and there were conversations going on all over the boat. We were having some good red wine – I’d gone down in the wine cellar here at home and selected 3 good bottles (we drank 2). We had one big toast to Dave (uh, yea, I had another teary moment over that as well).
Oh, that’s such a good picture of Yvette and Cherrie, at left. Believe it or not, we weren’t cold. We all had on some light wraps – the wind made it a little cooler, but it really was a pretty day. That was taken as we headed back up the bay with the San Diego skyline in the background.
It probably took us another 45 minutes or so to sail back toward Point Loma. And as we approached the end of Shelter Island, a man-made drive-on “island,” we needed to take in the jib, so John gave orders to all the grunts and they cranked in the jib. It was hard, as we were in a fairly good breeze. Again, the sail flapped all over everywhere, with metal fasteners banging on the stays, etc. Very noisy. Normal. John turned on the motor and we motored in and easily docked with 2-3 of the guys who jumped off to make sure the boat stopped. There was little or no breeze in the marina, thankfully.
Picture at right is Joe and son-in-law John. John the captain said goodbye to us all as we thanked him profusely for taking the helm for us. Yvette & Joe left, as did Bud & Cherrie. Then I asked everybody – yes, everybody – to go ahead and go, that I needed time alone on the boat. I don’t know that anybody understood, but I really did want to be alone, to say goodbye to the boat, to Dave, all by myself. So everybody left.
I went down below in the salon, and yes, indeed, I cried and cried. I let go. I let myself go, let myself cry my heart out. It was something I needed to do. I walked into every part of the boat – the forward berth, the head and shower, the galley, I looked at the beautiful teak floor (called a cabin sole), at the varnish on the table, at the nav table. Dave re-did the varnish on the boat nearly every year and it took him days. I touched surfaces everywhere, knowing that last summer (a year ago) he’d been hard at work on all of that. I thought about the hours of labor he put in, and again how much he loved the boat. I looked at the pillows on the settees that Sara gave Dave some years ago. I sat down and sobbed some more.
As I sat, because it was quiet outside (it was just about dusk), I just kept thinking I would hear Dave’s footfall as he would step on the boat from the dock. Or, I’d see him stand up in the companionway. I looked at everything. All the portholes, the TV, the cute rug on the cabin floor, the long cockpit seat cushions we’d stowed in the quarter-berth. The boat was quite empty of “stuff,” so it didn’t look normal down below. Usually, Dave had a light amount of clutter on the shelves -winch handles, flags, cords, etc. In April we cleaned everything personal off and stowed any of the items that would stay with the boat so it would look clean for a new buyer.
Finally, I knew I needed to leave. I couldn’t stop crying as long as I was on the boat. So, I grabbed the wood slats that go into the companionway, took a couple of times to get them right (Dave always stacked them “just so,” so you wouldn’t have to guess which slat went which way, but that hadn’t happened when one of our group opened up the boat that afternoon). I pulled the hatch cover closed. I sat in the cockpit for another minute and stared at it. And cried some more. I said goodbye to her. Oh, it was so hard. How can a hatch be something to generate tears and sorrow? Well, it can, trust me! How many times had Dave’s hands grabbed those upper edges as he hopped onto the top step of the ladder to go below? Hundreds and hundreds. How many times had he stacked the slats? Pulled the hatch closed? Scrubbed that fiberglass? Washed the boat?
My family was waiting for me in the parking lot. Both Powell and Sara came to me and we hugged for a long time as I continued to cry. Finally, though, I explained I wanted to be alone – Powell would have driven me home (they were worried about me because I was crying), but truly, I needed to be by myself to mourn. Those of you who have been through this know that part. It was something about pulling Dave’s memory to me, me alone, because of the love and marriage we shared. I wanted to burrow down, fall within myself somehow and protect that last little bit of special sorrow that was there as part of saying goodbye to the boat. Sounds crazy, I suppose, but until you’ve been there, you just don’t know what that’s all about.