A Backstory Post
Getting to Know Each Other
I started my “refit” story a while ago with a series of posts all about how I went about choosing Andrew and Leslie as my new sailors in the first place. We left off the night I changed hands from my former owners to Andrew and Leslie as they try to park me in my slip for the very first time. Yes, yes, I am very judgy. Or maybe I’m choosy. Call it what you will. All I know is that the night I first went home with them, we made it into our slip and everyone including me heaved a sigh of relief knowing we’d made it without inflicting damage on my hull or anyone else’s. Andrew and Leslie cracked open a bottle of ceremonial Sailor Jerry Rum, and made their first inaugural loop around my deck, christening me as theirs and offering Neptune respect in hopeful exchange of his future mercy. With this procedure complete, all we could do is sit in our slip together and act awkward while avoiding each other’s direct eye contact. What is the first step to really getting to know your new sailors?
I’d prefer to go sailing, but early the next morning Andrew and Leslie decide they’d rather play the “Guess what this Thing is” game. They start peeling apart each and every one of my cabinets, taking stock of all my Things. Things for sailing, things for fixing, things for not sinking. Things, things, things. “What is in here, Sonrisa?” Andrew asks as he dangles head first into one of the deepest lockers in my cockpit.
“Lots of things!” I say, even I have no idea what all is tucked away. “Remember what Steve told you.” I remind Andrew. I don’t want Andrew to forget.
“If there is one piece of advice I can give you,” Steve the Cheerful-Chain-Smoker-Broker told them as they part from delivering me to my new slip, “it is to never throw anything away that you find on a sailboat until you know for sure what it is.”
This is excellent advice. I am stocked full with all manner of spare parts and pieces, useful drib-drabs of sailing that a landlubber would never understand or know anything about until they find themselves 1100 miles out to sea and wondering if they might have just the right piece to fix…..whatever it might be. So, yeah, don’t throw anything away. Next thing I know, Andrew has taken everything out of my starboard cockpit lazarette and laid it all out on the dock in a row. It’s empty and he’s standing in the bottom of my hull with his head poking out.
Yep! All that fit in one cockpit locker. I have lots of “depth,” as they say.
Leslie walks along the line of Things, pausing to pick up this or that. “What is this?” Leslie asks, holding up thing-a-ma-watt #1 of 5,000.
Andrew looks at it, scrunches his brows together and thinks. “Huh, it looks like it might be a filter,” he says.
“DING!” That is right. She’s holding up my Baja Filter, a big metal jug with a filter before it’s outlet, used to take filth, murk, and slime out of unreliable third world diesel fuel.
“What’s this?” Leslie asks holding up thing-a-ma-watt #2 of 5,000.
Andrew answers. Leslie scribbles notes on her yellow pad with a title page: “Making Order of Chaos.” With each Thing Andrew pulls from the depths of my storage, Leslie asks the question and Andrew, surprisingly, can come up with an answer for most of them. I would say 85% of the time he had an answer for the object, and of that 85%, I would say 75% of the time he would be right. Not bad for a nu-B-sailor.
This process took the better part of five days. Each morning I hoped we would go out for a sail, and by noon I realized they were too intrigued by the game of identifying each of my bobbles that we weren’t going to go anywhere. At least they were finally cleaning all of my former ship cat’s hair from all my hard to reach nooks and crannies.
Each night, they would sleep in a different spot in the boat. They tried the bow, then then tried the stern bunk. Leslie unfurled my lee cloths and pretended to sleep on the bench in my salon. “No, no, no,” I tell her, “You would be sleeping with your head the other way. You want to be able to look out to the cockpit.” She doubts me, thinking she’d be less seasick if her feet were pointing forward, but no. Just…no. But I figure this is the last thing she needs to learn right now. We have a long, long way to go before we ever have to fight about which way to lay in the passage bunks.
Finally! On their last day in town, they get up the gumption to head out for a sail.
“Who should drive?” “I don’t know, maybe you?” “No, maybe you, so you can fend off.” “Mmmm,” “Okay, you think you can do it?” “MMMmmm…”
Come on, guys, I know either one of you can do it. Just get going. Turn on the engine. Leslie takes her slot behind my wheel and Andrew unravels the lines wrapped around all but one of the cleats. The wind is almost dead, this should be easy. With shaking hands, Leslie pops my transmission into reverse and guns the engine. Black smoke blurps out, and then my engine quits.
All three of us give a simultaneous gasp of panic. “What the hell? Yanmar never does that!” I think. Leslie starts saying “What do I do, what do I do, what do I do.” over and over again as she grips the wheel tighter and focuses on steering through the bit of momentum the first “blurp” of engine gave us.
“TURN THE ENGINE BACK ON!” Both Andrew and I exclaim at once. Swift as a cheetah, Andrew makes his way from my bow to my cockpit where he instructs Leslie to pull the transmission back into neutral. He flicks the key and Yanmar starts right back up again. Now, we are pretty much sideways in the thorough fare. Leslie nudges my stern into a big open slot behind us, a channel that leads to a different line of slips. Soon, we feel we have enough space to move forward and we motor slowly and shakily out into the open bay.
“Ugh.” Leslie says. Andrew shakes his head. Me, I don’t care. I have no doubt they will get the dock work down soon enough and I’m just happy because I’m going sailing!!! Look, guys! Mexico is just over there!
At this point, I don’t remember how, but we must have returned to the slip safely that night. Andrew pops a beer and enjoys the successful feeling of our first real sail together. Every new moment feels momentous. Andrew and Leslie take a walk to the beach and look outward at the San Diego Horizon. This is going to be a new second home for them for the next three years, it’s a nice horizon. Using their finger, they write my name and my Gotcha-Day in the sand. I think this is the start of something really beautiful.
The next morning, while they pack to go, Leslie says “Don’t worry, Sonrisa. We will be back in a couple weeks.” She gives me the first of many hugs on the mast. I sigh. I know short weekends are the reality of our situation for a little while, but I’m a impatient. I commit to avoid niggling at any hang nails (I don’t want Andrew and Leslie to get irritated with me from the very start, do I?) but, I have many I could choose from at this point. As I watch them plod down the dock with their duffel bags slung over one shoulder, I suspect we all feel the same uneasy feeling: a growing fondness for each other mixed with anxiety that, truly, we know so little about each other. What hidden qualities are lurking beneath the surface that could derail this whole plan? It doesn’t matter. We are in this together now, through thick and through thin. I’m like their mail order bride.