I didn’t always love boats. Just the opposite really…For a long time I hated them! Well maybe not them, but certainly the feelings they evoked.
My very first boating experience was with a group of drunken adults, who even at my tender toddler age I knew were not fit to be keeping me safe.
Perhaps I knew this because I knew I’d been snatched from my Levittown home with promises of a Disney visit that never came to be.
Perhaps I’d seen the combination of fear and sadness in my grandmother and great grandmother’s eyes as they stood on the curb waving goodbye. Smaller and smaller they grew as the rust colored car driven by my mother’s schizophrenic drug addicted partner drove me to the Virginia trailer park I’d soon be forced to call home.
Perhaps I was just a hyper aware child with some damn good instincts.
Whatever the case may be I have a vivid memory of being on a boat with previously stated group of adults. In my memory they had first been water skiing and then anchored as they chatted and drank.
In my minds eye I can see small me. I’m nervous. I always recall myself as a nervous child and this may be where it began. I am surrounded by water, the adults are loud, and the boat feels too small for how many people are on it. I am afraid I’ll fall off and foolishly I express this concern out loud.
My step father, who is the loudest, ridicules me for being afraid. He then picks me up and tosses me over the side of the boat.
I experience absolute terror. I’m going to die. The adults on the boat are yelling something to me between their fits of laughter.
“You’re floating, you’re floating” they say. I am in a life jacket. I am floating. The water is actually quite shallow. Someone hops in and scoops me out.
I never want to be on a boat again.
I’m a teenager when this memory comes to me. Have I imagined this? Did it really happen? I’m uncertain, but it is real enough that it paralyzes me as I go to step on the boat I was about to board.
I become irrational and refuse to join my friends. I leave.
This is not my first time on a boat in my young life since my Virginia years. Just the first time that trigged a trauma.
Amongst one of my fondest childhood memories is the time I was part of a whale watching excursion. I was perhaps 11 or 12 and with a youth group. It, the boat/the experience, felt big and safe. The majestic whales I saw that day were nothing short of awe inspiring. That particular memory on the water also left a lasting impression.
I suppose it didn’t hold the same similarities of company and circumstance that stepping on a smaller boat with a handful of partying friends did.
Dueling memories, a draw and a fear.
A lover of being at the sea does not necessarily translate to being a lover of being on the sea, but overall a lover of the sea I was (am). I couldn’t change that if I wanted to. I wasn’t planning to miss out on boating fun for all my days, so as I did with most of my traumas, I pushed it aside, or down, or just closed my eyes tight when it made its way in front of me.
Now I don’t mean to send the message that ignoring trauma and just pushing through works, but in this case that’s exactly kinda my experience 🤷♀️
Ok maybe that’s not entirely true….Just maybe it had something to do with other work I was doing in other areas of my life and it was my good fortune that it spilled healing into my life in ways I didn’t even realize.
Small power boats, kayaks, paddle boards…What began as forced white knuckle experiences, eventually became a source of peace and enjoyment. How grateful I am for this.
Slightly ironic that as this ease with being on the water developed and grew stronger, with no previous experience I would somehow land at a marina and call it “work”. It’s been a decade now surrounded by boats and boaters. A whole world that had been tainted, now embraced.
July 2019 I accepted my first sailboat invite. Just myself and the woman who captained the 26′ sloop, set sail one late afternoon.
We motored out of the marina and once in the bay raised the sails. As she turned off the engine, she insisted I take hold of the tiller.
That July afternoon, with the only audible sounds being the splash of water against the hull and the whisper of the wind that filled our sails, something inside me was fixed in a way it had never been before.
I felt it happen. I felt whole.
Falling under the category of “there are no coincidences”, this meaningful day corresponded closely with the first time my then acquaintance, now life partner, reached out via insta message to strike up a conversation.
With no idea what the future would hold for us, it seemed more than fitting to have him to confide in about what I’d just experienced. He understood.
He is a sailor. A sailor in every sense of the word. He has seawater in his veins and how appropriate he should sail into my life just then.
A few short months later after our relationship had transitioned from friendship to romance, I found us a “free boat”!
Now fellow boaters don’t roll your eyes. We all know about “free boats”….This was different…The lady offering was lovely and genuinely looking to freely pass along a well loved (and well cared for) daysailer. As I heard her describe the boat, I knew…I knew she was meant to be ours.
My partner responded much the way I expected he would when the words “free” and “boat” were spoken together, but I insisted we take a look and he agreed we would.
And that’s how we came to jointly own our sweet Rosie. Rosie, a 22′ Pearson Ensign who has a presence and personality all her own. So much so that I’m struggling to resist the urge to venture off into a side story about her name.
I won’t do it! I’ll stay on track and stick to the actual sailing. And sail her we did ….All last summer and well into the fall. While technically a daysailer, that didn’t stop us from dropping anchor and cozying up her little cuddy cabin for overnights.
I’m not going to lie, my partner and I can be a bit of a disaster on land ….We have big messy lives and at times it all seems quite chaotic…out on the water….it’s a whole different story. It’s a true reprieve.
I won’t try and convince y’all I’m some natural sailor who instantly tapped into a previously unseen ability. I have so much to learn, but little by little my understanding of sailing grows. I do not take for granted the confident teacher I have found in my partner and I take full advantage of trusting his skill and knowledge.
As fate would have it a bigger boat was in our future for this summer. The “Deanna Rose” was acquired in a similar fashion and also came to us well loved and cared for. She feels like home.
Ahhh it all sounds so charmed and perfect, but as I’ve already eluded to though we may sail smoothly when actually out on the water, our metaphorical seas have been rough as of lately. Not in relationship to our commitment to “us” per se, just so much change inspiring fear of the unknown.
I suppose with this little sail down memory lane it’s a fine reminder that for one…I am so grateful he and I are in the same boat, and secondly….should we get tossed out for any reason ….no worries….we’ll float.