Walking down the dock in the dark, I noticed something moving in the water—a school of fish swimming together in a perfectly round circle.
Marty and I watched, transfixed, as what appeared to be a shrimp descended on the group and seized on two of the tiny fish, which lit up like lightbulbs as they were caught.
“It’s like our own private nature show,” Marty said incredulously.
Earlier in the day, Marty was headed back to our boat and spotted an otter perched on the dock, eating a crab. Seeing the human interloper approaching, the otter seized its salty treasure and slid off the dock, disappearing into the water.
Those near-magic moments, those scenes that transform an ordinary day into the extraordinary, were exactly what we’ve been missing this past year while not having a boat. Heading out on the water again Saturday for Three Sheets’ maiden voyage in the Northwest reaffirmed everything that makes boating worthwhile, makes it worth all the cost, the frustration, the work, the sacrifices.
Given the weather forecast, calling for sunny skies and unseasonably warm temperatures over the weekend, we’d been excited all week about finally taking the boat out. We got up before the sun on Saturday and headed down to the boatyard, planning to clean the boat and make one needed adjustment to the shaft seal before we headed out.
I should’ve known it wouldn’t be quite that straightforward. After scrubbing the decks, I went to see how Marty was doing with the shaft seal. Descending down the companionway, I heard a string of profanities coming from the aft cabin that even surprised foul-mouthed me. The air was blue. I backed away quietly.
Long story short, Marty ended up calling a worker from the yard, who came down (on his day off) and saved the day. We owe him many beers, our firstborn child or pretty much whatever else he wants, since he made possible one of the most perfect weekends we’ve had in a very long time.
We headed over to Eagle Harbor Saturday afternoon, arriving at Winslow Wharf Marina around 4:00. After putting the boat away, it was time to celebrate. We popped a bottle of champagne and sat in the cockpit, giddy about finally being on a boat—our boat—again.
Our last weekend outing on a boat was a trip to Bremerton last February. Soon after that we sold our boat, Camelot, and inadvertently found ourselves boatless and miserable. The experience confirmed that in fact yes, we do need a boat to be truly happy and that no, road trips or weekend hikes or any other recreational activity don’t even come close as a replacement.
Besides, it’s downright ridiculous to run a boating website and not have a boat. That’s like, say, publishing a wine magazine and being a teetotaler. So after months of anticipation, we were pretty stoked about taking Three Sheets out.
Lily Winston Churchill was equally excited. She explored the boat, finding new hideyholes and perches. She tore around on the deck, her tail twitching with each new noise and smell. She rubbed up against our legs, expressing her pleasure. At night she curled up on my pillow, purring. She was clearly in boat kitty heaven. For a cat as inquisitive and outgoing as Lily, a boat is a playground of endless curiosities.
(Oh—in case you were wondering about her odd haircut, we had her shaved because she has insane amounts of ultra-fine fur that she won’t let us comb and it had matted terribly, so tightly it was like felted wool. At first I couldn’t look at her without laughing and thinking of a bobblehead doll, but her new ‘do has grown on me.)
We don’t have a heater onboard yet, but two space heaters kept us toasty through the night. So it was a surprise to get up Sunday morning and see frost on the decks and docks. The sun quickly melted it, and we sat in the cockpit over a breakfast of oatmeal with brown sugar and dried fruit, enjoying the still-cool air and the heat of the sun on our faces.
After a walk around the town of Winslow, it was time to go. Our reluctance to head out was tempered by excitement about arriving at Elliott Bay Marina, Three Sheets’ new homeport. We kept Camelot there and love the place. Rounding the breakwater and seeing the familiar buildings and boats, it felt like being home again.
We’ve noticed that there’s usually one breathtakingly perfect weekend in the Northwest each February, when the sun comes out and the mercury creeps up and it’s impossible to believe there are still months of rain ahead. I’m so glad we were able to spend this year’s on the water.
So with this inaugural trip, it was time to wrap up the Sailboat Search Chronicles, our blog series about the search for and purchase of our new boat. It was quite an odyssey, filled with unanticipated frustrations, new experiences, incredible kindnesses and a host of memorable people we met along the way. Sure, it would have been easier to buy a boat from a local broker, but it wouldn’t have been nearly as interesting or provided as much story fodder.
That said, we’re happy to embark on this new chapter of cruising around the Northwest. We already came across two good stories this weekend and know that having a boat again will bring countless more. And of course, we’ll be sharing them with you.