Imagine…..No one else on the sea, but you.
On the first morning of our retirement…to borrow from an old Irish expression, we were full of ‘spit, vim and vinegar’. We couldn’t wait to get going.
The parties and good-byes were complete. Our residency in Florida was established. Our cars were sold. Opting to live ‘bow to stern’ on our thirty-six foot sailboat, we had eliminated every single thing from our life that didn’t comfortably fit within its confines.
Ready to Go
Our friends of twelve years stood waving on the docks of our marina, shouting well wishes as we sailed out. From our stereo, Chris Isaak serenaded the all of Alamitos Bay with Tony’s chosen song for our retirement, ‘Think of Tomorrow’.
We realized, as the marina’s new tenant pulled into our slip, that we were officially homeless. We owned no property on land… there was no space to return to and there would be no turning back. Our next stop was a mooring ball in the Isthmus on Catalina Island.
We had committed our lives to the sea and sailing, visiting foreign ports, meeting new, exciting people and eating strange foods. We saw ourselves sitting on exotic beaches, sipping wine and eating fresh fish. We pictured ourselves holding hands as we gazed up at star-filled skies and hiking through beautiful mountains.
As I stared at the water beneath us, I became acutely and painfully aware of our decisions. We had never even considered the possibility of anything going wrong with our starry-eyed, romantic plan. Panic welled up in my breast and crippling fear gripped my soul.
As Chris Isaak’s words, ‘You can always count on me’ filled my head, I looked back at Tony, standing strong at his helm… and he was smiling. He smiled the same confident smile that had calmed my fears and had given me strength to go on for almost half a century. Once again, calm embraced me. His eyes told me we were going to be OK. We needed no words. We both knew that the future…. a new, exciting alternative lifestyle…lay before us.
As we headed down the channel and into the open sea, we became aware that the present was our immediate problem. We had paid no never mind to the two storm flags flying from the fuel dock. Santa Ana winds were blowing like crazy and giant swells engulfed the breakwater as the huge black storm approached our bay. We turned on our heel…. without a moment’s hesitation…and raced as fast as a sailboat can race, back to the public marina to rent a slip and seek temporary shelter.
The first night of our highly anticipated, new-found freedom was spent less than one-quarter mile from our marina…. along with the second night.
The raging storm did not turn to beautiful sun and seas until our third day. Our friends had stopped by on several occasions…. bringing along bottles of wine…. to casually inquire as to why we hadn’t checked the weather and…good-naturedly laugh at us. It is true that our egos were a little bruised, but the wine was really good.
There is a good possibility that had we known even the smallest detail about the summer we were about to experience, today we would be sitting in rocking chairs somewhere way inland, as far away from the sea as we could get.
When I got married, my father said to me, “I am only giving you away once, don’t come back.” Kidding of course, his words stayed on my mind until this day. I attribute this ‘little joke’ to the reason we did not give up….we could not ‘come back.’ Every marina in California had at least a one-year waiting list. It is well known that no one in their right mind gives up a perfectly good slip. We did. One can only wonder why.
We would find out. We would learn lessons about courage, about being a team in the worst of times, about living out and accepting our decisions and about what is means to have the best time of our lives.