Thursday, August 29, 2013

s/v Rhapsody in Blue Delivery, Part 4 (of 4): Bittersweet

The final day of the trip dawned clear, warm, and calm.  The horn for the ferry docked just upstream of us woke us rather abruptly as it made its first departure from the dock at 6:00 AM, and we got underway early.  We headed out to sea with the falling tide giving us a fair-current boost, and turned north toward Georgia and our destination.

There was no wind, the ocean was calm and flat as we motored steadily.  The universe today was a very simple place.  But that calm gave us time for refection.  We had been so busy with the mechanics of getting the boat north, that we hadn’t really thought about what would happen when we got there. For Dan and me, it was a trip, a delivery, a job, and a chance to get to know some interesting people. But at the end of the day when we tied up at the dock, Rhapsody would have a new owner and Melissa would be temporarily homeless.

Dan and I sold our first home, a cute townhouse with an impressive view of Boulder, Colorado’s foothills, to a young woman for whom this would also be a first home.  Admittedly, it looked bleak compared to when she first saw it, now with all our rugs and furniture and artwork gone. She looked at the custom-made inset pantry and talked about bleaching the pine floors we’d installed, and asked how we could stand to part with our home. “But,” we said, “all the important stuff is coming with us.  Our friends, our memories, our pictures, our pets … what we’re leaving behind are just walls.”

“It’s a different kind of sheltering relationship with a boat, though, than with a house,” speculated Donna.  With a house, you somewhat take it for granted, because shelter is its only job.  In contrast, the boat shelters and protects you, but you also protect it.  You learn to understand its messages and needs (“trim my sail a bit, wouldja, it’s too loose and flagging, and I can get more speed from this wind;” “these waves are uncomfortable and if we keep bashing into them something’s gonna break, let’s turn about 15 degrees down and we’ll ride better and get there just as soon”) and that makes the relationship feel symmetrical, almost symbiotic, almost human.  Maybe this is also part of why boats are called “she” and not “it.”

I caught Melissa once or twice patting the mast reassuringly, giving the helm a little hug, and whispering “you’re a good girl” to the boat that had been her home, her teacher and companion in many sailing adventures.  They had grown together and had many good times and some tense ones, but now, like high school graduation, they were going on to new adventures … separately.

And like high school graduation, there was a sense of inevitability about it, and a sense that outgrowing this boat was a marker of success.  Because ultimately, Melissa had learned what she needed to learn from Rhapsody, but this boat was designed to be light and responsive in mild conditions; it wasn’t designed to be big enough or stout enough for her future plans of crossing oceans.

That didn’t make it any less bittersweet when the sea buoy and lighthouse for St Simons’ inlet came into view.  The wind that had been still all day, gently rose enough for one last spirited hour of sailing, Melissa at the helm one last time.  Then we were in the inlet, up the river, and there was the marina. Melissa docked gracefully in the wind and current – she knew this boat.  The broker met us at the dock to take our lines, and it was over.

Bittersweet Finale: Melissa's last sail at the helm of Rhapsody, on the way in to St Simons, GA.  Her new ocean-capable boat is currently getting its final touches at the factory and will be delivered next month.

Marking the End: the lighthouse at the inlet, St Simons, GA

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