When I turned 45 I picked up and moved from the prairies to the West Coast. I had been married for 25 years to a very nice man, had three wonderful children, a great nursing career and a dread of dying of boredom. Fifteen years into my married life I decided I would one day make the break, and it terrified me. I put it off for ten years, weirdly believing that somehow everything and everybody would be better with me in the picture “till the right time.”
I remember standing at the kitchen window in Brandon, Manitoba, staring out at my favorite tree, mindlessly washing the dishes and thinking, “why can’t I be happy here just like everyone else?” It pains me to say this for the fear of hurting yet again the sweet souls of my wonderful family and what I put them through in my crazy attempts to make sense of my life.
Near the end of my married life I took a motorcycle trip out to the west coast to look for a job and meet up with friends. A job interview took place the same day I made an offer on Nomad, a 1979 27′ Coronado sailboat. She belonged to a friend of a friend who took me out sailing on a day of golden sunshine, blue blue sky and smooth sparkling ocean . I was in heaven and had fallen in love with sailing.
I’d kept my little sailboat “Nomad” on Saltspring Island and learned as much as I could from the sailing community I met there. I enrolled in the Power and Sail Squadron course and learned the basics of safety and sailing on the ocean.
I went everywhere in that little boat. Being old, she had 1/2 inch fiberglass and was bullet proof. I ran into rocks going to Jedediah Island, sat out 45 knot winds anchored in Desolation Sound, and was stranded on a calm day when the 9.9 Honda engine wouldn’t start. My friends rescued me and towed me back to SS. The old tiller broke off in my hands in the middle of a gale where I pushed it a little too hard into the wind. I steered her back to the mooring with what was left of it between my ankles. The adventures were just what I longer for and I had found my happy place.
Five years later I sold Nomad with the hopes of living aboard a bigger boat. I’d put my name on a list for moorage in Victoria where I was working, gave notice on my apartment, and made an offer on a sailboat that didn’t pass the survey. She was a beautiful old wooden boat with brass rails and an ornate interior. She was a rotten old classic. My plan fell apart and I went to live with a friend who rented me a room close to work. I realized there must be more to learn about boats and living aboard so I postponed my plans for a year and went sailing with friends on their various boats.
Unbeknownst to me at the time somebody was looking for a lady to sail with, and possibly more…
Carol was a colleague, she was the Social Worker on the unit where I was working. I would occasionally hear her on the phone in her office talking to a man she was dating, whom she had told me a little bit about. He was from the East Coast and was living on his new sailboat. They had met via internet dating. One day I walked into her office during one of these calls to overhear her saying, “Well you should probably throw out some of those old t-shirts, especially that ratty one.” (I now know exactly which one she was talking about.) Not wanting to interrupt her I sat quietly waiting for what I needed to talk to her about. She then said, “Will you be coming to see me later?” followed by, “Well, then I guess you’ll be wanting to go sailing again soon instead.” (I now know he hates leaving his boat.) Soon after this Carol invited herself along to one of my exercise nights at the local pool. She started asking me more about my sailing life, and more about my love life, both of which were nonexistent at the time.
I’d just come through leaving someone whom I loved deeply but who loved alcohol more, and I had to get “off of that sinking ship.” I told her I’d dated a few guys I’d met on internet dating sites, but that it felt like “shopping at Walmart, there’s lots for sale but nothing of real value.” so I’d given up and was just going to have fun doing things I enjoyed. She then explained that the relationship with the man with the sailboat wasn’t really going anywhere and that he had this really strange sense of humor that she didn’t get. However, they wanted to keep sailing (she was a ferocious sailor). This guy had asked her to bring friends sailing, as he was new to Vancouver Island and didn’t know anyone. So one day she invited me to meet Harold and sail on OMOO.
I had sailed on a few boats by this time, but was thrilled to get on the wheel of this Jeanneau 43 DS sailboat. The first time I sailed her we were blasting past Sidney Spit on a broad reach. I had to keep her away from the shallow water and still catch the angle of the wind to maintain our great tack. I was focused and got her going perfectly. The skipper noticed.
We went sailing a few more times and she sailed like a dream. We would have a little happy hour when we got back to the dock. The skipper would tell stories of how he moved across Canada, working and living in rooming houses so he could save money for his dream lifestyle. He wanted to live aboard a boat that sailed well and he could stand up in. He’s 6’4″ tall and has trouble fitting on beds.
He described some of the people in these rooming houses who were drug dealers or mentally ill, and how the police would show up, and how he’d lock his door when things got wild. I laughed and laughed so hard I had to lie down on his settee. “You’ve been living with all my patients” I said. We’d tell each other our stories and jokes, cracking up while Carol sat looking at us like we were from Mars.
When we met, OMOO lived in Sidney, at a marina surrounded by “Gin Palaces,” big empty power boats, mostly owned by Americans. The skipper wanted to find a community, so he followed another skipper he’d met to Maple Bay.
One beautiful spring day in Maple Bay the skipper needed a hand measuring his anchor chain so he gave me a call. I was on Saltspring Island hanging out with my sailing friends. I love to do anything that has anything to do with boats so I met him at the next ferry. We worked away under the warm sun and when the job was done Harold asked me if I wanted a beer, so I said sure, “if you’re having one.” He replied that he wouldn’t drink cause he was driving me back to the ferry. I went below to use the head and thought “I don’t need to go back to the ferry.” I brought up two beer and without saying a word we opened the beers and I never left the boat.
The rest is history. We’ve been this wonderful wacky trio of OMOO, Hershey and Sideways Sally going into our tenth year now. We’ve gotten to know each other’s family and friends, have been tossed around in some life and death health issues, and have celebrated our home on the water every chance we get. We take trips every summer to the most amazing destinations on this vast West Coast. We’ve met people everywhere we go and make lasting friendships that we value immensely. We have a friendship and understanding that I’d always dreamt of. Hershey is gentle soul with deep insight, always curious about what’s going on in the world, and keeps me grounded when I’ve had a wild ride in the trenches . He listens to my stories when I need to debrief from work. On the boat he is a teacher, a stickler for safety, and the most experienced sailor I’ve met. Thank you for taking me along on your life long dream of living and sailing on the ocean.
To my Skipper, my best friend, my mentor, and my safe place to land. I love you to pieces my favorite nutbar, Hershey.
Captain Passage is the very first video I made of our adventures. It’s long one so grab a coffee or a glass of wine and enjoy.