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Monday, April 9, 2018

A Meaningful Life

*Apologies for the quality of several photos that were taken at dusk, thus not very bright or clear.

Northern Star under sail approaching
Bequia, (BEK-way) 2018
There were several months after we moved aboard Northern Star that I found myself deeply pondering the question of “what brings meaning to life,” to my life specifically. Tackling the greater ‘Meaning of all life’ question would have to take a back seat for a while. I had become untethered from the life I knew, and I wondered whether I had brought enough of whatever makes me “ME,” along with me into this new life.
Photo taken near Kennedy Space Center
before crossing the Gulf Stream the first time. 2016

After all, my working life was apparently behind me, rather abruptly, it seemed. Our old six bedroom home was long gone, along with my perennial projects, the gardens and bread making.
My social work "sisters"

I left behind a very loyal and interesting group of friends and family to travel off to places unknown for an undetermined period of time. I tried to pinpoint an answer to this question that kept circulating in my head, “Do I belong anywhere now? 
Some of our dog friends and their humans in Duluth. 2017

As it happened, I had packed our boat with several things that were given to us by people we love. The poignant side effect is that whenever I use these items, I am thinking of the giver. I reach for the cheese knife or mixing bowls and I "see" our daughters, put on my Vibrum 5 Fingers (shoes with individual toes) or use the classy can opener and our sons are "here" with me, the hand mixer makes me think of my sister, the dry bags that were a wedding gift to us years ago puts me in mind of those friends. And there are many more examples. Somehow these things helped me to feel connected to my previous life and I was glad that I had them along.
Friends in Duluth, on Barr's Lake. 2017

Was I missing my friends and family? Yes! I looked forward to checking my Facebook pages—(the Northern Star page, the Life and Times of Jax and my own page) more than I ever had while living on land. 
Long-time friends at their
cabin in Canada. 2017

Previously, I had secretly pooh-poohed the concept of selecting “Like” on a FB post. But once living aboard, all of those “Likes” meant that someone was thinking about me and that felt really good. I was still connected. And I, in turn, enjoyed thinking about each of those folks individually. 
Five of my six siblings, 2015

Was I lonely?  Well, not lonely, per se, but hungering for some alone time with women friends. Missing being part of a tight group.

A visit with Carl's cousins and a sister in
Portland, ME  2016
I missed the feeling of walking into a room and having familiar people look at me with gladness that I was there. It seemed that where I “belonged” had been left far behind and that I had ventured into a foreign land without touchstones.  And if I truly felt that where I belonged was back on land, why was I living with water below?

Friends in Duluth who allowed
us to rent their lake cabin before
moving aboard our boat in 2015
Somehow though, the days were filled with things requiring immediate action—tackling problems with the boat, how to fight mildew, and how I could make our limited living space seem bigger, and with those occupations, time passed quickly.  
Thanksgiving with new friends on Lubbers' Quarters,
in the Abacos, Bahamas, 2016

Then, little by little, I found that I was in the company of new people that I liked, wherever we stayed for a little while.  Not everyone that we met was destined to become a fast friend; certainly not, but we did find that ‘friend-making’ is accelerated on the water.  
This merry band of Halloween revelers became
friends.  Note the "parrot" resting on
pirate's shoulder. Hampton, VA.  2017

We (sailors) need each other, dare I say, more than we did living on land. Although sailors tend to be quite independent and self-sufficient people, when things go awry whether big or little, we want to confer with one another. 
Women friends in Fort de France, Martiinique
celebrating Carnaval.  2018

We offer up spare boat parts when we can. We offer to come aboard and help each other with tasks. That’s just the way it is between sailors.  
Friends that toured around the Pitons on
St Lucia with us.  2018

And when we share our similar histories of planning and preparation required before moving aboard, we find others who understand the challenges involved with leaving land. 
Hiking friends and jokesters, Bequia. 2018

The first time we arrived in the Bahamas, in fact, within the first hour, we were hailed by some sailors from Minnesota.  One of them called out to us,  Duluth! I just graduated from (U of M) Duluth!” Instant connection. They were on a boat named Namaste. We were invited into their little network of friends and with that, we were part of a group. We saw all of those same people when we arrived in the Bahamas the second year.  Old home week!
The owners of Namaste are on the far left. Green Turtle
Cay, Abacos, Bahamas  2016

Last summer was spent in one place, a boatyard in Oriental, NC, while I recuperated after back surgery. We both took a liking to one particular couple there that was working on their boat, Lulu.  Over a beer, we gaily told them one of our favorite stories, about the ermine that found its’ way into our bathroom at our rented lake house.  He (or she?) did his job by first clearing the house of mice and then considerately found his way out of the house again. 
English sailors shared our tour of Dominica.

I ended the story by relating that when the ermine returned for a second “visit” we of course, were compelled to name him. Before the ermine's name escaped my lips, she exclaimed presciently, “Herman!”  Which of course, was correct!  What else could it be?  
 Stephanie & Greg have arrived! Bequia. 2018

The four of us laughed and I knew in that instant we were friends.  We’ve kept in contact with those friends all winter and we are going to see them again soon. They have been clawing their way across the entire Caribbean toward us and we are waiting like children at Christmas for the arrival of Lulu.

A circus on the water.  Audience rafted up on dinghies to
watch. Le Marin, Martinique. 2018
Our good friends that we met in Annapolis living on a boat called Narwhal, the same folks that love and take care of our sweet Jax, visited us here in Bequia (BEK-way) for a week.  It was fantastic!  We snorkeled and regaled each other with stories of Jax.  It does our hearts good to know that they love him as we do. Jax owns the four of us—not the other way around.
Jax's humans: Justin, Megan, Ardys & Carl 
Bequia, 2018

After arriving in Antigua with all of the other Salty Dawg Rally boats, we mingled with the scores of other sailors.  Eventually we found our “place” amidst the mass of boaters—people from all across Canada and the U.S.  A few from England. Where they are from matters little.  We found and continue to find people that we feel at home with, wherever we are. When I show up, these friends look up and greet me, looking for all the world as if they are glad that I’ve come. 
A "Dinghy Drift" before sunset.  We attach our dinghies together and float wherever the wind
takes us, while sharing snacks and beverages. Carl and I are in the tan dinghy. Bequia, 2018

A hike on Bequia. One of the Grenadine
Islands. 2018
As we travel the islands, the boats part ways for a while, and then, we inevitably happen upon one another again, on a different island. Sharing stories, meals, sundowners, hikes, and help on each others’ boats as needed. 

Racing in the Easter Regatta on Allegro
Bequia, 2018
The other night, our dinghy went walkabout in an immense harbor opening onto the Caribbean Sea.  Our friends launched three dinghies and immediately went in pursuit of our wayward dinghy in the dark, on choppy waters. A dinghy is essential to living on a sailboat. When it was found, we heartily thanked everyone at which one of the dinghy hunters stood up in his dinghy and called out, “We love you—we had to find your dinghy.” It’s hard to find anything more meaningful in (my) life than discovering that I am where I belong. 

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