I’ve Moved!

Wow, I know you just got here, but I finally got a better site up and running. Please visit me over at a new and improved

WeatherHelmed.com 🙂



Matt thought he was being funny...

Matt thought he was being funny...

Love is in the Hair

These last few days, there’s been love in the hair.  Yes, you read that right – love in the hair.  Specifically, my hair and Matt’s hair, and the “love” looks and feels very much like paint primer because that’s what it is.  What it represents, though, is my willingness to work on the boat and Matt’s giddiness that I am there working beside him – hence, the love.

Matt has been asking me to help on the boat for, um, at least a year and a half now.  I have always had great excuses why I couldn’t do it.  One, I had two jobs! How could I be expected to work all day, get home and work some more and then work on the boat on the weekend??  Then, there was a wedding to plan!  How could I start some massive project on the boat and yet still make wedding invitations and decorations from scratch?  But, the truth is that working on the boat, until the last couple of months, did not appeal to me AT ALL.  Even though I knew I would be going on the trip, that I would be sailing on it over the summer, that I would be enjoying all the perks without the work, I just couldn’t stand the thought of getting into its nitty-and-gritty parts.

Just about every night since Syzygy arrived, Matt has come home smelling “like boat” –  a grimy mix of epoxy residue, engine oil, mildew, who knows how many different solvents, “5200”, lots of sweat, and tears.  The stink is diluted some when he washes his hands and arms with an orangy-smelling substance called Gojo, but that’s now just another aspect of the distinctive boat odor.  Even lying in bed at night, after he’s taken a shower and brushed his teeth, and should smell only like Dove and Pantene, the boat scent still lingers on his skin.  I’m used to it now – on HIM – but it’s not MY perfume of choice.  Alas, I think the time has come to embrace my inner mechanic and get intimately familiar with the big, dirty, smelly lady.

Baby steps, though…  Let’s start on deck first.  I spent last weekend sanding and priming the foredeck for painting.  When it came time to do the first coat of primer, Matt appeared beside me, showing me how to mix the paint and then rolling it over the gelcoat while I followed behind with the brush.  We worked quickly, compatibly, and I could feel a quiet joy pulsing through him as we – finally – worked on the boat together.

Sunday night, we wrapped up our work on the boat and headed home.   As I got ready to shower, he touched my cheek lightly – “You’ve got paint right there by your eye… almost IN your eye!  And a little bit here… and here…”  He smoothed my hair back gently, tugging lightly at those hardened white strands.
I looked up at him, noticing little bits of paint in his hair, too.  “I really liked having you there on the boat with me this weekend,” He says softly, his eyes warm.   My insides start to get all swirly and my mind goes cloudy and my muscles turn to mush and I feel myself falling into him and thinking (for the first time in, ok, a while) oh my God, if I don’t kiss him right now, I’M GOING TO DIE…

Maybe it’s the fumes or fiberglass dust in my brain, but when he asked me if I wanted to work on the boat again this weekend, I immediately – and happily – said yes, it’s a date.

From Lilliput to Brobdingnag

A few weeks ago, we had a friend in town who was anxious to experience the boat.  Not only were we having dinner in the cabin and eating on the recently reconstructed fold-down table, but our friend G would be sleeping on the settee that night, too(!!!)  (He was adorably giddy at the thought of sleeping on a sailboat.)  I made a pizza and beer run, returning to hand three steaming boxes down into the cabin, followed by some cheap Trader Joe’s hefeweizen.  Hands empty, I dropped down into the companionway myself.  Six of us standing and lounging in our tiny cabin was about four people too many.  We laughed and joked as we sucked our guts in and slid by each other, stumbling over feet, flailing for something to grab onto, finding our faces suddenly confronted with someone’s armpit…  Finally seated, I glanced around at the smiles, feeling the warmth radiating within the narrow confines, the happiness bubbling over and rising up out through the hatches.  As I scooted ever closer to my companions to allow room for more hips and elbows, my mind flitted back and forth between, “Man this boat is sooo small” and “No, it’s just big enough…”

….  And that’s pretty much the regular internal conversation I have every time I step foot in the cabin.  If your shower had counter tops in a U-shape around the tub, you would essentially be standing in our galley; If you stand immediately in front of your toilet and turn around, that’s about the size of our head (boat bathroom); If you take about 10 normal steps, you’ve walked the entire length of our cabin.  (I studied the layout yesterday and determined that, if the boat were not heeling, and I knelt at an angle,  slightly to the left of the mast, I could just barely do forward lunges between the settees.)  Down in the belly of the boat, I feel ENORMOUS – like Gulliver must have felt when he arrived in Lilliput.  I am not a big person to begin with, but the ceilings seem so low, the length so short, the kitchen so narrow and tiny, the cabinets so shallow and insufficient for all the stuff we’ll need.


Today, though, I was up on the foredeck, preparing the deck area from the bow back to the cabin-top for painting.  We are going to put “non-skid” on all those places where we’ll need more traction, and then the rest gets nice, fancy, smooth, shiny paint.  So far this foredeck area alone has taken me, oh, about 16hours and I haven’t even begun painting for real yet.  I finished the second coat of primer tonight and stood back to admire my work.  Even with the uneven, swirly brush and roller strokes, that white triangle looked SO MUCH BETTER than the rest of the deck.  Looked so much better until I turned around and considered the remaining daunting task before us – sanding, acetone-ing, quick-faring, sanding again, acid-washing, priming, sanding a third time, acid-washing again, priming again, and finally painting the rest of this 40 foot Mo-Fo.

And, welcome to Brobdingnag.


*** I found the photos via google images and didn’t see any info about copyrights…?? If you find that they are protected, please let me know! 🙂

Evolution of Perception

September 2007:

The air is warm and fragrant with herbs and fresh bread and, around us, men and women are laughing and sipping their wine, enjoying Napa’s pleasant summer evening.  Matt sits at my side, staring blankly straight ahead, oblivious to the sights and sounds around him.  I, on the other hand, am hyper-attuned to the environment, my heart envying the happy families as I watch sweet round baby faces smile up at their mothers.  I had just completely blind-sided Matt.  Our night had started out normal enough.  We took showers and got dressed to go out for dinner.  We had been joking and talking about our day and then, as usual, the conversation turned to the boat.

“You know, I’m not ok with going on the boat without you.”  He said. “If I go, I want you to come with me.”

“Have you talked to the guys about this?  Are they ok with me going on the trip?  This isn’t exactly what they signed up for…”

“I know, but they’re ok with it.  They realize that you’re part of the package now.  It’s fine, don’t worry about it. I’m not going without you.”

It wasn’t the first time we had talked about this, so I wasn’t completely surprised by his declaration.  “So, ok, so, it would be what, two years?”  He nodded.

My mind started spinning.  Two years.  Tears began welling up in my eyes as I fought to calm my screaming biological clock.  I couldn’t help myself from blurting out my thoughts – “But, I’m 28 now, by the time that we left, I would almost be 31, then if we were gone for two years, I would be 33 and then we wouldn’t have any money when we got back and so we wouldn’t have kids right away so maybe I would be 34 or 35 when we could have kids and they say that your fertility starts to drop after 35 and what if I can’t get pregnant right away and so then maybe I would be 36 or 37 and then we want to have two or maybe three kids and so then I would have to hurry up and get pregnant again but then I would be an old woman when our kids were in grade school and…”    the blubbering continued, then dissolved into a quiet hiccupping sob.

Matt put his hand on mine and looked at me, then looked away, stunned.  “Huh.” He managed.  “I never thought about it that way before.”

April 2008:

“Wow. So this is it?!?!” I gaze upwards, admiring the sleek smooth lines and the sheer size of the thing.  “Yep.” Matt says, leaning his hand against the hull, “This is Syzygy.”  The boat is on the hard at the Berkeley Marina, fresh off the truck, and now propped up on cushioned stands.  I walk towards the bow, and about twenty feet farther, then turn around so I can get a better look at her.  I yell to Matt, “Her hips are HUGE!!”  For, indeed, I would describe the boat as having an “apple” shape. A nice shapely, narrow bow, then an enormous girth at the center, and a slight tapering towards the stern.  She is one well-endowed lady.  I walk back towards Matt and he invites me up the ladder that’s leaning against the boat.  Climbing up the rungs I feel, well, totally unsafe, and it’s strange to realize how tall the boat is when you take the keel into consideration.  I scramble up over the toerail and am standing in the cockpit, trying to remember that the boat is not simply balanced on its thin keel, but is supported by the stands.  Still, it’s a bit disconcerting and I struggle to push all thoughts of earthquakes out of my mind.   Matt drops down into the cabin and I follow him.

Oh my God.  It’s. so. small.  I hope Matt took my breathlessness for awe and not horror…  All I can think is, “Me and Matt and two other guys.  Here.  Nowhere to get away.  Oh my God, it’s. so. small.”  I smile and say, “Wow!  This is great!” thinking, “Lord, what have I got myself into??”

May 2009:

It’s been a long day.  I’m standing in line at the BART station, uncomfortably warm amongst all the other jostling bodies, and, like them, waiting impatiently for the next East Bay bound train to come in.  Tucking my ticket in my back pocket, I take out my latest book, “Excellent Women” by Barbara Pym.  Not my usual kind of reading material, but I’ve read just about everything else in our building’s laundry room library and I was starting to get desperate.  The book was ok, so far, certainly not worthy of a book report, but it kept me entertained.  I’d barely read a page when the train pulled up.  I jockeyed for position and managed to secure a seat.  Settling in, I returned to my book.  (I had learned that reading was key to keeping me from thinking about earthquakes as we raced through the tunnel under the bay, and terrorist attacks that could blow everyone up.)  We were approaching the 19th Street Oakland stop when I read the quote that would forever change my perspective on my future:

“They that go down to the sea in ships, and occupy their business in great waters, these men see the works of the Lord and His wonders in the deep.”

In that moment, I realized:  Matt may want this trip, but maybe I need it.

I couldn’t believe I hadn’t understood this before.  My life, oh, for the past seven years, has turned me upside down and over so many times, I hardly know who I’ve become… mostly because I’ve never stopped long enough to think about it.  In 2002 I went through a severe depression and a somewhat emotionally and spiritually abusive relationship, where I lost faith in myself and my God; in the midst of this, my parents sold my childhood home to go RV’ing and found out four months later that my dad had pancreatic cancer.  We watched my dad get better, then get worse, and sat by his bedside until he died on March 16, 2004.  A month later, I decided that William & Mary Law in Williamsburg, Va was the right law school for me and I prepared to leave my still-grieving family and west coast life behind.  That fall, I started law school, only to have another life-altering event occur that November.  Law school was one stressor after another, but the steady stream of work meant I never had time to focus on the past or how I carried it with me.  Immediately after graduation, I moved back to California and began studying for the bar.  After an insanely stressful summer, I learned in October, that I had failed the exam.  Another round of studying, and this time, thank God, I passed.  Then I quit my crappy job, only to be frustratingly unemployed for five months, watching the start date for my loan payments get closer and closer.  Finally, I found a job – two jobs – and came to the realization that we had to start saving money for our pending boat trip.  Throw in planning a wedding, and suddenly, seven years have gone by without any introspection or soul-searching, and I look in the mirror and am not quite sure who I’ve become or whether I like me.

When I read that quote, I thought about long night watches with just me, the sea and God;  I thought how this trip may be my opportunity to reconnect with my spiritual self, to have time to reflect on my losses, the pain, my fears that I’ve kept hidden for so long;  I thought, maybe, this is my chance to look deep inside myself, examine who I am, and determine if that’s who I want to be;  I thought, hopefully, this trip will afford me moments where I really can just listen and be still; and I thought, maybe, this trip will provide the healing my heart desperately needs.

And, for the first time, instead of feeling a begrudged acceptance of the boat, I am thankful,  so thankful, for the opportunity it presents, and I have a renewed sense of excitement for the trip and the changes it could mean for my life.

August 2009:

Matt walks in the door, looking exhausted, but smiling.  I’m on the couch, wrapped up in a towel, still damp from my shower, talking to my mom on the phone.  I know that Matt has just come from the boat, from talking to Jonny about the trip.  I search Matt’s face for some clue as to what their conversation entailed.  He looks happy, which is good, but that could mean several things.  I mouth to him, “So… what happened???”  He raises his eyebrows, and mouths back, “You and Me,” pointing at me and then at himself.  He repeats this action several times, his smile growing wider and wider.  My eyes bulge, my mouth drops – I can barely contain my surprise, or my excitement.  Matt has just told me that the boat trip is now going to be me and him, him and me, just US.  I relay the message to my mom, then quickly hang-up and Matt sits down next to me and gives me the details.  My eyes are tearing up and I can feel myself beginning to shake as the words become real.  This is not the way it was planned, this isn’t the way we necessarily ever wanted it to be, but, my God, this is incredible…  just US.

Later, we’re lying in bed, Matt already twitching his way to dreamland.   I’m still thinking about the news, trying to fully digest what it means…

Then it hits me – Shit. Now I really have to learn how to sail.

How it all began…

July 2006:  I sidled up next to Matt at the bar, leaning in to hear more of his conversation with his friend Jon.  They were discussing a charter sailing trip in the Caribbean for the next summer.  Their words were scattered, barely heard over the rising din of laughter and rock and roll that typically characterized the tiny sushi restaurant.  Crowded together, five of us stood at the long, shiny obsidian bar –  me, Matt, Jonny, Jon, and Jon’s father.  We were enjoying this last evening of Jon’s father’s stay in San Francisco.  As I peeked my head over Matt’s shoulder, he turned to me and smiled.  “We’re planning to go sailing in the Caribbean next June.  Are you interested?”  Although my mind immediately started racing with ideas of what this question could possibly mean, I simply smiled back at him and said, “Sure, if I have nothing better to do…”

That night, I went home pondering the significance of his question about the sailing trip.  We had only been dating for about 4 weeks.  I was leaving in two weeks to finish my last year of law school in Virginia, 3,000 miles away.  My over-analytical self went into high gear.  Was he just asking me to be polite? was he joking? would he have asked me about something so far in the future if he didn’t have strong feelings about me?  I reeled the craziness in, though, and eventually wrote it off to just a fun evening, a fair amount of sake, and the spontenaity of a new relationship.

Matt, of course, now claims, that he never asked me if I wanted to go to the Caribbean with them.  Doesn’t matter too much, though, because they never did charter a boat.  Instead, they bought one (a 40-foot Valiant sailboat christened “Syzygy”) and Matt and I are getting married and then we – me, Matt, Jon & Jonny – are all leaving in January 2010 to sail around the world.

Somehow, nothing about that night at the bar seems odd to me anymore – I think we all got what we secretly wanted.