January 15, 2012
It’s too early to be up, at least for what ought to be a lazy Sunday. The person who invents a way for dogs to be able to tell it’s the weekend will make millions, maybe all from me. Oh well. The coffee is hot, the yogurt creamy and tart, and the house is quiet. Maybe it’s not all bad.
There are certain moments in your life that you can see, in hindsight, with perfect clarity. You have no idea at the time how important they will become. If someone were making a movie, though, the camera would zoom in and the audience would know that this earthshatteringly critical, for reasons to be revealed.
For me, making one small innocent post on a sailing website was one of those moments. I thought nothing of it then, but now I look at my life and realize just how pivotal that actually was.
We were deep in the late stages of planning and prepping for an 8-month sailing trip to the Bahamas with our kids. The sailboat was one we’ve owned (or it’s owned us, in cruiser parlance) since 1992, so the projects were mostly spiff-and-spruce-and-reorganize. Dig up old equipment and reinstall it. That kind of thing. Sailing magazines were piling up, dog-eared, including many columns by Wendy Mitman Clarke, who sails on Osprey with her family and writes the back page column for Cruising World. I was searching for whatever information I could find on kids and sailing, so when I came across a forum filled with questions like, “Our family is going sailing to Antartica for the next 4 years – will anyone else be doing the same thing?” I had to add my piece. I jotted something quick about our plans, our boat, our kids, and hit “post.” Then I eagerly checked my inbox for the replies that never came.
Fast forward about 4 months. We’re putting our way down the Intracoastal Waterway, somewhere around Vero Beach. So far, the only “kid boat” we’ve seen was in Beaufort, North Carolina, a boat we’d met initially in our own home waters of Deltaville, Virginia. Our kids were down below, doing school, and this sleek 45-foot sailboat comes alongside us. I see kids in their cockpit and yell down to our 2, “Kid boat! Kid boat!” Like Jack-in-the-box toys they appear, swarm to the side deck, and proceed to trade yells of delight across the water. Meanwhile, I’m trying to have a less shouted conversation with the mom on board (it’s Wendy on Osprey, can’t you guess?), and we get enough information shared to realize that they’re headed much further along that night and they’re going a completely different place in the Bahamas than we are for Christmas. So much for a kid boat to play with.
Over the next 2 months, we hear them occasionally on the single-sideband radio. Our daughter repeatedly asks me to call them, to see where they are, but I am pretty sure there’s no way they remember us. They’re celebrities in the cruising world, probably swamped with people wanting to talk and hang out. And I can hear from the radio that they’re miles away.
Late January, 2010. We’re in the Exumas at last, the group of islands in the Bahamas where many cruisers tend to congregate. The water is an unreal shade of blue, there’s exploration to be had, and there are a few population hot-spots where provisions are easily found. We’ve weaseled our way into a seldom-used anchorage (we left a bit of bottom paint on a rock on the way in – it’s a tough entrance) and found to our delight that the day-tripper “resort” on the next island over had wifi blasting. Time to check email.
“I don’t know if you remember us,” the mail began, “but we passed you in the ICW near Vero Beach right before Thanksgiving. I found your email address on a post on Noonsite, and wonder if you are the same Calypso. We’re in the Exumas and wonder where you are. We monitor the radio after the weather in the mornings.” Signed, Wendy on Osprey.
Wait. What? Do we remember THEM?
Two weeks later, we both change our plans slightly and meet up at Cambridge Cay, where we find to our delight that all of us, parents to kids, are as compatible as chocolate syrup and milk – we complete each other. We sail in company with them for the next 2 months, then they head south to sail across the Caribbean as we turn north to home.
Wendy and I talk or email almost every day. Our daughters are best of friends, our sons close behind. Johnny, her husband, and Jeremy (mine) are peas in a pod, happy tinkering on boats and talking engines. Jeremy sent Johnny a mail telling him he’d bought a new engine for Calypso before he told me about it.
It’s a little like the Greg Mortensen story in how everything fits together. Post on forum (with email address), chance encounter on the ICW, incredible luck at finding wifi in a remote spot, and enough flexibility to move a little faster than we would have otherwise. But never in a million years did I imagine that posting that innocent query on Noonsite would lead me to a great friendship, for me and for the rest of my family.
If you’re the editor of a movie of your life, what moments do you have that slow down and zoom in?
Still a quiet morning here. Wonder what it’s like on Osprey, in the Bahamas?