Sunday, March 5, 2017

Swallowing the Anchor

--> It was a perfect day on scenic Penobscot Bay for a trial sail with a prospective buyer; less than 10 knots of wind, flat seas, and a gradually-retreating fog. The entire time I was consumed by the thoughts that this was my final sail aboard Annie Laurie.  

This guy was new to wooden boats for sure, but he wasn't a tire-kicker.  He was asking all the right questions for someone who fully intended to buy a boat and sail south in a matter of days.  

When we returned to the town dock in Camden, he thanked me for the sail, then made a quick departure, in no small part due to his extreme allergies to cats.

As the days went by, and his communication became minimal, I became a bit uneasy that he was no longer considering her.

But he had come all this way.

Everything felt like the poetic ending I’d always hoped for my time with Annie Laurie.  He's a pilot, with his own plane, and when he heard through the grapevine via a mutual friend that I had a boat for sale in the price range and location he sought, he flew his personal plane from the west coast of the United States to have a look. He was landing at the airport where I worked, and once I had his ETA, I stood on the ramp waiting. It felt like it was meant to be.
Cleared to Land, Nantucket
He was also taking some time to look at other boats in the area, too.  Prudent, I agree. But a few days after our trial sail, when he offered to take me on an afternoon excursion in his plane to Nantucket, I had just one initial thought.

Rats. A pity flight.  

I'd been wanting to go to Nantucket for years, but had always seemed in a hurry in one way or another as I transited the vicinity with Annie Laurie.

We didn't discuss the boat at all during the flight.   I began to come to terms with the fact that I'd likely have a wooden boat on my hands until at least next spring.

Arriving in Rockport for haul-out and survey
But, somewhat to my surprise, and to my great relief, he decided he wanted to move forward, and schedule to have a survey conducted.

And so, on October 15th, after a couple of weeks of consideration, shopping around, then an out-of-water survey, Annie Laurie’s new owner and I shook hands on the public dock in Rockport, Maine, and made it official.

It was, naturally, a difficult few weeks. I was ready to let go, but as the various final moments with her came and went (not least of which was rowing Effie ashore one last time, and her cries as she kept her eyes on the boat the entire way to the dinghy dock), I was inevitably emotional.

So when I received a text message about two weeks later, saying “Laura, your boat and I do not get along, will you take her back?” I was in utter disbelief.  

What could I say?

Noooooo. No no no no no no. 


I just laughed it off, in the beginning. I told him things will get better, and he just had a bad day, and to ‘Keep going.  You’ll be fine.’

But I didn't know at this point that his personal belongings were already on the dock in a little port town not 25 miles from where we’d signed the papers. He was already in the process of figuring how he was going to hitch a ride out of there.

Retrieval voyage. So very cold. Yet, I somehow never lose my fashion sense.
That was a Tuesday morning.  By 10am Saturday, David and I were motoring Annie Laurie through the Mussel Ridges, bound for Rockland, where I'd ultimately be hauling her out for the winter.

So much for swallowing the anchor.

I was more than ready to move on with my life, so re-acquiring the boat was a setback, and took a few days to truly sink-in.  But, as with everything in life, if you can laugh at it, it makes it easier to cope.  I allowed myself to have vivid daydreams of what exactly Annie Laurie had put her new owner through.  I could just see her, throwing her tantrum, him holding onto the jib sheet like reins, her hobby-horsing like a bucking bronco trying to throw him off her back, white hull now turned an angry scarlet-red... all the while screaming, "You're not my mom! You're NOT my MOM!!!"

Winter has never been an easy season for me, especially when weathering it in northern climes.  This one has been no exception.  By late December, I had lost my bearings, and no longer knew how to move forward, especially in terms of my flight training. With various challenges mounting, I had almost entirely lost sight of my goals. As I foundered, I reminded myself of Thomas Edison's words, how most of life's failures are people who do not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.

It wasn't quite two weeks after re-committing myself that I reached one of the most memorable milestones in any pilots career: my first solo flight.

Some fires you have to continuously tend, but the desire for flight is one fire I couldn't extinguish even if I wanted to.  Like some fires, this one just knows how to burn.