What a long strange trip it’s been. Today as we clambered down off our last yacht on the eastern seaboard, the broker showing us this “long shot” boat asked if we had a lot of experience sailing cruising catamarans. I said no, we’ve always sailed monohulls, in fact our last boat was a Bill Luders-designed 42′ Clipper. He looked at us in amazement. His brokerage just moved from the site of the Luders boat yard a few miles from Norwalk and he personally knew Bill Luders and is still saddened by his untimely death at 90! The Luders Yard had just burned down forcing the move of his brokerage. I had probably the last correspondence, in his shaky hand, telling me that while he could answer any question about the Clipper because he’d designed the yacht, he was dying of cancer and he wasn’t going to use what little time he had left answering questions.
I showed him photos of Spellbound. He smiled and said what everyone says, “Beautiful.” This connection to one of the masters of yacht design still thrills me to this day. Our country has had so many brilliant navel architects, it’s probably why we don’t sing God Save the Queen. Herreshoff to Stephens, Luders is one of the greats and it was a privilege to fair out that hull.
As we circle the eastern seaboard again and head back down to Florida from Connecticut, I can only smile at the connections we’ve made. I can’t wait to see what happens next, as Hammer Time approaches. Stay tuned!
After four days in one place I’d begun to think of Vitaly, at the Subway around the corner, as my personal chief. Just like Blind Owl says, “we’re on the road again.” Ah yes, the dis-harmonious hum of the Hyundai, we must be on the hunt again. After a short post holiday visit with family near the Hudson River it will be time to make an offer. After more than 3,600 miles, over 17 sailing yachts, 15 stale “free” continental breakfasts, it’s time to jump in.
I’d have to say its been down to just a couple yachts all along but you always hope that The One would be recognized as “home” the second you step aboard. That hasn’t happened. Having said that, I do have a favorite. And the Blind Owl croons, “love can be found anywhere.”
Like most people, I spent the Christmases of my young adulthood celebrating someone else’s holday, first, as an extension of my childhood with my parents, then splitting the time with them and my inlaws, and later, as a single parent, with my sister. It wasn’t until my late thirties when I bought a house a day’s ride from my family that I decided we would create our own holiday, in our own house, and make our own traditions. Oh, we would still travel to see each other over the vacation, but Christmas, and the planning and preparations, would be our own.
That first year, friends invited us for dinner on Christmas Eve. It was an unusual dinner, curry, and an unusual group, a family from Dublin, and little Drew and me. That was in 1987, and Drew and I have been eating Christmas Eve curry with our dear friends ever since, now with Jack and Ericka as well. Somewhere along the way I started making samosas for the dinner and as time went on the four of us cranked out those crispy pastries like a well-oiled machine.
Meanwhile, when Jack and I got married in 1990 we decided to host his family for dinner Christmas Day. It was a stretch in our little house where more than four for dinner was tight, and where our tiny kitchen made cooking anything more than spaghetti an acrobatic feat. To make things more complicated, I’m a life-long vegetarian, and I wanted to serve a vegetarian meal to meat-eaters that was memorable and festive. And so began a 20 year run of usually ethnic ‘theme’ dinners, from Mexican tamales to Italian filled pastas to Ethiopian wats to dishes of the Silk Road to Indian curries.
We celebrated Hanukkah with latkes, and the occasional St. Lucia Day with Swedish saffron buns. We drank a lot of hot mulled cider. We made pans of Philadelphia sticky buns that Jack and Drew delivered to our friends on Christmas Eve morning.
You can see that the holidays are for us about food and family and friends. We’re not Christian, so we don’t celebrate Christmas Day as the birth of Jesus, but we do celebrate the precious hours we have with the people we love, and the last week of the year is a perfect time to come together and make memories.
This year, a lot has changed. One of our Irish friends is gone. Drew and Ericka have moved away. We sold our house and can no longer call Pittsburgh home. For the past two weeks we’ve driven nearly 3500 miles shopping for a new floating — moving — home. We’ve had no saffron buns, no latkes, no sticky buns, no mulled cider. I haven’t spent the last four months planning a Christmas feast. We have no tree, no lights, no stockings at the fireplace.
We drove back to Pittsburgh for Christmas because we can’t imagine Christmas Eve without curry and the Cassidys. Drew and Ericka drove back for the same reason, and yesterday we learned that Ericka has taken up the mantle of samosa-maker and plans to make them every year from now on. That simple act has overwhelmed me with joy to know that one of our fondest holiday traditions, one that Drew and I carved out of nothing, will go on even without the house where it started.
Christmas Eve we’ll be eating curry and missing our dear friend. Christmas Day we’ll be at the Schulzes’, once again celebrating in someone else’s house, but we’ll enjoy their traditions and celebrate our precious hours together and make memories. Next year, who knows what the holidays will bring. There will be new traditions, new foods, new friends.
Just reached down for the windshield wiper lever, and realized that I hadn’t used them since we left the ‘Burgh. We must be heading back up north.
Your intrepid travelers have stopped at 2pm, because we had to. Marce started to make awful noises and hold her head in her hands. Truth is, I’m not feeling so hot either having just been crushed by the BUG. I said, “Ok, that’s it we’re packing it in.”
Last night, “throne side” as I held various items of very little comfort I was sure her head was going to spin right around and growl something in Latin at me. It was a completely comprehensive upheaval the likes of which you’ve never seen nor heard. I knew exactly what she was going through because that was me two days ago. So here we sit in Jackson Fort or some such place, at our new home the Econo Lodge just a mere 8,000 points off our Choice Privileges card, still 8 hours from the ‘Burgh.
On the yacht front I feel the choices narrowing a bit and coming down to too much or not enough. After the break I think we can clear up the loose ends and make an offer.
Marce is resting now, don’t make a sound. See most of you soon.
Two days ago we visited friends who live on the water near Miami, and now we’re on the water on the other side of the state in Tierra Verde. It’s not only been good for a little R&R but also to remind us that we’re planning a life on the water. Believe it or not, it’s easy to lose sight of that while boat shopping. We get bogged down in equipment lists and storage lockers and bunk lengths and anchor chain, all the other thousand considerations that go into comparing this boat to that one. It doesn’t help matters that some of the boats we’ve looked at are on the hard, and it’s a challenge to picture them floating at anchor when you’re eight feet up in the air listening to power tools and smelling the nasty boat yard smells.
So it hit us in a very vulnerable place when we were dinghied out to see a boat anchored in a little cove in Ft. Lauderdale. The owners are living aboard, a distinct advantage for buyers because the boat is fresh and clean and homey instead of stale and damp and bland from having been emptied and closed up for months. We loved the boat, but now we need to decide if we loved the boat for itself or because it was easier to paint ourselves into a picture when all the colors of the palette are there.
The funny thing is that we are so disconnected from real life during this journey that we forget it’s the holidays. Our GPS navigates us from marina to marina and occasionally through residential neighborhoods where the houses are festooned with inflatable Santas on surfboards and icicle lights on the rooflines, or we drive down Main Streets all lit up with bells and candy canes and carolers, and we’re yanked back to reality and reminded that we need to head back up north in a few days to see our friends and family and our cat and eat Christmas curry and see snow and wear fleece.
I think our understanding of reality is starting to shift. And that’s not a bad thing.
We drove across Florida today, while trying to make some sense out of this crazy boat search. We stopped along the way to visit friends and family. An old college friend of Marce’s last night, who bought waterfront property in Miami decades ago, seemed so happy and…settled, peaceful. I remember when we looked like that. More family Sunday and just a couple more yachts to see Monday and Tuesday, before we hightail it back to Pittsburgh for the holidays. Only to repeat the process a few days later.
No real winner yet. Believe me, folks, nobody is giving these things away.
I don’t know why but we felt like we were out here alone. Oh we would talk to a broker, two or three a day, email and phone calls but all we heard were stories and rumors of shoppers. And then it happened. Yesterday as we pulled into a marina I saw a couple, our age, notebooks in hand assessing the yacht we were coming to see. Blurry eyed, with that dazed look, the same look that I expect we have. Awkward at first. Maybe even tense. They were doing a counterclockwise rotation and we were doing a clockwise rotation of Florida. Essentially we’ve rejected the rest of the boats they are going to look at and they’ve rejected all the boats that we are going to see. Like midnight shoppers working from one end of the sale table to the other. Bumping into each other at the middle.
We liked them, although he saw us as competition because he really liked a boat that we were going to see in two hours, and he hadn’t had enough time to lobby his wife. She didn’t like it, he really did.
Marce calls them our Shadow Couple. I can only guess what they call us.
We saw a boat today that felt like home. Figures it was already sold.
We’ve been out a week and we’re running out of boats to see. If I could take the galley from one, the heads from another, the cockpit from a third and so on, we’d have the perfect boat. But that’s what everyone says. It ain’t easy.
Meanwhile, my brain is starting to overheat. It’s not the boat shopping–that’s the fun part. What’s exhausting is the daily route and schedule planning, deciding the best place to overnight, booking hotels and finding food that’s both cheap and reasonably healthy, all while keeping up with normal home chores like paying bills. If this were a vacation we’d have time for fun, but sadly we drove right past St. Simon’s Island, St. Augustine, Cape Canaveral, the National Navy Seals Museum and many more places we’d love to visit if we weren’t on such a critical mission to find a home.
Every night we review the boats we’ve seen, search for new listings and prep for the next day’s boats. Then, while a hundred thoughts go swirling around in my cranium I catch up with what’s going on in the world and in my circle until I drift off. I leap out of bed every morning certain that we’re late for an appointment.
Now that we’re about to turn west and cross the state, we’re also trying to fit in visits with as many family members as we can, and there are a lot of them. I feel a little guilty because this is such a busy week for most people and here we are blowing down from the north interrupting carefully orchestrated plans. Sorry, everyone, but we hope we see you all the same.
At least it’s finally warmer. I packed our fleece and heavy winter coats in the trunk of the car. And I’m wearing flip flops for the first time today.