20 Dec The Squall – Part 2
I desperately searched my mind, trying to remember everything the old owner of the boat had told me about sailing, everything I had forgotten in the midst of my hatred and sadness. And suddenly it came to me!
“Put up the main sail,” I shouted at my friend.
“But we’re dead into the wind, that won’t help,” He countered
“I’m the captain, remember? Just do it!” This time he complied, feeding the sail into the mast and quickly raising it, while I leaped to the back of the cockpit and began cranking the tiller, remembering now that my boat was light enough to be propelled by the rudder. I hastily maneuvered us out of the way of the closest oncoming boats, and just a few moments later, the main went taut and we were reaching into the wind and sailing!
It was incredible. I could hardly believe it. I was sailing! And even though I had no real idea what I was doing, somehow, I had saved us. In that moment, my sad little heart seemed to burst to three times it’s size in my chest, full of relief, and happiness, and outright pride.
To this day, I still can’t explain why that moment affected me so profoundly. Perhaps because it was the first time I had really stood up and taken charge of anything since my old life fell apart? Maybe it took picturing my boat sinking to a watery grave, before I could finally appreciate it. Or maybe it was simply adrenaline and fear shaking me out of my stupor? But whatever the reason, it was the first time I could remember feeling genuinely happy and excited in months!
I was even happier when we managed to clumsily turn the boat around and get all the way back home, no damage done. As my friend and I tied up at the dock, all safe and sound, I felt like a veil had been lifted and I could truly see my boat for the first time. Suddenly, it wasn’t just a terrible reminder of all that had gone wrong, it was the one thing that had finally made me smile.
Later that afternoon, still flush with happiness and gratitude that my home hadn’t been sunk, I finally gave it the attention it had long been needing. I hefted bag after bag of old clothes and belongings to a donation center, whittling the contents of my life down to a 26 foot space. Then I scrubbed the deck and hull for the first time, using a toothbrush to get into every nook and cranny. It felt so good to clean and do something proactive for once, that by the time I was done – the boat as sparkling white as all her missing paint would allow her to be – I had made my new years resolution! I had no idea what I was getting myself into, or just how much work it would involve, but I resolved that I was going to restore this boat!
It’s been nearly two years since then, and though the boat isn’t completely finished yet, it’s certainly come a long way! And I’ve certainly done all number of things my junior year self would have never imagined! I’ve installed wiring, batteries, and water pumps, taken apart and put back together an outboard motor, shimmied up a mast multiple times, installed rigging, refurbished wood, and patched and painted fiberglass. I’m quite adept with a screwdriver now (Phillips and Flat Head, thank you very much!), as well as electric sanders, electric drills, hand saws, wire strippers, paint rollers, and soldering irons.
It’s been a great adventure and an amazing learning experience. But even more than that, I found that having a big project and seeing progress day by day helped me get back the motivation and hope I had been missing during those previous hard months. I noticed that as I restored the boat, I began restoring other parts of my life as well, slowly throwing myself more fully into my hobbies and friendships and work. I also began to realize all the adventure and possibility that owning and living on a boat might entail. I made new boating friends, learned to sail, and even joined a racing team!
That first day on the water certainly didn’t change everything for me, but it was an important step towards progress and moving forward. I really believe that it helped set me on a new path; one that has turned out to be a pretty fantastic! Out of the ruins, life grew into something even better than it had been before! And I think it’s funny to realize, that I had this grand plan to fix up a boat, but what happened in the process, was that she sort of fixed me too.
I may have had no business buying a boat in the beginning, but realizing how much we’ve helped each other, I sometimes wonder if it wasn’t fated all along. There’s one other thing that makes me think this as well…
When I first moved onto the boat, the previous owner told me I should change the name. “It’s not a good name,” he said, “People die in those things. It’s really bad luck. I would change it if I was you.”
But I could never quite bring myself to do it. Because even back when I hated my boat and when all of life felt like a disaster, her name was always one thing that made sense. For when a sudden and violent windstorm hit my life, upending everything I knew, I somehow found myself adrift on a little boat.
And her name was The Squall.