Sunday, July 16, 2023

Charting a New Course

It’s been nine years and a couple of weeks since we sailed back from our year at sea. In that time, both our kids started high school, graduated, and moved on into their adult lives. Bryan changed jobs, built countless improvements to our lives, and coached the local robotics team to the world competition (and through a pandemic!) I went back to school for therapeutic music, learned to play the harp, was recorded as a Quaker minister, and wrote four books. It’s been a busy nine years! 

During that time, many folks have asked, “Do you still have your boat?” And more than a few have expressed surprise when I said, “Yes! LiLo is back at her slip in St. Helens.” Which is true. But there have been many seasons when we didn’t even get up to the Columbia for a weekend, much less for any of the longer trips we still hoped to make. LiLo was almost always just “back at her slip in St. Helens.”

We all know how life can shift and what worked for one season might not be right for another. We wondered if time would open up for more LiLo adventures after high school, wondered again as the pandemic hit if that might prompt us to get out a little more. And it did…a little bit. But every time, it became clearer and clearer: LiLo was our past but not our present or our future.

As hard as it has been to consider letting go of this floating home which was the center of so much family joy and connection, we knew that holding on to it would prevent us from making more memories and having more adventures. 

So, after years of considering what might be next for us, whether boating would even be a part of our future, and wondering when the time would be right to make a change, this spring, we finally took the plunge and started looking seriously for a different boat. 

We have dreams of heading north, up the Inside Passage of Canada and maybe Alaska, and wanted a layout with a warm, dry inside steering station, a powerful engine to get us through the tidal currents safely, and space to work aboard on the way. 

We found an affordable dream boat in the South Puget Sound and put in an offer with mixed emotions, knowing it meant finally letting LiLo go for good. 

I’ll share more on my Patreon and FB page soon about the new boat aptly named “Sanctuary.” But today, I wanted to share the photos from last night’s LiLo sendoff when we took the time to gather with family and a few sailing friends to officially close this chapter before she goes on the market this week. 

We ate some traditional LiLo foods and drank the traditional LiLo root beer. We retraced the map of our journey on the ceiling and Hannah hid her name on the back of a bulkhead. Friends who had been on the dock as we left and greeted us on our return from the big trip sat with us as the sun set and the breeze cooled and we all told story after story, mostly of how things went wrong and how we found our way together. 

One friend sang a couple of original songs inspired by our journey. And at the end of the evening, after everyone else was gone, we stood in the cockpit together and danced through our tears to a song from our at-sea playlist, one that kept us going on many hard days and played as we sailed the last miles of our year.

Then Hannah slipped the drop boards into place for the last time. 

Annnnnnd then we had to go back below for something we’d forgotten so Meira got a turn to close up the boat as well.

I laid my hand on LiLo’s stern with gratitude for all she brought and a blessing for her next adventures and then, as we did countless times over the years, Bryan and I turned to follow our kids back up the ramp into the deepening dusk. 

It’s hard to look a “last time” right in the face. It’s easier for me to look back later and notice that I’ve already lived through an ending.

But we knew we wanted to be present to this big shift, as hard as it is to hold. I’ll always be grateful we took the time to honor all this season brought us and walk together into the next one.