“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” –Mark Twain
Most vacations begin with a few clicks of a mouse. Find a flight, hotel, punch in your credit card number, agonize over the tough choices, like choosing between a couple’s massage or a tee time, pack an extra pair of pants and a bathing suit, maybe a shirt with some flowers on it and you’re on your way! The details will work themselves out as the excitement for your trip begins to boil.
Preparing for a weeklong vacation aboard the Karen Marie was not as simple. Try to imagine preparing and packing all the food and drinks you’ll need for a week, your fuel, water, clothes, and sheets. Then there is the need to get the boat ready. There are tanks to fill, rigging to inspect, cleaning, obtaining spare parts and more. Last, but certainly not least, you need to plan your route and watch the weather like a hawk stalking prey.
To prepare for our time aboard, I began making to-do lists. I had grocery lists, engine part lists, lists of things to get from West Marine. I even had a list telling me what other lists I needed to make! It was maddening.
One task on one such list stood out like a cardinal on a snowy day: Replace the mainsail halyard. This would require me to pull Karen to the top of the mast, a chore that we both dreaded. It took some serious negotiations but Karen finally agreed (read: relented) to be pulled to the top. Borrowing a bosun’s chair from our friends at Clark Boat Yard, Karen climbed into the harness and got clipped in. If ever she was going to contemplate getting rid of the boat, or me … or both, this was the time.
I cranked on our mast’s old bronze winches, pulling her up the 35-foot mast a few inches at a time until my shoulders screamed uncle. While catching my breath, I channeled my inner Lombardi and coached Karen to the top. Despite her bravery, the new halyard wouldn’t fit through the masthead. The new line was softer, and expanded when pushed through the tight space, making it impossible to pass through the pulley at the top. Frustrated and tired, our efforts were in vain. Thankfully, we were able to replace the halyard on attempt number two.
“We’re going to need a vacation from this vacation,” said Karen while catching her breath after climbing the mast.
She wasn’t wrong. Boat trips are unlike any others. They require long hours of planning. But when you cast off, and all that preparation is in your wake, that stress is replaced with something else, something that makes this crazy hobby worth it: the pride in knowing that you and your boat are prepared for the adventures ahead.
And that to-do list, now it only reads: explore, dream, discover.