Monday, July 20, 2015

Three Years Before the Mast

Ah, the call of the sea!

We should be ending up our visit in Finland and getting ready to return home right about now. Internet is unpredictable on our travels, so instead of my usual fiber fun I've written this blog post ahead of time about the three years we lived aboard a small sailboat and how we got to be there.

When I was in 7th grade, my father bought an old wooden sailboat. It was 30' long, not counting the bow sprit, which is where I liked to hang out. The following two summers, we sailed around Cape Cod. We would pull into a port, my father would take the train to work in Boston and then return a few days later to sail to another port. We had a lot of adventures, and I loved it.

Fast forward to 1970. DH decided to go back to school after working for an oil company for four years. I came up with the idea of buying a sailboat to live on, using the proceeds from the sale of our then current home. After he got used to the idea, he agreed. He applied to schools on the coast of California where there were suitable harbors and settled on the University of California at Santa Barbara. We found a sailboat we could afford big enough to live on (barely), a Columbia 26, and acquired a slip in the harbor.

This is not our actual boat, but it was identical to this one, 26' long, with no bow sprit. We named her Neptune's Revenge, because DH got seasick at first.

We were able to get power and telephone, but needed to haul ice for refrigeration. We used an alcohol stove for cooking. I used a cart to carry our groceries, laundry and ice down the dock to our slip, about as long as a city block.

Our Timo was 2 1/2 when we got the boat. All his toys had to fit into a small hamper. He slept on a berth that made up into a couch in the daytime. We could bathe him in the sink if we had to.  He went to daycare while I worked. The bathrooms were on shore, as we were not allowed to flush into the harbor, and the water in the showers was often cold. I did a lot of knitting and learned to crochet. We had just enough room on the floor of our hanging locker for my Featherweight.

Timo started swimming lessons at the nearby pool. He soon turned into a fish.

DH decided to do his dissertation on the San Onofre Breccia, a rock formation that is found along the California coast and on the islands offshore. During the summer vacations, we would take off and sail to locations where this rock is found. He would row ashore and do his field work, taking our standard poodle, Tammy, with him. Timo and I would sit in the cockpit and read library books or fish, or we would climb into the water and swim. If there was a beach, we would go play in the water and make sandcastles.

When Timo was five, our daughter Karen was born. We put her bassinet on one of the seats at the table, but she mostly slept with us in the berth in the fo'c's'le. She liked to read with Daddy up there, too.

In nice weather we could hang her Johnny Jump Up from the main boom, so it could hang down through the hatch for use. She started swimming lessons at three months, and soon she could swim like a fish, too. Learning to walk was easy for her, because she could reach from one berth to another easily. 

Sailing with an additional child was a little more complicated, especially when I was needed to hold the tiller. Timo work a life preserver all the time the hatch was open or while walking on the dock, and when we sailed he was also tethered to the boat. Tammy wasn't though, and sometimes she would decide to go for a swim, so we would have to come about to pick her up.

By the time Karen was walking well, we moved off the boat. Not long after that, we moved inland, to start new adventures. I've never regretted my three years aboard the Neptune's Revenge.

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