Sunday, January 26, 2014


Vashon Island, Washington

For almost four years now, I have lived completely afloat. Water has been my medium, my muse, my only constant. But taking a break from the water for a few months, I find that in those previous 50 years and 3 months before moving onto a boat, I took a few things for granted.

Like earth. I walk out the door and step onto solid ground. No dinghy ride, no precarious hop across a chasm. Just a step, so simple. It's always there, the earth, faithful, calm and reassuring, with its musty smells and nourishing palette of green and brown. I run my hand along a tree trunk, rough and solid, a pad of moss, soft and velvety.

And stillness. No matter how calm the water, a boat is in constant motion. Inside, everything moves too, my couch, my bed, my bathroom, my kitchen. On dry land, I walk on floors that are utterly still, and I thank them. I recklessly set a glass on the countertop without concern that it might go unexpectedly flying, shattering. I lie on a bed so still, it sucks me into unconsciousness like anesthesia, and I rest.

Living aboard is like parenting: you're always on watch. A part of my brain was always devoted to safety, planning, watching, worrying. On land, my brain rambles around with newfound freedom and ease. My nerves have lost their edge. Have I?

Water against fiberglass, wind in rigging, rain on the coach roof. Lines in cleats, chain against anchor. Once, I even heard a grouper make his guttural sounds just beneath my bed. Life onboard is one of constant sounds. But in our remote cabin, silence is like a blanket. It embraces me like memory foam, pressing down errant thoughts and soothing tight muscles.

Water I am not finished with you yet, but today, I'm indulging a little land crush.

Friday, January 3, 2014


Seattle to Vashon Island, Washington | 17 miles

When we moved off the boat last month, we went to Chip's parents' house in Delaware to ponder our next move. Our belongings had been pared down to a scant few bins, now mostly tucked in the attic, a few in the car. The immediate plan was to visit my family in New Mexico. After that, the future had not even been sketched in, not even in pencil.

"How about Vashon Island in Seattle?" I asked Chip a few days later.

We had been exploring the idea of housesitting, looking through the listings on various sites, wondering what it would be like to live in someone else's house. I had signed up for and filled out a profile trying to make us sound mature, responsible, attractive. It all felt weirdly like online dating.

Looking through the listings one night, I came across a small lodge tucked into several acres of forest land near Seattle. It was on an island in the Puget Sound that is accessible only by ferry. The ad said it was available for January and February. Perfect.

Chip said yes. I sent a message and moved on, my expectations low.

Two days later, I got an email from the owner of the lodge. He wanted to talk to us.

After a Skype date, several emails, and a reference from friends, he offered us the "job."

The property was 2,857 miles from where we sat in Bridgeville, Delaware. It was owned by someone we had never met on an island where we'd never been.

We said yes.

Today, we boarded the Vashon Island ferry to see what we'd gotten ourselves into.

Driving around the island, we found a couple of tiny villages, with coffee shops, restaurants, pubs and shops. The undulating hills are dressed with towering pines that every once in a while step back to show off vistas of water and distant snowcapped peaks.

A coffee shop, roastery and handmade goods shop.
Just after three, we pulled up to our new address and had our first look at home for the next two months.

Inside we met the kind and intelligent couple who showed us around the grounds. This evening, in front of a roaring fire, we laughed and talked politics, philosophy and hope over a savory lamb dinner.

Our new friends head out tomorrow, leaving us in charge of our new retreat. Our treehouse bedroom overlooks the forest and sunset beyond. Down the hall, we have a yoga room and a separate exercise room. Downstairs, our little lodge built in the early 1900s has wood floors, two fireplaces and a rambling foodie's kitchen with a window box looking out over the veranda and front lawn.

On this, my third day of being 54, I am ponderously grateful for this life of adventure and my fellow adventurer. In our continued attempt to craft reality from fanciful dreams, we have found paradise once again.

We will be plodding here for the near future. Thanks for coming along.

Our sitting room.

The view with a tiny splotch of blue water.

A reminder of our roots.

Thursday, January 2, 2014


Salt Lake City to Boise, Idaho, to Yakima, Washington | 698 miles

After two days in Boise, we set out on New Year's, my birthday, ready to cross into Washington, our final destination. The forecast called for freezing fog, which we'd never heard of but soon learned about.

Even though there was no precipitation, our windshield was coated in a quarter inch of frost, the same thing that happens in my marine freezer, which is not frost free. The moisture builds up and freezes to any surface it touches. In nature, this happens to beautiful effect, coating everything in delicate, white ice, a wintry fairy land.

We passed through Idaho without seeing much beyond a 50-yard bubble of gray. The fog sank into the valleys, so when we popped onto a mountaintop, we would be graced with a sunny and clear vista. As the day progressed, the tables turned, the fog rising to the mountaintops leaving the valleys clear.

We stopped at an appropriately named diner along the Oregon Trail.

The real deal.

We then ventured, finally, into Washington and passed through the wine country, quietly tucked away and closed for New Year's. We rested for the night in a disappointing Yakima.

Today, with the sun and clouds playing hide and seek, we snaked our way across Washington and into the breathtaking Snoqualmie Pass.

At long last, after more than 3,700 miles, Seattle showed up on the horizon, and we ventured in to play.

Tomorrow, we will board a ferry and sail to Vashon Island -- after a sweet reunion with two friends from my Washington Post days, Kim and Russ, a fitting welcome to Seattle.