Its In My Nature

9/18/2009

Whenever someone asks Jim, usually a male friend or new acquaintance, “How does your wife Lisa like living on the boat?” Jim always gets a little smile on his face and usually says… “Well, I think I’m kind of lucky. I’m pretty sure Lisa loves boating even more than I do and that’s saying a lot.” I have heard him say this enough over the years, that now it has become the answer I use to respond when I am asked that same question.

Well it’s true, I do love living, working and playing on the boat. When I sit and think about what brought me to this lifestyle and why it seems almost second nature to me, I have to think back to when I was growing up and what memories stand out for me, moments that told me: This is who you are. Pay attention, because this is your nature, so go WITH it.

Intuition and nature have taught me a lot about my self, my surroundings, and my place in the world. It’s important to listen to these signals. I think that it’s incredibly easier to take cues from the natural forces that exist instead of blithely ignoring the powers that be. A great analogy would be going up or downriver. It’s much harder to go against the current than with it.

When I was very young, only seven months old or so, my parents decided to move from Ann Arbor, Michigan, to Turkey, my father’s birthplace. He had an opportunity to be a professor at Robert College in Istanbul and my mother, although having many reservations and concerns, decided to focus on the positive and thought this might be an opportunity to learn more about my father’s culture and meet his extended family. Their decision to leave the States meant that I would get to take my first major boat trip, by passenger ship… across the Atlantic Ocean.

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Crossing the Atlantic Ocean got under my skin early in my life when my parents decided to move to Istanbul, Turkey, by way of passenger ship when I was only seven months old. I was a happy girl while traveling back from Turkey by freighter

So maybe this is where my love of the water all began. Our family, which at the time consisted of my parents and older brother Jem, settled in a little house on the edge of the Bosporus, a strait of water that forms the boundary between the European part of Turkey and its Asian side, in Istanbul, Turkey. I have to say that my parents have always been lovers of the water and had tried to live their lives as close to the water as possible. In their early, married life they made some beautiful memories living on the water in Whitmore Lake, Michigan, and later in Turkey on the Bosporus.

My brother Jem and I were best friends as we frolicked on the deck of the freighter that was our transportation back to the United States
My parents started their married life in this small cottage on Whitmore Lake, located in southern Michigan, in the mid-forties.

My father taught at the college for a few years and then they decided that there would be more opportunities for them back in the States. Consequently they relocated and eventually settled in Detroit, Michigan, for almost ten years before moving to Troy, a suburb, just north of Detroit. As the Targal family grew, I gained three more brothers in the fifties and eventually my parents bought a small cottage, in East Tawas, Michigan, on Lake Huron, where I have many fond childhood memories. We had boats of all sizes and shapes, a Lightning sailboat, a hydroplane, a little Sunfish sailboat, a small red, wooden tender and a larger wood fishing boat. Our neighbors had the speedboats, skiing gear and even a miniature one-person homemade submarine. Many nights were spent on the beach next to a bonfire singing folk songs with friends or catching fireflies. The backdrop music to my ears during this time was always the waves lapping or crashing on the shore, the smell of the fresh air as we all practically lived outside the whole summer, in and out of the water.

All five of the Targal children gathered, arranged by age, for a photo-op in front of a  scenic picturesque northern Michigan backdrop.
A favorite family pastime was to get dressed up on a special occasion, pick up our Nanna and take a cruise on the Boblo Boat in Detroit, Michigan.

It was during my teenage years when I was walking on the downtown pier in East Tawas that I first spotted a boat, which was docked at the pier. It intrigued me. To this day, I remember thinking: Wow, you could live on that boat.

I spent most of my childhood and teen years at our cottage on Lake Huron, Michigan.  We were an active bunch of kids with water and beach sports and activities scheduled with each other and friends almost every day of the summer.

In my early thirties, while living in northern Michigan I was the happy co-owner of a small sailboat that we moored on Torch Lake. This lake is 18 miles long and has the most beautiful turquoise waters I have ever seen in northern climes. I enjoyed many days sailing quietly up and down the lake learning to take cues from the wind on my face while keeping an eye out for stormy weather.

In the mid-eighties, as a single mother of a five-year old son, I had to be creative about getting out on the water. Living in northern Michigan at the time, and without many resources, I remember that on many a weekend the two of us would pack up a picnic lunch, drive down to the local beach access on Torch Lake, just a few miles from the place where we were house-sitting. I had bought a small two-person blow up boat from K-Mart and we would pull that out of the trunk of the car, blow it up and throw it into the water. We scoured the beach for a rock to tie a line around it would act as our anchor while we spent a relaxing afternoon on the water. We paddled out, not far from shore, maybe a hundred feet or so, dropped anchor and positioned ourselves to soak up the sun and enjoy lunch. My son, Skyler, would always say… “This is the life, Mom.” To this day, when we find ourselves enjoying a water-related event together, this is the phrase we use to describe our pleasure.

I find that, as with all things, simple is almost always better. When Jim and I bought our first boat together, a 21-foot Four Winns runabout, we shared some of our most cherished memories on the water as a couple. Early in our marriage, we were busy with jobs but made a resolution to fit our lives around spending as much time as we could on the boat with our boys or by ourselves. After working all week it was very relaxing to get away on the boat to explore and unwind. During those years Jim was studying for his securities licenses and we would trailer the boat to a nearby lake and anchor out while he studied and I just read. With only a small v-berth we still considered this cozy accommodation for a night or a weekend. We amused ourselves by trying to go farther distances around the Great Lakes as a challenge and to test our mettle. The most challenging trip we took was through the chain of lakes from Conway to Cheboygan, Michigan, where upon surveying the calm waters out over Lake Huron we came up with a spur-of-the-moment decision to make a run for Mackinaw Island for an overnighter. We were pleased with ourselves for being this daring because, as boaters who are familiar with these lakes know, they can be a nightmare in just a moments notice.

After many years spent squeezing our joy of boating into and around our lives Jim and I decided to take the next big step up in size and design of boat. It was a choice between a cottage and a larger boat. We choose the later since we thought the added work of a second vacation home would certainly mean the end of our current boating lifestyle, which we both treasured.

First, we spent weekends on our new 32-foot Silverton Convertible. Later it turned into longer weekends and all of our vacations. A few years before we retired we heard about the Great Loop trip and the rest is history. So I guess you could say that, like everybody, I’m a sum of my parts. For me, the decision to make our home on the water was a natural one. It’s where I’ve had my happiest memories.

We don’t feel that we lack for anything on our Fathom, Kismet. I always have pots full of herb plants ready to add to on-board meals.

Jim and I share a passion for a live-aboard lifestyle, and there are many like-minded souls out here who share our enthusiasm. I can be a worrier about a lot of other “stuff” in life, but I’ve never really had anxiety or fear about the water ahead of us. It all just looks like adventure to me, and I’m a true believer about only looking at what is immediately in front of me. Of course it helps to have a Captain and life partner in whom I have total faith.

So, the answer is definitely yes, I love living on the water. Many days I feel as though I am still playing in the water as I did with my brothers at our cottage on Lake Huron a long time ago. My inner child is still alive and kicking.