Going Home -
August 29, 2002
The office towers are a short distance away from the civic marina in Vancouver, David's home town.
heart will call me home again
(E. Quinn, Going Home)
We just returned to our sailboat, Little Gidding, after a compressed visit home. As we explained in last week's log entry, we use the term "home" loosely. It's been eight years since we were firmly attached to a piece of land, and our families and friends are now dispersed across the country. Going home to Canada from the Chesapeake (where we park the boat) requires multiple car rentals, a couple of air flights and a bus trip or two.
Despite the difficult transportation logistics, we always look forward to going home. Part of our eagerness to leave the boat is probably related to the fact that our visits home are always preceded by a haulout in a boatyard. Even Alcatraz looks pretty attractive after you've been on the hard for a couple of weeks in 100 degree heat, sanding off your fingerprints and breathing toxic fumes.
When we make our prodigal-like returns, we get to sleep in full size beds that don't bounce around when the weather kicks up. No one complains when we take long, hot showers. There's a newspaper on the doorstep every morning and it's a short walk to a sidewalk cafe that serves excellent cappuccino. But the main attraction of home is our families. This year, Eileen wanted to spend more time with her ageing parents. Her father's health is fragile and his memory is not what it used to be. Her mom is feeling the strain of increased care responsibilities. David hadn't visited his sister on the West coast for two years. He hadn't even met his grandniece, Mikayla, who at 20 months of age is the newest addition to the family.
As novice cruisers, the first time we returned home for a visit we were full of stories of daring sea passages, palm-fringed beaches and exotic natives. We had a formidable pile of colour slides. The people upon whom we inflicted our enthusiastic tales of adventure smiled politely and out of courtesy asked a question or two. Some managed to stay awake during the slide show. During subsequent visits in the years to follow, we noticed their eyes would glaze over more quickly when we began recounting our latest travels. Mention of a possible slide show, however, would jolt them to attention. Horror-struck, they would suddenly remember they had to leave to feed the goldfish or turn the dishwasher on.
Now we try to do more listening when we go home. This time, Eileen's mom wanted to tell her the details of the difficult choice she had to make in selecting a new car. Her siblings needed to update her on what they and their kids were doing - who got on the honour roll, who just graduated, who changed jobs, what the new house is like. Out West, all the talk and activity focussed on David's niece's upcoming wedding. The honeymoon itinerary was discussed around the kitchen table as everyone helped hand-prepare the elaborate wedding invitations. We loved it all, but we couldn't help feeling a bit like foreigners.
It's not that our lives are more exciting or fulfilling than those of the folks back home. They're just different. Scrubbing the waterline isn't any better than mowing the lawn. We put in several hours of work a day on the boat - some of it grunt boat maintenance chores, some of it more creative writing and music making. Our land based counterparts commute to jobs that have both rewarding and frustrating aspects, and retreat to homes that are comfortable but also need to be maintained. They don't understand why we're doing what we're doing, and we can't imagine doing anything else.
Near the end of David's West coast visit he dropped into the Heather civic marina in downtown Vancouver. The city-run marina has a limited number of liveaboard berths. The only other boating facility in Vancouver that permits liveaboards is an equity co-op that requires a fairly pricey buy-in. (There are a number of "hide-aboards" living on boats in Vancouver, but their security of tenure rests precariously on the discretion and diligence of local law enforcement officials.) Several years ago, we put our names on the waiting list for a liveaboard space at Heather marina. At the time, we didn't know how long we would want to continue cruising. We figured that family connections and a mild climate made Vancouver about the only place in Canada where we could live year-round on our boat if the wandering spirit ever left us. The waiting list was an estimated seven years long and it didn't cost anything to register, so we did.
To keep your place on the Heather marina's waiting list you have to check in (either personally or by mail) at least once a year. Over the years, Brian Ferguson, the marina's operator, has become a familiar face. David greeted him in his office a few days ago and asked, "Hey, Brian, where are we on the list now?"
Brian opened a big three-ring binder and shuffled through the pages until he found our application form. It was near the bottom. "Well, look at that," he exclaimed. "You're next to me in the queue. I'll probably have a space for you within a year!"
Startled, David looked out at all the boats snug and secure at the marina docks below the office. Between the boat masts in the foreground and the striking panarama of the Coast Mountains in the distance, the skyline was punctuated by office towers. We used to work in office buildings just like them. David broke out into a sweat. "I'm not sure we'll be ready to take a space in a year's time," he stammered.
Brian smiled sympathetically.
"Don't worry," he said. "We'll keep you on the list, even
if you don't accept an offer right away. Lots of people don't. Some never
Cheers, David & Eileen