Sept 30, 2021

As summer has drawn to a close, the equinox has ushered in fall, and the equilux has pivoted our days to more darkness than light, we’ve begun our transition from “out cruising” to “back home,” whatever that means. As the land beckons, the sea remains our ground; as such, the definition is still unfolding.

*     *     *

After two days and nights at the beautiful Jewell Island in Casco Bay, we reluctantly head back to our home port in South Portland, where we experience the rocking and rolling of motorboat wake as a more-or-less constant throb, the Portland skyline in the distance, a stark contrast to the tree-lined anchorages we’ve experienced all summer. After a wonderful welcome home meal at the nearby marina restaurant with my cousin, the next stop is Bellaire Rd. to pick up our car in preparation for our drive north. The first step into my house is a shock: the strange unfamiliarity of the oh-so familiar space and things that have been home for more than six years.

After the first hour of sitting on the living room couch, there is an uncanny sinking into place, like putting on a well-worn pair of shoes after years of their sitting in the back of the closet. “Oh, I remember these! But do I still want or need them now that I’m X, Y, and Z (fill in the blank: a live-aboard sailor, in partnership, on the move)? This much is clear: the collection of “stuff” that has accumulated in my life is partially a product of our culture, partially my acquisitive nature in my attempt at creating a home, and partially a function of having the space to allow it to accumulate. The smaller one’s space, the less one collects because the less one can collect. Living aboard the boat, I haven’t missed any of it.

That first night we spend in the basement apartment that I’d used as an AirBnB for a year, pre-covid. We shower, do laundry, collect the mail, drive to the supermarket, and buy a propane heater in anticipation of colder weather. Moving through space surrounded by a tin can, navigating on asphalt roads with yellow lines, stopping at red lights, and flowing in and out of buildings all feel oddly dissociative. Our bodies know the moves, but our senses are somehow disengaged. There is a form of numbness that creeps in. Where is the wind on our face, the changing view as the boat gently moves through 10, 20, 30 degrees at anchor in the slowly shifting wind, the ospreys squealing overhead with the sky as backdrop, the varying expanse of vision from the near shore to the distant islands to the far horizon, the gentle tinkling of the water as the tide and wind lap the hull? These are feelings unexperienced on land.

* * *

When on land, almost everything in the “world” is man-dominated, and so much is man-made that any nature is relegated to the margins; clearly man bends everything to his will and feels no remorse, likely since he has “god-given” dominion over all of creation. Frightening. Worse, when you’ve been immersed in the endless variations and compositions of beauty available everywhere in the island world, you realize that man’s attempts at beautifying things is so sadly shallow. Because everyone is so wrapped up in such trappings, we rarely question the path our “progress” has taken us (how did we get here? –David Byrne), let alone challenge it.  

*     *     *

We drive north, connect with family over the loss of my uncle, drive south. We drive north for a music festival, connect with old friends and acquaintances, drive south. We pay my mother a surprise visit in her small Portland apartment, which feels ever so much more the right size than my house. We spend a couple of nights at a small anchorage on Cushing Island two miles away in a partially successful attempt to avoid the rolling. We go ashore on this private island with the permission of Will’s friend who owns a house there and have a fascinating conversation with the island caretaker of the past 16 years. We see Portland Head Light through the lens of one of the gazebos built by the military in years gone by and have a new appreciation of this seemingly off-limits island.

We return to our mooring to the sound of a loud motor and drilling as a huge crane installs yet another dock at Spring Point Marina for another thirty boats. We take a friend for an afternoon sail and choose Diamond Cove as a different nearby destination to avoid the noise and rolling. The next morning, we awaken to ferries coming and going and jack hammering on shore. We motor around the corner to Cow Island where we hear teens whooping and hollering ashore as they practice leadership and cooperation skills.

And then, we have a glorious ten-mile sail to The Goslings, near Harpswell, where we spend four beatific nights in a quiet anchorage that we share with only a few boats coming and going. We run out of water and motor four miles in 20 knots with gusts to 25 to Paul’s Marina to tank up, and then return to our quiet anchorage, which remains remarkably calm despite the wind. Instead of the forecasted rain, the next day we row ashore in what feels like a sunny summer day to the small, protected islands and explore the trees, mushrooms, plant life, and distant shoreline trail along Lower Goose Island, and then bushwhack our way across the island back to the near shore. We enjoy the rain as it finally pelts the dodger and hatches overhead, enjoying the perfectly geometric patterns the raindrops make as they swirl on the smooth surface above our heads in the V-berth. (Click here for video.) Life feels real again.

We’re invited to a friend’s house for lunch in nearby Brunswick, so we motor four miles to South Freeport where we’re picked up by friends and drive to her lovely farmhouse and feast on a wonderful meal. We get a hot shower ashore at the marina before rowing back to the boat, where we hang on an empty mooring along with the cormorants, enjoying this harbor for the third time.

Will dissects the freshwater system in our ongoing attempt to identify a leak, which he finally does: a rusted hot water tank. We enjoy an afternoon sail in 15 knots of wind with my son, daughter-in-law, and grand-dog, and then have a glorious meal in the cockpit under solar lights. That night, we run out of water only three days after filling our tank, so we head back to South Portland to try and deal with this now pressing issue.

So we are back on our mooring once again, this time with several days of north wind, which feels a bit less rolly than the prevailing south-westerlies, combined, perhaps, with less boat traffic. Will prepares to extract the rusty hot water heater and replace it with a spare from his old boat. We drive to the hardware store and stock up on food. We have dinner with a friend and visit with family. We consider taking a slip at the neighboring marina before moving into our winter slip. We contemplate exploring neighboring islands while the weather is still relatively mild. We think about going to a rustic hut in the woods. We fire up the propane heater for the first time to take off the chill and hunker down for one more night in our now cozy cabin. We have just over two weeks until we move into our slip at DiMillo’s and just over two weeks of this period of transition. We have a disquieting sense of being “between worlds.”

At the same time, we have the profound realization that as soon as we attempt to define it, name it, we’ve limited our experience of it, whatever “it” is. Instead, the closest to a definition we’ve arrived at is “we’ll know it when we see it”—about home, about what to do next, and about pretty much anything we choose to give our attention to. And that feeling of knowing is fluid and ever-changing; it comes and goes, like the weather, wind, and tides. Trying to pin it down in any way that remains fixed is merely the mind’s attempt at creating solidity, certainty, and predictability, in our very human but futile attempt at defining what is inherently unpredictable—life itself. And yet, with all its unpredictability, our lives remain an adventure of the first order, as long as we stay open to all of it. And we are reminded every day that doing it in partnership is a gift of a lifetime—for both of us.

Tasha & Will

2 thoughts on “NIRIVANA S1:E9

  1. Love love love reading this. The words roll out like the rhythm of a boat .clearly being rooted in nature out side of societies not
    Norms with limited technology has had its impact. Feels like a world familiar. Sounds like heaven. Would love to bask in the art of presence with the two of you. Admittedly jealous and at the same time remembering…!. Them wondering why I’ve returned to the world of definitions and boxes and clear cut categories. Please stay with your currents and nature and the art of blowing in the wind without clear definition. It reminds me of possibilities and inspires me to cast Off the lines and free myself and truly live!!!to explore dreams . Way to go and thank you


  2. sorry for your loss. we enjoy your writing. we have finalized the purchase of our 36 freedom. i think it will take 2 years to get her to the point we want. maybe we will see you on the water some time.


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