It’s just a boat, it’s just the sky, it’s just the wind, the stars, the sea, a journey.
Or maybe it’s something bigger than that.
When we found out that our family had five weeks in which to get our boat ready for a 5,000 mile relocation from San Diego, California to Clear Lake Shores, Texas, the first thing I did (after jumping around, hyperventilating, and then jumping around some more) was to revert to my basic type-A nature, and start making lists. But in boats, there’s a lot of chaos, and it’s really easy to lose things, so you need a place for your lists.
I had no time to go shop, or to pick something out with intention. I grabbed my Oberon binder, because it’s what I had to hand that first tremendous, life-changing day. For the first week or so, the binder had pages of lists in it. Provisioning lists, navigation lists, chart lists, repairs lists, discussion lists, study lists. And of course, the master List of Lists. Because I’m about tying up the loose ends.
I just carried the book around with me at all times, as my brain-on-overdrive would think of one new thing or other that I needed to research/examine/question/purchase/investigate/consider/discuss. And then after the first middle-of-the-night listfest, I also put a flashlight on a lanyard on it. For pretty much the whole five weeks, I was never out of sight of my binder.
When you stop into a port, or clear into a country, you’re required to check in with the Port Captain, and provide the required paperwork; registration and insurance binders and Zarpes and crew lists and passport copies and engine serial numbers and customs declarations and… all the bits of paper that make a nautical journey happen. Every time. With multiple copies. So as I tried to prepare our documentation, I started to fill the binder with originals and copies and instructions and little translation cheat-sheets.
Dealing with governments can be a little stressful, and as I’d sit in small offices in out of the way places all throughout Central America, I ran my fingers over the tooled waves on the front of the binder… starlit journeys on spiraling waves… it soothed me, so that I wasn’t quite so tightly-wrapped when the Port Captain in Costa Rica was screaming at me because I couldn’t possibly be the Captain of my vessel because I was a girl, or when the Immigration guys in Puerto Vallarta told me, in direct opposition to what the cruising guide said, that my crewlist didn’t matter at all, or a thousand other little discrepancies that I was forced to get through, mostly relying on the beneficence of the officials whose countries we were sailing past.
Our crewmember Angela, upon seeing it for the first time in Puerto Vallarta, laughed and said, “Well isn’t that just the Book of Doom?” And so it became. The Book of Doom.
When I ventured into all the various offices I had to visit in every country and port we saw, I took to taking the binder out and placing it on the desk or countertop first, before I said anything, both because it’s a beautiful binder, and also because its richness, and paper-stuffed thickness, illustrated clearly that I was prepared for pretty much anything. But after the second or third stop, I also realized that the people I was dealing with took it as a sign of respect, that I would keep our documents in this Very Serious Binder. And it became a conversation opener… I always got questions about the binder, more esoteric from those who spoke English, and usually just a simple, “muy lindo!” from those who did not. I encouraged more than one person to run their fingers over the waves, which are oddly soothing in their spiraling nauticalness.
Once we completed our journey, swapping zarpe for zarpe all the way back to the States, where we were given a hearty “Welcome home!”, the book was no longer the focus of my life. It sat on the navigation table, got completely covered by the paperwork for our new life here in Texas, and by legos, and museum brochures, and bills, and all the flotsam any nonmoving horizontal surface disappears under.
I found it again the other day, while cleaning up the mountain. And the papers inside tell a story…