As with many Seattle stories, this one came about by way of the rain. One day in early December a drizzle came, and then it turned into a rare downpour. I saw this as an opportunity to see if I could truly be rendered impervious to rain by my new rain pants and rubber boots. I donned my boots, rain pants, and rain jacket, and then latched Remy into his over-engineered, three-wheel independent suspension, cup-holder-equipped baby isolation chamber—the idea of which I absolutely loathe—and covered it with its smartly-designed transparent rubber rain cover. Goodbye to Sheena, and Remy and I were off into the soup.
We walked and walked, and I was so pleased with my rain gear that we didn’t turn back until we’d walked for an hour. On the way, we passed Shilshole Bay Marina, sandwiched between the Chittenden Locks where boats pass from Puget Sound to the lakes, and Golden Gardens Beach where I drop my crab pot on summer evenings. There in the marina was moored an attractive sailboat for sale, and on the back a sign with a phone number. I called the number on a whim, and that evening after the rain subsided the three of us went aboard. We unexpectedly decided then and there that this could be a thing. Not this boat, but some boat.
I suppose we were primed for this decision by—and I’m somewhat ashamed to admit it now, as it seems a betrayal of our priorities— our attempt to buy a humble two-bedroom bungalow just a few weeks prior. We had put in an offer at $103,000 above the asking price—for a humble two-bedroom bungalow!—and still were not the highest offer. Jibbers Crabst almighty was trying to tell us something.
A few days after looking at the first boat, we scheduled a visit to check out a sleek Beneteau sailboat with a large, clean interior and lots of flashy chrome and wood bits. We sat inside with the broker, a benevolent lifelong sailor, extremely well admired in the sailing community, and we asked him what he thought of it. He was silent for a moment, then squinted and sighed.
“Don’t buy this boat.” He said. You could see his inner sailor battling with his inner salesman.
“It’s real pretty, and would be nice for entertaining guests and putzing around on weekends, but this thing couldn’t handle the blue water. These little lightweight boats get tossed around and it can get pretty miserable if you plan to spend any significant time at sea.” I envisioned myself dry-heaving over the shiny chrome railing of this lightweight fiberglass showpiece somewhere in the middle of the Pacific without anywhere to go but deeper into seasickness hell.
“If you want something for blue water sailing, I can show you a bunch of different boats for that. One comes to mind, but it’s really more of a ship than a sailboat. Fifty-four foot steel hull, and systems like a battleship. It’s more boat than you want, but you could look at it just to see the other end of the spectrum, then we could find something in between.” More boat than I want? He obviously wasn’t privy to my tendency toward overengineering.
The next day we met the broker back at Shilshole and he led us to the boat—it wasn’t frilly or flashy like the Beneteau; it was the Nacho equivalent of sailboats: outfitted for big, rough seas, blue water crossings, and self-sufficiency. Built of steel instead of fiberglass, it was fifty-four feet long with a 17-foot beam, and weighed 70,000 pounds. Its keel held 18,000 pounds of lead shot as ballast. Nothing would turn this boat over, and it wouldn’t be tossed about like a toy in the weather.
It had a well-equipped galley with a commercial gas range, two bathrooms, and enough beds for twelve people spread between its two state rooms, v-berth, and various bunks. With a 750-gallon diesel tank, two masts, 400-gallon fresh water tank and watermaker, survival suits, eight anchors–each with its own specialization, diesel heater, solar and wind energy systems, and storage for months of provisions, this was the epitome of expedition sailboats.
It also came with a pretty unbelievable backstory—and some big shoes to fill. But rather than jump into that story now, I’ll leave you in suspense and save it for the next post.
When we stepped aboard, Sheena and I looked at each other and immediately knew that we’d found home. While it was built like a tank, its mahogany interior was warm and inviting. An expedition-ready boat where we could also raise a family. The galley would feed Sheena’s love for the culinary arts, and the expansive engine room chock full of systems would keep my engineering spirit satiated. We made an offer shortly thereafter, which the seller accepted, and we took possession a few days ago. And just like that, we no longer live on American soil.
And now I sit writing this post from the desk you see in the last picture and I couldn’t be happier. Sheena tenses up and squeals whenever she remembers where she is–she has clearly forgotten all about Turkey. And Remy loves all of the nooks and crannies, having his own room, all of the stairs to climb, pressing the buttons on the nav equipment, and the little rings that flip up on the floor to gain access to the boat’s nether regions. The learning curve will be steep, we can fully appreciate that. But how boring life would be if we only did things that we already knew how to do. And so here begins a new adventure!