The hardest part of cruising

26 Oct

The view from the deck

I don’t want to be here right now.

We’re living in Totem on the hardstand, on stilts in the shipyard. There is a lot of noise, and a lot of dirt, and a lot of chaos. Chunks of Totem’s interior are torn up. We climb a wobbly ladder with a rise that must be double a normal step to get on board. We have no refrigeration. It is hot, under tropical sun during the day and in the breeze-less yard at night. We share communal bathrooms in the yard and try desperately to avoid needing them at night.

But our present circumstance has nothing to do with my discontent. I don’t want to be here right now because I lost someone I love, and today her memorial service was held back at home on Bainbridge Island.

We met as two moms, first crossing paths at preschool flanked by a pair of similarly aged daughters, later bonding at knitting guild meetings (best followed by a trip to the pub!). In the chaotic year of boat renovations and radical downsizing during the year before we left, Joan was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer, and our friendship shifted and deepened on the unstable path of an uncertain journey.

I wish I could be back there to honor her, and share that grief with others who loved her. And as much as my sadness today is for the passing this resolute optimist, it also mourns the hundreds of times I couldn’t help her. I couldn’t help in all the little ways that friends make life easier for each other, as she fought one battle after another with her traitorous body.

This, for me, is the hardest part of cruising. Our funds don’t include the kind of cushion that can absorb traveling home. Leaving on our adventure meant making peace with this very significant trade-off. We miss big events like this, and the weddings and graduations. We cannot be present for the many other milestones in the lives of our friends and family.

Last year, my parents flew me home to help them filter and pack up thirty years of memories from a house, and thanks to them I had the gift of many hugs from people I love- including getting to spend time with Joan. Knitting, making bad jokes, tucked under a blanket, sharing our hopes, I know she was so happy for me to follow my dreams. That just doesn’t make it easier at this moment.

She indelibly marked my life. How lucky we are, pure and simply just LUCKY, all critical stars of our world aligned to make our family’s journey possible. Because for all our plans and dreams and intentions, this life is incredibly fragile, and Joan has made me grateful for every day we get. And it’s this I tried to remember as I sat in the anchorage with with news on my lap of her passing, the sting of salt water on my cheeks. That she was happy for me, and didn’t resent the absence I lament.

Totem GA reel02

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  1. canyon haverfield

    bunches of tears flowing off my face now ..having read your deep hearted share. Women.. deep hearted full living women without your depth the world would be such a shallow place
    you spoke so fully of your love and the depth of your friendship… no men would ever write of the kind of closeness you shared.. even getting all cozy under the covers.. we can’t have that sweetness in our lives.. some do I know.. but usually they’d be ‘lover’s’ yet women have so much capacity to love unconditionally- they go for it so fully ! My love to you as you continue to blossom thru life with all it brings .
    warmly- Canyon Haverfield

  2. judy fravel

    Merry Christmas to everyone.

    So sorry we missed your call today 2/24
    Papa had turned off his phone last pm for Church.

    Our loss.
    Loved that shirt on you Niall
    We just opened the Fravel /Boston gifts .Good fun-skyped with them today!

    xo Mum

  3. Pingback: The hardest part of cruising | Sailing Totem

  4. Stacey Hoopes

    So, so sorry to hear of your loss Behan. I can imagine how hard this must be for you and agree completely that it’s the toughest part of cruising by far. But what an incredible gift that you were able to travel home recently and were able to see her. Keep those memories close. Big hugs from Bella Vita.

  5. Behan - s/v Totem

    I want to say a heartfelt thank you to you all for taking the time to write and share your sympathy. It is hard, but your words help, I take comfort knowing that I am where I should be, doing what I should be doing.

  6. Victor

    Dear Behan
    Sorry to hear of your loss. I guess we move in different circles on Bainbridge. We were just there over the weekend and did not hear of Joan’s passing from my sister Tina.
    I suspect all but a few of this are bound to come across this as we venture further from home and our generation and that of our parents get to that stage where they have lived a full life.
    I know this doesn’t make it any easier but it is something we will all go through sooner or later. Thank you for expressing it so beautifully.

  7. Ross Tarr

    The memories of loved ones are magnified by the mile that lie between. The memories of moments of love and humor will be a blessing for you always.
    Fair Winds ……. rt

  8. Russ

    Gods Peace be with you, I’m sure she felt the presence your love and friendship, now is the time for memories of all the good times.

  9. Sherry Day

    As your friend and Survivor, I wrap my arms around you with a giant hug. We sisters in pink never know when the tide will turn and BC will return.
    It is friends like you who help us through the tough times.

  10. Ann Cornwell

    Beautifully said, Behan! A real tribute to your friend Joan…..your friendship, love, and compassion flow throughout this blog…so beautifully written! and felt!

  11. Deb Perfitt

    I believe you just honored your friend in the best way a friend could. Be comforted with your memories together and the fact she was genuinely happy you continued with your journey. Hopefully time will mellow your sorrow of losing a cherished friend, carry her memory with you and share your journey with her. Hugs!

  12. svceolmor

    My deepest, most heartfelt condolences to you and yours on your loss. This is what frightens me most about casting off the lines. Not storms, or pirates or sharks or even living in such close quarters. It’s the very real possibility that a loss or threat of loss of a loved one will happen and there will be no possibility of being there with loved ones.

  13. Patricia

    Sending love to you during this happy/sad time. I am truly happy that everyone understands that life is precious and we should follow our dreams! Beautiful writing during a sad moment.

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