Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What I Learned Last Summer, by Kristi Thomason

I have been thinking on this subject for quite a while.  Certainly, it's too late for that stereotypical back-to-school essay.  But when I consider that my 'summer' only recently ended, I think this can be timely, after all.

'Summer' was 'Cruising'.  Happily moving from island to island, anchoring out, floating on a mooring buoy, and occasionally tieing to a dock.

'Winter' began for us on November 1, when we came in to Friday Harbor and signed a 'lease' for a spot on the breakwater.  We intend to stay here through January, with only, perhaps, a few day trips now and then.  So far, our biggest excursion was to the pump out.

Perhaps the first lesson is how thankful I am for the education offered by the US Power Squadron.  I myself have taken boating classes to the level of Advanced Piloting, and additionally, Cruise Planning, and Weather.  Al has taken EVERY class offered, which gives him the title of Senior Navigator, and has TAUGHT boating classes to the highest level of Navigation.  Ten years of association with this organization, and using what we learned there while boating on the Columbia River, has honed Al's boat-handling skills, increasing my confidence in him as a Captain, and allowed me to be a competent mate.

Book smarts are one thing.  Practical experience is another.  I finally learned to operate the dinghy myself this summer.  And I need more practice at the helm of Viking Star.  I do pretty well in open waters, but I am happy to give control to Al for close quarters or questionable situations.  I re-learned how to read a tide and current table.  I can keep an eye on the weather, and 'read' the water better.  Tides and currents can be tricky up here.

Perhaps the biggest lessons, though, were in emotional aspects.

My idea of 'home' has changed.  When we had a house, and all the kids were nearby, home was 'back home' in Minnesota, where my parents and my brothers still live.  Now that we no longer have a house, and we are 'away', home is the Portland/Hillsboro/Vancouver area--all the way out to and including Forest Grove, where all of our kids, our numerous grandchildren, and many of our best friends live.  It is where we will go when we go Home for the Holidays.

I really miss not being available to babysit grandchildren.  And now that my children are adults and the 'parenting' role is over, I miss spending time with my daughters as friends.  My son is across the country himself, which makes bookstore visits and Taco Bell runs impossible.  Skype video chats help a little bit, but our internet connections have not been the best, and busy lives can make getting an 'appointment' to visit that way difficult.

But, when I began thinking about this post, the first thing that popped into my head when I asked myself what I had learned last summer was:  It has proved to me how much I REALLY love Al.  You have to really enjoy spending time with each other if you are living together on a boat, even on the good days.  But a really crummy weekend at the end of September taught me that I would never willingly tolerate such conditions for anyone else.  I learned quite awhile ago, and on numerous times, that I do not like 'bumpy' water (anything over say, 4-foot waves).  But this weekend I speak of, it would not quit.  Two DAYS of rocking and rolling.  And I think Al also recognized the depth of my feeling for him, because he said, 'The fact that you didn't put yourself on a bus at the end of it says a lot!'


  1. Kristi,
    This subject of turning the helm over to Al in tight situations is so typical of wives. It is in these events that you need to know how to take control of the vessel. I have seen too many cases, of the husband becoming medically incapacitated or going overboard and the wife is no help at all. Make it a goal this next year that you, too, become a capable skipper who can assist your husband in an emergency situation. This is one subject that I am adamant about. You may be able to save his precious life. No one crews on Shatoosh who can't take control of my vessel, to pick me up if I go overboard or in the case of a medical emergency they can call the Coast Guard and get me to the nearest port.
    Shatoosh Albin 25

  2. And Al adds: It also makes SO MUCH more sense to have the male handle the dock lines! It is, IMHO, a very logical arrangement - though very rarely seen.

    Kristi has the ability to independently handle Viking Star, both in operation, navigation, and bringing her back to the dock. For which I am very grateful and to be honest, lucky. It is a huge benefit not only in crises, but also to trade off the helm as well as having an extra set of knowledgeable eyes / mind during changing conditions.

    Where she has not practiced much is in close quarters maneuvering. Perhaps I just need to walk away from the helm a few times :-)