Sailing Mango

Letting Go, Part 1

By Kristen

When dear husband came to me with the idea of selling the house and moving aboard a boat, I hoped it was a phase. This was not what I signed up for when we got married. As I was growing up, we went from a house in which I shared a room with my sister, to a house with my own room, to a house with two stories, a rec room complete with pool table and juke box, and a bedroom with a bay window and window seat. Growing up meant owning bigger and nicer houses with more and better stuff.

And Scott and I had grown up! We lived in a nice mid-century house near quaint and safe downtown Edmonds. It was plenty big enough for our family, and I could see us we growing old in it. I decorated. We painted, installed new floors, and hosted parties, including a benefit for my friend’s all-female rock band. Seriously, a rock concert in our living room. True, we didn’t spend the time or money to keep up the yard. Lots of odd jobs never got done. We couldn't afford to travel much given the house payments, and money was always on our minds. Our garage and office kept filling up with stuff, all on their own. But I had such dreams! Of improving the kitchen, landscaping the yard, enlarging the master bath...

Our super cool living room

So how does one go from a nice, albeit cluttered house, with dreams of an even nicer, less-cluttered house, to roughly 400 square foot of sailboat? Gradually. The first argument that appealed to me was environmental. I liked the idea of using less, needing less, having a smaller footprint. My in-laws were an inspiration, living and traveling in their RV trailer.

And then, just as I was getting used to the idea of boat life, Scott moved the target. Living aboard was never the real goal, he wanted to take off and cruise, maybe even cross an ocean or two. With our children. How could we afford it? Shouldn’t we be saving for college? Was he nuts? I tried to imagine life in a smaller, simpler space. I let go of some plants, and the rest did better. I cut down on fish tanks and enjoyed the two I kept. Spending less would mean traveling more. Maybe.

My first big step forward, metaphorically speaking, came for me on Women’s Day at the Seattle Boat Show. I plopped myself down in the lecture/presentation room and listened to woman after woman, captain after captain, talk about their experiences. These were normal people who had learned to sail, traveled the world, and changed their lives. I loved their confidence and insight. Taking off didn’t sound like a pipe dream now, but a possible reality. If they could do it, so could I. And that was the crux of it for me. I was fearful and reluctant to be dragged along, but if I learned to sail, grew competent and confident in my skills, I could be Co-captain. Nobody puts Kristen in a corner!

I took the plunge and signed up for a week-long, women-only, sailing course in the San Juan Islands. It was a lot of money, but Scott was very supportive (of course). Our captain, Leslie, had cruised with her husband for several years. She was patient, skilled, and a wonderful teacher. There were no men aboard to do anything for us, so we did it all ourselves, from hauling lines, to checking the engine belts and oil, to navigating our way through narrow channels. We named a fender George (for George Clooney) and saved him when he fell overboard, sometimes when we weren’t expecting it. The class was scary, fun, and challenging, and I felt like a total rock star when it was over. Worth every penny, and I was hooked! Everyone should get to feel as empowered as I did on the water, especially our kids.

Working hard at sailing in the San Juan Islands

Working hard at relaxing in the San Juan Islands

Scott and I moved into high gear after my class, looking for a suitable boat and getting rid of 2700 square feet of beloved things. I’ll save that story for Part 2.