Water dripped from the valve behind the engine at the bottom of the boat. It wasn’t that hard to get to because “Foxy” has more room to move around in than most boats, but the valve was behind other hoses, and contortions were required to even get down into the hold.

It was raining like stink outside. Tarps I bought to cover the leaky hatches should stop water from dripping onto rugs in the main salon, tiny splashes that woke us up the night before. The dinghy that lay partially deflated over the forward hatch, air leak still not found, should keep rain water off the sheets in the stateroom.

Some said I had no business buying this boat. By any rational standard, they’re right for many reasons. I don’t know anything about boats like this, even less about sailing. But I love the water, and figure I have one grand adventure in me. I had a chance to acquire Foxy and I took it, depending on my general mechanical knowledge (mediocre), ability to acquire new information (pretty good) and my desire for adventure (excessive, nearly pathological) to keep me safe.

Being in the bowels of a gently rocking boat was the result of ten years dreaming about it. Hopefully it would not become a nightmare.

It didn’t matter if the valve was on or off, water dripped and added to the inch or two washing about as Foxy swayed gently at her dock lines. I reached down and flipped up the float on what I thought was the bilge pump. Nothing. If the water continued to drip for the week I expected to be gone, I could come back to find a flooded engine room, or worse.

I’d promised Irish weeks ago I would attend the gathering that evening at the school where she was getting her MBA. It’s a four hour drive to Portland — and that assumed no delays going through Seattle, not usually a good assumption.  I should have been on the road a half hour ago.

Irish would understand completely if I called and told her the boat was leaking and I couldn’t make it. She’s really good like that. She would also be disappointed, and in the short while we’d been together, absurdly short considering the bond we felt for each other, seeing her smile had become a major priority for me.

Besides, I have a nearly Obsessive/Compulsive need to do what I’ve said I’ll do, and I’d said I’d be there.

Turning the valve off seemed to make the leak a little worse, adding an extra drip in between the steady “drip, drip, drip” I’d noticed when I pointed the flashlight into the engine room before closing the hatch one last time. Now it went “drip drop, drip drop, drip drop.” I turned the valve back on, the cadence  didn’t change. I flipped the float again  on what I thought was the bilge pump, again the pump didn’t come on.

With a bit of reluctance I turned traitor to my life-time habit of stubborn self-sufficiency and called the boat yard. No answer. It was Saturday, and everyone was working the boat show down in Seattle. I finally called the owner of the yard on his cell phone, feeling more than a little foolish in again putting the massive mountain of my ignorance on display.

“I’ll have Curtis go check it out. I’ll call as soon as I know something,” Jim said. There’s something reassuring about people who will “just take care of it,” whatever “it” is. Jim is one of those. I’m looking forward to following him up to Alaska a year from now as part of a small flotilla. By then, all the little leaks, cracked hoses, dead electrical connections should be taken care of.

But she’s a boat. Which means “there’s always something,” as I’ve heard and read, even about this boat, “my” boat,” in a story written long before I knew her. My friend Jaime says there’s something to the theory you should always leave something undone, because as soon as you think everything is all taken care of, a boat will break something else, usually at the worst possible moment.

Like now. Drip drop, drip drop.

I had to go, and hit the road south toward Portland. This was not good, not good.

Curtis from the yard called an hour later. He got the leak to stop by turning the valve off. Maybe I hadn’t turned it quite far enough, not wanting to break it off. He said the bilge pump worked just fine, maybe I was trying to trip the alarm float switch, which he’ll look at on Monday.

Jim calls later to say the same thing. “Happy to do it,” he replies to my thanks. Worry begins to lift.

When I show up to change from dirty, bilge-tainted boat clothes into a suit and tie for the celebration with Irish, she greets me with a hug, and a smile that makes everything seem like it’s going to be okay.

Full sail


“More coffee?” I’m trying to prolong the conversation.

“No, really, I have to go,” you say.

“Me too,” I say. “How about we go together? Thailand?”  You give me a very strange look.

“Thailand? Thailand is half-way around the world.”

“Not quite. Halfway would be off the tip of South Africa. In the water. Not much of a vacation, but I’d probably go there with you.”

“That’s insane,” you say.

“Haven’t we covered that? I prefer crazy.”

“You prefer being crazy over being rational, maybe,” you say, almost like that’s a bad thing.

“You get it! I knew we had something in common!”

“We don’t,” you respond quickly, reaching for some clarity.

“We should,” I respond. “Look at all the fun we could have.” I have no intention of letting clarity anywhere near this conversation.

“You can’t ‘should have’ something in common. You do or you don’t,” you say with slight exasperation. That’s just one of the things I like about you, the way you show frustration with me so easily. Some try to hide it.

“It can’t be both?” I’ve got you now, but you don’t see it coming.

“Having something in common and not having something in common? No, that’s inconsistent.” You pride yourself on a consistency I’m about to turn into a hobgoblin.

“We have coffee in common,” I say.

“That has nothing to do with this,” the rising tone of your voice tells me you sense the trap.

“We don’t have lipstick in common,” I continue, as if you had not said a thing.

“Stop it.” You see it clearly, now.

“So, obviously, we have something, coffee, in common and don’t have something, lipstick, in common. Happens all the time. In fact, having and not having something in common is something we all have in common.”

“I’m leaving,” you say.

“We can be in Thailand this time next month if you’ll say ‘yes.’ ”

“Why Thailand?” you ask, closing the door again.

“Beautiful beaches, beautiful sunsets, good food, good times, laughter. Yadda yadda. All that, but more important, adventure!

“What happened to Bocas Del Toro?”

“You didn’t respond to Bocas. I’m upping the offer.”

“The food is better than in Bocas?”

“You ever go out for Bocas, or do you go out for Thai?”

“That’s not an answer.”

“There’s one in there somewhere. I might look for a boat there.”


“Thailand. Isn’t that what we’re talking about?

“I don’t know what we’re talking about any more.”

“Then let’s just sit here and enjoy each other’s silence. I like that, too. More coffee?”

You shake your head, but you’re still sitting here. I take that as a hopeful sign.

“Why a boat?” you ask a minute later, a little bit curious.

“Have to get home somehow.”

“You would take a boat back from Thailand?” you ask, with some incredulity.

“Not without stopping in New Zealand. Want to go?”

“Who are you again?” Now you’re trying to avoid the question.

“The guy you met for coffee. What do you think?”

“I think you’re very different than I expected.”

“In a bad way?”

“Not bad, just… different.”

Unforeseen changes

Surprises every turn. Over Christmas, a friend invited me down to Costa Rica. He’s down there at a newish job, had lovely things to say about the area, the country, and I’d always wanted to see it. He’s got a house a minute from the beach where he’s learning to surf, friends, and knowledge of the terrain. But I wasn’t sure if he really meant it or was just being nice, and I had things to do.

Oh yeah.

Then a couple of weeks ago, he reiterated the invite, and asked if I would assist his lovely and fun fiance to get there as well. We talked about logistics, he booked our flights, round trip for me and I’ll be gone for a month.

Oh, yeeaah.

As a result, I have an adventure in front of me, a new old dog waiting when I get back, days full of laughter and great company as she and I pull it all together for her life transition, I try to finish a book and maybe complete a major business transaction with untold but significant impacts on my own life.

Oh, yeeeaaah.