A Working Vacation

May 9, 2010

This is the first chance I’ve had to sit down at my computer in six days. When in the last 15 years have I been able to say that?

This vacation was certainly unique. Since it was a last minute (we decided at lunch two days before departing) decision, the expectations were low. Regardless, none of us were prepared for the highs and lows of this last week.

On the high side:

Ruby and Miles Eating Breakfast on the Sole

Three nights on Convivia. We all loved falling asleep to the ocean sounds, and waking up in a gently rocking home. Bedtimes were serene and several were augmented by the soothing sound of rain on the cabin top and decks. Meals were simple (or had at restaurants), the boat was nearly Baltic cold, we ate meals on the sole, and we couldn’t use the head, but none of that seemed to be a bother.

Sarah Drinking Wine from a Measuring Cup

Fun With Friends. We spent almost every free moment (and some busy ones too) while we were in Washington with Sarah and Ricky. Ruby and Miles just loved playing with “Little Blue Eyes” (a.k.a. Kiera). We met some new friends in Oregon who are new to living aboard. We spent an afternoon and evening laughing and comparing notes with Nicole and Brian. And to cap off the trip we finally made it to see Wes and Jen in their (now not so) new digs. Seeing their family there, and sharing mother’s day morning with them was a fantastic way to cap off the trip.

Hundreds of miles of natural beauty. We were overwhelmed by the beauty of I5 from Reading, CA all the way up to Seattle. Snow capped mountains, redwood trees, meandering rivers, and ginormous lakes dominate my memory of this exhausting drive. We covered the entire northbound leg in one long 14.5 hr sprint, and then took our time coming south. In Oregon we kept finding new reasons to say “Why didn’t we move here 10 years ago?” or “We could totally live here.” Our die has been cast, and there is so much waiting for us back in New England, and here in California that I don’t know if it will ever come to be, but if I had the chance and had to swallow the hook, I think Ashland, Oregon would be the place for me.

Miles Warming My Heart On a Cold Night

A week of real travel with the family. Its reassuring, on the cusp of a major transition to a travel based lifestyle, to see your family thriving in a trial run. Sure it wasn’t a cake walk, but it certainly was no more difficult than an average day in and around Mountain View, and the highs were giant size. Considering that the process of inspecting, financing, insuring, purchasing, documenting,  moving, and making this boat ready for living aboard has been one of the most difficult and stressful of my life, I take ‘better than average’ to be a screaming success.

…and speaking of screaming.The lows:

God damn was there a lot of screaming this week. It seems that Miles has developed a full tonal scale to suit every need, want or desire, and Ruby has learned how to use her scream to whip Miles into a frothing banshee of primal proto-communication. I am sad to report that I resorted to covering of mouths more than a few times this last week. I’ll try to do better in the future. We kept those kids cooped up in the car for hours upon hours, and gave them way too little freedom to run and be wild, so its no surprise that they exploded, but it was hard on the nerves. So hard that I was guiltily glad for the ‘opportunity’ to drive the stinky, squirrely, cruise controlless, ManVan. A telling example of how much we’ve asked of the kids came this morning.

Vick: “Miles you need to nurse?”

Miles: “Yes. Not one minute, not five minutes, not any minutes, just nurse”

Yes Miles has earned “just nurse” and  Ruby has earned “just run around and be crazy till you drop. And Vick and I, I do believe, have earned the moment of quiet that we are now enjoying.

The incompetent salesman. I’m not usually one to publicly lambaste people for their shortcomings so I won’t name this guy directly, but the guy who promised to leave a marina key for our family, and then forgot, and then tried to tell me that no one ever told him to leave that key even though I called him 6 hours earlier and told him to leave that key. that guy… is a douche bag. The fact that he (a very large, and slightly scary guy dressed in full biker leather) then got all up in my face and yelled down at me “Hey kid, don’t you get all up in my face” when I told him that I thought it was better that we not talk about it anymore, kinda left me in a fighting mood. Although I extricated myself unscathed and with the key, I couldn’t escape the resulting emotions. I found myself trying to force things all morning that I normally would have finessed, and finally decided to cancel the day sail that we had planned, lest I put myself, my boat, or my crew in danger.  My best self knows that this was a golden opportunity to master myself, but my wicked witch self can’t quite let it go yet.

5º Heel at the Dock?

The Gale Force Wind. I must have transgressed one of the legion unwritten superstitions of the sea because there is no other earthly reason why, on the very first time leaving the slip on my own, into a fairway just 7 feet wider than Convivia is long, the winds would suddenly whip up to their highest speeds in any local person’s recollection. I now know that I had no chance of a successful departure under those conditions. Had it not been for a couple of very anxious, very helpful yachties, I would have spent all day doing the Austin Powers back and forth in the fairway. As if that weren’t enough, with nerves completely shot, I departed the fairway only to run aground in the shallows at the end of the lane.

Out in the Sound, it looked as if the winds would die down. Just as we were preparing to set the sails, the gale blew in full force again and we were heeled over (under motor only) to about 15º, all the way to Tacoma. Upon reaching Hylebos Marina, we realized that docking under these conditions was going to be as difficult as leaving the dock had been. This time I took about 20 minutes to prepare myself and the crew, and we had a safe (if not adrenaline boosting) end to our day. Looking back down the dock from the gangway, I noticed that, even then, the boat was heeled over a good 5+º.

This, That, and That Other Thing. Okay, there were plenty of other lows, but I don’t want to overwhelm this post with the myriad petty grievances.  Sure the ManVan experience was death defying, and the million little details that I spent the last few weeks getting in place almost to the last one changed, fell through, or exploded when it came to go time. The beauty though—the life affirming, awe inspiring, splendiferous fact of the matter—is that I wouldn’t have traded a moment of it for any other moment. This is my life, and as I sit here and reflect on the week I’ve just had I have to say that I’m as happy as a clam with how things are shaping up. I know that there is a lot to be learned from the lows. I know that they define me, and test me, and show me what I need to work on. I know that even Mr Douchebag has served a valuable purpose in my personal development. And then good lord. The highs!


  1. Comment by Charlotte

    Charlotte May 10, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    Love the photo of the wine from a measuring cup. Ahhh the life of a liveaboard! Wait until you have to use your big thermos as a vase for flowers you bring home 🙂

    I say good call on cancelling the day sale. Trust your instincts on stuff like that.

    • Comment by Tucker Bradford

      Tucker Bradford May 10, 2010 at 9:23 pm

      Hey, thanks for commenting! 🙂

      We were all giddy about that measuring cup. Sarah actually won the honor and I think the rest of us felt a little shabby with our plastic kids cups and titanium camping mug.

      There will certainly be other days for sailing but it was too bad that we didn’t get them out for a proper sail. I guess its just an excuse for a future visit.

  2. Comment by Lourdes

    Lourdes May 11, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    Even having a dream come true isn’t easy. It’s something I personaly detest on fairy tales “a la Disney” in which seems the only thing needed is to wish something really hard and then…voila! you get it. That is so not like reality at all. It’s from the “magic” of the hard work that comes from the heart that someone can realize their dreams.

    You are realizing one dear dream, but I am sure that so many other worthy and beautiful dreams will come as you sleep rocked by the sea, feeling and living thru it’s rythm and pace.

    So more hard and satisfying work is ahead, with it’s ups and downs, laugh and tears, making you feel you are truly ALIVE; and all your friends will be here to share it with you.

    Clear skies and strong winds!!

  3. Comment by Verne Bradford

    Verne Bradford May 11, 2010 at 7:40 pm

    Hey, I want my vote back. I hit the down button instead of the up.

    But then, keeping to the theme, I guess life’s just that way sometimes. Just remember, a bad beginning makes the grass grow greener.

    • Comment by Tucker Bradford

      Tucker Bradford May 11, 2010 at 10:43 pm

      Shoot, I can’t fix the vote but I’ll make a mental adjustment. Sometimes you can stuff the ballot box, though I’m not sure what conditions allow that 🙂

  4. Comment by Seven C's

    Seven C's May 15, 2010 at 7:00 am

    The long drives like that can be a bit trying ( ! ). We recently drove our $750 Ford Windstar from Oregon down to La Cruz de Huanacaxtle (Puerto Vallarta), Mexico and back. About three weeks and 4,700 miles. The reward was great family times and a week on the beach in Mexico and visiting friends before they left for the Marquesas.
    We love Oregon – it does have it’s advantages, but like everywhere there can be disadvantages also. Your trip to Tacoma sounds a lot like our usual daysail! We often head out and are heeled by the wind under bare poles. I think you get used to it here in Oregon 🙂

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