This is a story about the good stuff. About when you get that feeling. A feeling that doesn’t make sense, but you act on it anyway. Where feeling turns to force. No, not the over-the-top, Hollywood-science-fiction-blockbuster kind. These are the gentle whispers. The ones that are easy to pay attention to. And the crazy ones we dismiss out of hand.
I’m writing to encourage you to pay attention to them all.
It was a regular day in my new neighborhood. I hadn’t had many regular days for a while. After traveling the world for around two years, working for the Lord and writing, I’d learned to enjoy life’s different tacks. How to navigate and appreciate the ones that had taken me into stormy waters and celebrate the soft breezes. This past Spring, I made a home base, experiencing the blessing of living close to my grown children.
I enjoy walking around the harbor, a short distance from my home. On one of my walks, I spotted a sailboat moored there with a for sale sign mounted on its starboard side.
“Take a picture,” the whisper said.
She was beautiful. But, I continued walking.
Why would I take a picture of a sailboat for sale? I don’t sail, not anymore. Something made me turn around. I took a picture. Then one more. And another one, and another one.
Smiling, I walked on to the lighthouse. Later that night I kept thinking about TESSA. I couldn’t get my mind off of her, and the next day I told my best friend about her. She gushed over the idea of me buying a boat. I assured her the idea was crazy, on many levels. I wouldn’t call. Having the picture was nice.
Two days later I called.
An efficient sea dog answered on the other end of my cell phone.
“Er….hi.” I couldn’t think of anything to say except, “How much do you want for the boat?” I didn’t know how to go into the fact that I hadn’t sailed in forever.
“A million dollars,” he said. I liked him instantly.
Then we both just got to it. He shared he had cancer, was getting up in years and just too sick to sail anymore. I shared that I hadn’t sailed in close to forty years. We talked about where I learned to sail––Lake Geneva in Wisconsin, Lake Michigan and Nantucket. I admitted I obviously wasn’t ready to handle a sailboat by myself on The Pacific.
He said he’d sailed around the world a few times and believes Lake Michigan to be the most treacherous water on the planet. This surprised me, like a lot of what would pass between The Captain and I. We talked about our sailing adventures a little more. His much more adventurous than mine––by a long shot. The Captain shared that TESSA is a Trintella Vriendenkring 29, 10 meter sloop designed by Van de Stadt, built in Holland in 1967. She was born when I started sailing for the first time.
Then, he surprised me. “Why don’t you come out and sail with me Tuesday night to see if you enjoy it?”
Really? I thanked him for the offer, said I’d think about it and we said our goodbyes. The weekend came and went and I couldn’t get my conversation with The Captain or TESSA off my mind.
I love the Lord’s tender mercies. How he puts cherries on top of things to help us notice he’s right there with us in the many details of our lives. Of course the boat is Dutch. My father’s father was Dutch. At the time of our conversation, it hadn’t even been a year since I’d lost Dad. We’d said our last goodbye on Monterey Bay at Seacrest Beach, during the final sunset of his life. The bay became a part of me in that moment. Deep called to deep.
My best friend wanted to know if I’d decided to go for a sail. I did.
Out on the water surrounded by the language of the sea made me feel like a girl again––shrouds, and main sails, sheets and jibs. I found myself wondering how I could have let something so dear to me go for so many years. Life has a way of taking me places I don’t want to go if I’m not careful.
After our first sail, the Captain confessed he didn’t want to sell TESSA anymore. He asked me if I’d consider going in as a partner with him on the boat instead. He mentioned his current partner was going blind, and as he approached 100 he just couldn’t sail any longer. The Captain added that he needed help to sail her now.
I said yes. The evening of our first sail was the first time the Captain had been sailing in one-and-a-half years. His road had been long in fighting the disease.
It’s been three months since we’ve been partners. As the Captain got his strength and sea legs back, I’ve crewed with him on many different types of luxurious yachts. But the boat that has stolen my heart continues to be TESSA. I love the adventures we’ve been on. I suppose it’s natural that a one-time nomad on land would now have an appetite to become a nomad of the sea––her breathtaking beauty and tender mercies continuously comfort and surprise me.
Even as the Captain’s old partner is now almost totally blind, we received good news this week. The Captain beat the cancer that had taken him off the water for so long. His doctors at Stanford are thrilled and left scratching their heads. The sea has been the Captain’s best medicine, administered at the helm of TESSA.
“Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.” Psalm 42:7
© Laura Elliott, 2017