I unzip the door of the giant blue canvas cover that blankets her through the winter, and step up onto the deck of the boat I’ve called my summer home for twelve years. Soon, the work will begin, but I settle for a moment in the blue-tinged light of the cockpit. I am home again.
I have two homes, two very different, very beautiful homes. Each place makes my heart sing, each to a different tune, though always the winds sing along, one through the junipers, the other through the rigging.
I was not called to the sea until I was a woman in the summer of my life, a woman who loved a man who loved the sea. He courted me across the country. He sent me Cruising World magazines, and asked me to marry and sail away with him. Though I only sailed with him one weekend on a small charter boat, his dream lived on in me after the accident that killed him.
Instead of making my way to the sea then, I made a home in the desert. A healing place that years later still nurtures me. But I dreamed. I dreamed of learning to sail. I dreamed of a boat I could sail myself. I read about boats, and I dreamed.
Seasons passed. I met another man who, like me, had lost a mate he loved. We came to know each other through grief. But we grew to love each other through the dream to sail. He sold a house and bought the perfect boat, an oceangoing cutter with lovely lines. When considering that decision, he meditated and found the message, “Move toward the light.” We named her Kagán, light in the Tlingit language. She has been a source of light ever since.
When that man was being taken by cancer, we held hands and talked of the adventures we shared for eight years on our fair little ship. The day in Thompson Sound that hundreds, maybe thousands, of Pacific White-Sided Dolphins leapt around us while we drifted. The beam reach across Baker Passage, going faster than hull speed, the boat in perfect balance, he on the helm wearing a mile-wide grin and me whooping with joy on the windward combing. The days at anchor, the only boat in the Susan Islets, waiting each evening for the black bear to come feast on the apples of the abandoned homestead on shore. Fresh prawns, hauled up from the deep in our traps, steamed then dipped in lemon butter, dinner for seven nights in a row, never tiring of their sweetness. The blessed hush when the engine goes quiet, and the sails take you home. Wherever home will be that night.
Is home a place? A person? A feeling?
I have found home in places that fill my heart with joy. I have found home with cherished partners, here and gone.
I am now in the autumn of my life, but it’s a warm, sunny spring in British Columbia and the sea is calling. I stand and pull the key ring from the pocket of my jeans. I unlock the padlock that’s kept Kagán secure through the winter, slide the hatch open, and lift the companionway boards out. I step down the ladder that I’ll run up and down a thousand times this sailing season. Hands on my hips, I look around the cabin and wonder where to begin, moving back home.
After eight years as Kagán’s First Mate, Deb Green took the helm as Skipper after her partner, Jerry Blakely, passed away in the spring of 2013. 2016 is her fourth season as Skipper. She sails with her boyfriend, new-to-sailing First Mate Eric Hubbard, and her intrepid little boat dog, Capi.