It’s not what Dorothy had in mind when in Oz, but all the same, “there’s no place like home” and for the past nearly 4 years home for us is where we drop our anchor, moor, or dock. When you have a floating home and the view is usually 360 degrees of water, ideas of home become quite amorphous and often transcendental. A place of spirit more than in body. What we find time and again as this lifestyle reinforces is that our home is built in our hearts and its foundation our love for each other and for our loved ones. Our past life experiences along with the experiences we gain as we sail along ever-changing and growing are enveloped into home. And as the Byrds sang, quoting the bible, “there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven.” In our current season of life, it’s this. Our lives humbled and honored by having shared this time on earth, by having taken a part in bringing some to this earth, our children. And now we’re further graced with grandchildren. It doesn’t get more transcendental than that. Yet includes and grows with the individuals, discrete communities of people, the nature that perpetually surrounds us, adventures that we encounter along the way, no matter where we are, all home. Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore, and that’s exactly where we want to be.
There is a certain kind of addicting sense of freedom that’s quite hard to give up in having the privilege to change your backyard whenever it suits you. Or at least, it’s too soon for us to give up after a quickly passing four years this coming August, and we sail on. We carry on constantly “homemaking” and like to think the RK is often a chosen destination by our kids because well, we’re fun, for one. And they too share this ineffable growing experience of home. Often the lifestyle itself has become a home for them to share either virtually or live. We’ve discovered the time spent together as everyone carries on with life, that much more meaningful. The degree of quality vs. quantity of time spent together has been so far enhanced that it holds you abundantly full of love until that next encounter. So, even if it’s just a passing text, phone/facetime call, quick visit, or quiet prayer sent to the heavens as an until we meet again, it’s that place in the heart that becomes much more precious and divine of a “place” where we can connect, whether in the flesh or in the spirit.
Often when sailing, you can find yourself asking, Could I claim land here? Become a landlubber, settle in? Could I call this place “home”? It’s just a little game that seems to float into the mind’s landscape. That’s when you start weighing the practical pros and cons of different tangible aspects: geography, architecture, traffic, commercialization or lack thereof, distance from civilization like hospitals and supermarkets, food available, overall general vibe (not always tangible), culture, taxes (very tangible), wildlife, cleanliness of both water and land… the list goes on. It seems thus far, no place has it all. Yet, the heart does. There’s always a trade-off when constrained to the physical. Living in this way, makes the possibilities rich. Many may identify home as the four walls, the house, the structure. Others, the family that resides in it, no matter where they gather. Perhaps a pet, certain foods, smells, tastes, objects. Whatever home is, it seems to be the familiar, even if it’s a place or circumstance never before visited. There’s a connection on some level. A safety and comfort, a belonging, an inner tranquility of understanding and compassion. In one word I believe home is love, in all its forms, the best heuristic. Intangible, sometimes painful, but essential to the human experience. So naturally what makes any aspect of a place a particularly inviting experience of home is the people and often other mammals, you share it with along the way.
Often when we pull into a bay and anchor or grab a mooring ball I gaze at the land, and if it’s inhabited, the homes. The structures, that is. And I admire the stability, the view they must have, the comforts and ease of life. The large comfy couch they’re sitting on with multiple streaming services and so on. Then an image pops into my head of someone in one of those houses sitting by their window, looking out at us and imagining life on a boat: the mobility, freedom, the view we always have, the adventure, the ease of life sailing the seas, the disconnection from media… and I’m reminded of perspective and that’s all that matters. It’s the love “of” part that changes from one subjectivity to the next. Though universally I’d bet we could agree whatever the tangible parts are, that the intangibles embody: safety, comfort, the familiar, the new, the adventure, the stimulating, the challenge, the rewards, the inner peace and for some the opportunity for change… all to varying degrees. For others, no change is preferred and that’s a tough one when living in a world of perpetual change. A state of mind or state of spirit you feel regardless of what causes it, can bring you home.
We have remnants of at least five currencies on the RK since we change countries, cultures, and languages, depending on the season and destination. When going up and down the East Coast through the North Atlantic Ocean, we’re more northern and southern destination myopic: Nova Scotia (yet to be seen but always a consideration) and Bahamas as main polar destinations and some choice places in between, depending on the year, land-based obligations, pandemic, no pandemic, hurricanes, how far we got the previous season… are the updated frameworks of consideration. Our idea of home is in constant transformation and continues to grow with what it encompasses. Its margins stretching, transforming, and often simply melting away, boundless.
We have landed in Beaufort, NC before. It’s got an easily accessible inlet that we’re familiar with which is the southern-most part of the Outer Banks. The anchorage we drop the hook in is comfortable, filled with turtle, dolphin, wild horses on uninhabited islands, amazing shells for the on-going collection and some clear, beautiful water, and white beaches. You can dinghy around to different little islands in the area, again: beaches, towns, light houses, fishing villages, museums… whatever you’re in the mood for. This time around, we decided to pull into the marina at Beaufort Town Docks since it would have been too windy and rainy to enjoy that anchorage and dinghy around for more than the day that we did. Downtown Beaufort has a sweet little boardwalk and the main street that runs parallel, Front Street, is lined with shops, restaurants, a great Maritime Museum and around the corner a lovely little Historical Society that runs double decker bus tours once a week. All of which we would not otherwise have enjoyed if, one: we hadn’t met Laurel and Peter and two: the weather hadn’t left us much choice but to. Therefore, I like to think there’s always a greater force of mystery at work behind the small happenings that make our findings of home wherever we may.
The first night we rolled onto land after two days and nights of sailing, still quite sleep deprived and hungry, we roamed the streets for an open restaurant. It seems that many in the area close on Mondays and Tuesdays. We found ourselves roaming the fairly desolate Front Street alongside another couple, who also walked up to the same establishments we did, pulling on the locked doors and reading the “closed” signs shoved into the windows. So, we got to chit chatting about our shared endeavor to find good eats and they invited us to join them at Clawson’s. An establishment we had not tried in past visits but it became increasingly appealing as our stomachs grew hungrier and now we had a direct invite. Laurel and Peter, originally from the Jersey area, have lived all over the country and are now settled here in this lovely town. They do a fair share of volunteer work in the community, beautifying and tour bus driving as well as manning the Welcome Table at the weekly Farmer’s Market. We had a lovely dinner, chef’s catch of the day, exchanging pleasantries and contact info. A few days later, Laurel texted me about the Farmers’ Market Saturday morning and told me where I could find them to stop on by and say hello. Paul had some things he wanted to get done since we planned to sail out the next morning, so I headed over, with promises to get back to help the soldering of a light fixture that needed repair.
In our travels we come across outdoor markets and Farmer’s Markets, fairly often. The one in Palm Beach makes me giggle because there’s not a farmer to be had. Different strokes… But this one was extra special because I got insider recommendations from Laurel and Peter, plus, there were actually farmers in attendance. Here, are the best $4 peanuts you’ll ever have, Peter tells me. Then, there is Southern Tomato Pie. Ever have it? Kinda like pizza (sold, ‘nough said!) but different, Laurel claims. I know I would not have enjoyed myself half as much otherwise without the insider information. Living on a boat, we’ve got the minimalist mind frame and a “no more stuff” attitude toward consumerism and purchases are carefully reduced to mostly services, boat parts and food. Walking around markets like this, I usually just smile and gaze at tables from afar trying to mentally explain, Lovely stuff, but I live on a boat. Needs and wants are examined more closely in this frame of mind and it’s quite liberating in the end. We’ve said before how we’ve come to see how less truly is more after downsizing. And this is also another reason my shell collection must stay under control. But I do collect shells, sand dollars and sea biscuits to give away to friends as well, so it allows me to enjoy the pastime just the same because I will eventually unload and make someone else happy with the sea’s treasures I pick up along the way. Recently a dear friend Sue texted me to let me know that she was looking at the box of shells that I gave her and it had made her day. As a pediatric ER doctor and mother of two, I was humbled to know it gifted her that moment of reprieve. Of home. It’s also one reason we blog, to share our gifts with the world, maybe touch a heart, a spirit, a sense of home in someone else. Now with Laurel and Peter’s vetted advice, I was given the opportunity to pick up a few unique treasures other than shells.
So, when I ran into Laurel at the market and she showed me some beautiful art work she had just bought for a friend, I immediately fell in love and was inspired to think, “Laurel and I have friends with similar tastes,” and I was off. My dear soul sister Sarah’s birthday is at the end of the month. Perfect. It provided the golden opportunity to meet Maya, the local artist whose work I further fell in love with when I more closely observed the recurring theme of Mother Earth, her articulate and poetic descriptions on the back of each piece incorporating dance both literally and metaphorically, the expressed connections of the human experience to nature, and, guess what? She too had been a sailor. In fact, Maya’s first baby (of four) was born on a boat in Tortolla, BVI! One of our favorite sailing spots where we’ve made fond memories, no less. When I asked if that boat birth was planned, she told me, “No, who would plan that? Certainly not me!” and yes, I correctly recognized her as a kindred spirit at once. It was no wonder I fell in love with her art. Then, I told her I’d quote her for the rest of my life. Indeed, many do plan for the arrival of a child, but often we are simply graced. Her carefree spirit and the love she so keenly expressed through her artwork brought her near and dear to my heart and inspired some gifts I can’t wait to pass on. A unique experience kindling home. As is our serendipitous meeting and subsequent dinner with Laurel and Peter. Their invitation to shower and do laundry at their house… Their kindness and openness to reach out and inform us of the goings on in their beloved little town… Something rooted in the familiar, but moves you deeply and beyond expectation.
Contently I returned to the RK with my well-informed, precious finds brimming full with homegrown Beaufort beauty, the joy of my afternoon’s outing, munching on those $4 fried peanuts, and sipping a lovely dark roast. Paul exhaled a sigh of relief when I eventually explained, my hands full of treasures, that most of it was edible and that the art was for Sarah. Not to worry, captain, we can solder that light fixture now. Perhaps the art I bought will not hang on our own walls and we may never stop in Beaufort again, but the entirety of the experience will be planted firmly in our hearts and therefore, the home we carry within enriched without the tangibles. The joy our special stay has brought to us, those we shared it with, and those that we will pass the love on to, is the amorphous gift that has made its indelible mark and continues to grace us with such blessings. And for now, we wouldn’t want it any other way in this season of our lives.