When a friend calls to me from the road
And slows his horse to a meaning walk,
I don’t stand still and look around
On all the hills I haven’t hoed,
And shout from where I am, What is it?
No, not as there is a time to talk.
I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground,
Blade-end up and five feet tall,
And plod: I go up to the stone wall
For a friendly visit.
Before I awake in the morning I am aware of the wind’s direction. Though I have slept well, the telltale clues have filtered through my subconscious before my eyes open. The creaking of the mooring lines through the hawse pipes on Raven’s bow indicates the wind’s presence. A south wind brings long, even groans as the lines pull against the bronze fittings through the bulwarks. Open water lies to the north and breezes from that direction push choppy water down the bay. With the northerly wind my bow rises and falls. My bed rocks and the mooring lines take on a rhythmic sawing sound.
Today, the waters are glassy flat and Raven sits steady on the surface. Sunshine has been scarce of late, but the skies are clear now and the eastern horizon is aglow with early morning light.
Once up, a warm mug of coffee in hand, I climb the companionway ladder to the cockpit to take in the rising sun and the morning news on NPR. Bank swallows dart between the moored boats and the shore. Cormorants, mergansers and Canada geese swim alongside. Next comes the sound of oars dipping, pulling, rising.
“Good morning Doug!” I call.
“Hey, how’s it goin’?”
“Nice to see the sun shining after that soggy spell,” I reply.
Doug alters course in his 8-foot dingy to come alongside. We never lack for things to talk about. The conversation is animated and may quickly advance from morning pleasantries to exchanges of passionately held opinions on community and world affairs. Several minutes later, Doug pushes off with a smile and I watch him row the remaining distance to the dock where he unloads his bicycle and panniers for the six mile ride into the city where we both work.
I look around at the other moorings to see who is home. The presence of a dinghy tied to the transom lets me know that Ken and Fran are aboard and I may receive another visit when it’s time for their dog, Skipper, to go ashore for relief. Same goes for Cal and Nancy with their dogs Sadie and Lilly. Cal is always good for a story or two of his voyages to and from the Caribbean. He’s been actively trying to persuade Marion and I to go south this winter.
“You gotta just do it while ya got the chance,” he tells us. “You never know what next year will bring, so pull up and do it now.”
He and Nancy will be sailing south this fall aboard I Nida Wind. Ken and Fran will be traveling with them on their Islander 36, Release. We’d love to join them, but we’ve got a timber frame storage shed to finish before the snows fly. Maybe next time.
In the coming weeks our Canadian neighbors return for the summer. Serge and Annie and their son, Victor, aboard Clementine. Ivan and Natalie sail a teak decked Beneteau, Scaramouche.
On my way down the harbor after work I spot the gathering of friends in Scaramouche’s large cockpit. I tie up my dinghy among the ones already secured to the boat’s aft cleats and climb aboard while Ivan fetches a cold beer from below. The conversation switches from French to English and I make my usual excuses for my inability to speak the primary language of my Quebecois neighbors. Natalie tells me that she needs all the English practice she can get. Ivan’s son plays his guitar while we laugh often and catch up on the events of the winter months through which we’d been apart.
When I made the decision to move aboard a small boat years ago, I was unaware of the richness of the floating communities and the bonds that form among sailors. Those connections don’t come as a surprise, however. Whether it be life afloat aboard my sloop, Raven, working the land surrounding my tiny Gypsy Rose, or riding my bicycle on an extended tour, the commonality is what Thoreau once described as, “Contact!” The trend toward larger and more insular homes or the living of life largely contained within a virtual world – be it TV or the Internet – is not one that I choose to embrace. I’d rather feel the wind on my face. I want to hear the white-throated sparrow’s call in the morning – not an air-conditioner’s incessant hum in an isolated, climate controlled interior. Living small and simple means living much closer to communities of all types. Human, animal, plant – I want to touch it all. Moon, stars, sun – I want to marvel with the wonder of it all. I want to step outside the door and take the time to talk.
To read more of Kevin’s small home adventures, visit his blog, “Building Gypsy Rose .”