The boating world is full of tradition, ritual and quite a bit of superstition.
Of course, any endeavor where you take your life in your hands — or, more accurately, hand your life over to the whims of Mother Nature and King Neptune — is worthy of all kinds of superstition, blind faith and silent prayer.
Certain wise truths are written in the hearts of sailors:
— Never start a voyage on a Friday
— Don’t change a boat’s name
— If there’s a red sky at morning, take warning!
Although, in today’s age of science and skepticism, some boaters look a little askance at these pearls of wisdom, all it takes for many to change their minds and take heed is to start a voyage on a Friday and subsequently run into some big challenges at sea.
Along with cracking a bottle of champagne across the bow, some new boat owners go through special ceremonies and rituals to change the names of their boats and circumvent the wrath of the sea gods.
And most sailors, even those on Navy ships, go through unique rites for crossing the Equator for the first time.
But I’ve never heard of a nautical ceremony for saying goodbye to your ship, and wishing it fair winds and safe voyage, when you pass its command on to new masters.
As we prepared to leave our sailboat Groovy behind at our broker’s docks in San Diego, she was in as pure and virginal and showroom-ready condition as she would ever be.
She wasn’t sold yet, but we had moved everything off of her and we were leaving her behind so we could resume our land-based travels in our trailer.
Our truck was ready and waiting in the parking lot, stuffed to the gills with our remaining personal belongings, and we were polishing our way out of the cabin and into the cockpit.
“I want to do something special before we leave,” I said mournfully to Mark. It didn’t seem right just to walk away from the boat. I wanted to recognize the occasion somehow, to say goodbye to her, and to wish her well in her future adventures
Suddenly his eyes lit up and he ran off to a dock cart that was overflowing with our last boxes of stuff. He rummaged through a little container of knick-knacks and then came back into the cockpit.
“I have just the thing,” he said, holding a very round rock out towards me in his palm. Hand painted on its face were the words, “LOVE – Living One Vibrational Energy.”
Some weeks earlier he had been given this odd stone by an intriguing, nature loving, free spirited woman we had met while we were prowling around at nearby Sunset Cliffs.
We had noticed her doing some reverential poses on the rocks, her long hair and soft dress billowing out behind her. She had seemed to be summoning the spirits of the sea by the water’s edge.
It was a classic California sighting, and we chuckled to ourselves. But then she turned and began to engage Mark in conversation.
She was loving this day — the ocean and the sky and the beauty of everything — and she wanted to share her good feelings with all the world. Suddenly she cupped her hands around this little stone and pressed it into Mark’s palm. Then she wafted away. He slipped the stone in his pocket, amused and touched by her unusual gift.
Now Mark put the stone in my hand, and I rubbed its round, smooth surface. There was something appealing about it and the funny way it came to us.
“I’ll toss it in the water right here below the boat,” he said. “That will definitely give Groovy good vibes.”
With that, he knelt down by the hull while I grabbed my camera. He held the out stone and let it fall.
Such a simple gesture. Such a fleeting moment.
But the gravity of it caught us both off guard. Suddenly we were embracing, tears in our eyes.
A neighbor on a newly purchased Hunter 46 spotted us from his cockpit. His Mexico cruise was still ahead of him, and for the few days we had been docked side by side, he had been as excited about loading up his boat up with goodies as we had been about unloading gear from ours.
“It has to be bittersweet…” he said as we walked past him on the docks. His bright smile oozed happy anticipation of his own adventures ahead.
We nodded with a sniffle and trudged up towards the truck.
We promptly bumped into our broker who greeted us with a great big salesman’s grin.
But his expression changed to a look of surprise when he saw us blowing our noses and wiping our eyes.
“I guess you really loved your boat!” He said incredulously. “So many people just hand me the keys and say, ‘Sell it!'”
Not so with the Groovy boat. She was our little home on the sea, a fabulous cruising platform and our dream boat.
I have never cried when I moved out of any other home. I have always been excited to leave. I’ve never felt a deep emotional attachment to any house I’ve owned. But saying goodbye to our little pad on the water was really hard for both of us.
We had poured our hearts and souls into making her as ideal for living aboard at anchor as possible. We had lovingly polished every inch of her, inside and out, over and over, and we had worked on every system, from the tiniest pump to the largest sail.
That’s the way it is with boats. You get to know them on a very intimate level!
She had delivered handsomely on all the promise we had seen in her when we first laid eyes on her. Steadfast and secure, she had taken us to all kinds of new sights and experiences, in safety and in style.
With hopes that some caring new owners will discover her and be as inspired by her as we were, we waved goodbye from the top of the dock ramp and climbed into our truck
There were lumps in our throats as we drove the city streets out onto the highway in the morning light. But by the time we crested the hills that separate the lush coast of San Diego from the desert to the east, we were smiling again and talking excitedly about the future. We had closed a beautiful chapter in our lives and were now turning the page to see what would happen next.