October 2001, Preparation for Departure
BELOW:Mi Gitana at our "Home" dockside at Shelter Island San Diego shortly before we left
Finally a date is set... Saturday December 29th, 2001, when we untie our lines and finally start a voyage that just 4 years earlier was just a dream.
In fact a week ago when we were sitting in Avalon Harbor at Catalina Island on our "shake down cruise", we remembered that it was Halloween 1997 when we took possession as the new owners of "7 Won Ton" (as she was named when we bought her) and sailed her from Marina Del Rey to Catalina Island... our first of many voyages and adventures on our "new" (1986 Hans Christian, Taiwanese hand crafted, 57 ft traditional style) sailboat.
We, soon after, officially christened her "Mi Gitana,"
[My Gypsy Girl] and we
(I say that term loosely, as it has been mostly been Joe) have been readying her ever since for the dream voyage that we planned.
For the last 4 years, Joe's full time "job" has been to get Mi Gitana equipped, and physically ready for a circumnavigation. I, on the other hand, having almost no mechanical or the like abilities, continued to work full time in the employment world to get the money we needed to fix her up as we wanted her. The work on Mi Gitana has been a "labor of love" (although Joe, through many a cursed word, would never refer to the labor as "love!") and patience getting her ready. And no, she will probably never be "ready" in Joe's eyes, as he sees that for every item that is erased off the "to do" list of repairs and maintanence, 3 more items appear. But we both know that if we waited for the list to be completed, we would never leave. We know that what is essential for safety will be done and somehow she WILL be ready to go when we are. Finally having a date set is what will keep us focussed and on track for reaching the goal.
Mentally, preparing ourselves is another challenge. Although we have been excited about this trip for the entire length of our relationship, I think we both in our own ways have some (and very different) apprehension and fears. For Joe, I'm sure it is the worries of keeping us and Mi Gitana safe, i.e, sailing into unknown harbors and hoping the anchor works, that the charts are correct and we don't go aground, that the smiling local that pulls up beside us his panga (wooden boat) waving to us, really is friendly and curious and not a pirate, that the weather predictions are correct, that all of our main mechanical and electrical "systems" (motors, generators, radios, etc...) work when it is critical that they work, etc.
For me, my apprehensions are different. I know Joe will do what is humanly possible to keep us safe. And I know Mi Gitana is a "tank" and will withstand the seas and most any storm we could come across. I know realistically (and statistically) that most boats make their voyages (and I should say in LESS sea-worthy boats, and with LESS qualified crew!) without going through any major storms, that they do not encounter pirates, and that their main mechanical and electrical systems work "when it counts" (i.e., in emergency situations). [And secretly, I know since Joe focuses his worries on these matters, I don't need to!!] So my apprehensions are quite different: of leaving my family, particularly worrying about my son, Scott, and knowing I cannot pick up a phone whenever I want to to check to make sure he is okay. I'm also used to seeing my Dad several times a month, and frequent communications with my sister and mom, so not being able to do so, WHEN I want to, will be something I greatly miss. I also worry about my physical strength in being able to help Joe should we get into tough spots and we are both needed physically, for example, in bad weather to go on decks with high seas and winds, to fix something or to do a sail change. I will have the responsibility of standing watches and being "in charge" of our safety, the sails, as well as keeping us on course while we are on a passage 50% of the time, and I worry and about how I will do. Of course, I will also be the chief chef and Nurse aboard. And God help us if I am the one who becomes injured!
And just as great a worry for me is how Joe and I will get along. Although Mi Gitana is a big boat, there is no place for us to get away from each other and to have privacy or to be alone. We are both strong-willed, opinionated, and I often think it is a miracle that our relationship has survived 4 1/2 years so far! [We have teased each other that whoever's being "bad" can be "in the doghouse" by sitting the dinghy which we could tow behind the boat. So humorously, I picture myself always being in the "dog/dinghy house," lounging across the bottom of our rubber dinghy, with my big hat, sunglasses, rum punch in hand, with a great paperback book... bouncing along the waves tethered behind Mi Gitana. Doesn't sound too bad actually... unless Joe is really pissed at me and cuts the tether!!!]
But despite all of the apprehensions, fears, etc., bottom line is our desire to be successful in taking off on this voyage out weighs them all. We know, (God forbid, any disaster happens in next few months to prevent us), we will leave in December. We may not make it around the world. We may somewhere along the way, turn around and come back or just give up... but at least we will have succeeded in departing which is a hell-of-a-lot more than most dreamers do.
These last 2 months have been unbelievable: frantic, frustrating, and bittersweet. We cross off items on our endless TO DO lists, only to add more and more each day. There seems to be no end in site. Our first priorities, of course, are to make sure Mi Gitana is safe that she has everything she needs to keep us safe... and if that is accomplished, well, then we know we WILL leave as planned, even if there remains things left on that never ending list. I have been focusing on provisioning for 6 months and packing for 12, ordering all the millions of "spare parts" Joe has on a list for me to find, and making sure we have all of our "affairs" in order. Joe has been slaving away at maintenance, and is still installing new systems that had to wait until "just before we left" . And adding to our frustrations is dealing with businesses who have services or products we need, but who don't have the urgency to provide and the rate of our urgent needs.
Our days are long, with no time for enjoying our new house, or watching the new fall schedule of TV programs or even reading the books and sailing journals that we always seemed before to have time for. We fall into bed each night after 14+ hours each day of "boat projects." Our emotions are also in turmoil as there is lurking that fear of the unknown, facing our first real journey outside of US waters, dreading the long separation from family and friends -- these emotions are mixed with the longing for the adventure and joys we know are ahead of us as we take off on our dream.
Our goal is to work as hard as we can now... so we will be done with everything before December. We want to have time to take some deep breaths, enjoy our last Christmas for a while with our families, get some good nights of sleep, relax our bodies and souls, and "smell the roses". Somehow, I fear though that our "projects" will overflow into December also.
Well the briefness of this note will tell you that we are still working frantically to finish "important" must-do-things. I have not much time to even write more than a quick note here. Solar panels that were due to arrive in October, have just arrived and need to be installed. Other parts and projects we've been waiting for... well, they will probably arrive eventually and they'll just have to be thrown on the forward berth to await our arrival in some foreign port to be installed or put away. And the interior of the boat is a disaster with us bringing on board all the boat "things" we've been storing in our garage for years ... and with the hundreds of dollars of food (called "provisions" in boat language) that I've bought in the last few weeks to stock us for a year at least! Anyway, the turmoil of the mess (while trying desperately to find places in every nook and cranny to put all this "stuff") is also causing lots of stress.
Emotions are at their all time high, tempers are short, and tears come easily. Christmas, my favorite and happiest time of the year, has been put on the back burner: Joe has no time to shop for presents, nor decorate the house. We don't even have a tree. Somehow we will find time to at least get together with family on Christmas day, but it will not be the gala big last-Christmas-at-home-for-many-years event that I had hoped for. At times my moods remind me of one's emotional turmoil and jitters just before the wedding day ... I'm excited about what the future will bring, but also fearful still of what that future will be like -- am I making the right decision? knowing that after one says "I do" (and in our case, we throw the dock lines and leave San Diego) that everything will be different and that we are leaving behind life as we once knew it, a life that for the most part is comfortable, secure, safe, and relatively "easy." I know, like most brides, I will NOT back out of this upcoming special day... In fact, I'm sure it will be a relief when the day has come and gone and we are on our way.