You can have my heart, if you don’t mind broken things
You can have my life if you don’t mind these tears
Well, I heard that you make old things new
So I give these pieces up to you
If you want it, you can have my heart
– Julie Miller, Broken Things
Ultimately, we have to ask ourselves what we’re willing to put ourselves through in order to create the life we want.
I have had a fascination with the ocean since I first laid eyes on it as a kid. The first time I saw the open water of the Atlantic and later the turquoise water of the Caribbean I fell in love.
The sea had me.
Since pay raises at the university were non-existent, I started a web marketing company as a side hustle to make more money. And each week, I’d drive by a small marina on Lake Maumelle on my way to visit clients in Little Rock. What made this place unique is that it had a lot of small sailboats. So one day I stopped just to walk around the docks and look at boats. While I was wandering around the owner came out and we started talking. I mentioned what I did for a living and he mentioned that he sure would like a new website for his business. I replied that I wanted a boat to learn how to sail. As it happened, he had several in his possession that had been abandoned. A few minutes later in a handshake deal, I agreed to build him a new website in exchange for a boat and sailing lessons.
In the world of marinas, this wasn’t a great one. In fact is was more the kind of place where fiberglass went to die. I didn’t know anything about sailboats, but one of them called out to me and so I chose my first boat. She was a 1977 San Juan 24. I loved her teardrop shape and clean lines. But, she like so many other boats there hadn’t had any attention in years. The companionway had been left open and the inside swarmed with red wasps and mud dabbers.
I had my work cut out for me. So I tossed a couple of bug bombs inside and shut the hatch. A week later I found more wasps still flying in and so I tossed more bug bombs in. By the third week I could crawl inside without getting stung. And so over the course of the next few months I got her cleaned up and repaired enough to hoist a sail and named her Mischief. The sailing lessons never materialized, but I’d been reading an ASA sailing manual and finally decided there was nothing else I could learn while sitting on the dock. So one day I hoisted a cheap pirate flag and used the small electric trolling motor to get me out of the marina and into the lake where I taught myself to sail. Over the next year or so I got better and craved more and more time on the boat, sailing out into the middle of the lake at sunset and jumping into the clear water for a moonlight swim.
Sailing is one of those things that you can learn the basics of in an afternoon but takes years to master. You can be the best sailor on a small lake, but the open ocean will make you feel like it’s day one. I had a lot to learn.
Fast forward several years, and I’m down on the Texas coast on my second boat, Tilted Compass. By this time I’d become a far more competent sailor and gotten my captain’s license. This experience had also enabled me to understand what kind of a boat I really wanted. Mischief was great for playing around on a lake in the afternoon. And Tilted Compass was perfect for dock parties and sailing out in the bay. But I needed something more.
I wanted to chase some sunsets, taste some saltwater and hopefully somewhere along the way slay my own dragons.
I needed a boat strong enough to survive the storms on the outside and the storms within.
And that’s when I met my Mistress.
Emerald Eyes was sitting in the first slip on the dock next to the bath house at the marina, and she was covered in bird shit. Everything about her looked ratty. She’d been there from the first day I’d sailed down to Corpus Christi in Tilted Compass. Depending on who you asked, she’d been sitting in that spot and hadn’t moved for a decade. Her owners had been cruisers, but age and health had caught up to them and they traded the sailing life for a house in the hill country. But they loved their boat too much to part with her. But boats need attention and maintenance and eventually she got none of either.
It was a boat that people looked at and shook their heads saying it was a shame to watch her go to waste and that she was too far gone to resurrect. I’d heard stories about it having rats on it and every other possible rumor about her condition. She was exactly the kind of boat people are warned against buying because the cost of a refit can exceed the price of a fully functional boat. But, she was a Tayana Vancouver 42, a highly sought after blue water boat. Designed by Robert Harris, to be a cruising sailboat that was comfortable to live one and capable of going anywhere in the world. Tayana was built by the Ta Yang shipyard who produced some of the best built sailboats in the world. She was built to be a tank that drove like a Lincoln.
And one day she came up for sale and I love making old things new again.