Heading South


“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.” ~Frank Herbert

I could sense my time on the water was drawing to a close long before the boat turned around and headed south. The first sign was reading the final sentence of a thousand-page novel that had kept me company many evenings. Then there was the last episode of the DVD series my husband and I had been watching. Even the can goods were beginning to look sparse and the last of the frozen chicken, wine and soda had been consumed. All our extra stock could now be stowed in one cabinet versus being stashed into hidden compartments under the stairs, berths, and bench seats throughout the boat. It’s curious how the inkling of an ending begins with just one small event that grows until there is no denying the reality of what’s ahead. The final shift for me happened when the boat physically changed direction and headed south cruising along coastline we had already passed by.

I noticed my thoughts began to turn as well, shifting from a wide-eyed wonder and sense of exploration to a focus on the practical details of unloading gear, driving 1,400 miles back to Boulder and checking in with friends, family and clients. I felt like I’d been living in a parallel universe for the past two months due to the lack of cell reception, wifi, or TV that rendered communication with my life in Boulder limited at best. I truly was living in a bubble, so-to-speak, and I found myself reluctant to leave this magical cocoon. Life was uncomplicated on the boat. Billy Proctor, the eighty-year-old man who has lived most of his life in a small wood-frame home near Echo Bay in the Broughton Islands, was once asked if he ever got bored in this remote landscape. He responded by saying he didn’t know the meaning of the word, “there is too much to see and explore,” and I knew exactly what he meant.

I suppose exiting an adventure needs as much care and attention as preparing for it, gathering up the experiences, holding them one last time, before placing them into memory – savoring the high lights, near-misses, and even the cabin fever felt after four days of rain. Taking the cargo off the boat became a ritual of saying good-bye. Hauling crab pots and fishing gear from the fly bridge I was reminded of the prawns and rockfish that were deliciously fresh to eat. Swabbing the decks brought back memories of the deep stillness that permeated the air at dusk and watching a colony of sea otters swim past the stern of our boat then duck into a rock crevice. Washing the windows I could still imagine the massive fjords that loomed above us. Finally, as I laundered and folded the linens, I stacked my memories along with the towels, carefully placing them where they could be retrieved if ever I needed to visit the sea once again.

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