The Back End of a Boat

The slip'n'slide is out on the one strip of grass we have amongst the construction rubbled backyard. This morning I came in from an early run to the van and then ran back out to snap a picture of our deck draped in beach towels. The sight reminded me of my 29th birthday. Bill and I sailed with friends on the Ionian Sea off the coast of Greece. We bareboated but hooked up with a flotilla of around eight other sailboats most evenings.

Bareboating means you do everything: captain, navigate, cook, crew. No hiring of anyone else to do these things for you. However, with a flotilla, there was a lead boat whose captain determined where you would meet up in the evening. At the end of the day, the lead boat would anchor or moor, and the rest of us would tie our boats up along side, creating a raft -- hence we were "rafting" for the night.

Before we departed in the morning, the crew of the lead boat would give us a little direction on where we would be going next, what tavernas to look for, and where to find water for the boats' freshwater tanks. Our crew of four had bareboated in the British Virgin Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the years previous to our Greek excursion. Never had there been so much concern about fresh water as in these daily briefings.

On the third night joining the flotilla, we worked out the importance of water. The sailors on the other boats dressed for dinner. We sailors on the boat named "Sophia" did not. The others in the flotilla showered onboard their boats. We did not. We jumped into the sea only to cool off and freshen up, for we had given up on soap: it didn't suds up in salt water. By the end of the 10-day trip, we were well preserved by sea salt -- never as fresh as those who lathered up daily in their onboard fresh-water claustrophobic shower stalls.

Near the end of the trip, the captain of the lead boat took his dinghy out to take pictures of our boats all rafted together. From the back, the flotilla looked crisp and the boats looked identical, like the linens the well-to-do English sailors wore to dinner. All but Sophia.

Sophia looked like a hobo. She had big bold beach towels hanging off the bimini top and swimsuits hanging limply in the minute breeze. Little Sophia, the dinghy we pulled with us, was hitched up the back of Sophia. Little Sophia looked like she was trying to climb out of the water onto Sophia's deck. (I believe we hiked her up there so there would be less drag while we were underway.)

Yes, 18 years ago this week, I was happy with a swim in salt water, a towel hair dryer, and recycled clothes before dinner. Last night, I was happy for the slip'n'slide, beach towels, and day-old pajamas. Will and Liam had been thoroughly rinsed and summer-air dried. They looked a little campy, just like the crew of Sophia several years ago. Happily campy. And the stern of our house looks like a hobo.