Friday, July 11, 2014

Coming Home

Our last day out in the wide sea, we tossed flowers overboard in an impromptu ritual of gratitude for our year on the ocean.

We've been home two weeks now and, though it still feels like we're in the honeymoon of the transition-seeing old friends, celebrating with family, hardly any actual unpacking.
I'm not going to ignore the many stories I haven't shared yet but for today, I'm picking up in Astoria.

Have you met our mascot yet? Meet Stinky Monkey. He likes to ride in new places around the boat and sometime takes a flying leap just for thrills.
After a quick overnight in Astoria, we spent a couple of delightful days working our way up the Columbia to St. Helens, our final destination. Our autopilot doesn't like to steer in flat water so we all took turns at the helm and the girls got a few experiences they'd missed on the trip. Meira discovered the joys of steering with one's feet and Hannah steered the boat into and out of the city dock at Rainier, where we spent our last night of the journey.

Our first day out of Astoria, we had some heavy mist that threatened to turn nasty, so I closed up the boat and took pictures through the companionway. But the weather cleared and we all enjoyed our time navigating these familiar waters.

We planned our return for late afternoon so our family could meet us easily. On our last little hop from Rainier to St. Helens, we blasted some dance party favorites and dodged river traffic. This tug and double barge got way too close for comfort because...

...this big guy needed the deepest part of the channel.

There was a tug coming the other way too around this time but we made it through smiling.

After 2 days of travel up the river, we pulled into St. Helens the last Friday in June during the only rain squall we traveled in our entire trip.

Bryan hung our flags (though at the last minute, we couldn't find Mexico!) and LiLo came in with all colors flying.

Our entire time in the ocean was dry. We had rain in port a few days, but not a single day at sea. I'm an Oregonian, so I'm going to just say that again. We sailed for 10 months without rain pouring down on our heads. I can almost not believe it.

But of course, our last 2 days in the Columbia, we had mist and drizzle and then, as we pulled into the city dock in St. Helens, an honest-to-goodness downpour.

Our families were waiting for us with umbrellas and wet smiles and our nephew jumped aboard and squelched below, saying "Welcome back to the heart of the Pacific Northwest!"

Moving the little boat for the last time!

We went up to a local friend's house for warm coffee and drip-drying and rainbows and then drove back down to the waterfront, where we had dinner with a whole bunch of sailing friends from the delightful St. Helens Sailing Club.

It was surreal and delightful to see them all in person. We enjoyed answering questions from the knowledgeable group of sailors who understood us when we sprinkled our answers with sailing lingo. Bryan's brother showed up a little late. He'd driven all the way down from the Seattle area to welcome us...and then he turned right around and drove all the way back that night. This was the triumphant return we'd dreamt about so many times.
The next morning, we shifted the boat over to our new slip at the St. Helens Marina and moved home.

It really was almost as simple as I make it sound. We packed up a bunch of necessities--clothes, toiletries, electronics, chargers, food--and shut up the boat. As Bryan and I walked away with the last load, unexpected tears escaped. He stopped for a moment to thank LiLo, a personal ritual. He pressed his hand to her cabin and murmured, "You're a good boat, LiLo. Thank you for keeping us safe."
I walked ahead of him to the end of the dock and looked back to see him stopped, staring back at our slip, at this hunk of wood, glass, glue, and metal that carried us faithfully there and back again. It's hard to believe that boats don't have a personality.

The drive home was fun, surreal, exciting.

In the afternoon, we pulled into our driveway for the first time in about a year. Bryan told us all we were going to dock stern-to and the girls teased about needing to hop out for lines and fenders. We backed in without nearly the usual trouble that causes and left everything in the car in our rush to get inside and look around. Our renters had left a few days before, but my sister-in-law had stopped by and, with some help from my niece and nephew, had decorated a welcome-home banner and left us notes on all the mirrors, food in the fridge, and treats on the counter.

With a fresh burst of energy, we unloaded the car, brought in and set up the beds, and started the long process of dealing with our boxes.

Stinky Monkey has work to do here at home too

The next few days we were busy with church, family visits, and the 4th of July. We had several get-togethers at various houses and even hosted a couple of people overnight in our barely-serviceable home. We did loads of laundry without quarters or a hike, took long, free showers, and caught up on sleep.

Surprisingly, the house doesn't feel enormous. I think during the 10 years we spent living there, we developed an unshakeable muscle memory about how long it takes to walk across the dining room, where the dishes are in the kitchen, how far one needs to bend over the bathroom sink.
I caught up with my sisters-in-law from Bryan's family with pedicures, lunch out, and an afternoon of sangria and laughter.

And we spent the 4th of July with both of our families, parade-watching, barbecue-eating, wood-working, and fireworks-admiring.

My dad is helping the girls with the redwood we picked up in Crescent City 
I missed this cute car at the car show but here it is on my mother-in-law's road, complete with watermelon! 

We haven't stopped enjoying the wildlife we see.

And we took a break from unpacking to walk to the nearby Mexican grocery store for taco fixings. Can you call them "street tacos" if you eat them in your woodsy backyard?

I've noticed all sorts of odd things. The smells here are so strong after a year of sea air. The freeway smells like metal and oil, the valley smells like green and brown, fertility and new growth.
I expected all sorts of emotions and events during this transition. But here's one I didn't see coming. My skin is falling off. At the pedicurists, of course, but also in the car, the shower; even at my writers' group, I looked down and noticed the dry skin from my forearm leaving tiny flakes on my black pants. I don't know if it's the climate, the water, or what. Maybe it's as if my body wants to shed this year as quickly as possible. Or maybe just a visible reminder that, here or there, at sea or at home, I am becoming a new person every day.

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