Thursday, March 15, 2012

How Do You Eat a Boat?

Obviously, one bite at a time... and invite absolutely everyone you know.
Time to Go by toastfloats
Our trip is over. As with any great life passage, we punctuated our journey with a big party at the beginning and end: opening and closing ceremonies at the Olympics, baby shower and wake, bridal shower and girls' recovery night out, bon voyage and fin du voyage. Our Bon Voyage party was in May 2008. We invited our neighbors, our friends, our family. It was a stunningly beautiful day as only Seattle can be when the weather is perfect. In fact, the mountain was out... a statement meaningful to anyone who has lived in the Puget Sound for any length of time. We were happy and scared, excited and absolutely ready to embark on completely new lives.

Our Fin du Voyage is a bit diferent. We are bringing to a close an amazing phase of our lives. We aren't quite moving forward into something utterly new and strange. Yet, we aren't really doing anything we've ever done before. Living aboard a boat, going to public schools, working... it's been a long time. Morever, when we did these things last, we were very different people with utterly different priorities. It's possible that our emotional roller coaster could be described using almost the same adjective: happy, scared, excited, ready for a new way of life.We broke our Fin du Voyage party into several separate gatherings. If we've learned anything over the intervening years, it is that there are a finite number of people you can host on Don Quixote at any given time. A few too many and she starts to sink. Her waterline way back when with all those people on her was a bit terrifying in retrospect. So we broke the party into bits hoping that the fickle weather gods of this Lousy Summer from Hell would cut us a break and at least one of our parties would be pleasant. Give those fickle gods credit for consistency. The weather sucked each and every time. As a rule, the weather was perfect either the day before or the day after each gathering. On the day of the BBQ, cruise, or gathering, however, it was either a) super windy, b) overcast and drizzly, c) colder than Idaho caves, or d) all of the above.

As a result, we had a far fewer guests joining us during our Fin du Voyage do's than we had hoped. It's also fair to say that we just don't know all that many people yet. We know a few amazingly cool people, mind you, but it's not like we spent our first year in New Zealand becoming the social life of the Auckland party. DrC and I are not all that good about getting out of the house as it is. Give us the mistaken notion that we're only going to be in New Zealand for "a few months", and we basically failed to extend our reach beyond a very tight, close circle in Pukekohe.It is probably time to change that approach, however. First, Pukekohe is 30km and 45 minutes south of here. We can't simply pop over for a glass of wine of an evening when we are in the mood. So as a start, we are making a concious effort to reach out to our marina neighbors. The summer (that really an inappropriate word for it but for lack of a better one...) is winding down. The fair weather sailors and the owners of stunning dock jewelry are gradually abandoning the liveaboards for the duration. The nights are chilly, the parking lots emptying out, and our sense of the marina as belonging only to the live aboards increases weekly. Time to dig in for the winter.

So to speak.

To kick off this spirit of neighborliness, I've been pushing for bi-weekly liveaboard dinners. I have read countless accounts of liveaboards who talk about their marinas as the best neighborhood possible. Liveaboards in good marinas take care of one another. They take care of the boats around them. So, we kicked off dinner this month at the lounge with a feast of boat cake.

The boat cake was the best idea ever. The genesis -- as with so many good things -- was over a glass or two or three of wine while we visited with a friend before leaving for Mexico. Peter's vocation is computer geekery. His avocation, however, is cake making. He crafts the most amazing cakes. We thumbed through pictures of his many creations ooo'ing and ahh'ing. Somewhere it just popped out, "You should make US a cake! When we get back!"

"What do you want?" asks Peter."I don't know... the sea, the Toast Floats logo, our navigation path..." my voice trails off.

Aeron pipes up, "Don Quixote! You should make Don Quixote."

I think DrC and I laughed. Whoever heard of a cake boat. Or a boat cake. Far too fancy. Far too much time and trouble. Never mind. The Don Quixote cake was stunning.

My favorite bit was the dinghy on the davits at the back complete with a wee outboard motor. I think I'll just throw a bunch of pictures on this post and call it done.

The cake really speaks for itself.

Friday, March 02, 2012

A Gift for You

We are awakened in the wee hours to the sound of bells chiming like nautical reindeer past the gatehouse, down the ramp and up our transom. DrC launches himself abruptly skyward. I put out a hand to stop him, "No. Don't worry. No kill."


"No announcement, no kill."

This makes sense to my husband who, apparently not actually awake, simply flops back into somnolence and resumes snoring. It occurs to me to wonder how many patients were the beneficiary of this half-asleep wakefulness during his medical residency. In the meantime, Dulcinea rummages around the salon for a few minutes while she waits out the latest summer squall.

Dulcinea doesn't like summer in Auckland. Like the rest of us, she is waiting for weather that could be more reasonably credited with the sobriquet summer. Chill overcast mornings, frequent squalls, long days with no sun whatsoever, this is hardly summer. Dulcinea doesn't like prowling in the rain. Rain is wet. Wet is bad. Bad is not good. Not good means we must all suffer her frustration and unhappiness. There is scratching of the scratch post and nibbling at the nibble bowl and slurping at the slurp bowl. There is thumping up on to salon seats, bunks, cockpit benches and the boom. There is thumping down off seats, boom, and benches. All this activity is accompanied by the cheery sounds of Dulcinea's collar bell, only the most recent in my husband's efforts to prevent our cat from decimating New Zealand's precious wildlife. Then the squall stops, Dulcinea ventures out, peace and quiet descends, and I drop back into sleep.

Some unknown time later, bells chime and DrC repeats his leap out of bed act. This time I let him. Dulcinea is yelling about how wonderful she is, announcing to all and sundry that she is the most magnificent hunter on all the dock. I can also hear a buzzing whirr of wings. Experience compels me to tell my husband, "Beetle." In other words, don't bother getting out of bed. By the time you get up there, she will have eaten it. First, however, we must acknowledge the kill. I call out to my cat, "Good kitty. Wonderful kitty. Shut up you lovely wonderful hunter. Just eat it and shut up." This is all said in the most loving tones. It reminds me of those times when the girls were small and suckling at my breast when I would say in the most sweet, motherly tones, "Of course mommy loves you, you little shit. I can't believe you woke me up at 2am. Now just suck it up and go back to sleep, beautiful girl." A loud crunching sound from the salon affirms my conviction that it is merely the tone of voice that matters in situations like this one. Beetle wing sounds disappear, yowling stops. Quiet again.

The days when Dulcinea brought us wingless, legless crickets and laid them on our chest are long gone. I believe the night I launched her out the cabin, down the hall and halfway to La Paz was probably the end of that routine. Now she brings her catch only as far as the salon where she waits until she receives proper respect and accolades for her skill and cleverness. As soon as she catches something, she exults in her superior hunterlyness, shouting to the world about the wonder that is Dulcinea. As a rule, the yowling starts somewhere in the parking lot, then she'll trot past the gatehouse and down the ramp, across the dock and up into our boat chattering about the event all the way. The incongruity of her chirruping, shrieking merrowwing combined with the friendly tinkle of bells wakes me every time.

She is a very loud cat. She is probably the loudest cat in all of New Zealand. She is also an extremely good hunter. While we crossed the Pacific, Dulcinea focused her attentions on the squid and flying fish who inadvertently launched themselves into our orbit and from there succumbed to Dulci's voracious appetites. Here in Bayswater, she gives every domestic housecat a bad name as she brings home mice, birds, bugs, and on one memorable occasion a foot long rat. Worried that perhaps we might somehow be single-paw-ed-ly destroying a New Zealand endangered species, I verified with the harbor staff that there are no kiwis in Bayswater. In fact, there is nothing particularly precious in our neighborhood. The staff is all for Dulci eating the mice and rats, don't mind so much the occasional finch, and are rather hoping she'll take a liking to the flying roaches.
It's not as easy being the proud parent of such a voracious hunter, however. If Dulcinea were silent… if she could just eat with her feline mouth closed… it wouldn't be so bad. The nightly ritual, however, in which either DrC or I must go up, examine her kill, pet her, and then stumble back to our beds has grown stale. A few nights ago, her catch was a small bug of indeterminate species. She had it eaten before I had even turned around and started back down the companionway, upon which she started yowling again. I spin on one heel presented with the sight of that damn cat sitting next to her bowl quite clearly demanding that I feed her. "It's three o'clock in the morning and you couldn't be bothered to catch more than a half inch beetle and you want me to feed you?"

Apparently so.

Did I mention that she is loud?

Tonight, we are awakened by a third hunting alarm. Patting my husband on the shoulder, I go up, fill the dish, toss a cricket overboard, pat the cat, rub my tummy, and go back to bed. As I climb in, my husband mutters at me asking what I think I am about. "Why do you keep going up there?"

I groan as I settle back into the sheets, "I am completely pussy whipped."