We need a boat. Like, really need a boat. Not just, “Oh a boat would be fun.” But an aching, core-wrenching desire for a piece of water. We don’t find sailing just a pastime or a boat a status symbol. A boat is a part of the family; without one, we’re incomplete.
We have always been drawn to the water. I met my husband, Danny, in Santa Monica, California. I was renting a converted basement, steps from the sand. It was expensive, damp and claustrophobic, but I could roll to the water; it was as close to a boat as I could get. Danny was living on a 34ft trawler. With two berths and two heads, his home was bigger than mine. It was love at first float.
We spent our honeymoon on a Catalina 36 in the BVI. We became sailboat snobs; the physicality, the wind, the absence of diesel fumes... When we got home, we sold his boat and moved north for a job. It was the wrong thing to do.
I don’t believe in regrets, but this part of the story is what we would change. I thought we needed to be grownups, to live in a house with a foundation, but why? We were young and childless, and a floating home would have been perfect in the seaside town of Monterey where we settled.
We quickly moved again, this time inland, although we resisted. My parents took us to Fiji on a 43ft Halberg-Rassy. We vacationed as far west as we could get. Jobs morphed, and we ended up back south in San Diego. We bought a cottage, had babies and spent every free moment on our parents’ boats. You’d find us with our children in a slip down in Mexico on a 45ft Ocean Alexander. The tiny resort harbor less than two hours from home became our favorite place. Our children grew up with a sense of balance like Olympic gymnasts. They adapted to small spaces and slept peacefully in the constant movement. When asked where the sun went to sleep, they always replied, in developing English and Spanish, “in the aqua.” They learned to respect the ocean, nature and different cultures.
Then life took us east. Our parents said goodbye to their boats, and we mourned those vessels as much as our relatives. When we watched the sunset from our covered porch outside Philadelphia our toddlers still said goodnight to the sun, but they could no longer see the water. It hurt my heart.
Despite cold and snow, we bathed our home in anchors and sails. We took ferries and cruises and charters in the BVIs whenever we could. We spent weeks in Cape Cod and Nantucket on a Boston Whaler that took us island hopping and clamming and made us realize there is a blissful life beyond palm trees. We started to dream of a Northeast beach house, but quickly decided a boat would better give us the year-round water view we craved.
I got a paddleboard. The kids got kayaks. We spent time on the lakes in Pennsylvania and canoed down rivers. We put in a pool. It helped, but it wasn’t the same. The water was near. But it wasn’t a boat.
A third child and age were eventually enough to bring our families east. That beach house we dreamed of became a reality, times two: a summer cottage on the bay for one set of snowbird parents and a home on a deserted Delaware Beach for the others. Beautiful. Raw. Breathtaking. But no boat.
We struggled with our feelings. Beach homes were enough! They were everything! They had to be. But they weren’t. We still dreamed of being on the water. Watching the fishing boats pull out early each morning, we longed to follow.
We have never been a fair-weather family. Despite our San Diego roots, we have learned to accept what nature brings. The water heals us, whether bathed in sunshine or drenched in squalls. It calms, it teaches, it unifies. We are also a family that longs to be united. From the outside our life may look like a constant vacation, but what it really reflects is a commitment to the coast. Twenty-four hours off is enough time to take a road trip to the water and recharge despite the harsh reality of winter. Cold and wind can be tamed with clothing. You don’t just love based on behavior. If you really love, its unconditional. And we truly love the water.
So, every free minute is devoted to seeking the sea, because it’s how we find ourselves.
A boat may be hard. Oh, come on, it will be hard. Toddlers and careers and boats? What are we thinking?
We need a boat. Not a huge boat, not to begin with. We’re not picky. In fact, bring on the weathered, the relocated, the overworked. It will feel at home in our family. A family missing one member. A family afloat, without our boat. A family meant to be at sea.
Kerstin Lindquist is a writer and broadcaster