I would imagine that for most people “home” is a relatively static concept. It is a structure where you live – it is where you sleep, make meals, feel comfortable, and keep your stuff. By that definition, it is a simple concept for us too; Halcyon is our home. For the last ten years, we have lived aboard this 40’ boat.
But home is also usually surrounded by familiarity; neighbors to borrow eggs, habitual driving routes on the same streets, friends that live nearby. That is where it gets more complicated for us. Halcyon is constantly in new and unfamiliar places, and rarely there long enough for them to feel familiar. By that description, we would call Seattle home (Ballard, more specifically). We know the streets and shops and restaurants, the marina is full of friends and neighbors, and we still know where everything is in the local grocery store.
And then there is the idea that home is where you grew up, where your roots are and, perhaps, where your family is. In that case, Virginia is also home. I grew up in Richmond and my parents and sister still live there now (along with my brother-in-law, 2 nephews, both grandmothers, and a sizeable number of aunts, uncles, and cousins). Near Roanoke, John’s mother lives on the farm on which she grew up, and then where she raised John and his sister. We call all of these places home, which can get quite confusing as we make our travel plans.
A year ago, when Coronavirus knocked us all off our feet, we were in Seattle. What was initially a 4-5 month working trip started to stretch interminably. We don’t sit still very well and felt stagnant in our rented apartment, despite the beautiful view over Lake Washington. So, we bought an old ambulance, fixed her up with the help of our friends and their well-appointed wood shop, and ambled across the country so we could see our family in Virginia.
It was such a memorable trip that it further expanded our definition of home to include our cozy little ambulance, Cannonball, an intrepid adventure mobile willing to wander up mountains and through streams and across the plains. We slept well in a bed more comfortable than any we’ve had (with the peace of mind that we could not drag anchor in the night, no matter how windy it was!), we made our meals on a little stove top, and stored our stuff in its built-in cabinets.
Finally, in January, eight months later than we had anticipated, we got to come home, to Halcyon, waiting patiently for us in a boat yard in the Marquesas, French Polynesia. She didn’t look (or smell) like home at first, but after a few weeks of scrubbing and repairing and more scrubbing, it was clear we were truly home.
We spent a few weeks in the Marquesas shaking off the cobwebs (metaphorically and literally) and then sailed a light easy passage south to the Tuamotus. For the last few weeks, we have been in Tahanea next to our close cruising friends, Josh and Rachel on Agape. We first met Agape at least four years ago and have been cruising more or less together ever since (except for our extended sabbatical in the states last year). With them anchored next to us, it feels even more like home. We show up at each other’s boats unannounced, borrow tools, swap recipes, and share meals.
It has been perfect cruising. The four of us spend hours every day in the water exploring the reef systems and passes, spearfishing for dinner, or just lazily floating in the shallows through the heat of the afternoon. This year, every day we get to be here – in our home in some of the most beautiful islands in the world with such good friends – feels even sweeter because this time there is an end date.
In a few months, we are going to once again expand our experience of home. An opportunity has appeared, and you know we don’t say “no” to new opportunities. A few months ago, I was offered a job that I did not want to pass up, despite decidedly not looking for one. The job is as the Director of Operations at the fast-growing outdoor products company, Ignik Outdoors, founded by our good friend Graeme (you may know him as the captain on our DogBark! arctic adventures).
After deliberating on how it would wholly and completely shake up our life, I took the job last October with the caveat that I felt like I still needed time in French Polynesia on Halcyon this year. Graeme did not hesitate to agree, and I will always be grateful for that. As a cruiser himself, he understands our lifestyle and priorities better than most. And so, our “plans” have shifted again. Soon, home will be on or near Bainbridge Island (across the Puget Sound from Seattle). It will likely be on a boat, though we don’t know which one yet.
In the meantime, we are living in the moment, soaking up every aspect of this sweet (and salty) life when our days consist of snorkeling for hours at a time around healthy reef in crystal clear water, making food from scratch, living slowly and spontaneously, and watching the sun set every single night. It’s good to be home.