For my wife and I 1998 was the year of the Ginsu knives. That Spring my wife had called my bluff by telling the owner of her law firm that she was taking off on a sabbatical...after I had thrown a hissy fit about growing old stuck in the same space in Santa Cruz, and she didn't care! She really did care and off we went to Central America. In point of fact when the six months were up she found a pay phone in Puntarenas Costa Rica and while admiring our boat floating at anchor nearby told Mitchell her life as a lawyer was over. She didn't tell him she was going to become a teacher in Key West because at that point our future and that of our dogs was an open book filled with blank pages; nothing was written.
We had six months to get ready for the grand sailing migration to Mexico from San Diego, an informal rally called the Baja Ha Ha organized by Latitude 38, the west coast sailing newspaper. Normally Layne and I are not into tours and gatherings and flocking together but faced with our first long passage into a profound unknown, and given the unorganized nature of this rally, by then in its 6th edition, we figured we could fit in. No one held our hand to Cabo San Lucas, we sailed alone and gathered at a couple of anchorages along the way. It was the prefect introduction to a very long undertaking for our family.
The summer of 1998 we spent getting rid of some things, preserving far too much stuff in our garage which we turned into a storage locker while we prepared to rent out the house and granny unit. The idea was that we would sail more relaxed if we knew everything wasn't totally committed to the boat which might easily end up sunk, crushed, stolen, or burned to the waterline. Disaster is one's constant mental companion while preparing an undertaking. It seemed inconceivable at the time we could make it 6,000 miles to Key West through a dozen countries. Curt with his spare mooring outside Garrison Bight seemed a very long way away even as he invited us to hang with him when we arrived. We took him up on the offer in 2000.
I find myself once again in a Ginsu frame of mind as I face the last ten months before departure, and its a frame of mind I don't recommend as it becomes a note note symphony in the head. I find it hard to concentrate on fiction when I read. I find myself drawn most to literature that somehow reflects the next phase of my life - travel, overlanding, vehicle preparation, all the tedious notes that fill the mind of someone uncertain of his ability to make the thing happen. That summer 23 years ago Layne and I sat up in a bed made of plywood over cinder blocks, like middle aged students and we watched late night television infomercials to empty our minds and relax. That thing could be useful we told ourselves watching eager salespeople on television, as we telephoned in our orders for helpful gadgets. Cellphones were a novelty and the Internet was a military secret in those days of the Sears catalogue and Penny's mail order stores. We still have the Ginsu knives we ordered that summer. They took the boat trip and are still in our kitchen drawers today on Cudjoe Key as I write. They were excellent and are still sharp.
Nowadays we exchange ideas in texts. I sent Layne a text with a link for a suspension lift for the van to travel torn up roads, and she returned the compliment suggesting a very small electric cabin heater for Alaska summers and Andean boondocking at 10,000 feet in Chile. Amazon is the new infomercial. We decided to dump our mosquito proof gazebo as it is big and heavy and we can't usually be bothered to put it up. A friend bought it eager for the extra "outdoor room."
It is impossible to think of everything and at some point the umbilical cord must be cut. Layne's recovery from shoulder surgery is going well, the pain is dropping dramatically and soon she will start physical therapy. In two weeks she will be retired. I'm expecting she will channel her energy into making doctor's appointments and dealing with the paperwork that I am useless at. We keep promising ourselves this will be an orderly departure, lists will shrink not grow, all will be settled by the time daylight saving time comes around in 2022.
Rusty has his vaccination card and his place in the van. Layne has prepared a space to store his food and we have several collars with his name and phone number on them in case we manage to lose them. Losing him is not something I want to think about. I used to worry on the boat if a dig were to disappear. Death is one thing, a finality, but disappearing into an uncertain void is too awful.
I have entered the twilight zone of one more, one more hurricane season so I keep my fingers crossed. I realized I have sat out every single storm since July 2004 and this year I was hoping I would get a break but we are so short staffed I doubt I will have that option this summer. Hurricane Irma is not an experience I want to repeat, the aftermath was even worse than Hurricane Wilma in 2005, a storm of lesser winds and dreadful flooding.
I laugh at myself as we go into another hurricane season, because in years past I never really cared that much. Hurricane season is part of life in the Keys, and not just here. But this year because it's my last time around everything seems more delicate, more in balance. Layne is going to California in September and for that month I'm going to take the van to Central Florida and store it under cover. I couldn't bear being stuck at work and having my retirement home destroyed.
All these considerations pile up as the weeks go by, a final tooth check, an eye exam, a colonoscopy because one is old and that exam is a mark of advancing years, and this year is the Year of The Ginsu, the period of recollection and preparation and the hope that the blade is as sharp now as it was 25 years ago. So far, so good.