This is a short story about how a 26ft wooden boat made me grow up.
For the past few months in this same newsletter, I’ve been writing about my first ever sailboat: Curlew III. I became the owner of Curlew III at age 18 under some rather peculiar circumstances, and over the next few years she went on to change my life.
Age 18 is a strange time. It’s right on the cusp between childhood and adulthood, when you have all the confidence and none of the experience. If I had been older, perhaps I would’ve been too wary –– or too smart –– to take ownership of a 26ft wooden boat which I knew absolutely nothing about. Thankfully, I wasn’t older. I dove in headfirst. It was scary at first. I didn’t know where I’d keep my new boat, didn’t know how I’d afford moorage, didn’t know the first thing about boat maintenance. But with all the false confidence of my age, I did it anyway. I received a lot of help –– something like this is never achieved alone. I think people were bemused and curious to see what an 18 year old college kid would do with this classic boat in need of repair. And again, being 18, I was eager to prove myself. So I did. I spent long summer nights scraping varnish, sanding wood, with a backdrop of bluegrass playing out of tinny speakers and seals popping up to check on my progress.
And along the way my false teenage confidence –– based more on bravado than anything else –– gradually turned into real confidence. I slowly became aware that I was actually doing it. I was following this dream I’ve had for so long. I made plenty of mistakes, but I managed to come back from them with renewed energy and just a tad more experience. As I kept going, I felt less of a need for the “bravado” form of confidence, which was always an outward show to mask my inner uncertainty of my own abilities. I felt a growing sense of peace. Was I working on Curlew III, or was she working on me? Both, probably. I was growing up. Curlew III was guiding me, gently and gracefully, towards being the kind of person I had always wanted to become but didn’t know how to.
When I graduated university, I felt ready. I wanted to sail farther. I wanted to make art and music, I wanted to write about the light which exists at 6am on an empty horizon. I knew it would be difficult, but I knew I could do it. Curlew III had taught me that.
Not long after, I met the love of my life. Aladino. I met him in Sardinia when I was crewing on a tall ship there. He was tanned from the Mediterranean sun, and he sailed his own 31ft boat. He was a boatbuilder. He had a kind of gentle determination about him, an awareness of all that life has to offer and a purse desire to chase it.
Aladino and I started planning our life together. We wanted to sail, far. Eventually, I realized that Curlew III, waiting halfway around the world for me, could not be a part of those plans. We had a different boat that we were working on –– Magic Carpet.
So one winter day, back in Canada, I sold Curlew III. It was an emotional day. But deep down I knew that without Curlew III, everything that was currently happening would have never happened. Curlew III is the bone structure for the rest of my life. She taught me patience, and confidence. She taught me that dreams can come true, and they’re not always easy but they’re always worth it. Curlew III and I have parted ways, but she lives on in everything else I do.
Maya now lives in Europe on a 28ft sailboat with her husband Aladino. Their goal is to sail around the world as slowly as possible. They publish weekly videos of their adventures on their YouTube channel, Sailing Magic Carpet.