Bittersweet Beginning (Intuition Diaries)

Knot inside anchor locker that secures the rope and chain attached to our anchor

In ten days, my husband and I plan to be riding in our truck towing our boat, Intuition, towards our dream adventure: exploring the Inside Passage of Southeast Alaska. Over the past ten years or so, since we got the boat, we’ve talked about that one day when we would go to Alaska. Each trip on the boat has prepared us for this upcoming expedition. It’s more than a weekend on the river, but those trips have taught us that the preparations are the same for a couple days or a couple weeks. This time we will be away for several weeks. We are natural planners and problem solvers, so this trek together might seem like a breeze, but we still encounter frustrations and disappointments, as would be expected. Somehow though I get caught off guard. I believe these two states of being should be farther and fewer between as I gain more life experience, yet it is not so.

We have been planning, preparing, and outfitting the boat with things that will make the trip easier. We celebrated this week restoring the anchor to our boat. Last year, we said good-bye to our faithful anchor at the bottom of Mark Twain Lake. It was quite upsetting, as I like to applaud myself for avoiding the typical boating mishaps like mold in the cabin and engine failures and cutting the anchor loose because it held too well. So when Les asked me to load the new rope/chain (also called the rode) which was attached to the new anchor into the windlass (the new electric winch), I felt honored. The rope was in a big heap. It needed to be untangled and laid out for ease in feeding it into the windlass. Also there was a knot that needed to be undone, which meant taking the end without the anchor (300 feet or so of rope) and threading it out of the knot. He nonchalantly told me I had to start at the bitter end.

Yes, that is what the end without the anchor is called. I haven’t done any research, but I immediately understood because of the bitter ending of our last anchor. If you have to cut loose the anchor, then all you have left is the rope. It was a bittersweet moment when I lowered the last of the chain into the anchor locker. Our new shiny anchor sat in the spot where our faithful one used to be.

Enough about the anchor. Let’s talk about dinghies. A dinghy is a small boat that resides on a big boat, in order to get ashore or to explore shallower waters. We often use our two-person kayak for that purpose, and also own an inflatable one that we’ve used a couple times over the past several years. One notable time was on a very rainy beginning of a trip, and we were using a hand pump to inflate it. We got soaked, but the dinghy didn’t mind. On a trip like this one to Alaska, our inflatable dinghy is more of a necessity to get ashore and to see glaciers up close, but not too close mind you.

On Monday, as the part of the process, we took our newly outfitted boat to the river. It was time for the trial run. We packed most of our stuff, as if we were going to Alaska. We wanted to try out the dinghy with its new electric motor. I was stowing things inside and setting up the bimini on the back, while Les took the hand pump to inflate the dinghy. I came down to share the task; it was slow going. It was about halfway inflated when the pump failed. We didn’t have the time or the cool breezes or patience to replace the pump (we’d need to order it probably anyways.) As Les was deciding to just put it away, even though we were frustrated and disappointed, I was determined to solve the problem.

I started asking Les questions about vacuums and tape and hoses. He gave me the space to try out my idea. I said if it worked, he had to take a picture. I attached the input hose with silicon tape to the vacuum hose. I used the output of the vacuum to inflate the dinghy. It worked! I was elated! Les snapped a picture, and we moved on to other tasks.

Several minutes later, we went to get the dinghy to haul it onto the roof of the boat. The air had seeped out. Our mood deflated. We tried not to cry or yell or swear, I can’t remember if we were successful. Apparently a section of the seam had come unglued over the years. In the end, we packed it back into the truck, and continued with our plan to test out other systems on the boat, while out on the river. We hoped to relax a little, too.

Tuesday morning, we compared notes on the list of things that needed tweaking, and each time we found something it was kind of discouraging, but at the same time we needed to know these things before we go to Alaska. We decided the best measure was to replace our old dinghy with a new one. (The old one could be repaired, but not in time to leave on schedule.) The other fixes we could make after relaxing one more night on the boat. We decided to head to Hardin, Illinois to eat dinner at Mel’s and anchor out behind Mortland Island.

After pulling up the anchor, near Portage Island, using the windlass, which by the way worked without any frustration, I noticed a puddle of water in the walkway of the cabin. Change of plans again! Instead of dinner at Mel’s, We headed towards the ramp to take out the boat. We needed to trouble shoot the water problem. With some more frustration, we managed to get the boat on the trailer.

Today, thankfully, were able to bring the boat home, so we can work on it here, rather than out at the storage lot. (We haven’t been able to get it home because of road work in our neighborhood.) Boating is very fun, but also a lot of work. This bittersweet beginning will not be the end of our adventuring. We’ve come to understand that part of the joy is overcoming the setbacks and other obstacles. The trial run was also training for the challenges ahead. We’re learning that the bitter comes with the sweet; beginnings and endings are new each day.


I remember it all—oh, how well I remember—
    the feeling of hitting the bottom.
But there’s one other thing I remember,
    and remembering, I keep a grip on hope:

God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,
    his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning.
    How great your faithfulness!
I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over).

Lamentations 3:20-24 (The Message)
   

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