Thursday, September 24, 2020
Sept. 24, 2020

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Everybody Has a Story: Setting sail for love, adventure

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As the words “We now pronounce you husband and wife” were spoken, the opening notes of “Here Comes the Sun” sounded, and the sun began its slow slide into the ocean, right on cue. We kissed and turned to face our guests — the first couple, as far as we know, to get married on Suwarrow, a tiny, uninhabited island in the Cook Island Group in the South Pacific.

In 1991, I learned to sail and was hooked. It brought forth dreams of sailing off into the sunset. Nine years later, after begging for rides, crewing on race boats, taking classes, researching, reading others’ adventures and dreaming of turquoise water, palm trees and deserted anchorages, it was time to buy a boat of my own.

I found a sweet, affordable, 22-foot boat. She was fast, fun, small enough to sail without crew if need be and large enough to overnight on. And oh, the freedom! Four years later, I bought a 25-foot boat with more creature comforts. Two years after that, with age chasing me, my house and stuff were sold, and I moved aboard the 41-foot Faith and began preparing to leave. Faith is much like a seaworthy two-bedroom apartment.

The winter of 2007 was cold and gloomy, and I missed having a little male companionship. By the time Chris responded to an online personal ad I’d placed in a weak moment, I had mixed feelings about answering. My friend Patty was going to Mexico with me, and we were already in the final planning stages. I didn’t want to spend valuable time teaching some guy how to sail. Worse yet, he lived in Tucson.

But it turned out that Chris had plenty of experience, as well as a 27-foot sailboat already in the Sea of Cortez. He also had the same desire to go cruising. So on Aug. 25, 2008, we threw off the dock lines and headed down the Columbia River. When we exited the river, the trip got pretty ugly, but once we rounded Point Conception in Southern California, the conditions changed dramatically. We harbor hopped down the coast and became friends with another couple bound for Mexico.

Seven months later, Chris received an email, inviting us to join them in the South Pacific and crew from Tahiti to Tonga. We were ecstatic! We decided to get married on a tropical beach at sunset while on this trip.

We flew to Papeete, Tahiti, and soon set sail in the cobalt blue water of French Polynesia, a dream come true. Each island we visited had its own charm and beauty. After a five-day passage from Bora Bora, we arrived at tiny Suwarrow and found the beach. That evening, we announced our intentions at a potluck of worldwide cruisers. The excitement it produced was stunning. Everyone wanted to help and attend.

Invitations were printed and delivered via dinghy. A New Hampshire couple conducted the ceremony. Numerous musicians, including a harpist, provided entertainment. Our boat hosted a bachelorette party, and our captain’s wife baked a three-tiered wedding cake.

After a nasty three-day storm postponed the nuptials, we finally awoke to blue sky and a double rainbow. Squalls rolled through about every two hours that day, but as we all gathered on the beautiful tropical beach for our ceremony, the rain stopped and the clouds parted.

I had imagined an intimate gathering, but by the time we exchanged vows, there were 75 cruisers from 25 boats from all around the world in attendance. France, England, Germany, Austria, Australia, New Zealand, French Polynesia, The Netherlands, Norway, Cook Islands and America were all represented. This beautiful gathering of nations will always be one of my fondest memories.

Everybody Has a Story welcomes true, first-person tales by Columbian readers, 1,000 words maximum, and relevant photographs. Send to: neighbors@columbian.com or P.O. Box 180, Vancouver WA, 98666. Call “Everybody Has an Editor” Scott Hewitt, 360-735-4525, with questions.

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