Tuesday, December 1, 2020
Dec. 1, 2020

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Everybody Has a Story: They retired with two tickets to paradise

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As I spent my childhood playing on the shores of the Clyde River in Scotland, I watched ships as they headed eastward to sea. Where were they headed? What lay at their destination?

I did not know that halfway around the world was another child harboring similar questions as he stood near the shipbuilding yards on the Columbia River in Vancouver. We two were destined to meet in Canada where we married more than 50 years ago.

Once our family was grown, our innate love of the water surfaced. We’d enjoyed recreational sailing on the Columbia River, and set our sights farther. After reading, taking appropriate classes and attending talks by others who lived the cruising lifestyle, John and I were ready to pursue our own retirement dream. We sold our home, packed our car and began a two-year sailboat search.

We found her in Texas, renamed her Pacific Rose and began our quest to find paradise.

One afternoon, under a cloudless blue sky, we anchored off Sand Dollar Beach by Georgetown, Bahamas. I stood at the bow, clearly seeing scattered wisps of green grass swaying on the white sand floor about 10 feet below. John was swimming along to check that the anchor was holding fast. Pacific Rose swayed gently with the current under the bright sunshine.

We planned to spend the afternoon tending to boat chores. Having raised the dinghy onto the deck, John was using a felt pen and letter template to refresh the registration numbers on each side of its bow. I was going to soak the dock lines, which had become soiled and salt-hardened during our travels.

John glanced across the deck, adjusting his eyes from the effects of the glaring sun to the shaded cockpit. It surprised him to see my derriere in the air, toes clutching the cockpit floor. The rest of me was slung over the edge of the starboard storage locker, my arms stretching downward into the space below.

My fingers almost reached the pail that rested on the floor of the locker. I was attempting to grasp the handle in order to lift it onto the deck so I could go ahead with soaking the lines.

“Nan, for heaven’s sake, let me do that,” shouted John, who is over a foot taller than me.

“It’s OK. I can reach it,” I said.

“But you can’t,” he said knowingly.

“Yes, I can,” was my assertive reply.

Confident and determined, I suddenly banged my elbow against the lever on the fire extinguisher attached to the side of the locker. Unbeknownst to us, the safety pin was not replaced when the extinguisher was last serviced. Before either of us could utter another word, the inanimate fire extinguisher spouted to life. It spewed forth a fine talc-like substance, covering everything stored in the locker: lines, pail, bosun’s chair, tarp and miscellaneous marine equipment and supplies.

Of course, I was not immune. I grabbed the edge of the locker, pulled myself to standing position and turned to John with white face and prematurely white hair.

“I guess I couldn’t,” I quipped.

We spent the rest of the afternoon emptying the storage locker, wiping down its walls and contents before neatly replacing each item. We were pleased about one thing: We knew the fire extinguisher worked. Now all we had to do was have it recharged at the marine supply store down island.

And so it went, one of our many adventures in paradise.

Everybody Has a Story welcomes nonfiction contributions, 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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