by EMILY ORTON
You Have Arrived! Now What?
You have arrived at your chosen island. What are you going to do now? You could sail around it. You could sail past it. If you want to set foot on your island, you’re going to have to drop anchor. You could pull into a marina and tie off on the dock. We rarely do that when we were sailing. It’s expensive to stay at docks and we’re always dreaming on a tight budget, so we like to drop the anchor.
After our first overnight crossing and our first big scary storm, we arrived at Spanish Town in the British Virgin Islands. Exhausted. Erik slowly circled the bay looking for a good anchorage. The bottom appeared perfectly sandy, which is the best terrain for anchoring.
We could anchor anywhere as long as we weren’t too close to another boat. We dropped the anchor and reversed the engines to pull the anchor into the sand. The anchor didn’t catch. We tried another spot and another—six attempts with the same fruitless results. It was ridiculous.
I needed a nap in the worst way. “I’ll go look for some sand, “ I said, pulling on my long-sleeved swim shirt and a pair of goggles. I jumped overboard. I swam and swam searching the terrain before finally calling out, “It’s all sand colored rock.” Boats and rocks don’t mix.
I climbed back in the boat. Erik motored further down the island. I jumped back in and finally found some sand. Karina and Alison let out the anchor along with plenty of chain. We prefer the chain seven times longer than the depth of the water where we’re anchoring—no less than three times the depth. This gives us plenty of flexibility to swing with the wind or currents. When the anchor hit the bottom, Erik put the engines in reverse causing it to bury itself in the sand.
Once the anchor seemed so buried that it prevented the boat from reversing further, Erik picked two stationary points on the horizon. He revved the engines in reverse imitating a high wind situation to make sure the anchor was secure. The boat’s position held. Erik turned off the engines.
Still in the water, I visually inspected the anchor to make sure that it was buried in sand, not accidentally caught on some hidden coral. I gave the thumbs up and swam back to the boat. We were officially anchored. Thank goodness.
It’s easy to live in the future, always preparing for what is next, what is over the horizon. It’s exciting. The futures we conjure tend to be “better” than what we’re experiencing now. Sometimes we’re so focused on the better future that we barely notice the “now” at all. Planning is hopeful. Anchoring is a time for gratitude.
When we finally set that anchor we were so happy to be right where we were.We were relieved to be at rest.We reviewed the difficult, boring, funny, scary, and stunning parts of the journey.Erik said, “I never thought we’d make it this far.”After the storm we’d just passed through, I’m sure there were moments he wondered if we’d make it at all. We did make it.
Time for Gratitude
Anchoring gives rise to the joy of being exactly where we are. It’s enough. It’s a gift. We know we’re not going to live on this island, or in this phase of life, or in this world, forever. We have arrived, but it’s never the end. That transience, whether it is for a week or three months or ninety-nine and one half years is what fuels our enthusiasm to explore these waters and this island while we are here.
We lived aboard s/v Fezywig for about a year, but we didn’t know for sure that the trip was over until nine months after we came home. That’s when we sold our boat and committed to an extended stay on land. Then we were ready to choose a new island.
Onto the Next Island
Our new destination was writing a book about our family’s life on a sailboat. We chose to write it together. We hit several exciting waypoints—completing the first draft, matching with our ideal literary agent, teaming up with a publisher, holding the galley copies, and thumbing through the gorgeous final hardback. This week the stories we told, are already appearing in brick and mortar bookstores and March 5th, Seven at Sea will be released on Amazon.
This is our island. I want to drop anchor here and express some gratitude. It has been an intense two-year journey from idea to reality. I like to think we have laughed as much as we’ve cried. We’ve navigated difficult conversations—not always smoothly. We’ve relived hilarious moments. We’ve typed and deleted tens of thousands of words always seeking the most honest expression of ourselves, our family, and our experience. There were high fives, furrowed brows and fervent prayers. There was occasionally a Costco hot dog. We know how to party.
Crying on an Airplane
This journey has sometimes put intense strain on our children, particularly those still at home. This promotional phase is one of those times. Our kids have risen to the challenge, kindly making dinner for the whole family, relinquishing the Internet so we can do interviews, or keeping things quiet while we’re writing articles. This week they joined us on TV.
More importantly, our precious kids keep reminding us what matters most - looking each other in they eyes, hearing each other, being grateful to be a family, and finishing every day with prayer, hugs, and, “I love you.”
The dedication in Seven at Sea reads—
For our crew:
Karina, Alison, Sarah Jane, Eli, and Lily
You will always be our greatest adventure.
I’m sitting in the center seat of an economy aisle on a Boeing 737. Erik has the aisle seat next to me. He’s revising the presentation we are about to share with 1400 women in California—a sliver of our experience aboard Fezywig. Karina is in college studying a major which she loves. Alison is serving as a missionary in Japan- her dream assignment. Sarah Jane, Eli and Lily are enjoying a snowy weekend of hot chocolate, drawing and movies with Grandma and Grandpa. I’m definitely that person crying on the airplane. Right now.
I never thought we’d make it this far.
Week 1 – Choose Your Own Island
Week 2 – Chart Your Course
Week 3 - Cast Off
Week 4 - Navigating Out of the Harbor
Week 5 - Set Your Autopilot
Week 6 - Trust Your Compass
This is the final installment of our Dreaming with Discipline series. Please join us on Tuesday, March 5th at 1pm (ET) for a FB Live discussion about Dropping Anchor. If you can’t make it at that time, you can watch the replay on the Fezywig Facebook page.