When Plans Change

Published in the Santa Barbara Sentinel under the pen name Elizabeth Rose.  Chris is known as “Jason” in the I Heart stories.

My windshield wipers struggle to keep pace as the grey sky spews a cold, unrelenting rain on every driver on Highway 5 as I edge toward Seattle.

I fix the radio to Nirvana.

The crunchy guitar, heavy drums, and melodic screams of Cobain act as a head-banging distraction from the day ahead.

This morning, we woke to 25-knot (about 29 mph) winds screaming outside our boat set the stage for the sloppy mess of a “shakedown cruise,” a practice run in our boat to test our skills in the rough, teeth-bearing Bellingham Bay.

Four hours until shakedown, and three days until launch for Mexico, we are desperate to prepare for the ominous open-ocean voyage ahead.

For several weeks now we’ve kept our eyes on the weather, fingers permanently crossed, before the stormy fall weather of the Pacific Northwest holds us back from leaving for Santa Barbara, California.

But we still have a handful of projects to complete and to be honest, more time is what we need.

But I surrendered my fate to the Universe the other day, so it’s all good.

“All will be fine,” I say out loud to pop the tiny bubbles of doubt rising inside my head.

But I can’t consume thoughts of the threatening Pacific voyage or the never-ending To-Do list right now.

The shakedown cruise is intimidating enough.

I find the exit off the highway and wind down the wet Seattle streets until I reach the mecca of sailing navigation literature, texts, and charts in the eye of the industrial part of the city.

“Thank God I made it,” I say. “Still plenty of time to get back for the shakedown.”

And then, the phone rings.

“Hey, babe,” Jason says in a dismal tone. I hold my breath.

“Me and some of the guys have been watching the weather…”

Oh, no…

“…and three gale storms have popped up in the middle of the North Pacific, and there’s a typhoon off the coast of Japan heading our way.”

I feel my tense shoulders drop. I know what’s next.

“Babe, we missed the window. Fall is here. We can’t leave until next year.”

Weeks of anxiety is replaced by despair in the center of my chest.

But I’m not letting our hopes for a Mexican-bound journey sink without a fight.

Sailing around the world has been his life’s dream and now, it had become a dream of mine, too.

We can handle the weather.

At least, I’m pretty sure we can.

“Are you sure we can’t just motor down to San Fran? I know we want to sail, but we can motor, then work on the boat in California. Let’s just to get the f*ck outta here!”

I rally my best cheerleader-esque optimism to delay the inevitable truth that we can’t go.

“No, babe,” he says. “We’re not ready. You and I need a lot of practice, and taking on this adventure at this time wouldn’t be safe or smart.”

I know he’s right, and I’m thankful he has enough sense to put safety before ego.

But with any event in life that doesn’t happen the way you expect, it’s hard to let go.

Even when you know letting go is the best thing to do.

“I understand,” I say. “Thank you for being rational. It’s just, it’s such a huge deal for you and, now, me that I just want to…”

“We’re still going, Love! Just not now. We’ll be way more prepared next year. Plus, this gives us time to take a trip to visit your family and finish projects…”

I half-listen as thoughts of the next several months shift from ocean voyage into land-bound question marks.

Now the adventure I crave so much, and trust in the unknown takes a whole new meaning.

Later that evening, I make dinner as we discuss new plans for trips here and there and projects we now have time to complete.

With slightly lifted spirits, we nestle in the cockpit to eat and watch the sunset.

But after a few minutes, we look at each other fully realizing our Mexican adventure was not going to happen this year.

I lay my head on Jason’s shoulder and as we watch the sun dip below the horizon, tears run down my cheeks.

I cried for two days.

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