Patricia Hitchcock: Dream Boat

By Guest Contributor December 7, 2014 01:50

Another FANtastic Tale of Adventure dream-boat-by-patricia-hitchock-wave-on-belle


By Patricia Hitchcock

Since his days on a Monterey Clipper as a teenager and his time spent in the Navy, my husband yearned to own a boat.

I, on the other hand, had zero experience with any type of vessel unless you count my luxury cruise to the Caribbean.

In spite of my nautical naiveté, we decided to throw caution to the wind and bravely go where so few landlubbers dare to go. We bought a 58-foot, wooden 1946 converted fishing boat, and it was now time to put ourselves and our fine old vessel to the test. Would we be up to the task? Would my husband’s dream become my unending nightmare? The MV Lillian Belle was definitely sturdy and seaworthy, but were we? We were about to find out.

The previous owner, Ron, and his lovely wife, Lynne, accompanied us on our “shakedown” cruise shortly after our purchase. Ron kindly offered to instruct us on the operations of the Lillian Belle, and I, for one, was grateful to have such a seasoned captain among us.

We glided down the Fraser River on our way to the Straits of Georgia and then on to Salt Springs Island in the Gulf Islands of Canada. Lynne and I sat at the stern enjoying the relaxing morning. Lynne kept reassuring me by repeating our new mantra, “This is boating, This is boating.” Then suddenly and without warning, our tranquil time turned mighty tense.

The winds blew angrily and the waves started churning. Our boat began a freestyle rocking motion causing our chairs to slide from port to starboard and back again. Our initial schoolgirl giggles soon turned to gasps as water was streaming on to the deck soaking our shoes and pant legs.

I clung to the anchored table as Lynne walked with swaying determination to the wheelhouse. Staying put was the best course for me. I found myself drenched, deserted and, in my mind, dramatically clinging to life! Why were there no other boats out here?

While in the wheelhouse urging Ron to turn around, Lynne found herself the target of a refrigerator which had not been properly secured. She braced herself against the fridge keeping it from falling on her or her captain and remained, albeit not so quietly, at her new post for the rest of the trip across the Straits. Meanwhile, David was busy with the bilge alarm which was malfunctioning and sounding off every few minutes. He wasn’t going to take a chance, so sprang into action and scurried down to the engine room each time it screamed.

Meanwhile, all alone and clueless as to what was happening in the wheelhouse, I kept my gaze forward trying to avoid motion sickness. The Lillian Belle moved confidently as she righted herself so expertly with each roll. I was comforted by my growing confidence in her. But not since experiencing labor pains had I wanted something to stop as much as I did the rocking and rolling of our boat!

Finally, after two hours of unforgiving waves, calm waters greeted us as we cruised through Porlier Pass, which allowed me to haul anchor and walk toward the bow. I prayed that my mates had not fallen overboard. It didn’t take long for Lynne and me to break open a bag of potato chips and soothe our nerves with a bit of salt and crunch.

Once we were docked at Ganges on Salt Springs Island, Ron made his way to the engine room to check on a major valve which controlled the sewer outflow. The pump decided to go rogue and was pumping the flow back up the drain system into a shower pan which then overflowed onto the floor above where poor, unsuspecting Ron happened to be standing. What transpired next still makes me shudder. Let’s just say that Ron was in desperate need of a shower!

The pipes were still causing havoc that night, and poor Lynne was dealing with a toilet that overflowed. While Lynne was bailing out the stateroom at 3:00 in the morning, David started up our noisy generator further endearing ourselves to our boating neighbors. He was concerned that we would not have enough power. I was concerned that we would be set adrift by a disgruntled and sleep-deprived yachtsman.

Ron had purchased a roast which he proudly prepared in the new propane stove for dinner the following day. Unfortunately, he misjudged the cooking time and after hours of unrelenting heat and melted stove dials, a rather emaciated blackened ball of inedible beef was pulled from the oven. Ron generously offered the charred mass to a dog on the dock which quickly turned tail.

While docked, David was already measuring and chalking out lines for the design changes he was envisioning. My dear husband was so anxious to begin work on our remodel that our ten-day adventure was unceremoniously shortened to five. Ron was terribly disappointed but, like a gentleman, relinquished all authority to the silly new owner who was spoiling everyone’s vacation!

We eventually arrived at our home dock a bit weary but unscathed. We all sat down and enjoyed a marvelous Salt Springs Island lamb dinner which had been roasting away in our diesel stove during our return voyage. The delicious scent wafting from the oven did not disappoint.

Even after harrowing stomach-turning seas, wet shoes, falling refrigerators, leaking floors and overflowing toilets, screaming alarms, an unidentifiable roast, scorched stove, and a vacation cut short, I was hooked. We have been challenged and happy boat owners for nine years now. Our decision to take this on was a bit impulsive, but we have yet to regret the adventure and discovery it has brought into our lives.


Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do.

So throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor,

Catch the trade winds in your sails.

Explore. Dream. Discover.

Mark Twain

 Patricia Hitchcock is a retired teacher living in Arnold, California.

To read our Tales of Adventure Contest winners’ stories, see the Winter 2014 issue
of Friends and Neighbors Magazine, available at these locations and by subscription.











By Guest Contributor December 7, 2014 01:50
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