One year later, after multiple trips to the Caribbean, hours devoted to online searching, and crawling through the filthy bilges, grotty lockers, rusty engines, mangled wiring, and tired rigging of the inhabitants of the used-boat market down at my end of the budget spectrum, I found my Shangri-La. Literally. Her name is Shangri-La, a 36-foot steel boat built in South Africa, launched in 2000, and outfitted with more equipment than I know how to use. She has a pedigree: Her two former owners sailed her into the Indian Ocean, down to Antarctica, around Cape Horn, and back north to Sint Maarten, where she was put up for sale. There our wakes crossed.
In March, I found myself with the boat-and all the work, anxiety, learning, and endless decisions that are part of the package. In April, along with one son, a neighbor's son, and a friend, I sailed her from Sint Maarten down to Curaçao-a successful shakedown, and my first offshore passage in 13 years. I left her there for the 2007 hurricane season and returned to batten down the home that felt dearer, safer, and more comfortable with every day as we got closer to our September departure. Back in Vermont, I made sure the propane tanks would be filled so the pipes wouldn't freeze. I found someone to manage the bills and paperwork, somebody else to take the plants, somebody else to board the laying hens. There was no turning back.