Velella's Drift

An account of Velella's voyage from Seattle to New York via Panama, 2009-2011

And I do come by it honestly

When my sister and I were little, my mom was always making us memorize little sayings. One of the most oft-spoken was this:

“Our doubts are traitors, and make us loose the good we oft might win by failing to attempt.”

(Another similarly-themed one was “I’m the one who writes my own story; I’ll decide the person I’ll be. What goes into the plot and what does not is very much up to me.”)

We learned these when we were too young to really know what they meant, and would repeat them singsongily and in unison. But as I grew up, I have found myself repeating them silently at times when a leap was required or a scary opportunity presented itself.

My mom furnished us with the mantras, but my dad has been the constant support for all of my adventurous life plans–even before they panned out well. Moving across the country to Washington for a very expensive education when UMD would have been the much more sensible choice for numerous reasons was one of them. Quitting my hard-built career, buying a depreciating sailboat instead of an appreciating house, and sailing the dangerous Pacific Coast, obviously, has been another major example.

Of course, we all know that Peter Cleary, who taught me how to hold a tiller, hoist a halyard, flake sails, whip lines, and love boats, may have a bit of an ulterior motive for supporting my seagoing lifestyle. But I can’t imagine any parent being truly excited for their child to make such rash decisions, especially when their safety is in the balance. Despite his knowing much better than I did what I would encounter at sea, he told me that if it’s what I wanted to do, I should do it and that he had confidence in me. Every time he visits he brings a little caring gift: new batteries for the smoke detectors, an inverter for charging our phones to keep in touch, and leaves a note when he leaves: “I have confidence in you.”

Getting the boat ready for this trip was a massive undertaking, and he flew out to Seattle many times without even being able to go out sailing. So when we finally crossed under the Golden Gate Bridge–an epic moment in any sailor’s resume, he bought a ticket to San Francisco. I think he needed to see and hold me and make sure I really was all right. And of course he wanted to sail the Golden Gate with his daughter.

The wind was stiff that day, and the fog that had obscured the bridge when we first passed under it was gone. We sailed back and forth underneath the bridge and I enjoyed being the passenger in Papa’s ride, like I always have when we sail. It was one of the most rewarding days of this entire trip for me.

When the maritime Fleet Week broke up and the Blue Angels retired over the hills, throngs of boats started scuttling across the bay on their way home. Drunken boaters were everywhere, and it was like the Rules of the Road had gone right out the window. As I watched my dad get nervous in the congestion, it was like watching a mirror. When he said he wanted to fire up the “iron genny”–a safety blanket of maneuverability–I agreed. For the first time ever, instead of saying with arrogant adolescence “just calm down!,” I understood his tenseness–it was fear–and realized that I am the apple and he is my tree.

Prescott may be the one to help me through night watches and into tight shallow anchorages. But my courage to get here in the first place had to come from somewhere. The whispers of my parents saying “Our doubts are traitors” and “I have confidence in you” embolden and enable me. And when people say “oh, you’re living the dream!,” I feel wrong taking the credit with so much support.

So. I do come by it–all of this–honestly. And for that I am truly thankful.



  Jessica E. wrote @

Meghan, this makes me all teary-eyed!

  Lin wrote @

I’m thankful for you. I miss you. Hope you have a very happy Thanksgiving, sissy.

  kathy cleary wrote @

dear meg; please drop an “o” from lose,
remember tho’ there’s two in booze,
our grammar rules oft do confoose,
i love you so,
your mom the muse. (and poet)

  Papa wrote @

M’dear Capt. Meg –
Now that I’ve regained my composure, I want to thank you for sharing your Thanksgiving thoughts.
Your Mom and I may have helped instill confidence in you, but you’re the one who’s developed this plan, and who’s executing your plan carefully and methodically.  For that, and for many other reasons, I am very proud of you.  And the more sea miles you and Prescott earn together, the more confidence I have in you both. 
So as you continue this fantastic voyage, I know you’ll do so capably and safely.

Fair winds!Papa
p.s. let the record show; I was wearing very bulky life vest under that wind breaker out on SanFrancisco Bay… safety over fashion, don’tcha know… 

  Jenna wrote @

Meghan, that was so beautiful– it made me all teary. Now I need to meet your parents so that I can figure out how to raise my daughter to write such nice things about me.

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