Marion hated boats. She had agreed to the sailing lessons back home, only because she knew that if she didn't go, she'd end up like all her friends, divorced. Bruce would be captivated by some other woman, newly alone, and out to do to someone else what had been done to her.... No way, Marion had said to herself, no way. Not after a long fifteen years of being Bruce's partner. She took the sailing lessons, stifling screams of fear when the boat heeled in the strong gusts and dipped in the swells of the open Pacific Ocean. Bruce, of course, loved it all! He would, she thought, bitterly.
And so here they were, on a boat three times the size of the one they had trained on, Bruce could never do anything by halves, it seemed...they had started to argue the minute they had left the marina in Bellingham. It was one thing to learn chart reading in a classroom, and quite another to be doing it for real, in unfamiliar waters, with too many shoals and rocks, and land disturbingly near in all directions. Marion wanted to take to her bunk in the aft cabin and stay there forever. Instead, Bruce kept shouting orders, and she kept lurching into the bulkhead, chafing her fingers raw pulling in the sheets, eager to do the hated trimming of the sails correctly, struggling to ignore the grey-green water churning past their hull. If she fell overboard, she thought, fearfully, Bruce would never get this boat around to pick her up quick enough...never...not alone. For the millionth time, she wondered how they had gotten to this point...why was he so obsessed with this sailing thing? At the marina they had finally lurched into, the previous night, he had started to plan a voyage to Hawaii, ready for the open Pacific, no longer just content to explore this relatively protected archipeligo of Islands between the Northwest Coast and the hugeness of Vancouver Island.
Was this the nightmare form his midlife crisis was going to take? Perhaps divorce was not out of the question? An unexpected swell, one of those phantom waves, probably a ferry wake Bruce had said, though Marion could never see any ferries around to explain these massive crests, caught their boat mid-ship, in the middle of an awkward tack, and sent Marion tossing into the rise of the cabin, knocking herself into stars as her chin connected with the molding.
"I've probably broken a tooth! This is awful! We have to stop! I hate this!" She burst into tears, the pain of her jaw, the fear of the sea, the anger at Bruce, all tangled into an eruption of sobbing.
Bruce dropped the sails, and fired up the motor. It took him several minutes to see to everything; with the boat on autopilot, he finally sat hunched beside her, awkwardly patting her knee. "We're not far from Ganges Harbour, on Salt Spring. We'll stop there for a couple of days, take some time...you just need to stay in one place for a bit. Your tooth isn't broken, either," he added sensibly, inspecting her mouth.
like biting him. The thought of shore power, and a marina shower, brought a
weak smile to answer him instead.
"You were right...September is a good time to sail up here...the marinas aren't crowded." It was the sort of thing she knew he liked to hear, though, really, she would have preferred a jostling full marina, people to talk to, other women to share her fears with. Surely she wasn't the only woman out at sea because of a husband?
"I'm taking you out to dinner tonight," he answered. "There's supposed to be a good pasta place here." He passed over the book of places to moor at, things to do, that the Bellingham marina had given them before they had cast off.
She glanced at the page for Ganges, on Salt Spring Island, then leaned back against the combing, staring up at the brooding face of a mountain. Houses were dotted through the forest, almost to its peak. It was like something in Switzerland, she thought, where they had spent their honeymoon, when Bruce's passion had been skiing. "It's a pretty place," she offered, tacitly agreeing to ignore her earlier outburst, and to just 'get on with things'.
They walked hand in hand out of the marina, and towards the village shops. The pasta place was at the opposite end of the village, tucked against a rocky knoll, with a view of fishing boats pulled behind a breakwater. They peered into several art galleries, all closed for the day, now, and noted the Dairy Queen location for dessert on the way back to the boat.
A real estate office was still open, and Bruce popped in for one of the free maps advertised on the door. Li Read was there, working still, and she offered them her information package on the Island, things not to miss while there, plus real estate options, and a map of the Island.
Marion found herself describing the afternoon's terrors, when Li asked how they had discovered Salt Spring. Li laughed, and told them in turn about her first sailing lesson, the rescue at sea, the rock that had sheared off the keel, the incredible luck that no one was hurt, and how she had gone on from there to learn how to race and how to stop being afraid. Marion felt better that she wasn't the only one who distrusted the sea.
After dinner, full of linguini primavera and her share of a carafe of wine, Marion felt relaxed and happy. Without Bruce to give her adventures, what would she become? They walked down to the fishboat dock, and back to their marina by a different route. "Look at that jacket...it's exactly what I've been looking for...I think I'll come back tomorrow morning, before we leave, and get it."
Bruce nodded. "We'll stay a whole day here. Maybe rent a car. Look around the Island. It's bigger than you think, when you arrive at Ganges."
They turned in early, both of them readers in bed, Bruce ignoring his company reports, this time, for Li's information package.
"It says here that Florence Nightingale's cousin homesteaded on this Island at the end of the last century. The Island used to be the biggest apple producer in the area, too. No predator wildlife...just deer and birds."
"Mmm, sounds idyllic," Marion murmured, the rocking of the boat at the dock lulling her into exhausted sleep. Sailing was hard work.
"It does...maybe we'll take Li up on her offer to show us some places...I wonder how hard it is for Americans to buy property up here? Our dollar is worth a lot more than the Canadian dollar...the favorable exchange rate might let us make an investment here...."
There was no answer from Marion; she had gone to sleep.