Things did not go as planned. We dropped the boat in the water three times in as many days, and each time, Jack found a hidden leak.

The final leak revealed a weakness in the Shanti’s rudder shaft, which meant Jack had to really step outside of his comfort zone and do some boat dismantling.

It also meant we spent thirteen days on the hard, which is to say working on the boat in the yard.

I don’t like to speak on Jack’s behalf, so I’m not even going to try and comment on his hardships through all this. As for me, after the first couple of days of shock, I surprised myself by actually feeling happier, stronger, and younger than I’ve felt in years.

I purchased a fanny pack to make it easier to carry a multipurpose tool, a flashlight, pens and papers, my phone, a charger, a lighter, and a bag of Combos (or a sleeve of powdered donuts) up and down the ladder and around the yard. I’m so much more excited than I’ve even been about a purse. I may not look cool, but I feel cool as hell. Actually, I think I look pretty cool, too.

How did I ever doubt the awesomeness of the fanny pack?

I like climbing into the cockpit at night and feeling the breeze blowing off the canal, hauling behind it the aroma of toast from the other side where the Bunny Bread factory is cranking out loaves. I like to watch the fish leap out of the water and the egrets flying overhead. I like being a little too hot for comfort, sweating a little, smelling a little gamey, aching some because I’m using muscles that I didn’t get to use often in our old life.

I like sitting around and plotting adventures and talking philosophy with Jack as we take walks along the docks, and I like holding hands across our hammocks when it’s dark and the cats are running around on the deck over our heads making a ruckus.

It’s a little like being at camp. The least-funded camp in Mississippi, say, with no AC, no cots, and a rotating diet of bologna, ham, and pimento cheese sandwiches. But camp, nonetheless.

It’s like being a kid again but with more confidence. I know what I’m capable of now. I’ve proven it to myself. I’m more comfortable with discomfort and more sure of myself when faced with uncertainty.

A year or so ago, I followed some advice to imagine what my 18 year old self would think of my adult self. For the first time in a lifetime of insecurity and self-doubt, it occurred to me that my 18 year old self would think that my 41 year old self was a total badass. I imagined her squealing, “What?!?! You get paid to write?!?!?! You married a musician and you’re living in New Orleans?!?!?!” *passes out in excitement*

That was before we’d even thought about moving onto a boat. This week, I realized that 42 year old Autumn has fulfilled the dreams of 8 year old Autumn. I can see her now, playing with matches in the back yard, looking at me with some dubiousness, “So you’re telling me you’re camped out in a boat twelve feet off the ground and living on bologna and Dorito sandwiches? And you’ve got a pocket knife in your awesome fanny pack, I see there. You’re not so bad for a grownup.” *skooches over to get a better look in the fanny pack*

Overall, I’ll be glad when we’re officially in the water. It’ll be more comfortable, and it’ll mean we’re moving forward. Jack’s workload won’t be quite so daunting, and I’ll have a little more stability for my own workload. That being said this has been yet another test of our endurance and ingenuity as individuals and as a couple, and I think we passed. Maybe not with an A. Maybe not even with a C. But we passed.

And while we may not be in the castle yet, we’ve got a pretty nice view from the cave.