Tuesday, August 10, 2010

one girl in... the open water

Grace remembered the day she found the open road. At the age of 13 she loaded into a charter bus for a band trip to Florida. Unlike the many trips to its beaches in the past, this time she wandered the streets with friends and not parents. Granted, there were chaperons looking on, but something clicked inside of Grace. A button turned on and the switch read: Go.

At the age of 15, she asked her mom if she'd be upset with her moving far away from home. Despite being an only child, Grace never fell into its physiological categories, and never had an issue making her own fun.

Her father owned the largest lobster mill in New England. He owned nine 31' hulls, six Eastern 27, and five each of 26' and 24' hull boats. Boats and people of the fishing world filled his marina, daily. During the summers, Grace worked with a few boaters, learning the trade of lobster.

She always remembered how simple the lobster life seemed. Boats filled with navigation systems and rectangle-shaped or half-cylinders oak traps covered in tar, then attached to a buoy and rope. Sometimes floaters called toggles were attached to the rope, preventing the traps from getting caught on rocks and reefs.

But the lobster love only went so far-- she soaked in the glory of the liquid beneath the boat. The open sky and deep waters. The gulf stream rocked her to sleep, calming her body. It filled her mind with adventure. Not vomit.

She planned her excursions. Hiking the Appalachian Trail, visiting her aunts and uncles in Chicago, New York, London-- a cousin in Germany. Her favorite aunt and uncle were in Georgia. She couldn't resist the town's southern charm and country accent. October's trees in North Georgia were Grace's favorite. The yellow, red, orange and brown leaves crinkled under her brown boots. She loved the noise more than anything else. She could never get all of the leaves out of her hair and shirt after a leaf fight, and in those moments, Grace could have cared less.

But the southern food trumped the leaves. Hash browns, eggs, french toast, grits, oatmeal, coffee, pancakes, maple syrup, bacon, ham. Grace went on and on in her mind about the south as the waves crashed the boat's sides.

She spent weeks during the summer with her father. His gentle yet entrepreneur spirit made him rough around the edges, but nice enough to deal with every type of person that wanted to fish. He never said no to a licensed fisherman. This made him popular with the locals, and unpopular with his insurance company. They flagged him as high-business risk, but he knew the gamble would pay back in demand.

Demand, indeed. More people. More boats. More lobster. More time spent here and there. Lots and lots grew to lots and lots more. His small, family business took over the eastern seas. And just like every other successful person Grace had read about in novels, it also took over her dad's life. She remembered the summer that everything changed. Her dad left the piers in the a.m., not returning for their traditional meetings. Instead, the corporate meetings became his new best friend. Many times, Grace's mom went with him when business meant city hopping. Grace stayed.

Those alone days made Grace want more. Eighteen and being on a boat made her want to sail around the world, to Europe or South America. Or figure out a way to sail a boat on land. Just like she remembered when the "go" switch turned on, she remembered when it went into extreme power mode. Something more waited for her.


Grace Pickering and Mark Stocktan are fictional characters crafted by Megan Blevins. Read previous posts to catch up on their story. Enjoy, Mb

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