Storms on a houseboat are different than storms in a house on land. Especially at high tide with strong winds when the boat moves and rolls. Like last Sunday with gusts up to 60 knots. You heel and bounce pretty good. A bit unnerving. You think about water coming in over the hull and sinking your houseboat. So you pay attention to your lines, best before the storm(!), making sure they're tight, making sure your pilings are strong, and of course making sure you have flashlights and candles and water. Because if the power goes out there’s no running the water or flushing toilets as you don’t want your catchment tank to fill and then overflow, since the pump would not be operational. Our boat is tall and tippy with a broad side that catches the wind from the south like a sail. During this last storm, pictures danced on the wall as we rock n rolled; pans swung from their hooks on the ceiling, drawers flew open. Lines squeaked on their thimbles like rusty gates, ramps moaned, as the wind roared over us. We watched the tide book, eager for low tide to arrive, and when it did, at last, we sat on the mud and high wind was just high wind. Small leaks appeared here in there in our ceiling. We used buckets and bowls and rags to catch the drops. And then the leaks would mysteriously stop. Perhaps the wood swelled and blocked their entrance. The cats were not at all happy and longed for their old life in Sebastopol. Through it all we thought of Adele, who lived here for 24 years, 88 years old when she passed. A day before she died, she told her visiting son how much she loved this houseboat. We thought of the storms she'd weathered and this buoyed us.
The houseboat of our 82 year old neighbor, Barbara, is a gigantic heavy floating home. During the storm it began to ram the pier. I lashed a life ring against her railing to work as a bumper and my friend Neil, a man of the sea, arrived in foul weather gear with rope and a come-along, and calmly secured her. Our neighbor, Iran, from Barcelona, offered homemade chocolate chip cookies, and her husband Dancer, who had lived as an anchor out for 12 years, scanned the anchorage with binoculars to make sure no one was sinking or without a skiff to escape. The storm brought the community together even as it carried away untied kayaks and paddles and threatened to tear apart rotting roofs and skylights and penetrate floating hulls that clung to piers and pilings tied with thick line in simple, ancient knots that have held mariners fast for a very long time.
There is something artistic about knots. And functional, with different styles working for different purposes. Much the way words and sentences, images and feelings work for me as a a writer, as I explore and evoke and capture, if but for a moment, a fleeting truth. Like the further discovered charm, and relief, provided by the muddy flats of low tide on a very wind blown day.