Time off

It’s pretty astonishing that I’ve gone nearly fifty years on this earth without realizing that ‘vacation’ and ‘vacate’ have the same Latin root (vacare: to be empty, free, or at leisure). If you’d asked me, I probably would have sussed it out, but the connection never occurred to me until this weekend, when Kevin and I both vacated and vacationed.

Because we have three kinds of livestock – chickens, turkeys, and pigs – and a garden that needs constant watering because it’s built on sand and drains instantly, we don’t get out much. Something always needs attention. But back in February, when we were very excited about having bought a boat we could sleep on and before it had sunk in that, come June, we’d have three kinds of livestock and a garden that needs constant watering, we’d made a two-night reservation for a boat slip in Oak Bluffs, on Martha’s Vineyard.

Not only that, we’d convinced our friends Jon and Susan, the people who took us tuna fishing last fall and were thus at least partially responsible for the fact that we bought a boat we could sleep on, to come join us.

Because we don’t get out much, we’d looked forward to our trip for all the intervening months. We hadn’t though much about who’d mind the store. Luckily, my parents, who spend the summer months on the Cape, came up a week ago. They were barely acclimated when we hit them up to take care of things while we were away.

Fortunately, my mother is fond of pigs and my father enjoys our Internet service, so they agreed to feed the pigs, water the garden, and check in on the turkeys and chickens, which we could set up with plenty of food and water for the duration.

We vacated.

We stocked the cabin with some clothes and basic household necessities, like glasses and bedding, along with a cooler filled with fruit, wine, iced coffee, water, and forty pounds of ice. We put our bicycles on deck. We filled the tank and put in at Prince Cove.

Kevin had never been to the Vineyard, and I’d been only once, many years ago. It felt like we were having a real adventure, taking the boat into unknown territory. And, although we knew how far away it was (about ten miles) and we knew how fast our boat comfortably cruises (25 knots), we were still surprised to find ourselves motoring into Oak Bluffs Harbor twenty minutes after we’d left Cotuit Bay.

Twenty minutes.

We had no idea what to expect. The harbor was smaller than we’d imagined, and more crowded. The waterfront was packed with restaurants, and people. We hailed the harbormaster on the radio and were told to head to slip number 54.

It turned out that the hardest part of the weekend came right at the beginning – backing into the slip. If you’ve ever tried to maneuver a boat into a small space when there’s any kind of wind, you know how hard it is. Trying to do it backward is much harder. Trying to do it without colliding with the very large boat in the slip next door is even harder than that.

Kevin got it on the second try – all without scraping anything against anything else or losing our antenna to our neighbor’s bowsprit. And, with that, we were officially on vacation.

We spent the next two days riding our bicycles around the island, walking around the little towns, and eating. Saturday was hot and humid so, after riding and walking most of the day, we took the boat out of the harbor, anchored off the beach, and the four of us went for a swim.

As vacations go, I suppose it was unremarkable. We didn’t eat any extraordinary food or see any extraordinary sights (although we loved the 180-year-old giant pagoda tree in Edgartown and lamented the typo in its plaque).

But we got to spend two whole days, with friends, in a brand new place doing nothing but fun stuff. We wanted to be Internet-free, so we left everything connectible at home, but it’s amazing how much you can find with one of those placemats that aren’t for navigational purposes.

On Sunday morning, I got us coffee and the actual, genuine New York Times. The paper kind! We sat on the deck of the boat, had breakfast, and read the newspaper. Imagine!

Kevin and I don’t get a lot of down time. What with his job, my job, and everything we have going at home, we’ve gotten used to being overextended. To walk away from all of it, even for 48 hours, seemed like a wild luxury. And I can’t remember ever enjoying a weekend more.

We loved Martha’s Vineyard, and we kept marveling that there’s this whole other place a mere twenty minutes away. We want to go back, and stay in Edgartown. We want to check out Vineyard Haven. We want to bike over to Chappaquiddick, and to see the Aquinnah Cliffs. We want to get a grill for the boat so we can do some basic cooking aboard.

A full-fledged vacation, in a place you can see from here on a clear day.

Twenty minutes.

12 people are having a conversation about “Time off

  1. I’ll have you know that I am working hard on the doberman to poultry acclimation so that we may farm sit again in the future… as soon as i figure out how to move clementine across country in a vehicle she will not eat a hole in.

  2. Nice! Some of the best vacations I have had were doing something local. Good on you for enjoying an actually paper newspaper. Isn’t there something slightly decadent about sitting down and reading a whole paper? I always feel like I am stealing time away from all those niggling tasks and projects that queue up in my life, so sitting with a cup of tea and the newspaper feels like I am doing something slightly naughty.

  3. Accidental Mick says:

    I always found entering a new harbour by boat a very different experience to entering the town by any other transport.

    (I know this is nonsense!) It always felt that I had got there “properly” and so had earned the right to be there and it immediately became part of my home territory.

    Anyway, glad you had a complete and enjoyable break.

  4. your story reminded me of the time we took a boat my grandfather had won to the Vineyard for Illumination night. It seemed like a big deal (I was maybe 10) but 20 minutes is amazing. We probably left from around the same area.
    I still recall it as a dreamlike experience. And I remember the boat and the area where we got into it and the hermit crabs crawling along in the water. It must have been my first trip to the Vineyard, we were living in Falmouth.

  5. Sounds like a wonderful time! Could be a bit jealous…… 🙂 We have this boat that we have never gotten to the water with, and havent been off the place overnight for 10 years. No problem getting someone to take care of the garden and animals but getting 2 different people at the same time to do the paper routes is next to impossible….

  6. So I’m not the only who seems to find disproportionate enjoyment from simply going somewhere else. Or reading a newspaper.

    Now that I’ve been back for 24 hours, it seems like it was a long time ago.

  7. Oh, how true this rings. When my “ex” and I got our first sailboat, going 10 miles to anchor-over for the weekend was a huge adventure … especially the first time we sailed through 3-5 foot Great Lakes chop … lol looking back at how such seas became a ‘non-event’. Due to a disability, I pretty much did the docking, and anchoring while letting him handle the jumping to dock or picking up a mooring buoy. (Notice how rare it is that the woman does this … to this day, I don’t understand why men send the women to do the actual physical labor part … except I’ve noticed a lot of “girly-girls” among the boating community who choose not to navigate/dock/anchor.)

    The first time I had to back our 38 foot sailboat into a slip AGAINST the wind, I thought I was going to die from sheer nervousness. (Thank God for marina dock-hands and the fellowship of boaters who caught our lines!)

    The irony of being part of the boating community is that we all thrive on and enjoy so many more “placid” days … but it’s the “dangerous” ones we talk about around the marinas.

  8. I can’t believe I didn’t know you were going to the Vineyard. I was there all last week, and would have loved to come to Oak Bluffs from Vineyard have to greet you at the dock! I left on the first Sunday morning ferry, but would have happily chauffeured you guys around on Saturday!

    • Sorry we missed you! You’d even mentioned that you were going to the Vineyard, but I didn’t put it all together to realize we’d be there at the same time. But the bike riding did us good …

  9. Elizabeth Harvey says:

    Sounds like a great trip – love the idea of internet free weekends. I hope to meet you this summer on Gorham Road. Susan is my cousin, and new neighbor. Cheers, Liz

    • Susan has even more cousins than Kevin does! Thanks for alerting me — I’ll be on the lookout on my next Gorham Road trip.

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