We were standing on the dock at Bell Harbor Marina in Seattle a few weeks ago when a man who’d seen the name on our boat walked over and asked if we were the people behind Three Sheets Northwest.
His name was Alex Kimball, and he told us he and his wife had recently moved aboard their Nonsuch catboat, Gypsy Wind, at the marina. He invited us to stop by his boat before we left. We said we would and headed off for breakfast.
It always makes me happy when someone spots our boat and connects us with the website, and that’s been happening more frequently as word about the site has gotten around in the boating community.
That alone would have made my day, but it turned out there was another surprise in store.
After breakfast, we stopped by Gypsy Wind and knocked on the hull. Alex appeared in the companionway a few seconds later and invited us onboard, introducing us to his wife, Christina Marie. We’d never been onboard a Nonsuch before and the Kimballs’ boat was absolutely lovely, with beautiful wood everywhere and Christmas decorations that made it particularly inviting and homey.
They invited us to sit down, then Alex handed us a postcard-sized watercolor and ink painting he’d made while we were at breakfast, showing our boat arriving at the marina and downtown Seattle in the background.
He’d perfectly captured the lines of our Island Packet, Three Sheets, with the triangle-topped Smith Tower, the curve of Seahawks Stadium and a couple of waterfront cranes in the distance. On the back, he’d written a message thanking us for the site and wishing us a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
I was so floored by the thoughtfulness and generosity of his gesture that I barely knew what to say. Here was someone we’d just met, giving us something that he’d created for us, a memento of the weekend so much more meaningful than anything we could have bought.
Amazed, we thanked him. After trading boat stories and chatting about our respective backgrounds and careers, we left and arranged to have Alex and Christina Marie over for drinks the week after Christmas.
Later, I thought about the many people we’ve met since starting Three Sheets and how different meeting boaters is than meeting other people. Alex’s gesture was unusually thoughtful, and clearly the average person isn’t as artistically gifted as he obviously is.
Still, I’ve been struck many times by the friendliness and generosity of the boaters we’ve met. Just the night before we’d spent several hours on Andante, a Transworld Fantail owned by Kevin Rhone — who we also met through the site — enjoying the Argosy Christmas boats parade. In what other community would you meet people who immediately welcome you into their homes, offer you a drink and invite you to have a look around?
As we’ve often said, one of our goals in starting Three Sheets Northwest was to create an online community for the geographically dispersed boaters in our region, somewhere people could connect and share their experiences and perspectives. But I never expected to what degree we’d benefit from that community.
Through the site, we’ve met boaters who have visited us on our travels, invited us aboard their boats and shared insight and advice on everything from cruising destinations to engine maintenance.
They are sailors and powerboaters, liveaboards and long-distance cruisers, day sailors and diehards. They’re charter boat operators, commercial fishers and racers. As varied as they are, there’s that common connection point, one that has the ability to transcend age, political stripe and walk of life.
For me, that means an opportunity to meet people I probably never would have otherwise, and I know I’m richer for it.
I’m planning to frame Alex’s painting and put it up on the boat. Every time I look at it, it’ll be a reminder of this community I love being a part of.
So thank you, Three Sheets readers, for making this all worthwhile. It’s pretty damn fun, and without you we wouldn’t be doing it.
We hope to meet more of you in the coming year. If you see us in a marina or out on the water, come and say hello. We usually have a pot of coffee going or a few cold ones in the fridge.
In the meantime, Marty and I wish all of you a happy, peaceful holiday season and many on-water adventures in 2012.