~ a 9-minute read ~
I’ve owned Capi, a 1994 Catalina 34, for exactly one year. I spent the year before that searching for a boat. I looked at dozens of boats online and checked out more than 15 in person before finding Capi in Oak Harbor, WA. That journey is a whole other story.
Before finding my boat, I hadn’t decided on a name. I figured that if the boat came with a decent name, I’d just leave it.
With Sea Bear or Fairwinds that probably would’ve been the case. However, with Freedom, Thor’s Hammer and the final boat I saw, K-Mak, it was clear I needed a name of my own choosing.
K-Mak was also exceptionally personal, a tribute to the former owner’s partners. I wanted a name that was personal to a point, practical and fun.
Chris Catterton’s Rules of Boat Naming:
- Easy to say three times on the radio.
- Easy to read on the boat.
- Not more than 3 syllables.
Some contenders that I considered:
- Okay – which I frequently mutter as I putter about
- F.I.N.E. – Freaked out, insecure, neurotic and emotional. Thanks, The Italian Job.
- Pizza Mac N’ Cheese Nachos – My favorite foods. Didn’t pass the radio test.
- And, of course, Capi.
“Capi” was the nickname of Muriel Wylie Blanchet, born in 1891 in Montreal, Quebec. A variation of “captain”, I first came across Capi while reading Blanchet’s memoir, “The Curve of Time.” I’ve written about Capi before and her British Columbia cruising expeditions with her five children, sometimes with a dog in the dinghy, on a 25-foot powerboat, have become lore in the Pacific Northwest’s maritime culture.
I admire Capi, a widow, mother and a pretty practical woman for many reasons, some I reflect on most often are:
- She did a lot with a little. Like with tiny homes, bicycles or vans, boats are at their best when everything has a purpose and the combined features are like a well-choreographed opening number. Simplicity has its advantages and leads many of us on a more direct path to happiness.From “The Curve of Time”, first published in 1961:
“Our world then was both wide and narrow — wide in the immensity of sea and mountain; narrow in that the boat was very small, and we lived and camped, explored and swam in a little realm of our own making” (p. 1).
- She stepped beyond gender roles. Through her actions, Capi dismissed the perceived limitations that existed in the first part of the twentieth century. Traditionally masculine responsibilities, including engine work, fishing, boating and scaling mountains, were all part of Capi’s experience.
“Engines were invented and reared by men. They are used to being sworn at, and just take advantage or you; if you are polite to them —you get absolutely nowhere”(p. 168).
- She was a leader and strong for her small crew. To step forward, seeing that others need strength and to face scary situations with confidence and also humility, is an important type of leader. It is something I also aspire to do and respect all the small choices, not only grand decisions, she takes to be “Capi”.
“I am supposed to look calm and collected at such moments, and my crew watched me furtively to see that all was well. I was busy, furtively arguing with myself”(p. 97).
- She did it all with dry humor and character that lives on in her writing style. An aspiring writer myself, I have listened for, read about and am always working to build my “voice.” Capi found hers, it is very matter-of-fact and filled with natural curiosity. She writes of geography, history, anthropology, biology and any other topic that crossed her path. To really know it, you’ll have to read her book.
“Children love booms—but mustn’t be allowed to play on them. The great sections of floating logs look compact and solid, but any one of the logs, if stepped on, might roll over and catch you in between…yet booms have an irresistible attraction for children” (p. 159-160).
- She sought a lifestyle that suited her, looking beyond the status quo. How else can we live our lives? Why have we built the life we currently lead? It seems the balance lies in the middle of exploring possibilities yet also recognizing what is right when it arrives.
“To the north-east, the snow-capped mountains of the coast range reached with their jagged peaks for the summer sky. And north, south, east and west, among the maze of islands, winding channels lured and beckoned. That was what we had been doing all day —just letting our little boat carry us where she pleased” (p. 73).
I can’t remember exactly how long ago, but the first time I picked up a copy of “The Curve of Time” was while watching my colleague’s cat and house while they traveled. I didn’t realize until later, but Lisa had purposefully set out that book knowing my love of boats.
Out of this small, thoughtful gesture from another bookworm, I came to learn about Capi and her adventures. It made me think about how wonderful it must be to go cruising. I thought, “I should do that.”
Capi’s memoir made me believe I could do things I haven’t learned yet, especially when it comes to an engine. It made me want to see all the natural beauty tucked into this corner of the world, instead of searching for adventure abroad.
It made me want to pursue a lifestyle that makes me happy in thousands of small ways, but it does take a bit of extra work, especially with boats. In learning about the world of M. Wylie Blanchet, my world expanded.
So, long before the “official” renaming ceremony on June 11, 2018, attended by the esteemed Kuhlcats (my parents Bob and Sandy) who are unfailingly supportive and have now both read “The Curve of Time”; my boat became “Capi” to me.
My gifts to “Capi” in year two:
- A fresh bottom! Haul out, paint, the whole nine yards and I have no clue what I’m doing…yet.
- A scrubbed bilge. It’s pretty intimate but not too scary, she’ll be clean top to bottom.
- A new cooler! Ok, this one is really for Andrew and me.
- Sharing sailing with even more friends and family. I’ve spent years telling people I’d take them sailing! Sometimes I’d find a boat and pull it off. Now though, I get to take people out on my own boat whenever I want. Isn’t that something?! All I hope is they have enough fun, they want to go back out.
Happy Anniversary, S/V Capi! Here we go, year two.