I’m slowly working my way through Raban’s Passage to Juneau, a travel narrative about a sailing voyage from Seattle through the Inside Passage to Alaska. Early in the book, he reveals the role that his boat played before the trip:
Though I lived in a house overlooking the canal, and could see from the upstairs deck whether or not the boat still floated, I usually spent several weeks a year, and sometimes months, aboard the ketch. When a concentrated bout of reading was called for, or a wrong chapter needed righting, or when my Furies dogged me to distraction, I’d take off for the nearby scribble of islands and let go the anchor. With the floor sashaying underfoot, the chain grumbling on the sea-bottom, and the view from the boat’s windows revolving slowly on the tide, I found the equilibrium that I was prone to lose on the unstable land. On winter mornings, the mud foreshore hoar with frost, forlorn gulls circling under a misty sky, I’d fire up the heater, light the lamps, and work with an intense single-mindedness that evaded me at home. The creaks and groans, the smell of paraffin and diesel, were conducive to thinking and remembering. Afloat, the boat was an unplace — a bubble world, off at a useful tangent to the insistent here-and-now of the American shoreline.