After the Mei Wen Ti arrived in America, it became my new home. I had fulfilled my dream to live on a wooden boat and it was everything I expected it to be.
My new home was docked in a brand new 20' x 50' slip in the recently rebuilt Ventura Isle Marina in Ventura Harbor, a little south of Santa Barbara, California.
I loved it, and spent many happy years living there. While the sadness of losing Wally was still agonizing, life seemed a little easier a little at a time, and rebuilding a life - while different than I had expected my life to unfold - was working out. Mei Wen Ti was a home unlike any other I had known - literally and figuratively.
As it turns out, my wife Virginia, who was widowed at the time, kept her boat in a slip just down a few slips for mine, and that's how we met. Funny how life unfolds.
When Virginia and I got married, we moved to her home an hour and a half north, in Bakersfield, California, and the Mei Wen Ti became our vacation home that we visited as often as possible, always relishing in her welcoming and warm spirit, like seeing an old and dear friend.
We enjoyed this arrangement for several more years and then, because we wanted to travel and do other things unrelated to boating, decided to share the junk with others and sublet her to a 'boat and bed' (think bed and breakfast) in Rainbow Marina, Long Beach. Later we moved it to another established boat and bed in San Diego, California.
During this period, hundreds of guests experienced the pleasures of living on a wooden boat - if only for a short while. I handmade some Chinese-looking guest books and visitors were encouraged to leave comments about their stay. My daughter Lynn continued collecting these comments after she became owner of the Mei Wen Ti, and a poignant one from 2002 sticks with me that I would like to share with you:
“………….our anniversary. When you first set foot aboard, you know that you are standing on craftsmanship that has been handed down from generation to generation. Even with some modern features we were transformed to another place. The days were warm and breezy; the night was cool and calm. As you lay in bed at night, the quiet starts to overtake you. Then throughout the night this beautiful lady begins to talk to you like only a wooden boat can do. We will never forget what we felt here.”
Steve and Lisa 6/30/2002
Guests like Steve and Lisa left us with the words we often tried to find in explaining the magic and mystery that embodies Mei Wen Ti's essence. All boats take on their own personality, especially wooden vessels. Steve and Lisa's entry describes some of the many qualities that makes the Mei Wen Ti so special.
The Mei Wen Ti's distinctive cedar-like smell of the camphor, fir and teak wood throughout is both familiar yet transformational. It is both a visual and auditory experience like none other.
The basic Chinese wooden boat construction methods used in building vessels like the Mei Wen Ti haven’t changed much over the centuries - they were built to last and feel very solid, like the workhorses they were designed to be. And below-deck, in certain light, one can see the faint handheld plane marks in the wood planks, honed just like boat builders have crafted for generations.