Over the past two-and-a-half decades, Christine Bukruian has tried her hand at a fair deal of occupations, including dance instructor, natural soap business owner, and spring water company co-owner, until embracing her lifelong dream of writing and sailing.
Her first novel, Gypsy Spirit: What My Boat Taught Me about Love and Life, chronicles the two years she spent living aboard her rebuilt sailboat, the “Gypsy Spirit,” with Kia and sailing mentor, Ed. She hopes the book will stand as a testament to believing in and doing all that must be done to fulfill one’s dreams.
The Weekly’s Lilly Torosyan conducted the following interview with Bukruian, and talked about her connection to Kia and all things sailing.
Lilly Torosyan: Can you introduce yourself to our readers in a few words?
Christine Bukruian: I was born an only child in Massachusetts and grew up in Watertown. I studied anthropology/human evolution and received a bachelor’s degree from UMass Boston. I have a daughter, Tanya, who just received her master’s degree in counseling. My father, Sahag, is a business man and an artist/musician. My mother, Mary, passed away in 2003. As a result of her untimely passing, I decided to fulfill a dream of sailing and living a Sea Gypsy lifestyle. When not sailing or writing, I enjoy reading, gardening, wood-working, and boat and home restoration.
LT: How did you happen upon sailing? Have you always been the adventurous type?
CB: For years before my first actual sail, I dreamt of living on a boat—a sailboat, motorboat, houseboat, I didn’t care—just a boat. But that was all it was—a dream. I was a single mom with a young daughter and a business to run. Then my mom passed away and my world changed. It was time for my dreams to see the light of day. Knowing virtually nothing about boats, I purchased ‘Gypsy Spirit’ less than a year after her passing. Once I began actually looking, I found that I liked the look and lore of sailboats. Besides, I wanted to do long distance ocean-cruising, and that wasn’t going to happen in a powerboat.
LT: How did your family feel when you started your maritime “gypsy” lifestyle?
CB: My father, as you may imagine, was very concerned initially, but as always, he has immense faith in my abilities. Besides, he learned early in my childhood that once I got an idea in my head, very little could stop me. My daughter was excited and we actually planned for her to take a semester off from school to join me in the islands.
My cruising ground includes the following: the Florida East Coast and Intercoastal Waterway, the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, the Dominican Republic, the Caribbean, Boston Harbor, and Narragansett Bay.
LT: Why did you decide to take Kia with you on your voyages?
CB: I was looking for my sailboat when I decided to adopt a dog, thinking that a dog would make a good shipboard companion; dogs actually have a long and illustrious maritime history. Kia was already an adult when I adopted her from the Saint Augustine Humane Society in Florida. I named her Kianda, which is Angolan for “Goddess of the Sea, Protector of Sailors and Fisherman.” She prefers Kia—says it’s less pretentious.
LT: Talk about your connection with Kia. Were you close from the beginning?
CB: Our shared mutual experiences and the amount of time we have spent together have created a very close bond between Kia and I. I also believe that she understood what happened the night of the collision with the container ship during the storm (addressed in my book). Basically, when the rescue was happening, the crew was yelling for me to grab their rescue ladder and leave the dog. I argued with them and they ultimately relented—rescuing first Kia, then me. From that day on, something changed on both our parts. I realized how deep my commitment was to her.
When I adopted her, they were on the verge of putting her to sleep. She’d suffered extensive abuse before ending up at the shelter, been adopted and returned twice, and was considered a lost cause. A volunteer had mentioned her to me, saying she thought all Kia needed was love and time. On the night of the collision, I think she understood that I didn’t abandon her and after that, I felt her place her trust in me.
LT: Would you ever give up the lifestyle you have now?
CB: Raising my daughter was the greatest joy of my life. I am looking forward to becoming a grandma sometime in the (hopefully) not too distant future. However, I don’t think I’ll ever stop living a nomadic lifestyle. I’m already thinking of perhaps purchasing an RV—maybe a farm. Who knows? There are so many adventures yet to be lived.
LT: You’ve expressed an interest in pursuing an MFA in creative writing. Is your hope to become a full-time writer one day?
CB: I plan to attend a two-year program at Bennington College in fall 2013. I have decided to devote my life from here on out to learning and honing the craft of writing. There are so many stories waiting to be told.
LT: Is there a second novel in the works?
CB: I am working on a novel that takes place in Boston in the early 1900’s and involves the infamous past of one of the Harbor Islands.
LT: Are there any plans scheduled later on down the road, traveling or otherwise?
CB: At this point, I will tentatively be doing the Annapolis Boat show in October, then the Atlantic City Boat Show, the Boston Boat Show in February, and Strictly Sail Show in Miami. In October, I will sail [‘Gypsy Spirit’] to Wickford, R.I., which will be our new home port. Then, I’ll be dividing my time this winter between Wickford and Maine, where I am restoring a home, and will hopefully stop at some specialty bookshops along the eastern seaboard for signing and promotions.
To purchase Bukruian’s book, Gypsy Spirit: What My Boat Taught Me About Love and Life, visit www.christinebukruian.com.