Pocket full of food

sailing, live aboard, sailor girl

I don’t know what’s fuller, my heart or my belly. All of the jobs to make my little boat “seaworthy” are done. All that’s left is some cosmetic work and I’m splashed. But I’m not ready to leave this little boatyard community.

My French neighbor, John, with the Pearson 35 that he’s sailed to the Bahamas and back with his wife Gaby, reckons if I were here all alone I’d have figured it out. I can’t help but feel though that I couldn’t have done it without him and all the others who have helped me and my little boat get this far.

I’ve always secretly resented people who “forget to eat.” If I meet up with a friend around dinner time and they say they’ve had a “big lunch” I seethe silently. But it’s been happening to me. I’ve been forgetting to eat. It’s so hot during the day and the boat’s such a mess that the thought of cooking something and having to clean it up deters me and then I get caught up doing something else. I’ve managed to get a stock of some quick and easy stuff to make in a pinch (avocado and tuna tortillas anyone)? and I’m in no way too broke or cheap to buy food–it’s just sort of been slipping my mind.

The onslaught of wonderful humans feeding me started with the waitress at the marina cafe refusing to let me pay for my lunch when we went out. A few days later her boyfriend helped me install my bilge pump, a four hour job over the course of two days, and then invited me back to dinner at their house. They sent me home with a plastic bag full of chicken breast in my pocket. Yesterday morning I was having coffee with Josie, another female solo sailor, when I ran into Renee who had bought me a bag of fruit. Just because. “I thought you could use some fruit.” I ate the mangos like a ravenous beast in my cockpit underneath the sun. It reminded me of the tropics. I can smell the melon ripening as it hangs in my food hammock beside sweet potatoes I’ve yet to cook.

sailing, live aboard, sailing blog

Last night a huge storm came through. I could see it building on the lake, marching towards the boatyard. My starboard chainplate, which is what keeps my mast attached to the boat, was removed for a bulkhead repair I was working on. Then the storm hit. I had two halyards tied down supporting the mast, so it wasn’t going anywhere in theory, but the wind blew hard and my mast leaned to the side in a way I never want to see again. The sound of the mast leaning from inside the boat had me sure the whole thing was going to come down any second. But sounds are always amplified inside the boat. Fellow boatyard neighbors Michael and Peter saw my commotion and came to help. When the storm passed they invited me for wine and snacks. After a couple of glasses Peter said, “Come with us to the restaurant, I’ll buy you dinner. The least I could do for a fellow hungry sailor.”

sailing lake champlain

Today while I was helping another sailor tighten down his stanchions, Renee said, “Are you hungry?” and gave me ribs, corn and potatoes he had leftover from lunch. Then he invited me to a picnic dinner with a few other sailors where we ate pizza and salad. Julie and Alex are going to be sailing their Beneteau to the Bahamas this year. Julie had just baked a cake in their galley. She wrapped a piece up in some tin foil and I put it in my pocket.

“Everybody will help you. Some people are very kind.” -Bob Dylan

Drilling holes in your boat

Installing a manual bilge pump, whale gusher titan, bristol 24

The count for holes drilled in my boat now totals six. I’m not an expert, but I’ve got it down to a system. First I visualize the holes, draw a diagram that looks like a five year old did it, then I mark them. Then I have an eerie calm wash over me, and right around bed time I start to freak out and send massive amounts of text messages to boat friends in a panic, and scour the internet for information for the umpteenth time. Finally I head to the bathroom and take a nervous shit. The next day, I drill (or make someone else do it will I sweat over their shoulder).

rocna anchor, rock solid, installing a rocna

The first three holes were through the deck for my bow roller to store my plow style Rocna anchor. I grew up on Rocna, i.e. the sailboat I spent the most time and learned to sail on had this style hook. I remember sitting in an unprotected anchorage as a gale blew over us, the wind whipping through the rigging so loudly that we shut the forward hatch for a reprieve from the harrowing howl. The anchor never budged. I’ve been a firm believer ever since.

The roller I got required three holes to mount. I drilled the holes oversized and filled them with epoxy. A lot went wrong along the way. The first time the epoxy was so thin that it dripped right through the protecting tape on the bottom of the deck. The second time, though thickened correctly, proved that my original holes weren’t measured correctly–as when I drilled through the cured epoxy my drill still picked up bits of core. At this point the best I could do was to overdose the fittings and hardware with sealant, and hope for the best. It worked out great. I call it the “epoxylypse.”

installing a manual bilge pump

The next project was to install the manual bilge pump. This required a hole through the cockpit/bulkhead, through a piece of plywood that sections off the hanging locker, and finally through the hull (gulp). My boat has been sailed since 1976 with no bilge pump. Tight as a drum (knock on wood), but I wasn’t about to splash my boat without one. The previous owner purchased a Whale Gusher manual bilge pump but never installed it. Luckily, I’ve become friends with the right people who drove me back and forth from the hardware store to get the right hoses and fittings, and are very handy with tools. It took us two hours on two different days but we finally got it installed, and by golly it works! I hope I never have to use it for anything other than condensation or drainage from the anchor locker.

thru hull fitting

I’m a firm believer in take care of your boat and your boat will take care of you. Everyone said the boatyard is miserable, to expect misery, but I’m not so sure. This boatyard is magic. With the help of others, I’ve completed two of the three major jobs that make Anam Cara “seaworthy,” in the opinion of me and my professional marine surveyor. All I have left to do is rebed my starboard chainplate and strengthen the bulkhead it attaches to with a bit of fiberglass. Then it’s little things like brightwork, painting, and a small upgrade to her mainsail. The boat will be ready to splash soon, the only question is… will I be?

The Weather Cock

I love my boat. I’m in love with this lifestyle. Tearing everything apart during the day, putting it back together every night and she’s a home again. It’ll be even better when we’re floating. Everyone thinks I’m the crazy American girl living on her boat. Lots of people stay on their boats here in the boatyard and the marina, but I’m the only one actually living aboard. I walk around saying “bounjour” to people I don’t know, and wear a little red scarf around my neck to show what a Francophile I am.

live aboard, bristol 24, boatyard

This morning I woke up to a knock on the hull from the waitress at the little cafe on site with a pack of cigarettes for me! “Yellow cigarettes for the yellow boat,” she said. We chatted on the boat for a bit and then she took me for a real tour of this one pony town. She’s originally from Seattle and we had a lot to talk about like the Pacific Northwest, our taste for dating older men, and traveling. She paid for lunch and when I tried to give her money she said “welcome to North Country.”

The tour wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the Weather Cock, the local watering hole. While there I told sea stories and basically won all the local’s over, once we got one question squared away. One of the guys asked it, after I told them my plans for the boat, but everyone was thinking it.

weather cock

“So, what are you a trust fund kid or something?”

My new friend chimed in. “She bought her boat with the tips she made waitressing.”

She filled me in on all the gossip around the marina. Like how everyone thought my crew member, Gina, and I were lesbians, and how it was just assumed I was French Canadian because of my style. Both I took as compliments.

When we got back I invited her and her boyfriend for dinner onboard one night in the yard, and definitely a sail once I’m launched. Before leaving she told me how cool she thought it was that I have the self motivation and confidence to buy my own old sailboat, fix it up and go sailing. It was nice to hear from one of my peers.

My confidence and motivation comes in waves, but today was a good day. I finally figured out the roller furler, prepped for my chainplate repair, and got my new ground tackle all set up. While doing so, my boat neighbor, Claude, came over with a shackle that he insisted I keep, “just in case.”

Log Book: Day 2

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Met sailor Jon from the Catalina 25. He’s been sailing for forty years. He helped me rig up the main sail. I think that he thinks I know nothing, but that’s okay because I absorbed everything and wound up rigging it by myself. He gave me a shackle for my furler. He’s bringing me a 3.5 inch hole saw to install my manual bilge pump, which is excellent. He also made fiberglassing sound easy, and I’m a little less intimidated to glass in the block on the starboard chainplate.

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Gina basically prepped the whole bottom. I have weak arms and am not flexible. She’s a strong yogi. It was a good job for her. We took freezing hose showers after being covered in what was probably illegal and definitely toxic paint dust.

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Quinoa and veggies for dinner. She’s still surprised I can cook. I guess it’s been a while since we were roommates in college. Raising the sail in the boatyard was bizarre. It felt like we’d just take off flying into space.

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Boatyard blues

I’m not usually nostalgic for a moment so quickly after it has passed, but I was almost immediately after we docked my new French-Canadian friend’s Pearson Ariel, after a rousing 20 knot first sail of the season. I knew he would be leaving soon to go back home for the week, and I’d be “alone” in the boatyard since I arrived six days ago.

living aboard, pearson ariel, bone in her teeth

I’d been admiring the boat since I got to the yard. Her beautiful lines and sturdy keel perched right behind mine. I’ve always wanted to sail a Pearson Ariel and have kept a keen eye for ones that come up for sale. Being aboard her, with a Quebecer as the captain nonetheless, I felt like I was in a scene from Jean Du Sud, the epic journey of Yves Gelinas around the world aboard an Alberg 30.

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My friend’s boat, Vanupied, went to weather with a serious bone in her teeth as we heeled harder in the 25 knot gusts. I felt so safe as the boat and her captain, Oliver, took good care and we soared back to the marina at six knots. It’s a feeling I hope to have again when my own boat goes into the water.

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Why do I love sailing? It’s not only the way it feels on the water, the challenges or satisfaction it brings–it’s the people. The community. Oliver gifted me a tin of tea that made an Atlantic Crossing with him a few months ago, vintage charts of Lake Champlain, a space heater that I have roaring right now. We drank coffees and wine and walked around the yard admiring the beautiful boats, sharing stories, playing music. Yes, there was lots of work in there, too. He introduced me to Marco who helped me finally complete the installation of my bow roller, and fabricate a stronger backing plate.

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My crew member, and official first mate of this vessel, Gina, has proved deserving of the title as she picked me up from the bus station, loaded a dodgy wooden ladder (which she carried her 50 pound dog up every morning and night) on to the top of her car, then drove us to the boat and helped me every day cross some boat work off the ever growing list. She’s handier with tools than I am, makes me laugh until I can’t breathe, and I can tell she’ll be a better sailor than me one day. She returns in three short weeks and we take off sailing together around this magical lake.

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With my friends now gone, reality has set in. I’m not ready. I have one big job down, but two more massive ones, and lots of little ones to go before I can launch. Both of those jobs require the help of someone more skilled and knowledgeable than I am. While it’s not been a problem so far, I’m still anxious about finding someone to help and getting everything completed.

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After being a part of the launch of Oliver’s boat the jokes of “Oh, I’m not going sailing, I’m just going to live in the boatyard forever,” are starting to seem less funny. The boat’s surrounding me are all going into the water. Slowly but surely, one by one. The sailing season has begun. I better knock on wood. I want to come, too!

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