Dear Readers,

solo sailor girl, single handed sailor girl, live aboard

It has been too long. I’m sorry I haven’t written sooner. Life moves pretty fast onboard a sailboat that goes an average of five knots (which is actually pretty fast for the hefty, intrepid Anam Cara).

First off, my goodness–what a boat. We have been through some wild rides. Like the time it took me four hours to tack past Diamond Island. It was difficult to point in the 25-30 knot gusts, and every time we made progress we’d near shore and get blanked by the mountains, the wind would just die.
Or the time my mom came and visited. It was a thunderous, rain storm of a weekend. We stayed on land at a Bed & Breakfast while Anam Cara was tied safely to a friend’s mooring ball. We had one small window, or so it seemed. The clouds began to part. In a nice 12 knots northwest breeze I flew west on a starboard tack and then headed north. I’d been watching clouds develop in the northwest corner of the Adirondacks and it had finally begun approaching. The winds started to shift so I jibed home and was making only three knots.
dinghy dreams, bristol 24
As soon as we entered the bay the storm ascended. We were soaked to the bone, could barely see five feet ahead, but the wind never came. I could see the wind line all around us to the north, south, east and west, but we escaped in some kind of shadow. I arrived on the mooring ball as lightening and thunder cracked the sky. My friend on land saw me come in and later said we looked like a ghost ship through the fog. The VHF reported 50 knot winds from the storm.
Most recently, my best friend on the planet came to visit. Winds were predicted south one day and north the next. I decided we’d sail north to Burlington and back south the next day. Going there was light, easy. We pretended to be pirates and drank far too much wine. We anchored under sail, in the rain, in our underwear, the entire anchorage watching our silent maneuvers.
legs
Leaving, however, was a different story. The winds and waves built all night. We left on a starboard tack heading west to clear Juniper Island before we could head south and run home downwind. Twenty-five knots, sustained, five foot waves and confused ones at that. I had to point very carefully to not get broad-sided, but Anam Cara delivered. Her sturdy keel breaking up the chop.
We’ve weathered five storms at anchor, all over 40 knots. I only dragged once, and luckily into open water. I had anchored under sail and the hook didn’t set until the storm blew us back.
But I am pushing the boat sailing in such conditions. She needs more than I gave her in the yard. There’s a crack in the fiberglass above the bulkhead. The one the previous owner said hasn’t gotten bigger in 10 years. But I’ve sailed this boat more in the past three months than she’s been sailed in a decade and, well, it’s gotten bigger. A lot bigger. The mast is compressing the cabin top causing all sorts of trouble.
bristol 24
The roller furler is flimsy, rusted, and needs to be repaired or replaced. I’ve decided to have a new forestay fabricated and convert to hank-on sails. I’ll drop the mast this fall, tend to the compression crack by repairing the fiberglass and supporting the compression post on the ballast of the boat, not the cabin sole that is suffering from dry rot (which seems to be the reason why the whole thing happened to begin with). While I’m at it I’ll have the rigger inspect her running rigging. I know I need to replace at least one turnbuckle…
solo sailor girl
This, along with many other issues with the boat, is why I’ve decided not to go south until next year. I need the fall, spring, and probably much of next summer to really get her right. I’ve even gone so far to think I might stay here in Vermont for the winter, get three jobs and a car so I can access the boatyard easily. I’m thinking to hang the boat up at a small boatyard in Vermont, where I have a handshake agreement with the owner to work for him during haul out season in exchange for winter storage. Only problem is I need to haul out soon to get to work on my boat before the cold comes–and with the lake level so low the yard can’t haul boats until they dredge. When it’s going to happen is the question of the hour…
For the last month I’ve been working for a Danish sailor on his Morgan Heritage One Tonne. Cool, ocean race boat. I helped prepare her for launch but left after four weeks seeking the freedom I felt the first few months on the boat, in Monty’s Bay and the north lake, when I still thought I was going south.
But everything is different, now. The goal has been and will continue to be to journey this boat back to saltwater–now that it won’t happen this year, everything has changed. I’m just biding my time, at anchor, before I have to get my shit together. Winter is coming.

Lost dogs

Sailing blog, dinghy dreams, bristol 24, live aboard

If you want an adventure buy a small sail boat, fix it up as best you can, and live on it traveling from port to port as long as you can. You’ll be amazed at what you’re made of. How quickly life reverts to basic instincts like finding food, protection from weather, and a safe place to sleep.

bristol 24 live aboard, live aboard sailor girl

You will be humbled by what you don’t know, surprised by what you do. You’ll learn a thing or two about integrity and your own work ethic–if you cut corners while fixing her up they’ll come back to visit when the drink gets angry (which she does, often).

lake champlain live aboard

You will come face to face with yourself. It may not be in the form of changing sail in a storm, alone on the bow of your boat, but in a relationship with someone you meet along the way–and you will meet so many, and you will learn why you are worthy of their time and help.

You will learn what you attract in this life.

The boat basin bros

“Why do you say you’re not a good sailor?” Everyone asks me the same question. 

“Because I’m not,” I say. But I think it’s more so no one expects anything of me. Like for me to live out their dream for them…

live aboard sailor girl, lake champlain, bristol 24

Met Jim, Catalina 27, as he was sailing off his mooring. Met him again at the dinghy dock, he gave me a ride to the laundromat and a cold beer. Introduced me to Canoe Jeff, who said I could stay on his mooring for as long as I want, the whole summer even. Met Rich, who helped me move to the mooring in a storm and gave me a ride to the hardware store to get supplies to install my new reefing hardware.

live aboard sailor girl, bristol 24

I’ve experienced the kindness of strangers in the sailing community time and time again, but it wasn’t quite like this place Every time I rowed my dinghy to shore there was someone new offering a hand, a piece of advice, a beer, or a word of encouragement.

single handed sailor girl

It turns out Jim sent a mass text out to all of his sailing mates. It said, “Met a sailor today – Emily – been living aboard a 24′ tan boat (Cal?) since May 1. Anchored off Blodgett. Very humble. Currently only has jib. Repairing main. Adding reef points. Gave her a cold beer and lift to laundry. Worthy of support if you see her.”

I left the harbor with a swollen heart.

Work exchange

Sitting in the cockpit at anchor I had this moment of extreme happiness. Tears nearly filled my eyes. The big bad lake behind me, the Adirondacks blue with low hanging clouds. North winds making this wide, open to the west, anchorage possible. Work is all done for the day. Testing my alternator, charging the batteries, checking voltage with the meter, filling the gas tank, pumping the bilge, flaking the sails. Finally time to cook a meal with fresh vegetables from Kathy’s garden. So satisfied. 

homegrown vermont, homestead, sailor girl

People tell me my boat is a money pit, but they don’t understand. I want to spend all of my money on her. I feel like this is my life’s work…

vermont sailing partners, solo sailor girl, work around the world

My reefing system on the boat was driving me crazy. More often than not, I should be reefed. All I had was one set of reef points with some lines hanging down to be tied around the boom. I guess some people call this “jiffy,” or “slab,” reefing, but it is fact not correct. It was incomplete. I needed, I would find out later, a pulley system, cleats, and new line to properly reef.

I called the local and most highly recommended Vermont sailmaker. I asked him for a quote for a second set of reef points, and advice on hardware to install on the boom. We had a good chat and he quoted my $230. I told him my story, and asked if he’d be interested in a work exchange of some sort. He laughed, but said we could probably work something out. I remained optimistic and set off Monday morning to find him.

With my sail in the bag and oars in my backpack I trudged through the small city and to the bus that dropped me off a few blocks away from the sail loft. I met the sailmaker and we went over everything I would need to reef the right way. He had a few cleaning jobs that he and his crew were too swamped to complete, so the next morning all I had to do was show up, clean, and I’d have my coveted second set of reef points.

After I finished working I hung around the loft all day and watched my sail getting worked on. I learned so much. I had no idea what a leech line was, and a few days later was finally able to remedy my constantly fluttering jib thanks to this information!

When I was kind of bragging about the time I put my rails in the water one of the sailmakers said, “Yeah? Was that fun? You could have lost your rig. Reef next time.”

My cheeks flushed red. He was right.