I can never find a pen. I’ve had co-workers and editors act outright enraged when I’ve showed up to cover an event and had lost my pen en route. I go through boom and bust periods when it comes to writing instruments. I have times with a plethora of pens and times with none. That’s why everywhere I go—banks, marina offices, libraries, I try to leave with a pen. Sure, I could just buy a box of ballpoints but what’s the fun in that? This way each pen I have tells a story.
Right now is a boom period. The top drawer in my little boat is practically overflowing. Anytime a fellow sailor needs a pen, I can provide. I’ve had people literally do a sail by so I can toss one into their cockpit.
Even though I’m ink rich right now I keep navigating back to the same one, my shackle pen by Oceanus Brass. Nautically inspired and hand crafted by a small start up company in Boston, Mass., this pen is nearly impossible to lose as it has a shackle to attach to log books, dry bags, or wherever you see fit aboard your vessel. As I’ve been route planning for my upcoming voyage this pen has been seeing much use and it writes just as smoothly as the day it came out of the box.
If anyone can lose or destroy a writing instrument it’s me but this one, made of solid brass and with an attachment point—well, let’s just say I think I’ve met my match. Also, in an emergency I reckon the shackle could be used for something onboard, but don’t take my word for it.
Since I’m a broke sailor, I obviously can’t afford such a fancy pen. The Oceanus Brass Bow Shackle Pen was given to me by the company. This is NOT a paid post (I wish).
It’s times like this I wish I was a plant and could photosynthesize. I’m nervous. I have to force myself to eat. Three days of roaring southerlies has me rattled. A storm that clocked in at over 50 knots has me rattled. I’m launching tomorrow.
I had an offer for crew for launch and the journey home, but after careful reflection I declined. Not quite ready to share my berth with anything more than my headsails. Not quite ready to let anyone into my cluttered little cabin. Not quite ready to explain just why my engine doesn’t fit. I’m not sure if you believe in astrology but I do. I’m a gemini on the cusp of cancer. Always searching for my other half, my lost twin—but hiding in my shell, sequestering myself from society as I close my hatch.
If you asked me a month ago if I was going to live on my boat this year it was a resounding ‘hell no’. For some reason I wanted to balance sailing with a life on land. I wanted to continue working on the farm in exchange for food and accommodation, make as much money as possible, and just sail for fun when not doing all that. A month ago I said to a friend with a similar boat, a similar dream and a plan this year to just go, “I feel like you did something right and I didn’t.”
Those feelings subsided the more time I spent with my boat. I started to feel well positioned to repair her while living on the float at the marina. I started to feel less ties holding me to that bed on the farm. That ‘hell no’ turned into an ‘of course!’
Turns out that same friend from before was having engine problems and decided to scrap his plans for voyaging to spend another season working on the boat, on the hard. Working towards the dream.
What is the dream, anyway? So far for me it’s been soggy sleeping bags, mechanical failures, epoxy stains, and saying goodbye far too often. Goodbye to friends, family, lovers—all so I can crawl into my little shell at night. So I can fear those storms and celebrate those calms. All so I can feel just a little more of what this life afloat has to throw at me.
Everywhere I go there’s some old salt with thousands of sea miles under their belt who seems to believe in me and my little boat more than I do. Perhaps for every one of them, there is someone who thinks I’m fool hearted. My own thoughts of this whole endeavor fall somewhere in the middle.
The past ten days being in the boatyard have been like an extended self survey. I’ve learned every weakness of my boat, and her strengths. The crazy thing is, I think I can fix damn near everything. I don’t know how it happened, but I’m finally starting to understand all this. I can speak the language, decipher diagrams, ask the right questions, and use the tools. I know what needs to be done, and I more or less know how to do it.
The winds are up which means no boats are being launched today or tomorrow. I’m scheduled to launch first thing Thursday morning and then I’ll navigate to my home port, where the real work begins.
“Don’t get stuck in Florida,” one of the old salts said to me.
“What do you mean, like don’t run aground?” I asked.
“No,” he said. “Don’t be one of those people that never leaves…and don’t dawdle in the Bahamas!”
In the boatyard the kindness of others was bestowed upon me. I came to rely on it.
By launch I was afraid–but going to do it anyway. So I thought myself brave.
In the north lake I was still unsure.
By Valcour Island I was ferrel.
By Burlington I’ become resourceful.
In the deepest part of the lake I became gutsy. Nearly reckless. Fueled by adrenaline, raucous wind and storms.
Further south I felt aimless–so I rejoined society for a little while, but only halfway.
It’s mid September and I’m nearly a land based mammal once again. I don’t know how I’ve managed it–to become busy, nearly gainfully employed, riding my bike through the city streets, shopping at the expensive co-op.
But there’s an antidote. I still live on my boat. Exposed to the elements. Like the rolling swells of southerlies that still prevail, the dropping temperatures as the month passes by. The morning dew, the setting sun. Exchanging pleasantries with my harbor mates. Watching them come in late at night silently under sail.
My body tells me it’s time, or almost. The lake is starting to become too cold for bathing. My chest felt heavy this morning from the cold. My provisions of dried goods from the beginning of the season have nearly run out.
But I’m not ready to leave.
“I don’t want to go to shore, I don’t want to leave it. Shake my hair because I wana stay wet.” -Dive Shop, Paihia, NZ