Shakedown sail

live aboard, solo sailor girl, pearson ariel 26

June 1— Launch was bad. Real bad. At anchor now and it’s blowing hard. Dealing with a lot, but it’s good. Managed not to panic, managed not to hit any boats. Engine died midway in the dock channel, on a collision course with a beneteau and my main halyard snags my topping lift. I lost my favorite hat to the wind. The miserable troll who owns the boatyard said something about my boat sinking as he lowered me into the water, then the yard manager said “good luck, sweetie,” and pushed me off the dock. The transducer for the depth sounder is leaking. It’s okay, but it’s below the water line, so I’m monitoring it closely. Wind is howling. I don’t know if I’ll raise sail today. In full on captain mode.

sailing lake champlain, sailing on a shoestring

June 2— The forecast is wrong so far. I’m anchored off a beach. The weather guesser says southwest, five knots, but it’s higher. I’m exposed. I’m nervous about lifting the hook and being blown in to shore. It’s supposed to clock around to the north, so I’m waiting, which could be a mistake. The boat’s a wreck. I have to eat and square away a lot on deck before I can even think about leaving. I’m basically engineless. I have to force myself not to just crawl back into the v-berth. It’s cold. Forty degrees last night. Yesterday’s sail was intense. I’m less worried about the leak, it’s slowed as the wood block has started to swell. I left yesterday at 6:30 p.m. Right off the reef in treadwell bay my jib halyard came undone. Wind still ripping when I went forward to fix it. I managed to tie it back on but forgot to go through the traveler, so sheeting became inefficient and tangled. At some point I was able to sail on a reach right into my anchorage. I anchored but not before jamming my finger in the hook I use to hold it on the bow. I know longer have a knuckle. I’m lucky I didn’t break it, but there’s blood everywhere. I’m grateful I learned to sail engineless last year. Still can’t believe I do this shit “for fun.”

carl alberg

Later— Weather guesser wrong again. Five knots. Ha! Maybe for five minutes. I had the rails in the water with a reef and my tiniest headsail. Five knots…

Leaving the beach was smooth enough. Sailed off the anchor broad reaching to clear the reefs. Winds were still kind of confused. SW, NW, W? Maybe I’m the confused one. Cumberland straights were easy. Nothing like that time we raced the trimaran in the McDonough, where it seemed like McDonough’s army itself was marching towards us in the form of ten foot rollers. Once south of there the wind started to rip. Gusting to 25, sustained at maybe 18. It was cold, raining, and I was getting broadsided. Do I want to keep sailing in this? No, so I made for Valcour Island, due west.

Vanupied went to weather with a serious bone in her teeth. She loved it. She’s a sadist, I swear. If only I could trim her sails properly. Always luffing no matter what I do. Maybe it’s her old, shitty sails, or maybe I’m a shitty sailor. Her backstay is sketchy. The whole time I just kept saying, “please don’t break.” If the fisherman weren’t impressed by my screeching into the anchorage and dropping the hook under sail, well I’ll be damned.

Everything is blue. Blue sleeping bag, blue lake, blue sky, blue dinghy. I’m in no particular hurry, I have to remember that. As soon as I get home though, bills are due. Car insurance, mooring fees, electric bilge pump, registration…but I don’t want to think about that right now in the blue.

live aboard sailor girl

June 3— Well, I’m happy to say Vanupied and I are in our home port. I’m showered, fed, and have everything I need right here. Even my bicycle is locked up on shore. I’m anchored far off the mooring field. Not yet wanting to deal with being in the throws with other boats. I just want to stay on the outskirts a little longer. When I arrived I was hungry and out of tobacco. It was a long, arduous day. Everything felt insurmountable. But not now. It all feels possible.

This time last year I wasn’t even in the water yet. And it wasn’t until another month that I found myself this far south. So, there’s time. Not much of it, but it exists.

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.

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.

Single handed sailor girl

cruising, solo sailor girl, bristol 24

I’m starting to wonder if my karma is fucked. I’ve had only two days of settled weather since I launched my boat 10 days ago. Everyday I’m running from an ever changing wind direction, trying to find protection for the night. I’ve had a mutiny onboard already and my crew member left the boat today with her dog. I met a sailor boy who lives far away with a boat of his own. My heart aches a little just to think about the short time I spent with both of these humans.

My dinghy most certainly has a hole, and I’m draining my cruising kitty by passing three days of near gale north westerlies at a marina because I couldn’t find an anchorage in time for the approaching system.

Bristol 24, live aboard, solo sailor girl

But it’s not all bad. I spent the better part of the day kicking around the shop in the boatyard, picking the brain of the salty and knowledgable repair man, touching all the tools and admiring his gelcoat refinishing jobs. He helped me to replace the stuffing in the packing gland of my rudder, which was causing quite a bit of water to get into the boat. He gave me the names of all his friends at boatyards down this side of the lake, and encouraged me to use his name to try and find work.

I have the heater that I stole from my friend at the marina where I launched my boat, so I’m toasty and warm tied to the dock with an excuse to track him down on his boat next weekend to return the heater and rendevous.

My boat is finally my space again. My guests are all gone. I no longer have to worry about how long they are staying, if they are coming back, if they are enjoying my lifestyle. I’m free now, I suppose.

solo sailor girl, bristol 24, live aboard

A few days before launch I wrote in my journal about freedom.

“I have no job, no bills, no partner, no one to answer to or take care of. I’m fucking free, but I suppose there’s a loneliness in that freedom.” 

Two days later and therein I was consumed with new relationships, mending relationships, crumbling ones. All on top of a boat that never stops moving, weather that never stops pounding, fears that never seem to waver.

Despite all the drama with my ever changing and motley crew, I’m moved by what’s happened this past month and half. The onslaught of help, kindness, and encouragement. As soon as this storm passes it’s time to face the world alone in my little boat, just as I always intended to do.

The carnage 

I’m shoulders down in a ditch when I realize I’ve escaped unscathed. My bike? I’m not so sure.  
I am NOT minimalist. My load is wobbly at best and exceeding capacity to an unsafe level at worst. I ride on the sidewalk out of town, my excitement overcoming my heartache for the moment. Where the sidewalk ends the shoulder begins, I brace myself for the ride ahead.

Pedaling on this narrow stretch of pavement every gust from the passing pick up to the semi is enough to rattle my precarious rig. I think about what’s left in my panniers that I can get rid of or swap out. I wonder what could have possessed me to pack a weeks supply of lentils. I curse myself for not following a friends advice, for not paying attention to his face when I decline his offer for a ride to a more conducive route. The bike shop guys, the bike forums,  they all said cycling highway 126 out of Eugene is a nightmare, and here I am, with an apparent death wish.
The shoulder, this time a mix of gravel, broken glass and dirt, not only narrows but the road is completely cracked open like lava crevices. Did an earthquake just roll through town or have i set myself for day 1 failure by choosing the most hellacious road in all of Oregon?

For whatever dumb reason I think I can navigate the cracks. I think it’s safer to ride then walk and risk dropping my bike and gear into oncoming traffic. I’m so overwhelmed by my heavy, bulging panniers the only way to keep them standing and balanced is to ride. My front wheel wheels hooks into the broken earth and I, luckily, fall ditchside. 

I feel like I’m shell shocked. The vacuum of passing traffic ceases only at the sound of my body sliding violently down the slanted ground. I quickly realize I’m not hurt and crawl back up toward the road where my bike is lying lifeless, the back tire is beyond the white line jutting out into the unceasing birrage of vehicles. Still belly down in the dirt I stretch out my arms and pull it to momentary safety.

“Are you okay?” The young women who pulled over in her sedan yells. 

“I’m fine,” I yell back laughing nervously, feeling like a cat that’s got nine lives. 

“We’re you hit?” She asks, as if it wasn’t the first time. 

I assure her I wasn’t and walk my bike before turning off onto a farmers driveway. 

I’m starving but getting to my food is nearly impossible. This is not sustainable. My back brake is crunched and my rim needs some work, but with no broken bones or spokes I feel lucky, almost glad I crashed so I can start over in a few days with a less heinous load.

 I call the brothers who’ve been looking after me and tell them I’ll accept that ride they’d offered to a better route.

If at first you don’t succeed try try again

Note: to anyone who reads this blog, this post and all posts for the foreseeable future will be posted from this first generation iPhone when wifi is aplenty.