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.

Senioritis

I’m not sure why I’m not good at holding onto a job. Never wanted one badly enough I guess. Always found something better to do.

“But you gotta pay to play, sister,” my sailing mate said to me the other day. It was the first time I’d seen him since the summer passed. The first time on land. When I ran into another sailing friend a few weeks prior, it felt surreal. When I knew those dudes was another life. One far from how I’m living now.

But it’s good. Mild stability is good. Although I’m careful not to become too comfortable, or reliant, on having this warm little room on these vast 14 acres.

I have my hand in too many different things. I’m writing regularly for a hard hitting news publication. I’m trying to prep for the upcoming growing season. I’m trying to manage my stress, my relationships, my time. I’m carving a piece of wood. I don’t even know why, just decided I was going to start and finish it, damn it.  I booked a trip to Central America on a day I felt far too overwhelmed with my responsibilities. Thought maybe going to stare into the ocean and eat coconuts might help me get my priorities straight.

My boat calls to me. She’s finally thawing out and I’m finally getting around to visiting her. I’ve got a small cabinet project to complete, an install of some deck hardware, some washing, waxing, painting and she’s splashed. She’ll be on a mooring ball two miles from the farm where I’m living and working to grow my own food.

Some people are far more ambitious than I am. In my mind I’ve put in my time. I wrote enough articles to pay for my mooring ball, my projects, and to have a little left over. All the while I got to rub shoulders with Bernie Sanders!

But despite the mild success I’m finding here on land as a journalist, it’s my paid work–not my life’s work. I consider my fiscal year complete, or at least put on hold, until my winter storage fees are looming.

Like my favorite uncle said, “what’s the point of being a free spirit in a world of deadlines?”

Now I just have to figure out a way to tell that to my boss

SV Vanupied

sailing, sailing blog, Carl Alberg

To go without shoes. To go barefoot. Barefoot vagabond. These are the translations I’ve gotten for the name of my newly purchased little boat, Vanupied. Here hull is American, but her spirit quintessentially Quebecoise. It’s only fitting I wound up with a French Canadian boat after I made it my goal that summer in the French Canadian boatyard, rolling tobacco and walking around in a little red scarf, to prove what a francophile I was.

My stereotypes of French culture aside, it seems Vanupied and I were somewhat destined to wind up together. I’d admired her tight little stern in the boatyard from the cockpit of my Bristol 24. She was the first boat I’d ever sailed on Lake Champlain (she launched before I did) and I told her owner, merely weeks after I moved aboard my own boat, “If you ever sell her, let me know.” I even wrote a song about her while rafted together one evening at anchor that rang something like, “Oh, little Vanupied. She’s always faster than me. She goes to weather so much better…”

Reluctantly I put my Bristol up for sale in the Fall of 2016, after my first summer living aboard and sailing my own boat. I wanted something with a narrower beam and a different standing rigging configuration. Repairs and restoration that once seemed like opportunities and growing experiences, now felt like colossal chores on a boat that I loved but didn’t want to keep long term. At the end of the season I’d realized the Bristol wasn’t right for me beyond the shores of the lake and unbeknownst to her, I had fallen out of love with her lines.

I knew all I could afford on my pittance salary as a freelance journalist was another old fiberglass boat with the same array of issues, but I vowed to find a sailboat that seemed worth putting all of my time and energy into.

living aboard, pearson ariel, bone in her teeth

When I got the call that Vanupied was for sale I did a quick assessment of my finances, sold the Bristol for a song, and became the proud owner of what I’d always considered to be my number three favorite boat (falling just below the beloved Flicka 20 & Contessa 26) a Carl Alberg Pearson Ariel 26.

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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