A familiar story

pearson ariel 26 bluewater, refitting a pearson ariel 26
I traveled the Intracoastal and all I got was this yellow stain on my hull

Peanutbutter sandwiches for days. I’ve found work. I’m supposed to start tomorrow. If for some reason it is postponed by weather or something more sudden it’s okay–plenty of other work to be done and sought.

Another sailor said my boat is not messy, but she is wrong. It is cluttered. Disorganized. One cannot think straight. Her interior leaves something to be desired regardless of my level of sloppiness, much of it needing to be rebuilt  if I really think about keeping my boat long term. But how I can work on something like making her interior more comfortable and inviting when there are so many more pressing matters?

Things will happen. It’s why I’ve stopped. I can visualize them; re rig, re core, repurpose old main sail, redo my lifelines. These jobs will improve conditions on many levels–structural, dampness, safety, space.

The rigging and lifeline material are taking up my v-berth along with the old sail I plan to repurpose for cockpit lee cloths. The section of rotten core becomes saturated and leaks badly into the cabin. I can think of more that needs to be done, but that is what I am thinking about now. One thing at a time I tell myself.

But these projects and simpler ones, even with all of the free materials I’ve received to do them, remain incomplete. The rest of the components require time and a bit of money, neither of which I have because my time is spent trying to procure that bit of money. Once I have a little spare change I hope my spare time can be utilized better.

The weather is a factor. For motivation, yes, but more practical matters prevail. I cannot set epoxy and glass in this rain/humidity. Ha, I don’t have any money for epoxy anyway! Or the LED light bulb or wire or switch I need for my fun lighting project I’ve been dreaming about. Or money for the little fittings on the lifelines. Or the tools I need for just about anything but the coring job in particular. Or money for better reef lines, or a winch for reefing, or new halyards, or a bow roller, or…

Money really is a thing, I’m learning. One can only go so far on goodwill which has managed to propel me for quite some time. Free docks, free food, free rigging, free gas, free dinghies, free charts, free sails, a free cushion, free…

Lentils win

Row over and examine abandoned boat, or stay in cabin with warm tea, alcohol heater, and make lentils? Lentils win.

smallboat galley, pearson ariel 26

No wind today. I didn’t care. Was happy to be under way. Was happy to have made some progress to the engine. Was happy it was running so well. The sun made an appearance. Twenty five miles left of the Chesapeake. Anchored in Pepper Creek–sketchy depths. Came in at high tide but leaving closer to low. I may find myself waiting to float off the ground tomorrow with the afternoon flood…Wind forecast perfect for tomorrow, minus some rain. Hope it sticks. My last November northerly on the bay. Hope I find myself just lingering out there tomorrow again, not quite ready for it to end.

cruising guide chesapeake bay
A rare Chesapeake calm in November

I’m wearing an old Pendleton I got from my friends in Matthews, VA. I’m like the son they never had. No, really. I feel like a boy. At least a tom boy. I put in eye liner to go to shore the other day and looked more like I was leaving the coal mines than trying to look presentable in society.

I’m scheming again to take Vanupied far, not this year though. I can’t stop thinking about it. It would be real easy to shorten the cockpit, move her scuppers. I designed a sort of locker in my head that would double as storage while reducing the size. I want to replace her standing rigging, at least some if not all. I’m on this kick about using Dyneema to do it. A backup cheapie auto pilot and sheet to tiller steering (double redundancy). Short wave radio for Chris Parker weather reports. Already got a receiver on the backstay (which unfortunately I think indicates the age of of my shrouds).

I don’t know, though. I still need her looked at with a keener eye than mine. It’s a process. For now I know what needs doing in the immediate future and I have lots, and lots, of ideas.

Back to the abandoned boat. Pretty grey hull with a sorry looking paint job. No mast. Sixties or seventies era. Strong, sturdy hull with pretty, traditional lines. Hell, she could even be an Alberg! Don’t think so, though. Her sheer is slung differently. More elegant.

Maybe it belongs to the creek person I just saw. He was catching oysters on a homemade barge constructed from an old dock and an outboard motor.


cruising ICW

At the dock of Chris and Bill from SV Plover, a Dickerson 41 built on this here Chesapeake Bay.

Virginia. Civil war shit. Their house has a ghost. It’s been like living history this trip. The Revolutionary War battlegrounds of Lake Champlain. The exploration of the new world by Henry Hudson. Modern industry steeped in the tradition of the mariner in the Atlantic shipping lanes.

And now, this here Bay that I’d certainly like to get to know better historically speaking. For the most part I’ve just been sailing hard. Only catching a glimpse of what is, or once was, taking place on its shores.

sailing chesapeake bay

Twenty knots again today (at least it wasn’t 25). Waves up to my rub rail again. Engine locker swamping with water again. I’m closing up the hole in the engine locker first chance I get. My engine needs tending to. It’s been getting knocked around, banged and hassled. It’s a good thing I installed a lip on the mount to keep it from shaking loose. Fucking outboards. So simple, yet so… beyond my realm of consciousness. I’m going to need it soon. I’ll be in the ICW with little room to sail. At least here, for example, if the engine dies say while coming into a harbor—I can sail.

I used to sail in and out of harbors all the time. On and off moorings and my anchor. I haven’t done that once since I left the lake. Who am I?

Received charts here from Aaron and Sarah. Inside was a gift of some Vermont food staples. It was a very kind gesture, of which I credit to Sarah solely, because while it may be Aaron who gave me his charts, she orchestrated their arrival.

I now have almost every chart I need for the remainder of this here venture. I still need to obtain some offshore charts for North and South Carolina. There are some options there for going offshore but man I really wish I had crew for some of the longer ones. It’s the same adage—when sailing offshore off shore, I think having crew is not AS imperative perhaps because you are so far off and can actually sleep.

But I can only go a few miles off. Vanupied is simply just not equipped for the wilderness desolation 100+ miles offshore. Will she ever be? Doubtful. I’ll probably just get another boat and equip her. At least that’s the latest crazy plan I’m scheming. But I waffle. Vanupied could  be made right. Honestly, even the Bahamas might be slightly sketchy on this boat as is. I’m not sure. I’m still shaking her down. She’s proved herself alright in this latest round of northerlies.

“It’s not about the boat it’s about the skipper.”

Where am I?

Well, if you were wondering, my last post should have cleared that up. I’m in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay. Now, you might be wondering, what the hell happened in between from when I left my hear on the Champlain Canal and now?!

Good question. One I’ve been trying to answer myself. While I know every place I’ve dropped the hook, can describe every person I’ve met, and can recall the conditions of nearly every passage–I’ve been having a hard time putting it into words. The only thing I know is I seem to keep leaving my heart everywhere. Yelling terms like “SEE YOU OUT THERE,” and “STAY SALTY, MATES,” as I depart each lovely harbor and its inhabitants. I catch myself saying things (to myself) like, “I’ll be back,” and, “I don’t want it to end.”

But it isn’t just the people that have had such a profound effect on me. Voyaging on my boat day  has brought me closer to her as a spiritual entity, as a sailboat, as a way of life. There is magic in these waters. There is magic in boats. How is it possible, I often wonder, for something so simple as fiberglass, metal, wood, canvas and rope to be possible of propelling one on such an adventure? A sailboat is greater than the sum of its parts.

“You’re living the dream!” People often say. And it’s true. I am. I came up with this idea, poured my energy into it and poof, like a magician, the dream came true. Here I am. The thing is, the dream sucks sometimes. I’m confronted daily by the elements, things out of my control, financial issues and my own personal demons. One cannot hide from themselves on a 26-foot-boat. Doing this trip on such a thin shoe string has made me realize I want to earn a few more shekels to be more comfortable, safer. That’s why I decided I won’t aim for the Bahamas and Caribbean this year. It’s simple, really. The boat needs more work, and I need more time to earn the money and do the work to her. By the time I do all that, I’ll most likely have missed my window for the tropics.

There just simply isn’t enough time in the day (plus I’m a naturally unproductive human AND the man just forced me to set my clocks back) to sail my boat, fix what needs fixing, stay fed AND take over the world as a sailing media mogul. So, the blog has laid dormant. Until I earn a cash injection wherever it is that will be my temporary ‘home port,’ the boat won’t be set up for blogging from onboard. As far as going to shore and finding wifi and somewhere to plug in, it hasn’t always been easy let alone a priority. Until a week ago I didn’t even have a working dinghy (huge shout out to Rich on the Rhode River for hooking me up with another dink, free dock, hacksaw blades, stories as a submariner, and more). The only writing I’ve managed to get done, besides log entries that border coherence and incoherence, is a short burst that was published on Sailing Anarchy.

You may also be wondering, what’s taking me so long. I left Lake Champlain September 2, and I’m not even technically half way yet from my unspoken stopping point.

Well, the answer is, I’m sailing. While many chose to motor on (friends are motoring 30 miles today, and another boat 60 miles), I’m choosing to sail. I still use my motor, and have used it quite a bit but there are also certain conditions my motor simply won’t go into. If it’s a light headwind, or too strong of a headwind, often times I won’t be able make enough progress to get somewhere before dark under sail. On days like these I do short hops, from one Chesapeake tributary to another, or chose not to go at all. Now that I’m further south and the bay has widened, safe harbors are further apart.

I know there are long days of ICW motoring ahead of me, and hopefully some sailing on the outside when weather permits, so I’m taking my time under sail. Shaking out and putting in reefs, dodging ships, convening with pelicans, marveling at the ridiculous shit I hear and contribute to on the VHF, watching my boat’s interactions in her natural element–salt water.

On top of this, in regard to my slow pace, this year has been tempestuous with gales and dead calms. Seriously. Ask anyone out here. You can’t make this shit up.

If my scattered updates haven’t put you off thus far, stay tuned. There will soon be detailed posts recounting my journey down the Hudson River, New Jersey Atlantic Coast, and Delaware Bay. Well, as detailed as possible, it is me we are talking about. The sailing world’s most unreliable blogger.

Somewhere in the middle

November 4, 2017. Solomon’s Island, MD

cruising the chesapeake bay, pearson ariel 26

I’m getting closer to the ‘conch dock.’ I can feel it. There are pelicans. I don’t want it to end, sailing the Chesapeake, but it’s getting cold. Today, the water grey and glistening, had sloppy, choppy waves with little crests that broke and disappeared under my boat’s keel. Sometimes a rogue set would send Vanupied careening into their troughs, knocking the wind out of her sails. But there wasn’t much wind to fill them anyway. As the remaining gusts from the cold front dissipated not much was left, but the leftover seas never did really settle. I should have flown the big genoa only. Could have made better time.

singlehanding the chesapeake bay, cruising the chesapeake bay, solo sailor girl

As it was 20 miles took nine hours and I arrived after dark to an empty anchorage in front of a tiki bars, piers, and buildings on stilts. One restaurant was playing some golden oldies and the free entertainment was welcome aboard. While squaring things away on deck another boat came in and I heard her captain call to his crew,”We’ll anchor just behind this guy.”

“Hey!” I yelled friendlily. “I’m a GIRL.” Sometimes I want to shout it from the rooftops.

single handing atlantic coast, single handing the chesapeake, single handing ICW, pearson ariel 26

Turns out it was the sailor on the Grampian 30 I met in Annapolis. He’s cruising with his wife and two daughters. They invited me over for a feast of Dahl, spinach and fried paneer for which I was much obliged. Despite being horrifically lactose intolerant, I devoured the cheese dish and yogurt sauce with vengeance. It was the most food I’d eaten in a single setting in ages. Their eight year old daughter, while only in third grade, could probably write a thesis and it turns out she gives excellent back massages. Her hands did a good job kneading the knots in my back from days in the cockpit and crouching around inside my boat’s little cabin–but her endurance was a bit lacking. Oh well, she’s only eight. She’ll get there.

sailing families, cruising with kids, grampian 30

Upon arriving I really wished I’d had an extra $20 to go ashore for a burger and a beer at the restaurant playing the oldies–this, however, turned out to be much better.