Lonely Blue Highway

(c) Roland Falkenstien

Cities on the water way are so strange. Step away from the harbor front streets, the marinas, the anchorages and it’s as if you’re not even near the water at all anymore. Suddenly it’s suburban sprawl and traffic and you find yourself riding a borrowed mountain bike down a highway sidewalk, diverting into a neighborhood that resembles the hood, just trying to escape the lights, and noise, and rain— in order to get back to your boat.

One mile inland and, it seems, people have no fucking idea they are anywhere near the sea.

Humans are kind to me. For whatever reason I find myself constantly surrounded by people and forming unlikely friendships. Sometimes I forget how to be alone. Sometimes I’m afraid it will end—the people I already know, the people I haven’t met yet. Not only will they not be here physically, they won’t be anywhere. They won’t be in any pocket of my heart, the land or the waterway.

Technology baffles me. So many people keep up with me, meet up with me, and ultimately alter my life in positive ways that put me one step closer to my goal—which is, in a sense, to be away from them completely. To be alone on the sea.

There is not one moment of one day where I don’t think about this boat, my means and my character—and how all that equates to the possibility of actually achieving what it is I envision.

“You are in charge of what happens next,” Chris said to me as I left her dock and historic estate. We were discussing the possibility of my return to that small Chesapeake town for what would be an overhaul to the boat. Another step, in a series of steps and seasons, to be out there on the sea safely, sustainably, solo.

“What’s new in your love life?” my oldest friend asked me in a text message.

“Not much,” I replied. “Just in a solid, committed relationship with my boat.”

My conversations with those furthest away who know me best are reduced to screens. My face-to-face conversations happen with people I hardly know and may never see again. These conversations all feel equally important.

“The intercoastal is that way,” a sailor I traveled with told me twice.

Once when we were at the dock discussing the next day’s route and another time when we were underway. The natural direction I thought to go in both those instances led to the open ocean… not the protected waterway.

When we parted ways and I pulled into port to wait for important mail, he continued on into the next canal and body of water where he hoped to wait for a good weather window and sail offshore.

His mast now far from sight I called out on the radio anyway.

“Good luck out there on the lonely blue highway,” I said, essentially, to no one.

A good cabin boy is hard to find

It was mates for life at first sight. Vegan. Kiwi. Sailor. I had literally just written some lines about how my sick obsession with boats began in New Zealand and then he walked through the door. I’ve always placed more value on friendship than romance. Finding it longer lasting, more meaningful and intimate than any dalliance.

Lust complicates everything. I avoid it whenever possible.

Not long after our first meeting we floated away for a short overnight on my boat. He cooked dinner. He did the dishes (mostly because I blatantly refused). He didn’t try to tell me what to do. In fact, I might even know more about boats than he does and, miraculously, he’s cool with that. I laughed so hard I could barely hold the tiller when he suggested we precociously raft up to a line of power boats at the bottom of the bay, and pretended to hear the jokes (and thus responded) being made onboard a neighboring vessel. He coined the term “my boat, my pussy” which embodies the attitude I’ve had to adopt as a female solo-sailor in a male dominated lifestyle.

It was refreshing to not only be around a sailor close to my age, but around one who doesn’t either hit on me or feel his manhood is belittled when I give direction as a captain.

Our second overnight adventure, while under 24 hours, felt like a lifetime. Time between two people is sped up when you’re on a boat that only goes an average of five miles per hour.

We experienced dead calms and big gusts. We beat off lee shores and sailed pleasantly off the wind. We were encouraged by another boat to poach a mooring ball and watched the sunset over the ridges of distant mountains.

“This reminds me of New Zealand,” I said.

We argued and made up. We had conversations about feminism and veganism while I was shitting in a bucket. He handed me tampons and toilet paper. We sang sea shanties under the full moon. We whispered like kids in summer camp from our separate bunks into the wee hours of the night.

On the way back I told him I didn’t want to do anything. That he could sail the boat home. I trusted him. It was a test of my control freak nature onboard my little boat to not criticize every maneuver. I tried to think of the times I sailed with captains who yelled at me or yanked something out of my hand when I didn’t do it exactly their way, even if what I did wasn’t wrong. I don’t want to be a captain like that.

When I finally looked up from my nesting spot we were safely entering the harbor and it was time to say goodbye. He was leaving America and back to study for his PhD in Europe. We vowed that one day, we’d cross the pacific together. Maybe even onboard Vanupied.

See you out there

single handed sailor girl, pearson ariel 26

I’m sitting in a swanky modern coffee shop with an iced tea that cost four dollars. There are dogs and wooden chairs and young mothers with babies in slings, men with beards and macbook pros. I smell like gas and sweat. I just rode in from a neighboring bay where I left my boat safely on her anchor with a seven to one scope in 20 knots. I surf down four foot waves on my mate’s dinghy, yipping and hollering as spray explodes across the bow and into the boat. I spot a Nor’Sea 27 in the harbor with its mast down. I knew it was Nor’sea the other day when I spotted it nearly a mile away and my suspicion was correct. They must be going south.

I struggle hauling three gallons of gas a few blocks from the fuel dock to the dinghy.

I find an eagle feather on the sidewalk in my first steps onto the city side walk.

I haven’t showered in a week.

I subsist off rice, beans, kale, tortillas, and tofu when I can afford it.

My days are governed by the wind and waves.

I take freelance assignments from the paper. I reject freelance assignments from the paper.

I’m broke. I’m ferrel. I’m free.

The past seven days have been a blur of repairs, purchases and installations, raft ups, long beats, long reaches, long scope. Lazy nights under candle and starlight.

Everything is always better out there. Amongst my people or alone, it’s better out there. 

When people come into the anchorage I stand on my bow and stare them down. Yesterday I fended three people off from my space. One bearing down on me under power, another anchoring 30 feet to starboard, another about to drop their anchor right on top of mine. They all obliged. Something about this being a lake, perhaps, but people don’t seem to know anything about seamanship.

I suppose I was there myself, once.

NOTE: My main sail is gutted. On its last legs. I find a new tear everyday. I’ve taken to patching it with 5200, as sewing has just created more strain on the disintegrating fabric. I need another primary main or at least a spare. I have a last ditch plan to turn an old main off a Columbia 26 into a spare. I’ll have to put in reef points and new hanks. I’m going to do it Tom Sawyer style. It’s the only way. 

If anyone knows of or has a mainsail that would fit my boat (dimensions below) PLEASE CONTACT ME and we can strike a deal. 

Luff : 27′
Foot : 11’11”
Leach: 29′ 4″
dinghydreams@gmail.com 

ALSO– watch my film and donate if you care to see it completed !!!

 

Single handed sailor girl

crewfinder, need crew, single handed sailor girl, sailing blog

“This is kind of like…a bachelor pad,” one my older sailing buddies said looking into the cabin of my 1968 Pearson Ariel, as the sun set across a sea of landlocked masts. 

“Yeah, except I’m a girl.” 

“Except you’re a girl. It’s minimalist. It’s not a couple’s boat.” 

single handed sailor, sailing blog, sailor girl, live aboard sailor girl

The conversation then somehow morphed into why I don’t have a boyfriend, as it often does with many of my sailing comrades, who mostly happen to be in between the ages of 50 and 70. I’m not sure where all the younger sailors are, but they’re not here sailing Lake Champlain, so I put up with the probing relationship questions from my married and divorced friends.

I don’t often wonder why I don’t have a partner on my boat, but other people do. Is it the size of my boat? Her condition? My hair do? My location? The questions are asked, but rarely answered. I don’t long for a lover to share the blue road, but it wouldn’t suck to have another set of hands to rebed deck hardware, or, and perhaps more importantly, another person to contribute some legal tender to the whole venture.

These conversations about my being single at 27 have led me to a conclusion, however; I either need a partner, or I need a job–because it turns out sailing an old boat from the era of early fiberglass construction is a wee bit more complicated than I once thought.

So this year I’m in the same place, with a new boat and a new plan. The dream is the same, though. And I don’t need a boyfriend to reach it, but I do need a crew.

cruising lake champlain

Cutting the dock lines

Bristol 24, cruising, live aboard

It’s amazing what little faith I have in simple machines, maneuvers, and mechanisms. Rather, how surprised I am when they actually work.

I corralled one of the dock boys to hold the bow line and directed my first mate Gina, who had never been sailing before three days earlier, on the stern. I had no idea how it would work. Pulling in and out of docks is my weakness. Rather then over think everything, such as where the stern will swing when I push the tiller in one direction, I just did it. The force was with me. We were off to a good start.

We reached our way across the bay in about 10 knots, but knew that it was going to get more intense when we rounded the point and were in the open fetch of Lake Champlain. The forecast predicted a consistent 10-20 knots.

Bristol 24, cruising, live aboard

I’d been staring at that pass for a month, and now I was finally cutting through it. A huge gust had us heeling hard over. I was glad I’d reefed the main at the dock and only had a small amount of headsail unfurled. The gusts were reaching nearly 25 knots.

I was scared. My friend, too. But I never showed it. I wasn’t scared in the sense that my life was in danger, rather it was an intense and uncomfortable motion of the boat. I sheeted in and tried to point up a little higher to balance out but it didn’t really work, so we rode the gusts out until they dissipated. That’s the good thing about gusts.

As we headed north towards our first anchorage we were dead downwind, surfing down the little 2-3 foot waves that felt a lot bigger. I had the sails wing and wing, which was quite an accomplishment for me. I had to steer carefully to stay directly downwind and gain as much speed as possible. A trimaran and windsurfer raced past my little heavy displacement hull.

bristol 24, cruising, live aboard

To enter the harbor we had to pass through a small cut in a breakwater rock wall. I was warned to keep left as there is an uncharted “stack” underneath the water. We wanted to sail into the harbor but I thought it best to furl the sails and use the engine.

While motoring the wind and waves were directly abeam and while we were in no immediate danger my instincts as well as my knowledge of seamanship told me this is not where you want the waves to be hitting. So I headed downwind to gain some sea room and then cut back up into the waves bow first.

We reached the harbor. Slowly motoring past all the beautifully moored boats to the open anchorage we had nearly all to ourselves. After circling a few times I dropped the hook for the first time and she set right away. We cracked open a beer for we had arrived.

Bristol 24, anchored, live aboard, on the hook