A pen to build a dream on

oceanus brass, bow shackle pen

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.

oceanus brass nautically inspired tools

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). 

First world problems

Dinghy DreamsMy biggest problem the past few months has been when my mom bought a new brand of pretzels, but that’s all about to change. It’s raining here today and even though the temperature sits at a nice 50 degrees I refuse to go outside. This weather is a cold reminder that my boat doesn’t have heat.

I plan to live at anchor because I can’t afford to pay the exorbitant cost of a summer slip and there’s quite a long waiting list to even get one. While I’d love to be out cruising and exploring all season the truth is I’ll have to be holed up in a secure place, row to shore everyday, get on my bike and ride to work.Living at anchorThe journey to bring my boat back to salt, which is set to take place in late summer/early fall, has anchorages along the way, but a lot of the time I’ll be forced to pay for a night’s moorage. Add in the fees for going through locks, fuel, stepping and unstepping the mast for bridge and lock clearance, and it’s going to be an expensive adventure. On top of that I need to have enough money tucked away in case I need to hang the boat up next winter, and pay first month’s rent in whatever place I decide to hang my hat and refill the sailing kitty until the following Spring. In order for all of this to come to fruition, I’m going to need a job during the summer, as all of the money I have now will go into outfitting Anam Cara.

The town where I was hoping to live anchored off of might turn out to be a big no go. My research has taught me that somehow the designated anchorage area is governed by the town, as it exists within a breakwater, and you must acquire a permit to anchor there and not exceed your stay longer than three days. A fellow sailor who cruised these waters ten years ago seemed to disagree, because how can the town govern the water, right? But what I read was an official government document.Cruising under sailAs a sailor, flexibility is key, so I moved on to my plan B which is to anchor in a large bay which has varying degrees of protection, 10 miles south. On shore is a large, working shipyard and marina which I hope takes kindly to a liveaboard sailor girl that wants to grab a shower, tie up her dinghy, and lock up her bicycle. I thought about calling them and asking, but thought better of it as not to draw attention to myself. Unfortunately, liveaboards often get a bad reputation as the marine industry has a growing agenda that caters to rich yachters. I’ve yet to come up with a plan C.

Aside from the usual maintenance like washing and waxing the hull and top sides, woodwork, an array of latches and hose clamps that need replacing, I might need to drop the mast right away and assess an issue with the step. Her interior needs a fresh coat of paint, the cabin floor needs a revamp, I need to come up with a plan for cooking in the galley (as there’s no stove), and should probably consider some kind of portable heat system like an alcohol heater for those grey, rainy days. I’m only touching the surface here of what all needs to be done in order to get her ship shape. I certainly have my work cut out for me. On the hookI’ve got navigation squared away, and while I suss out equipment for my anchoring system I’m looking for a dinghy. I want to buy a second hand inflatable like the old Avon I used to row, but craigslist this time of year is a barren, desolate wasteland. My efforts to find a soft bottom inflatable on ebay have also proved fruitless, as it costs as much as the dinghy to have it shipped. I have a backup plan to buy a reasonably affordable Sea Eagle inflatable (not the prettiest or most rugged, but it’ll do for now), until the dinghy of my wallet’s dreams comes rowing my way.

Liveaboard lifestyle

Sailing across the Tasman SeaAh, the quintessential vision of life aboard a sailboat. A trade wind breeze, cocktail stable in hand as the boat gently heels over, a burning sunset on a beam reach to your next tropical island only 5 miles away, your lover ascending through the hatch with two plates of fresh caught fish.

Yeah….no. Life of the live aboard sailor is not easy, and many never make it to the tropics.

How about said lover jumping ship, or no lover at all? Mechanical and mental breakdowns? Rowing the dinghy in a stiff chop to get to the grocery store (’cause let’s face it, you’re not very good at fishing, or provisioning) and getting stranded onshore? Not having a trust fund, or being too young to have any kind of retirement plan, so you have to drop the hook and find a job cleaning toilets or slinging plates?

Everything corrodes, money is always tight, and moving aboard a little boat all by yourself can feel a lot like you’re sequestering yourself from society. But all of the work, repairs, and loneliness is what makes way for the great satisfaction that comes from sailing, fixing, and living aboard sailboats.

I just bought a sailboat that’s pretty far from perfect, pretty far from the ocean, my family, or any of my friends, and it’s pretty much the best decision I’ve ever made.