An old woman passes by the waterfront on her bicycle. Colorful clothing, a heart flag hanging from her seat, a basket. Her aging terrier trots in tow, faithfully, ten feet behind her.
“Is that going to be me when I’m old?” I ask Scott.
He left his boat near Miami to return north by car, to square away business, before crossing the Gulf Stream. He has come to see me en route.
“I don’t see it,” he says.
“Well, then what do you see?”
He looks at me for a moment, and then out at the harbor. My boat is moored there quietly, next to the dilapidated pier. Patiently waiting for me to make a decision on what we will do next.
“I see you in an old boat. Inviting kids onboard and telling sea stories in a raspy voice. Feeding them sardines,” he says.
“Yeah!” I say. Getting into the vision now. “And I’m permanently hunched over from years spent on boats, sitting next to an oil lamp.”
“Right, and the boat is one of those boat’s that is completely set up but isn’t going anywhere. And everyone knows it’s not going anywhere.”
“It’s not going anywhere because it’s already been everywhere.”
“Exactly,” he says. “You both are retired. You and your boat.”
“Wow,” I say smiling to myself and wondering aloud. “I hope I’m on my way towards that.”
Soon the clouds ascend and I rush out of the car to row back to the boat and miss the rain. I leave a small pile of beach treasures in his car. The pointed claw of a horseshoe crab, a piece of coral, a tiny coconut husk. My oars cut through the water. I use my entire body to fight the current. My shoulders, elbows, chest. My feet brace the aft seat. The sound of oars in water, although so familiar at this point, always manage to instill in me a great sense of adventure.
I want to be so close to a manatee that its snot gets on my face. That’s what happened to Tabatha, age 9, who lives aboard a 46-foot Hunter with her 11-year-old sister Elizabeth and their parents, Ferrel and Phil, from Austin, Texas.
“The manatee nibbled my hair!” she said giggling.
“You’re not supposed to touch them but it’s okay if they touch you,” her sister chimed in. “They got so close that one’s snot got on Tabatha’s face when it sneezed!”
I looked at this boat child in disbelief. She nodded in earnest.
“You’re so lucky,” I said and the saloon erupted in the little girls’ laughter.
Michael, onboard an Irwin-something, was in the same part of town as me. I’d walked to the goodwill in an effort to find a pair of rubber boots. I passed an Aldi’s on the way and convinced him to meet me there and share his Uber with me back to the marina. I went crazy on canned fish, peanut butter, coconut oil, crackers, and introduced him to the magic of this discount store for provisioning.
I bought a canned ham because it seemed sailor like and promised we’d cook it together for Michael’s thirty-second birthday this week.
“Except it’s already cooked,” he said.
On Saturday we launched Bi Polar. By we I mean myself, Kourtney, Pete, Pete’s 15-year-old daughter Ava, and her teenage boyfriend, Liam. How excited these people get a fixing problems astounds me. I stared at them in awe as they methodized how to remove some tight fitting rubber from the oars. I’d just have cut it, but they excitedly interjected different suggestions and strategies until it was done. I sort of felt like I was watching an act, but it was real. These people don’t give up.
Bi Polar is, of course, a dinghy. The dinghy of my dreams, actually. A double-ender, eight-foot, salty little row boat. The dinghy once belonged to Kourtney’s friend Scotty. Scotty taught her how to row. Scotty recently died. Scotty liked to drink so we drank champagne in honor of him and the relaunch of his old boat. Kourtney has had Bi Polar for ten years. It will soon be the tender to the 25-foot Pacific Seacraft she has gutted and is rebuilding from the ground up. But for now it is my loaner dinghy until we come up with a permanent dinghy solution.
It was kind of like a dream. These people showing up in their magical VW bus, helping you solve your problem, and then leaving you there alone to row your dinghy in peace while dolphins swim alongside.
In the hullaballoo of getting to the pre-launch dinghy preparations in town, one of my rubber boots managed to detach itself from my backpack. In an effort to locate the missing boot I made signs and retraced my steps, but to no avail. My efforts were merely cathartic it turned out. I may have lost my sea boot but I’ve gained so much.
The girl I’m working for now, Jillian, is 31 and owns her own yacht services company. We wax sport fishing yachts and sailboats and oil teak. She does so much more than that, but right now that is what keeps us busy. She brought me to the ocean and we ate warm soup in her van on a day we got rained off from work. She is connecting me with another sailor and possibly more work painting his boat.
I only found her because Kourtney brought me to the used marine store and the owner gave me her number. I called her, told her my story, told her who I know and the next morning she came to meet me even though she had just learned her friend died. We looked out at my boat from the seawall and she gave me a job.
I am continuously humbled by the kindness and friendship from strangers. – January 14, St. Augustine, FL
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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.
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.
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.
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).