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.

I get by with a little help from my friends

The words from an acquaintance when I was contemplating buying my first boat last year sometimes echo in my mind; “I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed that Lake Champlain isn’t exactly a sailing mecca.” He was wrong.

cruising the ICW

Bluewater boats, Bluewater sailors, Bluewater scheming and planning and dreaming around every corner and cove. Chart swapping, gear talking, beer cans clinking. Boomkins, boom gallows and bowsprits. Varnish and vagabonds. Full keels, fin keels, twin keels. Gaffers, cutters, schooners and sloops.

sailing lake champlain, sailor girl, sailing blog

I must be the luckiest sailor in the world. I’ve said it before, but every point I round on this lake there is someone who has helped me or taught me to thread aluminum, cut with a grinder, fair my epoxy, wire my electronics or tune the rig.

sailing blog, sailing lake champlain, pearson ariel 26

We hold each other’s screw drivers, we take turns buying packs of beer and cigarettes, we act as sounding boards for ideas, we climb each other’s masts, we stop what we are doing to help. We are friends. We are brothers and sisters. We are cousins. We are a circle of humans. A tribe. A water tribe.

My community is strong, my boat is strong, my spirit is strong. I don’t want to jinx it but…I think I’ve set a departure date.

“You going south this year or what?!”

“I’m going to try, but I’m scared! Like really scared.”

“Good! You Should be! It’ll keep you alive.” 

 

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.

Lost dogs

Sailing blog, dinghy dreams, bristol 24, live aboard

If you want an adventure buy a small sail boat, fix it up as best you can, and live on it traveling from port to port as long as you can. You’ll be amazed at what you’re made of. How quickly life reverts to basic instincts like finding food, protection from weather, and a safe place to sleep.

bristol 24 live aboard, live aboard sailor girl

You will be humbled by what you don’t know, surprised by what you do. You’ll learn a thing or two about integrity and your own work ethic–if you cut corners while fixing her up they’ll come back to visit when the drink gets angry (which she does, often).

lake champlain live aboard

You will come face to face with yourself. It may not be in the form of changing sail in a storm, alone on the bow of your boat, but in a relationship with someone you meet along the way–and you will meet so many, and you will learn why you are worthy of their time and help.

You will learn what you attract in this life.

A Lake Champlain love story

No kids, two boats, 50 years of marriage and still looking into each other’s eyes, Pierre and Claire truly are soulmates.

A lake champlain love story

I met them in Monty’s Bay briefly after I’d spent a month in the boatyard ogling their Southern Cross 31. I’d mentioned my intentions to journey my boat south, and they came and found me to give me the charts from the base of the Hudson down to the Chesepeake a few weeks ago.

They came and saw me again in Shelburne Bay. This time with a book called, “The Thornless Path,” a guidebook to sailing south to the Caribbean doing short passages with a new anchorage every night.

“To keep your dream alive,” Pierre said as he handed it to me.

true love will find you in the end

Pierre and Claire met at what I can only imagine was the French Canadian version of a Soc-hop in the 1950’s. There is a photo of them from that first evening. To this day Pierre keeps it in his wallet. While in Europe cruising on the powerboat they keep there to travel through the canals, his wallet fell overboard.

Jumping off the boat in a hurry to retrieve it, it wasn’t the cash or credit cards he was worried about–it was the photo.

They are the original owners of their beautiful boat. They spent many days and nights in the boatyard finishing her, building the entire interior to suit their needs. They’ve cruised extensively from Lake Champlain to the Bahamas–their love never wavering.

Not only does the kindness these two humans have shown me keep my faith in humanity at a high level, their story gives me faith that hell–maybe love is one day out there for me, too.

Afterall, they told me I have a “nice personality.”