Live Absurd Fee

Note: after writing this post I realized I had read the dock fees as boatyard fees, and the live absurd fee has not, in fact, increased. There is merely a three percent environmental fee being added to our bills. Oops.

Boatyard fees are up and I’ve basically announced it to everyone in the yard who may not have seen the email yet. The email concluded with an offer to contact them if we have any concerns, but my only concern is that I can no longer afford this yard as a small boat sailor. Even my friend who works for the yard seemed surprised.

“Again?” He said.

I damn near gave my neighbor a heart attack as I heard him open his hatch and I spun around from scraping caulk like the girl in The Exorcist to exclaim, “HEY, yard fees just went up.”

“I haven’t heard that.” 

“Yep,” I went on. “Fifteen dollars a foot plus the live aboard fee. Maybe you’ll be grandfathered in though since you do so much work diving here.” 

“Doubt it,” he said.

“I dunno. The owner calls you Matty. You’re on nickname basis.” 

Boatyard fees are up $100 a month and I’ve got to redo my windows again, but look at that golden hour. 

What does this mean exactly for someone ahard on a mere 26-foot-sailboat? 

Well, I was originally paying $390 per month. I was living in a house and doing a work exchange for rent so this wasn’t much money at all! Once all of my grinding was done, and the oppressively hot Florida summer had passed, I started sleeping aboard my boat and the fee went up to $469 per foot with the “live aboard” fee. With the new yard rates, my base fee will be $490, plus the live aboard fee (which is now more of a live absurd fee) for a total of $569 per month. 

In the grand scheme of things this is still less money than someone would pay for rent, but nearly $600 in boatyard fees for a boat as small as mine is steep. If you’re on a small sailboat, you’re likely on a small budget. Rising fees make boatyards like this inaccessible to the humble sailboats. What’s unfortunate is that this is the best, safest boatyard in town and was one of the last remaining affordable boatyards that is still safe to live and store your boat in. 

But nothing like a little pressure to light a fire under your ass. I’ve already started scraping faster. I have a designated launch date that I don’t really have a choice but to meet, because it’s the last of the money I have designated for yard fees. Once I launch I still have work to do outfitting and repairing, and need to start earning more money so I can set to sea.

An unexpected $200 in Lexan to make my windows seaworthy. Going to make new hatch boards, too!

For now I’m just focused on the work I need to do to get out of the yard. No point in wasting time trying to make more money for increased boatyard fees, because then I’m going to lose days working on the boat, which means I need more days in the boatyard, which means I need more money. I’m trying to avoid the spiral of becoming an indentured servant to myself and use my time as efficiently as possible in lieu of this news. I probably should have been doing this all along.  

Unfortunately this boatyard is becoming a place that a hobo sailor girl such as myself can no longer afford. As the years go on, fees will only continue to rise. Luckily, I’m in the home stretch of my projects on the hard.

The facilities here are sweet, but are these bathrooms worth $100 in added yard fees?

Will you launch my boat if the apocalypse comes?

My rigging sounds different than usual in the gusts. I thought trying to tune the rig would help. It’s really fucking with my brain because when I’m sailing the rigging doesn’t shudder like that. Not even in gusts. That ‘fluttering’ sound is usually indicative of something being wrong. Like, when I hear that sound Vanu is saying adjust me. Trim the sails, bitch. So my mind computed this new sound in my rigging to tune the rig, bitch. So I did.

But it’s still happening.

Maybe it’s because I’m on the hard. The rig is even farther aloft, or…something. Or maybe I’m losing it, and don’t actually know anything about sailing.

I’m still in the boatyard with quite the list. But it’s different now, actually living on the boat on the hard. I’ve kept boats in boatyards before for entire winters, but this is the longest I’ve ever lived on a boat on land, and it ain’t over yet. I think I’m making progress, though. I can’t exactly measure up what I’ve done, versus what still needs to be done, versus what I’m doing. Despite my copious lists, it’s all kind of a blur. I just try to accomplish as much as I can everyday and remember that these things take time.

rebuilding pearson ariel 26

The owner of the boatyard does this thing where he goes around the yard and puts anything on the ground around people’s boats up on the deck. Sometimes he uses a forklift. I’ve somehow escape his wrath unscathed. How? I don’t know. I keep boxes of tools on the ground, but as neatly as humanly possible. Maybe he sees that I’m fucking trying to be neat and work on my boat. Or maybe he doesn’t see me at all. All I know is most of my life I’ve had a real problem with authority except when it comes to the Coast Guard, and the owner of this boatyard. I don’t even look him in the eye. I’ve never spoken to him and any time I’ve even considered addressing him it was with, “Sir.” 

Why? You might ask.

Why have I adopted this don’t speak unless spoken to attitude?

Because the dude’s cut throat. There are all sorts of embellished tales floating around the marine community about him just launching your boat and setting it adrift if you piss him off. But regardless of these tall rumors, I respect the shit out of him! Millions of dollars in perfect yacht finishes are always coming and going through his yard and I’m just here existing in constant trial and error.

Maybe I’m just paranoid, but I don’t want to get kicked out of the yard before I’m ready, so I keep my head down, do my best, and try not to break any rules. But there’s still a part of me that wants to win him over and get him to like me.

I’ve thought about ways I could find common ground between the owner and myself. Like by playing a practical joke. I’d put a bunch of those plastic pink flamingos that people put on their front lawns, on the ground in front of a bunch of people’s boats. And him and the yard workers would come back after their holiday vacation and see it. But I thought better of it. I think it might back fire when he runs over a pink flamingo with the travel lift, or sees a bunch of happy pink little birds on the ground that he is so adamant about keeping clear.

I’d like to establish a rapport sooner as opposed to later, though. Because at this point what am I supposed to say if the apocalypse comes? What am I going to say then?

“Sir, will you please launch my boat?”

Please, Sir, will you launch my boat?

I thought maybe the flamingos could bridge the gap. But it’s too dangerous. The act itself in putting them on the ground and possibly getting a negative reaction rather than a laugh, and also the symbolism.

My friend Dave and I were recently having a conversation where I asked, in earnest, “do you think I’ll ever get off the hard?”

“Not a chance,” he said sarcastically. “Might as well get some pink flamingos to put in the ground outside your boat.”

What Really Happened in West Palm Beach

What happens when you fall in love too fast, or you just think you’re in love, or you’re in love with the idea of someone? For me, taking things slow is a near impossibility. My boat moves slow while my heart beats fast. I’m always just coming or going. Running aground hard and then floating off with the tide. Luffing loudly in irons and then silently sailing away. Time is sped up when you’re traveling around on a little boat. Strangers become friends. Friends become lovers. Lovers become strangers. A new port becomes home and then you leave it all behind. I call it boat years. Like dog years.

It seemed like we had met long before we had met. I was the only young, live aboard sailor on Lake Champlain, but there had been one before me.

“Too bad you weren’t here a few years ago, there was a sailor boy just like you.” “You remind us of this sailor boy that was here. He left. You would have liked him.”

One night my dearest friend on the lake regaled me of stories of this seeming kindred spirit sailor. The stories he told were meant to warn me, but they just made me like him more.

“He went south on someone else’s boat. He was always sailing on and off the dock. Never using his engine. When he left he got in an accident and lost the use of his right arm. He learned to sail again with one hand. Got another boat and headed south again. There’s all these stories now of him sailing engineless through bridges along the ICW. He has excellent boat handling skills, but he’s reckless.”

Engineless? Through bridges? One working arm? I was intrigued.

I made a film about sailing in an effort to raise money for my trip south and the sailor boy saw it. He messaged me. Then we emailed. Then we talked on the phone.

“You remind me of me,” he said.

He was helping as crew on an Alberg 30 headed south at the same time as me from a different lake. We just kept missing each other. He was always a few days or weeks ahead of me. We tried to meet on the canasl, on the Hudson, in New Jersey. By the time they reached the Chesapeake it was too late. I was too far north and they were quickly moving south. We’d have to try again some other time.

Eventually I ran out of money. I had tried to recoup some of it in a city further north, but still had everything to do to get my boat actually seaworthy. I was tired of the intracoastal waterway. I wanted to go to sea, but everyday I meandered down the straight waterway in search of a place to rebuild my bank account and my boat so that could actually happen.

Then we met in person for the first time in West Palm Beach and it felt like I had met my soul mate. We were both Gemini. We weighed the same amount. We both had eaten too much salt on our journeys down the coast, alone, which caused our poop to turn the color of sand (and both, subsequently, googled it and feared we were having liver failure). He was my lost twin. He was going to be my third hand, I was going to be his right hand. Who else could have gotten into the same taupe poop sailing scenario? It was clearly meant to be.

I had a feeling like I was falling too fast down a flight of stairs. I knew that I should tread lightly. I was not where I wanted to be with my boat, and therefore myself, and it wasn’t the right time to be entertaining romantic entanglements. Especially with a person equal in intensity to me. But I also knew I was going to do it anyway.

I looked at him and said, “you remind me of a mistake I made in high school,” and we decided to sail together down to the keys.

We anchored in front of the lighthouse and jetty of Hillsboro inlet and flew a kite. I washed his hair. He made a gourmet meal out of my humble provisions. We slept in separate port and starboard settee’s, whispering into the wee hours about sailing around the world. When the wind picked up that night and the swells became uncomfortable I just pretended I was at sea. In the Bay of Biscayne we reached along in 25 knots under double reefed main and working jib. The sail combination was perfect. There was saltwater all over the cabin floor which had come through the hawse pipe, I’d deduced. But I was prepared if it had come from below the waterline. I didn’t panic. While he sailed my boat and I tended to her elsewhere I remember thinking, “I could go to sea with this person.”

Or was it, “could I go to sea with this person?”

But despite all this, I knew it wasn’t right. I reminded myself to tread lightly. I was still broken. My boat was still broken. My friend and his boat were also, essentially, broken.

So I tried to break it off in key largo. We were both broke, underfed (obviously we had too much salt in our diets), and needed to get our shit together before we could actually ever be together. But instead we decided we’d try to get our shit together while being together.

We stayed in the keys a while, and then headed back to West Palm Beach where his boat was, and where shit started to break down. There were positive things that happened there and while we were together; like the stepping of my mast and new standing rigging, a few friendships that were my saving grace, finding a little bit of work, getting offered a free boat and selling it—but mostly it was the wrong situation for me and my boat.

In the worst of times he was manic, I was depressed. He drank, I didn’t. He wanted a big boat, I wanted to rebuild my small one.  He was reckless, I was cautious. He wanted to be a captain, and so did I. It became explosive. I threw a plate. He screamed at me about bottom paint. We could not be on the same boat.

He got an offer to crew on some blue water, and I limped out of town having learned a lesson. Sometimes having the most seemingly uncommon things in common, isn’t enough. Sometimes even taupe poop isn’t enough. We were the two most incompatible people on a tiny boat together. We were still the two most incompatible people between two tiny boats. Even on land, we learned later after trying to do long distance, we remained the two most incompatible people.

We had been surrounded by water, but were fire and gasoline.

Happy Fucksgiving

Last year I made up the holiday I Don’t Give a Fucksgiving. This year I modified it to Fucksgiving. Cause I give a fuck so fucking hard. Like I’m just over here giving a fuck, working on my boat this morning with care. Solving problems. Cutting shit just right. Making juvenile jokes with Ray. Taking bomb portraits of him and Ash all cleaned up.

And the best looking couple in the boatyard goes to …

Then I went out and gave a fuck. Wore my nicest shirt. Shared a beer with Capt. Matty. Dropped a crab trap with Pete and Kourtney and rode in their time machine 1950s flat bed . Met Melanie at the sailors’ pot luck where she had a plate and fork waiting for me.

“I didn’t bring anything.” I say. “All I had was steel cut oats.”

“I cooked a turkey. I brought enough food for you,” she says and shoves me into the line up.

Vegetables upon salads upon wonderful food. I broke my veganism. Been doing that a lot lately. What with fresh Mahi from the boys on the dock and all…

“Just enough for a one pot meal,” I tell them. “I don’t have refrigeration.”

Thanks, bros.

Promptly got in a fight about feminism, but he conceded quickly and we passed the peace pipe, so to speak, later on. Encouraged a 13-year-old boat kid to keep playing her ukulele. Bill and Chris were there! From SV Plover and their dock on the Chesapeake where I stayed last year. It’s always great to regal stories with them and pass jokes around with the older generation. They don’t think I’m a joke, even though I have less money than they all can spend in a week. But it’s okay. Went aboard their friends 78 foot catamaran they were crewing on. One turnbuckle costs more than my boat. I wish I’d taken pictures. But even that million (plus) dollar yacht and my (should have been free) $2000 hull can do the same thing. Reach all the same corners.

“The sea is a great leveler,” Kourtney says. Between the rich and the broke, the yachters and the sailor punks, the craftsmen and the hacks . Back in the boatyard now she comes to visit after the festivities. We take a walk to the dock. It’s raining on and off. Hard for a few seconds, then light . The storm clouds forming right above us and dispersing as quickly as they came .

Sometimes on the boat at night, though, after all the friends have gone. After all the tools have been put away. After I’m done laboring . After dark. It can start to feel like the hull is closing in. Something about the narrowness of the boat, the amount of work still left to do to get her splashed, and the yet to be refinished interior — it can literally feel like the walls are closing in. (I.e., ‘the hull is closing in’).

All I want to do at that point is to take a bath and stretch out to do yoga so I can calm my fretting mind.

“The first step in boat care is self care,” I remember Ash saying. But I cannot stretch out. There is plywood and tools everywhere and it’s raining and cold to go to the dock .

I text Melanie .

“I should have just come back to the boathouse with you.” But she’s in bed.

I just want the luxury of space.

Space from the project , and physical space to move my body. I spent the last five months doing yoga everyday and riding my bike ten miles a day and cooking copious amounts of healthy food in a giant kitchen to fuel me all week as I worked on the boat and pedaled and hustled . And then suddenly I’m just crouching around in a tiny, unfinished , under construction boat again. With no cutting board.

I contemplate an Uber and then see that the son of the owner of the boatyard is at the shop still. We are friendly. Cordial buddies. His boatyard dog is the favorite boatyard dog. He brought me food, one time. But up until only recently I was self conscious and afraid the owners of the yard thought I was harbor trash . I kept my head down. Now, I ask him if he’s leaving soon, if he’d give me a ride to the south end of town. He says yes.

“It’s been so long since I’ve done anything for homegirl,” I tell him, pointing to myself. “Everything I’ve done since I’ve moved into the boat has been for her,”  I motion to the boat.

That’s 21 days. 21 days I’ve lived back on the boat now. 21 days that all I’ve done is breathe the boat , and try not to forget to eat.

Suddenly I’m back to the boathouse . And it’s just as it was when I left . With it’s dinghy garden, cats, hot bath and cold ice, and wood floors to roll out on, and Melanie of course… who is asleep. There’s even some tofu and a squash and onions here that I’ve left . It was too dark to check on the garden I planted but there might even be something to harvest.

The boathouse feels familiar and like a haven as usual, but much has changed. Melanie’s sold the boat house and it closes in another three weeks. When she’ll move onto a sailboat again. For the first time in ten years. This time with her seven-year-old daughter .

And suddenly I’m moved again by everyone and thing I have to give a fuck about.

O’Day 27 For Sale

FOR SALE: 1987, 27-foot O’Day Sailboat (Model : O’DAY 272 LE)

O’DAYNG, someone’s going to have a lot of fun on this boat! Great first boat, easy to single hand. Lines led aft. Roller furling. Inboard diesel engine runs like a top. 30 Amp Shore Power. Located in St. Augustine, Florida.

Owned since 2014. Single owner before that. Meticulously maintained all receipts and work logs onboard. Proven boat! Sailed to the Bahamas from Florida coast, Charleston to Florida, offshore in the last five years.

NO BLISTERS. Hauled out and inspected in 2017. Solid thru-hulls. Solid stern-hung rudder attachment. Rock solid deck, no soft spots.

SAILS: Main with 2 reef points
Roller furling 130 % Genoa

Westerbeke 10-2, diesel inboard. Excellent condition. Lists of all maintenance and upgrades.

Running rigging last year
Speedometer & depth finder
Marine head
Manual and automatic bilge pump
Self tailing winches
VHF Radio
30 Amp Shore power
Magma grill
360 Gal Water tank
Inboard and auxiliary diesel tanks
Nav station

Asking $7,000

Contact Emily at .

Boatyard Notes

I miss poaching docks.

pearson ariel 26 refit

What happens on the hard stays on the hard.

pearson triton modify cockpit

You can almost pretend to be floating…but not really.

This whole thing feels strange and foreign after living in a house for so long.
I am looking at every challenge as a lesson in radical adaptation.

I haven’t had to feed myself in days. Thanks to Ray and Ash, Pete and Kourtney, Autumn and the kids. I make everybody laugh. It’s all I can do. I can’t offer help using tools or bring any actual food to the table, but I can offer laughs. Good laughs. Whole hearted belly laughs. The days spent laughing with everyone are the best days. I’m going to miss the boatyard, I can already feel it. Progress. I feel like I’ve finally hit my stride.

And even if we all wake up tomorrow and it’s all gone to the dogs, you just have to keep going.
Keep working on your projects.
Keep chipping away.
Keep earning your freedom.
Keep being you. Keep being light.

Great energy can come from pain.

You shouldn’t trust sailors on land.

“Don’t forget me,” I say. Only to the important ones. When they are leaving or I am leaving. I feel like I used to be so good at leaving. Now it takes so much longer. Sometimes you gotta stop before you can keep going. Sometimes you have to get into the boatyard to get out of it. That’s why I’m moving back aboard. Even though it’s hard. Even though there’s dust. I’ve taken to calling it pixie dust. My buddy Canoe Jeff from Lake Champlain coined that turn of phrase. He’s definitely one of the ones I told not to forget me.

And he hasn’t.

The boathouse and my time here feels like a blur. Visiting sailors have always been welcome here. It’s how I first ended up here, and I’ve kept the tradition alive. Two schooner boys are our next guests. I remember the first one that showed up. Scott from SV Steady Drifter. His experiences in the Bahamas had rendered him changed. Then there was Johnny and Pete, who I would sail my boat with for the final time before hauling her. Chris and his Nor’sea which laid at the dock because work kept him chained to a ship that wasn’t his own.

They’re all land based now, too.

Never trust sailors on land. There’s more at stake out there, so there’s no time for trivial things. Like the anxieties of modern life and modern relationships. Being out there makes me a better person. Being out there makes me more independent and sharpens my desicion making skills. Out there everything is simple, even though the reality and rules are harsh.

On land everything gets misconstrued, so I had to start keeping a planner.

“I don’t do well alone,” my friend says. This is over the phone. Maybe that’s why he’s talking to me at 1 a.m. The funny thing about being alone is I only notice it when someone else comes along and points it out. Going down the Hudson river, getting shit out into the Atlantic ocean at the bottom of the tidal universe, my six horse power engine buzzing and my main sail struggling to stay full of air in the busy harbor. The passing ferry wakes are mountains I climb and careen down. There are tankers, container ships, water taxis and I don’t know which way to go to get out of their way, so I just hug the buoys. Content with running aground or into a bridge pillar if it means avoiding collision with one of them. I’m shit out into the Atlantic ocean and the wind fills my sail. I turn off the engine.

I am completely alone.

Everywhere I go there seems to be some old salt with thousands of miles under their keel that believes in me. However for every one of them, there is someone who thinks I am fool hearted. -From the Log, May 2017


classic plastics for sale, alberg 30, alberg 30 for sale

I had a vision of a man at the tiller, taking the Alberg home. He was bundled up, handle bar mustache, rugged looking, and certainly taking the boat on some sort of adventure that would result in further ruggedness. This ain’t a boat for the faint of heart. The right owner will see what she lacks not as a bargaining chip, but as a blank canvas. And everything she has they’ll see as the culmination of a dream…

I wrote those words in my journal and a week later, the boat I was representing sold to a man with a handle bar mustache.

Alberg 30, Alberg 30 for sale
Al as the owner of his Alberg for the last time. Coast guard documentation in hand ready to sign it over to the new owner.

Pickle is a 1977 Whitby Boatworks Alberg 30 and was located for sale on the Long Island Sound in New York. The Alberg 30 has a reputation as a stoutly built and sea kindly vessel, and was made famous by Qubecoise circumnavigator (and my personal hero) Yves Gillenas. These boats have a cult following, and Pickle was basically the best Alberg 30 on the market. New rigging, new chainplates, new sails, new through hull fittings, new engine. She wasn’t outfitted with the latest and greatest electronics, her interior needed some sprucing up, and she had some delamination on deck around the hand rails on the cabin top.

Bow chika wow wowwwwwww. Repowered with a 2005 Beta Marine Diesel Engine is rare in good old boats!

From the time she was listed to the time she sold, I must have interacted with fifty potential buyers between email and phone calls. As soon as most of them heard the word “delamination,” they were running scared. I tried to explain to people that delamination doesn’t spell doom and with a grinder, some cloth, some wood, and a gallon of epoxy they could fix this issue. Plus, it didn’t stop them from sailing the boat as is, right now. Yes, it needs to be fixed before a major voyage or before several more seasons of freeze, thaw, freeze, thaw made it worse—but it did not compromise the integrity of the vessel.

We listed the boat slightly higher than she was likely to sell for, but it was not much of a stretch considering what she was worth. But people didn’t see that. In the world of modern boats designed for comfortable interiors rather than seaworthiness, we were looking at a niche group of people who would be interested in this boat. I had interest from several people who I could discern by the end of the conversation were interested in a clorox bottle, not a classic plastic.

Towards the end of my first adventure into brokering, we were closing in on a deal and I could easily decipher between serious buyers and the Looky Lous. Sometimes it sounded like I was convincing certain people not to look at the boat. Like the guy convinced he was going to sleep on the boat, in the cockpit, at anchor, through a northeast winter. Or the several hipsters from Brooklyn who were tired of paying high rent, wanted to live on a boat but weren’t sailors.  It may sound crazy but I knew this boat would only sell to a certain type of person, and they certainly were not it.

We eventually listed the boat at the owner’s bottom line and informed people it was not negotiable. We just couldn’t, in good faith, sell the boat for any less. When an offer came in for $1000 under that price we held fast, but with another season of yard fee’s looming the owner gave me the go ahead!

Alberg 30 for sale
The Good Ship Pickle

The buyer was somewhat elusive. We only corresponded by email, much to my chagrin. It would have been so much easier to explain everything to him over the phone. The day before he was set to meet the owner and finalize the deal he sent me this in an email:

In 1978, I restored a sad Herreshoff 12 ½ that I found and bought out of a guy’s backyard in Bristol. I almost flunked out of school because of the time I put into it and only had one summer to play with it. I had to sell it when I moved away. This is my first boat since that one. I am really scared.

I thought he was going to back out, so I told him what I tell everyone in a position to buy and sail an old classic boat for the first time, or the first time in a while.

Good. Stay scared. Fear will keep you alive on a boat. When I bought my boat, started my first refit, set off on my first trip by myself I was in way over my head. I still am. But if I can do it, anyone can.

He bought the Pickle the very next day.

Congrats to Mike on the ownership of his new vessel!
If you’d like to list your classic plastic sailboat with me contact me at

#MeToo in the Marine Industry

Melanie Neale, a certified USCG captain, licensed yacht broker, and published nautical writer was sexually assaulted as a teenager by a visiting yachtsman, while living on her parents 47-foot-ketch. This is her story.

#MeToo, sexism in the marine industry, sexism in sailing
Nautical writer, boat kid, and USCG Captain Melanie Neale, as a teenager onboard a visiting yacht.

It was 1995, the first year we ventured north of the Chesapeake Bay on the Gulfstar 47 that my family and I lived aboard. Or maybe it was 1994. I don’t really remember. I was 14 or 15. You see, sometimes we remember the essence of things without remembering the exact details. This is something that I’ve stressed in every memoir writing class I’ve taught and in every memoir I’ve edited (including mine). The devil may be in the details, but the what remember is how the event made us feel.

Whatever year it was, we were docked at the Trump Marina in Atlantic City. Oh, how appropriate that seems now! We’d run into bad weather on the stretch from the Delaware Bay to New York, and had made an unplanned stop. We usually didn’t stay at marinas, but there’s really no place good to anchor in Atlantic City, so Mr. Trump got our money.

It was the first time I’d seen the inside of a casino: the dramatic overstimulation of flashing lights, the withered men and women whose hands were stained from the quarters they continuously dropped in the slot machines.

I don’t remember the year. Does it matter?

I walked with my dad past the shiny yachts on the way to pay our bill for dockage. “I want to get my captain’s license,” I told him. It was the first time I’d really ever expressed my desire for a future in the marine industry. The uniformed captains and crew on all the yachts we saw on a daily basis seemed so healthy and happy and vivacious.

“You don’t want to do that. The only way women make it in the marine industry is to sleep their way to the top,” my dad said. My dad, boating magazine guru, leader of the starry-eyed cruisers who gathered to hear him speak at boat shows, saw no future for me in the industry. Unless I slept my way to the top.

You think of all the comebacks years later. All the things you should have said. You imagine different interpretations—maybe it was a warning about the rampant sexism in the industry. Maybe he intended for it to be a way of protecting me from what he believed would be a difficult future. But he said what he said and I may not remember all the details, but I remember.

A few years later, I was working on a beautiful 78’ wooden schooner for the summer, taking tourists out for day sails around Narragansett Bay. It was the perfect summer job. I could get sea time towards my captain’s license. I was outdoors and physically active. The money was great. I learned that my tips were better if I wore shorter shorts and really jumped and heaved when I was pulling the heavy gaff-rigged sails up. Jump, brace feet on the mast, heave. Jump, brace, heave. Could I tell you what shoes I was wearing or what the captain’s name was? No. But I remember the jump, brace, heave…and the overflowing tip jar.

A charming captain came into town aboard a large Oyster. He was British and oh, the accent! He wore crisp white shirts with the boat’s name embroidered on the breast. He paid attention to me. Once he had his crew drop him off aboard the schooner while we were fully under sail, chasing us down in the center-console inflatable so he could do a flying leap aboard the schooner and spend the afternoon with me. The grandiosity of it!

Did I want to sleep with him? Of course I did. Did I really understand what he wanted? Of course I didn’t.

I went to a party that night on his (or his owner’s) boat. There were blonde and wind-tousled sailors from New Zealand, South Africa, and all over the place. There was free-flowing wine and a dinner professionally prepared by the chef of another yacht nearby.

At some point in the night, I was given a shirt with the vessel’s name embroidered on the breast. I have a photo of this night—the shirt, the blonde British guy, the sunshiney faces of the young sailors. I was given the shirt, but only on the condition that I swap my own shirt out for it while sitting right there at the salon table. So I did. I was ballsy and brave and drunk on both the wine and the attention of the captain. If you look at the photo, see the booze on the table, and read my body language, I was certainly asking for it.

I don’t remember what happened after the photo was taken. I woke up naked in a small berth with the captain on top of me. Someone opened the door. I think someone took a photo. I will never know.

I still lived at home. Aboard. I took the dinghy home from the party and climbed into the cockpit of my parents’ boat. Disheveled, missing my bra, with the shirt on inside-out. And just like many other details, I don’t remember what was said when my parents greeted me at the companionway. But I remember the essence of it: blame and guilt.

A few days later, I mustered up the guts to dinghy up to the captain’s boat to ask for my bra. He promptly handed it to me across the lifelines, saying, “I don’t know what you think, but I don’t have time for a relationship.” Not only had he assaulted me, he then turned it around to make me seem like I wanted something more.

I saw him a few years later when I was working in a nautical book and chart store in Ft. Lauderdale. Anger boiled in my belly and rose up to my face, which I’m sure was red when I said, “Hello, how are you?” like nothing had happened and he replied politely like nothing had happened.

Like Dr. Ford, I don’t remember the details. I couldn’t tell you even what month it was. But that doesn’t make it any less meaningful. I was drunk. I changed shirts in the middle of the salon. Maybe I was even subconsciously trying to “sleep my way to the top.” But that doesn’t make what happened right.

I truly believe that this happens in the marine industry much more often than it does in other industries. A friend told me about someone who was sexually assaulted by the owner of a boat she was crewing aboard. Halfway across the Atlantic Ocean. Where was she to go?

Think about it. This industry is still primarily dominated by men. There are lots and lots of good men, and there are lots and lots of women who lie, and lots of good women and lots of men who lie. But in an industry where female crew are still commonly referred to as “stewardesses” and are often quite literally stuck at sea with their male counterparts, it’s no surprise that #metoo at sea is a Pandora’s Box that’s about to explode all over the place. We need women to come out with their stories.

My dad may have been aware of the increased risk of assault when he warned me that women in the marine industry often “slept their way to the top.” It may have been his way of warning me not to “put myself” in a position where assault was more likely. But it was, in every aspect, the wrong way to communicate, since it took all responsibility away from the men (quid pro quo, anyone?) and laid all of the responsibility on women.

I’m angry. I’m angry a lot of things. I’m angry that this happened to me and angry that the same thing, and worse, has happened to so many of my sailing sisters. I’m angry that I’ve allowed other people to mess with my psyche for so long. I’m angry that I’m almost 40 and I’m still hurt almost every day by this experience.

I also have mad respect for many of the men and women I know in the marine industry. Men who would never rape, and women who achieved their stations through integrity and hard work. The majority of people fall into these categories. The majority of people are good.

Women don’t come out with their stories because we have spent our lives wondering what people will think of us. Will we be called sluts? Will we be told that we brought it on ourselves? It’s no wonder that these stories stay buried within us. We are raised to believe that our value is based on what other people think of us. This is the single most harmful belief that women (and men) have. It goes far beyond sexual assault. It finds its way into all of our choices—whether we go to college, what we go to college for, whether we overextend ourselves financially by buying the house, whether we are good or bad parents, whether or not we have chosen appropriate partners. We care too much about what other people think, and we often make decisions that are extremely destructive to ourselves by going along with what we think other people want. Like not telling our stories and letting them grow so big inside of us that they take over who we are. We become angry. We become victims. We lash out.

Please tell your stories. They are vehicles for change. Tell us what happened, how it shaped you, and how you overcame it. Tell potential predators that they are no longer safe. Please join us in the #MarineIndustryMeToo movement.

By Melanie Neale

I Believe Her

lake champlain sailing
Chauvinist sailors take warning. The sailing community is not immune to the #metoo movement.

I was working restoring a 40-foot-sailboat in a boatyard on Lake Champlain. Despite the fact that the owner repeatedly made sexual remarks to me, paid my male friend three dollars an hour more than me for the exact same quality of work, and embarrassed me in front of boatyard customers and workers by aggressively yelling at me when I made a mistake, it was still a pretty good job. Most of the time I was alone on the boat. And even when he was there I usually had my own tasks to work on. I opened and closed the boat each day. I took care of the owner’s constantly sinking dinghy. In exchange I was paid what I thought was a fair wage, and he paid for lunch. I loved working on the boat, and the boatyard I was at. Everyone knew me and respected me for the work I was doing on his boat, as well as living aboard and working on my own boat to eventually head south.

But the job was temporary. I had to sail on and when I decided to do so I was met with serious backlash. The owner sent me abusive text, after text, after text after text. He said I wasn’t a sailor. He said I wasn’t a hard worker. He said I would never amount to anything. He wouldn’t stop, so I had to block him.

A few weeks later, working a new job in a new harbor I got a call from a woman I had met while working on that boat. She was a distant cousin of the owner’s wife, and a nanny to his two young children. She loved boats, had met Bob Dylan, and in general seemed like an interesting, wandering soul.

“I’m just wondering—did he ever sexually assault you, or touch you inappropriately?” She asked me, her voice shaking.

“No,” I said, alarmed. “He made sexist remarks, but that’s it. Why?”

“Because he raped me.”

She then recounted every painful detail of the event where he, in a drunken rage, assaulted her. I begged her to go to the police. To get legal advice. To make a statement. I told her once she did that I would cooperate in anyway I could. I would hand over the text messages. I would make a sworn statement about his anger and uncomfortable comments. I was with her. I believed her. But, I was scared.

This man knew everything about me and how to find me. I wasn’t willing to do anything to help her without some kind of protection from the law.

She didn’t go to the police, and eventually she stopped asking me for help.

I returned to the boatyard the next year, living on my second boat. I kept an eye out for him, and dreaded running into him. I had pepper spray at the ready, nearly always, just in case. When we did finally see each other he waved enthusiastically as I got into my car. I sat in the driver seat for a moment collecting my thoughts, my heart racing, and decided to confront him.

“Hello,” I said in monotone looking him in the eye.

“Hello!” he said enthusiastically, his grin as wide as the cheshire cat’s “I heard you bought another boat. You really are hopeless!”

“Yeah yeah, ha ha,” I said. “Look I got some interesting news last year from _____, saying you sexually assaulted her. I’m not saying it’s true or not, but I just want you to know if you ever try anything like that with me I will take you down so hard and fast. I know everyone in this yard and they all have my back. The yard manager is right there, and I’m not afraid to get him or anyone else involved.”

The truth is, I was afraid. This was a rich guy at the boatyard and I was just a riffraff sailor chick. I was in survival defense mode. I had to act tough and confront him and make it known that I would not be a victim. He denied it, of course. At first he seemed very nervous, but as his story went on he relaxed. Brushing some paint thinner onto a Sun Fish he had just acquired he smugly shrugged and said, “We don’t know what to do with her, she does this all the time.”

I did wind up telling some people who worked at the boatyard about the incident. I wanted it to be “on the record.” For the victim’s sake, and for mine. But still, I wish I could go back.

I wish I could have gotten her to come forward to the authorities.

I wish I could have given her a written statement to go forward with so she felt like she had some back up.

I wish I had looked him straight in the face and said, “I believe her.”

Your Bowsprit In My Cockpit

I wrote this song after a night anchored up with my friend Aaron and his Baba 30 on Lake Champlain. We had spent two summers as boatyard buddies. His family quickly became surrogates to my own and I stayed with his parents often and did work for them while I was still on Lake Champlain, preparing my boat for the long journey south.

The wind was ripping that day. He had just launched after years on the hard. He and his partner, Sarah, were sailing to Novia Scotia soon and I was going in the opposite direction. I had sailed over to meet him for one final hurrah under double reefed main only. He had moved from his mooring to a more protected spot closer to land which was tranquil as could be.

We drank beers, talked about our future travels and past adventures, worked on our respective projects, tied a rope between the two boats so we could pull ourselves across by dinghy, and of course argued a little like any sister and brother from another mother would.

The following morning after our rendezvous, a small squall came through. Not long after it was dead calm, and I heard a gentle thud. I hopped up out of my bunk and into the cockpit.

“HEY” I called to Aaron. “Your bowsprit is in my cockpit!”

He came on deck bleary eyed and wondered aloud, “Oh, shit. How did that happen?”

I climbed aboard over the bowsprit and we set to re-anchoring his boat and theorizing as to why it happened. Had he not set his anchor after we took the boat to get provisions? Did he drag?

It turns out we both had pretty long anchor rodes out, and without the wind pushing us in a single direction we clonked into each other. The beauty of it is that we both have strong boats that easily survived the collision no worse for wear, and I came up with this marvelous song.

Boat People : Capt. Mac & Crew

C&C 35, cruising the ICW, anchoring in Atlantic City
Meet Capt. Mac & his crew of sisters!

I met Mac in Atlantic City while poaching the dock at the historic Gardiner’s Basin. I was walking to the dock when I heard someone call, “HEY, are you on a boat?”

“Maybe,” I said. I had recently decided to only tell other boat people that I was on a boat just to, you know, be safe.

He shook his head and laughed. “Maybe?” he asked. “I’m on a sailboat, too. Right out there.”

He pointed to his boat which was anchored right out of the inlet entrance channel. The currents there were insane and twice a day you’d find your boat opposing the anchor.

“Damn!” I said. “Did you ride the gale out there?”


“How was it?”


“You got to go into the secret anchorage!” I told him. “Turn into the small channel right off of Rum Point.”

“My draft is five and a half.” He said. “Can I fit?”

“Absolutely! There are some big boats moored in there and my depths never read below six. The dock here is free, too! It’s after season and the harbormaster is nowhere to be found!”


sailing the new jersey coast, sailing the ICW, ICW cruising guide anchorages, atlantic city ICW
Suka, a C&C 35, moored at the historic Gardiner’s Basin in Atlantic City, New Jersey. A good stop over for folks transiting the Jersey coast!

Mac was on a C&C 35 named Suka, which in sanskrit means ‘place of beauty.’ His mother named the boat. He bought the boat from his parents. While he got a good deal, it was still priced at fair market value. He had saved enough money for the boat and his intended voyage by working in Antarctica. His crew consisted of his two younger sisters, Skylar and Rourke. The funny thing about these sailors is that when they were children, they did the exact same trip on the exact same boat, with their parents at the helm. The sailed from Toronto to the Bahamas as a young family. However at the time Mac was living out the years of teenage angst, and wound up hopping off the boat halfway down the coast. This would be his redemption sail!

I caught up on and off with Suka all the way from Atlantic City to Annapolis. They were the first of many sailors I would meet who were actually close to my age. The majority of folks out there cruising East Coast waters belong to the 50 plus age category. The Suka crew made it to the Bahamas by Christmas 2017 where their parents met them to spend the holiday together on the boat, just like old times.

Not only was Mac there on the boat this time around with his family, but he was the captain!

atlantic city ICW, anchoring in atlantic city, free dock atlantic city
Mac may no longer be a moody teenager but from the looks of this photo…

Rebedding the Portlights

Like the look of those classic Alberg windows? Turns out they’re a pain in the ass to work with!

I’m not the biggest fan of the signature Alberg windows. They seem too large to be fit for sea. If I were preparing Vanupied, my Pearson Ariel 26, to cross an ocean I would definitely glass in those gigantic holes and put in smaller, opening port lights. I’m not preparing my boat to cross an ocean, but I am essentially preparing her for the sea and island hopping, so my windows needed some work.

rebedding portlights, rebedding windows pearson ariel, alberg design windows

I first discussed my window problem with my friend Russell who I met while on a delivery of an Endeavour 43. Russell and his wife have sailed the world on their Kelly Peterson 44, “Blue Highway.” I was telling Russell about some cracks in the aluminum window frame. The conversation went something like this:

“How structural is it?”

“Pretty structural.”

“Can I just put some epoxy onto the cracks?”

“I wouldn’t. You should really get it welded.”

“I don’t have any money to pay a welder!”

I put “properly fix windows” on the list. Plus, they were leaking pretty badly and it was time for rebedding. I met Oliver by chance at a party at the yacht club. He’s a welder, a sailor, and my exact age. He recently sold his small sailboat that he lived on and sailed extensively! Even if no one else wanted to go out, Oliver was down whatever the weather. Living on land now he recently quit working for the man and went for it with his own business. Because he does excellent work for majorly nice yachts to earn the majority of his income, Oliver was more than willing to help a sailor out for a very reasonable price!

But first I had to remove them. The frames were held together by bolts using the tap and die method. I didn’t have a big enough screw driver for the bolts, so I set out in search of one in the boatyard. Skip, a friend of a friend, came through. Later he came to check on how the job was going.

“They’re seized,” I said. “Got an impact driver?”

He did, in fact have an impact driver, but many of the bolt’s heads were stripped or quickly became so. The impact driver required someone to use the entire force of their body to get a single bolt to even budge! Even Skip who is six feet tall, 250 pounds, and has 40 years of experience with fixing things was having a hell of a time! It took a long time, and a lot of Skip’s sweat but we finally got the windows removed. One frame broke into three pieces! I was definitely glad to be getting these fixed up. Off to the welder it went.

What fun!

Because the aluminum was soft to begin with, and fifty years old, it turned out to be a hell of a job welding the windows as well. It’s a good thing Oliver loves a welding challenge. Meanwhile, I covered up the holes for the windows with heavy duty plastic wrap and duct tape. This turned out to be a pretty terrible idea because as soon as the sun hit the duct tape it basically became permanent. It took hours spanning two days with a sander and paint thinner on the deck in the hot Florida sun to get that off!

A job weld done! Thanks, Oliver!

Once I got the windows back, they continued to be a pain in the ass. Skip continued to help me with the reinstall. When removing the frames we had broken a few bolts that were now stuck inside the holes, so we decided to drill new holes and tap new threads for those bolts. But threading the old aluminum was basically impossible. We broke all of our taps. Then we decided to through bolt the frames, and wondered why we hadn’t thought of this all along! We continued to break things like bits, nuts, and bolts. There were three trips to the hardware store in one day.

We finally got the windows back in! Not only are they leak free now, but they are much stronger thanks to the welds and the through bolts. Windows are all through bolted these days on boats. Sometimes the modern way can be better and stronger!

If you are traveling on the ICW and need some welding done in and around northern Florida, contact Oliver Heckscher at Weld Done- Mobile Metalworks & Fabrication. Huge thanks to Skip & Oliver for makin’ it happen! 

“It’s All Rotted” : A Boatyard Vlog

Interested in what a day on the hard looks like? Watch my first ever boatyard Vlog! Complete with self deprecating humor, a field trip to the boatyard of broken dreams, a typo, and a joy ride in my neighbor’s jalopy!

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My Friend Steve

I’ve often muse about how lucky I am to be surrounded by such a strong community of sailors. I feel like we are fibrous. Strong as the fibers that hold our boats together. No matter how far, there is always a handful of sailors I can count on who will go out of their way to help me. Whether it’s building a dinghy, sending me a diagram at midnight, talking about all the weaknesses of my boat and brain storming the best fixes, showing up to my boat with food, giving me a place to live while the boat is a construction zone, or just letting me take a load off in their cabin or cockpit when I’m sun scorched and tired of sanding. I’ve been trying to get a job at the used marine shop for months. I’m even willing to work for store credit because all I need money for right now is to outfit my boat. Well, I finally got the job after a series of people in the community put in the good word.

One of the more interesting characters I’m lucky enough to call one of my sailing buddies is my friend Captain Steve. I met Steve two years ago on Lake Champlain. I was heading out of the harbor on a friend’s trimaran to compete in a race that almost killed us. Steve was on a very strange looking boat that resembled a wooden clog, and exchanged pleasantries with my boat mates as we headed to the starting line.

It turned out Steve built the interesting looking boat on a nominal budget. It’s name was Sled. I was intrigued. Working as a journalist at the time I set out to do a story on the unique boat and it’s captain. Steve built Sled as a sort of homage to climate change. She was designed to be sailed or motored efficiently, and she was flat bottomed so she could be pulled up onto the beach or even ice, Steve said. He wanted to create a versatile boat for any marine environment, and make a statement that boats of the future need to be able to handle rapidly changing environmental conditions. Having sailed around the world, Steve was no stranger to fierce weather patterns and was firm in his belief that the oceans of today are not like the ocean’s of yesteryear that he sailed across.

Steve has built several boats in his life. When he started life with his young family in Hawaii in the seventies, he got a Navy ship lifeboat at auction. He fitted it out with a cabin top, mast and sails. Later he built a catamaran out of plywood, much in the spirit of the Hokulea, the famous Polynesian voyaging canoe that sails the world spreading the Aloha message. He would eventually go on to circumnavigate the globe with his growing family on the catamaran, Melekai. Steve never intended to sail around the world, he just intended to go sailing.

The best part about Steve is he believes in me and my voyages. One time he told me that he doesn’t know much about wannabe blue water sailors but instinct tells him I’ll make it. We share the same birthday. When I travelled to Costa Rica a little over a year ago I met one of his sons at random. I was on a bus talking about boats and Lake Champlain when a young man said, “My dad has a boat he built up there.”

When Steve recently broke his computer and couldn’t email me his ideas to fix my mast he sent me a hand written letter outlining his repair ideas. I just received something else very special in the mail from my friend Steve today—a book of poetry written by his son Stevaki with a $50 check inside. Stevaki grew up sailing the world and was home schooled aboard Melekai. In 1988 he was accepted to Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts, where he died tragically two years later as a young man. A big thanks to my good sailor friend Steve, for reminding me that those who may have the least materialistically, often have the most to give.

Sailing With My Big Sister

I first met the crew of SV Belis, a Pearson Triton 28 completely outfitted for long distance voyaging, briefly at a marine consignment shop. Our immediate connection was our boats which are nearly identical, save for two feet. My boat, a Pearson Ariel, was designed in the spirit of the Pearson Triton.

The Pearson Triton was made famous by circumnavigator and writer James Baldwin. He sailed his Pearson Triton, Atom, around the world. Baldwin is basically a legend in the sailing world and has inspired many a long journeys on simple production boats. I suppose some of those journeys are the reason I still kinda, sorta, believe in my boat’s ability to go beyond. I had written to James Baldwin while in Georgia where he lives and works restoring classic plastics. A meeting never materialized, but he had told his friends on a Pearson Triton to keep an eye out for me.

SV Belis, a Pearson Triton 28, ready to set off and sail the world in the spirit of Atom, James Baldwin’s famous Pearson Triton that went around the world.

The main differences between my boat and her sister ship were in the boat’s condition, and the boat’s crews. Belis had brand new rigging, chainplates, the right sail combinations, water catchment system, solar oven, composting head, a wind vane, lazy jacks, etc. My boat had a malfunctioning auto pilot, bulkheads that weren’t rotten everywhere  (just in some places), a fully functioning VHF, a good sail combo, engine, anchor, and not much else. The Triton was ready to leave land forever. I had to stick close to shore.

Representing the Triton class, and it looks like I need to tune my rig…

I had gleaned some of this information from my brief meeting with Chris at the chandlery but got to know him, his family, and their boat much better when I ran into them again in the keys! The Triton was a crew of four: Capt. Chris, Mama Annie, and their literally free range children Bella and Ishi. There’s nothing quite like meeting friends along the way and traveling together by sailboat. What’s even better is when they’re close to your age. The absolute best is when they basically have the same boat as you but it’s fitted out way better, and they give you sweet gear like a bow roller and oil lamp for when you start your own refit.

We cruised in tandem, dinghied in tandem, tied to a mangrove in tandem. I spent hours on their boat hove to one day just for fun. During the height of the winter there were northerly gales weekly. The keys offer little protection and terrible holding ground. The first layer of ground is just airy mud, then there’s coral. I dragged there and I never drag because a., I always put out adequate scope and b., I have a Rocna anchor. But the keys, Islamorada especially, was drag city. So we took to sailing up the bay daily so that during the day we could access the amenities on shore, but by the time the northerlies came back through we’d be protected by another key a few miles away.

I bonded with the Belis crew fast and was sad to see them go but knew they were on to bluer waters. I was proud of them, and so was James Baldwin. One night while sitting in the cockpit I heard Chris talking to James about the daily happenings. “Oh yeah,” he said. “We met up with Emily.”

The Lady of Lady’s Island

journey marine canvas
Turns out I’m not very good at geometry. Luckily the folks at Journey Marine Canvas in Lady’s Island, SC, are.

There’s a lot of things I lived without on my boat all in the name of adventure. I shit in bucket. I colored my cabin lights with a red sharpie marker for night passages. And for a while my sleeping situation was pretty rough as I slept on a stinky, sticky, vinyl cushion from 1968. Redoing my interior cushions, however, was never very far up on the to do list. I just threw a sheet over my quarter berth cushion, and then I threw a blanket over that as an added layer of protection. I wanted to make sure my skin never touched the sticky and decrepit cushion cover. What ensued, of course, was a lot of condensation and wet sheets that needed to be changed frequently. But whatever. I was out there and that’s all that mattered.

When I anchored in Factory Creek off of Lady’s Island, South Carolina, I didn’t expect to stay long. I had planned to anchor south of the bridge and make an early start the next day, but the bridge closed from four to six in the afternoon and there was an anchorage right to the north. Before dropping the hook I noticed the small Lady’s Island Marina with shore access. I waited until the sun set to row ashore and hoped to sneak up to their dinghy dock and tie up without having to pay. I was only running to shore for a quick jaunt.

Ladies Island Marina

It was hard to escape unnoticed, however. “Was that you on that little sailboat,” quickly turned into, “there’s some food here,” and “here are the shower codes,” and “if you need a slip for a couple of days to do any work to your boat…” That night I wound up on the boat owned by Susie & Adam, the folks who owned the canvas shop at the marina. Susie and I connected immediately. She reminded me of one of my aunts, she has a sailing daughter my age, and she owns a Bayfield 25. When she found out I was sleeping on an old vinyl cushion from 1968 she was appalled, but also determined to remedy the situation.

My canvas fairy godmother Susie and I loft a new quarter berth cushion in the Journey Marine Canvas shop on Ladies Island.

Susie made me the most amazing cushion out of only top notch marine canvas materials. I can’t say I made it, because trying to loft the cushion reminded me that I suck at geometry, but Susie and Adam were there to fix any of my errors and give me jobs throughout the process. In exchange I cleaned the shop windows, baby sat their puppy, and helped them install a bimini. Was it a fair trade? Probably not, but before I left Susie looked at me and said, “you didn’t have to do any of that and I still would have made it for you.”

ladies island marina,

What was meant to be a one night stop over turned into nearly a week dockside tinkering with the boat, playing music with the live aboards at the marina, and spending as much time with Susie as possible. She felt like family in a time when I was far from home.

The dock master at Lady’s Island Marina and the folks at Journey Marine Canvas are notorious for helping young, broke sailors continue on their way. So, if you can afford to stay at docks and pay dinghy dock fees make sure you stay at Lady’s Island Marina on your trip down the ICW. It’s located in Factory Creek, just before the Beufort Ladies Island Bridge.

The community at Lady’s Island Marina in South Carolina sits conveniently on Factory Creek off the Beufort River—an anchorage where one might be lucky enough to ‘get stuck’ because they missed the last bridge opening before rush hour and the next one isn’t until 6 p.m. One might also get stuck coming into the creek quite literally, unless you have a draft like mine and it’s high tide—then you’ll just be able to limp out of the fluffy top layer of mud. Either way, mind green buoy number one (where many boats go aground) which is hard to spot but lies just before the Lady’s Island Beaufort bridge.  

Mystery for Sale

Finding the right cruising boat can be a bit of a mystery. Do you spend more money upfront for a boat that has been outfitted by a previous owner, or do you buy a complete fixer upper and start from scratch? How about design, interior accommodations, and how this will relate to the boat’s sailing characteristics? What about the keel? Fin keel, full keel, bolt on, or encapsulated? Well, it all depends on your intended purpose for your boat. A wise sailor once said it’s about the captain, not the boat. People have gone to sea in 12-foot bathtubs. I’ve heard several tales of notoriously non-bluewater boats sailing across oceans. Like the Ericson 27 modified to have an inner forestay, or the Cal 20 that competed in the TransPac.

Irwin 34 for sale, irwin 34 citation, irwin 34 for sale

Mystery is a 1984 Irwin 34 Citation. Currently located in Mexico this boat just got a fresh new paint job! But that’s not all that’s new and upgraded. While not exactly what I would deem a “classic plastic,” she’s been smartly outfitted and has proven her salt offshore by her owner, a personal friend of mine.

mystery iriwn 34 citation for sale
Mystery: An Irwin 34 Citation for sale. Smartly outfitted for living aboard and cruising the East Coast.

Michael purchased Mystery a few years back and began outfitting the boat for sailing away from home. He cast off the lines and in several passages well out of sight of land for days at a time, as well as some time spent intracoastal, sailed to Cuba and eventually Mexico single handed. He currently spends his days dockside in lovely Isla Mujeres while hurricane season carries on with itself, and plans to sail the boat back home to start a business and start the search for the next boat and adventure. However, if Mystery can be sold in Mexico the asking price of $22,000 will be significantly lowered. So, make an offer. She’s got basically everything but a wind vane, and This boat is, literally, ready to go.

sailing irwin offshore, irwin 34 for sale, irwin citation offshore
Mystery, an Irwin 34 Citation for sale, checking into Cuba.

A little about the Mystery:

“Even though she is for sale I have continued the tradition of putting the best of everything into her.”
 – Michael Allby, S/V Mystery

*Brand new 2018 Custom Sobstad 135 Jib sail, with battens, luff tape, radial clew. $2,000+. Roller Furling Furlex 200s.

*Main Sail, excellent condition, 3 reef points installed by sailmaker in 2017 for quick and easy Single Line reefing, for single handing. He also beefed up and redid the stitching throughout. Lazy Jack’s.

*Brand New 2017 Gale Sail storm sail $1,000

*Anchors– New 35lb Mantus anchor, oversized, technically a storm anchor. 30′ 3/8 Chain and 250′ newer 3/4 rode 2017.
New Fortress 37- the real storm anchor. 20′ 3/8 chain, 200′ brand new 3/4 rode 2018.
Fortress 17 stern Anchor, chain and 200′ 5/8 New England rode. -10Lb Mushroom and 5lb Grapple for Dinghy/Tender.

*2017 Fresh Water tanks refinished, 80 Gallons drinking water, new tops and epoxied the interiors with water potable epoxy. Entirely new water lines, hot and cold, run throughout. 2017 $600

*At the Helm: Radar, AIS, autopilot, chart plotters, VHF with external hand mic at wheel, wind speed/ direction with display, speed, tach and fuel gauges, new depth transducer and display, push button electric horn for signaling, push button spot-light installed on bow, large binnacle compass. Clean and simple installation.

irwin 34 citation for sale,

The list goes on! A totally comfortable live aboard, east coast cruising sailboat. Full listing here. If you’re interested in Mystery email and I’ll connect you with her owner!

irwin 34 for sale, irwin citation for sale
Capt. Michael at the helm of his Irwin 34, offshore & single handed.

If you’d like to list your classic plastic email me at Listing is free, a donation is welcome if sold through the site! 

Boat People: Meet Capt. Allison

Capt. Allison taking command of her vessel for the first time.

I met Capt. Allison when she took command of her recently purchased vessel, an Endevour 43. This sailboat is actually quite massive with a wide beam and very high freeboard. Ketch rigged, built stiff with big winches for big sails, encapsulated ballast,  and an amazing layout down below. If a bit sloppy to steer down wind, all in all this vessel was an excellent choice for this captain with a story unlike all the rest!

cruising with kids, living aboard with kids

Capt. Allison is a 32-year-old single mom of two! Talk about a nearly unrepresented group in the sailing world, single mom sailors! She has her 100T Captain’s license, teaches sailing, and is becoming quite handy on the sail rite machine. She used to be the Captain of a personal motor yacht, a “big ‘ole burger” as she referred to it, on the waterways of Tennessee. She is a personal friend and was a captain for the charter business in the Caribbean run by one of the original sailing bloggers, Brittany of Windtraveler. This saucy captain also worked for Play Boy at one point doing promotion, and has attended many parties at the Play Boy mansion. But that was before sailing life and ultimately mom life took hold!

young cruisers of america
Offshore of West Palm Beach. FL

I met Capt. Allison when she took ownership of her vessel in June and hired me as delivery crew to help get the boat from where she bought it on the St. John’s river to her home port on the gulf coast of Florida, where she and her kids would begin life aboard. Her 3-year-old son was home with grandma, but her one-year-old came along for the voyage.

Provisioning in Vero Beach

Our trip down the coast was eventful of course. We dealt with fouled halyards, uncomfortable seas, wind over tide inlet conditions, an unreliable dinghy/dinghy engine, a leaking water tank, a faulty alternator, an early season tropical storm, and more. One of the things I love about this sailor is she totally gets it. Even though she had just bought this boat for upwards of fifty grand, she didn’t complain about the boat work and repairs. Of course, there is always a level of frustration when things go wrong, but there are so many people going out there actively looking for boats for sale who expect the boat to be perfect, and don’t get it at all. There is going to be boat work on even the most expensive, biggest sailboats! Sometimes more work because they are more complicated vessels with more to break like refrigeration, water pressure pumps, electric windlasses…

The motley crew for a delivery south of an Endeavour 43. The engine of the dinghy wasn’t working, and then we broke an oar!

I had to hop off the boat in Miami due to time constraints. Our passages had taken longer than we anticipated due to weather, and another crew took my place as they continued on towards the Florida Keys and through the Gulf. Capt. Allison lives aboard with her two kids who are adjusting well to boat life. She plans to set sail back to the Caribbean in the coming years when her boat babies get a little bit older. For a look into the floating life of Capt. Allison you can request her on Instagram @mermaid_crossing

May 20 ::: Outbound
Left St. Johns river at 0900. I nearly got left behind at the dock untying the lines! I had to climb over the bow platform. Damn though, this girl can drive a boat. The river was beautiful, grey and new. We had some annoyed bridge tenders but that’s expected. We are waiting a few days before going offshore as we get to know the boat better. All is well floating along…

That’s Alotta Water

This weekend marks the one year anniversary of when I left Lake Champlain onboard my little boat. I’d have cut the proverbial mooring lines, but I sold my bridle to a friend to pay my debt to the marina.

sailing lake champlain to ICW, lake champlain cruising
The last days on Lake Champlain.

I left with $1,000 in my pocket headed south on an old, neglected boat that I was slowly improving. I learned about sailing and fixing boats along the way.  Not much has changed on the financial side, but at least I am seeing improvements to my vessel and sailing skills! I’m even going to be giving a sailing lesson soon! Each day I get to know my boat better which has ultimately revealed more weaknesses. My ideas that included Puerto Rico, Panama, and other Caribbean destinations for this boat have been replaced by a more realistic voyage to explore the Bahamian islands solely. Cuba would also be possible. I’m exactly where I thought I might be a year later, stuck somewhere in Florida working on the boat.

Deleware bay, sailing the deleware bay, anchoring in DE bay
Anchored in the DE Bay. Not recommended. Subscribe to to find out why!

I’ve traversed the Champlain Canal, Hudson River, New Jersey coastline, Delaware Bay, Chesapeake Bay, and Atlantic Intra Costal Waterway from Norfolk, VA to the Florida Keys. One time while in Georgia I ran painfully hard aground outside of Jekyll Island. When I tried to kedge myself off, I put the anchor on the wrong side and wound up kedging myself further aground. I also managed  to get my anchor completely stuck. Luckily, some locals passing by on a John Boat broke the anchor free for me and returned it. When they asked where I’d been and I started naming some of the rivers, bays, and coast I’d sailed one of them looked at me wide eyed and said in a very southern accent, “that’s a lotta water.”

I thanked them, and was soon on my way after the small wake of a passing catamaran and a few more hours of rising tide floated me off the mud.

great migration south
Free wonderful, community dock on a Chesapeake bay tributary.

I want to take this time to thank everyone who has helped me along the way and who cares enough about this journey to donate their time, gear, and hard earned freedom chips. There are still so many stories left untold of people who have not only helped me fix my boat or get me further along my way, but helped restore my faith in humanity.

And to all the people I should thank again for teaching me something important about sailing and helping me work on my boat: Lake Champlain- the good folks (not the bad ones) at Monty’s Bay Boatyard, Tanya & John Foley, John Hammond, Sallie & Jonathen, Tiny & Roel, Jake, Dale, Aaron & Sarah, Bruce & Sue, Point Bay Marina for always looking the other way, Capt. Dan, Hudson- Josh on Albatross, Chesapeake- Rich Acuti, Bill & Chris, Ladies’ Island- Mary, Susie & Adam, NoFlo- Kourtney & Pete, Nubby, Skip, Ray & Ash, Melanie Sunshine, SoFlo- Johnny, Kim, Mike, random folks whom with I rode out a 50 knot squall on a John Boat, Keys- Kacie & Joel

Thanks to my fam for sending me supply items always! To my friends for their friendship. And to all the people I might have forgotten, or who I only met in passing who lent a hand, a tool, or an ear.

Thanks to all the readers of this blog for allowing me a platform to show others that you don’t need a lot of money, or a lot of boat, to go sailing!

Nuese river sailing, sailing the ICW, north carolina ICW
Over exposed on the Nuese River.

And a special thanks to all those who have donated and left kind words of encouragement. 

Consider a donation if you enjoy this blog and would like to see more stories and how-to’s on sailing, fixing, and living aboard boats on a shoe string budget!

Notes from donors

With that list the weather will be cooler when you splash! KEEP ON keeping on young lady! 

Hope that boot showed up..and a sailing partner if you want one..and fair winds always! 

 A little something to spend on yourself and your dreams! Hope you are Well and Happy.

 hope this gets you down the channel a bit further or helps to keep your blog “afloat”. Would love to see those “Dinghy Monologues” but it’d be so awesome to see a video of you reading them in a dark theatre under the spotlight! Loved what I’ve read so far. “Wind at your back!”

Hi Emily! Hope this helps some. I admire your journey.

Hey, Not much impresses me these days. You’re doing what we all want to do. Much fair wind at your back! Gypsy Eyes 🙂 

Nice to see someone living the dream. Keep up the good work.

Back in the 70’s I owned a wooden salmon troller and fished SE Alaska and the West Coast of Washington and Oregon.  It was a life of poverty but I was young, immortal.  I fished a marginal boat in very serious waters.  At the end of the season I might have enough saved to get the boat back to Port Townsend, pay for a month of dock space, and begin looking for odd jobs.  I’ve had so many.  Worked in the woods logging, worked tree planting while living in a tent in the winter rain, boat delivery, deck hand on a fish packer in the Aleutians.  I did what I had to do to eat and get the boat ready for the coming season.