Many exciting thing abound like the dark side of sailing culture, yacht broker wars, a new brand and website launch, and a portfolio update so anyone can catch up on my latest sailing articles from SAIL magazine and more.
The dynamic duo is back again. That’s right, I am repping for Melanie Neale at Sunshine Cruising Yachts from now until forever. Hit me up at email@example.com for your yacht broker needs. Coastal North Carolina & Long Island, NY are my current areas.
Massive portfolio update is here: YACHTING JOURNALIST articles from towndock, spin sheet, prop talk, SAIL mag
That ~WHOLESOME~ content you asked for! Jewish east coast sailor girl ties up at Christian university ! Making friends, rigging a mizzen mast, practicing tolerance of religion, and exploring this historically Black city ! More on my YouTube! Follow for more @dinghydreams
“ALL IS WELL” A FREE short film by Emily Greenberg features ‘All is Well,’ a poem by Henry Scott Collins.
Follow the Death of a Yogi—a Jewish grandfathers attempts Sanskrit + the growing legacy he left behind continues to flourish at his “celebration of life” in the Catskill Mountains of New York. Many thanks to all who made this possible.
In loving Memory of Rob Greenberg, 1933-2021.
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ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK! Preview! Full video coming soon! A preview of sailing vlog featuring a run-in with NYPD helicopters while sailing engineless through New York City in December. Stay tuned for the full video!
You’re ugly. You sleep around. Stop being a victim. These are just some of the messages and remarks I get on a near constant basis. And I wish I could say it was just from internet trolls. It’s not.
From the once generous benefactor who decided he was going to verbally abuse me when I didn’t live out his expectations of me fast enough, to the sailor girl I used to be friends with that’s been harassing and threatening me my entire way down the coast for networking and being friends with her ex boyfriend. This is a day in the life. Not a week goes by that I don’t hear some news from some one somewhere that people are talking shit about me.
When I’m successful, I’m a spoiled brat. When I’m struggling, I should “get a job.” I’m reminded of the last release from the late great Mac Miller, after he overdosed; “Bad news is all they want to hear, but they don’t like it when I’m down. When I’m flying it makes them so uncomfortable, what’s the difference?”
People mistake my art as a cry for help. They interpret my activism as an angry trope. My pension for safety at sea is seen as an excuse.
I’m told to keep politics out of sailing. I’m told to keep social justice out of sailing. I’m told to keep callouts out of sailing. I’m told I’m alienating myself from a bigger audience.
There was an anchorage and inlet recently that I couldn’t get out because it was blowing like crazy. Even with the tide I couldn’t motor against the wind, and the channel was too narrow to tack. Someone not far down the coast from me sent a picture of the weather map to show me that I was wrong, there was in fact no high winds in the area where I physically could not maneuver my boat.
Even NOAA likes to gas light me. The forecast said fifteen knots but then I got knocked down on the river, so…
Wealthier cruisers think I’m rude and bitter because I don’t want to have drinks with them and go on dinghy rides. Sailor guys think I’m a bitch when they offer to do something for me that I’ve already done myself. When I ask for help I’m a damsel in distress. The sheriffs boats come and harass me when I’m working out on the bow of my boat at anchor in a bikini.
I hate it here.
No, not all the people out here are trash. But enough.
I love my sailing buddies and mentors more than anything. It’s my greatest honor to rub shoulders and be friends with my heroes. I never want to be the smartest person in the room. Most of them just happen to be men, and they will never understand what I have had to overcome to get where I am, or what I still have to overcome to get to where they are. Just because I am a woman. I guess that’s why they help me as much as they can.
What’s the reason for all this? I often wonder. “Hater’s going to hate,” my sailor punk girlfriend says. “There is no bad press,” I’m reminded from my college best mates. “It’s because they are jealous and insecure themselves,” says my friend I met when we first left on our boats in 2017.
I mean, they’re right. But still it’s not always easy being this fucking great.
When I first met Sam Holmes I had no idea he was famous. We ended up following each other through Instagram due to our respective tag lines; his is “Sailing Oceans in Questionable Vessels,” mine is “Just Say No to the Marine Industrial Complex.” When we ended up in the same harbor I learned he crossed the pacific from California to Hawaii on a 23 foot boat, and was now sailing his Cape Dory 28 on the East Coast. He also had a YouTube channel with some videos clocking millions of views, and what I would later learn has a cult following.
Our encounter was brief but profound. I was impressed by his voyaging and he was impressed with my boat and work I’d done so far. Sam said I reminded him of the famous sailing anarchist Moxie Marlinspike. Even though I’m nothing like Moxie, who literally designed the encrypted messaging app Signal, I was honored and felt seen. He was going north and I was trying to tie up lose ends on the Chesapeake.
We vowed to meet again.
Sam and I quickly became long distance buddies. He helped me come up with the idea to try and recoup the fees slammed on my friend and I for painting my boats bottom with some messages. He offered me lots of advice and stories about ocean sailing. While I taught him about bronze chain plates and white privilege. With a good amount of shit talking on each other intermixed. He gave me his dinghy, which was an awesome skin on frame nesting dinghy that I tried to bring back to life, but Sam wasn’t kidding about questionable vessels.
I tried to rehab the dinghy but it was starting to seriously sink before I even left the dock. When some of my friends who followed Sam’s channel found out I’d met Sam I jokingly started to say “He gave me his dinghy, but we didn’t make out!”
Eventually, I told the joke to Sam. At which point we both entertained it for like one second before quickly realizing we are much better as just friends. And the rest is history…
Sam and I are literally on other ends of the spectrum. He’s hyper focused, I’m ADHD. He eats fast food and I eat vegan. He worked for Disney as an engineer, I’m an underpaid writer. I wonder sometimes about my close sailing mates, would we be friends on land?
I finally caught up with Sam again in North Carolina after a 20 hour sail south on the Pamlico Sound. I was greeted in the harbor by Sam on a skiff with a local teenager from a family he’d made friends with, also fans of his channel. He handed off homemade vegan tamales to me as I anchored under sail. Later we met up at the free private dock where he was tied up. It was like our own little island when we walked to the fancy marina where we had the shower codes down the forest lined street. I forced him to eat vegan food. We had a sleep over in separate settees aboard his cozy boat. And he helped me run mundane errands.
Sam was headed inland and I was headed south but we got to sail together aboard my boat on a blustery day. He filmed it for his YouTube channel. I tried to bail the morning of our sail, to which Sam said, “Don’t be lazy, Emily.”
And I replied, “Lazy is a term invented by capitalism and not in my vocabulary.”
It’s been a running joke about how I’ve never actually watched his channel, because we are friends in real life. So, I don’t really need to. I get the behind the scenes Sam Holmes Sailing pretty consistently. One of our favorite past times is where I read my latest essay aloud to Sam on the phone. Another common theme has been when I’m frenetically trying to get my shit together to get off the dock, or finish a project, or make a passage. I’ll ask Sam to hold me accountable. Then i’ll completely forget I asked him to do that and get mad at him when he does it. Like, why you hassling me bro?
During my most recent conversation with Sam I started coughing abruptly to which he responded casually, “you hitting the bong?” I was just choking on some coconut snacks but you catch my drift. He’d just finished shaming me for deciding not to go out a particular inlet because I couldn’t get against the currents and I was afraid of the wind over tide. But we can’t all be as brave as Sam Holmes. At least, not right away.
Where do you find the heart of sailing? Is it witnessing both a sunset and a sunrise at sea? Is it in a boatyard with no fresh water, skin itchy with fiberglass? Is it in stepping ashore after a long passage, and drinking sparkling water with a lemon you foraged next to an abandoned dock? Is it in being wet, cold, and slightly frightened?
Or Is it found somewhere else? Is it found in yacht clubs and private marinas? Is it found in a fully enclosed cockpits with electric winches? Or in that moment you cash in your stocks and buy a boat to sail off into the promised sunset, cocktail in hand?
In the harbor right now there are three boats, including myself, that are all “basically engineless.” Meaning we all have some kind of auxiliary propulsion that only really work under totally calm wind, wave, and current conditions. Whether it be an extremely underpowered 2.3 HP outboard, or an outboard with a shaft that isn’t long enough, or a dinghy hip tied. That means in any and almost all conditions we are sailing, unless it’s for some short stretches of the ICW.
Is it because we are broke? Young? Idealists? Perhaps a combination of all three.
I’ve been a vagabond since I was 22 and bought my first boat at 26. I’m 31 now. I haven’t paid rent, except for the odd slip at a marina here and there for a few months at a time, in ten years, and have held various jobs. I happened upon sailing by chance on a yacht delivery in New Zealand and sailed across a literal sea a thousand miles over ten days, and I’ve just been trying to get back to that ever since, on my own boat.
But I never felt stuck in life, in a career, or in the throngs of capitalism that so many people feel that leads them to quitting their jobs and searching for boats. I’ve felt stuck with no money and very unseaworthy boats, but I didn’t do what most of my generation did; which is basically get real jobs. And now that they’re in their thirties and sick of the grind they’re like, let’s get a boat.
And they go buy some plastic boat from the eighties with a comfortable interior and no inherent seaworthiness in its design, but it’s safe enough. They focus on having a good engine, and then motor across the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas. They follow the “Thornless Path” and motor sail in the calms that can be found in between the prevailing opposing winds. Until they eventually reach the Caribbean and it’s all downwind from there. They have enough money, and enough confidence, even never having never sailed before, that they make it just fine.
Lots of people do this, especially with the advent of YouTube. People are like, “Yo, I can live on a boat and make a YouTube channel to pay for it?!”
But I can tell you this is not where you will find the heart of sailing. That is something you really have to look for. This is where you will find a departure from it. I’ve been trying to find it for years by now of living aboard and messing around with boats, and I still know nothing. “Remember you know nothing,” an old schooner captain told me. That’s what makes you a good sailor, he said. A good captain.
Famous sailor Nancy Griffith said, “know the limitations of your crew and your boat.” Crew, for the most part, has usually been only me. And I’ve scrutinized both myself and my boats heavily when weighing certain passages. I worked at marinas as a way into even learning about boats. My first boat I stuck to lake Champlain, my second I took down the Hudson River and to the Florida keys, only spending a little time offshore. The boat simply wasn’t prepared for passage making. Most of the offshore sailing I’d done before my current boat, was on boat deliveries. So I hold myself to that standard of seaworthiness, of what I’ve seen on the sea.
I spend more time fixing my shit to be at sea then I do actually at sea. I have to fix boats so often because I don’t have money, so I’m pretty DIY. The trouble is I really don’t trust my work. I rely on people with much more skill than I have to tell me if I’ve done something right. For me, the goal is to make my boat as safe and comfortable as possible on the sea. It’s been and continue to be arduous, refitting old boats to be sustainable in such an inhospitable environment, with little money and no formal training.
Sometimes I envy the other kinds of travelers. The backpackers. The ones who hoof it, bus it, ride planes and hop trains. But that’s not for me. Devoted to the sea. And if I can’t be there, damn it, I’ll be on land just trying to get there… because nothing else matters.
The first time I ever went to a sauna was in the mountains above the Napa Valley in California. With pools fed by higher elevation hot springs there was a steam room, and sauna. This broke the image in my mind of a sauna full of old white men at the New York sports club. This sauna was filled with yoga teachers, anarchists, hippies, black, indigenous, folks and people of all color and gender.
The next was on an island in an archipelago in the Salish Sea, camping alone I found connection with the people singing chants as we sweat out our demons in unison.
Then, in Vermont, a fire fed sauna with the people who took me in like an orphan when I bought my first boat on Lake Champlain.
Two years ago, my grandfather fulfilled a life long dream of his to have a sauna, and bought a tiny one-person sweatbox and put it in his laundry room. My best friend and I were there on the day before the New Year. Staying in far past the recommended time with my grandma worried sick we’d pass out, we attempted to sweat out all the unrequited love and acts of betrayal we’d endured. It didn’t work. We still went back to our lovers for a while, but it was about the ceremony.
While sailing in British Columbia with a drunk, abusive captain we dropped the hook on a remote island and were promptly invited by some locals to come for a sauna. I was beyond excited, but the captain wouldn’t let me go—and at the age of 25 I was naïve and afraid enough to listen.
Since then, it has been a dream of mine to sail to a sauna.
I got the invite this fall to tie up my boat to the dock of a rich democrat with a house that looks like a museum. As I tied up my boat and he walked down to meet me I said excitedly, “I heard this was the socialist dock!”
As he gave me a tour of the property that I basically had completely to myself, I spotted a sauna. My eyes widened.
‘Sail it ‘til it sinks.” Said Tom the brewer with the beautiful wooden boat from 1937. I’m more like sail it to the islands and abandon or sell it for really cheap somewhere else. He shrugs his shoulders and takes a sip of his beer before he walks away. He thinks I need to touch up the paint on the hull, but to make sure it matches otherwise I’m going to have to re paint the whole thing. That I need to scrub my teak with a green scrub pad. And he’s going to bring over some rust off spray to get the stains off my deck. He thinks it’s more important I clean my teak then fix the leaks.
“If it’s leaking on your head just move over,” he said.
I’m half rolling my eyes half listening intently. I plan to take his advice. On a boat, some day, but probably not this one. I was going to do a little cosmetic stuff anyway, I’m literally patching this thing together. This boat. I don’t know really what else to do at this point. I don’t want this to turn into a two year project with brand new awl grip paint on deck and topsides. Bright varnish. Perfectly pressed on tell tales. That’s not what this boat is. At least, not right now.
I like Tom. I figured he thought I was a degenerate making myself look bad with my sloppy finish work. But it was quite the opposite. “I’ve got something for you,” he said one day and handed me two picture books; one on the stars and the other on marlinspike craftsmanship (subtle, Tom).
“Wow, I’m honored,” I said. “I always thought you were ashamed of me.”
“Ashamed of you?” He said laughing in disbelief. “I admire you!”
Sometimes everything is such a chore. I feel like a pirate amongst the royal fleet. But then, I’m sitting on the dog house fiberglassing some free scrap plywood I got from the shop, drilling holes with borrowed drill bits, sitting under a makeshift sun shade, with the perfect afternoon sea breeze and the boats just tugging lightly at the pilings. And I’ve got the same view as the million dollar yachts.
On Labor Day weekend 2020 I hauled my boat for three days and three days only to paint the bottom, remove the old prop shaft and fiberglass the hole, and make a small repair to the rudder that will prevent me from losing the rudder in the event of fastener failure.
It was a community event. The only reason it managed to happen at all was because I was getting a deal on the fees due to the long weekend and no yachts scheduled for the space.
Sailors and friends came and went. The boatyard manager (and part owner of the yard and marina) offered advice and answered questions. The shipwright (also co-owner) even helped to remove the shaft. The shipwright, my friend and fellow she-pirate, and I all pushed the prop at the same time to finally break it. Then our ‘helper’ grabbed the sawzall and cut into my boat!
“Ack!” I shrieked. “I didn’t consent! You cant charge me for that!”
He laughed and assured me he wasn’t going to. Offered some words of encouragement to keep chasing the dream at sea. Everyone was in high spirits and it was a true collectivist effort. That night I even got a stick-n-poke tattoo onboard my boat, in the yard, commemorating the experience.
But there was a third owner of the marina and boatyard, who didn’t like the cheerful and chummy nature between me and his partners.
By day three I’d salvaged three partial cans of bottom paint all different colors and set to work anti fouling. It was then I was struck by my brilliant idea to add some peaceful, anarcho, collectivist, anti-racist messages to the bottom.
Solidarity, Comrades; Love is free; the acronym for Black Lives Matter; Resist; The Climate Crisis is Real; No Justice No Peace; and even the infamous line from the back of the Dr. Bronner’s soap bottle All for One, One for All; graced my keel.
I launched the next day, and was informed that the partner with the most share in the business was not going to honor the deal because the messages I had displayed. If I chose not to pay, the partner who did me the favor would be held responsible. So I did the right thing to not hurt someone who had tried to help me.
My friend and fellow-she pirate who helped me with my boat, who is also the sole care taker of a salty old boat and four children after her husband passed away during their years cruising together on a traditional gaff-rigged 29 footer, was also penalized and her deal for boat storage was also no longer going to be acknowledged.
I’m asking for donations to recoup the funds from the deal that was not honored. That amounts to $155. Anything extra will be given to my friend for her unanticipated fees upwards of $500. If we somehow raise all of that any remaining donations will be redistributed to mutual aid funds for folks affected by the wildfires on the west coast.
There’s a tropical storm bearing down and it’s about to clip my anchorage. I wasn’t going to write this on the internet anywhere so my parents wouldn’t worry. But they found out about it on their own accord. I’ve got two anchors out and am protected from the wind direction in this harbor. It’s not expected to blow any worse than a winter gale, but still, it’s a bit early for this nonsense. I’m further south than I’d ought to be this time of year, but I thought I only had to worry about the heat and thunderstorms the further we marched into summer. This time last year I’d just barely arrived on the Chesapeake Bay by now. Tropical Storms were the furthest thing from my mind. Sean was still three weeks out from sailing north around Hatteras. This is the time of year people sail to Bermuda and cross the Atlantic. It’s not supposed to be like this. It kind of snuck up on me without warning. Whether it was fast moving or I simply wasn’t paying attention.
This changes everything. I was planning to cruise the sounds on my way north stopping at different islands for anchorages. Taking about a week to meet up with the inland waterway and then follow that into the Chesapeake Bay. Now I’m not so sure. With the potential for tropical storms and hurricanes to become threats in a matter of a day or two notice, I’m wondering if I should seek the protection of inland waters sooner. I don’t have a large diesel engine that I can just crank on two days before a storm to guarantee miles. I’m at the mercy of the winds.
Speaking of diesel engines, I ripped the one out of this boat and sold it in a quest for simplicity and to pay for my refit efforts. I’ve sold enough gear off this boat now that I got her for $1000. And let me tell you, it’s starting to feel like a thousand dollar boat. I’ve had to redo damn near everything. Through hulls, coamings, standing rigging, chain plates, etc… etc.. I find it troubling that the only thing really of “value,” on the boat, was the diesel engine. That’s what people consider essential. It didn’t matter that the rigging was precarious and all the wood in the cockpit was rotted, or that the through hulls were a terrifying corroded mess of antiquated parts…it mattered that it had an engine you could just fire up and “go.” How far have we come from what is considered essential, and seaworthy? When did it become engine first, then rigging? How many people if you ask, what is the heart and soul of their boat, would say their inboard engine?
Sean has moved off the boat and onto his trimaran. So, I’ve effectively had this boat on my own now for one month. I bought the boat through love colored glasses and we both had dreams to fix it up together and cross the Atlantic. With him I really thought it was possible. But it turns out love isn’t always enough. I realized that I stopped wearing my harness and life jacket when Sean came aboard. I stopped caring about a lot of shit.
He’s the kind of person who can manage to fucking circumnavigate on a boat that was basically derelict when he got it. With the right amount of luck, a great deal of intelligence, and an amygdala that doesn’t register fear and risk in the same way as neurotypical people—he fixed it in mostly all the right places and transitted the fucking planet. Not only is this a feat most sailors and people will never achieve, but he did it probably in one of the most uncomfortable ways.
No bunk. No sink. No standing head room. He told me roaches used to eat his toes at night on passages. I thought he was kidding. I always used to think he was kidding. His boat was a mix between some mad scientists lab and Davy Jones’ Locker. He just laid down on a bunch of wires to go sleep before I met him. All the way across the seven seas–passing the time alone contributing source code to open CPN, a navigation program used by world cruisers, and designing and manufacturing his own auto pilots.
I should have known better than to disturb this delicate creature. Because here we are now. It’s funny how someone can go from your hero to your ex that you have petty arguments with across the harbor.
It turns out the “Go North” and the “Go Offshore” are two entirely different lists. The former I’m almost done with and the latter I plan to finish on the Chesapeake.
There’s nothing left for me here.
I’m still not sure how that story ends, so it’s a good thing the submissions deadline for my anthology project Heartwreck: Romantic Disasters at Sea, has been pushed back. More info on submission guidelines here. New deadline is TBA.
I first met my friend Jake in a boatyard on Lake Champlain while I was sitting on the rocks taking apart a trolling motor that I never would end up getting to work. He cracked open a micro brew and shouted from the ground up to another mate on their boat. Quickly after we were introduced he said to me, “You remind me of my ex wife, and that’s a compliment.”
That summer was spent as a tight knit group of sailors rendezvousing in anchorages, sailing each other’s boats, and collaboratively engineering the shit out of repairs. I can easily be brought back to that time we nearly knocked down Jake’s boat in a squall. Or ate sausages in the cockpit next to the cliffs of Kingsland Bay with his partner. Or the time he offered to help me rebed my leaking deck hardware but I abruptly called it off after we did only a few bolts because the whole task just seemed so daunting. He used to call me, “kid,” which I found annoying and would say, “dude you know we’re only like ten years apart, right?”
Jake had a Columbia 26 at the time, which he’d completely restored. He still exists in my phone as “Jake Columbia 26.” From her damaged hull to the rotten core under the mast, new roller furling sails, glassing in the old big port lights to put in smaller, more seaworthy ones. His eventual plan with the boat, other than sailing the shit out of it on Lake Champlain, was to trailer it across the country and launch it in Washington state to sail the inside passage to Alaska. But life happened, and he sold the boat. I didn’t understand it at the time, but Jake always liked to tell me, “The adventure is not your life. Your life is the adventure.”
Jake has always been there for me. Like a therapist, a mentor, an older brother from another mother, or a spirit guide. He’s helped to see me through many of sailing life’s challenges and been there to celebrate the victories as well. He is my emergency contact if there is ever a problem at sea. He literally always answers my messages and calls to the point where I’ve wondered what the hell he even does all day. He even responded once from Belize. He has helped, like any good friend therapist, to create a secure attachment that feels safe and unwavering that I’ve been able to translate that into many other relationships in my life. He has led by example on how to be a good person, a good partner, a good friend, a good ally.
Before giving up a life of dirt bag foolery for the stability of a regular job he was a lot like me. Which I guess is why, in a sense, I’m his hero.
But really, he’s mine.
One time we were sitting on my boat with our other friend, Dale. Jake had just gotten a ukulele and had begun playing it incessantly. With his eye twitching and voice about to crack, Dale turned to him and said, “PLEASE, Jake, for the love of god, would you stop playing that thing?!”
Jake laid down his weapon, hands up with a sly grin.
He’s come a long way from that annoying, repetitive strumming and has written a song so dark, so traditional, and so poignant in response to the global corona virus pandemic that I couldn’t help myself but to do my own rendition. A rendition that deeply offended my mother (sorry, mom), but did help to lift the spirits of my worried old friend.
You know shit is getting real when the person who has always been a rock to you is starting to get scared, and you’re the one reminding them that everything is going to be okay.
It has to be.
In other news: I said I wouldn’t worry about cosmetics but… Feel free to donate to my paint fund!
“It’s called a bulkhead, Dr. Steve. Bulkhead.Not a wall,” I say rolling my eyes.
We’re aboard the boat of Dr. Steve Cohen somewhere on a river in North Carolina. The boat’s high and dry. It blew aground in the last storm and has been there ever since. Without much of a tidal current, it could be a while until he gets it off. He’s a New York Jew, like me. He’s always feeding us vegan brownies and fermented foods. He’s a revered practitioner of natural medicine, with clients from near and far who come to him when nothing else is working.
But he knows absolutely nothing about boats.
He recruited my boyfriend and a young Mennonite who owns a lumber mill to help him build a sculling oar, because his engine is unreliable. He has to spray it with gasoline to start it. It’s a diesel engine. He says he can, “sail anywhere,” but we don’t believe him.
He’s had this same boat, anchored out in front of a private community, for ten years. He locks his dinghy on shore at the park and recently some community member slathered his entire dinghy (oars, seats, and sole) in grease. To what end I can only assume was send a message to get his boat out of their little development.
No such luck, though, since his boat is still hard aground a week later. And Steve isn’t the kind of guy to let a little grease on his dinghy or a hard grounding prevent him from becoming a sailor.
I (the Jew) am somehow roped into organizing setting up and splicing a permanent mooring for his boat, and Sean (the engineer in the story) works with the woodsman (the Mennonite) cutting and carving the oar. It all seems rather fruitless for a boat that is high and dry, but Dr. Steve (the other Jew) has the confidence, enthusiasm, and endless bowls of soup to convince us. He’s convinced himself, too, that Tow Boat U.S. will be able to pull him off once the water levels are up. After all, they know him by name. So we have to finish his new means of propulsion and his new mooring before then.
Steve has been instrumental in helping me get my health on track. He’s guided me in treating a myriad of health issues naturally. It’s been a long road, but like Dr. Steve says, “If it could be fixed right away it would be called a miracle, not treatment.”
When I asked Steve if we could stay in contact after we left he said, “Of course! We’re Jews!”
As in, we stick together
So even though he’s literally the worst at boats, I’m swamped with work, and it’s time to leave his town as soon as possible–we feel inclined to stay a little longer to help him finish his sculling oar and new mooring. Which will hopefully prevent a grounding of his boat, and another greasing of his dinghy in the future.
As far as getting his boat off the ground, well, that’s in the hands of the tow boat…
I almost couldn’t get through all of it, but with persistence and focus I read the entire thread. My mind is blown that there are people who are so upset by the post and this blog and my basic existence that they feel compelled to write, and there are people who feel strongly enough to defend the post and this blog and my basic existence that they feel compelled to write.
I’m literally laughing. Not at anyone, but because I am simply tickled by it!
The comments range from downright creepy to inspiring. Like, women seldom make history and—yeah, those women end up dead or worse. Someone also commented about a recent post I wrote about my grandfather, saying they’d venture to guess I probably don’t know what he really thinks of me. I got a real kick out of that one.
Engineless circumnavigator Sean D’pagnier even joined in on defense, although I’ll probably tell him he is wasting his time with these people!
People went really bizarre and personal with their comments. It just shows we really live in a time where hate, and in this case sexism and people so angered by those trying to cut back on fossil fuels, is so pervasive.
A couple of years ago this would have really bothered me, though. I remember someone made a comment about how the shit I had on Vanu was like a homeless bag lady and being really sad. I was in the process of going hardcore minimalist and a refit when they said that, and went on to make Vanu a prime piece of real estate.
So, those people really can’t say shit.
No one can. There is no bad press. If you have haters, you’re doing something right as far as media is concerned.
And on a more philosophical level? What all those people have to say is more a reflection of themselves than of me. And there are even some nuggets of wisdom buried under there. So, give it a read if you want to join in on the fun!
Anyway I am tucked a way in the mountains a little while longer working on drafts for some magazine articles. Keep an eye out here for a post coming soon about an Herbal Medical Kit for Sailors, and don’t forget submissions are open for Heartwreck : Romantic Disasters at Sea. Heartwreck is a collection of short stories about romance gone wrong on and around boats. Submissions are open now until July. We are compensating writers! Check out the links!
Many boat and writing projects abound, but I’m stuck in a
windy anchorage on a hurricane devastated island.
A fellow engineless sailor is here who helped us get access to bikes, free laundry in a FEMA trailer, and some apples. He lost me, though, when he said he questioned the existence of sexism and asked if feminism was the same as chauvinism. He then seemed surprised when I answered no. And, in his grandest gesture of misogyny he said, “I need to get me one of those,” in reference to a girlfriend who would clean his boat for him. It’s sad because he’s the only other boat around these parts without an engine and he came off so helpful, but it’s 2020 not 1920.
I had no choice but to kick him off my boat even though he’d just shared a couple pounds of fresh shrimp with us.
Should be some wind to sail on out of here soon enough!
I want to express my gratitude for those of you that still
read this damn thing and for those who are just starting to. I hope you all get
a little further along in your journeys.
I wrote a story once about my friend Logan and their old boat with its custom wooden spars and self swaged standing rigging. Among other sailor punk repairs that were solid as fuck but didn’t buy into the marine industrial complex, the boat also had a rich history. Nearly all of that was due to Rebecca Rankin, or Capt. Becca. Turned out that some of the facts in my story about her once-boat, Dolphin, were incorrect—and she reached out to tell me so.
I got defensive, of course, and (not soon enough) saw her
side. I apologetically promised to make the proper corrections. While it was
uncomfortable to hear some criticism about myself and my work, I in turn gained
a glimpse into this woman’s remarkable life journey.
She’s an accomplished solo sailor, a finisher of the venerable engineless Race to Alaska, an artist, cancer survivor, and a student at the Maine Maritime Academy. Oh yeah, she’s also a talented visual artist.
Capt. Becca got into sailing on a whim, and it changed her life forever…
Tell me about your boat, Dolphin.
Oh my goodness, Dolphin. Well, to begin I bought Dolphin when I was about 21 years old. I am 33 now. We had travelled to the Florida because my boyfriend at the time, and I, were cold. It was winter and we lived in my Volvo station wagon. Key West, Florida was the farthest south a body could go without a passport so…off we went!
I had some money left over from my grandmother’s inheritance and he mentioned this idea of living on a boat….and I was like, “that sounds neat!” So, we looked at Dolphin and two other boats and then purchased that little 28’ sloop for $6500 on Stock Island, Florida.
We did SO MUCH WORK TO HER. Things were always breaking. For example, a couple weeks after we bought her and before I had even sailed her, the forestay parted during a storm and the rotten mast boot kicked out and she dismasted. I was trying to learn to re-rig a small sailboat before I’d even been sailing. By the time I finally sold her to Logan, I had touched every single square centimeter of that motherfucker, probably twice.
I did sell her twice, first to my friend Brenna, after single-handing back from Guatemala and having a hell of a time of it. Then I bought her back. Because why? I don’t remember. Either way, I spent eight months in a boatyard and then sailed her from Key West to New Orleans where I lived for a while then decided to “pursue a career” and sold her to Logan in order to go to school. I don’t know what years anything happened. I’m not terrific with a sense of time, but I think I owned her, on and off, for about eight years.
What is the most terrifying thing that happened to you at sea?
Ha! Oh, Gosh. I suppose when I did my first big single-handed passage from Key West to Isla Mujeres, Mexico. I was using this kitchen egg timer to wake myself up in 10 minute intervals while I sailed through a shipping channel at night. I didn’t have any sophisticated electronic equipment onboard cause I was broke. I learned that 10 minutes is sufficient time for a very large freighter to steam from invisible to about three stories directly above your head as she passes directly perpendicularly in front of your bow in the middle of the night… you know those experiences where instead of being utterly, completely fucking dead you’re instead absolutely fine? That was one of them. That ship was so close to me I couldn’t see her top decks without craning my neck, but she passed right on by and into the night and I, and Dolphin, were completely fine. Stunning, that much is for certain. And the stars were so bright.
What kind of boat do you have now? What kind of work does it need? What are your future plans for the boat?
Today, I have a steel 38’ yawl named Cu Mara, which is Gaelic for “Sea Hound.” She was built in Ontario, Canada in 1975 by a gentleman named Al Mason and lived there most of her life until my friend Robin transported her to Maine about six years ago. I bought her, and have moved her only by truck all over the state of Maine. I purchased her prior to my acceptance to Maine Maritime Academy and have been rather forced to put my aspirations for her on the back-burner as I work through school, but I hope very much to see her sailing, hopefully to a foreign country, in the not so distant future. She has been sitting out of the water for many years now so every system requires a general go-over, but she is a steel vessel who has never been immersed in salt water so she is, generally, in remarkably excellent condition for her age.
You said to me once you are in school at Maine Maritime because you want to be a better captain. What is an example of a time you’ve been a good captain? How about a bad one?
Certainly, that time I fell asleep at the helm and was awoken by the sound of crashing breakers, had a moment where I was thankful I was at the beach, then realized I was sailing at 6 knots directly into the shore so pirouetted around without even waking my crew of two was an example of my less-than-illustrious captaining abilities. That was off the East Coast of Belize and, since we didn’t crash nor die and no one else even woke up, it might qualify as a “good captain” moment as well. I’m torn.
But yes, I am at school at MMA because I have zero “official” knowledge of the ways of the sea. Despite my experience, I have no formal knowledge of things like navigation and, so, especially in the world we find ourselves now, I am working to improve my knowledge of all things maritime in the hopes that I will be a stronger and fairer captain in the future, assuming I can actually handle the responsibility. I’m a single-hander at heart for eternity, most likely, and a reluctant captain at best. I just want to make wise decisions and sail to exotic lands without crashing into things, what can I say?
You competed in the 2019 Race to Alaska and finished! What was that like? What kind of boat? How did you end up as crew?
I did! It was fucking dope and fascinating as all hell! What a crazy little micro-universe, cult type thing they have going on surrounding the R2AK. Such a kooky event. So many awesome people. So weird! The boat we sailed on was an F-27 trimaran named Magpie, one of those folding, trailerable deals and we sailed with a crew of three. My captain, Katy Steward, literally just texted me one day and said, “Hey, you sail right?” She says, now, she thought of me because she needed another hand she could trust to stand watch alone and, even though we had never met, she figured I could handle it. We’re real close now, she’s fucking amazing. Obviously, I was available and said “yes,” which is the first step in any real adventure, after all.
What were some of the negative experiences of R2AK?
There wasn’t any wind so we pedaled that goddamn trimaran across a whole lot of bodies of water. I’m not a racer, so I’m not particularly inclined to go places as fast as humanly possible, especially when it doesn’t make any damn sense to do so, so I struggled with that a bit. I was also intriguingly disturbed by the media attention the R2AK and R2AK racers receive, but that’s more of a reflection on me and my discomfort in the spotlight than anything else.
In both the sailing community and marine industry women are in the minority. What kind of sexism have you faced and how have you overcome it?
I have a number of terrifically specific personal experiences, like being dropped from the program at Piney Point for no reason whatsoever, but it’s sometimes personally difficult to separate the experiences I have from the appearance of my gender and the appearance of my tattoos. I am heavily tattooed and believe this to be an equally affective experience in regards to my career, sometimes even more so than the fact I am a woman. I must say, I also stand 6’1” tall, taller than most men, and so have not felt the effects of sexism as directly as many of my smaller, female counterparts. I discern it has something to do with the perception that I can’t be as easily fucked with, so men don’t treat me as less than equal as much. Obviously, discrimination is still a huge part of everything I experience. This is not the maritime standard I hope to see in the future. Sitting with the unbelievable sexist and discriminatory aspects of this industry is incredibly difficult. We are one of the most patronizing and mentally antiquated industries out there. I can only hope that, by continuing forward with my career and intentions, I am part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.
So you’re a fucking survivor and I hope you don’t mind me asking about it. What kind of cancer did you have? How old were you when were you diagnosed? What was it like navigating the healthcare system as a young woman with no insurance?
Yeah, fuck yeah I am! I don’t mind your asking one bit! I was diagnosed with Stage III Ovarian dysgerminoma in July of 2016, at age 30, after having my right ovary, fallopian tube and 26 lymph nodes removed in an emergency surgery after the tumor inside my ovary grew so large it eclipsed my bladder. That sucker was about eight pounds. I underwent 6 months of BEP Chemotherapy, which is a rare but highly effective type of chemotherapy, and have been in remission for about three years now. There is zero history of cancer of any type in my family.
Navigating the healthcare system as a young woman with no insurance was fucking insane. I do not recommend it to anyone and find it incredibly embarrassing that THIS is the point to which we have evolved, societally. Y’all need to get your shit together and re-align your priorities. No person ACTUALLY DYING should have to rely on a friend she hardly knows to feign being a doctor so that she can get the medical attention she requires to NOT DIE in America. It’s a real fucking tragedy. It was about a year, or maybe two, post treatment I could even go IN a hospital without crying. It’s absolutely unbelievable.
How has surviving from cancer altered the course of your life?
It has changed my life, completely, as I know it. I am not the same person as I was prior to illness and treatment. For one, I have a lot of lingering physical issues, like Raynaud’s disease in my feet and hands, PTSD and memory issues that are direct results of chemotherapy treatment but, MORE SO, I was forced, by my illness, to finally fucking show up for myself. I learned about boundaries, my needs, my body and my heart in a way that is reserved for cancer survivors. Its difficult to explain, but not a day goes by I don’t consider that event in my life. Its precious, man. Every second is precious. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a liar cause the only thing I really know is that you really never, ever fucking know.
You’re also an artist, how would you describe your art?
My art is fucking beautiful. For many years, it was my primary source of income. I don’t think I produced the best work I could have due to this dependency, but produced I sure did. My art is a direct expression of myself and it is raw, real and unique, just like me. I have no training, besides what my mom taught me, cause she’s a badass artist, and, so, the result is actually original. It took me awhile, but now I can dig that THAT is amazing and priceless. My art isn’t for everyone, but so what.
How can people buy your art or support you in some other way?
Hell! I have a lot of various websites you can see my art, I sell a lot of original pieces through my Facebook and Instagram. I have goals to publish some books and keep creating in the future and you can always just VenMo me money for no reason at all. It’d be great to start a Patreon, but I need to identify a project I feel worthy, first!
What’s next for you and how can we watch?
The goal, currently, is to make my way, at least semi-successfully, to graduation from the Vessel Operations and Technology Program at Maine Maritime Academy. You can find me on Facebook and Instagram and message me any ole time about any ole thing.
The swells are mesmerizing. The sea is quenching my thirst despite not being able to drink one literal drop. I keep thinking about that quote. How we are 98 percent water and salt, or some number like that. So when you return to the ocean you are, essentially, returning home.
I feel an immense privilege just to be out here, because who the fuck am I? I’m just a girl from a small town on Long Island. I went to a state college in upstate New York. I’m an unemployed journalist.
Leaving the inlet today every captain of every boat that passed me was a man. Their crews were all men. Their boats cost tens of thousands of dollars.