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.
I just finished the worst bottom job I’ve ever done—because I don’t have the money or the time to scrape, grind, or sand blast off every last colossal, continent sized patch of old, thick antifouling paint down to bare fiberglass to make way for a proper barrier coat. There’s the right way, and then there’s the right now way. The bottom, I feel, is going to be an uphill battle because of this.
Fiber glassing in two through hulls turned into six because of a previous owners dodgy work. My personal favorite are the two holes (below the water line) that he chose to close up using nothing but a mixture of epoxy resin and sealant. Like most of his efforts on this boat, good intentioned but poorly executed. Such as the cockpit drain through hull that was installed with a bevel so large, the hull itself was ground down to where it was actually compromised structurally. I also must mention the defunct depth sounder right at the stem of the boat that was protected from popping out by a fiberglassed piece of wood on the inside of the hull, which I cracked within my first week of owning this vessel. Build it all back up has been the theme.
The mast has been stripped bare. All tangs replaced. Halyards rearranged and the standing rigging waits for its final bends…but first install the seacocks. Then launch. Being on anchor with no mast while we finish the rigging on land might suck, but not nearly as bad as being in a toxic boatyard for another day.
I used to want to earn respect at boatyards; now I just want to get out of them. When all this is said and done I’ll have a mere $180 left to my hand, but I beg anyone to name one great sailing adventure that wasn’t grossly underfunded.
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What goes up must come down, they say, and while true of my mood for the majority of time the old adage best not apply to my mast. So, strong chainplates are most certainly in order! Eventually all chainplates, stays, and turnbuckles will be replaced, but I decided to start with the backstay chain plates because they were horrendously undersized, and attached to the hull with only one bolt and a screw.
The side stays are glassed in (whyyyyyyyyy) and the forestay is attached with a pretty strong stainless steel cranse iron. I think bronze is stronger and better than stainless for attaching the forestay and would never go to sea with glassed in chainplates from 1971, but the back stay chainplates were by far the sketchiest so they were first in line.
While the industry standard promotes stainless steel, bronze literally lasts forever. I guess that’s why yachting went in that direction, so the industry could make more money from us by flooding the market with something shiny that needs to be replaced every 10-15 years due to crevice corrosion. On top of that, stainless steel is much harder to work with. It requires a drill press to drill holes, proper tools to polish, and has an involved annealing process to the metal before and after making a bend. That’s why riggers charge upwards of $100 per chainplate for small sailboats. Plus, you can never know if the material is still good years later without a fucking x-ray machine. Again, bring in the rigger!
Stainless steel was not the right material for both long and short term self sufficiency.
We went with flat bar silicon bronze, a quarter of an inch by two inches. Overkill? Maybe. It was more than sufficient in size, especially when compared to its predecessor. We measured the angle of the bend using a wire and built a fire out of charcoal. We stuck the bronze into the fire until the end we intended to bend was glowing, then we cooled it down in a bucket of sea water and made our first bend which was very slight. We annealed again, cooled, and bent little by little until we reached the angle needed. The annealing process made the bending easier and strengthened the metal after we had literally stretched its innards.
Of course, something had to go wrong. Up until then the process had been relatively painless. Because the turnbuckles and rigging cable are also going to be replaced in the not so distant future, the chainplate had to be sized for a bigger turnbuckle. This meant the current turnbuckle wouldn’t fit, so we fastened the present turnbuckles to large shackles first, and then to the chainplates as a temporary solution.
On the mission to town to get another shackle we stopped by a used marine/antique store that’s only open one day per week for four hours. It was an hour past closing time but the doors were still open. That morning I’d lamented for hours wondering how I was going to get the larger, bronze turnbuckles I’d need for re rigging. The situation was seeming absolutely fruitless with astronomically expensive prices (both new and on Ebay) until we walked into this shop and bought these turnbuckles for three dollars a piece!
The owner of the shop recognized us from the creek we were anchored in where he happens to live. He complimented Sohund’s lines and was interested to hear about this Danish built sea dog. We didn’t have enough cash on us to pay but he let us take the turnbuckles anyway, and we rowed to his house later with the funds after we had finished installing our new backstay chainplates!
It’s light wind and the sun is setting on the Piankatank river as I embark on the maiden voyage of my new boat. It is my first time sailing the boat and I choose to do this at night, alone, with very little wind. My partner is not far behind on his boat. We take turns in the lead. It’s an hour before we reach the next green marker, one mile from where we started. For all intents and purposes, there is no engine. There is, physically, a very good functioning inboard diesel engine on the boat, but I haven’t started it. I have no desire to change the oil, change filters, bleed fuel lines, and replace impellers. Plus, the saltwater intake valve is so corroded that I have a potato at hand just in case it breaks until I can haul out to fix it.
But even if that were fixed, I’m done with engines and plan
to rip this one out and sell it (anyone want a sweet running little
diesel?). I’m done with schedules.
I’m done with being on other people’s timelines. I’m done motoring. I will wait
for the wind, even if that means I go at night, alone, at a speed of only one
I left my job on the tall ship when the heat index reached 128 degrees. Schooner life wasn’t for me. “You are definitely a free spirit,” my boss said in the end. “And that doesn’t always work on a tall ship.” I tried, really. A tall ship person I used to know referred to me as one of those, “small boat people.” I didn’t really know what he meant until I worked on a tall ship with those, “tall ship people.”
I am not one of them.
I met so many people who worked on tall ships that had such
a great passion for what they were doing that they did it for free, as
volunteers, in 100 degree heat with 100 percent humidity. I admire them, really, but the only boat
I’m willing to get heat exhaustion for is my own.
So, when I told my employers I couldn’t work during the heat
wave they ended my contract. I was so grateful. Thank you, I said, perhaps to
their surprise. I’d been planning my escape anyway. Whether I was going to give
proper notice or flee under the cover of darkness I hadn’t decided.
Had I not, in fact, left the job when I did I would have been working the day I bought my new vessel.
A week before my job ended I sold Vanu and was looking at
the very real fact that I was soon to be boat-less. With the termination of my
contract came the end of my living situation on the ship, so I was soon to be
homeless as well. It was decided that I’d move my stuff onto my boyfriend’s
27-foot boat in the meantime while we sailed in search of my next boat.
All of the boats for sale were too far or too expensive. The
Contessa 26, International Folkboat, and more were at the top of my list. There
was a Pacific Seacraft Orion 27 in my price range but it had been struck by
lightening. There were Albin Vega 27’s listed at ten to twenty thousand
dollars! It was clear that people had poured a great deal of money into some of
these old boats in hopes of “living the dream,” but never did. Now they were
imprisoning the boats in their slips or on the hard, for sometimes more than a
year, unwilling to come down in price.
Plus, they all had stupid names. All of the boats I’ve owned had come
with a good name and story along with finding the boat I’d have been remiss not
to keep its designation.
The search had been going on for weeks, and I needed to find
a boat now. So, naturally, I began to lose hope. But in my despair I decided to
search “all of craigslist,” (a process that does exactly what it says and is extremely
time consuming to search new boats listed everyday), just one more time.
That’s when I first saw the Sohund. A Great Dane 28. Transom hung rudder, excellent capsize and comfort ratings, built and designed in Denmark for one thing: going to sea.
I almost overlooked her, still suffering from boat finding
despair. She was only 40 miles away from where I was. I said to my partner,
“I’ll go see her once I’ve transferred Vanu to her new owner. If she’s still
available when we pass by there then maybe it’s meant to be.”
But the more we looked at the reputation of this boat,
considered the location, as well as the price and work it would need to be
refitted, it became clear that this was the boat.
I emailed the owner. Then I emailed him again. And again.
Then we talked on the phone. Before going to see the boat the next day I sent
him one final text.
“What does the boat name, Sohund, mean?”
“Sea Dog,” he replied.
The next day he picked us up, brought us to the boat and I
bought her right there, a mere 18 hours after the ad had been listed.
“Have you ever sold a boat this fast?” We asked the previous
owner, Dan, over lunch that he had bought for us.
“Never,” he said. “I think it was meant to be.”
Leaving my job, selling my boat and buying another, then
sailing a very crowded and over loaded 27-foot sailboat up to my new one wound up
being one of the most stressful escapades of my life…but I digress.
We arrived at the boat and stayed on Dan’s brother’s dock
for a few days cleaning up and making it inhabitable. My nerves were still shot from the week prior, and I was
staring into the beast of a six-month refit. But once that was completed I’d no
longer be trapped by the limitations of a vessel. I’d be truly free. So we
kedged our way off the dock and anchored in the creek, enjoyed a pile of
oysters with Dan and his brother, waited for the right wind (albeit light)
direction to sail out of the creek—and drifted off at one knot into a new
At some point you just have to say fuck it, and go sailing.
I know this boat. I know all its weaknesses. I know what it can take. I also
know what I can take, which is probably a lot less. I know how quickly it can
change out there. That’s why some passages are…questionable. On a good day this
boat can do it out there. On a good day any boat can do it out there. This is
not the boat I want to be in when shit hits the fan. At least not in its
I think at this point being on the water is intrinsic to my
being; or I’m jaded. I just find it hard to fully immerse myself in the moment
and enjoy when I feel a lot of pressure to prove myself and make this boat
Let’s see I have six weeks, maybe eight, to finish the rest of the work to this boat. Did I mention I want to refinish the interior on this piece of shit? I know, I know, she’s my piece of shit which is precisely why I am making her pretty. Shit, I might AirBNB her when I get wherever the fuck it is I’m going (north).
And even though it pains me not to be in the Bahamas today was a win. Moving the boat to the other side of the waterway. The island side. I can hear the ocean over the dunes and mangroves. There’s a lighthouse. Some pretty boats. You can land your dinghy at the public launch ramp or hide it if you want to leave it for longer. They can ticket your dinghy, but I have a feeling Loner will slip through the cracks.
There are some dero*
boats here (*side note: my Kiwi friend used to call me/Vanu “dero.” It
is literally short for derelict but in Kiwi slang it’s used endearingly for
someone that is hobo/hardcore/crusty or whatever. Someone usually broke,
traveling, and kind of dirty. I’ve adopted the term to refer to the derelict
boat problem in Florida). But I’m not worried about them. I can keep to myself,
speak their language, or defend myself if ever necessary.
I’ve decided that after Vanu I’m going to own a boat a year
until I find “the one.” Being on Vanu has literally been a time warp. Throw in
daylight savings time and, well, I’m tired of the struggle. I’m selling out.
I’m getting a job. And then I’m getting another boat.
In the meantime I’ll be illegally stashing my dinghy,
prepping the boat, and doing odd jobs here and there before leaving this town,
out the inlet and onto the next adventure. On a good day, of course.
I am incredibly honored and excited to announce that I’ve been featured in SAIL Magazine and its latest article Sailor-Punk and the State of Cruising. I’m beyond stoked! Not only am I featured next to the legendary Moxie Marlinspike and the kids from Hold Fast but the editor named me his personal favorite young sailor blogger. I’m also really excited to be referred to as a sailor punk. It’s an identity I embrace, but I was never really in the punk scene on land, or on the water. So even though in my heart I felt like a boat punk, I wasn’t sure I qualified. In light of this recent honorable mention I figured I might get some new readers, and a brief update was in order.
I’m currently working as a deck hand and living aboard a 100-foot schooner on the Chesapeake Bay. After launching my boat in March the budget was busted. My money for the Bahamas was non-existent and to be honest, the state of affairs onboard Vanu, despite so many months in the yard, were still precarious. On top of this I had to borrow nearly $700 from my dad to bail my ass out of Belize after the boat delivery from hell. I did eventually wind up getting that $700 back from the captain by threatening him with a lien on his boat, but that’s another story.
I journeyed my little boat from Florida back up to the Chesapeake Bay on a five-week voyage of sorts to start my new job. The trip was filled with a constantly failing electrical system, getting chased by wild horses, gales, coming face to face with my past traumas, great days sailing, bad days motoring, time offshore, time inshore. There were times I wanted to run my boat up on a sand bar and walk off forever with nothing but a backpack, and there were times I didn’t want it to end. Oh yeah, I also fell in love with an engineless circumnavigator who designs and builds autopilots and sells them.
I learned what this boat was truly capable of for the first time. I cried. It made me fucking cry to feel that. I finally learned how to make passages. Which is why, as of now, I am continuing to sail and work on the structural refit of my boat, until the next boat presents itself. I have to take what I learned on this trip and apply it. I have to keep going. There will be another boat in the near future but until then I just have to make money. Save it. Keep working on Vanu and practicing sailing her. I’ve got a big wide river and lots of little creeks that I’ve already begun to sail and explore.
I want to tell you all more about this, but please be patient with me. I am working 12-hours a day on the tall ship, and when I’m not doing that I’m usually frantically trying to keep my boat safe. She is currently tied to a broken dock off of a fisherman’s museum with yet another leak below the water line. This time it’s the fiberglass tube that houses the rudder shaft. It’s a slow leak, but it needs to be remedied. I plan to make this repair by careening the boat and patching it from the inside.
I just spent the last two hours of
my day off cleaning my electrical connections. The rest of the day was spent
inside the belly of my boat pin pointing the leak. So, my apologies for the
lack of blog posts, but I can assure you that if you hold fast you won’t be
disappointed with the content to come. Standing by channel 1-6.
It’s blowing. Out of the north. Late for the season. Although, I guess…not anymore. The northers, “never used to come all the way into March until this year,” I remember Bahamian Mike saying in West Palm Beach. That was last year. It’s March 18. Still too early to head north. This one, when it is said and done, will have blown for four days. Today’s the worst of it. It’s supposed to calm down. The gusts are definitely up to gale force and it’s a steady 25-30. This is exactly what NOAA has predicted, so, I’m not surprised.
I’m yacht sitting so I’ve left Vanu to fend for herself. Which
of course begged the question, at least in my mind, if it was bad seamanship.
She has two good anchors out, chafe gear, adequate scope, mud bottom. I did an
online poll asking “Is it bad seamanship to leave your boat at anchor to fend
for itself in a gale?” and mostly everyone voted it wasn’t. Not bad seamanship.
I mean think about it. Most people who own boats aren’t with or on the boat when
it’s blowing a gale. It’s at the dock, or on it’s mooring. Am I right? Unless
they’re out cruising, or it’s the weekend, the boat is on the water and its
owner is on land (or in my case on another boat).
Because most boats are at the dock more than they’re, “out
there.” Am I right? Most of the boats at the very marina I’m sitting in right
now don’t have people on them. Most of the boat’s at the mooring field my boat
is anchored next to don’t either. That’s the only reason anyway cares about what
I do and this blog anyway. People don’t pay attention because my boat and I are
special, but because we’re out there doing it, (“which is more than most can
say,” a friend has told me on more than one occasion when I’ve felt like a hack
of a sailor).
A few people voted yes. That it is bad seamanship. But maybe
they’ve just never been out there when it’s really bad. Bad enough to where you
shouldn’t be out there. Or maybe they have. Maybe their entire lives are
wrapped up in some boat that is simply irreplaceable, and they’d never think of
leaving their boat to fend for itself when they could do a better job caring
for it by being aboard. Or maybe they don’t know anything about boats at all.
All I know is I’m glad I’m not on my little boat right now because I’d be all scared.
I’d be checking the weather constantly to make sure it wouldn’t get worse, and
probably be trying to identify strange noises, and bobbing around like a cork,
and start wondering why I do this shit for fun, and eventually I’d get so tired
that I’d be able to sleep with one ear open. I remember when I learned to sleep in a gale, and the many
times I rode them out for several days because I couldn’t come to land during it. So I’m pretty grateful to not be
on my boat right now.
What’s the worst case scenario anyway? She’d bounc off of
things if she ever broke loose. That’s what pilings are for. I have liability
insurance if she ends up damaging anyone’s property. I’ve got tow boat
insurance if she ends up hard aground. The damage that would be caused to her
would hopefully be nominal. She’s in a protected spot with mangroves and sand.
She cannot be swept out to sea.
But even if it was a total loss…then what? I’d be sad but
I’d be able to move on. I’d recover. Financially, emotionally. I certainly
don’t want that to happen, and it’s highly unlikely, and I’ve done everything I
could to prevent it other than being on the boat itself.
What would that mean anyway? Being on the boat? That I’m cold,
miserable, unable to get any work done to the boat because she’s like a ghost
ship heeling and walking up on her anchor and going beam to the wind every few
gusts? Unable to get any work done on my computer because there’s not enough
electricity or WIFI?
Here on the big boat at the marina I’ve filed my taxes, put all of my nautical miles together, made a sailing resume, written cover letters and applied to several boat jobs. I may have even landed one aboard a beautiful wooden cutter from 1935. I can almost already feel her journeys on the Pacific Ocean under my feet on her brightly varnished deck…but I digress.
The boat I’m yacht sitting is actually heeling now. Her lines are creaking. The cat is scared. She’s trying to tell me something. She exits through the open port light that functions as a cat door, but quickly comes back in traumatized. I pop my head out of the companionway. It’s still really blowing. The cat is meowing profusely. I go and get her littler box and bring it inside, since it’s too dangerous for her to go to the dock. She’s tiny and the gusts are big. Another gust comes and seems to radiate through the marina. It had to be 45 knots. I wonder how little Vanu is fairing. This is the last of it. It’s peaking, If she can just hold fast through tonight…
What did I learn from sailing a fiberglass spin off of a Hershoff 28 down a remote coast with a psychologist?
Believe what people say; don’t read between the lines. Past behavior is an indicator of future behavior.
Always demonstrate captaincy, even when it’s not your boat.
Two weeks together on a small boat and you’re bound to have some arguments. If you’re still friends at the end of it, you’re mates for life. Sometimes things can fall apart between crew members when you need each other most. Swallow your pride when it comes to passage making and keeping the peace with crew. Tone is everything.
I don’t believe in dogs on boats from a philosophical standpoint, but pugs aren’t really dogs.
Helming; it’s all instinct.
Making decisions is easier at sea than on land. Anxiety on land is crippling, at sea it is necessary for survival.
Mosquito’s can turn ‘God’s Country,’ into “God’s Asshole.”
They don’t call it a shakedown sail for nothing.
Shit is going to break, whether it is a $3,000 boat or a $30,000 boat.
My friend recently came ashore from an offshore yacht delivery where she was sexually harassed and inappropriately touched by the Captain. Between the nonconsensual back massages and lewd comments about her (whether she was wearing a bikini or donning foul weather gear), enough was enough. When he finally got the hint that she wasn’t interested in him sexually, he became angry and verbally abusive for the rest of the trip. All of this happened over several days, several hundred miles offshore. Later, she wrote about this experience on the popular women’s sailing group Women Who Sail. She never mentioned the captain’s name, but merely wanted to open up a dialogue on how to warn women of this potentially dangerous captain seeking crew. The captain somehow found out that she had told people in the sailing community about his behavior, and he then threatened her and her career sailing.
It’s a familiar story. One myself or any woman sailor could easily find themselves in. I was lucky enough to pick up on a captain’s predatory vibes right away once, and didn’t take the job—otherwise I could have been right there getting an uninvited back massage as I oiled some teak. While lamenting to a male friend of mine about all of this he said, “Well, I guess in todays day and you have to think twice before going offshore with someone or taking boat work jobs.”
Sure, he’s right. You do have to be more careful as a woman in the very male dominated sailing world. But this captain had references. My friend has done her background work. The captain I had gone to also had been referred to me by someone I knew.
It shouldn’t be like this. But it is. And I have a question for all of you out there– what are you going to do about it?
My first reaction to combat the blatant sexism I and my sailor girl friends experience is through sheer acts of vigilantism. Like, just straight up start cutting anchor lines. Instead, I’m starting a female sailing collective of women sailors and captains for future yacht deliveries. A network where these problems don’t exist because the boats are captained and crewed by women.
More info on the female sailor captain collective coming soon. In the meantime here’s a podcast I was interviewed for back in November. Mermaid Tales Podcast is specifically about women who are carving out their own paths on the water. The podcast is created by Breezy Mulligan, also a sailor and soon-to-be live aboard on a Gecko 39. We talk about the places I’ve sailed, boat rot, perhaps me not staying broke forever, the true meaning of hobo, and of course feminism. I come in around 10 minutes in, and we shoot the shit about her boat and the west coast. The formal interview begins at minute 20. My interview is episode 10.
Thanks to everyone here that follows Dinghy Dreams, listens to the podcasts I’m featured in, watches my sporadic youtube videos, and follows along on Instagram and my recently started Facebook. Also, a major thanks to all donors! Your comments mean a lot to me, even if I can’t reply, so please keep them coming. And for everyone out there who doesn’t comment, but is still reading—thank you.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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?”
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.