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 knot.
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 adventure.