All I can say is luckily the sun is supposed to shine for the next week…
Cities on the water way are so strange. Step away from the harbor front streets, the marinas, the anchorages and it’s as if you’re not even near the water at all anymore. Suddenly it’s suburban sprawl and traffic and you find yourself riding a borrowed mountain bike down a highway sidewalk, diverting into a neighborhood that resembles the hood, just trying to escape the lights, and noise, and rain— in order to get back to your boat.
One mile inland and, it seems, people have no fucking idea they are anywhere near the sea.
Humans are kind to me. For whatever reason I find myself constantly surrounded by people and forming unlikely friendships. Sometimes I forget how to be alone. Sometimes I’m afraid it will end—the people I already know, the people I haven’t met yet. Not only will they not be here physically, they won’t be anywhere. They won’t be in any pocket of my heart, the land or the waterway.
Technology baffles me. So many people keep up with me, meet up with me, and ultimately alter my life in positive ways that put me one step closer to my goal—which is, in a sense, to be away from them completely. To be alone on the sea.
There is not one moment of one day where I don’t think about this boat, my means and my character—and how all that equates to the possibility of actually achieving what it is I envision.
“You are in charge of what happens next,” Chris said to me as I left her dock and historic estate. We were discussing the possibility of my return to that small Chesapeake town for what would be an overhaul to the boat. Another step, in a series of steps and seasons, to be out there on the sea safely, sustainably, solo.
“What’s new in your love life?” my oldest friend asked me in a text message.
“Not much,” I replied. “Just in a solid, committed relationship with my boat.”
My conversations with those furthest away who know me best are reduced to screens. My face-to-face conversations happen with people I hardly know and may never see again. These conversations all feel equally important.
“The intercoastal is that way,” a sailor I traveled with told me twice.
Once when we were at the dock discussing the next day’s route and another time when we were underway. The natural direction I thought to go in both those instances led to the open ocean… not the protected waterway.
When we parted ways and I pulled into port to wait for important mail, he continued on into the next canal and body of water where he hoped to wait for a good weather window and sail offshore.
His mast now far from sight I called out on the radio anyway.
“Good luck out there on the lonely blue highway,” I said, essentially, to no one.
Everywhere I go there’s some old salt with thousands of sea miles under their belt who seems to believe in me and my little boat more than I do. Perhaps for every one of them, there is someone who thinks I’m fool hearted. My own thoughts of this whole endeavor fall somewhere in the middle.
The past ten days being in the boatyard have been like an extended self survey. I’ve learned every weakness of my boat, and her strengths. The crazy thing is, I think I can fix damn near everything. I don’t know how it happened, but I’m finally starting to understand all this. I can speak the language, decipher diagrams, ask the right questions, and use the tools. I know what needs to be done, and I more or less know how to do it.
The winds are up which means no boats are being launched today or tomorrow. I’m scheduled to launch first thing Thursday morning and then I’ll navigate to my home port, where the real work begins.
“Don’t get stuck in Florida,” one of the old salts said to me.
“What do you mean, like don’t run aground?” I asked.
“No,” he said. “Don’t be one of those people that never leaves…and don’t dawdle in the Bahamas!”
My biggest problem the past few months has been when my mom bought a new brand of pretzels, but that’s all about to change. It’s raining here today and even though the temperature sits at a nice 50 degrees I refuse to go outside. This weather is a cold reminder that my boat doesn’t have heat.
I plan to live at anchor because I can’t afford to pay the exorbitant cost of a summer slip and there’s quite a long waiting list to even get one. While I’d love to be out cruising and exploring all season the truth is I’ll have to be holed up in a secure place, row to shore everyday, get on my bike and ride to work.The journey to bring my boat back to salt, which is set to take place in late summer/early fall, has anchorages along the way, but a lot of the time I’ll be forced to pay for a night’s moorage. Add in the fees for going through locks, fuel, stepping and unstepping the mast for bridge and lock clearance, and it’s going to be an expensive adventure. On top of that I need to have enough money tucked away in case I need to hang the boat up next winter, and pay first month’s rent in whatever place I decide to hang my hat and refill the sailing kitty until the following Spring. In order for all of this to come to fruition, I’m going to need a job during the summer, as all of the money I have now will go into outfitting Anam Cara.
The town where I was hoping to live anchored off of might turn out to be a big no go. My research has taught me that somehow the designated anchorage area is governed by the town, as it exists within a breakwater, and you must acquire a permit to anchor there and not exceed your stay longer than three days. A fellow sailor who cruised these waters ten years ago seemed to disagree, because how can the town govern the water, right? But what I read was an official government document.As a sailor, flexibility is key, so I moved on to my plan B which is to anchor in a large bay which has varying degrees of protection, 10 miles south. On shore is a large, working shipyard and marina which I hope takes kindly to a liveaboard sailor girl that wants to grab a shower, tie up her dinghy, and lock up her bicycle. I thought about calling them and asking, but thought better of it as not to draw attention to myself. Unfortunately, liveaboards often get a bad reputation as the marine industry has a growing agenda that caters to rich yachters. I’ve yet to come up with a plan C.
Aside from the usual maintenance like washing and waxing the hull and top sides, woodwork, an array of latches and hose clamps that need replacing, I might need to drop the mast right away and assess an issue with the step. Her interior needs a fresh coat of paint, the cabin floor needs a revamp, I need to come up with a plan for cooking in the galley (as there’s no stove), and should probably consider some kind of portable heat system like an alcohol heater for those grey, rainy days. I’m only touching the surface here of what all needs to be done in order to get her ship shape. I certainly have my work cut out for me. I’ve got navigation squared away, and while I suss out equipment for my anchoring system I’m looking for a dinghy. I want to buy a second hand inflatable like the old Avon I used to row, but craigslist this time of year is a barren, desolate wasteland. My efforts to find a soft bottom inflatable on ebay have also proved fruitless, as it costs as much as the dinghy to have it shipped. I have a backup plan to buy a reasonably affordable Sea Eagle inflatable (not the prettiest or most rugged, but it’ll do for now), until the dinghy of my wallet’s dreams comes rowing my way.