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.
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.
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.
Anything that can go wrong, will.
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.
“Don’t forget me,” I say. Only to the important ones. When they are leaving or I am leaving. I feel like I used to be so good at leaving. Now it takes so much longer. Sometimes you gotta stop before you can keep going. Sometimes you have to get into the boatyard to get out of it. That’s why I’m moving back aboard. Even though it’s hard. Even though there’s dust. I’ve taken to calling it pixie dust. My buddy Canoe Jeff from Lake Champlain coined that turn of phrase. He’s definitely one of the ones I told not to forget me.
And he hasn’t.
The boathouse and my time here feels like a blur. Visiting sailors have always been welcome here. It’s how I first ended up here, and I’ve kept the tradition alive. Two schooner boys are our next guests. I remember the first one that showed up. Scott from SV Steady Drifter. His experiences in the Bahamas had rendered him changed. Then there was Johnny and Pete, who I would sail my boat with for the final time before hauling her. Chris and his Nor’sea which laid at the dock because work kept him chained to a ship that wasn’t his own.
They’re all land based now, too.
Never trust sailors on land. There’s more at stake out there, so there’s no time for trivial things. Like the anxieties of modern life and modern relationships. Being out there makes me a better person. Being out there makes me more independent and sharpens my desicion making skills. Out there everything is simple, even though the reality and rules are harsh.
On land everything gets misconstrued, so I had to start keeping a planner.
“I don’t do well alone,” my friend says. This is over the phone. Maybe that’s why he’s talking to me at 1 a.m. The funny thing about being alone is I only notice it when someone else comes along and points it out. Going down the Hudson river, getting shit out into the Atlantic ocean at the bottom of the tidal universe, my six horse power engine buzzing and my main sail struggling to stay full of air in the busy harbor. The passing ferry wakes are mountains I climb and careen down. There are tankers, container ships, water taxis and I don’t know which way to go to get out of their way, so I just hug the buoys. Content with running aground or into a bridge pillar if it means avoiding collision with one of them. I’m shit out into the Atlantic ocean and the wind fills my sail. I turn off the engine.
I am completely alone.
Everywhere I go there seems to be some old salt with thousands of miles under their keel that believes in me. However for every one of them, there is someone who thinks I am fool hearted. -From the Log, May 2017
An old woman passes by the waterfront on her bicycle. Colorful clothing, a heart flag hanging from her seat, a basket. Her aging terrier trots in tow, faithfully, ten feet behind her.
“Is that going to be me when I’m old?” I ask Scott.
He left his boat near Miami to return north by car, to square away business, before crossing the Gulf Stream. He has come to see me en route.
“I don’t see it,” he says.
“Well, then what do you see?”
He looks at me for a moment, and then out at the harbor. My boat is moored there quietly, next to the dilapidated pier. Patiently waiting for me to make a decision on what we will do next.
“I see you in an old boat. Inviting kids onboard and telling sea stories in a raspy voice. Feeding them sardines,” he says.
“Yeah!” I say. Getting into the vision now. “And I’m permanently hunched over from years spent on boats, sitting next to an oil lamp.”
“Right, and the boat is one of those boat’s that is completely set up but isn’t going anywhere. And everyone knows it’s not going anywhere.”
“It’s not going anywhere because it’s already been everywhere.”
“Exactly,” he says. “You both are retired. You and your boat.”
“Wow,” I say smiling to myself and wondering aloud. “I hope I’m on my way towards that.”
Soon the clouds ascend and I rush out of the car to row back to the boat and miss the rain. I leave a small pile of beach treasures in his car. The pointed claw of a horseshoe crab, a piece of coral, a tiny coconut husk. My oars cut through the water. I use my entire body to fight the current. My shoulders, elbows, chest. My feet brace the aft seat. The sound of oars in water, although so familiar at this point, always manage to instill in me a great sense of adventure.
Sharing time and space with another human on a small boat forces intimacy. Everything is shared. Meals, work, thoughts. Strangers quickly become acquainted if by nothing more than proximity alone. I noticed this while my ship mate for the weekend cooked dinner. His galley was located right next to my bunk where my wet towel and underwear from a trip to the neighboring yacht club hot tub were hanging to dry, mere inches away from his head.
I spent the weekend working on the boat of a single-handed-sailor named Paul, helping him prep the boat for a new paint job. Because he keeps his boat an hour from where he lives, and an hour from where my boat lives, if I wanted the job I had to campout on his boat, on the hard.
I didn’t hesitate. I love the yard, I love boats, and certainly need the money. Due to a leak below the water line on my little boat I have to haul out sooner than expected and have been hustling to earn enough money in time for my haul out date in about three weeks. I was hoping to work on the boat on the float for a while and haul out somewhere on the Chesapeake, which is my very tentative summer/hurricane season destination this year (PANAMA 2019 YA’LL). But I’m not willing to spend that much time in between now and then, afloat and voyaging, with an underwater leak. So out my boat must come and out comes the depth sounder transducer. The depth reader hasn’t worked in months anyway. One less hole in the boat.
Paul’s boat is a Dufour 30. It is named Sobrius. Latin for sobriety. Paul got the boat only after he became sober. He traded booze for blue water and has since sailed over 1000 NM offshore, alone, and will set sail on another voyage in the spring. I have no doubt he and his boat will go far, and perhaps one day give up life on land all together.
I’m a traditionalist at heart when it comes to boat design, but the Dufour 30 seemed incredibly seaworthy despite it’s missile-like keel. Small cockpit, good use of interior space, sturdy rigging and a blue water reputation. Many Dufour sailboats are sailing the world’s waters, and this one in particular crossed the Atlantic twice with previous owners.
As much as I enjoyed the boat, the work, the amazing marina facilities next door, the friends I made in the yard (both human and animal), and Paul’s company—I missed my little boat.
I had folks looking after her while I was gone. Even though the leak is just a slow, tiny trickle, and every marine professional I talk to says in increase an water intrusion is extremely unlikely, I still worried about her alone on her mooring for two nights. When my friend’s sent me pictures of her afloat and in good standing on Sunday afternoon I felt pangs to get back. To get home. It was my first time sleeping away from my boat since September, and before that I was never more than a mile away.
Rowing back to my boat, exchanging pleasantries with my harbor mates, climbing into her cockpit down the companionway I realized everything was exactly how I’d left it. The transducer was still leaking. My dishes were still in the sink. I was still going to have to hustle to make the boat right. And I took great comfort in all of that.
Note to Readers: Thank you to everyone who donated to my lost boot fund, and to the fees associated with this website. Both have been taken care of and any extra has gone into my boatyard fund. Also–if anyone is interested in Paul and his Dufour 30 Sobrius check out his book, Becoming a Sailor, and his youtube channel!
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.
At the dock of Chris and Bill from SV Plover, a Dickerson 41 built on this here Chesapeake Bay.
Virginia. Civil war shit. Their house has a ghost. It’s been like living history this trip. The Revolutionary War battlegrounds of Lake Champlain. The exploration of the new world by Henry Hudson. Modern industry steeped in the tradition of the mariner in the Atlantic shipping lanes.
And now, this here Bay that I’d certainly like to get to know better historically speaking. For the most part I’ve just been sailing hard. Only catching a glimpse of what is, or once was, taking place on its shores.
Twenty knots again today (at least it wasn’t 25). Waves up to my rub rail again. Engine locker swamping with water again. I’m closing up the hole in the engine locker first chance I get. My engine needs tending to. It’s been getting knocked around, banged and hassled. It’s a good thing I installed a lip on the mount to keep it from shaking loose. Fucking outboards. So simple, yet so… beyond my realm of consciousness. I’m going to need it soon. I’ll be in the ICW with little room to sail. At least here, for example, if the engine dies say while coming into a harbor—I can sail.
I used to sail in and out of harbors all the time. On and off moorings and my anchor. I haven’t done that once since I left the lake. Who am I?
Received charts here from Aaron and Sarah. Inside was a gift of some Vermont food staples. It was a very kind gesture, of which I credit to Sarah solely, because while it may be Aaron who gave me his charts, she orchestrated their arrival.
I now have almost every chart I need for the remainder of this here venture. I still need to obtain some offshore charts for North and South Carolina. There are some options there for going offshore but man I really wish I had crew for some of the longer ones. It’s the same adage—when sailing offshore off shore, I think having crew is not AS imperative perhaps because you are so far off and can actually sleep.
But I can only go a few miles off. Vanupied is simply just not equipped for the wilderness desolation 100+ miles offshore. Will she ever be? Doubtful. I’ll probably just get another boat and equip her. At least that’s the latest crazy plan I’m scheming. But I waffle. Vanupied could be made right. Honestly, even the Bahamas might be slightly sketchy on this boat as is. I’m not sure. I’m still shaking her down. She’s proved herself alright in this latest round of northerlies.
“It’s not about the boat it’s about the skipper.”
I am on the cusp of the Atlantic Ocean. New York Harbor. South of the Battery, the center of the tidal universe. Tomorrow, with the force of the mighty Hudson, the East River and the great Atlantic I will be sucked through the Verrazano Narrows, essentially, into the sea. -October 2
The Hudson River proved to be excellent training grounds for the rest of this trip. However, I feel like a much different person now than I was while traversing that body of water. It was the first time I would sail on tidal waters in years, and have contact with commercial shipping traffic.
Currents on the Hudson are gnarly. So gnarly, in fact, that even in 30 knots my boat would point stern to the wind if the current was opposed. After the third time this happened I stopped freaking out, and accepted it as merely uncomfortable.
I got a slow start and stayed on the Hudson probably longer than I needed to. Hurricanes were still pending and I had visions of the next Hurricane Sandy or Irene pummeling the northeast and decided to stay creekside until I knew the right path.
In Esopus Creek is a beautifully protected anchorage where the light is mesmerizing, A very nice man who worked at the Saugerties Steamboat Company pointed me in the right direction towards the best place to anchor, let me tie up for free at their unused dock the next day so I could meet some of my family. When he asked me my boat name I said, “Vanupied! It’s french for barefoot peasant.”
“But you’re wearing shoes!” He replied.
I never saw him again but had the entire brand new dock to myself that night.
From there I travelled to Kingston, NY and wound up staying ten long days awaiting a hurricane that never came in Roundout Creek. My only contact with other humans was at the power boat club and campground next to where I anchored. They were kind to me and when I left showered me with gifts like a flare gun (for protection), a bottle of rum, twenty dollars, and fresh gallons of water. Huge shout out to the Anchorage Marina folks in Rondout Creek for treating me as one of their own even though I was on a sailboat.
When I left Roundout Creek it was a fifty mile sail/motor sailing day down to Dundeberg Mountain–which isn’t really an anchorage at all and I had a miserable time pulling up my anchor in the 30 knot winds that morning.
Thanks to some friends ahead of me on an Alberg 30 I learned about the ‘Bowline Pond’ anchorage on the west side of the river across from the northern section of Haverstraw Bay. This place is the shit. Seriously a hurricane hole. Protected 360 degrees. The entrance is tricky and the waves can stack up as it gets shallow. Plenty of depth there, but if you attempt this anchorage make sure you keep the mooring ball in the middle to STARBOARD to avoid an actual stack of bricks on the other side of the entrance. This ‘pond’ is actually man made. My parents and sister visited me there and I illegally tied my dinghy to a public park entrance and we crashed a private party at the park with a live band until the ranger kicked us off. It wasn’t before I could row each one out to my boat, though! I also met some kickass New York sailors on a Westsail 32. The captain, Josh, gave me probably the most integral navigation lesson of my life which in turn saved my ass from being completely lost on the ocean during my offshore passage.
Still waiting for coastal swells to die down from hurricanes I went to Haverstraw Bay where it took me two days to fix my autopilot. All it took was some wood, epoxy, screws, and a sock. Who would have thought? I rode out another gale just south of there where I was convinced I’d drag into the shipping lanes. This was before I learned to sleep through gales.
My final stop on the Hudson before heading through NYC was the Nyack Boat Club. I fucking love this place. It’s an historical gem. I met so many wonderful people who gave me detailed current and tide lessons, anchorage spots all along the east coast, and kisses on the cheek when I left. My dear friends Aaron and Sarah on their Baba 35 where on their way north back to Lake Champlain after a summer sailing in Novia Scotia and they picked up the mooring next to me. It was the last time I might see them for a long while. It was in Nyack that I received a small single side band radio and the WQXR classical music station would become my constant companion.
The hudson continued to widen the further I went. Ferries zoomed past creating monstrous wakes. Helicopters loudly flew through the sky. There were no channel markers but many ships. It was like the wild west. While still much less crowded than NYC by land it was still quite chaotic and the worst was yet to come. I anchored for the night west of the Statue of Liberty.
The final section of New York Harbor was insanely crowded with commercial traffic. I felt like a needle in a haystack. I approached the Verrezano Narrows only to second guess my navigation and tried to hail some fisherman to ask them which way to go to avoid the ships. “That way,” they said. But I couldn’t see where they pointed since I was fucking around with the engine.
I managed not to get run down by a ship and I was shit out in the Atlantic Ocean.
September 2, 2017
Well, I left. I’d have cut the proverbial dock lines but I sold my mooring bridle to a mate to pay my debt to the marina. It all worked out. I feel like it’s my birthday or something. So many well wishes as I prepared to and left the mooring field. “Bye,” I yelled to my neighbors who I hadn’t seen in a couple of weeks. “I’m not coming back!”
So, yes, while I technically left I’m only five miles away. And I’m okay with that.
I left at 9 AM with a single reef in the main and was glad I did. I wanted to make it to crown point but it took two hours just to make it this far. I was cold, wet. My foul weather gear sucks. The rain, remnants of hurricane harvey, was tempestuous. Busted my depth sounder. I knew something electronic would fry I’m just glad it wasn’t Jane (my autopilot) or my GPS. Guna make me a lead line. No other boats I’ve ever owned or sailed on had depth finders anyway.
I figured why not ditch out while I still can. Soon there will be long passages with nothing in between. I’m anchored off the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum which is fitting. I’m slightly exposed to the south because mooring balls are taking up most of the anchorage. If no one claims them by tonight I’ll move onto one. I fought with the alcohol heater for a while but finally got it to work. Everything is damp but it’s beautiful in the rain.
I hope to reach Chipman Point in time for my mast unstepping appointment but I’m behind. I’ll have to leave crown point very early and should probably motor if I want to get there on time. Wind forecast 25 kts from the south but this part of the lake is very narrow, meandering, full of eagles I’ve been told.
Day three. Depth finder definitely broken. Crown point. I’ve re-anchored for the third, maybe fourth time trying to get as close to shore as possible but the gusts kept pushing me back. I’m scared for tonight. I’ve been in blows before but this spot is unknown to me.
I left early to avoid increasing wind prediction and motored into a dead calm until a light wind filled in for about an hour. Becalmed for another hour I started to motor until I hit more wind with soon became 20 kts with gusts higher. After some miles tacking one gust hit that almost knocked us down. It was time to go on deck to either shorten sail or motor. I motored. Heeling over hard in 20 kts, solo, on my boat for miles is…difficult. I kept kicking the autopilot out of its socket I was sure I’d break it. It’s hard to look at charts or do damn near anything when I have to sail the boat so closely. Crew would make all the difference in the world in that situation. But at the same time, fuck going to weather. Everyone avoids it whenever they can, right? I don’t have anything to prove to anyone or to myself.
Exhausted! Starving! No time to eat much today. Wiring catastrophe. Tried to drill hole out in bulkhead to pass running light wires and connectors through. Would up drilling into the wires and have to re splice now anyway, so hole drilling was useless and destructive. Wound up lashing the mast to the rails instead of using wood supports. It’s sturdy. Got pretty pissed though when one of the marina employees was insisting on untying my boat from the crane area in the middle of huge thunderstorm. Finally the owner came over and told him to stop. I was pissed, but the owner made it right by giving me free dockage.
Two cruising families here heading south. One I met last year in the Champlain Islands.
Approximately eighteen snaky miles through the creek like, final miles of Lake Champlain. Eagles. White and blue herons. Train tracks. Trees and cliffs. Misty and fjord like.
Crew: Amber. Off the boat of cruising family. We buddy boated with her son and husband onboard their vessel and passed through Lock 12 of the Champlain Canal. Emerged triumphant. Excellent crew. Tied to the high cement wall in Whitehall, NY now awaiting the arrival of my crew for the next four days who will travel with me the next sixty miles of the Champlain Canal and to the entry of the Hudson River where, shortly after that, I’ll become a sailboat again.
I’m sitting in a swanky modern coffee shop with an iced tea that cost four dollars. There are dogs and wooden chairs and young mothers with babies in slings, men with beards and macbook pros. I smell like gas and sweat. I just rode in from a neighboring bay where I left my boat safely on her anchor with a seven to one scope in 20 knots. I surf down four foot waves on my mate’s dinghy, yipping and hollering as spray explodes across the bow and into the boat. I spot a Nor’Sea 27 in the harbor with its mast down. I knew it was Nor’sea the other day when I spotted it nearly a mile away and my suspicion was correct. They must be going south.
I struggle hauling three gallons of gas a few blocks from the fuel dock to the dinghy.
I find an eagle feather on the sidewalk in my first steps onto the city side walk.
I haven’t showered in a week.
I subsist off rice, beans, kale, tortillas, and tofu when I can afford it.
My days are governed by the wind and waves.
I take freelance assignments from the paper. I reject freelance assignments from the paper.
I’m broke. I’m ferrel. I’m free.
The past seven days have been a blur of repairs, purchases and installations, raft ups, long beats, long reaches, long scope. Lazy nights under candle and starlight.
Everything is always better out there. Amongst my people or alone, it’s better out there.
When people come into the anchorage I stand on my bow and stare them down. Yesterday I fended three people off from my space. One bearing down on me under power, another anchoring 30 feet to starboard, another about to drop their anchor right on top of mine. They all obliged. Something about this being a lake, perhaps, but people don’t seem to know anything about seamanship.
I suppose I was there myself, once.
NOTE: My main sail is gutted. On its last legs. I find a new tear everyday. I’ve taken to patching it with 5200, as sewing has just created more strain on the disintegrating fabric. I need another primary main or at least a spare. I have a last ditch plan to turn an old main off a Columbia 26 into a spare. I’ll have to put in reef points and new hanks. I’m going to do it Tom Sawyer style. It’s the only way.
If anyone knows of or has a mainsail that would fit my boat (dimensions below) PLEASE CONTACT ME and we can strike a deal.
ALSO– watch my film and donate if you care to see it completed !!!
In the boatyard the kindness of others was bestowed upon me. I came to rely on it.
By launch I was afraid–but going to do it anyway. So I thought myself brave.
In the north lake I was still unsure.
By Valcour Island I was ferrel.
By Burlington I’ become resourceful.
In the deepest part of the lake I became gutsy. Nearly reckless. Fueled by adrenaline, raucous wind and storms.
Further south I felt aimless–so I rejoined society for a little while, but only halfway.
It has been too long. I’m sorry I haven’t written sooner. Life moves pretty fast onboard a sailboat that goes an average of five knots (which is actually pretty fast for the hefty, intrepid Anam Cara).
First off, my goodness–what a boat. We have been through some wild rides. Like the time it took me four hours to tack past Diamond Island. It was difficult to point in the 25-30 knot gusts, and every time we made progress we’d near shore and get blanked by the mountains, the wind would just die.
Or the time my mom came and visited. It was a thunderous, rain storm of a weekend. We stayed on land at a Bed & Breakfast while Anam Cara was tied safely to a friend’s mooring ball. We had one small window, or so it seemed. The clouds began to part. In a nice 12 knots northwest breeze I flew west on a starboard tack and then headed north. I’d been watching clouds develop in the northwest corner of the Adirondacks and it had finally begun approaching. The winds started to shift so I jibed home and was making only three knots.
As soon as we entered the bay the storm ascended. We were soaked to the bone, could barely see five feet ahead, but the wind never came. I could see the wind line all around us to the north, south, east and west, but we escaped in some kind of shadow. I arrived on the mooring ball as lightening and thunder cracked the sky. My friend on land saw me come in and later said we looked like a ghost ship through the fog. The VHF reported 50 knot winds from the storm.
Most recently, my best friend on the planet came to visit. Winds were predicted south one day and north the next. I decided we’d sail north to Burlington and back south the next day. Going there was light, easy. We pretended to be pirates and drank far too much wine. We anchored under sail, in the rain, in our underwear, the entire anchorage watching our silent maneuvers.
Leaving, however, was a different story. The winds and waves built all night. We left on a starboard tack heading west to clear Juniper Island before we could head south and run home downwind. Twenty-five knots, sustained, five foot waves and confused ones at that. I had to point very carefully to not get broad-sided, but Anam Cara delivered. Her sturdy keel breaking up the chop.
We’ve weathered five storms at anchor, all over 40 knots. I only dragged once, and luckily into open water. I had anchored under sail and the hook didn’t set until the storm blew us back.
But I am pushing the boat sailing in such conditions. She needs more than I gave her in the yard. There’s a crack in the fiberglass above the bulkhead. The one the previous owner said hasn’t gotten bigger in 10 years. But I’ve sailed this boat more in the past three months than she’s been sailed in a decade and, well, it’s gotten bigger. A lot bigger. The mast is compressing the cabin top causing all sorts of trouble.
The roller furler is flimsy, rusted, and needs to be repaired or replaced. I’ve decided to have a new forestay fabricated and convert to hank-on sails. I’ll drop the mast this fall, tend to the compression crack by repairing the fiberglass and supporting the compression post on the ballast of the boat, not the cabin sole that is suffering from dry rot (which seems to be the reason why the whole thing happened to begin with). While I’m at it I’ll have the rigger inspect her standing rigging. I know I need to replace at least one turnbuckle…
This, along with many other issues with the boat, is why I’ve decided not to go south until next year. I need the fall, spring, and probably much of next summer to really get her right. I’ve even gone so far to think I might stay here in Vermont for the winter, get three jobs and a car so I can access the boatyard easily. I’m thinking to hang the boat up at a small boatyard in Vermont, where I have a handshake agreement with the owner to work for him during haul out season in exchange for winter storage. Only problem is I need to haul out soon to get to work on my boat before the cold comes–and with the lake level so low the yard can’t haul boats until they dredge. When it’s going to happen is the question of the hour…
For the last month I’ve been working for a Danish sailor on his Morgan Heritage One Tonne. Cool, ocean race boat. I helped prepare her for launch but left after four weeks seeking the freedom I felt the first few months on the boat, in Monty’s Bay and the north lake, when I still thought I was going south.
But everything is different, now. The goal has been and will continue to be to journey this boat back to saltwater–now that it won’t happen this year, everything has changed. I’m just biding my time, at anchor, before I have to get my shit together. Winter is coming.
If you want an adventure buy a small sail boat, fix it up as best you can, and live on it traveling from port to port as long as you can. You’ll be amazed at what you’re made of. How quickly life reverts to basic instincts like finding food, protection from weather, and a safe place to sleep.
You will be humbled by what you don’t know, surprised by what you do. You’ll learn a thing or two about integrity and your own work ethic–if you cut corners while fixing her up they’ll come back to visit when the drink gets angry (which she does, often).
You will come face to face with yourself. It may not be in the form of changing sail in a storm, alone on the bow of your boat, but in a relationship with someone you meet along the way–and you will meet so many, and you will learn why you are worthy of their time and help.
You will learn what you attract in this life.
In one of my sailing books I read about the ritual of caring for your boat once you’ve come in from a sail. Flaking the mainsail, snugging up the dock lines perfectly, securing the chafe gear on the anchor line. My boat doesn’t have shining varnish, sparkling gelcoat, or brand new nonskid on the deck, but she’s nearly always one of the prettiest boats in the harbor and I take pride in taking care of her as best I can. While many things were crossed off the list after spending a month in the boatyard, I now having a new one of things that need to be done as I continue to head south on this journey.
Some people are extroverts and some are introverts. Some recharge their inner battery by being around others and some by being alone. I was feeling a bit trapped in the north lake. After I made the decision to sail north on the day of gusting southerlies, I got caught up spending time with friends and working for the marina. The first day of summer passed and now everyday is getting shorter. I can’t help but think about the winter.
But I’m so glad I stayed. Last night was spent cozied up in the cockpit of Pierre and Mariev’s boat with our friend Rene. We walked along the road to the neighboring marina and campground. Pierre and I shared a cigarette while Mariev and Rene walked ahead of us, their conversation in French sounding melodic. Pierre said I should be on my boat by myself for a while. To not rush into bringing girls, or boys, or dogs aboard. I agree.
Today I finally took my friend John for a sail with his girlfriend, Tanya. We ghosted silently in a five knot breeze until it died all together so we drank beers, measured the height of the mast, and floated on the glassy lake. When we pulled into the dock I hugged them goodbye, not knowing really if I’ll ever see them again, but grateful that they adopted me as one of their own and acted as my north country family the past two months.
Rowing into shore to have a drink with my friends still in the yard, I noticed my dinghy had a bit of a leak in the bottom. Lucky for me to be in the boatyard my friend Alex gave me a bit of fiberglass and epoxy and I patched the bottom.
Now that I’ve had so many days around my mates I feel ready to take on the next week of solo sailing. Finally I will make for my furthest point south through the part of the lake with the biggest fetch, and thus biggest winds and waves. The forecast calls for increasing southerlies so I will leave early in the morning. My main is already reefed. I have sandwiches and snacks ready to go. I realized that so far aboard my little boat I’ve traveled 150 miles. That’s nearly the entire length of the lake. I should be able to make it off the lake before winter just fine.
Back on the New York side, Vermont and everything that happened there seems like a world away.
Monty’s Bay is home. Home to this boat, but I took the letters off her stern because we no longer have a home port. She’s is most definitely at home, though, sitting quietly in the perfect calm and nearly full moon, with a thin layer of shadowed cloud wisps stretching across the moonlight.
Sailed south from North Hero Island. Coming through the Isle la Mott and Point au Roche pass the west wind funneled through and I had a hell of a time tacking to meet my friend, Tanya, at one o’clock. I tried to pick up a mooring ball but circled it three times, missed, gave up and dropped anchor nearly a mile away from the dock.
Long row against the wind with two of us in the dink, wind already gusting up to 15 knots. Pulled the anchor up and half the bottom came with it. I should have known to reef the main before we set out. I knew in theory that anything around or above 15 knots warrants a reef aboard my little 24-footer, and that was confirmed when one particular gust put the rails in the water as we screamed along under far too much canvas. Pretty hairy, but the boat is officially christened now.
Tanya was great crew. She stayed out of the way when maneuvering, had fun, trusted me, helped when asked and determined to get some sun (even though it was actually quite cloudy, windy, and cold), wore her bikini the entire sail. Now that’s dedication!
Being alone on the water makes me appreciate land and company that much more. Back at her house that evening she and her partner, John (who helped me install my bilge pump when I was still in the boatyard), stuffed me full of bratwurst and beer. John gave me a solar trickle charger and a volt meter. Two important items on my list that I planned to purchase next time I was near civilization. They sent me back to my boat with a stash of beer for those nights on anchor.
I met John’s father, Bob, who is 85. He’s sailed miles and miles, been to New Zealand six times, and to both the North and South poles. He’s full of stories. He told me I have a good life program. That I’m doing well. When I left he said, “keep your eyes open.”
Once again, I’ll say it. Monty’s Bay Marina and Boatyard, and all the people who I’ve met there— pure fucking magic.
Lake Champlain has an inland body of water, cut off from the broad lake by a sandbar to the south, and mainland Canada to the north, with the Grand Isle drawbridge as the only way in and the only way out.
My shakedown cruise as a singlehanded sailor took place on the Inland Sea, lovingly referred to by my French Canadian friends as “Second Lake.” A place home to my dockside Shangri La. A place home to an assortment of sailing fairy godfather’s I met who helped me in several pinches. A place with beautiful yet minimally protected anchorages. A place I’m happy I escaped, as it was starting to feel like a wormhole.
My birthday was the other day. As I present to myself I bought a new battery for the boat, as one of my batteries was completely toast, and the other only half toast. As a present from the universe I was offered a free slip to suss out some woes, and free labor/advice to repair them.
My engine wasn’t starting with the electric starter, and was also dying at idle. I thought it was a battery issue. One one particular day I pull started a 9 horse power engine four times. Four. Times.
Once to leave the mooring, once to drop anchor, once when I anchored too close to another boat, and once again when I realized I was in the wrong spot for optimal wind protection. I’d like to become a better sailor and rely on the engine less, but for now…
With the maneuvers to tack into 15 kts up St. Albans Bay, plus starting the engine, I was sure my arm would be sore for the rest of my life.
Miraculously the next day the iron genny purred right to life as I headed towards the free slip my friend offered me. “Run the engine a while to charge your batteries,” another friend recommended, but as soon as I was out of the lee of the island, up went the sails and I tacked silently out of the bay.
When I arrived at the marina and prepared to dock, the engine died as I made my turn into the slip and throttled down. I pulled out the gib to try and sail in, but no such luck. The timing and my skills weren’t quite up to par. I flagged down a boater on an old but beautifully restored Chris Craft, and he arrived just in time as my anchor was two feet from another boat, and I was straddling the bow to fend off.
A quick cleaning of the spark plugs, a new battery, and everything was good to go. I sailed away from the dock, waving to my mate and hoping I wouldn’t be back anytime soon. I dropped the hook off of Savage Island, for what would be a miserable lunch hook.
Power boaters, jet skis, shoals. I’m pretty sure I scraped the bottom and I’m not sure my anchor ever even dug into the rocky bottom. After a rest inside the boat from the punishing sun I needed to get out of there.
But the wind wasn’t in my favor. In fact, there was no wind at all. In the distance I saw a boat sailing. The lake was taunting me. I’d see a little ripple, or another indicator of wind, pull out the sail and it would flap in the dead calm. I felt like a true hobo, motoring my little house around trying to get to a safe spot for the southerlies predicted to pick up after midnight. I didn’t dare ask for wind, though.
The southerlies did indeed come, and I had a hell of a time pulling up the anchor. I sailed dead downwind to the Grand Isle Drawbridge. Missed the opening by five minutes, and tooled around in the harbor until the next one. After the bridge is a place called ‘The Gut.” A weedy, shallow, miserable body of water that I hope to never cross again. I made two knots through the muck, until I reached my Oasis. Nichols Point.
Back on the broad lake, protected by the southerlies, other boats all around me–I could see the Adirondacks to the west. Wind mills dotted the horizon as the full moon rose. I planned to head south in the morning and make for Valcour Island.
The 20 knot southerlies had other plans. After getting my ass kicked beating into the wind and four foot waves, I turned around and headed North, downwind to Pelot’s bay, an anchorage I’m familiar with.
My boat knew what to do when I didn’t. My eyes nearly stinging with tears as she surfed down the waves, her heavy keel breaking up the motion. I cooed to her as we jibed to clear the reef of Isle La Motte, and sailed through the rock wall entrance to the harbor.