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November 4, 2017. Solomon’s Island, MD
I’m getting closer to the ‘conch dock.’ I can feel it. There are pelicans. I don’t want it to end, sailing the Chesapeake, but it’s getting cold. Today, the water grey and glistening, had sloppy, choppy waves with little crests that broke and disappeared under my boat’s keel. Sometimes a rogue set would send Vanupied careening into their troughs, knocking the wind out of her sails. But there wasn’t much wind to fill them anyway. As the remaining gusts from the cold front dissipated not much was left, but the leftover seas never did really settle. I should have flown the big genoa only. Could have made better time.
As it was 20 miles took nine hours and I arrived after dark to an empty anchorage in front of a tiki bars, piers, and buildings on stilts. One restaurant was playing some golden oldies and the free entertainment was welcome aboard. While squaring things away on deck another boat came in and I heard her captain call to his crew,”We’ll anchor just behind this guy.”
“Hey!” I yelled friendlily. “I’m a GIRL.” Sometimes I want to shout it from the rooftops.
Turns out it was the sailor on the Grampian 30 I met in Annapolis. He’s cruising with his wife and two daughters. They invited me over for a feast of Dahl, spinach and fried paneer for which I was much obliged. Despite being horrifically lactose intolerant, I devoured the cheese dish and yogurt sauce with vengeance. It was the most food I’d eaten in a single setting in ages. Their eight year old daughter, while only in third grade, could probably write a thesis and it turns out she gives excellent back massages. Her hands did a good job kneading the knots in my back from days in the cockpit and crouching around inside my boat’s little cabin–but her endurance was a bit lacking. Oh well, she’s only eight. She’ll get there.
Upon arriving I really wished I’d had an extra $20 to go ashore for a burger and a beer at the restaurant playing the oldies–this, however, turned out to be much better.
I don’t know what’s fuller, my heart or my belly. All of the jobs to make my little boat “seaworthy” are done. All that’s left is some cosmetic work and I’m splashed. But I’m not ready to leave this little boatyard community.
My French neighbor, John, with the Pearson 35 that he’s sailed to the Bahamas and back with his wife Gaby, reckons if I were here all alone I’d have figured it out. I can’t help but feel though that I couldn’t have done it without him and all the others who have helped me and my little boat get this far.
I’ve always secretly resented people who “forget to eat.” If I meet up with a friend around dinner time and they say they’ve had a “big lunch” I seethe silently. But it’s been happening to me. I’ve been forgetting to eat. It’s so hot during the day and the boat’s such a mess that the thought of cooking something and having to clean it up deters me and then I get caught up doing something else. I’ve managed to get a stock of some quick and easy stuff to make in a pinch (avocado and tuna tortillas anyone)? and I’m in no way too broke or cheap to buy food–it’s just sort of been slipping my mind.
The onslaught of wonderful humans feeding me started with the waitress at the marina cafe refusing to let me pay for my lunch when we went out. A few days later her boyfriend helped me install my bilge pump, a four hour job over the course of two days, and then invited me back to dinner at their house. They sent me home with a plastic bag full of chicken breast in my pocket. Yesterday morning I was having coffee with Josie, another female solo sailor, when I ran into Renee who had bought me a bag of fruit. Just because. “I thought you could use some fruit.” I ate the mangos like a ravenous beast in my cockpit underneath the sun. It reminded me of the tropics. I can smell the melon ripening as it hangs in my food hammock beside sweet potatoes I’ve yet to cook.
Last night a huge storm came through. I could see it building on the lake, marching towards the boatyard. My starboard chainplate, which is what keeps my mast attached to the boat, was removed for a bulkhead repair I was working on. Then the storm hit. I had two halyards tied down supporting the mast, so it wasn’t going anywhere in theory, but the wind blew hard and my mast leaned to the side in a way I never want to see again. The sound of the mast leaning from inside the boat had me sure the whole thing was going to come down any second. But sounds are always amplified inside the boat. Fellow boatyard neighbors Michael and Peter saw my commotion and came to help. When the storm passed they invited me for wine and snacks. After a couple of glasses Peter said, “Come with us to the restaurant, I’ll buy you dinner. The least I could do for a fellow hungry sailor.”
Today while I was helping another sailor tighten down his stanchions, Renee said, “Are you hungry?” and gave me ribs, corn and potatoes he had leftover from lunch. Then he invited me to a picnic dinner with a few other sailors where we ate pizza and salad. Julie and Alex are going to be sailing their Beneteau to the Bahamas this year. Julie had just baked a cake in their galley. She wrapped a piece up in some tin foil and I put it in my pocket.
“Everybody will help you. Some people are very kind.” -Bob Dylan