Sunday, December 31, 2006

Oriental, NC

0 nm
Wind: NE 10-15 knots, building to 15-20

I’ve begun to get a little too long-winded and introspective lately, I think. Always my major fault. It’s important to think about what I’m doing, but it’s more important to actually experience it. What Karl, my ninja, is so good at.

So we stayed here another day, for the New Year’s Eve festivities, the running of the dragon. It was fantastic, amazing, well worth the time spent, but I still begrudge the loss of a day moving.

The local fish is called a croaker, and as part of the celebration, the town officials (who seem to be an ideal crew of casual ex-cruising sailor hippies) build a giant tinselly lit-up plywood croaker and drop it from the mast of a sailboat just in time for the new year, just after the dragon runs through the streets.

I woke up this morning hearing the crew of town officials ask our neighbors, fellow cruisers, if they would do them the honor of dropping the croaker from their mast. I am dismayed that our habit of sleeping in has kept us from having the privilege of dropping the croaker, especially because our neighbors’ boat has internal halyards and they can’t get the croaker all the way up the mast. Not that the town officials would have asked us, the dirty boat with the kids in it, anyway.

The town’s supposed to have a strict 48-hour limit on dock time here, but our neighbors, a Texan cruising sailboat called Gone with the Wind, got an exemption for the dropping of the croaker and we’re riding on their coattails. I feel a little guilty about it, especially because there are a bunch of local boats anchored in the harbor who I’m sure would jump on our spots, but locals, in a non-official capacity, kept begging us to stay, so we did.

We were even invited to a potluck pig roast! I made my soon to be famous chipotle-cilantro-cream cheese dip, but I think I may have put in too many chipotles for the locals, because no one touched it. Too much cooking for Karl, he of the burnt-out taste buds, I suppose. I swear if we took all the hot sauce off the boat, we’d gain half a knot of speed.

The pig picking was awesome, though. Best pig I ever had. Tennessee Ron, the Master of Ceremonies, a magical, grizzled, big-bearded, one-eyed sailorman, with a giant orange pig smoker he tows behind his truck, seems to have a Pied-Piper-like ability of making all the local townswomen make out with him. It’s rather astonishing. I brought my Tennessee hat to show him, mildewed though it is, and he was duly impressed. He told us tales of cruising through the Bahamas, and told us that the Azores, across the Atlantic, was where we want to be. He also went in for the kiss, when we said farewell at midnight, but I gave him the cheek. I don’t think Karl would have been too pleased with the alternative.

Then came the dragon run. It was an exuberant celebration, unlike any I have encountered since the millennial New Year in Germany. Not that there were really 20,000 people in the streets, as we had been promised—it was just a community of people who really liked each other and loved their town. Children raced through the streets banging pots and pans, anyone got under the dragon who wanted, loud music filled the air, and all was general chaos. It was great.

To top it off, we were invited over to someone’s house for Swedish glog, and we met a whole slew of amazing people: a solo circumnavigator who also walks thousands of miles with mules, an American-Scottish couple who crossed both the Atlantic and Pacific, and a bunch of community artists.

I think I’m half in love with this place. If there was any danger of us settling down, I might want to settle down here.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Oriental, NC

0 nm
Wind: light and variable

The sun's beating on my shoulder so hard I can barely see the computer screen, I'm munching on a bagel, and I have wireless access at the free dock in Oriental. Life is good. This is perhaps my favorite town of the trip so far--there's a cute coffeehouse just across the way, a kayak shop and outfitter with an end-of-season sale going on, a nautical outfitter with charts, a West Marine a mile away, a restaurant with a great blue-cheese burger (my fatal weakness), and friendly locals.

We've already met a bunch of new cruisers here, too--a couple from Texas who's cruised all around Puerto Rico and Grand Turk, a single-hander with a 26-foot boat, and two powerboaters who've cruised from Annapolis in three days. We spent all night last night making new friends, first, eating dinner with the group of sailors, and then being invited over to the 46-foot power boat belonging to our new "stinkpot" friends.

And they say powerboaters and sailors can't get along. We had a great time, poking around the ginormous powerboat. The thing does 20 knots and burns 25 gallons of diesel an HOUR. It costs $500 to fuel it for a day, our budget, for everything, for an entire month. Then again, they'll be in Florida by the end of the week, and we might just make it there in time to meet them on their way back, in February.

The evening took on the familiar character of those of our adventuring days, meeting acquaintances who immediately become new friends. People are continually floored when we explain to them what we're doing. They don't understand how we can do it, so young, so poor, so schedule-free. We explain to them that we're just frugal (aside from the occasional blue-cheese burger) and that we don't have any debt. And we occasionally poop in buckets. It's just really not that hard, when it boils down to it. You just have to not spend money. You earn it, and you don't spend it. You save it for what you really want to do, and for us, right now, that's sailing.

You can easily make $6000 in a winter and have an extravagant budget for a six-month summer-long thru-hike, and people were continually amazed at how we managed to afford that. Sailing's even easier--anchoring's free, and you carry your house with you. You don't even need motel rooms to sleep in a bed, like we did on the trail.

It was just further proof of my evangelistic hypothesis. Just by sailing, by going new places and meeting new people, and showing them how we live, we open their eyes to new ways to live. How it's possible to free yourself from the curses of commercialism and appearance and over-medication of our decadent society. How easy it is, when it boils right down, to live a dream.

We were supposed to leave today for Beaufort, but we're being sucked in to stay for the annual Oriental New Year's Eve running of the dragon, the major event in the life of the town. It seems almost too coincidental that we happen to be here in time for it. I can't decide if it's worth trying to stay another day. We keep getting sucked into these towns, and as much as I love meeting new people and seeing new places, I miss the seclusion and peace of our beautiful days sailing and silent nights at anchor.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Bear Creek to Oriental, NC

19.5 nm
Wind: calm to NE 5 knots
Maximum speed: 4.8 knots
Maximum speed under sail: 4.4 knots
Average speed: 2.6 knots
Latitude: 35°01.49’N
Longitude: 076°41.74’W

I’m sitting in the cockpit, writing on my notepad. It’s about 3:30 in the afternoon, the sun’s beating down so hard I may get a sunburn, we have all sail out, running wing-and-wing with the Master steering at about three knots, and all my depression has burned off. Life is perfect. This is the dream, right here, now, its pulse heavy beneath my fingers.

It’s the first day we’ve had the mainsail up since Knapp Narrows, way back in the Chesapeake, eons ago. Since the day we ran straight at the bascule bridge at seven knots under main alone, the water pushing us forward.

We both needed to sail today, like a fix. I admit it—we’re addicts. It’s the last day that we’ll have open water until Beaufort Inlet, when we have to decide whether or not we’re going inside to Cape Fear. So even when the forecast was for light and variable wind we dutifully raised our sails this morning and sat in the sun while we drifted along at less than a knot.

It’s all done under the pretense of testing the Master’s battery usage under sail. He’s doing amazing. We’ve never used him under sail before, but he’s rated at less than a half-amp an hour, so we figured we’d give it a try. With the computer, the depth sounder, and the Master all running on one battery for five hours, which charged for only a half-hour this morning, we haven’t had our voltage alarm go off yet. If you’re not a cruiser, you don’t understand how you live and die by battery, but I’m in awe. The Master might even outlast our daylight.

That’s very good news for going offshore this next stretch. We’re both getting impatient with the diesel, even though it’s done its part, and a good one, getting us this far. But I don’t want to build bad habits. I don’t want to get lazy. And sailing today has been like medicine. I feel like my universe has realigned. I know what I’m doing, why I’m here. We may have to motor the whole rest of the way down, and that’s okay. It’ll be a necessary sacrifice. Fossil fuels burning at the altar of adventure. But I know that this, this perfect moment, in harmony with the wind, the water, the sky, the moon shining like a coin in the blue behind us, this is why I’m doing this. I’m a believer again.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Belhaven to Bear Creek, NC

23.6 nm
Wind: calm to N 5 knots
Maximum speed: 5.5 knots
Average speed: 4.3 knots
Latitude: 35°11.74’N
Longitude: 076°35.58’W

Karl and I spent all night tonight talking about boats. Karl’s latest plan is to buy some dugout canoes for outriggers and turn our Ranger 33 into a trimaran. Originally he wanted to buy another Ranger 33 hull and turn Secret into a catamaran, but then we’d have to move the mast.

My holiday angst is basically gone. Karl and I have been a little bit snippy with each other lately, but I imagine that has a lot to do with being stuck at the dock with Lise and Marcel, and Christmas, and not having been able to sail lately.

Tonight it was fun to be talking about dreams and schemes and plans again. We pulled out all of our old Cruising Worlds and looked at crazy tribal-inspired catamarans and trimarans. I don’t believe that building a crazy outrigger and attaching it to our hull with telephone poles is really a good idea, but I told Karl if we find one cheap and he’s convinced of the idea’s seaworthiness, he’s welcome to go for it.

We’re far more likely to actually trade for a multi-hull, but even that idea makes me nervous. I feel very safe on Secret, and I’m convinced she could weather a hurricane just fine, but multi-hulls seem a bit sketchy. I know people swear by them, but still. And I have a hard enough time getting rid of a pair of shoes, let alone a boat.

We did look, though, at Jim Brown’s trimarans in Cruising World and Good Old Boat magazine—he’s a crazy dude that performed the first ocean crossing in a trimaran, in a 23-foot boat with his pregnant wife and another crew member. He then designed plans for a 31-foot trimaran, the Searunner, and sold the plans to all sorts of crazy hippies in the seventies, who built them themselves out of plywood. At least a half-dozen of them circumnavigated.

I’ve always thought that if Karl absolutely had to have a multi-hull, that that’s the one I’d want to have. I’m not sure if it’s so much the boat as it is the creator. Jim Brown, as Cruising World says, has “thought deeply about cruising.”

That’s what appeals to me about the Pardeys, too, and even Henri Amel with his 54-foot Super Maramus. Especially with all the thinking I’ve been doing about meaning in my life, coming up on my birthday, as I begin to appropriate the reality of this lifestyle.

It’s something I believe in, at all levels, spiritually, emotionally, physically. It’s what bothers me so thoroughly about motoring. I understand an engine is another tool, one more thing the sea gypsy needs and uses, but my whole nature protest from building my existence around it.

What I love about the Pardeys, and Jim Brown, is how sailing to them is organically and spiritually linked to life, how sails and sheets and whisker poles and wind vanes allow them to harness nature herself for power, and use her to carry them to other places where they can experience strange people and foreign cultures.

Jim Brown calls other cultures “differing states of consciousness,” and I believe in that, too. One of the things that Jesus said—the last thing, actually, what is called the “Great Commission”—was “go into all the world and preach the good news.”

I’m not a missionary, like my parents, because I interpret that commission differently than they do. I am a a Christian, as they are, but that doesn’t mean to me that I need to convert people. Instead, it means that I need to live a life suffused with knowledge and love of God, and knowledge and love of other people, and that’s exactly what cruising allows me to do. Sailing, being in contact with the Spirit of the wind and water, allows me to know and love God in ways I’m only beginning to grasp. And the sea carries me to places where, I hope, I can discover new things about the world and love thoroughly everyone I meet. I can share the good news with them—the good news of freedom from fear, from mammon, from hate, if only by the way I live in freedom.

I’m not sure if I’ve don the best job of explaining it, but I figured I needed to try, for myself, for my parents, for everyone who wonders about the verse up there beneath my title.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

River Forest Marina to Belhaven, NC

.5 nm
Wind: NW 15-20 knots
Maximum speed: 2.4 knots
Average speed: 1.8 knots
Latitude: 35°31.74’N
Longitude: 076°37.26’W

My sister posted a poem today on her blog. Not to copy her, but I’m going to copy her. Because more people should read this poem. Bob Dylan mentioned on his Theme Time Radio Hour a couple of weeks ago. If you happen to have the resources and oh, say, the house, you should buy XM Satellite Radio just so you can hear the Theme Time Radio Hour. It’s worth three times what they charge. I’ve heard the show once, and even I know that.


The first sorrow of autumn
Is the slow goodbye
Of the garden who stands so long in the evening-
A brown poppy head,
The stalk of a lily,
And still cannot go.

The second sorrow
Is the empty feet
Of a pheasant who hangs from a hook with his brothers.
The woodland of gold
Is folded in feathers
With its head in a bag.

And the third sorrow
Is the slow goodbye
Of the sun who has gathered the birds and who gathers
The minutes of evening,
The golden and holy
Ground of the picture.

The fourth sorrow
Is the pond gone black
Ruined and sunken the city of water-
The beetle's palace,
The catacombs
Of the dragonfly.

And the fifth sorrow
Is the slow goodbye
Of the woodland that quietly breaks up its camp.
One day it's gone.
It has only left litter-
Firewood, tentpoles.

And the sixth sorrow
Is the fox's sorrow
The joy of the huntsman, the joy of the hounds,
The hooves that pound
Till earth closes her ear
To the fox's prayer.

And the seventh sorrow
Is the slow goodbye
Of the face with its wrinkles that looks through the window
As the year packs up
Like a tatty fairground
That came for the children.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

River Forest Marina, NC

0 nm
Wind: SW 20-25 knots, gusting to 30

It’s so windy today that we can’t leave the dock, so we’re stuck here for another day. Wireless access not withstanding, I’m miserable. One of our remaining, unstolen dock lines has chafed through, and the squeaking of our fenders is driving me crazy. It’s just one of those days I wonder why the hell I’m even out here.

Why am I depriving myself of the beauty of Bob Dylan’s radio show, in his waning years, that my sister blogged about today? I’m eleven days always from 29. Is this really what I want to do with my life? Not that Bob Dylan is a reason to make major life decisions—except, wait, yes he is. At least to me. But there’s other things, too. My subscriptions to the New Yorker and McSweeney’s Literary Quarterly. Having social interactions with anyone other than Karl. Having my family believe in me.

I don’t know why it is—maybe because prophets are doomed to be unbelieved in his or her own hometown—or maybe it’s just because that’s a parent’s job—but I just wish that they could allow for the possibility that I’m not completely wasting my life away. Perhaps Will Smith said it best: “parents just don’t understand.” Crazy Southerners, the Beanses, random Californians who happen to own the same boat that I do, random strangers—all these people believe in what we’re doing. They read what I write about it. It means something to them. They think that I’m doing what most people only dream about, the adventure of a lifetime, that I’m doing what I should be doing—sucking the very marrow out of life.

My parents, however, think I should be attending graduate school or feeding Indian babies or doing evangelistic work or at least getting married and having babies, because all of those things have meaning. Even being a waitress is better than being a bum and living on a boat. No matter that I paid my own way, that I bought and rebuilt this thing, this home, and that I’m living my dream. No matter that I wrote a freaking novel in the month of November, something I’ve wanted to do since I was three. None of that means anything.

I love them. Too much, sometimes, because it’s not that what they say doesn’t hurt, it’s that it makes me believe them. What if they’re right? What if I die alone and miserable? What if I destroy my life this way? What if I end up penniless and they have to fly me home? What if the boat and my body is crushed in an accident and I don’t have any insurance to pay my medical bills?

All those things could happen. They’re not even that unlikely. At least Karl’s family just worries about him dying, not whether or not his existence is being justified. But I’ve chosen to live a life not based on fear, not on what-ifs. Paul said, “the Spirit of the Lord has given you not a spirit of fear, but of love, and of power, and of a sound mind.” And one of His penitent sinners said to Jesus, “Lord, I believe. Help thou my unbelief.” That’s how I feel right now. Help thou my unbelief. It’s so lonely when I can’t believe in myself.

Monday, December 25, 2006


Belhaven to River Forest Marina, NC
Wind: S 25-30 knots, gusting to 35 (knot-meter recorded 33 on dock)
Seas: one-foot, choppy

I didn’t mention it last night—too busy with the turkey—but Lise and Marcel are here with us too. When we pulled in last night we saw them at the marina, and Marcel motored over in his dinghy yesterday to where we were at the anchorage, and invited him to come stay at the dock, his treat, as a Christmas present. We thought it over, and decided to head over this morning, figuring it’d be good to celebrate with some friends as well as alone. Some local hunters had given Marcel a hank of venison for Christmas, seeing how far away he was from home.

So we ate a leisurely breakfast, not really paying much attention to the rocking of the boat. She lies so easy at anchor that it’s almost like being rocked in a cradle. I didn’t even realize that the wind had picked up until I listened to the weather report and then went outside in my raingear. We got docking lines and fenders ready, Karl pulled up his crap trap (baited with turkey neck) and anchor, and we set off for the marina. Both of the other boats in the anchorage peered out at us from under their spray dodgers, white-faced, as we motored blithely by, waving. It felt like the wind picked up the closer we got to the dock, the chop building, and as Secret slammed down into the waves and strained ever harder to power into the wind, we both began to rethink our lovely Christmas plan.

Keep in mind we’ve only docked a handful of times, maybe ten, and never in thirty knots, which is what it became clear to us it was blowing. Marcel and Lise stood on the dock, gamely waiting to hold our lines. Luckily they do a lot of docking, especially in bad weather, so Marcel knew just what to do, even when the boat was perpendicular to the dock with Lise holding a bowline and the anchor roller gouging out chunks of wood as I tried to keep the boat off. We came off relatively unscathed, but the fenders are screeching against the pilings and the motion of both boats is so uncomfortable that Lise is completely seasick. I’m not sure how much it is homesickness and how much it is seasickness, but whatever it is, she’s miserable, and Karl and I both wonder if maybe we should have stayed at anchor. At least we can try to comfort Lise and be good friends to the two of them, even if we are worried about the boat.

I’m more than ever convinced of Karl’s anchoring abilities. We’ve rode out a ton of storms at anchor, and Karl goes out and confidently manages how much chain and rope we have out, and prepares a second anchor that we’ve never had to use, and basically I don’t worry. Docking during storms is a whole new ballgame, and really seems a lot more frightening to me. Your boat has a whole ton of things to crash into at a dock, and with a fiberglass boat like ours, that means you lose your boat. If your anchor drags, you have at least a couple of minutes to try to get another one set.

So a cold and wet Christmas for us. We’ll go over to Marcel and Lise’s later and try to watch movies and eat venison and be somewhat festive. I’m just glad we had our warm and cozy family Christmas last night.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Eve!

Alligator River to Belhaven, NC
31.6 nm
Wind: N 10-15 knots
Maximum speed: 6.1 knots
Average speed: 5.0 knots
Latitude: 35°31.76’N
Longitude: 076°37.21’W

So Christmas (or at least Christmas Eve) ended up being not so bad, despite my pity party of yesterday. We motored all day up the Alligator River-Pungo Canal, under beautiful sunny skies and wearing tee-shirts in the sixty-degree weather. Not very Christmas-y, but it did lighten my mood significantly. Karl kept a sharp lookout for alligators all day. And I mean literally. There was nary a moment when the binoculars were not glued to his face. I kept trying to suggest that maybe we should wait until Florida to keep the 24-hour gator watch, but he could not be swayed. His new plan is to become the next Animal Planet sensation—Karl Tomasik: Alligator Hunter, and then to upholster our entire boat (including cockpit cushions!) with alligator skin. In the meantime, I’m just happy he was the one to scrub the floor today as a little Christmas present to me. Sometimes, just little gestures like that make my heart overflow with love and holiday spirit.

I spent the last couple of hours trying to navigate with raw turkey grease on my hands, as I attempted the not-so-easy task of making stuffing as well as washing and rinsing a nine-day-old eleven-pound turkey in a sink the size of a teacup. Fannie Farmer always says to slather a turkey with butter, so slather with butter I did, even though this made the negotiating of piles of dishes, pots and pans, heaps of stuffing, and the occasional turn to the GPS a little more complicated. Most complicated yet was fitting the blasted thing in the oven. We don’t have a roasting pan, so the 6x8-inch broiling pan that came with the RV oven had to do, and Karl literally forced the turkey into the oven, after protecting its breastbone with tinfoil. We were concerned (over the five hours it took) that the breast of the turkey would remain raw, thanks to its direct contact with the wall of the oven, and the turkey having been thawing for nine days, cooking it thoroughly was of the essence. Which is probably why we didn’t eat until ten.

But the turkey was delectable, among the best I’ve ever eaten, although that could be the hunger talking, as was everything else—mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, gravy. We had enough food to feed an army. We talked to our families on the phone, and while I was waiting for the turkey to cook, I got all decked out in a glittery shirt and skirt, let my hair down, and even put on makeup and perfume. Whenever I put on makeup and perfume, Karl says I smell like chemicals, but hey, sometimes a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. I suppose that’s the price you pay for having met the love of your life while drenched in two months of body odor. And today he didn’t even tell me I smelled like chemicals, he just said I was beautiful, and we burned all the candles in the boat and listened to our favorite Flaming Lips CD because we don’t have Christmas music. So life is good. And even though I won’t be able to make my famous cardamom bread or open Christmas presents, Christmas is good.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

South Lake to Alligator River, NC

22.3 nm
Wind: SW 10-15 knots, building to 20
Seas: One foot
Maximum speed: 7.0 knots
Average speed: 4.3 knots
Latitude: 35°39.91’N
Longitude: 076°01.87’W

I was wrong yesterday. I need Christmas. It’s beginning to get to me, my forced cheer. I miss my family. They’re all together now, in Michigan, and there’ll be snow and presents and Christmas lights and trees and turkey and my grandmother’s famous cranberry relish (that I don’t particularly like) and pies and stuffing and more food than any human being could possibly eat. We don’t have any Christmas music on the boat, not even one lonely Christmas decoration, and I think this will be the first Christmas ever that I don’t even have a single present to open, unless Karl has a surprise in store, and Karl hates surprises.

Karl also hates Christmas. He loves Thanksgiving, but he thinks Christmas is all about buying cheap plastic crap at Wal-mart. To be fair, the holiday has been stolen, to a large degree, by commercial interests. But I still long for the childlike wonder of it. That feeling, on Christmas morning, when you race downstairs to see what was in your stocking.

I grew up in the tropics, and we never had snow, or big family gatherings, or mistletoe or fires or any of that other Christmas stuff. But even the years we went to the beach, or had shishkabobs on the barbecue, Christmas was undeniably special. A day like no other during the year. I fear our Christmas will be anything but.

I have to haul out the turkey, which we’ve been keeping on ice for ten days, pray it’s not rotten, and find something to stuff it with. We’ll have potatoes and vegetables, and I’m sure it will be delicious, but it won’t be that much different from any other dinner on the boat, aside from the amount of work. Tomorrow, Christmas Eve, I have to do the dishes and clean the floor and bleach the mildew and do all the other things that have to be done to keep the boat in one piece. It’s going to be a day like any other day. Even the heat, which is wonderful, is my enemy right now. I miss those crisp Chicago nights, walking back to the train station past the lit-up Marshall Field’s windows in my Icelandic wool jacket from 1973, when the whole world seemed to scream Christmas. Today the sun beat down all day. It was beautiful, but nothing like winter.

We even stopped to get diesel today at Alligator River Marina, and they were closed. A guy came out and offered to open up the pump for us, and as he did so, Karl and I wondered to ourselves why were they closed? It was two in the afternoon—too early to be closed for the day. Closed for the winter? But Marcel and Lise left us a message that said they were open two days ago. We didn’t get it. Until the guy explained that they were closed for Christmas, the idea never even occurred to us. The lady at the counter rolled her eyes at me when I tried to apologize. I’m sure I had dragged her away from a real Christmas, with family and food and celebrating.

We’re just poor, pitiful, yule-less lost souls.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Elizabeth City to South Lake, NC

32.4 nm
Wind: calm to SE 10 knots
Seas: one foot, building to two
Maximum speed: 6.4 knots (motor-sailing)
Maximum speed under sail: 1.4 knots
Average speed: 4.6 knots
Latitude: 35°55.51’N
Longitude: 075°54.69’W

We’re in a gorgeous anchorage tonight. Maybe the nicest of the trip. Looking around after we anchored, Karl wondered why there were no duck blinds here, when there were slews outside. He saw a white sign on a tree, we checked our chart, and sure enough, we’re anchored right in the middle of a wildlife refuge. We’re the only civilized thing in eyesight. It seems like Skipper Bob would have mentioned it, but it’s nice to be surprised by beauty, too. I don’t think either of realized how breath-taking-ly beautiful the ICW would be—we were both just disappointed we’d have to motor the whole way. People do come this way on purpose, I suppose.

I was disappointed we weren’t going to see the Outer Banks, which I bicycled up in 2002. Before I started keeping journals of my peripatetic tendencies, I bicycled from Florida to Maine with a group that included, at one time or another, every member of my immediate family. It was a wonderful experience, especially the first week when my sister and I bicycled from the tip of Key West to San Fernandino Beach, Florida. I remember it as an absolutely glorious week of sunburn, furious rain, Power Bars, the beach, pelicans, bridges over the ICW, and ice-cold orange juice from roadside stands in blazing heat. It was heaven. By the end of the week I had sunburn underneath my sunburn. I looked like a rare steak. Later on, we took a ferry from the North Carolina coast, this time with the whole group, and spent another glorious week bicycling up the entire Outer Banks. There I remember windswept white sand and sea grass, huge lighthouses, surfers, and undertow. I remember my cousin and I got pulled back into the beach for swimming in the wrong section.

So I wanted to show Karl the Outer Banks, and I thought we could just sail along the inside. Little did I realize it’s two feet on this side of the Outer Banks. No wonder everyone does the ICW. No wonder they call the outside the “Graveyard of the Atlantic.” To make things worse, there’s a 45-foot tall bridge over there, so even if we could negotiate the six-foot deep channel, we couldn’t get under the bridge. I guess if you could, everyone would go out there.

But being here tonight makes me think that this anchorage is probably nicer than any on the Outer Banks. We’re all alone with the emptiness of the water. I can’t hear anything except my fingers on the keyboard and the water lapping at the dinghy. A candle burns on the table, and the Chinese food is now soup, bubbling on the stove. We’re making our own memories. It’s three days until Christmas, and I’m not with my family, but we’re having our own Christmas, here on the water. This will be the Christmas we went south.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Elizabeth City, NC

0 nm
Wind: SW 10 knots

Our fourth day in Elizabeth City. Argh. The jazz party last evening was a huge hit, but that means we overslept our deadline this morning, which means Marcel and Lise left without us. We’ve been told it’s a long haul across Albemarle Sound, and we didn’t want to do it starting at 10:30 this morning, so we’re stranded sleeping and reading all day and eating Chinese food. It’s a hard-knock life all right.

The party last night was amazing, though. The food was great, always a good point for an ex-hiker, and there was a lot of it. There were only a handful of us, but that made it even better. The only other couple were classic Southern aristocrats, genteel through and through. They were both Elizabeth City natives, and their drawl, though difficult to decipher, was from another era. The wife was a member of all the local society committees, including the museum committee and the Chamber of Commerce. Her husband is named Beans, because he spent some time in Boston, including racing sailboats on Buzzards Bay, our home sailing ground! It was funny for Karl, Massachusetts born and bred, to try to figure out what Beans’s name even was. Though he may be named after Beantown, he certainly pronounces it differently than they do up there.

They were horrified when we told them about our escapades with the “dock-master.” Evidently he holds no official title with the town, but he’s not breaking any laws, so if he wants to call himself dock-master there’s nothing the town can do. Small-town politics, especially when one doesn’t have to live in the small town, are a blast.

But the best part was the host, who, it turns out, is a trail angel on the Long Trail! If you haven’t read my trail journals, then you don’t know what that means, but basically it’s someone who helps out hikers—giving them food, cold drinks, rides, and occasionally showers. They’re godsends when you’re hiking, true saints of the trails, and I can’t believe we actually met one so far from “home.” We even have mutual acquaintances—he’s good friends with Roni from Israel, of all people. Roni, the trail legend. It sure is a small world. We were up until all hours talking trail talk, about pack weight, hammocks, snow, New England, all that old familiar stuff. He even put up with some of the local Chicago jazz I brought. At least for a little while.

So I guess it was worth sticking around. We promised Mrs. Beans we’d go to the museum today, but we may just loaf around. Loafing, after all, is a full-time occupation. If you don’t believe me, read The Razor’s Edge.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Elizabeth City, NC

0 nm
Wind: NE 10 knots

As much as I try not to be frustrated, it is frustrating that we’re wasting all this beautiful sailing weather. Again, I know it’s for the best, and I know that we’re getting a lot accomplished here. Laundry, for one, which hadn’t been done in about a month. Secret got a bath on Monday, her first since we started. She was filthy, and I was ecstatic that dirt will not be tracked across my scrubbed interior floors. She’s filthy again, already, of course.

Yesterday, Karl climbed both our mast and Sea Belle’s mast, which gathered a whole crowd of spectators and cries of horror from our Greek chorus of elderly gentlemen. Evidently we were doing it all wrong, though I’m grateful that we convinced the eighty-year-old “dock-master” to not clamber over to our boat and show us how it’s done. It was actually remarkably simple, although I’m very glad that I had Marcel to help me for the first time. We had a brand new boatswain’s chair bought off eBay, but winching Karl up both masts was easier than I expected. Of course, Marcel did all the heavy winching, but I’m convinced I could do it myself if I had to. It also helps that Karl was a monkey in a past life. And not too distant of a one, either, I’d wager.

The highlight of the day, though, was showers. They always are the highlight of my week, basically, but today’s were especially so. We took a pleasant jaunt down the river to a local fitness club, where we had heard you could get $5 showers. There had been rumors of a pool and Jacuzzi, too, but I was skeptical. Nothing prepared us for the ecstasy of it. In each locker room, not only were there showers with fantastic water pressure (always a telling point), but also a hot tub, sauna, AND a steam room. I think we spent a full three hours each in those locker rooms. I’ve never felt so rosy and scrubbed.

It’s a good thing, because we’ve been invited out this evening! A local gentleman (one of the non-creepy ones, thankfully) hosts a jazz club at his house on Wednesday nights. So we’re going, even though it may interfere with our departure on the morrow. Lise and Marcel aren’t, shockingly enough. Evidently they hate jazz, although I think I’d go even if it were a Toby Keith appreciation club, just for the cheese and shrimp. Then again, maybe not.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Elizabeth City, NC

0 nm
Wind: N 10-15 knots, sunny

Our stay in Elizabeth City continues. I have a feeling this town may trap us a while, despite our lack of privacy. Every day we get a lot accomplished, but it’s still frustrating not to be moving. I think the seventy-degree weather and sun is lulling us into a false sense of security. That, and being south of Norfolk.

It’s great to feel like we’re really, truly in the south, the Deep South, where seventy-degree days, even in December, are the norm, and frost the exception. I keep having to remind myself it’s six days until Christmas.

I also keep trying to remind myself that I don’t have a deadline. I don’t have to BE anywhere. I’m impatient to get to Florida, to the Bahamas, to warmth, but I know as soon as I reach one milestone (like Norfolk) I’ll be impatient for the next one. I don’t know why I can’t just enjoy where I am, now, in the moment, something else Karl seems to do effortlessly. Where I see laziness, he sees accomplishment. Why can I never see the glass as half-full?

Lise and I had a long talk about it last night. I fear hanging out with the Canadians every night may also not be good for our daily mileage, as they keep trying to ply us with steaks and wine, and, lately, DVDs until all hours.

She feels the same way I do: impatient. Even though they have an airtight, well-insulated steel boat with a drip-diesel heater, she feels the cold more than I do. She nearly collapsed in horror when she found out Marcel had taken a fifty-mile detour to Elizabeth City to check on Fred Fearing for his sister, or so I gathered from the stream of furious French. (They took the alternate ICW route, the Virginia Cut, and detoured to the end of the Dismal Swamp.) But Marcel gets it—there’s no reason to go if the weather’s not right, and there’s no reason to not explore. Why are we doing this, after all? There’s no reason to not stop and smell the roses, as it were. We are in Elizabeth City, even if the roses are all dead.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Elizabeth City, NC

0 nm
Wind: W 10-15 knots

We got into Elizabeth City yesterday, the famed Harbor of Hospitality. Some things I am very impressed with, like the wireless internet at the dock, the water access, and the proximity of cheap, delicious, humongous burgers (I convinced Karl to spend the money last night, quelle dommage), but all is not as it seems.

Fred Fearing, the famed “Rose Buddy” came by in his golf cart to give us a hello today, and it was great to meet him. Marcel’s sister, long a denizen of the ICW, was great friends with him, and she’ll be happy to know he’s alive and well. Fred, for those of you who don’t know, likes the ladies, and was once featured on the Today Show for his penchant of giving roses to visiting boaters.

Fred even gave me and my eighty-pound laundry bag a ride to the Laundromat in his golf cart. It was a kind gesture, but I must say, being driven around the streets of Elizabeth City on a golf cart by a nearly blind 93-year-old man was among my more life-threatening experiences so far on the journey.

What’s interesting is the whole collection of old dudes who have assembled at the dock, following Fred’s example. For one, there seems to be infighting among them. Sam, who introduced himself as “dock-master” was said by Fred to be nothing of the sort, and most of them (there are at least four) sit in their respective cars and watch our every move. It’s a little disconcerting.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

North Carolina Welcome Station to Elizabeth City, NC

19.6 nm
Wind: SW 10 knots
Maximum speed: 5.3 knots
Average speed: 3.6 knots
Latitude: 36°17.93’N
Longitude: 076°13.10’W

Well, we've made it here to Elizabeth City, the harbor of hospitality, and it may be hard to leave. For one thing, they have super-speedy wifi right at the free dock. Showers at the fitness center, laundry, groceries, and everything we need. Lise and Marcel have pulled right up next to us, exactly on schedule, even though they came through the Virginia Cut. The swamp was gorgeous all day today--after we got through the canal it opened up into far more of a swampy feel, which made Karl happy. Trees growing in the water, spooky channels shooting off, but no gators. He's convinced he heard one slapping its tail against the water last night at the dock, but I don't believe him. He's just gator-happy.

No wine and cheese, though, and no roses, yet. They say that you need five boats in order to have the party. Marcel did his level best to try to convince them, and if anyone can be convincing it’s a Frenchman in need of wine, but it didn’t work. We may go out with them for dinner, if I can convince Karl to spend the money. So far, the budget is suffering a little bit, but far be it from me to forego a night on the town.

Fred Fearing, the legendary Rose Buddy, didn’t come to greet us at the dock. He is 93 years old, after all. But according to the local guy who did come to meet us, he might be by tomorrow in a golf cart. Craziness. The local guy is the one that mans the dock when Fred isn’t here, and gives rides to the gas station and lets us use his hose for water. It’s pretty crazy. When we first pulled into the slip and didn’t see anyone, and there were no boats, and the downtown didn’t even look very promising, I thought “harbor of hospitality, my foot,” but my skepticism was unwarranted. I said, before we got here, that this was supposed to be the Saufleys of the ICW, and if you’ve hiked the PCT, you know what that means. It may be shaping up to be true.

So I’m sure that tonight will be another night of carousing with crazy French Canadians, until we set off again. I cleaned the boat yet again today, and now we’ve discovered a mysterious smell, like sewage, drifting back from one of the back lockers. Not pleasant. So we have to try to find it, or bleach it out, or something. Other things that are not cool about today: A dock line has mysteriously disappeared. We haven’t seen it since Rock Hall Harbor, and Karl is convinced someone stole it. I’m still hopeful it will show up.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Deep Creek, VA, to North Carolina Welcome Station, NC

14.4 nm
Wind: NE 10-15 knots
Maximum speed: 5.8 knots
Average speed: 4.6 knots
Latitude: 36°30.39’N
Longitude: 076°21.35’W

We’re “Doing the Dismal,” as they say here. It’s beautiful, but Karl’s not impressed. He was expecting an Everglades-type swamp, with meandering channels of muddy water, huge mangroves growing out of rotting undergrowth, vast expanses of bubbling bogland. He keeps watching for an alligator, and we’ve heard that water moccasins can creep into your dinghy and catch you unawares.

I think it’s gorgeous. There are low, over-hanging trees, some of which I managed to hit with the mast when Karl was in the head today. The Master was steering, as he always does these days, and as Karl raced up from below I frantically adjusted his dial trying to find the middle of the canal. We didn’t lose our antenna, but the deck was showered with shrubbery, and I was pretty well panicked. Karl told me that it’s my boat too, so I can crash it if I want to. Fuggehdaboutit, I say.

We’re not making very good progress, as usual. We stopped over at the Food Lion for some necessary supplies we had forgotten at our last stop—including a grill lighter and matches. We were lighting our stove with fragments of matchbook covers twisted and lit from the candle, which we had to keep burning at all times. So that feels like utter luxury.

The hospitality in the South is overwhelming. The lockkeeper yesterday, so enthralled with his job and his canal, the people at the Mexican restaurant yesterday, all the people that maintain these free docks that we can tie up to, the people at the Visitor’s Center today. They even gave us free guidebooks to North Carolina and Florida, and we’re tied up at another free dock tonight, where they have bathrooms and water available. No showers, unfortunately. That’ll have to wait until tomorrow nighPublisht, at Elizabeth City, where supposedly they give you roses, wine and cheese, and a Jacuzzi for three bucks! This is all rumor, though. I hope it’s true.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Hospital Point to Deep Creek, VA

8.9 nm
Wind: SW 15 knots
Maximum speed: 4.7 knots
Average speed: 2.5 knots
Latitude: 36°44.43’N
Longitude: 076°20.70’W

I’ve just come back in from a lovely evening spent with two other nascent cruisers, Bob and Rodney, from Porland, Maine. Bob climbs trees for a living, and Rodney rebuilds old stone walls. We’ve been swapping war stories, showing scars, for the last few hours. We’ve both ran aground our fair share of times, had stories of hitchhiking to tell, storm stories, all of the sailor talk that you hear so much about.

They’re on a Herreshoff-designed Bristol sloop, 26 feet, a gorgeous boat that looks like she’d fly under sail. It stinks to be taking these lovely sailboats and sticking them in a little creek where they can do nothing but rev their engines for the next however many miles, but there it is. They’ll be able to fly when the time comes.

These two are two more crazy cruisers, though. I’m beginning to realize that actual cruisers resemble the people in Cruising World far less than I would have been led to believe. We all have boats held together with a wing and a prayer, which is the name of their boat, “A Wing and a Prayer.” We’re all beat-up poor people living in the dream, trying to end up some place where it’s cheap and warm. Just a step up from the seagulls, really.

They’re favorite boat-saying is “fuggehdaboutit,” from the movie Donnie Brasco. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll know that “fuggehdaboutit” can mean all things to all people. If you’re engine won’t run? “Fuggehdaboutit.” Man, that’s a gorgeous sunset. “That? Fuggehdaboutit.” Did you end up in that last gale? “Oh, fuggehdaboutit.”

We gather a saying from every sailor we meet. The first was from Marcel on Sea Belle, from the infamous Canadian television show, Red Green. “It’s not a full moon every night!” It refers to the necessary piracy all of us as sailors must do. The second was from Geoff, on Serenity—“Garrrrr.”

And now, tonight, we’re tied up at the free dock just past the Deep Creek Lock, after a delicious burrito dinner, smothered in melted cheese, at La Familia Mexican restaurant, twenty yards from our boat. We’re finally in the Dismal Swamp Canal, heading towards North Carolina. Swamp trees bend down overhead. We’re through our first lock. Is life good? Fuggehdaboutit.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Hampton to Hospital Point, VA

12.1 nm
Wind: calm to S 5 knots
Maximum speed: 5.8 knots
Average speed: 4. 0 knots
Latitude: 36°50.60’N
Longitude: 076°18.04’W

So we’re having Marcel and Lise over tonight, to repay them for all of their hospitality. I’m making a Cuban black bean soup, which I pray won’t be too spicy. I put in dried habaneros from Karl’s brother’s garden, since the Joy of Cooking called for a Scotch bonnet pepper, and then I found out Lise doesn’t like spicy food. Oh well. I had to pull it all out and infuse some olive oil with it.

But I’m making a salad and biscuits, and Karl rowed across to the mall to buy cheese and crackers, after making one of his infamous fruit punches, and I’m scrubbing the floor and putting on the good tablecloth and burning candles that smell good to take away that “essence of head” that seems to permeate even the best-kept sailboat. Which, as anyone who had read this far can attest, ours is anything but.

Still, though, even in our humble abode—or “aboat,” haha—I feel a desire to entertain grandly, to show our friends as good of a time as they’ve shown us. We don’t have much, but we have I want to be able to share. I think it’s one of the best things about sailing versus hiking. You never have people over to your tarp-tent the way you can have them over to your boat. And it seems like any excuse is good enough for cruisers to invite each other over and then repay the favor. It’s like our own little neighborhood. We’re getting to know the Joneses, and they’re getting to know us.

Tomorrow we enter into the Dismal Swamp canal, about which I’m super excited. Supposedly George Washington used to pal around their with his swamp-loving young buddies, when he was a wee lad. He surveyed the whole thing in about 1740, and your lovely congress is looking to cut funding, even though it’s the oldest continuously operated canal in the United States. And George Washington basically built the thing. It doesn’t get much more patriotic than that, does it? God bless America.

But I’ll get off my high horse. I have Canadians to entertain. French Canadians, at that.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Hampton, VA

0 nm
Wind: calm

I'm missing a couple of posts here, that I left back at the boat, but suffice it to say we did it. We're in Virginia, in a little town called Hampton right across from Norfolk, all set to start the actual Intracoastal Waterway tomorrow. I'm exhilarated, thrilled--words cannot describe. It felt like it was never going to happen, and it has.

I know, I know, we're still about two months late. November 1 is the official "safe" hurricane date when you can leave Norfolk and head south. Instead, we're here on December 13, all of twelve days before Christmas. At the grocery store today, the shelves were full of holiday nuts and gingerbread and eggnog, hams and turkeys were on sale, Christmas carols were on the speakers. It was bizarre. To be out sailing, so close to Christmas. For us it'll probably be no more than another freezing day at anchor with (hopefully) a little tiny turkey in the oven.

My parents live in Tennessee, so I'm hoping to be able to hook up with them one way or another somehow soon after Christmas. I'm hoping (although don't tell Karl) that we can leave the boat somewhere and even go visit them for a couple of days. Home--where I can take as many hot showers as I want and build fires in the fireplace and have heat!! It would be heavenly. But as of now, that's just a dream.

Hampton is a very interesting town, the home of Hampton University, the famous African-American institude founded by Booker T. Washington. At least that's what I've been able to gather from various historical plaques during our grocery-laden walk back to the dinghy. We're anchored right in front of it and it's a beautiful campus with clock towers and brick and ivy.

The town is making both of us rethink some of our prejudices, and is also making us more firmly aware that we're in the south. For one thing, we're in a definite minority. It makes me feel fairly awful that I'm so thrown off-guard by being one of the handful of white people in this gorgeous three-story town library with fantastic internet and hours until nine PM.

I guess it's good to be made aware of one's own racism--that's the only way one can fight it--but it also makes me sick to my stomach. How is it that I can have that much prejudice? It also makes me understand how unbelievably hard it must be to be a minority in any culture. I feel completely out of place, and while that may have to do with lugging around a backpack full of groceries, I think it has more to do with the color of my skin.

Still, I'm thrilled to be here, and I'm thrilled to have found wireless and groceries and to be in Norfolk, more or less. The best part is: we caught up with Marcel and Lise again! They had us over last night, wined and dined us yet again (this time with steak and macaroni and cheese!) and even let us use their marina showers. I'm in awe of their hospitality, and wish they would ever let us repay them. Instead, they ran off for Norfolk today, and we were supposed to go with them, but got distracted by our town duties. I hope they dawdle a little bit so we can catch up. They would be a fantastic pair to celebrate Christmas with.

So we're heading out again tomorrow, if we can find charts for the Dismal Swamp Canal. I've posted some pictures below up through the beginning of December. I've labeled them "pictures" so they should be easy to identify, but I'll start working on a Flickr account. Must keep up with the times, after all!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Norfolk to Hampton, VA

2.9 nm
Wind: calm to S 5 knots
Latitude: 37°01.03’N
Longitude: 076°20.43’W

I guess I didn’t have much time yesterday, in our mammoth all-day run, to do anything except write and think and do the dishes. It was a glorious day, and I swear, as soon as we passed the Virginia line, which, was pretty close to being below 38° latitude, the sun broke free of the clouds, the temperature hit seventy degrees, and we started stripping off our layers like peeling an onion.

Everyone said that happened when you got to Virginia, and I didn’t quite believe it, but I guess it’s true. Either that, or we just got lucky, and we’re hitting some beautiful weather. I think the latter is more likely the case.

But we made it. Coming through all the crazy warships into Norfolk at night was pretty insane, but our trusty GPS (knock on wood) faithfully told us exactly where we were, and we made it right into Skipper Bob’s anchorage, with the beacon of the McDonald’s glowing temptingly off our bow. We didn’t risk it, thank goodness, because today when we came to the nearby town of Hampton we saw that it was actually on the other side of the highway.

Coming over this morning too, we saw crazy experimental naval vessels, shaped like gray stealth bombers in the water, with watertight hatches and all triangular planes. It looked like something out of Tron. I snuck a picture on the digital camera and then ran back down into the boat so I wouldn’t get shot.

But the best news of the day was when we pulled into Hampton and saw Sea Belle berthed at the marina! It was like being reunited with a long-lost relative. We hugged, we traded stories, we stayed up until three in the morning—it was like old times. They fed us steak from the grill and made us drink wine. It was awesome. It feels like coming home.

Monday, December 11, 2006

St Jerome Creek, MD, to Norfolk, VA

69.1 nm
Wind: calm to SW 5 knots
Maximum speed: 13.3 knots (but I think that’s a glitch in our system)
Average speed: 5.6 knots
Latitude: 37°00.53’N
Longitude: 076°19.11’W

Forgive me, but I was feeling philosophical today. So here goes:

When I was bicycling from Florida to Maine with my family, I felt like my brother and sister were paragons of grace, sleek tall other-worldly beings that glided down mountains on sleek tall bikes, leaning towards each other, canting towards the asphalt, like some species of brightly colored hawk. I, on the other hand, resolutely peddled my stout wide-tired bike, with stubborn revolutions of my stout elephantine legs, while the clown music started up in the background. They seemed to know, without even having to stop to consider it, how to deflate their tire tubes when they went flat, how to effortlessly slide them from their casings, how to replace them in an instant. It seemed to take no more time than the space of a breath. I, on the other hand, placed my stout and sturdy bike on the side of the road and threw up my hands to sky in despair. They would look at me with wordless disgust and change the tire for me, as easy as exhaling.

If you met them, you’d know. They’re both tall and elegant, regal, graceful, like ancient Egyptians or hybrid aliens from Superman’s planet. I, though older, am the short one in the family at 5’10”, farther apart in age, and sometimes I don’t even feel like I speak the same language, the secret language that only the two of them know.

Without even realizing it, I seem to have allied myself with another of these wordlessly graceful beings. When Karl was a boy, he aspired to be a ninja, even going so far as to buy himself black outfits and nunchaks. He would practice, out in the backyard, how to walk silently, how to take a step so the pressure rested equally on all planes of his foot at once but wouldn’t make a single sound. He practiced how to climb in and out of windows, how to sneak up behind someone so he could, eventually, assassinate them. That is, after all, what ninjas do.

He still walks silently. When we were hiking, he glided down the trail as effortlessly as my brother and sister bicycled, his whole body a lithe instrument of deadly grace. When we came to rocks, he sped up, leaping from the top of one to the next, seeming to sense without thinking where his foot would find traction on the angled and slippery surfaces, calculating, below the level of consciousness, all sorts of vectors of friction and physics. He hiked like a ninja.

I would try to follow precisely in his footsteps sometimes and would end up collapsing in a bloody and sodden heap on the trail, generally weeping. When I couldn’t follow him I would galumph down the trail, breaking through shrubbery like a large beast of burden. This is why, when it got really rocky, in Maine, our daily mileage collapsed to an average of about five miles. Small children could have kept up with us, and did.

Every day I ended up in a sobbing heap in Karl’s arms, continuing through sheer persnicketiness, as he tried to comfort me, wondering what the hell he’d gotten himself into. I could feel, as he tried to tell me that I just had to believe in my next step, that same silent disdain that I felt from my siblings when I tried to change tires.

So now Karl sails like a ninja, like an assassin. He hasn’t quite gotten the hang of it yet, but I’m utterly convinced, when he does, that we’ll skim across the water like a flightless bird, leaving a trail of effervescent white foam across the water. He’ll trim the sails like they’re an extension of his own body, just like he used to walk like a ninja, like he used to snowboard, when he was almost a professional snowboarder, just like he used to ride his sleek yellow racing motorcycle at 180 miles an hour.

I, on the other hand, can’t even get the boat to tack. The amount of coordination it requires to hold the furling line in one hand while I pull the sheet in with the other is utterly beyond me. Reefing? Forget about it. My profound lack of balance prevents me from doing anything other than crawl out of the cockpit. Changing headsails? Are you kidding? Karl is so deathly afraid of me falling overboard that he doesn’t even let me go up on the foredeck while we’re moving. I went up, the other day, to watch the genoa as it curled and uncurled along its edges like a ruffled lily, trying to catch the wind. Then I had to pull myself, hand over hand, on my hands and knees, back to the cockpit, while the clown music started up again in my head.

As anyone who’s ever watched a kung-fu movie knows, assassins don’t teach. They merely beat their beffudled protégés into submission until that one student emerges from their ranks to become the next master while the sensei strokes his mustache and says “aso.” That’s what Karl’s doing to me now, but I’ll never emerge to be the next master.

What’s my point, though? I still love to sail. I love it. I love everything about it. Just like I loved to hike and I loved to bike before that. I want to do everything, to be the one who reefs and tacks and furls, the one who decides when we’re right on the edge of the wind, as close to it as we can get, the one who can use the wind against itself, tacking into it all day. I love feeling the soreness in my arms and abdomen after spending all day at the tiller. I even love beating, when the boat heels underneath us just a little, becoming a knife cutting through the water like so much excess fat.

But putting the sail cover on while we’re at anchor seems about the extent of my abilities. I’m much more a creature of the esoteric and useless realm of books and paper. I don’t even know why I keep putting myself in these places where the physical world can triumph over me one more time, but I do. I keep believing that one of these times, eventually, the stars will align and I’ll finally get it, that glorious golden line will appear and I’ll be able to follow it, like a ninja. But, until then, I’ll just keep galumphing along. The world, after all, must have a place for people like us.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Knapp Narrows to St Jerome Creek, MD

39.6 nm
Wind: calm to SSW 5 knots
Maximum speed: 5.8 knots
Average speed: 4.7 knots
Latitude: 38°07.52’N
Longitude: 076°19.62’W

We’re finally getting somewhere. That’s what that little 39.6 nautical miles means. And we’re finally listening to the critics who have been telling us: don’t sail, motor! They’ve been telling us that for the last month and a half, and after the debacle of yesterday, and with the impending realization that we might not even reach Norfolk by Christmas, we decided to listen to them.

So the sail covers didn’t even come off today. The wind was right in our faces, and we didn’t even bother to tack. The Master steered every last minute of the day. I thought to myself: hmm, this is what it must be like for all those people who don’t agonize and search their souls every time they flip the key for their diesel.

I think the hard part is the decision. If you’re resigned to having an inefficient powerboat, as Lise and Marcel seem to be, or if you’re like the Pardeys and don’t even have an engine, then you don’t have the choice to make. But with us, we look back and forth at each other longingly in the morning. Who’s going to take off the sail cover? Who’s going to pull out the winch handles? Or, when there’s no wind at all: who’s going to have the cojones to pull out the key?

We knew the wind was against us. We know the wind is going to be against us tomorrow. So instead of agonizing, or beating ourselves up (although I’ll do both of those things in even the best conditions), we just motored. I was able to do the dishes, clean the whole boat, bleach the mildew off the hull, bleach the contaminated cutting boards, and all before breakfast. Well, not exactly. All before lunch.

Which is when—wait for it—the motor started acting up. Big surprise there, huh? As soon as we start relying on it, it turns for the worse. It’s doing this crazy thing where for no reason at all it loses RPMs and then gains them again. We even had to shut it down for a couple of minutes, with no sail out, lie ahull, and pour oil into it. Which didn’t fix it.

Poseidon must be taking his fierce revenge. Or something. So while we had thought about letting the Master steer us all night, right into Norfolk, instead we pulled into an extremely rolly anchorage right at dark, and Karl’s pulled the whole diesel apart. So now I’m agonizing and soul-searching again. That’s what we get for relying on our engine. We’ll probably have to tack against the wind tomorrow, if we move at all, at a grand average speed of 1.2 knots in the five-knot breeze. It will only be what we deserve.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Knapp Narrows, MD

0 nm
Wind: W 10 knots

I made myself deathly ill last night. Well, that may be an exaggeration, but I did wake up at least four times to vomit all over myself and the boat. We had been told to not put anything that hadn’t been eaten into our toilets (hence the stinky grocery bag full of used toilet paper hanging off our toilet-paper holder) to keep it from clogging, and that included vomit. Although, I ask you: haven’t you, technically, already eaten what comes back up?

Something in the universe seems resolved to paint the boat with every kind of human effluvium it can come up with. So, when I woke up in the middle of the night, all ready to hurl, Karl’s first words were—not in the toilet!! Instead, I dug through the hanging locker for yet another grocery bag, which I proceeded to vomit into, and not very adeptly I might add. You try vomiting into a plastic bag in the middle of the night in the dark while barefoot while standing on 20-degree fiberglass. Just try it. I dare you.

Of course, the bag I grabbed was one of the ones with gaping holes in the bottom, so it started streaming out the bottom almost as fast as it was going in. I rapidly double-bagged, just like my mother always taught me. And this went on throughout the night. The five-gallon bucket was conveniently located out in the cockpit, separated from me by Lexan hatches and a layer of ice. Eventually, after the fourth time of leaping from my bunk and racing to the closet for plastic bags, I braved the cold. Not stopping to put on shoes. Oh no. Because that would make sense. Instead I walked barefoot on the ice, invoking comparisons to Hindi gurus, finally rescuing the bucket, at which point I failed to vomit the rest of the night. Figures.

Karl was fine, other than shooting pains in his abdomen all day today, which I had to. But no vomit for him. Lucky boy. I think that our utter sloth and slovenliness has finally caught up with us. It was probably the four-pound pork roast which we split in two and cooked last night. Although Lin Pardey says you can wipe off the yellow slime with a vinegar solution, we failed to do that. But there wasn’t any yellow slime! I swear to God!

It was probably the residual pork on the cutting board from the night before’s stir-fry, which I failed to wash yesterday. We didn’t actually use the same cutting board, of course, but I think it may have contaminated the other cutting board, which Karl did use for dinner.

In any case, we didn’t go anywhere all day. I didn’t get out of my sleeping bag until about four, at which point Karl very sweetly made me chicken soup, although without any carrots. I couldn’t face carrots after spotting shreds of them in the exterior scuppers.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Knapp Narrows, MD

0 nm
Wind: NW 25-30 knots, gusting to 45

We woke up this morning to icicles on our windows, formed from our own condensation. Icicles. Ice. In the boat. Not outside. Inside. Which means that (not only do we have a condensation problem, which we knew already) but that it was less than 32 degrees in here last night. Yikes. I keep saying that we’re preparing for our transit around Tierra del Fuego, but the joke is ceasing to be funny.

We used to say that we sailed no matter the temperature, that all that mattered was the wind, but that is ceasing to be true as well. Karl, who used to work making snow on Mount Killington in Vermont, where temperatures often reached forty below, has begun to refer to overnight sojourns in this kind of weather as “life-threatening.” I’m sure they wouldn’t be life-threatening if we were prepared for them, but the fact is that we don’t have the necessary gear.

It’s been in the twenties the last couple of nights, with daytime temperatures in the thirties. The typical wind-chill they give on the radio is in the teens. Now, think about a ten-degree wind-chill, and then think about the added apparent wind as we got straight into the wind. (As usual, the forecast is for wind directly in our faces.) That’s got to get down at least to zero. Which, if you think about the tropical clothing we came prepared with, puts us in severe danger of hypothermia.

Today wasn’t so bad. I refused to go outside to get water to do the dishes with, so they sat in squalor. We ran the oven all day for heat, and used up our first tank of propane. Other than that the day was spent reading and listening to the wind howl around in our rigging. We had thought about leaving tonight and doing an overnight straight to Norfolk, but even though I’m kind of gung-ho on the idea, I admit that Karl’s thoughts about our impending deaths by freezing warrant some consideration.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Rhode River to Knapp Narrows, MD

19.6 nm
Wind: WSW 5-10 knots, gusting to 15, shifting out of the NW and building to 20-25, gusting to 30
Seas: Building to three feet
Maximum speed: 7.1 knots
Average speed: 4.6 knots
Latitude: 38°44.41’N
Longitude: 076°19.34’W

I’ve been thinking a lot about Lin Pardey lately. Karl’s finally got sick of me saying, “Well, the Pardeys say that…” and has forbidden me from mentioning them, so you’ll probably hear me talking a lot more about the Pardeys. I have to take it out on someone. What I’ve been thinking about is that Lin Pardey is 4’10”. I am 5’10”, so I have exactly a foot on her.

I imagine that this makes things very different for us on sailboats. For instance: sailboat length. Larry and Lin circumnavigated in a 24’ wooden sailboat before upgrading to a 29’ boat. Our boat is 33’ long, but not even as wide as theirs, I don’t think. If I’m a full foot taller, then how much extra space does that translate to, percentage-wise?

That isn’t exactly what I’ve been contemplating, though. Karl and I have plenty of space on our skinny 33-foot boat, despite our frustrating attempts to pass each other in, what for lack of a better term I will call the hallway. No, what I’ve been thinking about is her claim that she can reef their mainsail single-handedly, while under sail.

I have yet to reef our main. Or our jib, lately, come to think of it. In fact, it takes Karl a full HOUR to reef, or take a reef out, under sail or at anchor. I kid you not. And on Seraffyn or Taliesin (the Pardeys’ two boats), Lin, a 4’10” 90-pound weakling, could do it single-handed. With one hand tied behind her back, too, I imagine. This morning, it took Karl an hour to take out our double reef from yesterday, with such effort that in the forty-degree winter weather he stripped down to his shirtsleeves.

Yesterday, double reefing the main was so much work that he again stripped out of his warm clothes, despite the thirty-knot breeze. I’m just guessing, but this doesn’t seem a very efficient way to sail. This point was proved rather effectively during today’s sail, when we set out with no wind, under full sail, with our new brand spankin’ new 130-percent genoa, and the wind suddenly shifted out of the northwest into a full-blown winter gale. We had known it was coming and were prepared, or so we thought. In fact, our plan was to just pop on down to the next anchorage, getting a couple more miles in before the weather took a turn. But we might have been a little safer if we had been capable of actually reefing our main in less than an hour’s time, instead of carrying full sail (we dispensed with the genoa, of course) and zooming into land at seven knots.

There’s a line you’re supposed to use for reefing, the use of which (I haven’t quite figure it all out) makes it called “jiffy reefing.” This was the line we didn’t know about on our first day of sailing, when we thought reefing involved simply tying some reef knots, which we had dutifully learned. Our reefing is definitely not jiffy. In fact, it is anything but.

There are definitely some times where I know we haven’t prepared enough, and that is perhaps most true when it comes to reefing. We didn’t even know how to reef when we left. We still barely know how. Gales are certainly not going to give us an hour’s warning, and Karl, hanging out up there by the mast for a full sixty minutes, is not exactly a model of boating safety. He does his best, but that’s not the point.

The point is that the Pardeys sail without an engine, and until we can figure out how to adjust our sail to suit the existing wind conditions, we’re up the proverbial creek without a paddle. We have to be able to sail with the wind that is, and then adjust our sail to suit the wind as it changes. We shouldn’t have even had the genoa up after about an hour of sailing. We should have been able to switch to our sturdier 110, the lapper, (that would take us about four hours) and then we should have reefed. Right now our only option is running away with the wind behind us and flipping on the diesel when things get rough. One of these days it’s going to get the better of us.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Annapolis to Rhode River, MD

13.2 nm
Wind: SW 25-30 knots, gusting to 35
Seas: 3-4 feet, building to 6-8 feet
Maximum speed: 4.8 knots
Maximum speed under sail: 3.9 knots
Average speed: 3.1 knots
Latitude: 38°52.54’N
Longitude: 076°31.41’W

I’ve been thinking, lately, that we’re being a little chicken about the weather. So it’s blowing thirty. Who the hell cares?

Today I proved myself wrong.

We’ve been listening to the weather for days now, and allegedly there was supposed to be a break in the weather today, tonight, and tomorrow. We decided on a plan to zoom down the before the next storm broke on Thursday night. The idea was to be in Norfolk, Virginia, near the soothing caress of the gulf stream, by this time tomorrow night.

I woke up in the middle of the night last night and thought someone was stealing our dinghy. That’s how bad the waves were at anchor. I was so convinced I even went to check on the thieves. They were, of course, nonexistent. The seas bashing the dinghy against the boat were real.

So when the alarm went off at five o’clock this morning, I decided to go check the weather forecast rather than waking Karl. The wind was still howling in the rigging, and it seemed a lot worse than predicted. But no, it was the same as it had been yesterday. So, naively, I figure, it must just be the remnants of Monday’s storm. The waves will probably die down before we leave.

They didn’t. We double-reefed for only the second time, the bow coming up on top of each six-foot breaker, pulling the propeller out of the water, and crashing back down into the next one. Cabinets inside the boat flew open. Cans went flying. Bottles of water went flying. Mostly empty coffee pots and mugs and boxes full of spices were scattered all over the floor.

Thanks to the Delaware Bay experience, I didn’t exactly fear for my life. I knew Secret could handle it. But when yet another gigantic wave sent shudders through the hull, both Karl and I asked the same question. Um, where’s the next anchorage? So much for 130 miles. Instead, we’ve only made six miles of progress, according to Skipper Bob’s mileage down the middle of the bay. Six lousy miles. And we’ll probably be here for the next three days.

I know we’ll make progress eventually. This is just God’s way of teaching me patience. Right? RIGHT??? We have to start sailing at night, and making breaks for it when the weather’s good, but I swear, the weather was supposed to be good today. When we got into the anchorage, the weather forecast was the same as it’s been for the last three days, but the buoy reports weren’t. Thomas Point Lighthouse, which we had thought was way out in the middle of the Atlantic but was actually two miles away, was gusting to 28. And that was a random sampling, after it had died down. So I’m betting we’ve sailed in at least 35, now. I think the wind today was the worst we’ve been in. I guess we either need a better weather forecasting system, or we need to start listening to buoy reports. Or something. What we really need is to have left two months before we did. Which I even knew at the time. Oh well.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Annapolis, MD

0 nm
Wind: NW 20-25 knots
Seas: 2-3 feet

My overwhelming feeling today is one of frustration. I feel like we’re too late—too late for the winter, too late for the cold, too late for the gales, too late for everything. Florida seems an eternity away, let alone anyplace farther than that. Anyplace where it’s warm, where your toes aren’t constantly numb, anyplace where jumping in the ocean is something other than life-threatening.

We were all set to sail today, and then we listened to the forecast. More bad weather. The last time we tried to sail in 25 knots was in Delaware Bay, when we nearly killed ourselves, so it doesn’t seem wise to go out in it. There’s a small-craft advisory, but I still feel unbearably antsy. I basically read all day to avoid thinking about it, now that I don’t have a novel to write, which means I didn’t get anything done on the boat, either, which I realized thanks to Karl’s very pointed glances.

I broke the budget yesterday in Annapolis to spend $14 on Julie and Julia, the book I fell in love with in the Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey, and spend all day reading it. I finally tore myself away two chapters from the end, so I could at least have something to save for later, like dessert. It’s such a fantastic book. A girl makes a simple—but not easy—goal, and in meeting it changes her life. I’m to the place where she’s getting interviewed by the New York Times and having film crews visit her house and cooking kidneys. Somehow I think that if I was being interviewed by the New York Times and eating kidneys that I could put up with numb-toe-syndrome a little better.

Then again, I have fish-head soup.

No new fish heads to report. Today the menu was cereal and soup. Delicious, heart-warming soup, created for me by the man I love, so I have nothing to complain about really. My toes will recover. One can think of worse things to do than read one’s life away.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Annapolis, MD

0 nm
Wind: W 20 to 30 knots, gusting to 35

It’s been one of the craziest days so far on the trip—one of those days I would never believe if it hadn’t have happened. We stayed in Annapolis to see our friend Terrapin from the Appalachian Trail (hi, Terrapin!) and to take showers. The showers were fantastic. Beyond anything I can even describe. To have hot water flowing over your body, after so long without. I can’t even begin to describe. But that was just the beginning of the day.

After we had our showers, we were picked up by Terrapin and his girlfriend Sara, who took us to the outdoor store, to the grocery store, and the mall, for an all-around American shopping experience. It was a little shocking to us, who haven’t been in civilization for a while. The best part was hearing Bob Dylan’s new song on the radio, though. The times they are a-changin’.

So we ended up at this classic Annapolis haunt, where George Washington used to booze it up in the attic with the masons. Terrapin and Sara took us there to try their raw oyster shooters, a Maryland classic. Raw oysters in cocktail sauce and Tabasco. Delicious. Together, we all ate about a dozen and a half of them, along with assorted other appetizers. Which was when the fun started.

Terrapin and Sara left, to go back to Baltimore, where they’re really from, and we began to wander the streets of Annapolis in search of entertainment. We had entered a lobster-weight guessing competition at the restaurant, in which we would win an entire giant lobster if we guessed its weight correctly. Karl was convinced he had the weight correctly, so we had to wait until the halftime of the Monday Night Football game to win.

So we met Setarcos, our code name for a 71-year-old gentleman who taught us a great deal about life. At first he tried to give us ten dollars, thinking that we were bums wandering the streets of Annapolis. When we tried to explain to him what we were up to, at first he applauded our adventures, and then began to ask us why, what we were doing, what our purpose was, and if we had always wanted to do what we were doing. All valid questions, but ones which I wasn’t sure I wanted to discuss with a stranger on the streets of Annapolis. We tried to explain that our only purpose was just to live and love, but that wasn’t good enough for him. He wanted us to have some farther self-sacrificial purpose, as evidently he had spent his life doing psychotherapy for autistic patients. He argued with us about our knowledge of astronomy, existentialism, history, and philosophy, and as much as I tried to explain to him that I had done reading in these fields and planned to do more, but that I wanted to experience life in addition to reading about others’ experiences of it, he could not be convinced. Karl eventually forced his ten dollars back on him, at which point he almost went to take a swing at Karl.

The whole episode left us both a little shaken. The guy was basically crazy, or at least unable to listen to his own advice. Yes, we need to have purpose in our journey, and yes, we need to learn from others’ experiences. But both of us are perfectly content, or as perfectly content as we can be at our age and with our experience. I know Karl has taught me more than I can even begin to explain about how to be happy. But this guy was saying that happiness wasn’t enough, that we needed to grind our own telescopes out of glass in order to learn the secrets of the universe. Maybe we do need more discipline. Maybe we do need to study other people’s work more. Maybe we do need to think more about the purpose of our journey. And meeting him may have made us rethink all these things. But to have your adventure condemned by a stranger on the street? Is pretty gut-wrenching, even to the most confident adventurer.

So we went back to the restaurant and almost won the lobster, which the winner gave to us anyway, since we were the only people left in the place. Karl’s guess was the closest, but he went over. We chowed down on the lobster, sharing it with the bartender, a supremely drunk guy who showed up, and the little Latino busboy. It was a six-pound thirteen-ounce lobster (Karl’s guess was 7 lbs. 2) and we ate that sucker like there was no tomorrow. Free lobster is not a bad way to end the night.

Still, though. Setarcos haunts us. I know that he was brought into our lives for a reason, and that we do have something to learn from him, despite his utter lack of ability to see us as we are.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Swan Creek to Annapolis, MD

16.9 nm
Wind: calm
Maximum speed: 6.2 knots
Average speed: 4.2 knots
Latitude: 38°58.62’N
Longitude: 076°28.89’W

At least we moved today. There’s another storm heading in tomorrow, and we need to get showers, and I’m beginning to feel stranded in the middle of Chesapeake Bay. I’m sure we’ll make it, and I’m sure we’re making progress, but I feel like we should at least be to Norfolk by now. There’s snow predicted for tonight. Snow. That’s fairly ridiculous.

Then again, I’ve felt this way on all of our journeys. On some of them, maybe all of them, I’ve been right. We just need to get our butts out of here the day after tomorrow, and make a run for the border, as fast as we can. Maybe we need to do another overnight. I’m just beginning to be freaked out about time and cold, and if I’m more freaked out about that than I am about the shower, then that’s really saying something.

We’re in Annapolis, tonight, which is cool. Anchored right off the Naval Academy. Coming in today was crazy. There was a sailboat race going on right in the mouth of the harbor, and with almost no wind these boats were tacking straight towards us. Some of them were literally three yards from our bow before they tacked. We, of course, were motoring straight here, trying to get here before the harbormaster’s office closed, which we failed to do.

I’m not sure we’re anchored in a place we’re really allowed to be. A ferry keeps making loud noises as it goes past, but the police went by earlier and didn’t say anything. We’re right at the edge of a mooring field, right behind a crazy green catamaran, but we’re right in the middle of everything, and it just doesn’t seem like we’d be allowed to anchor here. Still, we’re going to stay until someone says something, and hopefully we’ll be safe in the storm tomorrow.

We've also managed to get wireless access, although it involves a pseudo-prehistoric ritual of pressing the send button and then angling the laptop up towards the sky in a half-hopeful, half-prayerful stance. Karl's out collecting the fenders that have gathered in the corners of the harbor. As he says, they're worth twenty bucks a piece. That's a pretty penny. I'm a little depressed at having missed the showers, but I know we won't leave until we get one, so that makes me feel better. And I just want to get south fast. This cold is not cutting it.

Pictures of sailboat racing in Annapolis

It's crazy that these people race in December. The whole harbor was full of boats.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Swan Creek, MD

0 nm
Wind: NW 15-20 knots, gusting to 25 knots

The forecasters predicted 10-15 knots of wind today, and we were all set to leave. They lie. The forecast keeps disagreeing with the actual buoy reports, which all have gusts of up to at least 25. It’s pretty and sunny out, if cold but I think we’re going to wait until tomorrow to move.

The plus side: we were able to do research on area showers and discovered the town dock in Annapolis still has them for a dollar! Hooray! That’s the goal for tomorrow, and I can finally feel clean again. Thank God. Although I’m not going to count my chickens just yet. Just, all you people out there—be grateful every time you step under that blistering hot stream of limitless fresh water in the morning. In fact, go take an extra shower today. Right now. Get off your butt and go take a shower, as hot as you can stand it, just for me. I’d appreciate it.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Swan Creek, MD

0 nm
Wind: SW 25-30 knots, gusting to 40

Another day socked in against the wind, and I think it’s the worst we’ve ever been through. Karl spent all day massaging the rode, letting out an additional twenty feet about every two hours, until we finally had 200 feet of rode out, a little ridiculous for our eight-foot-deep anchorage. But at least we’ll sleep soundly.

On the plus side, I finished my novel last night. It had rather an atrocious tacked-on ending, but I pounded out my 50,000 words in a month. The thing that sucks is that it won’t count for the NaNoWriMo, because I didn’t get it authorized and counted by the end of November. I will not, officially, be a Winner. No web icon for me. Still, if anyone wants to do a verification read-through, I’ll email the thing whenever I next get a chance. Karl refuses to read it until I at least to a preliminary edit, so I guess December will be NaNoEdMo for me—National Novel Editing Month. I’m going to give it a week, though. I need a break. It feels weird to have the immense burden of 1700 words a day taken off my shoulders, though. I’m at loose ends. I’ll have to find something else to do. Maybe read one of the hundred books that I convinced Karl to let me bring along.

I had long conversations with my mother and sister, though. My sister’s having a Christmas party this evening. They were playing carols in all the stores in Rock Hall. It’s pretty crazy to be sailing at this time of year. It doesn’t feel real somehow, either the boat or the holidays. I’m glad we’re out here, but I’m not used to be adventuring when it’s Christmastime. This is working and saving-up-money time of year, or has been for the last three.

Still, we’re having fun, aside from the continued adventures with the five-gallon bucket. Whenever we can’t move, we make each other elaborate meals as a way to stay entertained and warm. This morning, Karl made me scrambled eggs, home fries, and toast for breakfast, and for dinner we collaborated on a roast beef, mashed potatoes, and green bean feast. It’s cozy and warm, even though the wind is howling, and we’re calling up all of our friends on the cell phone to entertain ourselves.

Pictures of geese

Flying south.

The lights from town at night.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Rock Hall Harbor to Swan Creek, MD

2.0 nm
Wind: S 10-15 knots, gusting to 25
Maximum speed: 3.5 knots
Average speed: 2.4 knots
Latitude: 39°08.85’N
Longitude: 076°15.36’W

There’s more bad weather headed this way, quelle surprise. They had been predicting a cold front moving through for a long time, but I didn’t think that meant sixty-knot winds, which is what they’re predicting again for tomorrow. So this morning we got our necessary town stuff done—Karl put in the new macerator pump and rebuilt the salt-water pump, which is unfortunately still not working, and I trekked into town again to exchange his West Marine boots, get thirty more pounds of ice, and use the internet access at the local wireless café, because the boat’s is too unreliable.

I wasn’t able to post, though, because I used all of my bandwidth to download the charts that we’ve been missing from our computer, although I ran out of room on the computer halfway through. That means no more room for pictures, either, which is a major bummer. The computer’s a gift, a four-year-old hand-me-down, so it has a miniscule hard drive. I wanted to buy an external hard drive before we left, but it’s one of the things that got shoved to the bottom of the list. So we’ll have to make do with the charts we have until we get a new hard drive.

Karl finally came and got me, and we both thanked the very wonderful internet café for the use of their facilities, and we were grateful to drink coffee, too, since we’ve been doing without since we ran out of water two days ago. No water means no coffee. We lugged the ice and the boots back to the boat, and then finally refilled our water tanks from a construction site near the water, lugging our six-gallon water tanks back and forth, while the oystermen watched. I think we looked fairly hardcore. Finally, when we were almost done, one of them offered us a ride in his truck. It was very kind, but it was a little too late. Keeps you strong, anyway.

I’m relieved to have water again, and to have been able to do laundry, but this no shower thing is driving me crazy. I don’t know how long I can deal with it. We finally fled the seawall to a neighboring anchorage in Swan Creek, where we can wait out this storm and get progressively stinkier. I’m pinning my hopes on anchorage, which has a town dock where there are allegedly $1 showers. But chances are those will be shut down for the season, too, and we don’t have a way to contact them. We also have a friend from the AT who might be able to pick us up and take us to showers. Here’s hoping.

Pictures of another sunset

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Rock Hall Harbor, MD

0 nm
Wind: S 5-10 knots

Things I learned today:

1. I can carry thirty pounds of block ice in a backpack.
2. Karl and I together can carry a full grocery cart of groceries ($100 worth) in our two backpacks.
3. Having no shower for two weeks and a day makes me feel like something in which a dog rolls.
4. People in Maryland are afraid of the winter, which is why they shut down every possible hose containing water, as well as every possible place to take a shower.
5. Nachos are very yummy.
6. New electric macerator pumps at West Marine are very expensive.
7. Peeing and pooping in a bucket is still not fun, especially when you are female and it is time for you to menstruate.
8. Being female is not fun, end of story.
9. Apple juice, in no matter how high of quantities, is not a sufficient substitute for water.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Fairlee Creek to Rock Hall Harbor, MD

15.5 nm
Wind: calm
Maximum speed: 5.1 knots
Maximum speed under sail: 1.3 knots
Average speed: 3.6 knots
Latitude: 39°08.09’N
Longitude: 076°14.81’W

I have wireless! I'm extremely psyched, as this is the first time from the boat. I'm sure I'm pirating off one or the other of the marinas here, which we will do our absolute level best to patronize tomorrow, so I don't feel too guilty. Besides, I have to stand halfway out of the boat, with the laptop on the companionway to get a signal. As long as it's not too easy, that makes it right, right?

No wind today, and fog again this morning, but Karl still got a lot accomplished. I guess I did, too, but my accomplishments were getting the dead fish smell off the dishes and pounding out 3400 words of the novel I have to get finished by November 30. I'll be kind of happy when November's done, although I'm thrilled to be on track. I haven't even posted any of my word count to the website.

But Karl unpacked and repacked the entire quarter-berth, put the 120 genoa on our roller-furling system, and went through all the random crap lockers on the boat. He even, bless his heart, found space for his toolboxes somewhere other than beneath my table. It's things like that that let me know he loves me. Despite the continued use of the five-gallon-bucket for a head.

Besides, which when we got into town tonight, we went and splurged on burgers and wings, something which my heart was definitely set on and his was not. There's a great little place right on the water, and they had fantastic food. We wolfed it down like we had never even heard of food before. I thought we were bad on the trail, but we were awful tonight. I felt like a vampire or something. We've been eating great on the boat, but there's nothing like having a huge slab of greasy meat. I've also been dreaming, every night for the last week, about baked goods. I guess there's nothing for it but to learn how to bake a danish.

We're tied up to a free dock for the first time on the trip, right behind Serenity, who we've been tagging along behind. I feel a little bad for Geoff, because he's all alone and has even less money than we do, which is really saying something. We were able to splurge tonight, and he had food too, but I know we have more than he does. It's just hard when we know how we have to ration for the rest of the trip. We've been splurging so rarely, which is why we were able to tonight. I'm sure it would be the same if Lise and Marcel were here, but the other way around.

So I guess I'll hang my head out the companionway and see if this will post. The pictures for this leg may be a little more tough.

Picture of more fog

Fog in the morning.

More fog.

Another sunset.