Saturday, April 9, 2011

Is It Spring Yet?

One of the things I love about living on the boat is the way it forces us to be attuned to the weather. We have to be aware, especially of the potential for storms, just to stay safe. On the positive side, we have to be aware of upcoming warm sunny days with just the right amount of breeze, so we can take advantage of them to go out and sail.

In the last week for the first time, a few spring-y days alternated with the wintry ones and it felt like boating season is closer than just a nostalgic memory. Signs of spring are everywhere. The sun shines more warmly and a few brave or hardy boats begin moving up and down the creek. Later in the season, the incessant wakes from those passing boats become an annoyance; right now we greet them as yet another harbinger of the season, and the motion makes our own boat feel alive again in its slip. Our land-based friends are planting herbs and flowers; we celebrate our own spring rituals - wrestling the sails out of the storage shed where they spent the winter protected from the winds and snow, hoisting them back on the mast, and recommissioning the engine. It’s still too chilly for us to really travel yet, and the few days that have been warm enough to sail just didn’t coincide with available days in our schedule. But still, we know the season is coming, and our thoughts are looking forward to favorite anchorages that we’d love to visit again, and new ones to explore.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

We're Ba-a-a-a-ck ...

Posted: March 31, 2:52 pm | (permalink) | (2 comments)

Remember I said that living on a boat at the dock in winter is just like living in a (very small) apartment? So, we did what any apartment-dweller who could manage to, did for winter – we jetted off to visit friends who lived in warmer places. One set of friends was taking a break from boat life and had leased a wonderful cabin in the mountains of southern California; on a previous break they had had a funky apartment in the heart of historic Key West. Another set of friends lived for many years on their boat in Lake Michigan during the summer; every winter they got a gig house-sitting some wealthy person’s summer home nearby. Tough life, no?

When I muse on how these friends manage to land these fascinating lifestyles, it comes back not to what they have, but what they didn’t have. Living on a boat made moving ashore, or moving around from one housesitting gig to another, very easy. It’s not like they had to spend weeks packing their possessions and then rent a truck to move the sofa and the curio cabinet. That would be impossible. But because they lived on a boat, they were already living "possession-lite." Just a few boxes of books, and clothing, and they’re done, experiencing a new lifestyle for a while.

view from bathroom window sm

"You can take the boater away from the boat, but ..."

Really, it looks like a porthole, but this is the view from the bathroom window!

(originally published 31 March 2011)

Hunkered Down for Winter

Posted: January 21, 12:34 pm | (permalink) | (0 comments)

snowed in at Port A - B-dock

iced in at the dock during a previous winter

The sails are off and stored; the remaining bare mast and boom are an exact analogy to the trees, winter-bare of leaves. The engine has been “winterized;” with bright pink antifreeze replacing the seawater that cools it in summertime. So. We have a boat that cannot be moved with either motor or sails, and that soon will be frozen in place in its slip by ice. My friend Dave says that living on a boat at the dock is not conceptually that different from living in an apartment, and he’s right. Granted that this “apartment” is exceedingly small, and moves in the wind, and the water tanks are somewhat awkward to refill – needing to wait for decent weather to use the garden hoses without slipping on ice. But really, not too different. We have a landline phone and are plugged into the dock electricity. We hang out indoors, reading or surfing the net or listening to music. We cook cozy food – soups and oatmeal. We walk to the parking lot to get into our car to go shopping or to visit friends instead of using the dinghy.

I’ve gotten so used to moving our home to explore new places. The strangest change of mindset that comes with winter comes when I realize, we can’t move the boat anywhere even if we wanted to. The most obvious reason is that were icelocked. But even if we weren’t, we can’t move by wind power because the sails are off, we can’t run the engine because its shut down for the winter, and we can’t tow ourselves by dinghy because the dinghy has been deflated and stored on deck and its engine winterized and in the shed. Nope, no matter what, our home is immobile, we are stuck where we are, right here in this slip, until spring. The only way to move is by packing our possessions and taking them someplace else and starting over. And then I realize with a start: this is what it’s always like, for our friends who live in houses.

(originally published 21 January 2011)

“Simplicity is the Greatest Luxury”

Posted: November 29, 8:46 pm | (permalink) | (0 comments)

I've been reading these wild newspaper stories about people spending all of Thanxgiving Day ... not with friends and family, but waiting in line, in a parking lot, so they can be first to get bargains when stores open on Black Friday. Like these two this week in the Capital: "Does Black Friday Threaten Thanksgiving Meal Tradition?" and "The Maw of Shopping Madness"

I look at these stories, and wonder about the circumstances of the people who find spending the day this way to be a good trade-off. My first response is to be scornful of the apparent materialism – are these the folks who were camped out overnight for 22 hours, some with only cold sandwiches for dinner (I wonder if they had sliced turkey in a nod to tradition?)...just to get a crockpot on sale or a new laptop??? More reflection makes me think this urban adventure *is* their tradition – an unconventional one, but a tradition nevertheless. There’s a sort of camaraderie among the fellow line-waiters, and, I’m sure, what my friend Karen calls “the thrill of the hunt.”

At the same time, I'm thinking of the many reasons I'm thankful to live on a boat. I used to think the greatest gift of our life afloat was how much the physical closeness has helped Dan & me get even better attuned to each others' moods. Now I think an equally valuable gift is the way the tiny space is a natural deterrent to the desire to accumulate material goods. Can't buy things if you have nowhere to keep them when you get them home, after all!

Passing It On

Posted: November 18, 12:12 pm | (permalink) | (0 comments)

The cool thing about living in Annapolis is that sooner or later, everyone who cruises this part of the world comes through here, and our new friends Brittany and Scott were no exception. I had met Brittany online at one of my sailing forums and through her wonderful blog. It's a great story: they met racing sailboats in Lake Michigan a few years ago, got married this summer, and started off from Chicago to sail their boat around the world. After emailing back and forth for months, we got the chance to meet in person this week as they passed through Annapolis on their way south. We had a long, giggle-filled dinner at Boatyard Bar & Grill in Eastport with them and another couple, Jay and Nicole, who they'll be traveling with. We shared sea stories and tales of the Great Lakes where they - and we, originally - were from. We fondly remembered the "Sweetwater Sea," as the Lakes are nicknamed, where the sailing was easy with clear fresh water, no tides, and no currents.

This is something I've noticed about cruiser friendships: they seem to come almost instantly to an intensity that takes years to develop in land-based friendships. Maybe its because we have that built-in interest in common about traveling and living on a boat; maybe its a characteristic of people who go for the gusto in life to live aboard to begin with; maybe you have to accelerate the pace of getting to know someone else because you know you'll only cross paths for a short time. Whatever it is, it was in full force as we traded histories and future plans. In between conversations about weddings and boats and what the towns we remember from our time in Lake Michigan look like now, we tried to give them as much of a heads-up as we could on things that we learned last year about the waterway from Annapolis to Miami, across the Gulf Stream, and through the central Bahamas. We talked about our own adventures on the trip we had recently finished, that they were just beginning. We talked about big important stuff like how to sail safely and comfortably across the Gulf Stream, and - since they'd previously sailed only in fresh water - trivial but useful tips like how to protect your padlocks from seizing up in the salt water (thereby locking you out of your own boat!) by oiling them. We talked about local customs and courtesies, anchoring tips, which towns were our favorites, which were boater-friendly, where to find a great mechanic, how to clear Customs and Immigration, budgets and what things to stock up on before leaving the U.S. By the end of the evening, my brain hurt - although to be really honest, I don't know if it was from trying to remember all the tips and tricks, or maybe it was from the beer?

One of my favorite truisms is that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. When it comes to ideas, I guess the sincerest form of flattery to the person that gave you the idea, is to pass it on. I remembered how much help our own sailing mentors - David and James and Ellen - had been, and how impossibly in their debt we felt. We were awed at how much they knew and how overwhelmed we felt, we could never learn it all... which, I guess, is how we made poor Brittany and Scott feel by the end of the evening. A month from now, I wonder what they'll make of all the random unorganized information we dumped on them?

You can never pay your mentor back. All you can do, is pay it forward.

You can see Annapolis through Brittany's eyes in her great images here and here. Her take on our evening together is here.

A Wedding Afloat

Posted: November 9, 1:48 pm | (permalink) | (0 comments)

The pleasant story earlier this week about the wedding that took place at the hospitalreminded me of another unusual wedding we attended, when our friends John and Diane Butler were married on a boat. I don't mean, they chartered one of the tour boats here in town, and had fifty or seventy guests in formalwear, and all the regular wedding traditions. This was a cruiser-style wedding, with a unique spin. The guests, many of whom had boats themselves, formed a raftup.Instead of walking down the aisle, the bride arrived in a flower-decked rowboat:the bride arrives by rowboatThe guests sat in their dinghies trailing behind the raftup, instead of seats:the guests in dinghies 2And watched as they exchanged vows in the cockpit of the largest boat. the vows in the cockpit

The Follow-Up to a Couple of My Earlier Posts

Posted: November 7, 12:31 pm | (permalink) | (0 comments)


SpinSheet November 2010 Cover Photo by Joe McCary, of Dave Skolnick's Halberg-Rassey sailboat "Auspicious" (click here to read the entire issue)

One of the wonderful photos Joe McCary took from the bridge over the Severn River for our Photo Op became this month's cover for SpinSheet! A well-deserved honor for Joe's work, especially after standing those hours in the drizzly rain. Especially amusing for us, after the photo op we came back to Back Creek together with one of the other boats in the group - it was hard to mistake their brilliant yellow spinnaker as they put the boat away, directly across the creek from us. Here was someone I had emailed back and forth with on the SailNet website for months, never knowing that he lived so close; the funny way the internet has of connecting people.

Also, the folks we "met" through the anchor-dragging incident in September invited us to lunch. They wanted to thank us for (inadvertently) saving their boat, and maybe learn some anchoring tips. We laughed, a lot, together, and traded stories about how each of us got our boat names; that her father and mine had both worked in aerospace; that their son was hoping to get into the Naval Academy next year. We traded emails and hope to raft up next summer - in a planned way this time!

Remind me again why I wanted to do this living aboard stuff?

Posted: November 3, 5:46 pm | (permalink) | (0 comments)

We recently met a young couple, D and J, they were in town for the Boat Show and were interested in moving aboard. They asked if they could spend a few hours talking with us about what it’s like to live on a boat. Okaaay…

The appointed day was just perfect weather – as though Annapolis had conspired to stack the deck in their favor. Sunny and dry, the water sparkled and the boats rocked at anchor; it was a weekend so we could sit in the cockpit and watch the traffic on Back Creek. They drank it in and commented on how much they envied our freedom and how they planned to cruise locally in the Chesapeake for now, with farther-ranging dreams of distant ports in the future. Most of all, in answering their just-starting-out questions, we were led back to our own boat beginnings, seeing our unique lifestyle through their new eyes.

“How did you get started?” D asked, perhaps expecting to hear tales of one or both of us growing up on the water, children of sailors or watermen of old. Instead, Dan told the story of the kitchen business he had when we lived in Colorado, how he was asked to redo a galley countertop for a small sailboat. When he returned the finished piece and was asked what the bill was, well, the job turned out to be so small that he was almost embarrassed to admit the price. Instead he said, “I spent about 3 hours on this, why don’t you take me for a three hours sail?” BAD idea – that was the most expensive job he’d ever done – he was totally, utterly, irrevocably hooked from that moment on. But far from the sea being in his veins, he’s a Kansas farmboy, he was in his late 40s when he went for that fateful first sail.

“How does living together in such tight quarters affect your relationship?” J asked worriedly. “Do you get on each others’ nerves?” I thought a minute and realized that, no, just the opposite – being together all the time got us more in sync with each other. Why live together separately in different rooms of a big house? Besides, if I really need space, I have all the outdoors to get away in! I warned her, though, that we did have to learn to respect each other's “virtual space” (something any cubicle dweller would recognize) – no shoulder surfing or reading each others’ drafts without permission, and even if you overhear each other’s conversations (or bathroom noises!), pretend you don’t.

“What about the kids? Is it safe?” I wasn’t sure if she meant ‘safe’ as in will they fall off the dock and drown, or ‘safe’ as in what kind of weirdos live here, so we talked about both. We talked about swimming lessons and life jackets and ice cleats in winter, and we talked about how instead of TV, the kids are outdoors and active and learning the natural world and its rhythms. We talked about how you scope out the neighborhood just like you would in buying a house – the difference is that it’s much easier to move your boat if you change your mind than it is to move a house. In terms of neighbors, I reassured her, most of these folks are professionals who simply are living this way because they love it. Instead of losers and dropouts and druggies and rebels, my neighbors have included an airline pilot, a judge, a nurse, a financial advisor, a Marine colonel, a systems administrator, a retired physicist. As I rattled off their jobs, I realized that when we’d lived on land, I never knew my neighbors at all. They were pleasant, but we had no connection, nothing in common except that we’d chosen to live in the same zip code. We’d say hi when we were out walking the dogs or when we got home from work, but then we’d go into our individual houses and shut the doors. When you and your neighbors live on boats, what you have in common, if nothing else, is that love of the water, always a starting point for conversations. We have the problem you love to hate – on a nice day, it can take 15 minutes to walk down the dock to the car, if everyone is outside in their cockpits and open to chat as you walk past.

“What about possessions?” I’ve written before, that people always ask this one. I reminisced about how giving up these things and the responsibility to store and maintain them has been amazingly freeing. Now, although we still have a few sentimental things in storage, we collect friends, experiences, memories instead of knickknacks.

They thanked us at the end of the afternoon, and we were mentally exhausted from the conversation, but really? I think we should have thanked them, for reminding us not to take for granted our amazing life afloat.

Photo Op!

Posted: September 29, 10:29 am | (permalink) | (0 comments)

SN_photo-468_1 - Copy Our boat under full sail (photo copyright 2010 by Joe McCary; used by permission)

It’s easy enough to get pictures of your boat at anchor. Set the hook firmly in a beautiful cove, and take photos from your dinghy or a ashore. But a picture of a boat at rest is nothing like the grace and excitement of being under way. Good pictures of your boat underway are hard to come by. If you’re underway, you’re in the boat, sailing it, and you can’t very well be taking photos from outside the boat. So getting underway photos takes some doing. Over the years we’ve worked out various schemes, sailing in parallel with friends and snapping photos of each others’ boats. Once our good friend James Forsyth zipped around our boat holding onto his dinghy with one hand and his camera in the other while we were sailing in 20-plus-knot winds to get some excellent photos. They were the best we’d had to that point. Until now.

The only thing cooler than on-water photos is aerial photos, and hiring one of the photo services that flies over you with a helicopter to get the best possible photo angles is far, far, out of our budget. But Wayne Wilson, a member of our online sailing forum, had an inspiration. In retrospect the idea was amazingly simple, and it resulted in pictures that were simply amazing. “I am going to post my son on the Academy Bridge (38°59.59'N x 76°29.21'W) over the Severn R. in Annapolis with a 12M-pix camera,” he posted. “…I have wanted some good pictures of the boat for years, up river with headsail - down river with spinnaker (or vice versa depending on wind). But, it is no more difficult to take multiple boats than one - so if anyone else is interested let me know.”

Interested? Interested? Within the next few days, dozens of messages were flying back and forth. When we learned that one member of the group was a professional photographer, things really took off. In the end, twelve boats and 4 photographers were lined up. We made contact with the Coast Guard and other local law enforcement to make sure they knew what we were up to – and that we were merely obsessed sailors, not terrorists scoping out the bridge to bomb it. Email addresses and cellphone numbers were exchanged and boats were polished and spruced up. Joe McCary, the lead photographer, even promised to digitally repair the damage to our teak from last weekend’s unfortunate anchor dragging incident. Would that the fix were so easy in real life! (In the end, digital edited proved unnecessary as the wind put our undamaged side toward the photographers).

The gang gathered at Fleet Reserve Club for dinner the night before, to share laughter and sea stories and some last-minute logistics. Several of us had never met in person before, though we’d been trading notes on line in some cases for years. This is the part I always love – seeing people in other contexts. I know their online personae and their slant on sailing – who’s a racer, who’s just starting out with dreams of moving aboard and cruising as we did, who’s doing a major refit – but that’s all. It’s fun to round out my understanding of who they are, putting faces to (screen) names and meeting people’s families, learning their professions, seeing their boats. Another delightful side note to rounding out our knowledge of our online friends was learning that one of them, Shawn Harlan, is also a professional chef teaching at Anne Arundel Community College’s Hotel, Culinary Arts and Tourism Institute. He arranged a gourmet “care package” of sandwiches and snacks to sustain the photo crew, who expected to be standing out on the bridge for hours as the boats paraded back and forth underneath.

The weather on the appointed day was underwhelming – gray and drizzly with almost no wind. Spirits were high as we circled about, though, each boat awaiting its cue from the photo team to begin its pass under the bridge. Of course, we all took on-water shots of each other as well. Soon I realized there was a subtle game going on - in addition to photos of each other sailing well, people tried to catch their fellow sailors in flubs or with badly trimmed sails and threatened to post those less-flattering pictures to the website (though no one in fact did). After the sail/motor trip back home, we were all glued to our computers waiting for the pictures to come in – and when they did, they were spectacular. Like drool-on-the-keyboard spectacular. Between the photo team and the other sailors, there are literally hundreds of images, and I wanted them all. “The hardest artistic thing to do is transfer your passion through your work and to get others to feel it,” commented Dave Perlman, another member. And even in the less-than-ideal conditions, the photos did exactly that, captured the grace and beauty and magic of being under sail. Those who couldn’t make it, or learned about the event too late, were (deservedly) jealous. I’ve got a hunch we’ll be doing this again.

SN_Photo-681 - Copybridge photo team: Joe McCary, his brother Mike and Don Wagner. Photo by Jamison Hurst (copyright 2010, used by permission) riding on sailing vessel Auspicious.

SN_Photo-624 - CopyThe last 5 boats passing the Naval Academy as they are heading homeward after the shoot. Photo by Joe McCary (copyright 2010, used by permission).

An Unfortunate Encounter

Posted: September 23, 8:52 am | (permalink) | (3 comments)

We took advantage of the glorious weather last weekend to do one of our favorite things, that’s become a yearly tradition – taking the boat around to Annapolis harbor and seeing our town from a different perspective. We anchored off the Naval Academy seawall and spent a lovely, moonlit night. Next morning after breakfast we took the dinghy into town. We window-shopped and people-watched our way up Main Street, and picked up some interesting bargain books in the bookstore. We bought ice cream (butter pecan for Dan and cinnamon for me) and licked our cones like kids as we continued strolling through town. We walked the wrong way on all the one-way streets we usually drive down and saw the familiar buildings made strange by the new vantage. Back in the dinghy, we motored all the way to the head of Spa Creek, looking at boats and houses on the shoreline.

Coming back to our boat in the afternoon, we saw another powerboat anchored too close to us. Came closer – uh oh! They weren’t close to us, they were next to us. Their anchor had dragged and they were bashing along our port side, breaking off a large piece of the teak caprail that we had just spent several weeks refinishing. A good Samaritan in the harbor had gone aboard and put the five fenders we had on the foredeck between the two boats. But what to do next? If we let them go, they’d smash on the rocks of the seawall (or drag us with them); if we kept them, we’d risk further damage.

We spent about a half-hour fending them off with the dinghy, while the harbormaster hovered nearby, offering some suggestions but legally not allowed to get involved unless there was imminent danger. After about a half hour of this, the water taxi pulled up with the owners of the errant boat. We were able to extricate them pretty quickly and exchanged phone numbers. Fortunately, their integrity exceeded their anchoring skills and they acknowledged responsibility; now it’ll just be an adventure in insurance companies and ship’s carpentry. <*sigh*>

P1010038 small

A Summer Getaway

Posted: September 9, 5:16 pm | (permalink) | (0 comments)

One of the great things about the Annapolis boat scene is that everyone passes through here sooner or later. So even if you yourself aren’t mobile, if you hang out long enough, you’ll have boat-friends in all sorts of places. We’re no exception. Sometimes these boat-friends are people we met as they were passing through on the annual southbound migration, or people we met through one of our online sailing forums or groups, sometimes they’re former dock-neighbors who were here for a while, then took off on new adventures but stayed in touch. Our friend Melissa is in the latter category. We met her when she kept her boat just a few slips away from us here in Annapolis while she worked for the Federal government in D.C., then a few years ago she headed north on a grand adventure. When she told us that she was in northern Canada and invited us to join her on her boat for a few weeks, we were only too glad to escape the hazy-hot-humid Chesapeake summer for some completely different boating.

We met up with her in Georgian Bay, the eastern part of Lake Huron, for a 2-week cruise through the aptly-named “Thirty Thousand Islands.” We alternated our days between anchorages in unspoiled north woods, rocks, and pine trees, and friendly small towns right out of a travel brochure. My mental picture of the north woods was one of misty gray days, but there were plenty of sunny ones, too. The days were LONG – it began to get light before 5 AM and didn’t get dark until after 10 PM. And when it did get dark, the sky was crammed with zillions of stars, undimmed by city glare. We ate fresh fish and chips at a waterside family stand with the boat that had caught them docked just behind us. We passed a police station with animal control’s trailer and cage parked in a lot with a reminder that we were truly in wilderness - an ominous yellow warning placard with the word “Danger” and a silhouette of a bear. We saw some funny piles of rocks and learned the fascinating story of the inuksuk – traditional Inuit arrangement of stacked stones, generally in the rough shape of a human, that served as guideposts for navigation or directional aids, pointing along the trail or waterway or in the direction of good hunting or fishing.

P1010261 tree island in mist Photo: one of the thirty thousand islands

P1010235 bear cage Photo: Bear cage

Boating itself both was, and wasn’t, like the Chesapeake. When we anchored in a pristine cove in Port Rawson Bay, I was excited that there were no sea nettles and ready for a swim. The first time I jumped in was cool and refreshing for me, but comic for Dan and Melissa. See, I’m used to floating about shoulder deep when buoyed by salt water. Well, here in the Great Lakes, the water was deep and cold … and fresh. I was unprepared for how low I’d float, providing much giggles as I spluttered and flailed as the water closed over my head! Like the Chesapeake, there was a network of inviting coves in which to anchor, but the gunkholing came with a hefty jolt of adrenaline that made the biggest difference between our Canadian getaway and our home waters. The soft mud we’re used to here makes grounding no more than an annoyance. In contrast, the sides and bottom of the channel in Georgian Bay were hard granite, meaning the penalties for bad navigation could involve severe damage to the boat. Fortunately, none of that happened. The biggest damage was to our schedules, as the three weeks drew to a close and we tried to figure out how soon we could return to this intriguing land.

P1010268 inviting cove hopewell sun Photo: an exciting cove to explore

Killarney Evening 001 Photo: Killarney evening, by Melissa Allen

Boat Envy (or not)

Posted: August 24, 1:17 pm | (permalink) | (0 comments)

It was amusing to me to see that last week’s “Home of the Week” feature was really two homes, one on land and one a boat. Finally, in the boat part at least, something I could relate to. Umm, yeah, until I scrolled through the slideshow and saw the glossy finishes and thespace. I compared their 44-foot trawler to our 33-foot sailboat and a tweak of jealousy. Okay, more than just a tweak, for a moment. But the purpose of these stories is not to serve as benchmarks to compare our measures of success against our neighbors (and inevitably make readers feel envious and inadequate). I can’t afford that luxurious a boat but I can search this article for ideas and inspiration … and realized that that is this is the real purpose of stories of homes featured in magazines and newspapers. Whether afloat or on land, these stories are meant as sources of ideas.

So many of the gorgeous land homes are set in acres of gorgeous grounds, or on bluffs overlooking the sea. But there’s a unique twist to this paradigm if your home is a boat. The greatest magic of this living aboard life is that it’s such a great equalizer – that the most important things about this life are the things we have in common, and many of the land-based status symbols and boundaries disappear. As we traveled the ICW last year, million-dollar trawlers and little skiffs shared the same anchorages and were swept by the same currents, as we were. The overwhelming orange and magenta sunset in a marsh in Georgia, loud with crickets and birds, that painted the sky one night last November was just as awesome in a rowboat as the cockpit of our boat.

nport sun

An Ordinary Day

Posted: August 9, 4:53 pm | (permalink) | (0 comments)

I’ve been in a bit of a writing funk since coming back from the Bahamas - okay, I admit it, a tropical journey by sailboat is a bit of a tough act to follow - what am I going to write about? “Today I went to the mall and walked the dog” just doesn’t strike me as inspiring reading! But as my friend Chris pointed out, this is supposed to be a blog about day-to-day life on a sailboat in Annapolis. So, what does an ordinary day look like for me?

6:30: Rise and Shine! Summer mornings start early, even though we are no longer getting up to commute to work. The hatch over the v-berth where we sleep guarantees that on the boat we’re more in touch with the natural rhythms of sunlight than we were in a house. In good weather it’s open to the stars…and the sunrise; light begins to shine down on our faces by 5:30. We sip our coffee in the cockpit as we watch the light on the water, a splash and ripples that show where a fish *just* jumped moments ago, ducks and crows and the occasional heron. A few crabbers and early fishermen pass on their way down the creek and out to the bay.
Coffee and contemplation time.  What shall we do today?

8:00: Internet time: We use our cellphone as a modem - connect it to the laptop using a USB cable, and we can go online anywhere we are anchored or even underway while sailing. First up after checking for emails from friends and family: the weather. Gotta find out if today will have a good breeze for some recreational sailing!

9:30 Shore errands: Living aboard is a physical life; I can get an upper body workout hoisting and trimming the sails, and Dan challenges his flexibility almost daily to get his 6-foot-tall self into weirdly shaped tight spaces for jobs like working on the engine. At the same time, there are few opportunities for aerobic exercise other than swimming (which we don’t do here in Back Creek!); and I have chronic back problems. So my first shore errand is either physical therapy or a trip to the marina gym. My physical therapist, Kari McDonald, is amazing - her father was a liveaboard so she understood my special circumstances and found it a fun challenge to customize a workout program that I could do aboard the boat.

While we’re out and about in the car, we’ll also do any other errands: library, grocery store, laundry, any other necessary shopping. Whatever we purchase is wheeled down the dock in a cart and then handed aboard. No one I know, us included, can claim a perfect record of never ever having dropped anything into the water in the process!
Dan wheeling our groceries back to the boat


1:30 Boat chores: If you live on land, and don’t fix a leak right away, your furniture might get wet. On a boat, delayed maintenance of that leak might sink your home! There are also chores that don’t have equivalents on land, such as exercising the seacocks to make sure they operate smoothly and can be shut in a hurry to keep the ocean from coming in, or refilling the water tanks every 3 weeks or so. Then there’s pumping out the waste holding tank every week or so -- you can’t connect a boat directly to a sewer, and you can’t dump waste directly to the Bay (ugh!), so what’s left is to hold it onboard in a tank specially designed for the purpose until it can be properly disposed of. Annapolis makes this easy with a boat that comes to your slip or mooring - in other places we have to motor the boat over to a fuel dock and tie up to pump out.
Assistant Harbormaster Stan Mathey brings the pumpout boat alongside Tom Santoro's boat "Orient Express" moored on Back Creek

5:30 Social time: Evenings are social time. Whether it’s a potluck with other liveaboards in the marina lounge, or a neighbor dropping by for drinks in the cockpit, there’s always someone to hang out with if you want to. We automatically have at least one thing in common with all our neighbors -- a love of boats and the water.  The sense of community here at the marina is different than anything I ever remember (except maybe for my college dorm), and worthy of a whole separate post. Meanwhile, in the quiet at the end of the day, I can’t imagine wanting to live any other way than … afloat.
sunset afterglow on Back Creek, by Dave German

Sail the Wind You Have (and other life lessons from our trip)

Posted: June 27, 1:50 pm | (permalink) | (0 comments)
We spent the first few days after our return taking the cruising paraphernalia off the boat and returning the boat to floating-condo and Chesapeake Bay weekender status. The third and fourth anchors went off into our storage locker, as did the jerry jugs for spare diesel fuel and water that were stored on the decks during our trip. Nautical charts to exotic places were carefully stowed for our next adventure.

Reconnecting with our Annapolis friends was our next agenda item, and that was simultaneously wonderful and a bit strange. We had gone from wannabes talking about going cruising, to folks who had gone voyaging on their own boat and returned, so our credibility in cruising circles was obviously enhanced. The strange part was this: here we were, home from the sea with tales to tell. But when we started on our best stories, whether it was tutoring school children at Black Point or getting caught in a microburst, our friends would interrupt with “I knew that already, from reading your blog.” This, perhaps, is a foretaste of senility – we’ll be repeating all our stories to friends who have heard them before.

But as we settle for a while back into ordinary life, of course we’re not the same people who left almost a year ago. I was musing with a fellow liveaboard about how many things you learn sailing that are metaphors for everyday living. There are everyday housekeeping lessons, like “don’t put it down, put it away” (doubly important on a boat where things left unsecured are likely to fly off the table in a rough sea, hurting someone or breaking) and learning to conserve fresh water on a passage or in an undeveloped area where what we bring with us, 100 gallons or so, has to meet all our needs for drinking, cooking, and washing until we’re back in civilization. But there are also more abstract lessons.

Persistence: If you had told me a year ago that we’d be taking this boat 3500 miles, I’d have been more than a little skeptical. No way! I’ve never taken this boat more than about 35 miles, and that on a sunny Saturday in the Bay. Thirty-five HUNDRED??!! Our trip was in one sense, simply doing a trip of 35 miles, one hundred times. Of course, it was a bit more than that, since it included several night passages and crossing the Gulf Stream, but by the time we got to those challenges we were so in tune with this boat that we were if anything over-prepared.
Simplicity: Living on a boat is the ultimate exercise in downsizing. Imagine having to fit everything you own in the storage space of your kitchen cabinets. Not just pots and pans and foodstuffs, but all your books and hiking boots and tools and sweaters and Xmas ornaments and bed linens. And no matter how careful you are, some of it will get moldy and some of it will get broken anyway. There used to be a popular bumper sticker “He who dies with the most toys wins.” Our life aboard refuted that, and I learned about myself that I’m more than willing to be uncomfortable, not out of some need to prove how tough I am, but in search of new experiences. I wanted to modify the bumper sticker to read “He who dies with the most experiences wins,” and some studies back me up. But you know what? After a while even thrill-seeking fades, and “He who dies with the most friends, really wins.”
Learning: “He who would be wise, learns from all the world.” We learned about the Bahamas from conventional sources like textbooks and websites and interpretive signs in the park and learning centers like CEI … and also from the fisherman cleaning conch on the dock and the policewoman who showed us the bush from which strongback tea is made and the fellow cruiser who taught us that 20 knots of wind is equivalent to one knot of current when trying to determine which direction your boat will point, and of course our good friends James and Ellen, who taught us so many things during the part of the trip we traveled together.
Growing: “A ship in a harbor is safe … but that is not what ships are for.” We certainly had to push out of our comfort zone in order to have the amazing experiences we had in the past year.

Reality: Sailboats can’t point directly upwind. So if you want to go to a location that is directly upwind, you have to approach it by zigzagging toward it at an angle, tacking first one way then the other. This results in a longer route over the bottom than if you’d been able to go straight, but a more efficient use of the wind when it happens to point in an unfortunate direction. When we were first learning to sail, I had a tendency to try to point the boat too high upwind in this scenario, and lost most of the power I could have if we approached our destination, ironically, a little more obliquely. “Sail the wind you have,” our friend and sailing mentor David urged, “not the wind you wish you had, if you ever want to get to your destination.” Valid advice for anyone in fantasyland (live within your means, anyone?)
Responsibility: This one seems obvious – while one of us slept, he/she literally put his life in the other’s hands, counted on the other to keep our home safe, keep us on course, stay alert, and if necessary, assess the situation to determine whether it required waking the other one up.

Control (or lack of it): Sometimes you just have to accept what you can’t control. Sometimes you just have to hang on and wait for the storm to blow itself out.
Choice: Within the broad framework of the life you were born in, you design the trip, and the life, you live. Some of our cruising friends stayed mostly in marinas and in locations where other cruisers gather. They claim to have had a wonderful time and met many people who became lifelong friends. To some extent, we did too … there’s a reason some places have earned a reputation as must-does. At the same time, if we just wanted to meet other cruisers, we could have stayed in Annapolis. We ended up seeking some less popular places to try and meet locals and learn how they live. And yet, even though we had such different outcomes, each of us could say, “We went down the ICW and spent the winter in the central Bahamas.”

Appreciation: Most of all, never, ever, ever lose your sense of wonder. Whether it was shooting stars in a night passage, or the infinite shades of blue we saw in the water crossing the Gulf Stream, or touching the back of a nurse shark, or the odd sound of the musical rocks we learned about on our hike in the Exumas Land and Sea Park, our trip, and our world, is full of amazing and beautiful things.

(all photographs by Magda Galambos, Cape Eleuthera Resort, The Bahamas)
(originally published 27 June 2010)

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The Monkey's Fist

Home Again!

Posted: May 30, 10:06 am | (permalink) | (0 comments)

We woke up to a lovely misty Chesapeake morning, and set our course for due north and home. Gradually, one after another familiar landmarks came into view, and we eagerly pointed them out to each other: “Oh, look! That thin gray line on the horizon – it’s the Bay Bridge!” and “I see the radio towers at Greenbury Point!” Maybe it was a trick of the viewing angle, or of memory, or maybe the stress of a hard winter, but is the lighthouse at Sharp’s Point leaning more than it did last autumn?

The sun came out and we saw Thomas Point light, anchored commercial vessels, LOTS of small recreational fishing boats, 2 sailboat races, a Navy warship, and the spires of the churches and the green dome at the Naval Academy … and then we turned up Back Creek and into our familiar slip … and did little but veg out for the next two days.

I’m still finding that during that half-awake haze, when I’m between sleep and alertness, I’m getting panicky, thinking we have to hurry and get the anchor up and get some miles under our keel before evening!

What was THAT??!!!

Posted: May 17, 3:29 pm 

Photo credit: NOAA (image from here)

We left on a raw, grey day, more like November than May, mashing and pounding into the Neuse River. It was really quite uncomfortable, so much so that we decided to stop early, after only 25 miles, rather than continue to beat into strong wind and waves across the Pamlico Rover and up the Pungo River. Tomorrow the wind would soften and shift to behind us and it would be a more pleasant run. We anchored in a wide marshy area behind a stand of trees. I remembered this area from the trip down, mostly pretty undeveloped land and wildlife refuge. We saw few houses, and would have no cellphone / internet coverage for several days. We did haircuts and hot showers and read novels while the gulls squawked. I started to feel like we’d chickened out too soon; it didn’t seem that windy. Um, right. We picked this spot for its wind shelter, of course it wouldn’t feel that windy, that was the point. But the wind was out there.

The next day was more like summer – warm and sunny and humid – and we went on our pleasant way through marshes and trees, some wide rivers and some narrow cuts. We shared an anchorage that night with dolphins. They came close enough that we could hear them make a strange “woofing” kind of noise when they surfaced and blew air. I had recently learned that dolphins are a kind of small whale, and watched them with new appreciation. We woke to birdsong, and during the day as we traveled saw egrets and deer and once Dan pointed out a shaggy bear on the river bank. At the end of the day we anchored at the head of the Alligator River, a spot I remembered from last autumn in shades of dark brown and misty grey, now brilliant under blue sky and the golden-green shades of spring. Tomorrow we’d be back in cellphone range and I could feed my internet addiction and get more detailed weather reports than those over the VHF.

We put out some sail in the morning and motorsailed down the Alligator River in stronger west winds than predicted. If this continued, we’d have to stop short again and wait for better weather before crossing the Albemarle Sound, 15 miles of open water that could get as nasty and choppy as the Chesapeake in the wrong conditions. But we got a rare gift – just as we approached the mouth of the river where it emptied into the Sound, the wind softened and we were able to cross in comfort. As we approached the other side, suddenly without warning a gust came up from the northeast, plastering the headsail against the stays and swinging the bow off course. We rolled up the headsail and continued with a reduced mainsail, grateful for the shelter of the approaching land, then continued up the North River to anchor a little way off the main ICW (IntraCoastal Waterway) channel a few miles south of Coinjock, NC tucked behind some trees for shelter from the east wind. A very long day tomorrow, or more likely, 2 comfortable-length days, would get us to Norfolk, VA. Or so we thought. Later that evening I posted my Facebook status: “The winds have quieted, off the cockpit I see a sunset in brushstrokes of gray and rose and blue and orange, and the most delicate wisp of a new moon. Dinner of mushroom and tomato omelet, a glass of wine, and looking forward to a peaceful night at anchor.”

About 5 AM I saw flashes of white light and assumed it was the lights of a tug and barge coming up the channel. I listened for the sound of his engine but heard nothing; still too far away. I settled back down, half-awake and musing on the travel plans for the day. The lights, though, didn’t grow gradually brighter as the tug came closer the way I would expect. I looked out again and yes, there was a tug and barge proceeding up the channel, but there was also lightning – a lot of it. No rain, wind, or thunder, though, and I began to hope the storm would pass us. The barge made the turn and went on past , and then suddenly – WHAM! More wind than we’d ever felt before on this boat, except for maybe during Hurricane Isabel in 2003, and I’m not even sure about that. And this wind was from the west – 180 degrees from where it had been forecast, from where it had been a few moments before. The lightning was continuous and the noise was amazing as the canvas bimini snapped and thrashed about. The boat heeled and things thumped and shifted in the cabinets; last night’s empty wine bottle fell over and a locker door swung open and the nautical chart slid off the table. I wedged in the galley to stay upright and Dan was across from me hanging on to the table. Our eyes were glued to the GPS that showed our position as our anchor finally gave up the unequal struggle and we were pushed to the east, away from the channel, into and through a field of crab pots, toward shallower and shallower water and the marsh grass at the shore. Our anchor – our Rocna, bought new for this trip. Our anchor that is rated to hold us in winds up to 50 knots – and had proven itself holding both us and another boat during a storm in January in the Bahamas -- but couldn't hold us in this.

In five very looooong minutes it was over, and the wind had decreased to ordinary levels and come back around to the east. The anchor reset itself and held us in our new position. Across the channel, a few hundred yards away, the barge was aground, and the tug was working to free it. Since we were in no immediate danger we decided to wait for a bit more daylight to assess our situation. There was marsh grass almost touching the starboard side of the boat. Perhaps we were partially aground or perhaps one of the crab pots we had been pushed into was now wrapped around our propeller, meaning we couldn’t start the engine without fear of damage.

It seemed North Carolina just didn’t want to let us go. First the problems with the engine and depth sounder that delayed us for 3-1/2 weeks, and now this. But in the end we were lucky. A check revealed that there was nothing on the propeller. The wind, now returned to its normal direction, pushed us back toward the channel; we were now in 6 feet of water. So we carefully raised the anchor and Dan stood at the bow, giving me hand signals as I worked the helm, threading our way back through the crab pots and into the channel and turning north.

Later we learned that between 5:00 and 5:30 that morning, the Weather Service had issued a tornado warning for the area. Although no tornadoes were seen to touch down, a tornado was spotted near the towns of Grandy and Jarvisburg – less than 5 miles from our anchorage! And in reviewing the incident for this blog post I finally realized something I had seen but not processed. We’d been pushed out of the channel toward the grasses to the east. The barge was also pushed out of the channel – toward the northwest. Only a few hundred yards apart, yet we went in opposite directions. I’m glad we did, or the barge could have been pushed down onto us or us onto it. Maybe the tugboat captain just overcompensated for that first big gust, barges are unwieldy. And yet, and yet ... what kind of wind phenomenon passed between us???

“The Secret To My Happiness … ”

Posted: May 12, 3:16 pm | (permalink) | (0 comments)

…according to a post on the Facebook page of my friend Beth Savoca Ditman, “…is knowing the difference between an inconvenience and a tragedy.” Keep talkin’, Beth! We really, really, need this!

We’ve been unable to troubleshoot the depth sensor. Over the weekend, we connected our old display unit to a new sensor (where it worked perfectly) and sent our old display unit to the shop (where it worked perfectly). It looked like we isolated the problem to a connection, which we repaired. The thing was working perfectly at the dock all weekend, but when we left Monday afternoon, it failed again before we went a few hundred yards! We returned to the dock, where it worked perfectly, and prepared to leave again to test it … where it failed AGAIN! The only sure fix we can consider is to haul the boat, rip out the entire depth system and install a new one. Yuck.

Inconvenience, not tragedy. Inconvenience, not tragedy.

I’m trying to look at the bright side of the situation that another friend, Leslie Owen, cynically describes cruising as “fixing your boat in a series of foreign ports.” Even though we’d hoped to be back in Annapolis by now - at least we’re in a safe, interesting, pleasant place. We’ve walked all over the little town of Oriental, NC, which makes me achingly nostalgic for our hailing port, Northport, Michigan … minus the snow. Our walks have uncovered whimsical yard ornaments and magnolia trees in bloom and a wonderful sense of town camaraderie. The town mascot is a dragon - maybe referring the Orient, given the town’s name “Oriental?” (The name actually came from a ship that was wrecked nearby.) Dragon motifs are everywhere. Painted rocks nicknamed “dragon eggs” are displayed on several lawns along with official-looking “Endangered Species Nesting Site- Do Not Disturb” signs. George, one of the folks who worked on our boat, is a fifth-generation resident. He told us stories as he worked on the rudder post, and spoke of the way the town is changing as retirees move in and drive up prices and property taxes and force long-time residents and old ways of life out – a situation familiar to many small communities in the Chesapeake as well. We’re in a boatyard, Deaton Yacht Services, that has been extremely competent and responsive and friendly. It has exceeded all of our expectations, which is dangerous, as we keep adding “one more thing” to do while we’re here anyway. But now, we're keeping our fingers crossed that everything's done and we'll be underway again in the morning.

P1010108 P1010110

Just for fun: a "dragon egg" and a closeup of the sign


Wes has been operating a travel lift for 26 years


This egret lawn ornament was made from a piece of PVC pipe

For Want of a Nail ...

Posted: May 9, 4:41 pm | (permalink) | (0 comments)

Josh had the new V-drive sent in overnight, and installed it the next day, and we were on our way again. We were motoring along on a gorgeous day, and noting that the engine realignment Josh had done had our engine/transmission running smoother than it had been when brand new. We jokingly told him that we’d confirmed that improvement with our high-tech “teakettle-o-meter.” Previously, the teakettle couldn’t remain on the stove when we were underway, it vibrated and rattled, but now it was quiet. We were traveling comfortably and discussing dinner options, looking forward to a favorite anchorage we'd reach in about an hour, when we heard a thump, and then AGAIN had no propulsion. TowBoat U.S. to the rescue AGAIN. They towed us to a funky little marina in a rural area. We were safe, but immobile … AGAIN. This was getting old … and expensive.

The marina owner had said that several people had hit floating logs or other junk in that stretch of river, or run aground and bent propellers and shafts. But neither felt like the right explanation to us. Dan’s navigation is meticulous, and we hadn’t seen floating debris either before or after the impact. We were right in the middle of the channel in 10-15 feet of water so running aground seemed equally unlikely. The towboat guided us into the haulout slip; in the morning we’d lift the boat out of the water and see if there was damage.

There wasn’t. They lifted the boat just high enough out of the water to check, and we saw the bottom paint and prop were untouched. They put us back in the water and guided us into a slip to wait. Josh came by for a diagnosis and learned that his repair had exposed another latent weakness, in the coupling holding the (new) V-drive to the shaft. In addition, our depth sensor started giving us nonsense numbers. To us it felt like a cascade effect, one setback after another. Ironically, the V-drive and coupling were rebuilt, among the very few things that weren’t brand new in the 5 years we spent refitting the boat before we took off on our cruise.

We were stressed and frustrated while we waited, first for Josh to come and diagnose the problem, then waiting for parts to be shipped overnight. We were certain Josh could get us mobile again, but the depth sounder was another issue, a classic catch-22. In order to replace it, we’d have to haul the boat completely out of the water “on the hard” and they couldn’t really accommodate us at this yard. But we couldn’t travel to a place where they could fix it, without having the depth information to navigate safely!

In the end, we were there for 5 days, in a marina with rickety docks where we went aground every low tide. A pair of little black and white birds with brown faces sat on our docklines and chirped an intricate song as though trying to cheer us up. And the people were friendly and fascinating – the new owner, a former policeman, former carpenter (I’ll bet he gets those rickety docks repaired before long!); another liveaboard who’s forever adding “one more project before I go.” Everything about him, from the tattoos to the cap, says “former Harley rider” and his boat hailing port is in South Dakota. South Dakota? Not many seaports in that state! The marina staffer who offered us his personal car to go into town. He explained, "I'm working until 4:30, I won't need my car until then because I'll be right here." And the cruisers who’d come in for the night and be on their way again in the morning, with us looking wistfully after them as they made progress up the river while we were stranded.

I kept cycling a sketch from my childhood in my brain: “For want of a nail, a shoe was lost; for want of a shoe, a horse was lost; for want of a horse, a battle was lost; for want of a battle, a kingdom was lost” … The great big V-drive problem was fixed, but now we were stymied by a relatively small one. Now we could move, but how did we know where to go? Could we find someone to follow, very close on their heels for 65 miles and hope they navigated perfectly? What about being our own escort, putting a depth sensor in the dinghy and then one of us would lead in the dinghy while the other piloted the big boat? Finally Dan had an inspiration, and he and Josh designed a solution that redefined the term “jury-rigged” as they strapped a fishfinder to our side swim ladder, which would trail in the water. I wish I had a picture. Um, then again, maybe not. I’m sure it looked pretty dorky, churning quite a wake. We always smirked at boats going past with their fenders dangling, presumably they were careless and forgot. Bad seamanship; our friend David K used to point out boats like that and say "Their embarassments are hanging out." Now, with our ladder down, we were the ones who were embarassed. The ladder snagged a fair amount of grasses and a jellyfish, but it gave us acceptable depth data and kept us safe. Finally, after 2 days of travel on “high alert” staring at the fishfinder screen, we arrived at Deaton’s Yacht Services in Oriental, NC. We were immediately impressed by their expertise as they chuckled at our improvisation, then, with the help of their electronics guru Pete, we began to zero in on the source of the problem.

Be Careful What You Wish For (You May Get It)

Posted: April 27, 9:11 am | (permalink) | (0 comments)

It hit us both at once, at the end of a week of intensive tourism. Not homesickness exactly, although I was longing to walk along Main Street and listen to the USNA band play a concert at City Dock again. I wanted to drink a margarita at Mexican Café before they closed their Bay Ridge location, and have my stylist Ron work his magic on my sun-frazzled hair.

More than missing Annapolis, though, I think we were missing the idea of staying in one place for an extended time. I wanted to go to sleep in the same place I woke up, instead of the next anchorage, 20, 30, 50 miles up the waterway. I wanted a car again. I wanted to go to the same grocery store every week so I knew where the mixed nuts were. I wanted to use my library card to pick out books that I wanted to read and not catch-as-catch-can at some marina or laundromat book swap. Dan said he felt the same way … I just want to stay putfor a while.

So we’re motoring up Middle Sound on a beautiful mild spring day, homeward bound. In two weeks at this rate, maybe a little more, we’ll be back in the Chesapeake. We get near to a bridge that only opens every half hour, and put the engine into neutral, drifting while we wait. The hour comes, the bridge begins to swing, Dan shifts into gear … and nothing happens! Umm, nothing except for a grinding noise that can’t be good news. “TowBoat U.S., TowBoat U.S., this is sailing vessel Cinderella …”

Well, the short of it is, we were towed right back to where we started from that morning, the Seapath marina at Wrightsville Beach. Dan had the presence of mind to turn on the GPS to track our return route, rightly assuming the towboat driver would have local knowledge of the shoals to avoid when we (finally) were able to leave. Indeed he did – Tom Morgan, the driver, had been doing this for ten years, and found deep water where on our outbound trip we had seen only shoals. He had also been a liveaboard before a new baby made him seek larger (and more toddler-proof) lodging, and we chatted pleasantly enough on the trip back, erasing the miles we had just covered.

“Ahoy! Is this a Cinderella story?” The voice coming from the dock later that afternoon belonged to Josh Roberts, of Specialized Mechanical Services. Professional and extremely competent, he was the marine mechanic who Tom used for his personal boat. “Yeah,” I replied, “and we’re hoping you can turn our pumpkin back into a coach! Welcome aboard!” I had visions of haulouts and cranes in our future as we described the symptoms of our failure to him. I also had visions of our IRS refund, which was about to have the shortest residence time ever in our checking account before going out the door again. Josh quickly isolated the problem to our V-drive – serious, but not disastrous (no crane! no haulout!) and carried it off to his shop for a more complete diagnosis. Meanwhile, we got our “stay put” wish but not in the way we intended – we were going to be here for several more days.

Back at the dock, courtesy of TowBoat U.S. and Tom Morgan


Josh Roberts removing our damaged V-drive. We later learned it was completely destroyed


Springtime in the South (Beaufort, SC)

Posted: April 26, 9:55 am | (permalink) | (0 comments)

spring blossom plantation

“Tiddly! Just … tiddly! Here in the Low Country business isn’t conducted by the same rules as anywhere else in the U.S.,” one of the locals commiserated with us. We were bewildered, had just finished explaining our plight. Enterprise Car Rental, usually so reliable for us in other cities, had told us just a scant half-hour before that someone would be there at 9:30 to pick us up. Well, 9:30 came and went, and when I called to ask if there had been a problem, they said that the rental car we’d reserved hadn’t been returned on time and they had nothing else to offer as a backup … uh, you didn’t notice this a half-hour ago? I’m standing here on a street corner waiting for you, when did you THINK you were going to tell me? Grrrr!

It was a gorgeous spring day, and we were determined to see the city anyway, and we accepted her offer of a ride into town. We found the historic arsenal compound now painted yellow and turned into a visitor center, and “armed” ourselves with a good map. As it turned out, the town was a reasonable scale for walking, after all. We walked all over the historic downtown, to the old church with Confederate flags at some graves, and a few tombstones identifying British soldiers from the Revolutionary war (in one case, there were two sharing a grave, we wondered what the story was behind that?). Many historic homes, from a modest dwelling from Revolutionary days – one of the only ones identified as a woman head-of-household – to LARGE plantation mansions. Here was the silver lining from walking instead of driving - many of the houses in the more modest parts of town had front porches, and the porches all had rocking chairs, from which folks wished us a good morning as we walked past. We got into a conversation with one older woman who had moved here from the Eastern Shore forty years ago. Needless to say, we told her she would not recognize the place should she go back for a visit!

There were drapings of Spanish moss on trees, spills of brilliant purple and pink and white flowers, floral and spicy/woody smells. We had lunch of blackened grouper sandwiches and lemonade in a waterfront café and lingered to enjoy the singer. He put on a crocheted Rasta beret (complete with artificial dreadlocks) and played some Bob Marley reggae, then changed to a ball cap and did some John Pryne. He even had a few jazzy numbers that I vaguely remember from my parents’ era. We explored the redeveloped waterfront park, and, finally got a taxi to take us back to the grocery store where we stocked up, expecting to be anchored out in pristine anchorages the next few days. We walked back to the marina and took the dinghy out to the boat in the fading light. Lacking a car to do further exploring, but feeling like we’d gotten a pretty good sense of the town, we decided to go on. Three pleasant days motoring up canals and rivers lined with infinite shades of green, and a couple of nights in pretty anchorages shared only with birds, a timed drawbridge, and we were approaching Charleston, SC.