Matt suggested that we do an overnight trip. We were both a little skittish and not feeling completely ready – but that’s probably an indication that it’s time to take action. We sailed from Annapolis to Baltimore on Sunday (10/6). There was very little wind for much of the day – a number of other boats passed us and gave us a thumbs-up as they motor-sailed by (Matt is a purist and does not motor sail when there is no wind. As evidence, for part of our 3-week honeymoon we chartered a sailboat in Spain for a week. There was no wind on the way back from that trip so we just floated for hours – playing cards and waiting for a breeze). On the way to Baltimore the wind picked up in the afternoon and we arrived to an absolutely gorgeous sunset. We called Matt’s sister as a surprise on the way in and she and her husband and pup ran down to the water and took some photos of us sailing in. We docked at dusk and celebrated with a great dinner at the Rusty Scupper. The next day was exactly why we are doing this – we had breakfast out and then spent the day at the National Aquarium which was just a short walk from the marina. It was absolutely incredible – all of us gawking as a 500-pound sea turtle swam past. There were lots of different sharks, a dolphin show, amazing kinds of jellyfish, Amazon tree frogs that have colors like nothing I’ve ever seen, and sea horses (which were mating – so that’s an interesting homeschool lesson). We also saw an archerfish, so named because it shot an arc of water at a cricket on a twig two feet above the tank. The cricket plunged into the water and became lunch for the archerfish. I nudged Malachi and said, “How do you like homeschooling?” “Awesome!” he said.
The weather was sketchy, with a hurricane on the horizon so we left on Tuesday instead of Wednesday. Everyone tells us the cardinal rule of sailing is to be flexible and not have a schedule. We went to breakfast at Ms. Shirley’s and had a ‘cultural’ moment. The restaurant was playing great music and we talked to the boys about the various artists, one of whom was Elvis Presley. After telling them about his music and what little I knew of his life, they both looked at me with a vague frown. One of them asked, “His name was Elmo?” “Elmo Pretzel?” the other further clarified.
I love Honest Tea – I’m an addict of the unsweetened Assam Black Tea (although I am ‘trying’ to give up caffeine). Beyond the taste, I love the 6-word memoirs in each of the caps. I recently opened one and it said, “A story told with every wrinkle.” I guess that’s what I’m doing here – not just sharing the fun stuff but some of the more challenging experiences as well. It’s because all aspects are part of the experience and are what make it rich (e.g., being dry feels a lot nicer after you’ve been soaking wet; the sun feels amazing after a week of rain). I say this so that the posts are read in context. I try not to get too upset about things (personally, I found the Whole Foods post more funny than frustrating). If you know me well enough, you understand that I find the humor in these things. The idea of a stuffed animal (especially an amphibian) flying through the air and landing in a harried mom’s salad strikes me as particularly funny (whether or not I’m the mom in question). I hope you read the blog this way. I no longer take any of this stuff (i.e., life) too seriously. If you’ve ever had to deal with anything really hard in your life, then you know that the day-to-day hassles of life amount to nothing. In the face of tragedy, you kick yourself for ever having spent any time or energy getting upset over them. However, since they are part of life, I try to capture some of them here (and make them amusing when I can). This is exactly what I’d be writing in my journal so, in a way, this has become my journal. There has not been a moment where I have seriously questioned our decision. Even on the objectively ‘worst’ day, when I weigh the pros and cons, there is no comparison. There is nowhere else I want to be right now and nothing else I’d rather be doing.
Matt wakes up and goes on a fierce 7 am bike ride with two other guys at the marina almost every day. I think they bike at least 20 miles each time. It’s a good start to the day for him (he is more social than I am and needs those interactions).
Some of my favorite things are the bookends of the day. Waking up and peeking out of the hatch to see the sky and water in the morning – and then seeing the stars and moon on the way back to the boat from the bathhouse at night. We have witnessed more sunsets in the past few months than we ever did at home. It also seems we are more in line with the natural rhythms of nature. Now that it gets dark so much earlier, the boys are in bed sooner and so are we. One of my favorite things is getting rocked to sleep by the water. We wake up early – hearing the ducks and other birds – and sometimes share breakfast with our feathery neighbors. All of the sightings of jellyfish, osprey and blue herons never cease to amaze.
I knew the day would come – and that it would be a learning experience when it did. The boys were playing around in the dinghy and Joshua (his nickname has been ‘Bird’ since he was born) went overboard. Apparently Malachi pulled him back in but I think it helped to reinforce the life jacket rule. The Bird took it, as he generally does, with good humor. “It wasn’t even cold, Mom. It was actually kind of fun.”
We got the anchor chain and, after wrestling with the mast communications for two days (i.e., coastguard-required mast lights and electronics), we are good in that area also. Congratulations to us! We are now fully compliant, having completed pages of ‘to do’s’ issued to us by the insurance company as a condition of boat insurance. We are now free to leave the dock for longer trips. Matt and the boys pumped up the dinghy yesterday and today we got the motor on it. It seems to be functioning ok. Matt took the boys across the water to a lunch place on the other side to test it out. Apparently it did stop out in the middle of the water but he got the motor going again and they made it back safely. It’s probably ‘good enough’ for now and we can work on it later.
To date, the Homeschooling Question Award goes to Joshua. A few weeks, we had been grilling dinner outside one evening when we saw a hummingbird fluttering up in a tree. Recently, he was coloring a hummingbird in his book and we were discussing their colors and how they are attracted to the color red. At the end of this spontaneous school lesson, he turned to me and asked, “Do hummingbirds have testicles?” I’m not even sure where to start …
Joshua wet his bed last night – a rarity. It happened early in the morning and he came in to tell us. His berth cushion was soaked – it seems he had forgotten to use the bathroom before bed the night before. I put him back to bed in the salon (i.e., sitting area/dining area) right outside our berth. It was 5:45 am and I knew I would not be going back to sleep. Since the hatch is right over our berth, I looked at the stars for a while (it is pretty cool to see the Big Dipper or the moon above us while lying in bed). I could hear Joshua humming and figured he wouldn’t be going back to sleep either. I told Matt I was thinking of sneaking out with him to see the sunrise since he has never seen one before. I whispered to Joshua to get dressed and grab his life jacket. Matt boosted him out of the boat through our hatch and I followed so we wouldn’t wake up Malachi by opening up the boat. He kept whispering, “Where are we going?” in his still muppet-like 5-year-old voice. I didn’t say anything because we were on deck above Malachi’s berth. We got off the boat and walked 15 feet to where the kayak is tied to the dock. I handed him a flashlight and climbed down the ladder to get in. I could see how excited he was when he saw what we were doing. I paddled us through all of the marinas and out towards the bay. After about 15-20 minutes, we were out into the open water and could see the bridge in the distance. The sky was lightening and there was a pinkish-purple haze on the eastern horizon. We just floated in silence for a while, my arms around him, watching the seagulls. I knew the sun would be up any minute so kept us facing east. The very first sliver of fiery red began to appear on the horizon. Joshua started to say, “What is that red …?” and then was shocked into silence as he realized it was the sun. His conception of the sun is round and yellow and high in the sky. To see it huge and flaming up in multi-hued molten red and take shape in a matter of minutes directly ahead of us, with nothing but the water between us, was like nothing he had experienced before. I could hear his deep intake of breath as we watched it together. This was a good decision.
Our next-boat neighbor, Roland, is a single retired gentleman looking for crew to help him get down south – eventually down to the British Virgin Islands. I sometimes have secret fantasies of scrawling ‘crew’ on two small white t-shirts and plunking the boys on his boat while Matt and I quickly sail away in the middle of the night. The fantasy passes … but occasionally returns on days like today. The boys were not satisfied with my normal running route and insisted on going to the park to ride their bikes. This entailed unloading the van (yet again) in order to fit their bikes. Once there, they were intent on pulling old-growth vines out of a tree. I got hit in the head with a large branch and then had another one puncture my leg, leaving a gash and a 3-inch bruise (I sometimes feel like I’m in my own personal sitcom). The great thing is that the boys are best friends. The flip side is they can also act like lunatics together because they are having so much fun and are oblivious to anyone around them. After our exercise, we desperately needed to stock up on groceries. Their antics continued during our Whole Foods visit. I can see people watching these out-of-control children and thinking: 1) why aren’t those wild children in school? 2) why doesn’t their mother control them better? and 3) where IS their mother? I, of course, am trying to blend in with the other observers and look equally disapproving as I pretend to disdainfully look around and identify the offending (and incompetent) mother. I then become inordinately absorbed in reading food labels as I slow edge down the aisle and away from the mayhem. I know the boys will eventually follow. Once our carts are full, we get prepared foods for lunch and I send them on ahead to the sitting area to eat while I pay for and bag our groceries. By the time I get there, they still haven’t started eating their lunches. The ruckus continues once I sit down – ending abruptly (by me) when Joshua’s stuffed animal (a frog) lands in my salad. I’m not sure if I began considering sending in their early college admission applications at that moment (do universities accept 6-year-olds?) or later when one of them overturned an entire grocery cart in the middle of the street.
I would love to be one of those calm, cool and collected mothers (like my own mom) who smile benevolently and patiently on their children’s infractions. I’m not. I’m more like the crazed harpy that people look at in pity – as do I myself when I regain my composure. “Grace,” I keep telling myself, “just try and go through life with a bit more grace.” Although maybe this is the problem. I once read an essay in which the author commented that hearing someone say they were ‘trying’ to do something was a sure sign it would not get accomplished. As Yoda said, “Do or do not. There is no ‘try.’” I have the feeling that this will be a year filled with personal growth opportunities … We had a little huddle up on how the outing could have gone better – with all of us voicing our opinions. Chocolate was one of the suggestions … Hmmm … perhaps bribery would work. [P.S. Our next WFs outing was much smoother – we agreed to ‘rules’ ahead of time and the boys were great little helpers].
We get the boys back from Nannie tomorrow at lunch. Matt has been working on the engine trying to get the smell out (the head finally doesn’t stink – yay!). If we go down to FL through the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway), which is the safest way to go, we will have to motor sail because of the narrow canal. This means we will be running the motor almost constantly. The fumes are unhealthy and Matt has already had several guys in to look at it and work on it. Nick came today and did some things and then Matt spent a few hours cleaning out some things (the alternators?). It is pouring rain today and Nick said it is critical the engine doesn’t get wet. The engine is located below the ladder at the entrance to the boat.
Some water was coming in above the engine and Matt was trying to figure out where it was coming from. He followed a rivulet of water and found some decayed wood. “What color are termites?” he yelled suddenly. “Are they white?!” “I don’t know. Maybe they’re brown?” I said (while really hoping they are brown). He asked me to find a picture of them on his phone. My heart stops – it kills me to tell him they are white. He then said he saw them around the toilet when he pulled out a piece of wood. He looked at me and said, “I really need some successes. This boat needs to start giving back. If there are termites, I think I’m just going to start crying. And then I’m going to sue the owner.” It was late, we hadn’t had dinner and I could see he was dispirited and exhausted. “We’re not going there right now” I told him. “It makes no sense to entertain something so negative if we don’t even have enough information to make an accurate assessment.” (post script: we spoke to someone else about them and it sounds like they are fine – just standard bugs. Which, as I write this, I almost start laughing. How blasé I have become about bugs … in my domicile! P.P.S. Thankfully, we don’t see any more of them).
When we are not assuming our role as parents (i.e., someone else has the boys), Matt refers to us as ‘the original two.” Since the boys were with Nannie in Baltimore, ‘the original two’ had a little bit of breathing space. Although we both had arms-length ‘to do’ lists, we just collapsed for about an hour after they left. Later, after working all day, we went to Sears to get a crimper and then out for dinner. It is amazing how much fun we have just doing an errand together – it was nice to have a chance to really talk while we were both still somewhat awake. During dinner, Matt said that he really hoped we would be able to relax and not stay this stressed and pressured once we actually get going and permanently leave the marina. Although I didn’t voice anything at the moment, I was thinking “I’m actually having a lot of fun just living in this very different way – and I think the boys are too.” Later, at a more opportune moment, I did say something along these lines. Matt looked at me sternly and said, “That is because you have NO idea of what could happen and what it would be like in a hurricane.” What flashed to mind was one of our early days on the boat. I saw a mesh bag with cone-shaped wood dowels hanging in Joshua’s berth and said quizzically, “What are those for?”
[note: look at photo below and see if you can figure it out].
Matt replied, “That is what you would jam into a seacock if it malfunctioned or if a hose burst to stop the boat from filling up with water so that it doesn’t sink.” I stared at him wide-eyed and murmured, “Hmm … good to know.”
[Note: seacocks are below-the-water-line holes in the boat that are attached to hoses or other things (e.g., bilge pump) that outflow external to the boat].
Matt’s mom came in for a visit. She arrived Thursday and we took her out for a sail up the Severn River.
Passing under bridges is incredibly freaky – it looks like there is no way there will be enough clearance for the 58-foot mast and yet, somehow, there is. Matt checked the clearance ahead of time but didn’t make this very explicit. And then, upon approaching, started yelling, “Ahhh, I don’t know if we’ll make it! Watch out for the mast!” Poor Joshua started screaming “Dad! Dad! Turn around! Turn around!” and almost went into hysterics. The optical illusion makes it seem for sure that the top of the bridge will pull off the mast.
The actual sail was nice but we had a good scare at one point. Matt had gone up to talk to the boys and tell them to get back in the cockpit – at the last minute, he changed his mind and had them stay up front with his mom. I was at the helm. He then loosened a line and the boom came crashing down on the deck – right where the boys would have been. This could have killed them. Clearly, the gallows is going back up immediately. The sailing was good – we went up the river ‘wing-on-wing’ which is when there are two sails perpendicular to the boat – in opposite directions. It looks very cool from afar (but, alas, I’m on the boat and can’t capture that).
Mom stayed on the boat with us Thursday night and then took the boys to Baltimore for a two-night sleepover (thanks Nannie!). This gave Matt and I some much-needed space to make progress on the boat (which immediately felt 8 times bigger without those two constantly-in-motion little bodies).