The cabin in disarray due to the many projects that are in the works.
I scan my ‘to do’ list which has at least 70 items. Have you ever had a list like that, in which each item actually has a ton of sub-items? It can feel overwhelming. One of my items is ‘provision the ditch bag.’ This one item actually has 42 separate items which need to be found, purchased or ordered. There are the ‘must have’ items (e.g., EPIRB, handheld GPS, first aid kit, sunscreen, parachute rockets, C-strobes, nausea tablets, 6 types of distress signaling devices, etc.), the ‘should have’ items (e.g., blunt nose knife, rations, safety tin openers, etc.) and the ‘recommended’ items (e.g., copies of passports, meds, vessel documentation, etc.). Days later, it is almost finished. This causes me to consider ‘non-essential but perhaps useful’ items for the ditch bag. What, I wonder, do people in a life raft do once things are under control and they are just floating and waiting? Would they like reading material? If so, People magazine or National Geographic? A pack of playing cards or bottles of bubbles? Dark chocolate or milk? So many decisions. My head hurts so I decide all will be well, I don’t need to add anything else, and check ‘ditch bag’ off my mile-long list.
The captain had asked if the crew could use our blankets and pillows instead of bringing gear. Of course, we said yes. I’ve ordered a ton of stuff required by the ditch bag and can’t
Thermal protective suit
believe how much just that one project is costing. “What are ‘thermal protection suits’” I ask Matt. He shrugs. I look them up and see they are $120. I ask Matt if we really need them for the ditch bag. He wonders aloud if we can just use huge garbage bags – the kind for leaves. I stare at him. “Really?” I ask. “You’d be ok sitting in a life raft looking at three crew members and admitting you were so cheap that you bought huge garbage bags instead of thermal protective gear? Have you seen these things?” I show him the picture. We suck it up and order the thermal protective suits. That night Matt tells me the captain changed his mind and says we need to buy sleeping bags for everyone. “What? Can’t they just sleep in their thermal protective suits?” I ask. Sometimes, I crack myself up. I tell Matt we’ll save money if we let the boys use them for Halloween.
The cabin, all torn up, in the midst of boat projects
The captain shows up Monday night around 8 or 9 pm. He and Matt talk in the marina lounge for a while. The plan is that he will sleep on the boat and then he and Matt will have most of Tuesday to go over boat items before he drives back to Maine. I’ve made up the settee in the salon for him. I see him only long enough to shake his hand and say hello. My brief first impression is positive.
The other night, Matt and I were talking about the passage he will be taking (Newport to Bermuda). He said that he dreamed about doing this 16 years ago when he was taking sailing lessons. He admits to some fear about it – particularly after having read about some people who perished a few years ago in the rally he is joining. The idea of going on this passage is making him anxious. It doesn’t help to see all of these hurricanes heading toward Bermuda (the most recent had 150 mph winds and 45-foot waves – I’m incapable of even imagining what that would feel like). “Look,” I say. “When I was heading out in the boat for the shark dive I started freaking out a bit but then realized I didn’t have to do it. You can always pay the captain and just fly down with me and the boys.” That seemed to do it. When put that starkly, you sometimes realize you’d rather just face your fear rather than face the fact that you chose not to face it. “Look at this as your shark dive,” I add.
Later, during dinner, Matt and I talk about how the hired captain is stopping by tomorrow to see the boat. The boys have heard some of this plan but they rarely pay full attention to things that are not affecting their immediate world. We review how Matt will be sailing the boat down to Bermuda and then to the BVIs with the hired captain and two volunteer crew. Matt tells the boys that he has some fear about the trip. They listen but are not abnormally concerned because we’ve never played the role of all-knowing, have-it-all-together parents. “Dad will be fine,” I reassure the boys. “Nothing is going to go fatally wrong,” I tell them. “Do you have a sense about that?” Matt asks me. “Yes,” I say. He looks relieved. A few seconds later I smile and add, “But just in case, I upped your life insurance.” He gives me a look. “What?” I say as I shrug innocently, “I’m just helping you face your fear.”
Normally we don’t travel on Sundays (our day of rest) but the seas have finally settled down and the winds will help us get around Cape Ann. I bought an MP3 player for the boys and loaded it with audio books from a free online library. They listen to a story and munch grilled cheese sandwiches as we head out. We leave at 7:45 am and charge the batteries and run the ice box while we motor. Once this is done, we put up the sails and are going a good 5-6.5 knots all day. Despite our standard instructions to stare at the horizon, Malachi gets distracted and comes this close to throwing up again. Continue reading
Although the original plan was to cross the Atlantic and get to Europe, the new plan is to spend the winter in the Caribbean. Once we’ve had some sun and sand and relaxed for a while, we will feel like we did what we set out to do and will be ready to end the trip. Our rough agenda is that we will spend time in the British Virgin Islands (BVIs) and then in the Bahamas. We’d like to just anchor somewhere rather than cruise all over (we’ve had enough movement over the past year). Another big decision we made is to hire a captain and crew to get the boat from Newport, RI to Bermuda, and then from Bermuda to the BVIs. A lot of owners fly down but Matt will be making the passage with the crew (the boys and I will wait in the US and then fly down to meet him once the boat arrives. And please know that I am not at all disappointed to be sitting out that leg of the trip. ‘Relieved’ is a good word. Or maybe ‘thrilled’). Continue reading
We leave Kittery, ME at 9:30 am. A much later start than planned but we want to shower and there is still some trepidation about heading out again. Neither of us feels quite ready yet. The weather has been fantastic during our time in NH/ME but now it’s cold and rainy and looks lousy for the next few days. Since we no longer have a vehicle, it seems like we might as well go. Matt says he’s not completely sure we should but we head out anyway. Things are not stowed that well and there are dishes in the sink that I plan to finish up while we motor out and before we raise the sails. In the midst of this clean-up, Matt mutters something about ‘cross-training’ and that he wants me at the helm and he will clean up below. About ¼ mile out, we run into big waves. Up on deck, water is crashing over the bow. Our 30,000 pound boat is being pushed around like a tiny cork. We can hear things crashing down below and see water sloshing out of the sink onto the floor (Matt had yet to do his part of the cross-training). He rushes down to try and get the dishes done. I see the water soaking him as it flies out of the sink and everything slides across the counter and onto the floor. I admit that I can’t help but laugh. I look at the waves above me as we crash down into a trough. I alternate between thinking This is fun! and This is insane! “STEER THE DAMN BOAT” Matt roars at me from below. Tempers are building. The final straw is when I send Malachi below to get my camera because I want a photo of the boat crossing the ME-NH border (I forget the floor of the cabin is now soaked, hence a frivolous and unsafe request). The Captain, who is working on staying calm (as well as upright), now completely loses it. He comes up and grabs the wheel from me. Of course, given the size of the waves, nothing he does makes any difference either. Our cockpit is at least 4-5 feet above the waterline, add another almost 6 feet for my height (5’ 10” to be exact) and I still feel I am looking at waves 3-5 feet above my head. “Steer the damn boat!” I can’t help but snarl back. Matt realizes there is no user error, apologizes and, as we both try to hang on, we agree to forgive and start over.
The question of whether to push on or turn back raises its head. A full day of this? I look at the boys huddled on the deck. This is no fun for anyone. Certainly not the ideal re-entry to going offshore. I tell Matt we should head back in. The Wentworth Marina is close by and we can pull in there until the weather calms down. I suddenly remember what someone once said to me, “If it’s not a yes, it’s a no.” The person was referring to life decisions rather than to sailing, but it’s still applicable. Neither of us felt it was a ‘yes.’ Matt later confesses that in checking the weather on his phone that morning, he saw average sea heights of 1-2 feet all the way down the east coast to the Caribbean. When he saw a lone ‘8’ right offshore of our location, he assumed it had to be .8 (point 8). Those damn decimal points will get you every time. We will try again another day.
By September 24, we are back on the boat full-time. For a few days I am sorely missing carpet, huge kitchens full of appliances, a warm house, space, etc. On Saturday, we have a nautical sleepover with my niece. On Sunday, we celebrate her 7th birthday and then say our final goodbyes. We spend the next few days frantically running errands and re-provisioning while we still have our car (it will stay in NH until our trip is over).
You know you’ve ‘arrived’ in life when you share office space with a stuffed animal. (Matt in the background)
Thanks to the Kittery Yacht Yard, the boat now has hot water, a working fridge and repaired lazarettes (teak storage compartments in the deck). We spend some time in the library to try and catch up on paperwork.
The babies …
Although I want to help my sister more, I know our time in NH is coming to a close. She will figure things out for herself. Before I leave, I make my sister a collage and secretly leave it in her room. It has a perfect concept for a Type A: Wabi-sabi is a Japanese world view based on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The quotation says “Wabi-sabi nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: Nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.” Continue reading
Baby & Daddy
I try to take over my sister’s many roles: car pool chauffeur, cook, housekeeper, gardener, errand runner, child entertainer. It is fun to step in and experience someone else’s life for a while. It is also instructive. The problem with Type A’s is that tasks which, for some people, are ‘nice to do’s’ become ‘must do’s’ for Type As. They go on a mental (or actual) list.
View from the lake house
The problem with this mindset is that we operate under the (erroneous) assumption that our list will eventually be finished and we can rest. This is an illusion. There is always more to do. I see how I can drive Matt, my Type B husband, crazy. I am learning from him that there is a saner (and more restful) way to be. My concern is that my sister (like me) will work herself to death before she asks for help. I find her a post-partum doula so at least I can leaving knowing she has a safety net.
On weekends I take the boys and her two older kids (3, 6) to stay at their lake house. Matt comes up and we go on hikes with the kids, build fairy houses (a big thing in NH), kayak, swim, and build pirate ships. My mom comes up shortly after the twins arrive. After visiting with them for a while, she stays at the lake house with Joshua and Malachi while I help my sister back at home. The boys love my mom. She builds fairy houses with them and even plays Legos. My mom, a staunch Catholic, even finds ways to insert religion into Legos!.
On August 27 we move the boat from the marina-that-is-not-really-a-marina, to a real marina (Wentworth by the Sea). Since it’s still in-season, it’s ridiculously expensive. My pregnant sister and her family are scheduled to come to dinner and it will be easier if we are on the dock rather than a mooring ball. We decide to check out various boatyards so we can quickly move the boat and get work done while we are here. We find a reputable boatyard and are in the midst of a conversation with the manager when my cell phone rings. I see it’s my sister and unthinkingly silence it. Matt’s cell phone rings. Again, it’s my sister. He raises his eyebrows at me. I grab the phone and go outside. Continue reading