Today we crossed the border from MD to VA. It is really cool to see the boat actually cross the state line on the chart plotter.
We saw a number of fighter jets during the sail. One of them circled us a few times and banked in front of us by only 500 feet. The roar was deafening and it was thrilling to watch. Matt gave the pilot a thumbs-up. He himself was in the Corps of Cadets at Virginia Tech, intending to be an air force officer. After being one of only 14 cadets out of 122 to make it through the training, they discovered he had a heart condition during his physical at Langley Air Force Base which disqualified him from service.
Sailing is great today. The boys play Legos down below and Matt and I eat lunch with our legs hanging over the port side of the boat. There is a feeling of freedom, the vastness of the water, and infinite possibility. At one point, Matt exclaims, “These two days of sailing have been worth all of the work the past few months. This is awesome!”
We arrive in Reedville, VA after dark and anchor in a cove. After being on the water for 12 hours without seeing anyone, pulling into a town is slightly shocking. It feels like seeing one of those tiny holiday villages all lit up.
We get up and decide to explore the island. Most places are closed for the season but the weather is gorgeous. We pass a school and see kids the boys’ ages. I joke that, if we are seen, we will have to leave the boys and come back to get them after school ends for the day. Joshua begins walking very quickly. I start laughing and tell him I’m kidding. We stroll along the boardwalk, reading the plaques and explain the history to the boys while seeing fish and even a few bald eagles flying overhead. Matt, ever the friendly one, sees a woman placing something gently in the back of her SUV and makes a joke about her ‘treasures.’ She explains they are oysters and brings them out to show us. The boys have on their life jackets which prompts questions about our trip. It turns out that she is the director of the island’s marine observation center and takes over my homeschooling duties for the day by telling us all about the oysters. The center is closed today but she actually offers to open it just for us. We aren’t able to take her up on her offer but this is the first of many such generous offers from strangers.
Matt was anxious and kept waking up all night and, by default, so did I. Every time he woke up I’d think, “Please let the weather change! Please make it so we can’t leave until Tuesday.” It’s finally time to get up and I see Matt reach for his phone to check the weather (again). I keep my eyes closed, hoping. He nudges me, “Let’s go.” I resign myself and get up. It’s 5:30 am. We both go shower at the bathhouse before leaving. We pull out of the slip a little after 7 am. I look back as we leave the marina. An X marks the spot – we are right where we are supposed to be.
The boys come up sleepily wearing their life jackets. As we pull out into the bay, we are about to be treated to a spectacular sunrise. It is gorgeous – both the sunrise and the feeling of absolute freedom as we leave. It feels amazing. Matt was right – it was good to leave today. It feels like we are finally doing it (and, as a bonus, I no longer have to respond to my snarky sister’s question of how ‘the sailing trip in the marina’ is going).
It is Joshua’s birthday – another good reason to leave today. The wind dies down a bit later in the day. We all have lunch on the deck. We tie a balloon to Joshua. He opens his gifts and we have cake. Later, he says it is the best birthday he has ever had. We make it to Solomon’s Island with the sun setting before we get into the bay. We dock and go out for a nice dinner at the CD Café. It feels good to be a little further south.
It was 38 degrees yesterday morning (remember that we have no heat or heater on this boat). I slept with socks on my hands. It’s 9 am and I can see my breath in the air (the boys find this very cool). At least the fridge doesn’t require as much ice in this weather. Matt, my hero, will occasionally get on my side of the berth at night to warm it up before I climb in (thus getting into 40-degree sheets twice). I ponder this during the day and would like to think I’m the kind of generous person who would do the same for him. My conclusion: I’m not (I was the person who had a space heater in her already well-heated office).
The top 5 signs it’s time to head south:
- All of the birds have already left and there is ice on the dock today
- The dish detergent congeals to an un-useable solid
- The fruit on the boat has stopped ripening
- The highlight of my day is heating water to wash dishes
- My mom keeps sending me texts that say things like “DID U KNOW BIG STORM IS COMING? DO YOU HAVE BOAT INSURANCE??!!! HURRICANE SEASON STARTING NOW!!!”
The boys and I run some final errands. They had saved up some money so I let them buy 2 boxes of Legos. This ended up being a genius decision as it literally bought me several hours while they built their creations in the bathhouse. I re-organized our belongings and loaded them mostly into one van and emptied out our storage unit at the marina. We also organized and labeled all of the boat gear into the boat’s storage lockers, tightened the rigging, inventoried the food on the boat, refilled the water tanks, and hauled the dinghy up on the boat and tied it down.
We have two upcoming weather windows – either Sunday (10/27) or not until Tuesday (10/29). The list of what needs to get done before we can leave Annapolis still seems alarmingly long (as is the list of what needs to get done after we leave Annapolis). At one point, Matt looks at me in frustration and says, “Are we doing this the hardest possible way? Jesus, f—-g Christ! Couldn’t we have just rented a house in Greece for a year and relaxed?!” I don’t answer as it was I who initiated this little adventure. This is reminiscent of what others before us have written about– that sailing is bipolar. The highs are higher and the lows are lower than in normal life. I don’t say anything but am secretly hoping we don’t leave until Tuesday. I keep feeling that I need more time.
We finally went through the previous owner’s storage unit. She was remarkably organized with everything labeled. We sorted things into four piles: keep, sell, give away, and throw away. We pulled out the anchor chain to paint it at various lengths and then stowed it and the new line back in the anchor compartment. We also went to Bacon’s and got some more foul weather gear. Matt called the previous owner (with whom he has a good relationship) and asked her where she positions the dinghy on the boat while under passage. After some conversation about this, I could hear Matt switch to talking about our plans. After a period silence I heard him say, “I’d give her about a D minus.” I gasped, thinking “Surely he isn’t rating me? Maybe I misheard – I’m sure he said ‘B minus. I can’t believe I’d get lower than that.’” This thought made me feel better although, when asked, I found out that I did, in fact, receive a failing grade (memories of a recently botched bowline knot surfaced). “If it makes you feel any better,” Matt said, “I give myself a C.” Well, I guess I felt a bit better but my competitive nature kicked in and I am determine to earn an ‘A!’ [Note: as of this posting date, I’m at a B minus. Progress!].
If fear is the sticky glue that keeps boats stuck to the dock, the icy fingers of late fall are what pry them off. It has been in the 50’s, with nights in the 40’s, so it is definitely time to head south. We have no heat (or heater) on the boat. We all stay in bed longer than usual – no one wants to get out of the warmth and put on 40-degree clothes. Hal Roth, a highly regarded sailor and author of such books, wrote “There are tens of thousands of boat owners but very few sailors.” Most boats never leave the dock. We have been talking to other people at the marina about shoving off. A marina employee gave some good advice on sailing down the Chesapeake with regard to destinations and places to anchor. He then told us about a family with young children who had sold their house and put everything into their boat in order to “live out their dream.” He said they didn’t get too far down the bay before they ran into a shoal, destroyed the boat (it had 5 huge holes in it) and promptly ended their trip. Another tale was about a boat that capsized and, because the water was so cold, two of the crew didn’t survive. It’s these kinds of encouraging stories that make us eager to leave the dock…
It has been a tough year for Matt’s side of the family. Both his grandfather and father died in the spring and Matt left today (with Joshua) for his uncle’s funeral in Rochester, NY. They left around 6 am so Malachi also woke up. He and I took the kayak out to see the sunrise. We had a moment of silence for his uncle.
While Matt and I work to keep the boat work and family life moving, the boys need to be occupied. Our clothes are a bit of a wreck. The industrial washers and dryers are tough on them as is this more physical life. When Malachi ripped his pants, I got out a needle and thread and sewed up the hole. The boys were absolutely enthralled and insisted I show them how to do it (I am no Martha Stuart – very basic skills of sewing up a hole or replacing a lost button but that’s about it). I give them each a needle and some thread and let them work on something. They decide they want to make a jacket for their stuffed animals (I suggest they start with a cape or vest). The next time we do errands we stop at a craft store and I let them pick out thread and some material. I try not to laugh as they tell each other there is no way they are getting anything pink because that is too girly. Later, as I grill dinner outside, they are working nearby on their chosen vestment. A crusty old sailor passes by and asks the boys what they are doing. When they hold up their projects and proudly declare they are sewing, his eyebrows raise sky-high in alarm. I silently hope he doesn’t say anything to ruin it for them. When he glances at me questioningly, I look at him sternly and say we are raising androgynous children. I count on the fact that he won’t know what the term means (having both feminine and masculine characteristics) and will not ask. He nods uncertainly and keeps walking. The boys continue with their sewing projects – their worldview intact.
The Annapolis sailboat show was this weekend. Matt has been attending sessions all day since Thursday. Instead of driving over to church, we decide to take a water taxi and then walk. On the walk to church, I start laughing. Joshua asks me why. “Are you kidding?” I say. “We just took a boat ride to get to church, it’s not raining right now, today is ice cream day [on Sundays, the boys are allowed to get ice cream), and we are going to the boat show. This is great!” He takes my hand and begins skipping beside me. They pick up on our energy. I notice a distinct difference when Matt and I are in a good mood. If we are having a spat, the boys act out – even if they don’t know what is going on (because of course, at some level, they do).
Malachi sits next to me in church and cuddles into me the whole time. I hold his hand in mine. When it is a fist, it still fits perfectly. But I know that soon it won’t. It makes me glad we are doing this now. On the way back to the boat, the driver lets Malachi drive the water taxi.