I’m up before 6 am, edgy to make sure we leave on time. On the drive down to Harwichport, I feel the way I did when I was six and knew I had to get a shot at the doctor’s office. Slightly nauseous and full of dread. Continue reading
Although the boys would like nothing more than to be with their cousins 24/7, we explain that it’s their family vacation and that we need to give them some space. We have errands to do (e.g., laundry, replacing the severed dock and dinghy lines) and then go on a hike out to Jeremy Point. We see seals and collect lots of cool rocks. We get back to the marina and dinghy out to where the boat is tied up to a mooring ball. We motor in to the dock to fill up the water tanks and get a pump out. Matt’s brother and family come to see the boat.
After the two-minute tour we all go out to dinner together, during which Matt proposes two toasts: one to family, the other to me. Mine goes something like this: “To Mom, because this may be our last dinner with her.” On the walk back to the boat, he says something about shark bait. The boys chant “Mom … is … shark bait. Mom … is … shark bait. Shark bait, shark bait” in unison as they march in time all the way back to the marina. I smack Matt and say this is not helpful. I’m already nervous enough. “What?” he says. “Isn’t this about facing your fear? We’re just helping you with the fear part.”
We ride the bus to Provincetown on Saturday to get our van and go biking among the dunes (Malachi crashes into a tree … ouch). On Sunday, we go the Head of the Meadow Beach with Matt’s brother and his family. It’s great to see them and spend time together. The boys have a wonderful time with their two cousins. Rather than pay for dock space, we’ve been staying on mooring balls which are much less expensive.
That evening, Cape Cod Shark Adventures calls me back. They’re about 45 minutes away. I ask how the whole process works because I still don’t quite understand the cage. “Is our whole body floating in the cage or are our legs dangling out the bottom like shark french fries?” I ask. The woman starts laughing and says we are not standing on the bottom of the cage (clearly anxiety overrides my past experience of basic water buoyancy principles). I have not told the boys about it because I don’t want to scare them. Since the trip is now set, I share the news. Joshua is immediately on board, “I want to go!” Before I can explain that it’s only for adults, Matt jumps in. “No!” he says sharply. “It’s not for kids and, even if they did allow it, I’d never let you go. It’s dangerous!” How is it, I wonder, that he is completely supportive of me doing it? Are there no concerns about my safety? Having I been wearing my Bitch Cape too often? Is he thinking of upgrading and hoping for a mishap? I put these thoughts aside and focus on the upcoming adventure. At best, I’ll face my fear. At worst, I’ll get eaten and Matt will have plenty of insurance money to continue the trip.
From Provincetown, we head northeast above the tip of Cape Cod to look for whales. There is a place called Stellwagen Bank where the water goes from 200 feet down to about 60. Apparently the whales like to feed here. We see lots of them from a distance but none up close. From there, we head back down past P-town and further down the western Cape Cod coast to Wellfleet, MA. Matt’s brother and family will be on vacation here starting on Saturday and we are looking forward to seeing them.
I, however, have another reason for wanting to get here. Sharks. I’m simultaneously terrified and endlessly intrigued by them. When I was growing up, I would sometimes go swimming at night by myself during high school and college summers in our pool. I had a fear that there was a secret trap door at the bottom of the deep end of the pool, with a shark lurking below. Waiting. For me. Yes, I know – completely irrational and ridiculous. And yes, you can tease me about it when we next meet (and no, I’m not certain I still don’t believe it. And yes, that was a double negative). It was probably the result of reading Jaws at age 11. Back in Milford, CT, the shop owner had told me about seals and Great White sharks off of Cape Cod.
I Google ‘sharks’ and ‘Cape Cod’ and find what I am looking for: Cape Code Shark Adventures. The website has shark photos with a description of a shark-proof cage tethered to a boat. I imagine hanging out in the ocean while bloody fish carcasses float around, hoping for Great Whites. I haven’t been this excited since the idea for this sailing trip came up. The only thing I hate more than being afraid of something is the actual fear. I tell Matt that I have to do this. Unsure of his reaction, I say the website says it’s 100% safe and they’ve never had any incidents. “Where’s the adventure in that?” he asks.
“This is just too much fun for one person.” That’s what Matt says as we get ready for bed. The storm started last night so neither of us slept well. It poured most of the day so we hole up in the local library. In the afternoon Matt goes back to check the boat. One of the 3/4″ lines holding us to the mooring ball is completely frayed through. If it weren’t for the back-up line he decided to add, our boat would have floated away. There is a break in the rain so we dash to the marina and get back to the boat around 7 pm. The launch captain says we are the only ones out and they are advising everyone to stay put (easier done sans children). It looks like it could be another long night. We go to bed right after the boys do because there’s nothing else to do when it gets this bad. The wind and waves swing us 90 degrees one way and then 90 degrees the other way. When I close my eyes, it feels like we are being spun in circles. The wind is howling and the waves are tossing the boat. The bow bobs up and down by 3-5 feet and, by extension, so do we because that’s where our berth is. Despite the raised wood edge, I keep feeling I’m going to get tossed out of bed and on the floor. At a certain point, you just roll over, try to sleep and hope everything will be ok.
After a fitful night, the storm passes and the morning is calm. This is when you wonder if you were just being a wimp. But then the stories start rolling in. The launch captain tells us that people were stranded on the beach; a kayaker needed rescuing; a ferry boat hit a 20-foot wave and had its front windows blown in, the water simultaneously flooding the engine (no one was hurt). We are leaving tomorrow so most of the day is spent getting ready. We do laundry, re-provision the boat, fill up propane gas, get the bikes serviced, etc. We haul everything to the launch boat and take it over to our boat. After doing errands most of the day and being rained in yesterday, everyone is ready for some fun. It’s 6 pm but we decide to go for a bike ride. We are stowing things down below when Joshua yells to us, “The dinghy’s gone!” We run up and see another frayed line. He’s right – our secondary mode of transportation is nowhere to be seen. We look around the marina but don’t see it floating anywhere. We’ve already called the launch service so we get on the skiff and head to the dock. No one’s seen or reported an un(wo)manned dinghy.
The winds have been southerly so someone suggests we walk down the beach. About 100 yards down, there it is. Someone has pulled it up on the sand. Matt goes back to the launch, rides to the boat and gets the oars, rides the launch back to the dock, and comes back down to us on a beach. We each take a side and row back to the boat. The bike ride will have to wait.
We arrive in Provincetown, the north tip of Cape Cod, on Sunday afternoon. Mooring balls are less expensive so we grab one rather than tie up on the dock. This marina has a launch service where a call on the VHF gets you a skiff ride to the dock.
We walk around town and, since it’s Sunday, Matt and the boys get ice cream. We go to a place called the Purple Feather Treatery. These chocolate treats sit on a shelf – I wonder how I’ll explain them to the boys. Continue reading
After re-provisioning and filling water tanks, we leave Mystic on August 6 and make it to Stonington, CT. From there, we have a decent sail until about 2 pm. There is an approaching storm so we end the day early and pull into the Harbor of Refuge off of Point Judith, RI (I love the name of the place – everyone needs a refuge). It is buffered by breakwaters and will help us ride out the storm. There is a beautiful sunset after it passes. Continue reading
On Monday we tour the Nautilus submarine, the first sub to pass under the North Pole. We drive to New London to see the Nathan Hale school house and have lunch with a fellow ex-traveler. Chuck sailed with his post-college daughter for 8 months and we bumped into them in various places down the east coast. He lives in New London and says the trip with his daughter was ‘transformative.’ I love to hear that. I ask about the transition back to land and he says that it’s rough (surely a nice shower and a dishwasher is some consolation, isn’t it?). He misses the not-knowing-what’s-next aspect of it. Continue reading
We get to Mystic on Friday and walk around the town. On Saturday, Matt and Malachi take an overnight trip to get the van. They ride the Amtrak train down to Baltimore and then get a bus to Annapolis. It’s raining all day so Joshua and I stay on the boat. He watches a movie while I clean up and have some time to myself. The rain finally stops at around 5 pm and we walk into town. We stop at the bookstore and then go to the playground. He drags me off a bench and insists I play Lava Monster with him (a glorified game of tag). I’m surprised how fast he is and then even more surprised when spectators start cheering for him throughout our entire game. I have no choice but to lose gracefully. This is why adults just sit on benches at playgrounds – so as not to make spectacles of themselves in public. Continue reading
Traveling north feels good. I sometimes wonder if our bodies can sense where we are from and if they feel best when they are back there. We leave the island at 7:30 am and head toward Mystic, CT. The boys are down below watching a movie and Matt is below checking his paper charts. We pass by the Thimble Islands. I love the feeling of freedom in heading to a new place. The excitement and possibility of the unknown outweigh the security of leaving the known. I think of it as the In-Between Place – in travel and in life. Sometimes it’s planned, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s a quick passage, sometimes a longer and more arduous journey. The comforting part is knowing there is something different on the other side. Continue reading