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).
We continue to make progress. Matt felt that some things on the boat obstruct his view while at the helm (e.g., the dodger – a canvas cover over the ladder down into the cabin; the gallows – a wood and metal support that would catch the incredibly heavy boom in the off chance it ever fell). I was against the idea of removing the gallows but it had already been done by the time I got back to the boat. We also had some workers come in and paint the anchor compartment (located at the foot of our berth). It smelled so bad that Matt and I slept in the salon – he on the longer bench and me stuffed into the bench at the table (a good 6-8 inches too short for me). I started laughing thinking that I used to complain our house was small; now we are all crammed into a boat. Everything in life is relative (even relatives). We also finally got the propane gas hooked up and the stove working. Two of the three burners work and the third is ok if lit by a match. The anchor hose is hooked up and working (this is used spray off the anchor chain when it is pulled up so smelly mud and gunk is not 12 inches away from our sleeping berth). The boys and I spent at least half a day sawing through the steel anchor chain to keep the 75 good feet and get rid of the rest of it.
Wow – it is amazing that it is mid-September already! It is starting to get chilly which concerns Matt because a) I don’t like to be cold; b) we don’t have a heater on the boat; c) there is still lots to do before we can go anywhere warm; and d) everything takes 6 times longer than it seems it should.
Matt recently made a comment about how people are not joking when they refer to ‘modern conveniences.’ Here was our day today … The boys and I drove to a park where they rode their bicycles on a trail while I ran. There is a pond where we stop to feed the turtles and fish. We came back and had breakfast. The ice box was pretty cool because I re-loaded it with ice yesterday (Modern Convenience #1: electric fridge; we have an ice box that needs to be loaded with about 30 pounds of ice every few days which I buy at the store and then put in a handcart and wheel down the dock to the boat – hoping I don’t fall off the dock while heaving the bags into the cockpit). Most people use the marina bathroom rather than the one on their boat. We use ours only in the middle of the night or if the boys need to use it early in the morning. The tank was full so I walked to the marina and scheduled someone to come pump it out (Modern Convenience #2: flushable toilets connected to a sewer system). One of our current tasks is to assess the anchors and their chains and see what must get replaced. The anchor and anchor chain is located in the front of our berth at the bow of the boat. Much of the chain was rusted together and had to be broken apart with a hammer to loosen it (Malachi helped with this).
It took most of the morning and part of the afternoon to haul out 300 feet of rusted anchor chain and pull it onto the dock (Joshua helped with this).
Matt hurt his back early in the process so it took a bit longer than anticipated. We had a quick lunch and then some quiet time (Joshua usually naps during this time and Malachi devours books. I am not kidding when I say ‘devour.’ I gave him a 465 page-book, The Search for Wondla, thinking it would keep him busy for weeks. He read it in less than 48 hours – he does not so much read, as inhale, books. Thanks Ms. M for instilling a love of reading!). During the morning there were various trips to the bathroom at the marina (Modern Convenience #3: bathrooms in close proximity). After quiet time, Joshua vacuumed all of the rust that had accumulated up on the deck as we hauled up the chain through the windlass. I scooped out about 3 pounds of rust from the anchor compartment and then vacuumed what was left. Malachi helped to clean up the vanity sink in his berth and then vacuumed some of the floor in the cabin while Joshua wiped down his berth. We then hung the rags on the boat lines to dry (Modern Convenience #4: a washer and dryer in one’s domicile). Because the stove on the boat is not yet functional (Modern Convenience #5), I prepped some vegetables to cook on one of the marina grills. While Matt was grilling, I washed the dishes (Modern Convenience #6: dishwashers!). During this process, I ran out of water because the water tank ran out (Modern Convenience #7: an unending supply of water) so we had to get the hose off the deck and re-fill the tank for 20 minutes. I finished washing the dishes in cold water (Modern Convenience #8: hot water! I have to boil it on the stove if my hands are too cold. We only have hot water when we run the engine, which we generally only do on days that we sail). After lighting a citronella candle to limit mosquitos on the boat, we had dinner. Matt then took the boys to the marina to use the bathroom and we brushed and flossed their teeth, read them a story and put them to bed. I closed the hatches to ward off the night chill (Modern Convenience #9: a heating system) since Joshua’s lips were a little purplish at breakfast. Since internet access is slow and sporadic (Modern Convenience #10: constant and fast internet access) and the boat is small, Matt and I generally go to bed between 9 and 10 pm. The interesting thing about all of this is that, because things take so much longer, I find I am just ‘in’ whatever I’m doing. There is no rushing to the next thing because the pace of life is necessarily slower. In that way, it’s kind of nice – it feels like I’m more aware of life as it happens.