She is a Shipwreck: Fringe PVD

After about 9 months of painstaking work, my co-writer Kevin Jaeger and I have completed our labor of love: She is a Shipwreck, featuring an original score by Mr. Jaeger and composer Jason Sager.

And…… [drumroll please] I’m thrilled to announce that the first workshop production of the show will be featured in the Providence Fringe Festival at the end of July!

[VIMH(c): You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.]

Nope, no joke. Yes, I have all of the feelings about bringing this intensely personal story back home for its first workshop production, alas: no pain, no gain. Or something like that.

Based on my writings from last summer, here is the synopsis of our little play:

It’s her first night back in New York City after a three-month trip on a boat and all Alyssa wants to do is go back to normal. Normal, of course, means going to a bar to escape. Instead, Alyssa finds herself wrapped up in a conversation with a man at the bar about her three months on Black Powder and the more she spills, the more Alyssa feels surrounded by the wreckage of the life she left on land. Written by Alyssa Champagne and Kevin Jaeger with a vibrant and original score by Mr. Jaeger & Jason Sager, She is a Shipwreck tackles issues of mental health and heartbreak with a sharp wit and brutal honesty we all crave in life, but often only find in a bar.

I’m thrilled to be surrounded and supported by brilliant minds. Aside from the amazing original score by Kevin & Jason, the show is directed by New York-based genius Kelly McCready and features NYC’s own incredibly talented Matt Weiss as “Man.” [super original character name, we know.]

I honestly don’t know how I got so lucky as to collaborate with these ridiculous people.

Kevin’s first musical, Spot on the Wall, was an official selection of the 2015 New York Musical Festival Next Link Project and named one of the top two productions at the 2016 Chicago Musical Theater Festival. Kevin also hosts Broadwaysted, a popular and hilarious theater podcast featured on BroadwayWorld.com and available on iTunes. Composer Jason Sager is a talented singer/songwriter based in NYC.

The show will have two performances, July 26 at 10pm and July 27 at 7pm, at the Waterfire Arts Center Garage, 475 Valley St, Providence.

Tickets are $12, can be purchased at the door, and include a free beer (for those over 21), because Alyssa doesn’t like to drink alone.

[VIMH(c): Usually you just drink with me.]

Good point, VIMH.

Anyway, come check it out if you’re in the area, and stick around for a drink after if you feel so inclined.

xox

 

 

Bon Voyage [again]

Ah shit. The cursor is blinking at me again.

How do I start [over]?

[VIMH(c): …]

Thanks for nothing, asshole.

Well first, let me say sorry for the cliffhanger [again]. While part of me delighted in the symmetry of it, after starting my blog almost exactly one year ago in the same fashion, and while I’d like to pretend I did it on purpose, really my flight was just boarding and I had to go.

Somehow scored the exit row on this flight so. already winning today.

Where am I going?

Miami. [Party in the city where the heat is on. #WillSmithisacrazyscientologistnow]

After my trip last summer, I thought long and hard about what I was doing with my GD life. Yes, I am first and foremost an actor–that part of my identity is solid. But the intense depression that enveloped me after returning to my serving job in the city was due to more than just a lack of Vitamin D and the loss of my lady pirate tan [although this definitely was a large part of it].

My trip made me realize how much boating is a part of me, and how I need to make it a larger part of my life. As cliche as it may sound, I don’t have another way to say it: I need the sea.

Now, being rent-poor and destitute as a single lady pirate living in NY [guys it’s not at all like Friends], my resources are a bit limited as far as this goes. BUT. If I could find a way to do it as a job…

After hanging with our hired captains last summer, I thought about how fucking cool it is that they make a living making boat deliveries and charters, etc. The cold, hard truth is that all actors need a back-up plan, and food service is NOT an industry I want to find myself in much longer as I generally don’t enjoy having my soul sucked out of my asshole day in and day out. Idk maybe that’s your thing but it sure ain’t mine.

So why couldn’t I try to make a career out of my other passion? I mean, as an actor, I entered  into literally the hardest industry ever, why not choose another incredibly difficult industry to jump into?

[VIMH(c): We’re never going to have money, are we?]

Le sigh. Sorry Mom & Dad.

Now, to be honest, since I had this thought, I haven’t been very proactive, mainly because IDK MAJOR LIFE SHIFTS AND SHIT.

I had mentioned to Anne [remember her? our captain from last summer?] that this was something I was interested in, and so how lucky was I to get an email from her a few weeks ago saying that our hired captain, John [remember him? he took us across the Gulf?], had hired her to do a delivery with him and would I like to go?

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Nah. No thanks.

JK OBV

So here I am, on Delta flight 2175 en route to Miami, as crew on the Sea Eagle, whose final destination is St. Thomas, BVI. [BECAUSE WHO NEEDS TO PAY RENT? LOLZ]

Our journey will take approximately 3 weeks, weather permitting, and will take us through the islands of the Bahamas until Turks and Caicos, where we will go offshore for approximately 5 days to Puerto Rico [sharks and storms and shipwrecks oh my].

So, I decided to dust off the domain and come back to fill y’all in as we go along.

Simultaneously, back in NYC, I am actually pursuing my other passion, as my blog material from last summer is being adapted into a play with original music. It is intensely personal, as you can imagine, and so I’d like to think that I am being brave two times at once. Go figure.

I will be performing a reading of the show, She is a Shipwreck, in NYC when I come back to dry land, and then in RI this summer, but more about the show later.

For now, we’re about to land in Miami and I’ll soon be instructed to turn off and stow all electronic devices, so I shall sign off. Can’t wait to meet Sea Eagle and start this ridiculous adventure.

Stay tuned, salty dawgs.

Xo

She’s Baaaaack

Fish[c]e and Cowardi[sh]ce

[yeah, that title is a stretch]

Hi World.

Long time no talk.

About 9 months to be exact. Enough time to grow a tiny human inside of me and birth it into the world. JK of course I didn’t do that because babies are gross and frightening as HELL.

I digress.

For those of you that were following along on our trip, I left all [7] of you in a pretty unfair way, and for that, I apologize. [SPOILER ALERT: We DID make it to Texas, and we DIDN’T die in the Gulf on our 55-hour offshore escapade like my abrupt drop off the earth made it seem.]

The trip was actually spectacular, as we were enGULFed [see what I did there] in both the natural beauty of the wide open gulf [sunrises and sunsets, rainbows and rainstorms], and simultaneously enGULFed [lolz i’m so clever] in a different kind of beauty provided by human ingenuity, the product of which manifested itself in the oil rigs that lined the channel that we traveled.

gulf

Rainbow, meet Sunset. Gulf of Mexico, August 28.

At night, the rigs lit up brilliantly, a runway of sorts. In the capable hands of our captains, John and Bryan, the lady pirates were able to sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.

[How did that feel, you ask? To have to give up control to a couple of *men* after a summer that would make the suffragettes proud, defying every chauvinistic asshole in the south that said, “THREE LADIES? WHERE IS THE MAN???”

I won’t lie. It felt a bit like cheating. But on the flip side, it felt a bit like being the brave ladies we were, and knowing when something was beyond our expertise, and deciding that instead of worrying that we would be run over by a container ship crossing the channel in the night, we’d have a little vacation of our own. After all, we had fucking earned it.]

And a ride it was. Six foot swells rocked and taunted us, beautifully clear skies providing false hope for a calm passage. Even with the stabilizers, our couch was once again in the middle of the galley, crockpot full of chili in the sink for stabilization.

On the second day, I slept in [relative term. read: until about 8am] and woke up to the violent thrashing of our big girl and screaming. SCREAMING. SHIT.

I run upstairs expecting to see the engine room on fire or a giant great white shark-monster chomping on the back end of Black Powder. [are there great whites in the gulf? idk probs] Instead, reaching the top of the stairs to the pilot house, I was greeted by John, riding out the violent bucking of our big girl and, a big smile on his face, “WE’RE CATCHING FISH!!!!”

Indeed we were. Bryan, a ridiculously experienced fisherman, had our severely underprepared-for-the-fish-monsters-of-the-gulf fishing gear out in the water and my mom had a tuna on her line. [i think. i honestly don’t remember what kind of fish it was. are there tuna in the gulf? idk probs. remember this was a whole baby ago.]

When I tried my hand at this whole fishing thing, I snagged something so big it broke the line and we lost our good lure. Bryan said I hooked a wahoo. Look them up on wikipedia, those guys are huge and they’re CRAZY. [remember when we weren’t allowed to use wikipedia as a source? dumb]

Anyway. That night I got in trouble cause I was being dreamy and fell asleep under the stars on the bow but John and Bryan had no idea I was out there and I could very well have fallen overboard and no one would have known and in hindsight it was pretty stupid but omg those stars tho

Pulling into Galveston, as was fitting for this trip of ours, though we had beautiful weather all day, a torrential DOWNPOUR was what we were awarded with, visibility destroyed and hair soaking wet. FUCK YOU GALVESTON.

galvestonarrival

Soaking. Wet. But arrived.

My dad met us on the dock and, in true lady pirate fashion, we drank to our success.

End of story?

Sure.

Is that what you want to hear?

Then there you go. There’s a cute little surface-scraping story about our cute little boat trip in which nothing life-altering happened.

[VIMH(c): remember me, bitch?]

All too well, VIMH, all. too. well.

[VIMH(c): tell them. tell them why you didn’t finish your story]

Full disclosure. I’m at the airport right now, at 9am, 3 hours early for my flight because JFK was supposed to be a shit-show but it was totally fine and therefore I am 3 hours early and so obviously I found the bar and a couple screwdrivers and I’m buzzing before the clock hit double digits. Why am I at the airport? Ah. That’s my reason for writing but we’ll get to that. ‘Cause suspense and stuff.

So why didn’t I finish?

It was too overwhelming. I made personal discoveries along the last few legs of that trip which I briefly discussed in my final entry but which rocked my world in a way that I didn’t know how to confront at the time.

So. My bad.

When I started off writing this blog I promised a level of honesty that I was incapable of following through with.

So instead I did what any good writer would do, and stopped writing.

[VIMH(c): Coward.]

Yeah, I guess so.

I came back from our trip a changed human. Unsure and afraid. So, I blew my life up again. I am now divorced from a man who loved me so and who tried so hard to show me that I could live his way, and force happiness when in fact, I had discovered that I could not. In hindsight, I did not do it in the right way. I dragged it out, again cowardly awaiting his revelation of the fact which I already knew: that we weren’t right for each other any more.

A product of my illness? Time will tell, but I don’t think so.

I achieved a clarity of mind on our trip unlike anything I’d felt before or I’ve felt since.

Yes, we were young. 16 and 17 when we started dating, we married at only 22 and 23. At the time, we were convinced that there was nothing else in the world for us. To be fair, at the time, we were also convinced that Lost was the best TV show that could ever exist [when it’s clearly Newsroom or Homeland] and also that life would bring us endless opportunity and bliss. LOLZ

I do believe that people come in and out of each others’ lives for a reason. [i’ve heard it said… sorry the musical theatre nerd in me will always prevail ] I do not regret one second of my marriage or my relationship with my ex-husband. I believe that we were meant to survive our 20s together. And survive we did. And though he should have left me years ago, he stuck through it and for that he deserves an award. He’s a catch, ladies. Find him in LA and line up.

We split up the pups and so my summer with Copernicus will be one I will treasure forever.

copernicusbow

Copernicus on the bow. Keeping watch. Gulf of Mexico, August 29, 2016.

OK. Now that THAT’S over and I’m crying in public at this hotel bar, sitting next to an empty screwdriver and an entire bachelorette party…

Why did I resurrect myself from the grave and come back to grace you all with my presence?

Well, I’m doing something stupid again.

#suspense

Losing Sight of the Shore

PART ONE: A Little More Than a Three- Hour Tour; or, I Wanna See You Be Brave
 
After a day in Sarasota of provisioning, resting, and anxiously reading and rereading the instructions for the life raft, we took off at 11:30 on Thursday from Clearwater, and headed into the Gulf of Mexico. Clearwater had been cranky the night before, and we were given quite the lightning show, glad that she was getting it out of her system.

Cranky Clearwater


The stretch was 142 miles of wide-open ocean, which would take us approximately 23 hours at our cruising speed of 8 knots.
 
Exiting Tampa Bay, we set our course for a buoy [323° to be exact] just outside Carabelle, FL, timing it so that we would arrive just as the sun was rising, its light guiding us back into the intra-coastal to Appalachicola, just about another twenty miles to the west.
 
The skies were clear, the sun was bright and the ocean breeze made the chilly 97 degrees actually feel comfortable. The water was a flat calm blanket of blue as blue could be [probs Cerulean if we’re talking Crayola here], and it seemed as if Poseidon got over banana-gate and was actually throwing us a bone. 

Entering the Gulf, we were greeted by an escort that seemed to be sent from the sea god himself as 8 or so dolphins, in the clearest water imaginable, surfed off our bow, seemingly leading the way. About 20 miles into our trip, with Tarpon Springs to our east, the coastline disappeared, cell service was lost, and we were alone with the sea. As the sun was setting, we found ourselves 50-55 miles away from anything besides the water and its inhabitants.

Oh, hey guys.

 
With only the three of us on board, we had carefully crafted a watch schedule to make sure we had enough downtime to maintain the energy to make it through the long run. Previously on the trip, we’d pretty much all be present on the bridge for the day, switching off steering and navigating, but without a structure for rest on a day like that, we might be liable to throw at least one of each other to the sharks.
 
We structured our watches in rotating 2-hour increments, 2 hours steering, 2 hours navigating, and then 2 hours off. When night came, the 2 hours as navigator could also be used for resting on the bridge, as stand-by for the lady pirate at the helm. When I steered, A was my 2nd, my mom steered and I was her gal, and when A was at the helm my mom took the backseat.
 

Blue, blue, blue


Of course, not much navigation is necessary when you are keeping one course for over 20 hours straight without any markers between. So when we were in the 2nd seat, we kept a look out, kept each other awake, and made sure we didn’t somehow manage to eff it up.
 
Refreshing doesn’t even begin to explain what it was like to put this big girl on autopilot out in the deep blue of the Gulf, after spending months of anxiously watching the depth finder while navigating through narrow canals shared by large commercial vessels [Virginia Cut, anyone?].
 
Since I’m usually the night owl, I took the helm for the first night watch, starting at sunset. I turned on the Hamilton soundtrack, knowing that singing every word from top to bottom would make the time fly by—oh. Yeah, that idea—maybe not so good on account of people need to sleep and stuff and Lin Manuel’s sick beats don’t really make a good lullaby for everyone I guess ok whatever my b.
  


We had been monitoring some thunderclouds that had been forming menacingly off the west coast of FL for some time. But, our skies were clear, we were 50 miles out from shore, and it seemed like the storms were hanging out ruining the end of everyone’s perfect beach day instead.
 
We had been hearing a little bit of Coast Guard chatter on the radio, but the reception was very quickly deteriorating. Luckily, before we completely lost it, we heard every other word of a securitae from the Coast Guard warning of severe storms on the coast:
 
“Securitae xxxxxx –uritae all stations xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx coast guard sector xxxxxxxxxxxxx severe thunderstorms xxxxxx west co—xxxxx xxxxxx 60 knot winds xxxxxxxxxx water spouts xxxxxxxxxxx caution xxxxxx Out.”
 
Thank god we heard that, cause, you know, before I was actually not really worried about that storm. And now…
 
WATER SPOUTS!?! NO, I MEAN, WATER SPOUTS THOUGH, REALLY POSEIDON, REALLY????????????
 
Great. Just great. 50 miles offshore, my beautiful, calm, little mental paradise of blue, blue, blue, in which I was currently frolicking with dolphins, was invaded by a giant SHARKNADO. Also, pretty positive those jerk clouds were enjoying the torment a bit too much, as they set their autopilot to 323° just to watch me squirm.
 
Without access to radar on our phones, we had no option but to watch the clouds light up, occasionally allowing a strike to break through and threaten the ocean below, letting off maniacal laughter and giving us the distinct impression it was coming for us and this was how it ended oh my god are you kidding me we made it all this way and went through all of this bullshit THREE WEEKS IN CHESAPEAKE and we just had a beautiful day in the gulf and now this stupid storm is going to attack us and strike us and sink the boat and then we’re going to have to get in the life-raft and float for months and months and months and omg we’re probably going to have to eat one of the dogs and omg I would die before I did that and OMG we will all kill each other first anyway so nothing even matters.
 
Then, a phoenix rising from the ashes with a magical sword, the enormous full moon pulled itself up from behind the clouds. The storm, clearly frightened of actual confrontation, stayed right where it was, a cyber bully talking a big talk and screaming obscenities, leaving no doubt that behind its computer screen was a fat, smelly, un-showered, lonely little jerk binging on Doritos. I SEE YOU, STORM, AND YOU HAVE ORANGE DUSTY FINGERPRINTS ALL OVER YOUR WIFEBEATER.
 


Moonlight poured down and lit up the glass around us so brightly it was almost difficult to see the stars. All was well. All was calm. Plus, Sagittarius was one constellation that was still visible, leading this fellow archer along.
 
I broke from watch at 1230, nothing to report, and enjoyed a brief nap on the bow, under the stars. I mean. I know. It was actually a dream.

 
PART TWO: ES-CAH-PAY;
or, Mom, Don’t Read This Part

 
Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed [LOL LOL JK], I took up watch again two hours later. A laid down on the settee behind me, my crisis intervention officer for the next two hours.
 
And then.
 
Silence.
 
Stars. Moon. Ocean. Me. Silence.
 
You guys ever been in your head? Like, really, REALLY gotten in there, all deep and stuff? Jiggle some locks and open some long-sealed doors, go through some old junk and hold a yard sale [and not like a yard sale where everything is $5 even though it should have been $1 and no one is buying anything and really the only reason it’s all $5 is because you actually never wanted to part with it in the first place].
 
It’s kinda SCARY in there. I mean, y’all have met the VIMH©, but even SHE doesn’t dare go down that far. [As a matter of fact, she stood there, watching with a look on her face of pure terror, no doubt praying I’d return so she wouldn’t have to run the show.]
 

[VIMH©: She’s right. I don’t want to deal with that real-life human shit. I exist solely to second-guess Alyssa and tell her she can’t do things. And occasionally provide her with a hilarious joke that she can take credit for.]

 
When I started this blog, I started with a slew of f-bombs and an incomplete thought about why the hell I was doing this.
 
Why was I taking this trip?
 
On the surface, I know why. It was the trip of a lifetime, I got to spend time with my mom, I got to get out of the city, I got to reflect on the challenges that the past year has thrown at me, go soul searching and—have fun?
 
Be brave, right?
 
“You can never cross the ocean until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.”
 
Fitting, as I reflect on the past [nearly] 3 months, for this quote to cross my mind again while doing just that.
 
With nothing but the sea and sky around me, and with no shore as a crutch, I force myself to delve deeper. I think past the challenges of just this last year and I give myself credit for facing the challenges of the last TEN.
 
I give myself credit.
 
I never give myself credit. It isn’t humble. No one wants to hear about your struggles and how you overcame. And BTW someone always has it worse than you. I have a roof over my head, food in the fridge, a husband who loves me, and the support of my entire family, so therefore my challenges aren’t legitimate.
 
But you know what? My 20s have been HARD. They have been MUCH harder than I ever thought they were supposed to be….
 
I fumbled for the skeleton key that suddenly appeared in my pocket [dress pocket, obv] and opened the big red door separating the expansive beauty of the Gulf around me from the dark scary part of my brain, and started to sift through the millions of pages of archives that make up my mosaic, zeroing in on those that seem to slice the deepest.
 

[Archive box #8876098: October 2009-2012]
The abrupt death of my husband’s father of a brain aneurysm two months before our wedding forced hefty life decisions on barely-adults just starting out their lives. Putting any career goals on the back burner, we stayed in RI, where I blacked out and was somehow swept into the banking industry, which I never had any intention of becoming a part of. I rose to a position that MBAs covet, and woke up silently screaming in the middle of the night. One mental breakdown later, we trashed our ready-made lives so I could pursue theatre, just 3 years late.

 
[Archive box #88876549: April 2013]
I started therapy [and was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder II, after lots of doctors and 2 years of trying to figure myself out]. In that time, I stayed up all night re-teaching myself piano until my fingers ached. I basically forced my husband to move into an apartment in a dilapidated but beautiful old multi-family building where I spent hours upon hours attempting to renew it to its original glory even though it was a short-term rental.
 
I felt high and creative and brilliant. My close friends & family knew something was wrong. I spoke very fast; ideas and words, fleeing rapidly from arbitrarily moving lips, made no sense. I made bad decisions. Stayed out all night. Didn’t call. And fought. Fought. Fought. Kicked. Screamed. Fought.
 
Outside of those close to me, I buried this struggle under layers upon layers of different multi-colored, molded masks. I got so good at it that I could convincingly be a different person to everyone I met. A true chameleon, it became difficult to figure out who it was that I actually wanted in my life and whom I was just trying to win over. Which parts of me were genuine, and which were fabrication?
 
I convinced myself this was just who I really was. That this was the person I grew into. I convinced myself I just needed to find people who actually understood me. I convinced myself I was making it all up. I wasn’t sick. That it was blown out of proportion.
 
I nearly lit my life on fire during an un-medicated four months of mania.
 

[Archive box #78877654: November 2014]
After getting back on mental health track, we moved to NYC to allow me to give this career a good go. I booked a great regional gig. While I was rehearsing, my husband experienced a health scare while I was hundreds of miles away and spent a week in a stroke unit without me. He would later be diagnosed with an incurable condition affecting his vertebral arteries, much too close for comfort to the condition of his late father. This will affect him for the rest of his life.
 

[Archive box #879872334: April-September 2015
] After coming down from another show and with nothing on the horizon, I experienced the most trying time in the battle for my mental health: sleeping for days, ignoring my goals, skipping auditions and work, distracting myself by refinishing our NY apartment and lying to myself daily about how I felt and what I was doing. My doctor was overmedicating me via a 10-minute appointment once a month. I started with a new doctor and felt like there actually might be a way out.

 
[Archive box #79823472398: October 2015-May 2016]
My mother-in-law was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer and, in my husband’s place, I spent nearly 7 months pretending that I knew what the hell I was doing, traveling back and forth from NYC to Boston to bring her to her appointments each week.
 
I burnt-out. I cried at night. I loathed myself. I did nothing for myself or for my career. I spent all my time working at a restaurant or drinking after my shifts until early in the morning and I felt like I was losing any semblance of myself.
 

 
I finished flipping through the last box of archives and sat still for a moment. Letting everything sink in.
 
So, no, self. You didn’t do this for fun, did you?
 
No.
 
You did it to escape.
 
The word ‘escape’ echoed in the hallowed halls of the archive room, and I heard an explosion outside as bombs dropped on my little town. [VIMH©: Told you so.] I ran as fast as I could [like a solid 20-min mile], lungs pumping and legs burning to the old stone church that stood in the middle of town, crumbling, looking for respite, opened the doors and found it on fire.
 
As a matter of fact, I noticed, the entire town was on fire.
 
The reality of the serenity and quiet that I was surrounded by rescued me from the inferno in my head, and I found myself staring off into the distance, tears running down my face.
 
On a very basic level, the word “escape” shouldn’t elicit the action-movie-worthy horror that occurred when the realization hit me initially. But, the thought gave me pause, as I was certain that what I’ve tried to do most in life is not escape. To face it all dead-on, find the right path to success, and go from there. In my life, in order to face one thing, I may have had to abandon another, but I’d like to think the abandon was less borne of escape and more of ambition or responsibility.
 
“Escape” isn’t really in my vocabulary. Wasn’t.
 
Yet, as I sat in the Captain’s chair, relatively alone on the bridge, and stared out across the expanse in front of me, I realized that ‘escape’ was exactly what I intended. The ‘soul-searching’ that I spoke of in my first/second entry, at the time, was meant to illicit fluffy connotations like: “connect with nature,” and “do yoga” and “recharge.” When, really, it meant, GTFO of dodge, skirt all responsibilities, and figure out whether or not you still think you’re a person.
 
You may be happy to know, that I’ve decided that I do think I’m a person. Maybe a little effed up, maybe a little incomplete, but I think I’m finally starting to become whole again.
 
This trip has given me the opportunity to remove all the distractions and challenges of real life and focus on the immediate, the moment, the simple actions necessary to complete a simple task: get to Texas. And that has in turn helped me focus on getting to know the real me, without the masks, and I think I kinda maybe like her…?
 
I realize that not everyone can get this opportunity, and I am so grateful for the support of my husband and my family on this journey. Like a true Sagittarius, the desire for adventure and excitement runs deep, and restlessness seems to keep showing up like a bad penny. Perhaps this escape was just what the doctor ordered.
 
Suddenly, on the horizon, lights. Shore.
 

PART THREE: To Be Continued;  or, I Didn’t Have Time to Finish

There’s a lot more to fill you guys in on, so stay tuned!

With the flooding in Baton Rouge, and the closure of a major lock in New Orleans, we decided to hire a couple captains to take us offshore, around Louisiana and into Galveston, TX.

Just a couple hours ago, we set off for this 55-hour journey, sometimes bringing us 100 miles offshore. Won’t have access to the internet, so wanted to post this update now!

You guys. WE MIGHT JUST GET THIS BOAT TO TEXAS.

Houston, you have a problem.

xo
PS: As an added treat, here is a video of me and one of our captains, Brian, playing horribly after too much tequila.


John and Brian, our captains

Well, Well, Well…Look What the Cat Dragged In

PART ONE: New phone, who dis?;
or, Think Of it As a Trial Separation

 

[Spoiler alert: It’s me. I’m what the cat dragged in in this scenario.]

The cursor is judging me again, guys.

[blink, blink]

[VIMH©: You brought this upon yourself. Procrastination and drinking and stuff and now you don’t know where to start. Tsk tsk]

[blink, blink]

Ok, ok, the VIMH© may be on to something. In reality, I haven’t written in a while because, well, I was kinda busy having lots of fun trips and waylay days with family & friends, and, besides the boring-as-f*ck three days that was Georgia, life was pretty much the easy-breezy, vacation that everyone assumed we were taking in the first place.

I last left you hanging over a cliff in McClellanville, promised you a good story, and then let everyone down [I know you all have been losing sleep over this don’t lie]. For all you know, we could have been murdered in that small fishing village after an intense fight with pirates trying to commandeer Black Powder. And, honestly, considering McClellanville, I don’t think that would be too far from probable.

With a population under 500, at first look, besides its fantastically facial-haired dockhands, McClellanville has little to offer. When, in fact, it also has really old trees, one kinda weird restaurant, and lots of skulls decorating front yards.

Oh, and also, the parking lot of the marina is apparently the party spot, where the village’s pickup truck gang gathers with their 40s of Natural Ice, their off-leash, untagged, and still-testicaled hounds, their guitars and their long-ass beards and just, like, chills. Cool, cool.

We locked our doors that night and made sure to clean the rifle.

The trees, though, were super old and cool, so.

The next morning, we made a quick hop-skip-and a puddle-jump over to Charleston, SC, the city I was maybe most looking forward to this whole trip. My dad had arranged to have lunch waiting for us at the dock—so nice of him, and as we were tying up, here he comes—carrying lunch down the dock to us!! Surprise!

Our planned one-day way lay in Charleston turned into two, and we had a great time exploring the city. I met up with an old friend from NYC, met some new friends, and ruined my liver for the three nights we were in town.

Photo Jul 23, 4 00 48 PM

We were in love.

We toured the downtown area by horse-drawn carriage in 1000 degree heat, which I very quickly regretted cause all I wanted to do was rescue and release all of the horses and bring them to a pasture with me and love them and be their best friends and [only when they want] ride them bareback into the breeze and like in beautiful, clear lagoons and rivers and stuff and take naps with them in the long grass [there are no bugs in this fantasy] and tell them they never need to work again.

 

In reality, they have better work schedules than any humans outside of the EU. Retired Amish workhorses, they pull these carriages for three days and then have four days off. There are vets that check their temps and hose and ice them down after every hour-tour, and then they have an hour to rest in between. That made me feel a little better, although I still think they would be happier in my little dreamy pasture paradise of milk and honey and gold and rainbows and waterfalls.

I digress.

Photo Jul 24, 2 33 54 PM

Mom & Dad at Middleton Plantation. They do not look nearly sweaty enough.

The next day, we visited Middleton Plantation, just north of Charleston proper, where I was thrust into heaven when I arrived to see that THEY LET ANIMALS ROAM FREE. I turned 10 years old and chased lambs and ducks and goats and horses and pigs and OMG WAIT THOSE ARE RED ANTS AHHHHHHHHHHH ABORT ABORT ABORT.

We roamed the beautiful gardens, I cried reading stories about enslavement, and then it was so super effing hot that my mom and I quickly found the bar while my dad and A actually did the real museum-y thing.

A good time was had by all. My liver was happy to see that the sunrise meant our departure Monday morning. My head would have appreciated another hour or day of sleep.

Take a look at some of my favorite moments from Charleston below!

Part II: Deliverance;
or, Once Upon a Time We Almost Got Blowed Up

From slightly south of Charleston, we had hoped to make an offshore run in order to skip all of the bleak nothingness of the Georgia ICW, which is made up of 80% marshland, 10% alligators and 100% broken dreams [#fuzzymath]. Unfortunately, we weren’t #blessed with the weather window, and so we headed on-set for Deliverance and resigned ourselves to The Ditch.

Photo Jul 26, 3 52 01 PM

This is Georgia. There is nothing.

Unlocking our doors, we left our second and final Georgia port on Jekyll Island [which had a pool that wasn’t 100 degrees, so, bonus], we headed through Fancy Bluff Creek, which leaves Cumberland Island off port and Kings Bay’s Naval Submarine Base off starboard, which is guarded by more armed security boats that I was still not allowed to wave at.

Funny story.

This spot is very familiar to us from our delivery trip up from Florida. Passing the base, the channel gets a little wacky, kinda shallow in places, and there are constantly new markers being added and so knowing where to go is pretty prudent.

Now, we’re freaking PROS. Three years ago? Not so much. [On that trip, the Lady Pirates were accompanied by my father, my husband, and my dad’s sister, Auntie. Many more eyes for I-spying, many more beers that need buying. #poetry]

Let me fire up the flux capacitor and take you back in time…. [beep beep boop beep]

Lady Pirates & Co: Yo-ho, yo-ho a pirate’s life for me… we’re really bad eggs… Hm… is that the channel? Looks like it! I mean: red markers to port, green to starboard, not rocket science [raucous laughter]… Yo-ho, yo-ho…

Radio [channel 16]: [kreeech] Pleasure vessel Black Powder, Black Powder, over.

LP&C: Hm… [kreech] This is Black Powder, over.

Radio: [kreech] Pleasure vessel, this is Black Powder, over.

LP&C: ????????????????? [kreech] This. Is. Black. Powder. Over.

Radio: [kreech] Yes, pleasure vessel, this is Black Powder. You’re going to want to stay away from those buoys, you are entering a restricted area.

LP&C: IS THIS THE TWILIGHT ZONE? WHO IS TALKING TO US? IS THIS US FROM THE FUTURE??? [kreech] …. [kreech]

Radio: [kreech] Black Powder, this is Black Powder, repeat, you are entering a restricted area. Acknowledge. Over.

LP&C: [someone smart—idk, probably definitely me—grabs binoculars, looks around at the base, observing the docked navy vessels and large weaponry on security boats]

Radio: [kreech] Pleasure vessel Black Powder, this is Navy vessel Black Powder. I repeat. You are entering a restricted area. Over.

LP&C: OMG NOW I get it—that huge battleship is named Black Powder! Look! Look at the binoculars! Your turn! [laughter] That is a pretty legit name for a battleship. Yeah, it is. So cool. Yo-ho, yo-ho…Wait a minute—RESTRICTED AREA? [commence Muppet panic, arms flailing] Is that security boat coming towards us?? Where’s the chart?? WHERE ARE WE?!?!?! [Muppet panic Muppet panic Muppet panic flail flail]

[LP&C, somehow FINALLY, with 6 sets of eyes, figure out where the eff they are, and notice that they are about to pass dangerously close to a live submarine bay, quickly abort mission, right their course, and snap pictures of the Navy Vessel Black Powder, for proof.]

LP&C: [kreech] Uh… Black Powder, this is Black Power, Roger. Over.

Radio: [kreech] Black Powder, this Black Powder. Captain, my name’s not Roger. Over.

LP&C: [kreech] LESLIE NIELSON IS THAT YOU?! [kreech] No, but seriously, good looking out, bro. That security boat definitely has machine guns mounted on its bow and I have a feeling they know how to use them. Over.

Radio: [kreech] Yeah, well, you know you’re pretty much the coolest pleasure craft ever and your name is pretty sweet so, you know. Us Black Powders gotta stick together! REPRESENT! Over.

LP&C: [kreech] OMG do people always mistake your name for Black Power too and then do you feel super racist and like weird and awkwardly correct them by saying—‘No, PowDer, like bang, bang’—and stuff? Over?

Radio: [kreech] Nah. Over.

LP&C: [kreech] Coo, coo… Ok, well… over & out, broseph.

Photo Jul 28, 10 34 53 AMSo that’s how it went, pretty much verbatim. Yes, there is a naval vessel that lives in King’s Bay called Black Powder and it’s only slightly larger than us and that’s how you can tell the difference otherwise we’re pretty much identical.

This time, we steered clear, giving the base a wider berth because A) we were petrified, and B) there was an actual live submarine in its bay so it was a little bit easier to make out where the restricted area was. I still wasn’t allowed to wave at the security boat, which did still follow us for a bit. Guess our reputation preceded us.

Our BFF Captain Not-Roger from Black Powder invited us over for afternoon tea, but, sadly, we were still trying to make-up time from Chesapeake. Next time, Roger. Over.

 

Part III: Sail Away, To An Unknown Dimension;
or, Sibling Rivalry

 

Photo Jul 28, 7 14 34 PM

LP’s in Jacksonville.

Ah, the pan-handle. Stopping briefly in Jacksonville to pick up my dad [and to meet new friends-via social lubrication-who showed me around all of the college bars and made me feel like an ancient old hag], we headed down to Palm Coast, Florida, because…

 

MY BROTHER AND SEESTER WERE COMING!!!!

[seester: \cee-ster\ n; one who is your sister but who isn’t really your sister; ex.: sister-in-law; half-sister or step-sister that you actually like; bffl; bfflaeaeae; someone who you want to be bffs with unrequitedly because either she already has a bff or she doesn’t know you but you figure if you just force it and send her locks of your hair, after the restraining order expires she will eventually have to cave in [ie Sara Bareilles & I]; close cousin; favorite cat] Source: The dictionary in my head.

My brother is 3 years younger than me, but ever since he was 18 he looked older, such that I would get carded and he would not [not that we ever participated in under-age drinking though].

He is a firefighter paramedic and idk whatever is kinda cool and will probs save the world one day. The best thing he ever gave me was my seester, his wife of two years [and this gift comes from a little brother who used to buy me the COOLEST Polly Pockets available at Santa’s Workshop, so I mean, she’s pretty high up there]. I have no idea what she’s thinking because she is with him even though she’s smart and stuff. She’s a nurse, he’s a medic, I call them everytime I have a rash or I stub my toe, and in return I let my brother make fun of me at parties. Or just, on a Tuesday.

Just for a little insight: do you guys remember Jimmy Fallon and Rachel Dratch’s SNL skit “The Boston Teens?” Take that accent, multiply it by 800x, add almost as many f-bombs as I drop, and you will get my seester. They say that a Boston accent is the hardest for an actor to replicate, and I concur. I try all the time. She just yells at me and tells me I sound like I’m from NY.

Anyway, if she’s the best gift my brother ever gave me, the best gift my parents ever gave me was that stupid little redheaded idiot brother of mine. Growing up, we were lucky to actually like each other sometimes. Our childhoods were SUCH A DRAG because we had to spend almost ‘ughh every weekend’ in the winter skiing in New Hampshire and almost ‘ughh every weekend’ in the summer on the boat, so we really were forced to like each other.

[Side-note: I want to go back in time and roundhouse-kick my younger self in the face for ever complaining about not being able to hang around with kids from school because I had to go skiing or sailing, and I wrote this here just to publicly embarrass that little 13-yr old, angsty asshole.

A few months ago, while working at my restaurant on the Upper West Side in NYC, a couple and their kid, about that age, sat in my section and his dad called him out as I came over to the table, “Miss, can you tell my son he’s being a spoiled brat? He is supposed to leave for London tomorrow for the summer and he’s complaining about it.”

The kid replied, “Ughhhh but it’s for so long and I won’t be able to see my friendsssss.” Cue mental roundhouse kick to his stupid little face. What is with those little shits???]

We got along well, despite the occasional EPIC showdown, kick-fight, slap-fight or scratch-fight [my brother had an affinity for using his nails as weapons and one time a fight over Pokemon cards turned nearly deadly as he dug his nails into my arms and I told him I was going to call the police and so he ran away from home].

Once he discovered he could be remotely funny, he started writing “stand-up,” which was comprised almost wholly of jokes about stupid shit I did. It’s too bad he wasn’t funnier cause if that actually worked for him I would definitely be getting royalties right now for all that material [to be fair, the common sense sector of my brain did seem to develop at a relatively low pace].

We went through a super-cool sk8r kid phase together [even though we couldn’t sk8], memorized the entirety of Matilda when we got stuck on the boat in Hurricane Danny, became Pokemon masters together, did theater after school, and, even though he tried to embarrass me in front of boys and did a whole lot of annoying shit in high school, we still managed to get along for the most part. When my husband & I went away to college, the best part of coming home was always hanging out altogether.

I would trust him with my life, even before he was a medic/firefighter. The four of us, along with Alex’s brother [same age as my little bro] worked together one summer at Six Flags, and stayed in the GHETTO of Springfield and—no lie—got stuck in the middle of a gang-fight, where my 16-yr old brother jammed a car door in a bad guy’s face LIKE A BOSS and my husband hit someone pulling a gun on us with the car. True story. I’ll tell you about it sometime.

My husband was the best man at his wedding and he, along with my husband’s brother, was one of our “best men of honor” at our wedding. [My brother helped me get to the church on time, and Alex’s brother fluffed my dress at the altar.]

Whatever, I’m lucky. Shut up. And if any of you tell him that I said any of this nice stuff about him I will deny, deny, DENY.

Having grown up together on both snow skis and the high seas, boating is definitely something that we can bond over, in addition to binge drinking IPAs and Pokemon. We’d always have the responsibility of clearing the decks and helping with the lines and fenders for dockage, and I gotta tell you, we fell back into the swing of things very quickly; I was grateful for the help on board, especially because the extra hands are clutch when navigating the many locks on the pass through FL. [Plus this left extra time for Seester and I to lounge around and tan like princesses.]

He didn’t get to come with us to deliver the boat up from Florida, cause he had a real job and I was a slouch, so I think it was probably cool for him to be able to come down and join us for a leg. Regardless of whether or not this leg was supposed to start in New Orleans and end in Houston. [Damn, bananas.]

Now, I would like to give you all a special treat for making you wait so long for this entry, and share with you perhaps the best song you would ever hear if it had actually been produced.

For a while, as kids, my parents would pawn us off on Captain A for a week in the summer to go sailing with her. It was always awesome. We were at the age where we could entertain ourselves just by playing with our fingers and tying knots [our favorite game was A tying us up in the most complicated ways possible and then trying to race each other to break out] and I was coming into my own, writing short stories which I wish I could find cause I’m sure they were COMEDY GOLD.

However, while those stories might be lost to the sea, one brilliant collection of writings from that time period still survives.

One summer in particular, A and my brother and I [maybe 8 & 11?] were just rowing around in the dinghy, enjoying our lives, exploring beaches, when I noticed my little brother in the bow, humming a little melody. Our interaction went a little something like this:

Brother: Hmmmmmmmmm hhmmmm hmmmmm sailing…..hmmmmm…

Me: What is that song?

B: Oh, I just made it up.

Me: Really? I kinda like it. What’s it about?

B: Well, it doesn’t have any words yet, but it’s about sailing.

Me: Cool. Well. I can write some words! [taking over this project like the bossy older sister I was]

B: Ok! I think it should be like ‘sail away…’

Me: … ‘To an unknown adventure?’

B: Yeah! ‘sail away…’

Me: ‘To the adventure of your life?’

B: YEAH! ‘sail away…’

Me: Hm… ‘To an unknown DIMENSION?’

B: BRILLIANT! ‘Sail away…’

Together: ‘To the adventure of your life!’

424643_650468595294_1611282210_nHere’s the whole thing:

Chorus [gold]:

Sail away, to an unknown adventure;
Sail away, to the adventure of your life;
Sail away, to an unknown dimension;
Sail away, to the adventure of your life!

Verse [gold]:

When I was a younger lad I didn’t know adventure;
I was kinda panicky, I wouldn’t risk my life.
Then when I got older I knew I should have some fun!
Adventure wasn’t bad, but I shouldn’t risk my life.*

[*In the VH1 pop-up video of this song, you would learn here that the original lyrics were actually, ‘adventure wasn’t bad, and it’s OK to risk my life,’ but, our parents made us change it for obvious reasons.]

Bridge [gold]:

I would swim in the dark;
I would swim with the sharks;
I would hold my head up, and let the wind take me hiiiiighhhher- eh er

Chorus 2x

This song was slated to be performed on the Mickey Mouse Club but we couldn’t agree on terms.

Sail Away marked the birth of our brother/sister band, Sibling Rivalry, and over the course of our short writing career, we wrote such hits as Superman [I’ll be your Superman, Batman, Ironman, Spiderman, Aquaman, oh baby yeah…], and Abduction [They’re going into my mind, they’re scrambling up my brain]. We really tried to cover all our bases, and wrote songs that spanned every genre. [One time I’ll show you the folder of lyrics I still have. It’s pretty much the best.]

We produced a fierce album cover on Windows Paint, wrote our bios, and then recorded a Toys R Us commercial, just so that we would have it ready when the time came for our ad campaign.

Unfortunately, my brother’s voice changed after that summer and Sibling Rivalry just couldn’t withstand the backlash plus we didn’t play any musical instruments.

But when we get together, we can still sing Sail Away word for word, with perfect synchronicity, identical phrasing and dynamics, and even a bit of simple, sensible choreo.

You’re all welcome.

Photo Jul 30, 1 25 26 PM

Palm Coast, though. Before we got a little messy.

Back to Present Day.

Palm Coast. Was. BEAUTIFUL. We stayed at the Yacht Harbor Village, which was a part of a resort that had a huge pool complex including a lazy river, water slide, and SWIM-UP BAR. [I meannnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn.]

We quickly made friends with one of the poolside servers [courtesy of $20 bills, bills, billZ] and therefore had a constant stream of liquor into the bloodstream, making for a hilarious shit show of an afternoon & evening. [Even though that idiot that shares my blood almost got us kicked out after dropping a chicken wing in the pool.]

We had a couple of great days running down Florida, stopping in Titusville, and ended up in Stuart, FL, right at the mouth of the St. Lucie canal, which cuts into the Okeechobee. A particularly hilarious and lively pod of about 10 dolphins followed us for about 30 minutes, flipping and flopping and jumping and really probably just laughing at how dumb we humans are. [Video courtesy of my seester’s uncontrollable excitement.]

We went to dinner at this funky little spot in Stuart [my seester and I took an Uber over while the rest all wanted to walk so we got an extra round in].

I made my brother and seester stay out with me after dinner and hop over to another bar next door [of the tiki variety] where LOW AND BEHOLD IT WAS LOCALS KARAOKE. Dear Baby Jesus is there anything better? Everyone was dressed to the nines, a couple of fabulous old ladies wore rhinestone studded cowboy hats.

The singing was off-key, my brother and I sang Suddenly Seymour and all was right in the world. Of course, then I bummed a cigarette off a guy at the bar [I KNOW I KNOW it’s only every once in a while], and he proceeded to follow me to the next bar and proposition me and so my brother almost killed him. Oops.

 

My father left us in Stuart and we finally headed into the Okeechobee to cross Florida. We had been hoping and praying that this cut would be possible, as there had been a serious disgusting algae problem stemming from the Okeechobee lake and pouring out into the connecting rivers, some people reporting that the water was as thick as avocado is some places and the smell was just unbearable.

Without crossing, we would have had to go around the Keys, which would have totally been so incredibly awful because it really sucks down there, but it would have added almost a whole week onto our already quite delayed trip. [Damn, bananas.]

Once I tutored my little brother on how to steer the boat in a straight line he did an ok job, and he credits all of that to watching and learning from me just like everything else in his life, and I gotta give him props for steering us out of the Okeechobee lake in a rainstorm.

So there you have it. Just a whole lot of silly fun, an easy trip, it felt like an actual vacation, and I was just living my best life. The rest of the trip was going to be a piece of cake; we could just feel it.

After all, we were sailing away to an unknown dimension, and nothing could go wrong.

Part IV: Panthah crossing!? Ya gotta be f*ckin sh*ttin me!;
or, There’s No Improvisation in Synchronized Dancing!!

PSYCHE! Things can always go wrong. ALWAYS.

People kept asking why I hadn’t written in a while, and I kept saying that I lacked for real material. So, Poseidon cursed us.

After crossing the Okeechobee Lake, we stopped in Clewiston, which put us in a great spot for our next day’s trip into the Caloosahatchee Canal [best name ever?] and bring us to the west coast of Florida, finally!

This is where things got a little interesting.

My brother navigated us through that rainstorm to Clewiston, and the rain stopped just as we were preparing for dockage, which was awesome.

There would be no dockhands to help us tie up, so it was great that my little bro was also on board to lend a hand. Without dockhands, you basically just have to wait until the boat gets close enough to the dock, jump off with a line in your hand, and ta-da, it’s beer:30!

Well, of course, as Cap’n is taking the boat into the harbor, the rain starts up again. But, not rain. BUCKETS. Of rain. An actual. Monsoon. The length of the dock that we were pulling up to was covered by a tin roof, so as we approached the sound was so deafening it was literally IMPOSSIBLE to hear each other, although we were maybe just 10 feet away.

My bro and I would both be jumping off onto the dock and securing the lines. I still had my sunglasses on because they’re prescription and I’m blind, so, without windshield wipers and with the dark sky, I was in a precarious position. But, whatever, #ladypirate and stuff.

As we get close to the dock, I gauged the jump off the boat, and made my move—I should say actually that in my blind, deaf and soaking stupor I MISGAUGED the jump and realized, mid-air, that I was jumping from a height of 6 feet and a width of about 4. NO BUENO, mid-air Alyssa, NO BUENO.

At the last minute, I tried to adjust my landing, thinking that I couldn’t make it, and my feet landed hard on the wet deck, there was a pop! in my right foot and I was on my ass. But at least I wasn’t in the water. Still cool.

I jump to my feet and look around quickly to see if anyone noticed, and of course, there’s my dumb brother, having landed safely on the dock, laughing at me. We secure the lines and get on the boat and—oh shit, my foot REALLY hurts. Like. OH SHIT. I’m pretty positive it’s broken.

Luckily, there was a first responder and a nurse on board, and neither of them thought it was broken, just badly bruised and the next day they made fun of me for being a baby. [BUT, I will say that it is getting worse and I’m pretty sure they’re wrong whatever.]

Photo Aug 03, 5 50 21 PM

This was gross. But photogenic.

There was a Tiki bar at the marina, and you all know our rule so I limped behind everyone to the bar, where we—obviously—all ordered our own fishbowl which contained possibly the most disgusting alcoholic concoction and tasted like it was filled with 50% Fireball. I’m pretty sure I made many a Jungle Juice in college using Karkov vodka and canned fruit that tasted better. But we don’t waste alcohol in our family. Bottom’s up.

[VIMH©: Well, ok, Poseidon. Thanks very much– now I’ve got something to write about, ha. ha. Very funny. Now let’s get on with the trip as before.]

We had arranged for my husband to fly in the next night and surprise my brother and seester in Fort Myers, so we took off early the next morning to make a long 10-hour run to the West Coast. My brother and I tag-teamed the ride, he steering the boat relatively well and me expertly navigating the waters, watching for gators.

Photo Aug 04, 8 55 31 AM

Who left us in charge?

Then. Disaster. The aft bilge pump is running. [The bilges on the boat catch any water that may enter for one reason or another and when the water level gets high, the pump goes on and pumps it overboard.] In other words, it should NOT be running.

My mother and I run down to check it out and make a terrible discovery. Water is coming in, leaking from the rudder on our starboard side. Not good, at all. It wasn’t a heavy flow, so we decided to try to make it to Fort Myers anyway, where we could have the boat hauled and repaired, and so my brother and I took control of the boat [very scary thought], while Cap’n and my mom monitored the leak, and manually pumped water overboard every 5-10 minutes.

As it turned out, a lock on our path was under construction, and we would have to wait 2 hours for an opening, so our plans changed and we took shelter in a little marina in Moore Haven, which boasted full service repairs.

With terrorizing déjà vu, we watched Black Powder once again get hauled out of the water to assess the damage. A line from a crab pot had been wrapped around our starboard propeller, the force of the pulling exacerbating a problem that apparently already existed. The props would have to be removed and repaired along with a few other parts, and it was Thursday, the weekend preventing us from going anywhere soon.

[I would like to take this opportunity to point out that even though I posted a picture of my brother and I handling the boat on our own, immediately followed by a picture of the boat being hauled, the latter was absolutely NOT the result of the former.]

The marina did have professional mechanics but was in the LEGIT middle of NOWHERE. I’m talking the absolute boonies of Florida like you read about in the picture books, perfectly framed by a dilapidated trailer park and infested with gators. So, obviously we needed to get out of there and head for greener pastures.

Fort Myers was an hour drive away and so I scrambled to find a dog-friendly hotel in the area, we packed up our bags and a cooler, and, with heads hanging low, piled the five of us, three dogs, and a mountain of crap into a pickup truck with an Enterprise driver who was just a little more than slightly amused by us. [We asked the marina if we could get an Uber from there and they legit laughed at us. MIDDLE. OF. NOWHERE.]

Driving on the highway from Moore Haven to Fort Myers was a distinct lesson in the true meaning of sparse nothingness, and the road was spotted with signs warning of “panther crossing.” [My seester, as eloquent as ever, upon seeing these signs, exclaimed, “PANTHAH CROSSIN?! YA GOTTA BE F*CKIN SH*TTIN ME!” This entertained our driver to no end.]

As it turned out, I happened to find a perfect spot in Fort Myers Beach [not Fort Myers, I didn’t know there was a difference at the time], a cute little cottage efficiency with a kitchenette and a pool, only a block away from the beautiful white-sand beach, and only two blocks away from endless debauchery at the bars and restaurants in Times Square.

My husband showed up that night, and, until this past Thursday, we vacationed in a pretty great spot—truly, the only thing that would have made it better was if we were on a MOVING BOAT. At least it wasn’t Chesapeake.

My brother and I experimented with synchronized dancing in an effort to make my mom, understandably upset, laugh, but he didn’t follow my choreo and claimed I was improvising when really I think he just forgot the last couple of steps. We loudly sang many renditions of Sail Away, drank way too much, fell asleep on the beach, and watched the Olympics opening ceremony at a bar where the seats were SWINGS. [Moving swings + booze = definitely 100% a great idea.]

Photo Aug 12, 6 04 17 PM

Gators. Surrounding us.

Having my husband with us was awesome, although I’m pretty sure he was more sad to leave Copernicus than me on Saturday. [I’ll get him home, soon, Love, I promise!] He did finally get to see the boat on Friday night, when it went back in the water and we spent the night back in the middle of nowhere with gators circling us.

The next day, he accompanied us on the actual boat to Fort Myers, where he had flown into 10 days prior, and if I didn’t know any better, I’d say he was pretty happy he didn’t get put much to work on this trip. Check out our week-long way lay in Fort Myers Beach below!

Part V: BINGO BANGO MANGO;
or, I’m Almost Done I Promise

 

Yesterday, we departed Fort Myers and jumped over to Useppa Island, a private island where A’s dad & stepmom have a winter home. We arrived early, around 1pm, which gave us lots of time to explore the island the only way a private island is meant to be explored: BY GOLF CART.

As if we were stuck in a game of Crazy Taxi Driver, A escorted us around the island off roading-style, splashing through puddles and almost knocking my dog and my beer off the cart many a time.

After a little lubrication, I’m fearless, and Wildcard Status struck me when we came upon a wild mango tree, and the most beautiful, perfect mango I have ever seen brilliantly shone down on me from heaven. I had to have that mango.

There was no way it could be reached without climbing. I was in flip-flops, my foot is likely broken, I didn’t care. I had. To have. That mango.

I climbed an estimated 12 feet, plucked the heavenly fruit, and am currently planning the deliciously perfect salsa it is going to make.

Useppa is a wonderfully weird and completely beautiful little place. On one side of the island is The Blue Grotto, which you have to see to believe, and therefore I am gifting you with the sweaty, drunken Snapchat story for you to see for yourself.

Inhabitants of the island have carved out a little maze of wildly random and weird treasure troves made out of all sorts of random things: shells, flip-flops, wind chimes, weird stuffed dummies [terrifying], random pieces of granite, an old barnacled dock. At night, I can only assume a witch lives there but I just feel like she can’t be the kind that eats children cause Useppa is too peaceful so she’s probably a nice witch but still it would be terrifying.

At the end of the path, there is a small treasure chest, where you can leave something/take something, and it was truly weird and beautiful.

After our tour, we swam in the pool, ate a great dinner at the only restaurant on the island, where we were the only guests [off-season, remember?], toured A’s parents’ beautiful home, and I decided I’m going to go there and live in a mango tree.

Today, we head to Sarasota. Tomorrow, we rest. Wednesday, we go to Clearwater, and from there we make a 27-hour overnight run offshore, cut to the panhandle, and get this f*cking boat to Texas.

Xo

The After-Life

Approximately 30 nautical miles separate Chesapeake, VA and Coinjock, NC, which translates into about a 4-hour trip for us. We took one more walk around to look for Pokemon and left the marina around 11, taking our shiny new engine with us. Or rather, the other way around.

We usually leave right around the ass-crack of dawn, but, considering the short trip, we decided to leave later and avoid the busiest time for commercial vessels, because as fun as this adventure has been, I’m pretty sure if we got stuck on another stump my mom would feed herself to an alligator.

So, compulsively checking the AIS [a system that commercial vessels and some pleasure crafts use to broadcast their current location, speed, and course—super helpful in the narrow waters of the ICW—would have been sweet if the barge that almost sunk our boat had been using it], we all took a big breath and headed back out into the waters which, to us, were as to the boogey man is to a 4 year old.

I don’t know that tensions could have been higher. We had all definitely lost a bit of our pirate mojo since StumpGate, not to mention that the [kind of mostly sometimes] oiled machine that was our crew dynamic could’ve used a little WD-40.

Every eye was looking for evil stump monsters beneath the dark water; we barely spoke but to point out these dream-killing, havoc-wreaking, life ruiners. Sweat poured down our faces as, if we weren’t already convinced we were in the bowels of Hell, it was literally 105 degrees out and there was little breeze. [Photos below are the kinda BS you have to deal with in the Virginia Cut.]

An hour away would be the infamously-now-titled Black Powder Landing, with our stump lurking beneath, and we’d have to once again idle in front of the troll bridge, where this all began.

A mere ten minutes into our day, traveling nearly at idle speed in order to avoid a tricky spot, the starboard engine oil pressure alarm goes off. My mom runs down to the engine room to find that oil pressure is normal, and concludes that, as happens occasionally with this engine, the alarm was tripped because of our low speed.

Crisis averted. Tensions up. Sweat sweating forth.

A few minutes later. Alarm again. This time, the port and starboard alarms go off, my mom once again runs down to check the pressure to find everything is normal… when the port engine cut out. Completely.

Cue panic at the disco.

Engine starts right back up, no smoke, nothing too scary except that THE PORT ENGINE JUST CUT OUT AND WE JUST LEFT CHESAPEAKE 10 MINUTES AGO. WTEFFINGF.

We make the decision to turn around and go back to Chesapeake, our souls slowing breaking into pieces and drowning in the black water as we make the turn. The most heartbreaking 15 minutes of our lives to this point commences, as my mom calls our mechanic, Jim, and AYB to inform them that, yes, we missed them so much that we just have to see them again.

As we pull up to the dock, A starts to turn around in the channel and the port engine cuts out AGAIN. We get tied up and Jim arrives instantly cause he’s a boss. He checks everything down below, and we spend the next 30 minutes or so working the engine at the dock, and of COURSE we cannot recreate the alarms, the cutting out, anything because obviously the entire sea is out to destroy us.

He adjusts the idle speed on the port engine [which apparently makes sense to people who know things], saying that that could have been the problem, but he doesn’t really have any idea because we couldn’t recreate it when he was there.

Cool, cool.

We head back out into the black waters of death, hoping that this was one last prank being played on us because of our banana faux pas. [HOW MANY TIMES DO WE HAVE TO APOLOGIZE?]

Photo Jul 14, 1 40 12 PM

This is what Black Powder Landing looks like, sans Black Powder… seemingly innocuous, right?

If tensions were high before… now they were threatening to bust through the ozone. Not even my spontaneous choruses of “I’ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts,” or my hilarious dad jokes could elicit a smile as we once again approached Black Powder Landing. [I don’t understand why no one was in the mood for humor.]

As if things weren’t bad enough, we wound up five minutes late for the opening at First Landing Bridge, and of course the troll who lives there wouldn’t hold it for us [EVEN THOUGH NO OTHER BOATS WENT THROUGH AT THE PREVIOUS OPENING TROLL TROLL TROLL TROLL TROLL TROLLLLLLLL].

So we spent the most agonizing 25 minutes of our lives idling directly next to the small little cove that started all of these problems to begin with. I mean, what a cruel, cruel joke.

Once we finally went through the bridge and I flipped the troll the bird [like any grown

Photo Jul 14, 6 29 53 PM

Heaven.

adult would do], we spent the next three hours scanning the waters in silence, praying to–of all things– make it to Coinjock.

And make it we did. We were finally out of Virginia. Finally to the capital city of the ICW. We hadn’t eaten all day for fear of immediate regurgitation, and so we ate canned green beans at the restaurant and marveled at the fact that we actually made it.

Cautiously optimistic, we went to bed early, knowing we were not out of the woods stumps yet.

The next day, we left bright and early for Dowry Creek Marina in Belhaven, a long day that was made longer by the fact that we still had to keep an eye out for stumps until we reached the more open waters of Albermarle Sound, and then again after.

We headed back out into the murky waters, as anxious as the day before as we scanned the surface and then—BUMP.

SILENCE.

WE HIT SOMETHING.

WE WERE ALL WATCHING THE WATER HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE?

We quickly turned around to see if anything popped up behind us, and listened for any possible engine disturbance. When none came, we took deep breaths in and out, and held each other as we cried, realizing that this trip was never going to contain even one crisis-free day.

This time of year, a pop-up afternoon thunderstorm is more likely than not, and we kept a close eye on the radar and some suspicious looking clouds onshore as we came out of Alligator River [where we, disappointingly saw ZERO alligators] and into Pungo River.

When we arrived at adorable Dowry Creek Marina, it was still 102 degrees and so we decided we would take a quick dip in the pool [score!] before the thunderstorm, which was rapidly approaching, actually hit. The pool was a balmy bath of 94 degrees and it started thundering nearly immediately so, you know, that was not nearly as rewarding as it could have been.

Saturday, we headed down into Pamlico Sound, where, again, suspicious clouds on shore threatened us. Although the radar originally put the storm out of our path, our lives suck, so suddenly more storms were popping up around us and we cut our day early to head for Oriental, NC, still almost 10 miles away.

We made a break for it, battened down the hatches, got out foul weather gear, and headed parallel to the storm, which was rapidly approaching from shore. Winds picked up and rain pelted us in the face as the once-clear horizon behind us was covered in a blanket of gray. Wind gusts brought startling temperature changes that were not unwelcome in the heat, but made it clear we had little time to make it to shore.

[I quickly put on my eye-patch and grabbed my sword, pointing it up to the sky while swinging from the side-rail, maniacally laughing into the face of the storm as lighting flashed and I loudly sang “Yo-ho, yo-ho, a pirate’s life for me!”]

I was apparently the only one who was having any fun with this. The rain picked up and the storm came closer, as evidenced by my counting on my fingers in between every flash and boom just like in 2nd grade.

Finally, we arrived in Oriental, soaking wet and tired, just in time for the sun to come out, obviously. It was still early, and there was a tiki bar, so. [I made a rule that if we ever stop at a marina with a tiki bar we are required to go.]

It was even better than I expected, with approximately 15 seats and a bartender who smoked at least a pack of cigarettes behind the bar just during our first round. Small plastic cups abounded and we sat next to a hanging bug catcher, the bag of which should have probably been changed years ago. A mullet that put the 80s to shame sat next to my mom and I almost got caught staring too long. [WHY ARE MULLETS STILL A THING]

Sunday, we headed to Swansboro, NC–thankfully a fairly uneventful trip that ended with strong current while docking. The 13-year old dockhands struggled to catch our lines, probably because #1 was distracted by the 85 hickeys on #2’s neck. [WHY ARE HICKEYS STILL A THING] #2 had our bowline and #1 wandered aimlessly back and forth on the dock, ignoring our instructions to catch the spring line.

In order to avoid the boat pulling one of those little twerps [who were trying to hold the boat with their bare hands] into the water, I bided my time, stepped over the rail, and jumped 4 feet down and 2 feet horizontally, misjudging the distance and the width of the decking, and found myself teetering on the opposite edge of the dock, staring into the water. Yo-ho.

My mom and I both passed out before the sun went down and A, while walking Galen, discovered a public concert in town, coming back to get us only to realize we were 85 years old and fast asleep.

Marine navigation is harder than you might think. Especially along the ICW, markers need to be closely heeded, and it’s necessary to obtain local information as well to make sure there hasn’t been any recent shoaling that could put you aground, even when you are following the plotted markers.

Generally, our operation consists of A piloting, while my mom and I navigate using both an electronic chart with our course mapped out, and a large traditional chart which shows most of the markers along the way. Our charts are a little outdated, so we really just follow them to get the big picture of the course, while the electronic chart gives us a more up-to-date course with more accurate plot points.

We also received some very recent, local information from our good friends on Turas, who we met while commiserating in Chesapeake. They are currently heading North, and we got to swap some vital information with each other. [Thanks guys!]

So, there are a lot of sources of a lot of information [sometimes conflicting], in addition to using your actual eyes and brain and watching the depth sounder. As you can imagine, it can get pretty overwhelming. [Definitely compounding our stress levels are our regular night terrors about going aground again.]

A team effort like ours is definitely preferable, but also has its downside, as it means that the pilot very rarely knows all of the information, and has to rely on her mates, which is especially scary when I am one of them.

The trip from Swansboro to Southport was a long day, with a 6am departure time, but the course was fairly straight-forward for a while. I decided I would take my turn at the helm, mainly because I really wanted my mom to have 18 heart attacks, and of course she did not disappoint. The route was a little tricky with some shoaling, and the whole day was spent keeping a close eye and maneuvering tricky areas.

As the day was long, we had plotted out several other stops along the way in case we needed to ditch plan A because of a thunderstorm. We started heading into a very narrow cut called Snows Cut, infested with millions of jet-skis and power boats towing 5 year olds when thunder clouds popped up to our North.

We had a decision to make. It was still close to 15 miles to Southport, into the Cape Fear River. We had just passed a marina on the other side of the cut, but it was a private club. Both of our ditch ports were 7-10 miles behind us, back through the cut and, seemingly, into the storm.

Guys. You know I don’t lie here. I am a gushing, overflowing FOUNTAIN of truth. The Lady Pirates will corroborate the story because I have them on video saying it and they know I won’t hesitate to embarrass them. But I TOTALLY SAVED THE DAY.

A and my mom were going back and forth about where to go, searching for a marina between there and Southport [there were none]. A needed to get a better handle on where we were and started looking at the charts and watching the radar, so I took the helm.

The wind picked up as we headed into the wide open, deep waters of Cape Fear River, but the previous confusion had A looking at the following page of the chart, which has a similar bay that dumps into the Atlantic Ocean.

I have a very visual memory, and I had already mapped out the course in my head, so I KNEW this was not going into the ocean. But, like a child trying to point out something to her parents that would solve the problem they are arguing about, no one wanted to listen to or trust little old me ohhhhhh noooooooo.

Photo Jul 19, 8 12 33 AM

We got here thanks to me, obv.

Realizing I was essentially committing mutiny,but deciding the risk was worth it, I usurped control, righted the chart, took control of the boat and the girl with all the anxiety problems was the only calm one on board for the first time in literally ever. I was totes calm and rational. LOLOLOLOL

WIN.

After our 10½-hour day from [sea-horse] sea Hell, we decided shorter days were best for a while. So, on Tuesday we headed for Barefoot Landing in Myrtle Beach, just a brief little popover to an adorable seaside stop with shopping and randomly a place to take pictures with TIGERS cause that makes so much sense! Unfortunately it was a million degrees and the tigers looked sad and tired and smelly and the line was stupid so there were enough reasons not to participate.

As Cruise Director, I insisted that we go and have a lady pirate night out. So we all put on real clothes and I even put on makeup and we headed out happy hour hopping to an outdoor restaurant near the boat that allowed the pups, and then to the House of Blues only to realize that it was only 6PM. We sat on the empty deck waiting for the band to start at 7, and barely kept awake OMG YOU GUYS OUR LADY PIRATE NIGHT OUT WAS SO RAUCOUS.

The band started and was actually pretty fun and then oh that’s interesting look at those huge dark clouds behind us.

A looked at us and said, “I was wondering how long it would take you to notice.”

LISTEN. This is the woman who was swimming in the water with me in Virginia Beach and got stung by a jellyfish TWICE and DIDN’T TELL ME because she didn’t want me to “panic.” So, instead, she let me swim in jellyfish infested waters. NOW, she sees a massive storm approaching from behind us and once again—doesn’t tell us.

[Payback is on the way, Cap’n.]

It starts to sprinkle, then rain, the band is covered and so is the bar so we hang out under there for a while until the thunder and lightning and DOWNPOUR AND HAIL start, and they have to shut down the show until it passes.

Now, we still have about a 5-minute walk back to the boat, NBD except that none of us are prepared for a DOWNPOUR.

We duck into the House of Blues gift shop, hoping that the storm would die in the process, and when it didn’t, we decided to brave the storm except—wait a minute, what is that beacon of light coming from that corner of the store?

Photo Jul 19, 8 01 16 PM

You know you’re jealous.

A HOUSE OF BLUES EFFING PONCHO.

Neither of my fellow lady pirates thought it was worth the $5 but I put on mascara that day and actually brushed my hair and now this magical garbage bag with the House of Blues logo on it just shows up and somehow I don’t think it’s a coincidence, so, heels and poncho, we head into the monsoon.

I gotta tell you, the people standing at the doors of their shops watching us run by had quite the show—A, followed by my mom, shoes in hand, and then finally me, WAY behind, RUNNING in a poncho and heels. I didn’t fall [sorry] and they were both super jealous when I got back and I was dry so whatever.

Yesterday, we had another short ride through what lived up to its has description as the most beautiful stretch of the ICW, the Wacamaw River [lovingly referred to by the Lady Pirates as WakkaWakka because it obviously gives us a chance to do our best Fozzy Bear impressions.]

We arrived at WakkaWakka Marina [Wacca Wache], nestled in a calm and serene passage along the ICW, and went to the cute little restaurant for happy hour, where we were forced to drink a rum concoction known as a “Suck-It Bucket.” As it turns out, the owner is from Worcester, MA, and so the bar was adorned with Boston fan gear and we felt right at home.

Today, dolphins surfed our wake and I almost jumped in and made them my BFFLAEAEAEAEs, shrieking the entire time like a very small child. [Idk what it is about dolphins, guys, but I would totally drown trying to befriend them.]

After a 6-hour run we arrived here in McClellenville, which may possibly be Coinjock’s SC rival for most scary awesome desolate back-woods country, and our dockhand has the sweetest handlebar mustache I have ever seen in my life.

Apparently there is one restaurant in town and it looks super fancy so we’ll be heading there in a bit and I’m certain I’ll have a story to tell.

Off to Charleston tomorrow for a Saturday way-lay!

More to come.

xo

Photo Jul 21, 3 28 17 PM

My new besties.

It’s a Marvelous Night for Some Moonshine

Thanks to the banana gods, the sea gods, any real God[s], and Jim, the best mechanic on the face of the Earth, we finally finally FINALLY GOT OUT OF CHESAPEAKE.

Here is a video showing my mom being as excited as humanly possible…

Have you ever seen a happier or cuter face than at 2:01?!

Woah. We had a good run there. Once again, I tip my pirate hat to everyone at AYB, and I wish safe passage on the friends we met while holed up in that funny little place.

[Also, be sure to check out puravidaloop.wordpress.com if you just can’t get enough of the hi-sea hi-jinx, as our new friend Forrest is currently taking his Hatteras on the Great Loop!]

Since it’s been a little while since my last update, as promised, I wanted to first fill you in on some of our excursions while we were trying to keep ourselves from going crazy and/or killing each other while in port. Since pictures are worth 1000 words, and I have a feeling you’ve had quite enough of my words after my last post, here is our time in Chesapeake in [mostly] pictures.

  • We dragged my mom through the Mariners Museum in Newport News, and saw some of the cannons that they my parents used to make replicas of. That’s the Dahlgren gun. You may remember me talking about it in the hilarious and embarrassing RBG Cannons Operational Guide that I mentioned in a previous post. [For those interested, do a little Googling and laugh your face off.]
  • Oh. Yeah. This happened. “To ink or to sink:” that was the question. Stumpy McJerk-Stump didn’t sink us, though it tried, so this was our answer:

    Yep, those are my mom and my legs. It’s not as impulsive as it may look. It was on her bucket list to get a tattoo and since she’s super old now I figured it was now or never.

    In true form, we obviously needed some liquid courage to go through with this, and so we did what we do best, unfortunately maybe a littttttttllee too much [idk it could have been the tequila]. My mom went first [2.5 hour tattoo] and was still super nervous so I gave her a couple of my Ativan [plus side to having a crazy daughter] and–even though it was a normal dose–SHE FELL ASLEEP. LEGIT. ASLEEP. During the most painful part of the tattoo–the shading. Everyone in the tattoo shop thought it was hilarious while I frantically texted my brother and sister-in-law [paramedic and nurse, I know, whatever] to make sure she wasn’t going to die.

    When it was my turn, not only was I sober [didn’t think that through] but also my mom fell asleep on a couch in the waiting area, so I flew solo for those 2.5 hours. Everyone points out that it was my fault, anyway.

    The compass rose & ship’s wheel obviously represent this journey, but also the greater “Journey.” I have an anchor because my mom keeps me grounded and she has stars because she says I keep her reaching for them. [I KNOW, BARF] Whatever you wish your mom was this cool. Props to our artist, Dan at Tattoo Skills in Chesapeake, these are seriously the bomb.com

  • We spent a lot of time in Virginia Beach, just a short ride away. This happened:
    Photo Jun 26, 12 14 51 PM
    Oh, and on the boardwalk, obviously this had to happen. I have no idea how I got them to do this, but I’m certain none of you are complaining.

    Photo Jul 08, 8 03 06 PM

 

  • Also, I told you I got to go back to NYC for a week, where I got to see the love of my life, and also my husband! [Yes, that’s Sara Bareilles, and yes I was three feet from her, and yes we’re currently bffs.]

     

  • Arguably the most fun thing in the world happened when we chartered a pontoon boat for the day, and Copernicus was throughly impressed. Oh, and he and Galen spoon now, so that’s a thing.

     

  • Herry learned to drive.

    Photo Jul 10, 6 35 56 PM

  • Photo Jul 10, 8 43 14 PMAND OMG YOU GUYS POKEMON GO HAPPENED.To all of you killjoys and haters out there: THIS IS HELPING ME RELIVE MY CHILDHOOD AND CONTINUE TO IGNORE THE REAL WORLD, GET OVER IT.

    Luckily, there is a historic monument in Chesapeake, which was right across the canal from us, memorializing the Battle of Great Bridge [history buffs, look it up], SO OBVIOUSLY there were a million PokeStops and a gym and lots of other losers like me and whatever I’m on the water and so I’m like 50 Magikarp candies away from a Gyrados, haterz.

  • Photo Jul 12, 4 24 26 PMAnd last, but CERTAINLY not least. This happened. We happened to “come by” some legit Moonshine, and the first day I made this delicious watermelon cocktail that I named The AYB, obviously after the Atlantic Yacht Basin, our home away from home in Chesapeake.

    Recipe:
    Muddle lemon and mint in a mason jar [yes, the jar is necessary], add 1.25 oz of moonshine [preferable if actually illegal moonshine], top with watermelon puree [just below the jar rim] and SHAKE SHAKE SHAKE SHAKE YOUR BOOTY. Then, top with club soda, a watermelon slice and a mint sprig, and be super fancy.

    The next day, however, the Moonshine Fairy was not impressed and told us we were disgraces and we didn’t do it right, and we needed to celebrate our engine being fixed, and so then THIS HAPPENED:

 

Phew. Stay tuned. I’ll very shortly be filling you in on our post-Chesapeake life. But for now, it’s happy hour.

Stay thirsty, my friends.

xo

 

Three Weeks in Chesapeake[s]

Just an honest warning to my readers:

When I set out to write this blog, I really wanted to make it much more than just a day-to-day rundown of the events, trials and tribulations of us lady pirates on the high seas. I’ve enjoyed writing about my past and my present challenges when my experiences trigger such reflection.

This entry is a little different. Those of you who are only here to follow the trip: thank you so much!!!!!!!!!!! But, if you would rather avoid reading some personal discoveries about politics, religion, and society—just skip this one! No offense taken.

We are finally on our way again [!!!!!!Thank you, Jim, the super mechanic!!!!!!], and when I don’t have three weeks in Virginia to sit and think so much about the world, you will be returned to your regularly scheduled hijinx.

Maybe this is just a self-indulgent writing exercise. Or maybe you’ll enjoy reading it. Don’t be mad, Mom & Dad. I still love you.

Xo

[Skip to Part II if you don’t GAF about anything besides those things pertaining to our trip. Don’t worry, only the NSA is tracking you I don’t have any idea what you read and what you don’t. <3]

landscape-1457107485-gettyimages-512366437

The VIMH (c) made a good point that I should reward you for coming here if you’re disappointed to be missing out on hijinx. So, here’s a picture of a puppy.

 

PART ONE:
The [Seemingly] Infinite Struggle of the Aging Millenial;
or, HOLY SHIT ALL OF MY FRIENDS ARE HAVING BABIES


Don’t tell anyone I told you this
, but I am eternally grateful to my parents.

As the older generations rail against us ‘Millenials,’ and swear that we’re ruining this country because of our laziness, lack of ambition and lack of moral obligation to contribute to society, it seems more and more that our generation, ideologically, are drifting farther and farther away from our parents.

Now, whether or not this makes for some unpleasant, sometimes incredibly heated debates at the dinner table, it’s actually a testament to our upbringing. After all, we were all lucky enough to grow up with parents and teachers who told us, from a very early age, that we should think independently. That we could accomplish anything. That we deserved happiness. That we should follow our dreams. And rainbows and ponies and shit.

Joke’s on you, guys.

I’ve been married now for 6.5 years [yes, we got married very young, no I wasn’t pregnant, and no it wasn’t an arranged marriage], and I hate to admit it, but my husband and I have had to rely on our parents for a lot of support. As 30 careens towards me like a tug and barge on the ICW, I’ve been reflecting a lot on what this semi-dependency means.

Are we failures? Have we failed our parents, our society, our generation, ourselves?

I mean, this is certainly not where I thought I would be at 28.

Ten years ago, 30. Was. Old.

30 meant you had your SHIT together. You owned a house, two cars, had a fulfilling career, maybe some little brats running around, but definitely a healthy 401k, emergency savings, lots of vacations under your belt and savings for the next one. After all, you were given the opportunity to get a solid education, and you were encouraged every step of the way.

When my mom was my age, I was almost 7 years old and my brother was 4. I grew up wanting to be a young parent too, because I could “get it out of the way,” my kids would grow up, and I could move on with my life. I have to say, my parents, at just slightly over 50, have it pretty good… My mom is retired, they’re starting a brand new adventure, and both their kids are married and [mostly] employed and are no longer their responsibility…oh wait.

When we moved to NYC two-and-a-half years ago, although my husband’s new job was more than sufficient for us to afford our apartment, getting it was like pulling teeth from an angry hippo. My parents offered to be a guarantor on the lease, and even that wasn’t enough for our management company.

We were in a bind; I had three days to find us an apartment on my own so my husband could start his job on time. The unit I found was the only one within our price range which was in a safe enough neighborhood, and met even some of the items on our wish list, though that column was definitely outweighed by our concessions. [I am not talking about a super bougie penthouse on the Upper West Side, guys]. Eventually, we had to be a little sneaky, and put the lease under my dad’s name, and pretend he lived there. I mean, come on.

I am at least comforted to know that I am not alone. Lots of my friends and acquaintances also have to rely on their parents’ goodwill occasionally, whether it is for medical bills, classes, rent, or even groceries.

In fact, off the top of my head, the number of friends my age living in the city who needed to have a guarantor on their lease FAR outweighs those that didn’t.

If a disparity exists between my and other Millenials’ experience with this, I recognize that, amidst a series of other contributing factors, I chose a career in the arts, and I do surround myself with like-minded individuals. But, for what it’s worth, it does make it seem like those of us who chose to pursue a less lucrative career path solely because we felt it was our best contribution to society are being punished for following our parents’ advice.

We’re not not contributing; we’re just not contributing in the way that is believed to be the most beneficial to the construct of today’s society.

Listen, it is no secret that the arts are incessantly and increasingly devalued. If it weren’t for Hamilton, I bet you a large portion of today’s children [and young-adults and full-grown adults] may not even know live theater existed—and thank god that there are artists like Lin Manuel-Miranda who have the talent, opportunity, and passion to create such a game-changer.

I could argue until I’m blue in the face that the NEA deserves to be funded more and that the arts need to be taught in the classroom. But the fact is, the generation that is running this show doesn’t necessarily see it that way. And, the majority of Millenials who do care enough to try to convince those in power don’t have enough clout to make our voices heard, because we’re essentially a decade behind our parents in terms of societal development. [It’s pretty hard to inflict social change when the world still sees you in a diaper.]

So. There are more artists because our parents told us we deserved happiness, that we could do anything, and that we should follow our dreams. And, outside of encouragement and the occasional golf clap for our ‘bravery,’ what little public assistance exists to help the arts succeed is stretched so thin that it barely allocates enough to keep established NEA-assisted institutions afloat, never mind fostering growth and allowing for more job creation. But, you, know, the NEA budget should probably be cut.

More artists and less jobs. Less jobs and more ‘artists-as-formerly-known’ entering the workforce at a low-level in places like restaurants: over-educated, under-employed, under-appreciated, unfulfilled, cynical. Which, in turn, leaves fewer jobs for those whose “lesser” qualifications [at least educationally], arguably, are a better fit for the industry.

Push everything down the chain, and suddenly those at the bottom aren’t under-employed, they’re unemployed, making sure that the lower class stays put, firmly under the heel of the Gucci loafer worn by the man at the top. What a tangled web we weave.

And of course this is not just an arts industry issue. This is just one example of what one faction of our generation is struggling with. There are millions of Millenials who chose much more “realistic” career paths who are coping with the same thing us gypsies are. Over-educated, under-employed, a clown-fish swimming in a sea of college graduates, whose degrees are worth what a high school degree was worth when our parents were entering the workforce—oh except that, in fact, to us, they are worth, on average, $33,000 in student loan debt.

So, is it really that Millenials are failing society? Or is society failing us? OR maybe none of us have really had the chance to fail yet cause jeez I’m not even thirty yet and everyone should just relax for a bit and see how things play out.

I’m not stupid; I could have been a lawyer. I’d just rather play one on TV. I didn’t choose this industry because I wasn’t smart enough to do something “realistic.” Believe me, if another career could have made me happy, I would be doing that. A mentor of mine, who has been very successful in this business, always says, “If you can see yourself being happy doing anything else, do it.”

And I did it. I tried that. I was raking in the dough as a commercial loan officer. I had power, I was respected, and, as far as our elders are concerned, I was on my way to being a productive and successful member of society, who was content participating in community theatre for fun after a hard day of work. We had the house and the things and the life and the vacations and the 401ks…but it’s true what they say. Money can’t buy happiness [unless of course we’re talking lottery money, in which case, of course it does don’t be ridiculous].

And my parents taught me that I deserve happiness. So, realizing I wouldn’t be happy unless I pursued the arts, I crawled out from under my rock of depression, set the house on fire and roasted marshmallows on top.

Instead, I opted for the romantic life of the gypsy artist. Ah, yes, isn’t it wonderful and beautiful and exciting? Us gypsies—we graduate from arts school as bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, 21-year-old man and lady-children, with all of the knowledge and energy in the world. We pursue our careers with our big dreams and our big smiles and our shiny degrees and our brand new patent leather tap shoes and our brand new leather character heels [all bought by our parents], and we walk into arguably the most difficult field in today’s society, only to be chewed up and spit back out time and time again, while the world shakes a finger at us for our lack of ambition and our entitlement.

And you know what? We are entitled. Our parents told us so. They told us we were entitled to happiness and we should follow our dreams and we could be anything we want to be! [They probably just didn’t realize all the help we’d need to get there.]

By the way, that was awesome of them. My mom told me a story about how she was a great swimmer as a kid, and she really wanted to join the high school swim team, but my grandfather told her she couldn’t because it was “too masculine.” But still, she loved her dad, had nothing but the utmost respect for him and certainly doesn’t harbor any resentment about not being able to join a silly recreational team.

This wasn’t an uncommon occurrence for our parents’ generation, and, if this sentiment also applied to what they believed was their lives’ calling, it could very well have been detrimental to all of their pursuits of ‘true’ happiness. Instead of doing what they were passionate about, many opted for the “realistic,” bread-winning, sometimes back-breaking J.O.B. that fulfilled their responsibility to society, a social structure which largely ignored the fact that some of us have a responsibility to contribute in other ways, whether or not some find value in it.

Don’t get me wrong, all of my grandparents were, in fact, incredibly supportive of my mom and dad’s many business ventures, and, of course always wanted first and foremost, their children’s happiness. But that happiness, as defined by our parents’ parents, is different than that which ours afforded us.

For a second, can you imagine what society would be like if our parents’ parents encouraged them to follow their dreams as much as they did for us? How many more professional musicians and writers would there be? Or how many more explorers and inventors and archeologists? Astronauts?

Maybe society’s focus would shifting away from seeing the dollar as the endgame, and more on using the dollar as a tool for societal development and community success. Maybe those in office would have different agendas, different priorities, would be less driven by who is paying them under the table and more driven by what they think and believe, because they were encouraged to think independently and act with passion.

What I do know is that our parents are paying a price for their encouragement, much later into our lives than they probably originally anticipated, and for that sacrifice, I am eternally grateful.

Uber-Puppies

Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret.

PART TWO:
My Parents’ Greatest Disappointment;
or, More About My Past You May or May Not Care About

When I started this entry, my original goal was to share an important experience that I had here in Chesapeake, but my long-windedness kinda swept it away from me. Sorry about that.

But I realized I had more to say. And, of course, that is really what I set out to do with this blog. Not just to regale you with tales of the high [and low] seas, and make you jealous of my tan, but to find my voice, and define my self. Guess what, guys? Three weeks in Chesapeake, VA affords a lot of time for self-reflection.

That being said, the preceding tangent came organically and provided necessary insight and meaning to this experience for me; hopefully, it will do the same for you.

When you spend three weeks at a marina having repairs done, you start to get to know the people around you. Whether it’s hosting an impromptu happy hour to get to know other transient boaters who may also be waiting for repairs, or saying “good morning” to all of the [really effing hard] workers in the boat yard, these interactions definitely make it feel a bit more like a home rather than a prison.

Captain A’s father and stepmother spent about 15 years after their retirement cruising up and down the ICW, and Atlantic Yacht Basin in Chesapeake was a regular stop for them. Through their time there, A’s stepmom, C, became acquainted with some of the guys in the boatyard, and they invited her to Sunday service at their black Baptist church. After that, they would actually drive every Sunday they were at AYB and pick her up to bring her to their service. She is beloved at the church and remembered very fondly by the entire congregation, and so she had called friends from the congregation to let us know that we were there so we could say hello.

One of the first people we met while they were hauling the boat out of the water, I’ll call him Reggie, found us nearly immediately and wanted to talk to us about “Sister C,” as they all called her. He invited us to attend Sunday service that weekend, since we were held up waiting for repairs. An agnostic, lapsed-Catholic, out of respect for his invitation and the curiosity I had for the entire experience, I planned to attend Sunday morning with A [my mom dutifully attended mass at a nearby Catholic church].

[This is like a choose-your-own-adventure. Skip to Part 3 if you don’t GAF about my life and just want to hear the story I just teased you with. <3]

As I said before, my parents gave me all of the tools I needed to think independently, but, like most parents do, they did this while also presenting me with information that would help me align myself to their beliefs. And while I’ve since separated from many of those, I have adoration and respect for their resolve and commitment.

I was privileged enough to be sent to Catholic school for all of my education. Catechism and church were a big part of our lives growing up. We went to church every Sunday [even on vacation, JEEZ] and we were expected to participate and be respectful.

My freshman and sophomore year of high school, I found myself a community within our youth group, and sang with the band that played at the upbeat, youth-centered mass. My high school was outside of my hometown, and so the church provided me with lots of opportunities to interact with kids from my town. [Ironically, though we didn’t start dating until our senior year, this is where I reconnected with my now-husband, 8 years after he was expelled from our Catholic kindergarten and banished to public school after mooning the gym teacher.]

I even went voluntarily to a conference for young Catholics that included prayer and nightly Christian band concerts and workshops. And, I loved it. I believed in it. I still remember being at one of the nightly worship concerts and praying for a sign from God that he was there and he was listening. I thought, “If only there could be thunder.” And it thundered. Clear night. One clap of thunder. Right after I prayed for it. The summer after my freshman year, it was a defining moment for me. Though I’ve tried, I still can’t explain this today.

After two years, the Diocese decided that the youth mass was no longer appropriate, and our church had to do away with the band and the fun, and the draw for youth participation unsurprisingly disappeared, but for a few. The group had provided us with wholesome social interactions within the context of religion and worship and a safe place for us to go to express ourselves, whether or not we would end up as devout leaders of the Catholic Church.

I believe the thought was that the group was too focused on social activities, and, unfortunately for them, they failed to realize socialization is perhaps the most effective way to squeeze enthusiasm out of moody pubescents. I don’t know how else you could get a roomful developing teenagers to voluntarily go on a Sunday night to an event which started and ended with singing the Hail Mary. Apparently, the program was a concession that the Diocese was content with, although, to be blunt, I think it was pretty stupid.

After the program stopped, and I became more involved with other things, my passion for Catholicism waned, though I continued to sing at mass weekly, and my high school curriculum made it so I wasn’t able to easily forget the catechism of the Church.

I remained a cautious believer.

When I entered the collegiate world, though I attended a Catholic university, the rapid influx of information made my world spin and made me seriously think about how I felt about the Church and about religion in general. As much as my parents gave me access to all of the information in the world, and permission and the opportunity to learn it, I hadn’t yet been interested in seeking out my truth. I found myself unprepared to defend myself when someone would use an argument that I realized made more sense to me.

Fast forward. I eventually found myself far too far away from the Catholic Church’s social teachings, and since then, have found myself content believing that every part of the world runs on the same energy [I know, Mom, I’m sorry you think that makes me earthycrunchygranola-y], and that the energy you put into the world is what comes back. I also tend to think that religion is mainly semantics, and that ideologically, we are all here to follow the same rules of humanity, no matter which prophet preached it.

I am grateful to my parents, and in my opinion, think that my education in school and at home greatly crafted the moral compass that guides my decision making day-to-day. But, with no intended disrespect, I do find myself far away from my parents’ beliefs today, and I struggle with the fact that that hurts them.

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You earned this.

Once again, though, this is a situation that I have found many Millenials struggling with. Born into the information age, we constantly have to comb through new facts and opinions, and to “believe like a child,” as the Bible instructs us to do, is increasingly
difficult, especially in a society that is also so centered on education and logic, in which it can become challenging for religion and logic to coexist.

I do have to admit, though, that I am envious of those that can honestly and openly “believe like a child,” since the uncertainty about whether or not there is a meaning to life invokes a thought process that can send anyone with a mental health disorder spiraling into a depressive episode.

 PART THREE:
Why Can’t We Be Friends?;
or, The Culmination of Every Thought I’ve Ever Had

[You guys still with me? I don’t blame you if you skipped ahead. This has been quite the ride, for me too.]

Back to Chesapeake.

At Reggie’s and the church’s invitation, A and I set off on Sunday morning for the 8am service. Apparently the 11am is the more popular of the two, but…. We were going to the beach… sooooo…

We knew that Reggie played bass in the church band [and spoiler alert he’s fierce], and so we didn’t expect to see him until after the service. And, although C knew many of those in the congregation, we didn’t know a soul and had no idea what to expect.

We arrived at 7:55 to find that there were no more than four cars in the parking lot. We sat in the car, already as anxious as I’ve been for an important audition, waiting for more cars to arrive. At this point, I got A to agree that we would absolutely NOT be going in to this church if there were only four cars.

Maybe it sounds ridiculous to have been nervous. But, guys, here’s the thing. I’ve had the privilege to never be uncomfortable in a room where I’m the minority. I wasn’t sure that we would be accepted, or if we would be looked at as if we were the enemy, voyeuristic in the worst of ways.

My concern, walking in blind, was that inside that church we would encounter the deeply carved side effects of years of systemic racism, head-on. I had no basis to expect this except for my own personal culpability for being born white. [And, despite what some media will tell you, that’s OK. In fact, a little bit of guilt is an honest, human response to a problem that some continue to argue no longer exists.]

At 7:59, as the parking lot started to fill, I put on my big girl panties and we went inside, determining that being late would definitely be worse than not going at all.

The doorman looked at us a little confusedly as we walked in to their beautiful new facility, but as we entered the auditorium, we were immediately greeted by C’s friends, clearly active members of the congregation, with radiant smiles that made my armor crack just a bit.

But, everything inside of my Catholic-educated brain anxiously looked at the clock as we made our introductions, as a Catholic mass virtually NEVER starts late.

At around 8:05 or so, the band came in and a couple of deacons led the church in, what we eventually figured out was, informal worship. [Naively, I thought this was the real service.] As they were singing and leading, people we coming in, greeting other members of the congregation, speaking at not a disrespectful, but a normal volume.

Our new friends made a few more introductions, as everyone wanted to meet C’s stepdaughter. They happily greeted us and made small talk in the back of the church. And I. Was. NERVOUS. OMG YOU DON’T HAVE PRIVATE CONVERSATIONS IN CHURCH WHAT ARE YOU DOING YOU’RE GOING TO GET US ALL IN TROUBLE GOD IS WATCHING.

We quietly, politely and uneasily returned to our seats, and we were told that the reverend wanted to meet us and would be coming over shortly.

The two deacons who were leading the pre-service worship—can I just say—were having the TIME OF THEIR LIVES. Such joy emanated from them up at their pulpit, they danced and sung and didn’t care what key the song was in and, as parishioners trickled in [in their Sunday BEST—now I actually know what that means OMG those ladies were FIERCE] they greeted their neighbors and participated in the worship, audibly responding and giving it ALL.

The reverend, as promised, asked us to come out in the hall for a minute and chatted with us happily about our travels, about “C,” and welcomed us wholeheartedly. He told us that they would be introducing us [GULP] and that we were encouraged to participate.

We all returned to our seats and the service started [ohhhhhhh, now it’s starting] at about 845. A woman came to the pulpit and said that we should stand up if it was our first time in the church, and introduce ourselves. Crickets. We couldn’t avoid it, everyone obviously KNEW WE WERE THE WHITE PEOPLE. Sweaty palms. Heart racing. WHY WAS I SO NERVOUS THESE ARE JUST PEOPLE.

Everyone in the church looked around, surveyed us [and a few others], as we introduced ourselves [I stuttered a maximum of 6 times so it was a good day], everyone applauded and—it was genuine. It wasn’t like, “oh Reverend is watching us so we better pretend to be nice.” No. They were legitimately happy for us to be there.

I egotistically thought my skin’s phosphorescence was betraying me. When in fact, the only judgment in earshot was that which I had passed before I entered that church, when I feared the congregation wouldn’t accept us. In reality, they were just happy to have another soul in that service, contributing to their worship.

Now, as I’ve said, I don’t follow a specific religion at all. But, I also didn’t feel compelled or pressured to fake it. I participated when I thought it was expected, I grooved to their amazing music, and I just listened and observed. And the energy and the love and the positivity were just electrifying.

I am once again, like I was in the moment, brought to tears as I write this and remember the service and how I felt when we left the building, escorted out by several members of the congregation, hugging goodbye and asking to take a picture to send back to C.

As you may be able to tell by the fact that it has taken me so long to write this entry, I really struggled with how to share this experience. As the time went on, it became more and more difficult. I shared my experience and my desire to tell the story with several of my friends of color because—I didn’t want to get it wrong! I didn’t want my naïve little white woman lady brain to undermine the importance of the experience.

Because.

I am a racist.

I wish I could say I wasn’t. I don’t try to be. I don’t want to be. I have lasting, important relationships in my life with people of color. I’m not ignorant, I’m not a bigot, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been programmed to have instinctual reactions that are racist in nature. It doesn’t mean that at night, alone on a street in NYC, I don’t get the slightest bit nervous when a group of black men are walking towards me.

I was born into a world where systemic racism is still rampant. The only difference is that now we’re supposed to pretend it’s all better and act as if we have no more work to do, while the very people whose backs this nation was built upon are still trying to claw and scratch their way up the narrow ladder of a system that was built against them.

Segregation is no longer legal, but discrimination still exists. Black men & women have the same rights and opportunities as white men & women, and we have a black president, but inner-city school children still struggle, have a much lower graduation rate, and are more likely to be involved in illegal behavior and face incarceration because they are still unable to rise above their class.

We didn’t do our job well enough. We didn’t help. We passed a couple laws and then told them they should feel better. We didn’t solve the problem. The problem is not “fixed.”

The black community is crying out for our help and, though we will travel across continents to help underdeveloped countries, we refuse to lend a hand to those here at home that need us most.

Our parents were born in the same decade that, 100 years after the emancipation, finally saw the end to discrimination. There are still millions of black Americans who lived through it. Who lived in fear. Who lived through segregated bathrooms, and schools, and WATER FOUNTAINS WTF. Our grandparents still said “colored” at the dinner table, without even meaning to be politically incorrect.

To believe that it is “all better” is to ignore facts and turn a blind eye to those in need, so that our consciences can be clear and we can sleep at night.

I hope to live to see a world where prejudice and racism is no longer systematic, and we can all co-exist and embrace each other’s differences. I hope my kids aren’t burdened with the same racism that I am burdened with. Unfortunately, no matter how hard we click our red sparkly heels, the world doesn’t change over night.

We went to this service two weeks before two more black men were murdered by police, three weeks before a black man murdered several policemen in retaliation, and watched as several peaceful and some not-so, protests broke out across this nation.

Every night before I go to sleep, all I can think about is that service.

Every time I read another news story and I put the proverbial flag in my head at half-mast, all I can think about is that service.

I wish everyone would reach out and just try to understand each other a little better. Listen. Engage. Those of us that can recognize racism in ourselves have an obligation to try harder. To educate. To be an ally. To take a chance and walk into an all-black church, just to come an ounce closer to understanding a community we know nothing about, but claim to.

During a particularly hilarious manic episode a couple of months ago, I sat up in bed until about 3am ferociously scribbling in a notebook about how I was going to change the world and end racism. My handwriting was mostly illegible, and I found myself embarrassed reading through my notes the next morning.

My idea involved the #tokenblackfriend and #tokenwhitefriend [I know, it is completely mortifying], purposefully politically incorrect to start the conversation about how we need to make an actual effort to reach out and understand each other at the most basic of levels: as friends. It meant people of every race purposefully reaching out, awkwardly and uncomfortably, and integrating into each other’s lives.

A Millenial solution for our parents’ and grandparents’ problem.

It could never work, I recognize that. The thought itself is probably so ridiculously offensive to some people that as I’m writing this I’m considering deleting it. [But, hey, my manic little brain was sure trying hard.]

We all bleed red. [I’m pretty tan right now, guys, and I keep falling on this damn boat and the color of my blood hasn’t changed at all I’ve checked.]

We all pray or hope or—IDK whatever it is you personally do—for happiness and strength and health and prosperity for ourselves and our loved ones and we all sleep and dream and wake and laugh and cry and yell and learn and work and grow old and love. And love. And love. And love.

That’s all that was in that room, guys. Love. No race, no resentment, no fear, no hate, no color. Love. That, to me, is god.

I will now return you to your regularly scheduled hijinx.

xo

Photo Jul 20, 9 07 38 AM

❤ ❤ ❤

This Sh*t is Bananas: B.A.N.A.N.A.S

 

Today, on a special edition of She is a Ship Wreck, I write to you from Norfolk International Airport, en route to LaGuardia.

Yep.

If you remember, when I left you guys, we were happily sailing off into the sunrise toward Coinjock, NC, only a 4-hour cruise away from Chesapeake, VA.

So—before we get into it—just a fun fact. Apparently, you aren’t supposed to have bananas on a boat. It’s bad luck. Now, I have my fair share of superstitions, but this is not one that I previously shared with A, who may or may not be the actual subject of the Stevie Wonder song.

It’s actually one of the first things that A said to my mom upon boarding for this trip of ours. Bananas hung in my mom’s cute little galley on their cute little banana tree, and A said, bluntly, “You can’t have those on the boat.”

Now, if A is on one hand of the superstition spectrum, my mother is the absolute opposite. She thinks it’s complete nonsense, and refused to remove the bananas, and actually, just to tempt fate, bought more after they started to brown. [The first, brown bunch was placed in the freezer so I could make a delicious Pinterest-inspired frozen concoction with them sometime in the future.]

Having my fair share of accidents happen on stage after someone accidentally [or purposefully—you know who you are and I still don’t forgive you] said the name of the infamous Scottish King in the theater, I find myself somewhere in the center of the spectrum. I would be happy not having bananas on board, but I do enjoy them with some PB.

Alas, I let A have her superstitions, and I let my mom scoff at them.

But you know what, guys? Before I left for the airport today, without my mom knowing, I dug those frozen bananas out of the freezer and dumped them overboard. Just as a little offering in exchange for safe passage.

OR ACTUALLY ANY KIND OF PASSAGE AT ALL WOULD BE GREATLY APPRECIATED.

Maybe you all remember your boating lesson from two entries ago, where I told you about the options for spending a night in port. Any volunteers?

[VIMH©: Docking, mooring, anchoring.]

Good job, VIMH©! Haven’t heard from you in a while.

The Voice in my Head got it right. Those are the three options.

Except that—guys—there’s totally another option. You can also choose to get stuck on a series of massive Cypress stumps in the middle of the ICW channel, just an hour outside of your previous port. [Not recommended]

The portion of the ICW that starts in Norfolk and moves into North Carolina is called The Virginia Cut. It is well known to be a particularly tricky stretch of the Intra-Coastal because it is extremely narrow, and the channel [the channel is the path along which it is safe to travel], is incredibly specific, leaving little room for error. If you aren’t sticking right to the center of the channel, you are liable to run aground, and, here, when you run aground you aren’t cushioning up on a sandy beach waiting for the tide.

The Virginia Cut is further complicated by the Cypress trees that surround the canal. Over time, the canal has widened (believe it or not) due to rising water levels and boat wake and the riverbanks have eroded, leaving dead tree stumps behind to mark the place they once loomed large. Cypress is a notoriously strong and resilient wood, and, therefore, these stumps have survived, sometimes much farther into the canal than you would expect, outside of the channel, but only just.

It is as virtually impossible for the Army Corps of Engineers to mark all of these hazards, as it is to remove all of them, so boaters are warned to watch.

Although this part of the ICW is not affected by moon tide, wind tides do affect the area, and can cause varying water levels, sometimes by as much as a foot of depth.Wind tides are much more difficult to predict and once again, therefore, cruisers are warned to keep out a sharp eye for stumps that, due to a rising tide, may be virtually invisible only a few inches below the murky black water [crawling with snakes, and, according to some scientists, as the species is apparently moving north, possibly an alligator or two—watch out NYC, they’re coming for us]. Comforting.

Finally, as if things can’t get complicated enough, the channel is highly commercial, and is host to many tugboat & barge couples that, any given point, could either be careening towards you or creepily sneaking up your aft, expecting you to yield them the very, very narrow channel.

Photo Jun 29, 10 09 41 AM

This barge is taking up virtually the entire channel. Oh and, this is a very, very small one.

So. Sunny morning. Post-Father’s Day. About to head to my favorite place in the world [Coinjock]. Happiness abounds.

We come up to our next bridge, North Landing, and we are 15 minutes away from an opening. So, we idle in front of the bridge in the channel waiting for the grumpy old bridge master to open up [pretty sure he may have been the troll from Three Billy Goats Gruff: “Trip trap trip trap who is it that wants to go under my bridge? I’ll gobble you up!”].

When it does open, we see that a MASSIVE barge is coming at us from the other side of the bridge. No biggie—luckily, we happen to be in a spot in the canal that has a little tiny bit of extra depth, so we watch the depth finder carefully, and idle waiting for the barge to pass.

When it is just about past us, 7 ft of water on the depth finder [remember we only draw 5], all of a sudden there is a bump, another bump and then finally a complete stop.

Uh oh.

Commence Lady Pirate panic.

The engines go off, my mom calls Seatow [AAA for boats] and we wait for a tow off. Now, at the time, we assumed it was a stump, but couldn’t quite rectify in our minds the feel under the boat. It felt as if there was a large mass that stretched from maybe 5 feet back from the bow to about mid-ship, slightly less than halfway from the starboard side. Felt larger than a stump, but what else could it be? [AN ALLIGATOR MONSTER CARCASS? A WHALE? THE LAIR OF AN EVIL SNAKE MONSTER THAT WOULD GOBBLE US UP FIRST CHANCE HE GOT?]

Photo Jun 20, 2 11 17 PM

The little engine that unfortunately could not.

The good news: We did everything right, and so there had to be minimal damage. First, when we hit, we were idling, so there was no way we hit hard enough to bust a hole in the hull. Second, the engines went off immediately, and we didn’t try to get ourselves off with power, so the chance of damage to the propellors was slim to none.

The tow arrived [from Coinjock!] and this guy and his 225 horsepower outboard tried as hard as they could to tow us off that goddamned stump. After about an hour and a half of pulling from various angles and various cleats, stress fractures had occurred on the port side in the aft, causing both interior and exterior damage. Since we weren’t taking on any water, all parties decided it was time to quit to avoid causing any more damage, and move on to plan B.

Plan B consisted of getting together a salvage team, including a diver. They take large airbags, situate them under the boat in places specified by the diver after his recon mission, and blow them up in order to float the boat off the obstruction. Problem was, daylight was quickly waning, and it wouldn’t be until the next morning that the salvage team could ASSSSSEEEEMMMBLLLEEEE just like the News Team in Anchorman, obviously.

So, we were hung up on this stump. Troll bridge in view, but literally nothing else. Trees.

OUR LIVES WERE SO HARD. God, we could only run the generator for a little while to cook dinner and finish the laundry and we had NO AIR CONDITIONING. #firstworldproblems

In reality, it was actually a beautiful little cove we were stuck in, and, aside from worrying about pirates and bears and alligators [oh my], it was a beautiful night. [Click below to see 360º of Black Powder Landing at sunset on Stump Day.]

It was a Full Strawberry Moon, and it was quiet—OH wait but then there was the AIR SHOW.

Not like an actual, cool air show with like tricks and stuff and cotton candy and lots of gratuitous American flags. Just like, we happened to be in the vicinity of a Navy airfield and they decided that that day was perfect for practicing landing.

Since we’d been drinking since about noon, my mom immediately assumed that they were circling us because we were a suspicious ship near to the base and our name was Black Powder and that’s VERY SUSPICIOUS and that one girl totally almost waved at the border guard when they were going through Norfolk and OMG they have signaling cannons so they must be noise terrorists!

However, in reality, they were practicing landing. They must have been good at it because they didn’t crash. So, the sun started to set, my mom fell asleep at her 6pm bedtime, and A and I settled it for a vicious game of Cribbage. The cove was pleasant and silent and—AHHHHHH WTF THEY’RE COMING BACK. Over-head, fast and loud, zoomed no less than 25 [or maybe 3 or something] war-plane thingys with wings and loud engines [technical term]. Did I mention how loud they were and how they completely disrupted our Cribbage game for at least 15 minutes. Don’t they realize how RUTHLESS A is when it comes to Cribbage? I mean, I need to have my wits about me.

 

Jeez. Well, at least that’s over. We continue to play cribbage and I obviously beat A because I’m better than her at everything [except most things]. I obsessively fail at taking great pictures of the gorgeous moon [Above. My family is full of photographers. Unfortunately I am not one of them.] and then we start to head to bed in the quiet, beautiful, cove which we’ve now aptly named Black Powder Landing and—

Photo Jun 20, 10 04 08 PM

Black Powder Landing. Notice the lack of anything in the vicinity besides that damn airstrip.

WHAT THE EFF ARE YOU KIDDING ME WHERE ARE THEY COMING FROM AND WHY ARE THEY TRYING TO TORTURE US DON’T THEY KNOW THE KIND OF DAY WE’VE HAD I’M ALREADY SO ANXIOUS ABOUT SOMEONE WITH NO TEETH BREAKING INTO THE BOAT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT WHY ARE THEY TRYING TO RUIN MY LIFE.

Apparently, the drills are performed during daylight, sunset, and nighttime, because idk I guess flying a tactical aircraft is difficult or something whatever you try sleeping on a stump and tell me which you think is more difficult jeez.

Anyway, I did eventually sleep and, determined to not live like animals, made a delicious Eggs Florentine for breakfast because who knows we might be stuck on this stump forever and the generator can’t last until the end of time so we might as well eat like the bourgeoisie before we have to resort to spearing water moccasins and eating them raw.

Right on time, the salvage crew ASSSSSEEEEEMMMMMBBBLLLLEEEDDDD and arrived at 10am to save our asses. The diver went into the black water [I’m not kidding–the water’s tannins turn it BLACK, mainly derived from those damned Cypress trees], and, devoid of sight, felt his way around the bottom of the boat, resolving that it was not one stump, no, but a series—nay, a family of stumps [Papa, Mama, Baby?], existing solely to ruin everything good in this world.

The wind had brought the water up a whopping 10 inches overnight, and, whereas, our bow was protruding 18 inches from the water the day before, it was now less than half that. The diver explained the situation, and concluded that if the team tried to tow the boat from this particular angle [based on feel WTF what a rock-star], it should come loose. And come loose it did, as if it was so easy we could have lassoed some water moccasins to do the job.

It was already decided that, even if the engines started, we’d have them tow us back to Chesapeake (our previous port) because the boatyard there was probably the best we would encounter for another 200+ miles. Better safe than sorry, right?

So, we enjoy a pleasant, work-free cruise back to Atlantic Yacht Basin, where they haul the boat [out of the water] and we look at it and all laugh together about how silly we were to come back here because it was just a stump and how much damage could that do oh except the huge chunk taken out of our hull. WHATTTTTTTT

Luckily, the damage didn’t breach the actual structure of the hull, so it would be a relatively quick fix. They would put us up on the hard [on the ground, in the boatyard, bummer], fix the hull and the stress fractures and we’d be on our way in two days. [Side-note: The guys here at AYB are ROCKSTARS. I really can’t say enough about how fast they work, and how kind and courteous and cool and professional and skilled they all are. The next time you guys find yourselves on a stump, get towed here.]

Photo Jun 21, 1 36 23 PM

Sad mom with sad chunk of sad fiberglass.

These guys worked so fast, it seemed like we were going to be back in the water within two days. Except, it rained. And rain was forecasted for the next couple of days. So they couldn’t finish painting before the weekend. The hull patched, they put us back in a covered shed, in the water, so we’d at least have AC. [The boat AC utilizes seawater because duh.]

I mean we’re talking 95+ and humid, folks. I had already legit evolved into Humidity Monster, which is worse than Hangry Monster, to which my restaurant co-workers will attest, as they have had to spend time with me slinging mac & cheese and burgers to over-privileged a-holes outside on an NYC sidewalk in a million degree heat wearing a long-sleeved white shirt and jeans.

Photo Jun 25, 5 32 18 PM

The pups enjoyed our dock party.

The shed was dry. AND ALSO INFESTED WITH SPIDERS. LIKE THERE WAS A SPIDER COLONY OUTSIDE MY WINDOW. Also the shed was shielded from any light or happiness. We ended up setting up a redneck dock party with folding chairs at the end of our dock, which protruded from the shed and had approximately 6 feet of sunlight between the hours of 3 and 6pm.

As they were nearly finished with the work, we were slowing dying of Vitamin D deprivation, and we needed diesel, we cried and begged and they eventually pulled us out of the shed and onto the dock, where we could get fuel and water and sunlight and they would finish their work.

The next day, we surmised, we would be on our merry way. We mapped out the next couple of days, and decided to try to make it to Charleston, SC for the 4th of July, with 8 days of travel, since we obviously wouldn’t be making our originally intended stop in Fort Lauderdale for the 4th. [HAHAHA. Yeah OK.]

Best to do an engine check first. Just in case.

Key. Turn.

Starboard engine: wooooooooooooOOOOEEEEEEE LET’S BLOW THIS POPSICLE STAND! Coinjock here we cooooooooooome!!!!!!!!!!
Port engine: woo. woo. meh. sputter. fart.

Key. Turn.

Port Engine: fart fart fart fart. nope. i like Virginia.

That’s right, folks, the day before the rest of our lives, the port engine wouldn’t start.

Luckily, we were at Atlantic Yacht Basin, and these guys are Detroit Diesel [our engines] superstars. They were bound to get us up and going again. They diagnosed it as a bad starter, removed it, and on Friday, sent it out for service. Unfortunately, we’d have to wait until Monday for it to be re-installed.

We spent the weekend having a few adventures [which I will tell you about in a series of other posts following], and when Monday finally came, we were ready to GO.

While re-installing the starter, our mechanic did another couple of checks in the engine room, and let me tell you. One thing you do not want to hear a mechanic say from the engine room is, “Oh. Well, that’s not good.”

Water. In the engine. No bueno.

After a long and complicated diagnostic process, and days of taking apart the engine, the true source of our problem was discovered.

On Stump Day, while the first tow boat attempted to make our lives suck a little less, in fact, our lives were made to suck just a little bit more. [Through no fault of theirs, those guys were awesome.]

Most likely when he was pulling us from the stern, water managed to get in the exhaust of the port engine. With each pull, the boat heeled quite a lot. [So much in fact that, unprepared as we were, we hadn’t thought to secure the cabin and therefore, our Keurig was thrown to the floor and shattered, and furniture and other items were displaced throughout the cabin. Oops.] Because the engines weren’t running at the time, they weren’t sending out any exhaust, which left the pipes prime for H2O intrusion.

I don’t know if you know this, but engines aren’t made to combust water. When they try to, bad things happen. Like really, really bad things. Take that piston, for example. The sleeve has been cracked and OMG look at that bend.

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So, what do they have to do in this case? Oh NBD just a complete engine rebuild.

Yup. Two-three weeks.

So, here I am. At the airport. Headed back to NYC for a week-long way-lay, and to spend the 4th with my husband, instead of with the black waters of the Virginia Cut.

You guys, I don’t think I’m ever going to eat a banana again. Not in my cereal, not with peanut-butter, no banana bread or Chunky Monkey. Screw you Chiquita, and the fruit-adorned headdress that rode in on you.

Happy 4th.

xo

Mile Marker Zero

With my father in tow, our engine leak fixed, and the weather promising a beautiful Father’s Day weekend, we made our way out of Solomons Island and headed to Deltaville, VA, an adorable little marine town approximately 2 miles long, situated about halfway between Solomons and Norfolk.

The town, in the past, has laid claim to the title of “Boatbuilding Capital of the Chesapeake,” and, indeed, for over a century [until at least the late 1970s], as many as 20 boatbuilders supplied watermen with wooden work-boats of all types and sizes. Although little boatbuilding goes on today, boating continues to be centric to the local economy.

On our way through the Chesapeake, we had been having a conversation about when one is officially in ‘The South,’ and discovered that it was actually quite a bit further north than we originally thought [who knew that the Mason-Dixon line was actually north of DC? Not us].

We would decide for ourselves when we were officially in ‘The South.’ Doubt was erased when we pulled into Deltaville.

The boat next to us was having a little family afternoon gathering, and we struck up a conversation with the owners, telling them what we were doing.

Out-of-Touch-Southern-Man: So the three of you ladies are taking this boat to Texas, and where is the man?
Lady Pirates: …. Nope, just us.
OOTSM: Just three ladies on this big boat?
LPs: And three dogs! [subtext: har har you are joking right]
OOTSM: Hey, Dave– get out here! These three ladies are taking the boat to Texas by themselves!
Dave the Out-of-Touch-Southern-Man: What?! By yourselves? No man??!
LPs: …. Nope….
OOTSM: But who docks the boat then? — Hey, Barbara, get out here a second– these three ladies are taking the boat to Texas by themselves!
LPs: …We dock the boat… And drive it… [I think this is the point I lost my eyes in the back of my head]
Barbara-the-poor-out-of-touch-southern-woman: No man on board?! Oh my goodness I could never do this without [OOSTM]! I just go along for the ride!
DTOOTSM: But wait, who did you say drives the boat?
BTPOOTSW: They said they do it!
OOSTM: I can’t believe it! Ladies!
Dad: [emerging from the cabin after a shower] Hi!
OOSTM: See, you DO have a man on the boat!!!!!!
DTOOTSM: I knew it!
LPs: He’s just here for the weekend, along for the ride… [eyeroll by all except my because my eyes were already lost back there]
OOSTM: Well, I don’t know about that…
LPs: We must be lying! [Collective sigh. Silent agreement that we are in fact, in The South] 

The marina supplies transients with bikes for transportation [because what could be cuter than that], and although I don’t remember the last time I biked, as it turns out, riding a bike is just like riding a bike, and, after mastering the pedal brakes [because these are adorable bikes with high handles and pedal breaks not stupid hand brakes], I was transported to age 10.

16mszy

Captain fell down go boom.

After a sensible happy hour on the boat, we buzz-biked [not drunk-biked, we were def under .08 maybe] to a cute family owned restaurant allllll the way on the other side of town [aka a 7 minute ride]. Our fearless captain fell off her bike after she forgot about the pedal brakes and went into a ditch and obviously I immediately took pictures because she literally never does anything wrong or clumsy and I felt like she needed to be publicly shamed.

I don’t know what we expected out of a restaurant in a 2-mile long town, but it was hot and tiny and had no AC and we were hangry and [BEGIN RANT] unfortunately we encountered another experience where the summer-job service staff had just got out of school and were not yet equipped to handle the business volume and our poor 16 year old waitress ignored us for 15 minutes and the stupid manager did nothing and I had to prevent my dinner-mates from murdering her and so instead I broke out the restaurant talk and asked to speak to the manager who had conveniently left before I could speak to him cause clearly he had such a hard day standing around and not helping his sinking staff like an idiot and we told her it wasn’t her fault [cause she was 16 and had no idea what she was doing] and clearly she thought we were going to chew her face off and when we didn’t she was relieved and super sweet and I hope the manager reads this one day and calls me cause I’ve got a handful of choice words for him but obviously the next day I was over it and we were leaving Deltaville and so I wasn’t going to waste energy calling to complain cause whatever [END RANT].

Photo Jun 18, 8 02 52 PM

We ate this and it was called the Seafood Party Barge, so, obviously.

[Oh yeah also we ate alligator bites. I don’t recommend it but any alligators that we will encounter in the future should be warned that now that I know it’s an option they should be scared because we have a harpoon on board and even though I don’t know how to use it, I will try and there is a 20% chance I might succeed.]

Although we went to dinner at 6 [we usually eat at the blue-haired times because we get up with the sun don’t judge us], because of the aforementioned reasons, we left at almost 9pm and so we barely had enough light to bike home through Deltaville’s unlit, tree-lined, single road, but somehow we made it without being eaten by a lion or a bear or a giant mosquito so clearly luck was on our side.

The morning of Father’s Day, we woke up early to head through Norfolk, finally entering the Intracoastal Waterway, to our first ICW stopover, in Chesapeake, VA.

Side note. Let me just say. When my dad decided to come down for Father’s Day, [before the magical, mythical, mysterious, [e]mancipating mechanic showed up to fix our oil leak], he joked with me that he was coming up to visit us “just so he could fix things,” and I reminded him that that would literally be his best Father’s Day ever and he agreed because his favorite thing to do besides hanging out with his favorite child [me] is to fix things.

Well, upon arrival, with the boat fixed, he clearly needed something to do, so he was sure to break no less than 3 things while he was onboard. First, possibly an honest mistake, he broke a chair in the saloon as we celebrated happy hour in Solomons. Ok. So… he spent the next day fixing it. No harm, no foul.

On our way into Deltaville, we discovered that the boat was listing a bit to starboard, because some swells we encountered in the Chesapeake had caused the fuel from the port tank to move over into the starboard tank. As we tried to transfer the fuel, he had the idea to listen to his daughter [who isn’t an engineer or a mechanic and really just had a question about the way that the tanks work and a possible suggestion but who doesn’t accept any responsibility because she is in no way qualified] and, sparing you the technical details, flipped a lever in the engine room which almost caused one of the engines to sputter and die.

Finally, upon arrival in Chesapeake, he decided to “help” and connect the power and somehow blew a fuse which, in the 95 degree heat and humidity, disabled our AC.

Two days. Two days on board. So let me be clear to all you OOTSM out there, the Lady Pirates had everything under control, and the all-powerful, all-knowing, fully-necessary MAN broke everything. [To be fair, he did fix his mistakes. Love you, Dad.]

We drove through Norfolk, VA, home of the world’s largest naval base, and my dad was in heaven as we passed through all of the ships stationed along the coast. The Navy is NOT EFFING AROUND in Norfolk, guys. Lookout patrol boats monitor the area along the yard armed with machine guns, and followed us along our trip for quite some time, making the Lady Pirates sweat a little. I wanted to wave at them but my mom said no and I don’t know why I was just trying to be courteous.

In Chesapeake, we encountered our first lock of the trip, at MM11, at the Great Bridge. [History lesson: The Great Bridge was the site of a major battle on December 9, 1775, which resulted in the removal of the British from Virginia. Though the battles of Lexington and Concord took place months earlier, and are historically more memorable, the Battle of Great Bridge can be seen as the first strategically important colonial victory over the British, forcing the redcoats withdraw to Norfolk.]

A lock, for those of who who don’t know marine navigation, is a device used to raise and lower ships between stretches of water that are dammed at different levels on river or canal waterways. It consists of a chamber enclosed by gates on either side, which the boat enters, tying up to its wall. The gates are sealed behind, the water level is raised or lowered in the chamber, and the gates open ahead, allowing passage into the canal at the differing water level.

We’ll be encountering a lot of locks on our trip, especially as we go through the Okeechobee in Florida and New Orleans. Like bridges, lock openings are occasionally on demand, but generally occur at specific times, so timing the trip to make a certain opening can be frustrating, as missing your time can mean idling around for up to an hour  waiting to pass through.

In Great Bridge, specifically, the lock takes the boater 2-3 feet, from seawater to freshwater, into the part of the ICW known as the Virginia Cut. The lock times out with the opening of The Great Bridge, which is directly after the lock.

Photo Jun 19, 8 33 06 PM

Proof that my Dad and I should never be left alone without actual adult supervision.

We ate on board in Chesapeake, enjoyed a beautiful sunset, and my dad and I drank some Lagavulin and shared his last cigar, because when I’m alone with my dad I have to do everything I can to make my brother jealous. He told me he had the best Father’s Day ever because my brother wasn’t there and he could spend the whole day with just me.

The next morning, my dad waved goodbye to us from the dock as we headed back into the ICW, destined for the [now infamous] Coinjock, NC.

Of course, in true fashion, things did not go at all according to plan…

More to come.

xo