Now sit right back and I’ll tell the tale, the tale of a fateful trip that started out for Texas-but-basically-could-never-get-out-of-the-Northeast-and-so-my-dad-took-his-old-job-back and we abandoned ship. Yes, we abandoned ship. [I trust you know the melody and you can just fill in the phrase with extra words a la Daveed Diggs in Guns and Ships.]
Dramatic? Maybe. But then again I’ve never been known for my subtlety.
Ok, so we didn’t abandon ship. And my dad didn’t get his old job back and move back to RI. But, if you got a kick out of our first doomed three-hour tour of the biggest little state in the union [terminating in a “failure to launch” party in Newport], the roller-coaster that has followed will just tickle you pink and purple. As our captain, A’s father put it, so far this trip has been like walking on glass: slow and painful.
This one’s a little long guys. Take it in parts if it’s too much to handle, I think we can all agree that this week has been A LOT.
The 9 Hour Tour Completed in Only 3 Days;
or, Little Victories
After one and a half way-lay days in the beautiful city of Newport, lots of drinking, laughs and shopping, we set out under much clearer skies for our original day one destination, Old Saybrook, CT, which lies about halfway between Newport and New York, on the northern shore of Long Island Sound.
We expected some wind and the forecasted 1-2 foot swells, but you can’t expect flat calm seas all the time, and the skies and bright sunshine promised a fun cruise out into Rhode Island Sound, finally leaving the state two days after the originally anticipated date. I mean, we aren’t in a rush—so what’s an extra day or two?!
Exiting Newport into Block Island Sound, we find ourselves amidst 4-6 foot swells. Now, Black Powder is not small by any means. At 53 feet, she is an old beauty, a 1976 Hatteras, well cared for and full of charm and character. However, in a boat that draws only 5.5 feet [the draw refers to the below-water depth of the boat], a 6-foot swell feels a lot like you are about to capsize over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and shit shit shit shit shit shit for only about 6 hours NBD.
As a point of reference, while I am lucky enough to not suffer from seasickness, the last time I felt as if death were a better option than the constant rolling from side to side, was when we brought Black Powder up from FL and encountered 8 foot swells in Long Island Sound. No bueno.
As the wind picked up to 20 knots and the tide shifted against our favor [obviously], we rushed to secure the cabin while attempting to stay in a relatively upright position.
Now, Copernicus has been on the boat before, for a vacation or two, but is not a frequent flyer like Galen and Herry are. [If you haven’t read up on our canine counterparts and are interested, click here.] I knew it would take some time for him to get his sea legs. What I didn’t know was that the first actual, full day of this trip was going to be equivalent to putting him in a large hamster wheel and rolling him over Niagara Falls.
Violently shaking and panting, he broke my heart as I tried unsuccessfully to make him feel better for the first couple of hours, alternating between bringing him up on the flybridge with all of us, to sitting down below in the front wheel house with him next to me. Unable to make him feel any more comfortable, I allowed him to hole himself up in a comfy, safe spot in one of the cabins [read: my mom’s bed.] and checked on him periodically.
When the swells were at their worst, I was nervous about him being down below alone, and went down to fetch him, only to find him on the carpet finishing his second enormous pile of vomit. When he saw me, he looked at me, and immediately lifted his leg and started peeing. I grabbed him and brought him up to the flybridge, then went back down to clean up the mess.
Ok. So first, off, NO ONE likes throw-up. Of course not. But I am one of the unlucky few in this world who’s reaction to seeing, smelling, thinking about vomit is so ridiculous that it threatens making an even bigger mess after my contribution.
My mom recalls when I was a kid and would be sick I would scream and kick and cry dramatically, all the while yelling, “WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME?! [I may or may not still do this.] Because of this, when the dogs are sick, my husband usually just avoids the inevitable drama and takes the reins on the cleanup.
But, here I am. An adult. A grown-ass woman, in fact. Husbandless. And now, two rapidly seeping piles of half-digested dog food are setting up shop on one of two carpets on this entire boat. [I mean everywhere else is hardwood. WHY DOG WHY THERE.]
I gather my supplies: an entire roll of paper towels [which will be used to cover the entire thing until I can be sure none of it will touch me or I will see any of it at close range], two plastic bags [just in case one bag happens to get some on the outside], and carpet cleaner. I take a deep breath, remind myself, ‘mind over matter,’ and ‘you are a grown-ass-woman,’ and climb down the stairs to the cabin.
As I enter the room, the boat is hit with a huge swell and I am unprepared. My forward motion propels me to the floor, and I land with my hands on either side of one of the piles, my nose inches away. Not a great way to start.
After several minutes and several VERY CLOSE ENCOUNTERS with my own stomach contents, I managed to clean up, and left the room, gasping for air, tears streaming down my face. I’d done it. I’d proven to myself that I was an adult.
I return to the flybridge, a little shaken but overall pretty proud, only to find that Copernicus has thrown up again, this time all over Herry’s bed, which he was occupying at the time. My mom, being a saint and quite possibly thinking that I would actually just pass out, helped me out with this one.
Copernicus wouldn’t be alone in his illness. My godmother, who had been planning on accompanying us for a couple days through New York—you know, until we got there on Monday–[LOLOLOLOLOL] also didn’t take well to the swells. Many a decent breakfast were lost to the sea that day.
We came out of Block Island Sound and luckily had a pleasant cruise to Old Saybrook from there.
Long Island Sound forced us into a boxing match with a facing wind and severe chop [when the tide & wind send the sea toward the boat, creating a rocking motion and, depending on the size of the swell, a violent crash of the bow after each]. Finally arriving in Old Saybrook, the protected harbor provided us with warmth and calm relaxation on a truly beautiful afternoon.
Copernicus, however, was not so much into the relaxation part. Following his harrowing day at sea, he decided to make a break for it, and somehow Houdini-ed himself off the boat [would have been almost a 4 foot jump], up the dock, UNDER THE LOCKED GATE, and before we knew it, he was sitting and looking at us on the boat from an elevated plaza on land adjacent to our slip.
Thoroughly annoyed and tired, but also sympathetic, I took him for a long walk and returned to the boat. I stood unlocking the swim platform to get back on board [the proper way, as opposed to jumping 4-ft like a ninja dog], and, while I fought with the lock, he decided it was a good time to use the length of his retractable leash to explore the dock, happily humming the theme song to Davey Crocket and entangling himself all the way around various obstacles.
Finally unlocking the platform door, I hear ‘plop’ from behind me and look to see that Copernicus has now fallen IN the water. He splashes anxiously at the side of the dock as I make my way to him, untangling the leash as I go—around a water spigot, a power station, a pylon, and two cleats before finally reaching him and pulling him out of the water.
I couldn’t even be mad. I mean, the poor dog was having a much worse day than I was.
Alas, there are very few things that can’t be solved by wine. One of my mom’s sisters and her husband were gracious enough to bring us dinner, and we ate hungrily.
While we were finishing up, a small group of older men & women started conjugating in Copernicus Plaza with yoga mats. Good and liquored up, I decided NOW WAS THE TIME. I drag my aunt with me and I grab my mat and blocks as I yell “I’m coming over!!”
I don’t think I held a single pose without falling but the day was over, I was happy, drunk and yogied. Plus, we were finally out of Rhode Island.
Call me Ishmael;
or, How a Fish Almost Killed My Dog
On Tuesday, we woke early to head to Oyster Bay, which is near the end of Long Island Sound, on the Southern Coast. We had a beautiful, easy, quick ride down aannnnddddddddd I CAUGHT A FISH.
I have never caught a fish, guys. I’ve never even really fished for more than 5 minutes before getting bored. And I mean. This was not a little fish, GUYS. A 22-inch Bluefish [I’m sorry but have you seen the teeth on those suckers!?].
I stood in the cockpit of the boat [at the stern] and screamed wildly while it bucked and fought against me and called for help because— WHAT THE EFF DO YOU DO WITH IT NOW?!?!?!
I had thought about the act of fishing and the act of eating fish, but never considered part B. Finally, my crewmates heard my shrieking and A came down, took the net [like you’re supposed to do apparently if you aren’t an idiot] and scooped him up. I screamed as it flopped and almost touched me—because—idiot.
I’ll save you the gory details but I cried and looked away and A and I both said, “I’m sorry, Fish, but you’ll be delicious.”
And Fish was indeed delicious.
BUT. Before Fish could be delicious, we needed to get in to cook Fish. Naturally, our otherwise perfect day was of course marred by sudden strong winds and tide as we came into port, which made for a very difficult docking. But, like the bad ass lady pirates we are, we did so expertly [aka I fell on the deck while running to fix a fender and scraped up my entire leg cause the dumb dockhands on shore were worthless and did nothing like stupid boys] and I got to fulfilling my duties as galley wench [galley: kitchen] and prepped Fish.
We are going to eat like the queens we are, I thought to myself as I donned my apron. I imagined the tears in the eyes of my crew-mates, as they graciously accepted my humble offering, confessing that they had never had such a meal of such grace and beauty. Happily humming Colors of the Wind I thought about how in sync I was with the Earth and–
My fantasy was interrupted by the horrified screams of my mother and I sprung from my work-station to see what was the matter. I arrived at the stern [back of the boat] just in time to see A bent over the dock, grabbing at something in the rapidly moving water. A brief moment of panic overwhelmed me as I watched her pull Copernicus from under the swim platform, just seconds before the tide would have taken him out to sea.
Apparently, in the 4 seconds he was out of my sight and I was in my daydream, ninja dog decided to attempt a circus-style feat: a horizontal leap over the 3-foot gap from the swim platform to the dock and didn’t quite make it. Two near-death experiences for this animal in two days. My husband threatened divorce if I killed his favorite dog and so now Copernicus remains life-jacketed and safety-tethered at all times. Oops.
The City That Sleeps Occasionally;
or, Making it Through the 18th Circle of Hell [Gate]
Wednesday, we “slept in” [until about 0800]. We didn’t have to leave until 10AM [so luxurious]. Our destination was Sandy Hook, NJ, a trip that would take us through Hell Gate in NYC. We were leaving late to time the tide just right, as Hell Gate, aptly named, presents a unique set of challenges for those passing through the East River of NYC. Tides can run as fast as 4 knots—which is not something you want to be battling in a boat that averages about 8. It would be a long day, but then we would have one full way-lay day in Sandy Hook to prepare for the trip down the New Jersey coast. Sweet.
NOT. Huge thunderstorms had us scrambling for Manhasset Bay, Long Island, a mere 2 hours away from our previous port. We took this opportunity to remove all of the furniture from the saloon, lay out our yoga mats, and attempt to make it through an hour-long class on a boat rocking from the storm [not our best idea, but certainly added an additional challenge]. The next morning we would be leaving at 0500 to once again attempt a run through NYC.
Acknowledging the significance of this particular leg, the timing of which comes after an uncomfortable climb up the lift hill of this rickety Coney Island-style carnival ride, I can’t help but recognize how it has paralleled the ups and downs and starts and stops of my own personal start to life.
After all, this city holds a special place in my heart. It represents a chapter in my life which was arrived at after many a rough sea, high wind, and bitchy tide. After attending school for acting, because patience is a virtue I do not possess, I proposed to my high school sweetheart in my Jeep within 3 months of graduation [The actual phrase I used was, “So, are we gonna do this thing or what?” Hopeless romantic that I am]. We married two months after my would-have-been father-in-law passed away suddenly of a brain aneurysm.
Though our plans had been to move to the city, dragging our tin cans behind our bicycle built for two, and start our intended careers, life [like that bitchy Mother Nature] often has other plans. We remained in our home state, and attempted to cope with the tragedy, remaining near to my mother-in-law for support.
Fast-forward three years and find me on the proverbial ledge of the roof of the bank I was working at, after I used my shiny Theatre Arts degree to climb the ranks from teller to Commercial Lending Officer. I managed a $40 million business loan portfolio, had to ability to make a $22 million dollar loan to credit-worthy applicants, and told myself the competition with my MBA-touting colleagues, the house we had bought and the life we had made were enough.
One mental breakdown and a diagnosis of bipolar disorder later, my husband heroically allowed me to quit my job and supported me as I pursued the career I had convinced myself I was content without.
After several years of relative success and a move to the big city, that pesky mental illness of mine reared it’s ugly head in the spring of last year, and forced me to reevaluate the effectiveness of my treatment and set out on a months-long journey towards wellness. Once again, I had found myself struggling to maintain my identity while chasing a career that was becoming more of a distraction than an active pursuit. The discovery of a great doctor and the [once again] support of my superhero of a husband pushed me closer to my goal, although my career was collateral damage.
The hidden blessing was that when my mother-in-law was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma last fall, with no real ties to the city besides my serving job, it made sense for me to take the reins, traveling back and forth from NY to Boston to bring her for treatment. Although it meant a longer break than initially intended, the timing felt serendipitous. Now that she has achieved remission [like a rockstar, I might add], I reflect on all I’ve learned about myself in the last year, and I look forward to returning to NYC with a clean slate and a fresh sense of purpose.Approaching my little city from the water truly grants the traveler a healthy dose of perspective. It’s a thing of beauty to watch in awe as the skyline grows in front of your eyes. The sun rises, the city wakes, and, upon approach, morphs into what is one of the greatest examples of man’s ingenuity, industriousness and grace [IMHO].
I reflected on the fact that 8.5 million people resided in what, just two hours prior, appeared on the horizon to be a tiny miniature on the shelf of a some great god. This city is filled with my friends and family who were now just waking, working, sleeping, crying, laughing, reading, playing, creating, running, praying, singing. The combined years of life and experience contained by the island’s surrounding waters brings into perspective every seemingly large obstacle in my life. Up close, they feel impossible to conquer, but on the horizon they are a tiny speck, easily leapt in a single bound.
A strong facing wind had us bundled up while runners along the East River were sweating in shorts and tank tops. But despite the weather, our sail through New York was as miraculous as could be, as we traveled under the 9 bridges that line the Eastern shore, and passed by the iconic architecture that brings people from far and wide to explore the first capital of the United States. Coming out into the Atlantic, we saluted Lady Liberty, and I waved goodbye for now to what has been my home, my love, my stage, my obstacle and my refuge for the past two and a half years.
[I played around with the live feature on Facebook during our trek through the city and it was a lot of fun! Visit my page to see for yourself.]
I Take Back Everything Good I’ve Ever Said About New Jersey [and that is zero things];
or, Stop the Ride I Wanna Get Off
With a full heart and a sense of excitement for finally making it out of my backyard [only a week later– probably could have walked faster], I smiled and watched the horizon fade and turned away, calm and content and then OMFG HI 35 KNOT WINDS AND SWELLS OFF OUR STARBOARD [right] AT AN ANGLE THAT ONCE AGAIN MADE MY DOG THROW UP AND ME SERIOUSLY RECONSIDER MY LIFE CHOICES.
We fought against the wind and tide in what was, by far, the worst weather of the trip [which is saying a lot], freezing cold and wind chapped, anxiously scanning the horizon ahead for the refuge we raced towards on the other side of Sandy Hook Sound.
Finally arriving at our destination, we discover that the slip the marina has provided us with was near impossible to get into, against the wind and rapidly ebbing tide. We circled the harbor as they tried to find us a more suitable slip, and, when they were unable to, we reluctantly LEFT the semi-protected harbor, back into the fray and headed for another marina.
My mom called ahead to secure a slip and, when she told the woman on the other end the size of our boat she said, surprised, “You know what marina this is, right?” Should have been our first clue. Second clue was when my mom asked what radio station the marina monitors and she responded, flabbergasted, “We don’t monitor a radio station!”
We arrived at what we would lovingly refer to as “The Coinjock of the North” [you may remember the description of the backwoods North Carolina port from our last journey] and surveyed the damage to the cabin. Furniture and effects had been strewn about, knocked over and shattered. The three of us, exhausted, slumped together on the couch, which had been displaced to the center of the cabin, beers in hand, in silence.
Our next destination was Atlantic City, NJ, which was about a 70-mile trek down the Atlantic coast. With the weather as it was, we went to sleep unsure of whether or not we would be able to make the trip the next day. However, it would be our only chance, as a strong tropical storm in the South would be sending MORE weather up North, making the trip impossible until at least after the weekend. Nobody wants to stay in Coinjock for that long. Rumor has it, your teeth start falling out after one day and after two you have a sudden strong impulse to marry your sibling.
Luckily, we awoke and found our weather window, and enjoyed a refreshingly pleasant, calm, sunny and warm 10-hour cruise down the coast and arrived in Jersey’s city of sin.
Thoroughly spent, but determined to actually enjoy a full day, we showered, put on real clothes, and dragged ourselves out to lose some money at the Black Jack tables, eat nachos, and sip vodka-based cocktails that we had to order since they were named, “Texas Sippers.”
Onward, lady pirates. That was one hell of a week.