…Port Authority and a crab with breast implants?
One is a crusty bus station and the other is a BUSTY CRUST-ACEAN.
Get it? Just a little dad joke for you in honor of Father’s Day.
Anyway, we last left our heroes in Atlantic City, and, though their change of luck didn’t help at all in the casino, it did seem like things were actually looking up…
PART ONE: Training Wheels;
or, Does Anyone Have a Functioning Easy Button?
Saturday we woke up to a beautiful, calm morning and left for Cape May, NJ, dolphins surfing our wake the whole way there.
[insert laughing-so-hard-he’s-crying-cat emoji]
You didn’t think it was that easy, did you?
After several long days, all of the BS of the first week, and a lack of true way-lay days, we were tired, hung-over and more than a little burnt out.
Let me take this moment to educate those of you non-boat people who don’t know about the docking process. First, when you arrive at your destination, there are a few options. You can grab a mooring in the harbor, which is basically a huge floating anchor that you rent, you can drop your own anchor in designated spots, or you can pull up and dock. For obvious reasons, docking is much more convenient, as you can hook up to shore power [so your West Wing Netflix binge doesn’t have to end], and with three dogs, you can bring them ashore without having to launch the dinghy [ours is obviously named Loose Cannon].
At first glance, it probably seems pretty easy, right? I mean, it should just be like parking a car, and the hardest thing about parking a car is parallel parking, and I happen to be really great at that so I don’t know what you are all complaining about.
In reality, the only way docking a boat would be the same as parking a car would be if, while you were trying to park, the concrete constantly morphed and moved and the curb threatened to gauge into and destroy your Range Rover, oh and then you had to jump OUT of the car while it was still moving [sometimes like a good 4-5 feet down] and lasso a fire hydrant to pull your 2-ton vehicle in with your bare hands, trying to avoid having it pull you off of the curb and on to the street in between the car and the curb which basically at that point is as dangerous as falling into a volcano that is due to erupt.
Add tide and wind into the equation [which could either be pushing you towards the curb or away from the curb], upgrade your Rover to the super heavy-duty model [making it a mere 34 tons], and then place a whole bunch of other 34+ ton vehicles all around the empty parking space, all of which will contain people who gawk at you while you try to park, starting a sweat storm rivaling that of a whore in church.
[It’s pretty much the best entertainment of the day to watch a new transient come in to port and try to fit into a space they’ve never been into before, or pick up a mooring when it’s super windy, so long as they aren’t anywhere near your boat. Especially when it’s a shiny, brand new powerboat and it’s clear the captain did not think through his decision to buy a boat and he thought it was going to be a lot more fun and easy than this and his dogs are barking and his children are crying and it’s raining and you know his wife is going to divorce him as soon as she gets off that GODFORSAKEN PIECE OF—It’s awesome. Boat people are terrible.]
Basically, it takes practice. Lots of it.
My dad is generally the master of the docking, and he’s got it down pat [after the one time on our way up the ICW when the dockhand tied a line on too soon and the tide was ridiculous and he tried to back up without knowing that he was tied on and so the stern of our boat swung into a beautiful 100-foot yacht and its million-pound anchor ripped clear through like 4 of our stanchions, just narrowly missing fiberglass].
On this trip, A is handling most of the dockage, but my mom can do it even though she doesn’t think she can, so she practices when it’s an easy slip to get into/out of. Also, generally, we’ve been asking for face docks, which is basically an end space, so we don’t need to slip in between other boats. The technique of actually helming the boat in to dock is seriously difficult and stressful and, as A keeps saying, the whole time all she can think about is how she doesn’t want to break my parents HOUSE.
So we have our Captain: A. We have our Admiral/First Mate: my mom. So besides just being along for the ride, my titles on board are as follows, not necessarily in order of importance: Chief Stew [aka galley wench, there is some division on board regarding whether or not we like that word but whatever I’m the cook]; Chief Historian; Chief Technology Supervisor; Chief Musician and DJ; Chief Drunk; Chief Yoga Instructor; and Chief Dockhand.
As dockhand, I get the lines and fenders [cushy bumpers to protect the boat] ready for dockage, and take them all in and put them away as we leave port. I’m usually the first person off the boat when we come in, and the last one to jump back on as we leave. A lot of the marinas we’ve been to have had dockhands that will catch our lines, and whichever of my fellow lady pirates isn’t at the helm will help if and when possible.
Compared to actually helming the take-off and landing, my job sounds pretty easy, and usually it is.
However, there are some intricacies when it comes to getting off successfully, one of which is deciding, based on wind and tide and room and other factors, which lines to remove and in which order. Generally, you want the wind and tide to help you off [and on] if at all possible, so making a careful decision in this regard can help swing the boat in a particular direction, and take some of the heat off of the skipper.
Depending on the conditions, we usually tie up with four lines: one from the bow, one from the stern, and two spring lines, which run from the center of the boat, crisscrossing. Springs are used to hold the boat close in place, preventing an unceremonious slam against the dock while you’re nestled in your bunk at 2am. That’s a lousy wake-up call.
[PHEW. That was a long lesson. There will be a multiple-choice test following this entry.]
Back to Saturday morning. Atlantic City. Tired. Hung-over. Brains not really functioning at full capacity.
The water was flat calm, there was virtually no wind, and we were on the end of a dock that was empty besides us. Piece. Of. Cake.
My mom takes the helm, because, duh it’s going to be so easy.
Then, we notice that there seems to be some sort of kayak race coming through the harbor, the course of which was directly perpendicular to ours. So, engines running and lines nearly prepped to go, we decide to wait it out. 5, 10, 15 minutes go by, and it seems like they’re done. So, the engines go back on, the lines get re-prepped and—wait a second—it looks like they’re sending out another wave. Another 5, 10, 15 minutes go by, I’m now standing on the dock and my mom is at the helm, and we decide to make a break for it.
I release the bow and stern lines. We have decided to use the spring to swing the bow out to port. Sometimes, it’s beneficial to release that last spring line from on board, so you rig the lines up so that both ends are secured to the boat and there’s just one loop on the cleat on shore, and, when ready, you just swing it off and be on your merry way.
I’d done this just a few days before with no problems. Only thing was, the last time, A had prepped the lines for me. This time, I was supposed to do it. Oops.
As we are above to move away from the dock, A looks at me, incredulously, and tells me to get on the boat… DUH. I forgot I was doing the spring from the boat this time. Holding the end of the line in my hand, I run back to the stern and attempt to get into the boat from the swim platform. Except it’s locked.
Now, with the very, very end of the line in my hand, by body stretched out to capacity, I start shouting for someone to come and unlock the swim platform! They don’t hear me. UNLOCK THE SWIM PLATFORM. A finally hears me and lets me in. I climb the side rail and crawl over to the starboard side.
The bow swings out, but the spring is still wrapped around [but not secured to] the cleat on shore. I manage to swing it around a couple of times so that there is just one wrap on it, hanging off the side rail of the boat like a true pirate, end of the line in hand.
End of the line in hand.
The end of the line is not supposed to be in my hand, it’s supposed to be attached to the boat. This is the communication that followed:
A: Lyss, attach the spring! Attach the spring!
Me: Attach it to what? Wait—what? Where is it supposed to be?
A: Attach it to the boat! Cleat it off!
Me: [scrambling to get to a cleat.]
My Brain: ::whhrrrrrrrrrn:: [powering down, lights flicker, goes dark. back-up generator powers up, running on fumes]
Me: [looking up to A] I don’t understand.
A: Lyss! To the—
Mom: I can’t move! I can’t move! I don’t know what to do!
A: The spring is still attached, just hang on a second! Back it up! No—not forward!
Mom: I think they’re coming out again! More kayakers!
A: What? We have to keep going!
Me: WHERE DO I PUT THE SPRING?!
Mom: I think I want to stop—let’s pull back—A, come take the helm I’m going to go throw up–
A: No! — LYSS ATTACH THE SPRING to the boat!
Mom: Nevermind, they aren’t coming out —I CAN’T MOVE! I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO!!!! I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO!!
A: THE SPRING IS STILL ATTACHED TO THE DOCK!
My Arms: [being yanked from their sockets as I try to pull 34 tons with my bare hands]
My Brain: ::vrrooooommmm:: [powers back up]
Me: [secures the end of the line to the cleat directly in front of MY FACE]
[bow of the boat swings back out to port, my mom puts it into gear]
Me: [swings the spring off super easily JUST LIKE IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE TO START WITH]
Lady Pirates: [deafening silence]
After I finish clearing the deck of the lines and fenders, I go up to the fly bridge where A and my mom are navigating out of the harbor. We laugh for approximately 15 minutes straight [a liiiiiittle bit of pee comes out], and thank GOD it was 7am on an empty dock because YOU KNOW if anyone was watching they would have had quite the show.
PART TWO: Over-Lubrication;
or I’m An Idiot
After an 11-hour trek from Atlantic City, we arrive in beautiful Cape May, where dolphins really did greet us on our way into the harbor.
From Cape May, you enter into Delaware Bay, cross the Chesapeake-Delaware (C&D) canal, and enter into Chesapeake Bay. Delaware Bay can be quite a bitch when the weather is rough, and, with high wind and seas in the forecast, and, since we all very clearly needed a break, we settled down for a much needed two way-lay days until the weather chilled the eff out.
Sunday was a brisk 98 degrees, so we spent the day relaxing [read: drinking vodka] by the marina’s beautiful pool. Monday was windy and cooler, and we took the opportunity to explore the adorable little town of Cape May, and bring the dogs with us for a stroll along the waterfront. It actually was starting to feel like a vacation.
Tuesday, we made the run up the Delaware and into the canal, stopping in Chesapeake City for the night. We stayed at a marina with dockside dining and a huge bar, but since we don’t partake in those types of activities we just stayed in and went to bed early.
JK OBV. We ate at the restaurant, which was unfortunately not ready for the season and super under-staffed. In solidarity, I gave the poor bartender many looks of “it’s ok! you’re really busy!” and knowing smiles, plus a solid tip [AKA MORE THAN 20% 20% IS THE MINIMUM, PEOPLE.].
The bar being super full, vodka being super drank, and with the boat pulled up right next to the bar, I decided after dinner that I was going to make my first attempt at fulfilling my goal of meeting the locals. My crewmates, shaking their heads, reluctantly left me at the bar.
GUYS ARE SO PREDICTABLE.
Within three minutes, a man pulls up a stool next to me, “Is this seat taken?”
My first instinct is of course to roll my eyes and say something snarky, but I remind myself of my intentions, and invite him to sit down with me.
He is late 50s, a dead ringer for Morgan Freeman’s younger brother, with a kind smile and a definite “local” vibe. BINGO BANGO.
After chatting for a bit, I made it abundantly clear in probably a vodka-inspired, super obnoxious and egotistical manner that I was not going to sleep with him but that I would still love talk with him for a bit, but AGAIN, if you’re here to pick someone up, like, it’s not me sorry.
[VIMH©: You are seriously an asshole. Not everyone at a bar wants to sleep with you.]
I tell him about my trip, about my blog [and I actually ask permission to write about him] and we talk about his life. He lives in a house right behind the marina, which is his late mother’s house. She passed away last November after a battle with dementia, and he, the youngest of 5 siblings, had moved in with her to care for her until she passed. Apparently, his oldest sister was given control of all of his mother’s assets, except for the house, and she was abusing her power to the point of some serious family drama.
He tells me that the waterfront land we are sitting on used to be sports fields for the neighborhood, and about how when the city sold the land YEARS AGO, they did so with promise of building new fields, which of course has yet to happen.
We talked for almost 2 hours before we parted and so I should have a really, really super juicy story except that the details are a little fuzzy.
Oops. I let you down, guys. I OVER-social-lubricated. Too much vodka. I remember being so totally interested in everything he was saying though. So, there’s that.
He also left me a nice note in the cockpit of the boat that I woke up to which was pretty creepy but also nice. My mom was concerned.
You guys. I’ll do better next time.
Anyway, thanks for the chat, Dale.
PART THREE: When in Rome;
The next day started with a gorgeous run along the canal with Copernicus and A and Galen [only not really because A is an actual, real runner and I’m pretty sure she runs like 50mph cause all I saw was her dust]. The sun rose, the dog lived his best life, and OH ALSO ALMOST GOT EATEN BY AN EFFING EAGLE.
I DIDN’T KNOW EAGLES LIVED PLACES, GUYS.
This dude was definitely stalking my dog, and he totally could have picked him up—he swooped maybe 6 feet in front of us so I could very clearly see that he had a wingspan as wide as mine and I was thinking I was going to have to fight an eagle, guys. And I really don’t know how to fight an eagle—besides to IDK like insult his mother?—and so I just started shouting at it and it flew away. AKA I did fight an eagle and I won.
We were heading to a cute little place called St. Michael’s, and, although we topped off at like 5 knots thanks to the tide, we enjoyed an otherwise pleasant ride into Chesapeake Bay.
Then, we remembered who we were and discovered an oil leak from our starboard engine.
We monitored the leak on the way in, and tried frantically to find a mechanic when we got to the dock. OF COURSE it was 530 when we got into this tiny little town and so OF COURSE their only mechanic was probably already drunk by then.
To get our minds off of things, and, much to my mom’s dismay, accepting that we would likely not hear from anyone until the morning, we went to a restaurant in the harbor because we were DETERMINED to get some good crabs, Maryland style.
The first restaurant I worked at in NYC was called Ditch Plains, named after a surfing beach in Montauk, one of the favorite spots of the celebrity chef and our owner, Marc Murphy [super nice dude]. We used to do these crab boils in the summer. All you could eat Maryland Blue Crabs, hush puppies and corn and probably some other stuff.
PEOPLE LOVED IT.
WE HATED IT.
[Omg it was just so gross. We laid out newspaper on the tables and people just like legit threw their crab guts everywhere and then we had to clean it up.]
HOWEVER. This time, I was on the other side of the table, I was in Rome, and goddammit I was going to act like a Roman. And plus, our chef at Ditch had showed us how to properly eat these things so I was totally going to nail it.
We sat outside on the deck, ordered a dozen medium-sized crabs, some hush puppies OBV and—oh what’s this? Oh it says the local favorite is the pickles and cheese! Well, I like pickles and I like cheese and it says it’s a local favorite so let’s do that too!
A plate of straight-up dill pickles and Velveeta cubes are dropped on our table.
Our adorable waitress sets our table with wooden mallets and paper placemats that have DIRECTIONS on them for eating the crabs.
I started to get a little nervous. Directions? That’s some serious shit.
The crabs come to the table and look seriously amazing and so I take my first one and follow the directions. My mom was a little hesitant. She’d never seen this before plus they didn’t bring us bibs like we expected and, you know, she needed to watch me first since I was the expert.
I take off the apron as instructed, crack off the top shell and then—intestines. Like straight-up, curly-cued, Walking Dead-style mother effing intestines are the first things to fall onto my placemat. My mother’s eyes widened with horror as I quickly flipped it back over and attempted to hide it in the middle of the table. I ate the claws and then decided to start again.
Now—let me just say. A is a shellfish eating champion. She always has been. As a kid, we would all vacation together on our boats and we’d get lobsters and man she really knows how to eat that entire thing whereas I’m like a simple claws-and-tail kinda girl, as is my mom. Neither of us ever really ventures into the nether-regions, really just wanting to ignore the fact that there are other things in there besides glorious, delicious lobster meat.
So. A is going to town, doing everything right and really making the most out of those crabs. My mom is trying. Like she’s really trying really hard to be a Roman soldier, guys, and be a good sport and be like the Romans but she is really not succeeding. I am doing my best as well, but now I’m just “developing my own technique” for eating these crabs, because I’m really petrified to see any more intestines.
My “technique” consists of eating the claws, and then jamming my knife into the top shell, trying to find the meat like a complete barbarian, really probably only getting to approximately 60% of it. [BTW, what I DID actually eat was totally delicious.]
Then, there were the flies. I mean, we’re outside, duh, there are going to be flies. But I am talking FLIES. Like LORD OF THE FLIES. As our rapidly growing pile of shells overflows the bucket provided, the flies come and do whatever the hell it’s rumored that they do, landing over and over and seemingly calling more friends to terrorize us the more we swatted at them.
A doesn’t care about flies. She’s totally chill with the flies. She’s just into that delicious crab. We are not chill with the flies. My mom is ESPECIALLY NOT CHILL WITH THE FLIES. She will not be Netflix and chilling with any mother-effing flies not no way not no how.
She excuses herself from the table no less than 4x, then secretly pays the tab and stands next to the table at a safe distance while we laugh at her and A finishes the last two crabs.
Solid effort, lady pirates.
PART FOUR: Meanwhile, in the Engine Room;
or, IT’S THE PERFECT TIME TO PANIC
Actual percentage of crabs eaten notwithstanding, our little excursion provided a good distraction from the problem at hand: the oil leak.
We secured our slip at St. Michael’s for Wednesday and Thursday nights, but they weren’t able to give us a slip for Friday night and so we’d have to leave Friday. Two problems: oil leak. And weather. The weather on Friday was supposed to be atrocious, huge thunderstorms and a small craft warning.
If we couldn’t get the apparently ONE mechanic in town to fix it on Thursday, we were pretty much screwed. The nearest port with any hope of getting a mechanic was 6 hours away.
We took the gamble and set out Thursday for Solomons Island, under crappy, rainy skies. We did engine checks every 15 minutes to make sure that the leak at least wasn’t getting any worse and the drip was still at the same speed.
Finally arriving at Solomons Island, although there are many, many boat yards and mechanics, we are unable to find anyone to fix the leak. One guy told my mom it would be “a couple of weeks” before he could get to it. A COUPLE OF WEEKS.
Commence more panic.
Commence me calling my dad and suggesting he come visit for Father’s Day.
It calms the situation at least a bit to know my dad is coming and, worse comes to worst, he can probably fix it himself. As a last ditch effort, following up on a local lead, my mom had made a call to a guy who is a mechanic “on the side.” We buttoned up the boat and prepared for the storm about to hit, praying for a miracle.
The storm passes overnight, bringing along quite the thunder and lightning show. When we wake up on Friday, it is rainy and gloomy much like our hearts when we think about the prospect of staying on Solomons Island for any longer than two nights.
Then, we get our miracle. Our “on the side” mechanic gets back to us and is at the boat within an hour, has it fixed in another hour and is gone as quickly as he came, leaving my mother giddy with glee. No more than another hour after he left, the sun came out, the afternoon was beautiful, and my dad arrived for the weekend.
Commence drinking and debauchery and poor ukulele playing. Today, we cross over into Virginia. Goodbye, Merry-Land.
Happy Father’s Day, all.