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

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My new besties.

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]

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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

What’s the difference between…

…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…

image

Out on the town in Atlantic City

 

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

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Sunrise over Cape May

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.

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The Nut House. Cape May waterfront.

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;
or Crab-Walkers

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.

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Copernicus watching the sunrise on our run along the C&D canal.

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.

Commence panic.

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.

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No false advertising, here.

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.

Commence laughter.

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.

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Directions necessary.

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.

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Crabs pre-flies.

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.

xo

 

ROLL [OVER] CALL

I think I’ve mentioned in passing that the three of us lady pirates are accompanied by some equally as salty, trusty, canine counterparts. For those of you who are interested, I wanted to take this opportunity to stray from the usual narrative of the trip and introduce them to you. [Cat people need not read on. dogsrulecatsdroolkthxbye]


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Galen
[The Lover]

5-year old Beagle/ Golden Retriever mix

Likes: LOVE. Running. Making funny faces. LOVE. Being pet and touched LOVED and licking your legs. Did I mention she’s a lover?

Dislikes: When A leaves the room. A leaving the room. Anytime A is not directly next to her.

Fun facts: Galen is our resident southern belle. Originally from Georgia, Galen was adopted by A from a trainer and so she has great manners. She was adopted only a few short months before we delivered Black Powder up from FL, and her first boat trip was when she accompanied us on the final leg of that trip from Atlantic City. She got seasick within 15 minutes and I can’t blame her. She hasn’t been seasick since.

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Herreshoff aka Herry
[The Protector]

6-year old Dachshund

Likes: My mom. Treats. Whining. Barking at people who walk by. Barking at people who drive by. Barking at dogs and birds and sounds and wind. Barking at literally everything. Whining. Getting his way. Sleeping in the sun with his face on the ground with his little ears all over the place and his adorable chubby paws framing his face. Table food. Begging for table food. Getting table food.

Dislikes: His bark collar. Cats. Rats. Children. When my mom leaves the room. My mom leaving the room. Anytime my mom is not directly next to him.

Fun facts: My mom adopted Herry as a puppy from a family who had lost the little girl they bought him for. At the time, they had just purchased RBG Cannons, the signature model of which was the Herreshoff. Aptly named. Spoiled little brat but god is he cute and god does he love my mom.

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Copernicus
[The Wildcard]

6-year old Mini Schnauzer/Poodle mix

Likes: Adventure. Exploration. Knowing everything there is to know about a particular room. Securing said room. Hunting flies. Belly rubs. Inexplicably scaling 3-ft stone walls, opening doors, and opening the car window to stick his head out. Intimidating new people. Intimidating new dogs. Bullying his brother. Biting the heels of new people and the hands of new people who think he’s cute and want to pet him. Teaching people a lesson about how cute he is. Generally just being a dick.

Dislikes: New people. New dogs. Being told ‘no.’ When we leave the room. Us leaving the room. Anytime we are not directly next to him. [Sensing a pattern?]

Fun facts: We adopted Copernicus from Louisiana a year after we adopted our other dog, Einstein. I had always had two dogs and wanted Einstein to have company. Plus you can’t have an Einstein without a Copernicus duh. [Yes they are named after Doc’s dogs in Back to the Future and yes when my husband met Bob Gale he showed him a picture of them and told them their names and that man threw his head back and belly laughed and has never been happier than in that exact moment.]

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Copernicus was born into a household with an animal hoarder who had 40+ other dogs in the house when she was finally found out. He was 6 months old and was one of only 10 dogs that could be saved and adopted. [Sadface]

While our intentions were good, we really bit off a lot more than we could chew with this pup. When he came to us as a puppy, Einstein wanted NONE of it and was immediately over him and super pissed at us for even THINKING he would stand for sharing our attention.

This was really surprising to us. Einstein and Herry were adopted around the same time, and they got along very well. Einstein was also regularly socialized at daycare, and only had problems with dogs larger than him, which we originally thought was because a Rottweiler attacked him while he was in shelter. [Now, we actually believe that it is more likely he started it. He likes to talk a big talk and snarl at other dogs, and then whines and cries when they return the favor.]

Einstein’s aggression definitely compounded the problems that already accompanied Copernicus up north: namely, his possessiveness of toys, his need to hole himself up in small places, and, even as a puppy, his need to assert his dominance in constant school yard scuffles. [He was put into time-out very frequently at daycare.]

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Caught them loving each other once.

We assumed that they would work it out as dogs do, and they would adjust to living together and would be best of friends and snuggle all the time and then when one of them was on their death bed the other one would climb in with him and they would pass away quietly in the night like in The Notebook.

Wrong. They got to a point where they were comfortable ignoring each other, which, we learned, was the best it was going to get. They continued to have the occasional scuffle, and, while we originally blamed it all on Copernicus, we soon learned that Einstein was actually just super sneaky and very dramatic. He quietly snarls at Copernicus and then screams BLOODY MURDER if Copernicus comes anywhere near him. We’ve got his ticket now.

Anyway, as Copernicus got older we noticed he was becoming increasingly aggressive to other people in our house. It started when he was crate training and we discovered that he likes to have a safe, enclosed place to go to when he gets nervous. This was all well and good until someone walked by his crate and he promptly snarled and jumped in their direction, immediately assuming the likeness of a hosed-down Gremlin.

There were several instances where someone made him anxious reaching for him or just walking by him and he bit them. Blood was drawn. It got worse and worse. We would constantly find excuses for why it was happening—someone was near his bone, someone reached too quickly, surprised him, he was possessive of his space, etc, etc.

One day, my husband was lying with him on the bed when he decided he was grumpy and suddenly turned around, biting him on the bridge of his nose, narrowly missing both of his eyes. Up until then, my husband and I had not had any serious instances of him biting us that we hadn’t passed off as puppy nibbling, and he had never drawn blood from us.

We decided to bring in an expert, who recommended clicker-training. He also pointed out that Einstein seemed to be the instigator, which is when we started to realize he wasn’t the little angel he pretended to be. We discovered that while Einstein is the epitome of the old dog who can’t learn new tricks [or at least doesn’t want to], Copernicus responds very well to positive reinforcement and, through that, we were able to regain his trust and start to trust him ourselves. We learned to read his signs of anxiety and to know when to tell him to go to his spot to calm down.

We learned that perhaps the largest part of keeping him happy and others safe is to educate those who come into contact with him. He is really annoyingly adorable and people, understandably, just want to squash his little face. All he wants to do is SQUASH THEM RIGHT BACK AND EAT THEIR FINGERS FOR BREAKFAST. NOMNOMNOM

We learned that this dog will most likely never be completely broken of his tendencies, and the most we can do is keep him obedient to us, and react appropriately to his behaviors.

It’s funny. I remember being a kid and always being told to ask someone before approaching their dog. If you didn’t, and the dog bit you, it was your fault. I once tried to take a toy away from my babysitter’s dog and it bit me. Uh, duh. These are animals. Did my parents sue her? Uh, no. THESE ARE ANIMALS.

Today, if your dog is even a little bit aggressive, well first off, you are an idiot or a terrible pet parent. I mean, all you have to do is watch The Dog Whisperer and you’ll learn everything you need to know. Everyone knows that. Second, if your dog bites them or growls at them, even if you have instructed them not to approach, they are INCENSED. If your dog growls at their dog after you’ve told them they do not interact well with other dogs, and they still allow the dog to approach, they are INCENSED.

It is amazing to me how stupid people are when it comes to this. I was walking Copernicus in the park near our apartment one day about a year ago and had this exchange with an idiot:

Idiot Lady: “OH MY GOD HE’S SO CUTEEEEEE.” [approaches Copernicus]

Me: “Yes he is but he gets nervous around new people so please don’t touch him.”

IL: “Oh that’s ok, I love dogs. Dogs love me!!!” [idiot giggle, still approaching]

Me: [Pulling Copernicus behind me] “No, I’m sorry he’s really not friendly.”

IL: [Ignoring me, approaching him, hand towards his face]

Copernicus: [snaps, growls] “Damnit, I missed!”

IL: [Pulls her hand away, looks at me like she just witnessed me slapping a baby.] “YOU NEED TO CONTROL YOUR DOG!!!!!!!!!!”

OK then who the hell is going to control YOU YOU EFFING IDIOT.

Anyone who knows us well will tell you they have seen Copernicus come leaps and strides from where he once was. He warms up to new people much more quickly, and lots of friends and family who were once afraid of him now are comfortable sitting with him and playing with him and sleeping with him when dog sitting. We have had very few recent instances of him actually biting someone, at least without their acknowledgement that we properly warned them [although his new thing is to nip at new people’s heels like he’s herding sheep].

Such are the challenges of rehabilitating a rescue pup. But this process has not been without its rewards. Once he warms up, he is incredibly sweet and gentle, and god is that dog way too smart.

My husband and I decided it was too much for him to leave both the dogs with him for so long. [I mean, he’s already the superhero behind me, the breadwinner, not to mention the cool one.] We also decided it was a bad idea to have dogs out-number people on this trip. And while Copernicus truly is bonded more to my husband than me, we decided that the best decision was for me to take him and to leave Einstein. Einstein is chill, he will sleep all day, love you when you get home and demand your constant attention. He will do what you do, he will walk if you want to, he will Netflix and chill if you want to.

Copernicus suffers from serious separation anxiety and gets too lonely without Einstein. So, I took the problem child. [My mom was THRILLED.] Hopefully, the time apart will be therapeutic for both the dogs, and they will be happy to see each other come August.

So far, he’s adjusting well. He and Herry always just ignore each other, and, despite a few scuffles in the past, I imagine that he and Galen will become good pals by the end of this trip. [Fingers, toes and paws crossed]

xo

 

 

Failure to Launch

This morning, Black Powder set sail with a little shove from some friends & family and a generous send-off. Fellow yacht club members and staff came down to the end of their docks to give us a wave and wish us well as we left the harbor the only way we know how: obnoxiously blowing off cannons at 9 AM. Rise and shine, ya filthy animals.

Sweltering and humid at the docks, the wind quickly picked up and the breeze graciously offered us a temporary reprieve. I think we’ll sweat enough as we continue to head South, thanks very much.

These waters are friendly and familiar. We sail through Narragansett Bay and under the Jamestown Bridge, and then we are following the Rhode Island coastline for what is most likely going to be Black Powder’s last time. [You never know–my parents change their minds a lot.] We blow off the horn as we pass friends’ houses on the shore, and shoot cannons like the bunch of salty lady pirates we are.

We had planned to go off-shore overnight for the first portion of our trip, after a brief stop in Montauk, heading into the Atlantic and running for Cape May. But Rhode Island just can’t quit us, and, like the jealous ex she is, she will be slamming us with two days of wind and high seas, which would make that 36-hour leg just slightly less than fun and slightly more like a ride on a bucking bronco on top of an inflatable pool float blindfolded while my mom and I scream at each other, the dogs pee, poop and throw up everywhere, and no one sleeps for two days. That is prime mutiny territory, folks.

So, we’ll now be heading through Block Island Sound to spend the night in Old Saybrook, CT, and will plan to make the run through Long Island Sound tomorrow and— oops scratch that—

IMG_9358

This is my office.

As I sit here in what will be my office space for the next 9 weeks, a mere two hours into our grand voyage, my mom comes down to tell me that we are changing plans. We likely wouldn’t make it all the way due to fog and weather conditions so now we’re going to batten down on Block Island for a couple days. [WHAT A BUMMER WOW OUR LIVES ARE SO HARD.]

As I write, we are passing Point Judith, RI and will make the 10-mile run to Block–wait— What’s that? Looming large and ominous in front of us, a massive fog bank moves in from the Atlantic and envelops us, reducing visibility to maybe a half mile.

Rhode Island!!! How many times do I have to tell you it’s over? Stop calling my house late at night and breathing into the phone. Stop visiting my mother just because you were “in the neighborhood.” And most importantly, above all else, STOP DRUNK TEXTING ME DICK PICS.

We do donuts in the sound, which is as close to an idle as is possible with a moving sea beneath you, and wait. We’ll see if the fog will clear and allow us to pass or if it’s back to Newport for the night—

UPDATE. Just arrived in Newport. Will be here for probably two nights. “Failure to Launch” party to commence immediately.

OMG YOU GUYS. What if Rhode Island is Wayward Pines?! OR WHAT IF RHODE ISLAND IS THE ISLAND FROM LOST!? Maybe there’s no way out. MAYBE WE’VE BEEN DEAD THE WHOLE TIME.

Speaking of failing. It’s story time.

About 6 weeks ago, in preparation for our trip and before my dad took off for Houston, I pretended to be my father’s second son and learned about the engines, generators, power system and pretty much all of the things that make Black Powder float. The engines need to be checked regularly while under-way, monitored for temperature, fluid levels, and other boring stuff you wouldn’t care about.

In the same weekend, even though it wasn’t my dad’s birthday, I went with him to the firing range. Disclaimer: my dad has guns. I grew up around guns. They have always been responsible gun owners. My dad was a captain in the army, my grandfather was a lieutenant in the Providence Police Department and my aunt just retired from the same. My dad inherited my grandfather’s gun collection when he passed away, and because my Papa was one BAMF, this collection includes an EFFING LUGER HE STOLE OFF A NAZI IN THE WAR.

Since the guns will be on board with us, and since we’ll need to protect ourselves against pirates just like Captain Phillips, I wanted to make sure I knew how to load & fire the guns on board. Let me just start. By saying. You do not want to come at me with a Glock in my hands. Just don’t do it. You are not the captain now, LOOK AT ME—I AM THE CAPTAIN NOW.

In wedges, skinny jeans, and a pink top [because of course I want to draw as much attention as possible], I follow my dad into the range, which is already chock-full of the same type of guy who likes to condescendingly quiz girls on their sports knowledge after interrupting their crime novels at a bar. [I’m looking at you, Doug.]

Immediately, I know. I am going to prove myself to these dudes. Watch out, guys, this is how a bad-ass lady pirate does it. We start to prep the guns for firing, which involves cocking all of the guns and exposing the empty chamber when not in use.

My dad has a 1957 Marlin 30-30, which is just about the pride of his collection [much like his only daughter]. I pick up the cased rifle, taking a quick peek over my shoulder to make sure I don’t need to give an “I dare you to laugh” face to any of the spectators, who are obviously absolutely riveted by what they were seeing.

[VIMH©: They weren’t even watching you, you fucking egomaniac.]

Tossing my long hair over my shoulders, I’m careful not to chip my pink nail polish as I load the weapon. I set the target 20 feet away, and shoot the rifle off perfectly the first time, manually re-cocking the barrel after every shot, barely responding to the recoil and getting eight perfect head shots. I then turn around and look at my father, who is obviously beaming with pride. The warehouse is so quiet you could hear a pin drop as the crowd silently and anxiously awaits my next move. I put out my cigar on the ground and hand the Marlin back to him, saying, “Meh, I’m bored with this one, what else do you have?” The entire range erupts into applause, two large, handsome, shirtless men come pick me up and carry me around the room while mothers [where did they even come from!?] shove their babies into my face, begging me to kiss them. My mother is crying and I can hear my brother from miles away, lamenting his loss of favoritism. It is rumored that the range officer sold my paper target on E-bay for upwards of $10 million.

[VIMH©: …]

Once I came out of my fantasy, I unzipped the rifle’s case, slightly misjudging where the opening was. It promptly slipped out, slamming onto the hard concrete, butt-first, and shattering the plate. Like a BOSS.

The range officer ran over to assist in picking up the pieces of the butt plate [my name for it], which were scattered across three range lanes, and cried with my father over the damage [only cosmetic] of his beautiful, perfectly kept antique. Meanwhile, I stood frozen like an IDIOT with a bright red face and a sudden inability to control my laughter. My dad is a saint, you guys.

Did I mention how great I am with the Glock, though? That’s no fantasy. Anyone who tries to mess with these three lady pirates is going to be sorry. I just won’t be shooting the rifle.

Xo

 

Social Lubrication

Here’s a question. What is it about a girl sitting alone at a bar that makes men think that she is there specifically to make their acquaintance?

I don’t want to talk to you and I most DEFINITELY don’t want you to buy me a drink—why do you think I am sitting quietly by myself in a corner? Can’t you see I am very clearly trying to finish my trashy crime novel?! [After playing fast and loose and getting suspended from the force, our hero woke up to find herself hanging naked by her wrists in a barn! She’s finally going to find out who murdered her sister 15 years ago!]

Plus, I know that proper decorum dictates that I would have to talk to you at least while I am drinking said drink and that doesn’t even come close to your expectation of how I should thank you for your gracious gift. [I’m not new here, guys.]

Also, you’re drinking the $2 happy hour Bud Light special and I don’t think you want to pay for my Maker’s Manhattan.

AND PLEASE TELL ME HOW have you missed my constant left hand gesticulation trying to get you to notice the shiny thing that tells you to leave me the fuck alone?

A few weeks ago, I accompanied my mother-in-law to the last outpatient step in her treatment for the Multiple Myeloma she was diagnosed with in October. We stayed in a hotel in Boston adjacent to Dana Farber and she spent three long days having her stem cells collected for transplant. [This whole process is incredibly fascinating].

Over the course of these long days, she was heavily medicated and slept often [understandably]. For the times she didn’t need me, like the high-functioning alcoholic I am, I quickly found myself a cozy place at the hotel bar.

I’m the only person I know who can become a regular at a bar in 3 days. I became a fixture at said bar after my 3 visits on the first day in between trips to check on her treatment. [I see your judgment, and I raise you the zero fucks I give.]

The first visit on the first day was most likely after noon but definitely after 10am [you know what they say, it’s double-digits somewhere, amiright?]. I was all settled in to finish my trash novel, when along comes Doug.

Now, I’m sure you know why bars have mirrors behind them, right? So that the bartender can see people coming up when his/her back is turned.

You know what those mirrors are NOT for? Using them to [not so] covertly check out the girl sitting three stools down from you. After awkwardly making eye contact in said mirror no less than three times, Doug took this opportunity to interrupt my silence and ask if he could buy me a drink, since mine was almost empty.

[VIMH©: GODDAMNIT DOUG. Yes, I want another drink but NO I definitely do not want you to buy it for me, for the aforementioned reasons. NOW I have to pretend that I’m “not ready” for another drink (as IF) and hope that you’ll get the memo and go away while I sit and silently weep over my empty glass.]

Doug isn’t one to take a hint. Listen guys: Doug is from Boston. Doug doesn’t just give up. Doug is BOSTON STRONG.

He stumbles through his best small talk, as I do my best to seem as disinterested as possible without yelling at him, never fully turning my head towards him while muttering a few “hmm”s and “oh”s with a sterile but polite smile [one thing you master as a server in an NYC restaurant is the polite smile that protects your guests from the small serial killer behind your eyes].

Sports Center blares the news that the Supreme Court upheld Tom Brady’s suspension and my audible expression of disgust gives Doug the conversation starter he’s been anxiously waiting for.

He does what all guys do when they are trying to gauge if a girl actually knows sports or if she has a closet full of pink hats, giving him the perfect opportunity to mansplain the big yellow forks on the field.  Over my left shoulder I hear, “You like football?”

Cue eye-roll.

The restaurant is empty, save for a few stragglers finishing their waffles and scrambled eggs, which the hotel provides a 15% off coupon for [oh. Breakfast food is in this memory. Maybe it was before noon after all.]

[VIMH©: You’re a disgrace.]

The servers are sitting in a far booth folding napkins and the bartender is cutting fruit down the other end of the bar. The manager is doing his best to pretend he’s writing a very important work email on his phone when we all know he’s scrolling through Tinder. Doug and I are the only two at the bar. I see no way out.

I sigh a heavy sigh, put down my book, accept that I am just going to have to wait to see how our hero gets out of her latest pickle, and give in to The Doug.

Girls who know sports know the struggle. The tightness that comes to your chest when a guy or group of guys condescendingly challenges your sports knowledge, forcing you to swallow your anger, keep it cool, and enjoy expertly removing their testicles with facts and opinions, an innocent smile, and a quick hair flip.

Thoroughly embarrassing him, I school him on the actual facts of the Deflategate scandal [AKA not what the idiotic media sheep believe to be true], we talk four Superbowls, and the truth comes out: Doug is a Giants fan.

Cue even bigger eye-roll.

The only thing worse than being a Giants fan is being a Giants fan from New England. The only thing worse than being a Giants fan from New England is saying that you are a Giants fan because you picked the Giants when “the Patriots sucked.” [You people are the worst kind of people and you know nothing of loyalty and you are dead to me.]

Doug is late 30s, 5 o’clock shadow, blue eyes and a dopey smile. Now that I am actually looking at him, I notice that Doug’s t-shirt and jeans are marked with the same dirt that is trapped under his nine fingernails—the kind that doesn’t come off after washing your hands several times—the dirt and wear indicative of a hard day’s work doing manual labor.

At this point, I decide there is NO way I am going to get through this without another drink, and order one more from the bartender, which Doug announces once again is “on him.” The bartender gives me the look that a seasoned bartender knows to give in this scenario, the one that means, “You ok? Want me to throw him out? I’ll throw him out for you.” Having deduced Doug was a bit of a dope but generally harmless, I reassure him with a nod of my head, and accept my [not quite free] beer.

We talk for a while and I learn Doug’s life story, more or less.

As an icebreaker, he regales me with all the gory details of how he lost the better part of his left middle finger to a wood chipper. We talk about his job at the plant that powers the hospitals, how he works 12-hour days and then commutes an hour home, just to commute another hour back the next day.

I learn about his childhood in the backwoods of New Hampshire, and his 95-year old grandmother who, in the summers, ran a restaurant on her front lawn. She was diagnosed with cancer just three months ago. He tells me how he feels like he failed his little brother, who was fired from the job he got him at the power plant after a drug test, because he should have seen the signs he was using again.

His story was normal and funny and heart breaking and thoroughly fascinating, and when all was said and done I was actually quite happy I stopped being such a bitch and talked to him.

Truth bomb. I often use the excuse that “I hate people” as a defense mechanism that prevents me from feeling socially rejected.

In high school, I wasn’t popular and I wasn’t unpopular, I just generally existed in between several groups without connecting on a real level with many people. [There are a few exceptions, of course.]

Publicly, I attributed this to the fact that I hated most people anyway. In reality, I am just socially awkward and sometimes botch interactions with people, which was especially true when I was younger.

I was pretty [eye roll], so the Sorting Hat and human nature placed me naturally at the “popular table”, but I was a little weird and uncomfortable there, always feeling inferior to the pretty cheerleaders and the cool girls who knew how to talk to the boys without saying or doing something awkward. I was smart but didn’t try hard enough in school to connect with the kids with foresight, who took AP classes and set their sights on prestigious colleges when I just wanted to skate by. I liked acting and singing and so the drama club was where I eventually felt the most happy, but still felt that my outside popularity somewhat alienated me there as well.

I spent most of my time hopping around tables in the lunch-room when I was bored with people, assuming the persona I had created to fit in with each group. I wish I could go back and tell myself that it was ok to just be me.

College was similar: my [now] husband and I were fish out of water and so we assumed the part of the loud-mouthed, self-righteous Yankees invading the passive-aggressive territory of the Midwest. As I started to work in theater outside of school, I found myself accepted and comfortable and didn’t have the need to be loud and aggressive anymore [except for after tequila], letting that mask slide away.

As I grew up, I learned to fully embrace my awkwardness. I learned to laugh at myself and invite people to laugh with me instead of letting it embarrass me. That became occasionally charming and disarmed people and allowed me to open up and make real friendships that will last a lifetime. [The social lubricant helps with that. Thank you, alcohol.]

While recovering from the shadow of mental illness, I’ve tried to learn who I am and how I feel, and I realize I still have many faces. Now I know that the masks allow me to adapt and connect more widely with people, rather than acting as an insincere coping mechanism which protect me from having to get too close.

In my close circle of friends, I’m known as the Wildcard. Basically, this means that occasionally, after the perfect amount of social lubrication, I will suddenly go into “Wildcard status” and, without inhibition, do something crazy. [For example, the time I decided to tickle an Elmo in Times Square which resulted in that creepy, bed-bug infested knock-off chasing me through hoards of people and into a Sephora, where I told the security guards I didn’t know why he was chasing me and got him thrown out and instructed to leave me alone.]

One night on the subway, Wildcard status struck as a crazy-looking man walked through our car loudly preaching the word. Despite my husband’s and my friends’ protestations, I sat next to him and asked him about his life and why he was preaching on the train. Surprisingly, he didn’t stab me. Instead, I found out he lives a very normal life, is married with 6 kids and a bunch of grandkids, and he preaches on the subway in his spare time because that is what the Bible instructs him to do.

My interactions with this man and with Doug are further proof that I don’t actually hate people. In fact, I kind of like people. I like talking to people and learning about their lives, histories, circumstances, and passions.

I realized that these 3000 miles [on a boat from Rhode Island to Houston] will provide me an amazing opportunity to bring some stories to life from those we meet along our way. Stories like the one from the man from Coinjock, VA [remember the biscuits ‘n’ porn guy?], who was devastated when his dog died after eating anti-freeze, only to have a small white dog show up the next day and plant herself firmly at his side. [He also told us about the time he got arrested trying to take a black bear, dead by the side of the road, to make him into a rug. Wildlife officials don’t really take too well to fucking with protected species.]

I’m excited to think of the stories I can learn from people who have lived along the intra-coastal waterways of our great country for their whole lives. People who have made their livings in ways that I am not accustomed to and who live with a definition of happiness that is completely different than mine. Or yours.

One goal I am setting for myself for this trip is to do just that. I hope to be able to learn about them and myself as they open my eyes to a previously unknown world. I hope to share some of their stories with you as I am lucky enough to hear them. [I’m packing lots of Stoli, as I’m sure I’ll need the lubrication to break the ice.]

xo

The Head Test

Warning: toilet humor a-head. [If you don’t understand how brilliant that pun was yet, you will in two paragraphs and then I expect an effing parade for how hilarious I am.]

Now that it’s been cleared up that yes, in fact, there are toilets on board Black Powder, I thought it would be a good time to talk about poop.

A nautical toilet is called a “head.” Don’t ask me who made that brilliant f*cking decision, since, in my opinion, your head is about the furthest thing you want from it.

Perhaps you’ve heard the expression, “I’ve gotta hit the head.” This doesn’t refer to one’s accuracy while nailing something into the wall which, if you’re like me, is bound to be crooked, nor does it refer to the most effective way to crack open a piñata at a bachelorette party. [Think about it. Then laugh out loud.]

Nope, it just means, “I’ve been holding it long enough and now I’ve really gotta deal with this #2 business, so I’m going to get down to the head, try to steady myself against the wall to prevent falling off in the event an asshole ferry captain comes too close and sends a 6-ft wake in our direction, use as little toilet paper as possible, flush, and PRAY.”

Such is the glamorous life of traveling on a boat. When we were growing up, heads were much less effective, and much more prone to overflowing/clogging if you so much as farted while peeing. Flushing toilet paper was a HUGE no-no and would most definitely result in a clog that was probably not at all equivalent to the actual load, but more akin to flushing 14 fucking socks and a condom at once in a land-head .

Let me paint a picture for you: a full, overflowing toilet that you have to try and plunge on a f*cking floating vessel, which is most definitely a rocking & a rolling more than a little bit. That’s like trying to keep a full bowl of water from spilling over while riding f*cking Splash Mountain. Not cute.

And since we’re getting comfy-cozy up in here [TMI moment], I’ll let you know that as a child, my parents had to change the toilets in our house to what they called “Super Flushers,” solely for me because, hey, what can I say? I’ve always been a prolific pooper.

[VIMH(c): gross.]

So, I grew up in fear of the head. There are few things more embarrassing for a 13-year old girl than to have to have your father come and plunge the head while entertaining the entire extended family on a 3-hour tour. Or worse, your father has to go and plunge the head because your 13-year old BFFL[AEAE] didn’t follow the rules and now no one can make eye contact the entire rest of the day.

Plus there’s the whole business of the dreaded holding tank. Yes, it is every bit as disgusting as you think it would be. There are Coast Guard ordinances that prohibit flushing all of our digested Doritos directly into the drink, because, thank god.

So instead, you carry all of that shit with you until you get to a Marina where you can, yep, pump it out. Everyone remember Cousin Eddy in Christmas Vacation? Shitter’s full, guys.

Anyway, this was probably the most exciting news about Black Powder:
The heads on board were the fanciest.
Most efficient.
Heads known.
To.
Man.
I mean, they still would be sensitive, of course, but can you imagine being able to flush a modest amount of toilet paper instead of throwing it in the garbage, hiding it underneath mounds of clean toilet paper, and praying to god you don’t see anyone else’s used toilet paper in the process?

Perhaps the best part about these heads were that the system took the gross stuff, macerated [gross] and cleaned it to CG standards, so it could be flushed overboard, completely eliminating the need for a holding tank! No shit! [pun completely intended]

[VIMH(c) rolls eyes.]

Perhaps solely because of my personal proficiency in this area, or just because of bad timing on my part, I soon discovered on our trip to deliver the boat North that these heads were comprised of 10% porcelain, 10% fiberglass, and 80% LIES.

Somewhere in the intracoastal waterway in Georgia, on a beautiful, sunny day, probably just three glorious days into our trip, I made a quick visit to the lady’s loo, most likely happily humming Georgia on my Mind because, duh. I fearlessly did what needed to be done, and flushed away, joyously pirouetting around the 2-square foot space.

AND THEN. SOMETHING TERRIBLE HAPPENED. MY HEART STOPPED.

But no! How could this be?? These were the fancy heads!!

My childhood nightmares came flooding back with the seawater that quickly did the same into the toilet bowl: My brother’s face taunting me and laughing while I sweat and cried one hot July day in 1999, that fateful day in August 2001 where I swore it wasn’t me, only to be given away by the toilet paper stuck to my shoe which forensics confirmed matched the offending party’s toilet paper, and finally, the dreaded day in the summer of 2002, when we had my sailing class over for modest refreshments on the poop deck and the love of my life, my sailing instructor, suffered the same fate as I, dooming our relationship forever.

I knew what to do. I quickly snapped into action and grabbed the marine plunger. I plunged and plunged and plunged and plunged for my life, sweat pouring and the muscles in my arms searing with pain. After about 20 seconds of trying, I decided I’d tried hard enough and did what any girl would do in this situation: called my father.

As it turns out, it wasn’t my fault. The problem was with the macerator [gross], and unfortunately, my poor father spent the day with his head in the closet fixing the damn thing.

In the past three years, they’ve been unable to completely fix the heads, mainly because the previous owner thought he was f*cking MacGyver and totally IKEA-hacked the entire electrical system. So my hopes have fluctuated up and down. Just when I’d think I was safe, the head would remind me who’s in charge. And the fear of the heads returned.

UNTIL NOW.

Once again, my parents have equipped a home of theirs where I will be making an extended stay with “Super Flushers,” this time of a nautical nature.

I’m ecstatic. Albeit a little wary. It will take some time for them to earn my trust. I’ve been hurt too many times before. But I’m willing to give it a go a-head.

[VIMH(c): groans, rolls eyes]

For your viewing pleasure, please enjoy this video sent to me by my lovely mom & dad, courtesy of Franzia, demonstrating the “toilet paper test,” as specifically instructed in the owner’s manual of the new heads.

Holy Cliffhanger, Batman

Ok so that may have been a little unfair.

But, if I’m being completely honest, the only reason I published that last post without finishing my thought was because I needed to leave to go have my soul sucked out [by Upper West Side moms and international tourists] at work [we’ll get to that part], and I just wasn’t sure I’d have the #courage to follow through and post it if I had time to walk away and think about it. And isn’t that ironic. [don’t you think.]

But, I did it. Immediately regretted it. Then un-regretted it. [rinse and repeat 10x] And you all saw the inner-workings of my brain and you are reading this second entry so I guess it wasn’t as scary and weird and tragic as I thought you thought it would be.

But don’t worry, we’re just getting started. [Now, you’re traveling through another dimension– a dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That’s the signpost up ahead – your next stop, the Twilight Zone.]

Ok, ok, maybe we aren’t quite in Rod Serling aka LiveJournal circa 2001 territory, but, depending on the day, we may get there, so proceed with caution.

You guys. I just made it this far without saying ‘f*ck.’

Once, when I was about 16, my cousin, S, who is 7 years older than me, dropped the f-bomb in front of my sweet little old Memere. We all stood in shock and S turned BRIGHT red. Memere walked right over to S and said quietly in her ear as we all held our breath, “Don’t worry, we all say ‘f*ck.’”

Defining moment in my life. Because. We all say ‘f*ck.’ And if you say you don’t, idk if I can trust you really because Memere said we all do and therefore you’re either lying or you’re calling my Memere a liar in which case I will round-house kick you in the face, Chuck Norris style. [And this moment with Memere was brought to you BEFORE Alzheimers, so you know it’s legit.]

Anyway, back to the f*cking cliffhanger.

Back to bravery and back to stupidity. Back to Columbus and his stupid quote about the stupid effing ocean. What is she doing that is so stupid??? Drumroll, please…

At the beginning of June, I’m going to be leaving New York to deliver my parents’ boat 3000 miles from Rhode Island to Houston, TX.

I reckon some of you feel a little blue-balled.

That’s pretty fair.

Most people’s impressions are that it is going to be a seriously awesome two-month vacation, which, is essentially true.

It’s also going to be a bonding [read:tumultuousexplosivepoliticsandreligionfree] experience for myself and my Mom. My dad got a job in Houston and for the first time in my life my parents are going to move away from me and abandon me and have fun without me and forget about me and find new kids and send them to better schools and buy them better toys and love them more and and and !!!!!!!

Sorry, knee-jerk reaction.

If anyone ever reads this who doesn’t know me personally, I feel like I need to clarify a few things. I am married [we’ll get to him]. I live away from my parents and I have for just about 10 years [with exception], including college. I am wayyyyyyyy old enough to not be reliant on them [in theory], and my above reaction is therefore pretty annoying and needy and mostly satirical but also a little bit genuine.

My dad has to be in Houston at the beginning of May, so, aside from a few weekend visits from him, my mom and I will be making the trip in its entirety together with her long-time friend, A, who is an experienced nautical captain.

When I say “long-time” friend, I mean that this woman taught me how to sail and how to play hearts and tie knots but most importantly how to un-velcro my shoes when I was a year old solely to drive my mom nuts. I can’t wait to do that shit.

This trip is also meant to serve as a soul-searching mission for me, personally. [As insight into our relationship, I accidentally said this out loud to my mom who said, “good luck, you don’t have a soul, it’s black, it’s evil, you’re a heathen” idk something like that I’m paraphrasing.]

By the way, I know how lame and cliche that sounds. And I know how #firstworldproblems it is to have to go soul-searching. But, since I’m lucky enough to live in the first world I feel like I should take advantage of first world solutions, such as soul-searching missions through the hot, wet, crocodile-infested swamps and bayous of the South-Eastern and Mid US.

In addition to the boat being a boat, the boat is also my parents’ home. Two years ago they sold their house and moved onto their boat, Black Powder, named after yes, the ammunition material, which, yes, was used in the [blank] shells that, yes, they manufactured and sold with the, yes, replica nautical cannons they used to manufacture in our basement, as, YES, a side business because they get bored easily and basically they’re kind of cool I guess [relax, 14-yr old self, you still have a couple years to hate them].

And yes, as a friend pointed out to me recently, this is pretty much the most WASP-y thing ever.

Though they sold the business last year, if you are a curious cat and need to know more about what I’m referring to, Google ‘RBG Cannons.’ If you look hard enough–or just like the third link down– you can find a operational guide that my brother and I produced to send out with the purchases of their cannons. [It is pretty much the funniest thing ever, as will be attested to by at least one of my friend’s ENTIRE FAMILY who watch it on the regular when they get drunk on caipirinhas. You know who you are.]

Here are some real-life questions we’ve received about the trip so far:

Q: Are you delivering the boat in the water or on land?

A: Well, unless by ‘delivering the boat on land’ you mean pulling it on wheels like f*cking oxen across the plains while suffering from diphtheria [a la The Oregon Trail], I don’t think that would take 2 months. I’ll let you figure that one out on your own.

Q: Are you going through the Panama Canal? 

A: Ok, so a couple of things could be at work here. #1: When you think of the geography of the good ol’ U.S. of A, you think of it completely ass-backwards and even though Texas stays in the same spot, Rhode Island is now California and California is now the [cooler & warmer] smallest state in the f*cking union. #2: You’re 10. #3 You think that the most efficient way to get somewhere is to travel 6000 miles out of the way, just so you can finally see what Cuba looks like up close. #4: You failed geography in the 5th grade but your mom was dating your teacher and so he let it slide.

Whatever it is, Google has this cool feature now where there is a MAP OF THE ENTIRE F*CKING WORLD AT YOUR FINGERTIPS. Maybe if you knew that it would have prevented you from asking this question out loud.

Q: Texas is in the ocean? 

A: If your question is whether or not Texas is the last floating land mass left-over in Kevin Costner’s Water World, I commend you for relating to an excellent film. Otherwise, please read the above answer and look at a f*cking map.

Q: They have boats there?

A: Hm, I don’t think they thought about that. I sure hope we aren’t the only one.

Q: Where will you sleep/go to the bathroom/eat?

A: Ok, so I don’t completely blame people who ask this question, because I don’t want to pretend like I haven’t been completely #blessed to have a childhood and a life that involves boating. BUT. I did tell you in the beginning that this boat is their home. So, like, get it together.

Yes they’ve lived on it in the winter and yes it has heat and yes they have toilets and no it isn’t so big that they have hired crew and no they aren’t Thurston Howell III and his wife [who never had an actual name besides ‘Lovely,’ because, as any Dominican cat-caller in my neighborhood will tell you, that’s what we’re here to be].

Black Powder is cool. Yes, it’s big by many standards, but it isn’t a floating McMansion. It’s older and has history and is tasteful and most importantly it has enough projects to keep my dad busy on the weekends.

They bought the boat three years ago from Fort Myers, FL. They delivered her up to RI, and so much of this trip is going to be familiar, albeit backwards.

My husband and I joined the crew in Jacksonville and took her up through the Intra-Coastal Waterway, through some of the weirdest and most secluded ports, seemingly endless wilderness and deserted marshland, all of which would make you think of Deliverance. [The final stop of our first leg of the trip was in Coinjock, NC, where a very kind and hospitable man and his very small dog drove us an hour to the nearest airport in his truck where his rifle hung on his back window just below a window sticker that read ‘Biscuits & Porn.’]

The trip also took us through some of the most beautiful coastline in the Atlantic; dolphins followed us for most of our trip and I just wanted to jump in and have one save me from a shark and we’d be best friends forever just like in Zeus and Roxanne and I’d go diving with him and his friends and we’d find shipwrecks and save people from drowning and have all sorts of adventures and hijinx on the high sea.

Technically, the trip consists of miles upon miles of incredibly narrow canals that require precision to avoid running aground, hours of planning out ports along the way for provisions, fuel and water, and yet more hours of figuring out plans B & C, in case the weather, wind, or current decide we can’t make it to our planned stop that day, and we instead need to find a cove to batten down the hatches and anchor for the night.

When I made the decision to leave to take this journey, it was a harder one than you might think. It’s been difficult for a lot of people very close to me to understand why it was such an important decision and why I was making such a big deal about it, and that’s ok. You don’t have to get it.

This past year has been full of some personal trials that have threatened to put me over the edge. I have been fighting a mental illness that almost got the better of me, taking care of a sick family member, dealing with a career I haven’t had the energy or drive to pursue in my few free moments, and have generally just felt like I was drowning in a black hole of emptiness that I was sucking everyone around me into.

Maybe a person better than me could have taken this is all in stride and had thicker skin and been more positive and more driven and focused and more consistent and less whiny and felt less entitled and maintained more perspective and and and and and and and and and and

[cursor blinks]

[VIMH©: Hey, miss me? Seems like you’re getting a little comfy and personal up in here. You should delete that last part because it’s boring and annoying and F*CK no one wants to hear about that because everyone’s got shit and you just went from being mildly funny and possibly charming and talking about somewhat interesting things to making it way too deep and meta, dude.]

[cursor blinks]

Ah. The inner struggle.

The thing is, when I decided to go on this trip, I saw it as an opportunity to clear my head. Get out of the hustle & bustle that, yes, the city inherently brings, but also that comes from that pesky VIMH©.

Find quiet.
Find strength.
Focus on a specific task.
Deliver the boat.
Sleep.
Wake up.
Deliver the boat.
Yoga.
Write.
Read.
Sing.
Deliver the boat.

Take the very physical and concrete obstacles and move them slowly and precisely out of the way.

Battle weather.
Heat.
Nature. [CROCODILES AND HUGE ROACHES AND MOSQUITOS OH MY]
Nurture personal relationships.

But most of all, battle me. Battle the VIMH© that says no, you can’t, you aren’t good enough, you are losing, you are failing, you are nothing, you are bipolar you are worthless you are weighing everyone down you will never you will never you will never you can not

[VIMH©: Hey! That’s my line!]

[cursor blinks]

The more I thought about writing this blog, the more I thought it could be interesting to many people for many different reasons. A good friend of mine referred to it as a floating Eat, Pray, Love. [Don’t worry, husband, I won’t take an Italian lover.]

It was all about what angles I could take when writing it. Three women on a boat taking this huge journey; a mother and a daughter; three women and three dogs [we’ll get there]; no good yankees moving down south [Houston, you have a problem].

But, as I said in my last post, I didn’t know where to start. I could have just posted pictures and basic entries about the places we go and see and do and the trials and tribulations of the trip and update you all on my mosquito bite count because I’m O+ and for some reason they love me so I’m basically just going to be one giant mosquito bite……

But that would have seemed dishonest, insincere, safe.

Not brave.

I told a friend of mine who knows me very well about the trip and about how I was giving up a fun career opportunity to do it and he looked at me and told me I was brave.

That never occurred to me in this instance. I think I have been brave at some points in my life, but it hadn’t occurred to me before then that THIS trip at THIS time could be seen as brave. I always just thought it was stupid.

Then again, Columbus was stupid. [See what I did there? Brought this shit full-circle.]

I’m going to have the courage to lose sight of the shore [VIMH©], search for new horizons, and hopefully come back with something that remotely resembles the West Indies [me as an actual person], or at least something I can swear is the West Indies until the day I die.

So, I’ll be using this blog to share the preparation of and execution of Black Powder’s big move, [operation dumbo drop?] my musings, my soul-searching expedition.

Read it if you want to. Skim it if you care to. Look at my pictures if you want to.Think I’m boring and #basic if you want to. Think I’m stupid if you want to.

Think I’m brave if you must. Maybe when this is all over, I’ll think so too.

T MINUS 58 DAYS.

Bon Voyage

Bravery and stupidity are often times one in the same. In my experience, at least.

[cursor blinks over and over]

Where the f*ck do I start?

[blink, blink]

[cursor mocks me: “You can’t do this. It’s a huge undertaking and you don’t know how to follow through.”]

Woah. That’s a low blow. The cursor is starting to sound a whole lot like the voice in my head.

[voice in my head mocks me: “Look at yourself. You’re a disgrace. You just started this thing with one of the biggest clichés on the face of the f*cking planet.]

Woah. The VIMH [did I just make that abbreviation up?]—VIMH© [better play it safe]—has a sailor’s mouth too.

And, by the way, VIMH©, I don’t think that is the BIGGEST cliché on the planet.

For instance, I didn’t start with Webster’s definition of bravery (noun: brav·ery \ˈbrāv-rē, ˈbrā-və-\ the quality that allows someone to do things that are dangerous or frightening) OR the definition of stupidity (noun:  stu·pid·i·ty \stu̇-ˈpi-də-tē, styu̇-\ the state of being foolish or unintelligent; a stupid idea or action).

I didn’t use that opportunity to then link those two words by pointing out that doing dangerous, frightening things (bravery) is usually foolish and often unintelligent (stupid).

[blink, blink]

I also didn’t start with one of the 819 quotes you can find when you Google “quotes about bravery,” which, I also, definitely, 100%, did not do.

Quotes such as:

“Success is not final; failure not fatal. It is the courage to continue that makes the
difference.” [Churchill]

“What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?” [Picasso]

“Show me how big your brave is.” [Bareilles]

“I wanna see you be brave.” [Bareilles]

“You are confined only by the walls you build yourself.” [Unless you’re Mexican. Then, you are confined by the wall paid for by your country designed by a bigot to keep your rapists out of #Murica.]

“You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.” [Columbus]

[blink, blink]

That last quote strikes a chord. Like a C major chord. Very #basic and mediocre but usually decent place to start.

However, that last quote [from the man who discovered our continent and proceeded to rape and pillage the poor unsuspecting locals] DOES have a few things a C major lacks:

Specificity.

Commitment.

The ocean is pretty huge. There are sharks that want to eat you and Moby Dicks that want to crush you and huge sea monsters with tentacle-y things and OMFG have you ever SEEN pictures of the things that live in the DARK DOWN THERE?

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my.

No, but really, it’s like this: It was pretty effing stupid of us to venture out across this vast amount of water without having a clue what was underneath or what was on the horizon and having a pretty good feeling that you were just going to fall off if you went far enough.

But by the time the boat is built and the crew is selected and the rations are packed, there ain’t no going back. You better believe the Spanish monarchy isn’t going to let you leave them at the altar, even if you’re Julia f*cking Roberts. And that’s a pretty big commitment to something pretty f*cking stupid.

But, hey—like Picasso said up there (^), what would life be? We would be pretty crowded over in Europe and we wouldn’t have the Bahamas. And, like Churchill said up there (^), why not give it a shot? We gave Columbus his own holiday and he never even got to Japan like he was fucking supposed to in the first place.

In fact, it should be an inspiration to all of us f*ck-ups in the world that that asshole didn’t even do his job right and they still threw him a party. AND he never admitted that he effed up! Swore they were Indians ‘til the day he died. Talk about commitment.

But why do I find this quote so specifically appropriate right now?

Well, because I’m about to do something pretty f*cking stupid. Again.