Losing Sight of the Shore

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

Cranky Clearwater


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

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

Oh, hey guys.

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

Blue, blue, blue


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Houston, you have a problem.

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


John and Brian, our captains

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

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

 

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

The cursor is judging me again, guys.

[blink, blink]

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

[blink, blink]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Jul 23, 4 00 48 PM

We were in love.

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

 

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

I digress.

Photo Jul 24, 2 33 54 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Jul 26, 3 52 01 PM

This is Georgia. There is nothing.

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

Funny story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Radio: [kreech] Nah. Over.

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Photo Jul 28, 7 14 34 PM

LP’s in Jacksonville.

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

 

MY BROTHER AND SEESTER WERE COMING!!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brother: Hmmmmmmmmm hhmmmm hmmmmm sailing…..hmmmmm…

Me: What is that song?

B: Oh, I just made it up.

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

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

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

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

Me: … ‘To an unknown adventure?’

B: Yeah! ‘sail away…’

Me: ‘To the adventure of your life?’

B: YEAH! ‘sail away…’

Me: Hm… ‘To an unknown DIMENSION?’

B: BRILLIANT! ‘Sail away…’

Together: ‘To the adventure of your life!’

424643_650468595294_1611282210_nHere’s the whole thing:

Chorus [gold]:

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

Verse [gold]:

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

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

Bridge [gold]:

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

Chorus 2x

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

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

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

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

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

You’re all welcome.

Photo Jul 30, 1 25 26 PM

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

Back to Present Day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

PSYCHE! Things can always go wrong. ALWAYS.

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

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

This is where things got a little interesting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Aug 03, 5 50 21 PM

This was gross. But photogenic.

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

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

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

Photo Aug 04, 8 55 31 AM

Who left us in charge?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Aug 12, 6 04 17 PM

Gators. Surrounding us.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Xo

The After-Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crisis averted. Tensions up. Sweat sweating forth.

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

Cue panic at the disco.

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

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

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

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

Cool, cool.

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

Photo Jul 14, 1 40 12 PM

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Jul 14, 6 29 53 PM

Heaven.

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

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

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

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

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

SILENCE.

WE HIT SOMETHING.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Jul 19, 8 12 33 AM

We got here thanks to me, obv.

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

WIN.

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

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

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

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

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

[Payback is on the way, Cap’n.]

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

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

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

Photo Jul 19, 8 01 16 PM

You know you’re jealous.

A HOUSE OF BLUES EFFING PONCHO.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Off to Charleston tomorrow for a Saturday way-lay!

More to come.

xo

Photo Jul 21, 3 28 17 PM

My new besties.

It’s a Marvelous Night for Some Moonshine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Photo Jul 08, 8 03 06 PM

 

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

     

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

     

  • Herry learned to drive.

    Photo Jul 10, 6 35 56 PM

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Stay thirsty, my friends.

xo

 

This Sh*t is Bananas: B.A.N.A.N.A.S

 

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

Yep.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[VIMH©: Docking, mooring, anchoring.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Jun 29, 10 09 41 AM

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

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

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

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

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

Uh oh.

Commence Lady Pirate panic.

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

Photo Jun 20, 2 11 17 PM

The little engine that unfortunately could not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Photo Jun 20, 10 04 08 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Jun 21, 1 36 23 PM

Sad mom with sad chunk of sad fiberglass.

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

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

Photo Jun 25, 5 32 18 PM

The pups enjoyed our dock party.

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

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

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

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

Key. Turn.

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

Key. Turn.

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

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

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

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

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

Water. In the engine. No bueno.

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

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

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

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

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

Yup. Two-three weeks.

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

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

Happy 4th.

xo

Mile Marker Zero

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

16mszy

Captain fell down go boom.

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

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

Photo Jun 18, 8 02 52 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Jun 19, 8 33 06 PM

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

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

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

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

More to come.

xo

 

 

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…

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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

 

Hang on, lady, we going for a ride

 

Now sit right back and I’ll tell the tale, the tale of a fateful trip that started out for Texas-but-basically-could-never-get-out-of-the-Northeast-and-so-my-dad-took-his-old-job-back and we abandoned ship. Yes, we abandoned ship. [I trust you know the melody and you can just fill in the phrase with extra words a la Daveed Diggs in Guns and Ships.]

Dramatic? Maybe. But then again I’ve never been known for my subtlety.

Ok, so we didn’t abandon ship. And my dad didn’t get his old job back and move back to RI. But, if you got a kick out of our first doomed three-hour tour of the biggest little state in the union [terminating in a “failure to launch” party in Newport], the roller-coaster that has followed will just tickle you pink and purple. As our captain, A’s father put it, so far this trip has been like walking on glass: slow and painful.

This one’s a little long guys. Take it in parts if it’s too much to handle, I think we can all agree that this week has been A LOT.
Continue reading

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—

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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

 

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.