Thursday, December 18, 2014

Out of hibernation and into the light

The blotchy anaemic uncooked sausage legs have made an appearance. They crawled out of hibernaton and into the light, and eagerly stretched out in the baking warm rays of the sun, begging for a hint of a toasty hue.  Gone are the fur lined tights, purple bobbly woolen hat and bright red mittens. The layers of coats are slumped over in defeat at the back of a closet. 

We’ve turned a corner, reached a milestone, emerged from the encroaching icy grasp of winter, and popped up in the sunshine of southern Florida.
It may seem, in our 5 month tour of the east coast of the USA, that it’s all about the weather. And in a way, it is.
That, and chicken wings (we’ve become expert connosieurs!) and speed boats and hick towns and bridges and grocery shopping and fuel docks, and boat repairs and engine troubles and friendly people and car rentals and climate change.
I’ve never been as cold. I’ve never been so happy to see clear water. I’ve never seen so many mansions. Or so many trailer parks! The ICW is an adventure. One that we will only attempt in warmer weather again.

But now the season is coming to a climax. It’s Christmas! And around here you can’t forget that. Mansions are lit up to the hilt, palm trees glowing, giant Santas and Snoopys and Hello Kittys bob around in the glow of the lights, waving at the passers by. Holiday booze cruises blaring Christmas cheer, trawl the inland waters at night. Local radio stations have gone ’all Christmas’ for the next 2 weeks. There are only so many festive songs… and then they play them over again. And again. And if I hear another mention of chestnuts or Frosty the snowman I might shoot someone.

The end of this season brings an end to our legacy of engine troubles, sorted out (hopefully for good) at a haul out in St Augustine. The overheating starboard engine has had a makeover. I could have had full plastic surgery for the same price! I’ve had my fill of boat yard life for a while. No toilet or fridge onboard, public showers with slimy corners and stranger’s hairs. Um, no thanks. For a while anyway.
Pulling Shiloh against a strong current into a slip for hauling

The engine, mid job. Yikes!!
The season brings an end to our east coast journey. After the Keys in early 2015 we may try our luck up the gulf coast with it’s clearer waters and calmer seas.
We’ll have a new and improved dinghy after today, proving that in America, the squeaky boater gets the replacement, or something like that. Here you can return anything. You can sue people, you can exercise your rights. But you must also obey the rules. So we carry 2 bulky obsolete life jackets, a whistle, light and radio in our dinghy. Because that’s the rule. And the ICW is crawling with border patrol vessels, whose favourite job is to harass pleasure boaters. For our own safety, of course. Cuz you might drown in the 6 foot deep waters…
But we have felt safe and protected and the constant presence of Tow Boat US vessels has kept worries of going ‘aground’ at bay. 

We have loved this crazy coast. Would we do it again? Maybe by road. But southern Florida. I think so. In the past two days since our emergence into clear blue waters, I’ve seen a baby sting ray do acrobatics three feet out of the water, a family of four huge manatees do a private show for us, a turtle pop his little head up to say hi, and we were able to tell if our anchor was holding – because we could see it!!! So yes, we are liking this area.

We are peons of course, among the mega mega yachts and the matching mansions lining the shores, but we can dream and drool and carry on.
Florida Keys, with your swimmable reefs and 40 mile distance from the Bahamas, we are coming your way! Watch out. Roll on holiday season 2014/15!!!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A pat a buttah y'all!

Americans are no strangers to random acts of kindness. And the smaller the town, the kinder they are.
Up in New York City where the whole world crowds together and the Senegalese guys tout bags in Chinatown while the Chinese sell cowboy hats, humanity is forgotten in the shuffle. Tiny square dog parks are fenced in concrete blocks, and Haitians crowd the dirty beaches of Coney Island behind the derelict buildings, on a Sunday morning, chanting to a long lost god. It all just goes by too fast.

So we’ve headed south. South, where “y’all” is a part of every sentence and the accents lilt and list in a syrupy dance of bendy words, as they enquire where in the world we could be from.
Apparently the south starts from the Carolinas. Or the ‘Carolaaaaahnas’, where everyone knows everyone in the tiny towns that line the ICW. And when our two crews of maritime squatters arrive, we are noticed and identified. “Y’all ain’t from around here!” is a statement far more than a question.
Everyone bends over backward to help. Whether we need a ride to the Piggly Wiggly a few miles away or a special engine oil, there’s a local with a car and a smile and an offer before we get all the words out.
Not everyone has a very big world view though, and when South Africa is mentioned by us, “Ebola?!” is sometimes the response. But curiosity wins over fear and we make friends anyway. So many towns, so many touching memories…
Towns like Belhaven, where half the crumbling houses are for sale for under $80k and fishermen and farmers can be found on a Friday evening, calloused elbows on the padded bar, pouring their worries into a Bud Light at the local pool hall. The place smells like urine and bleach and the concrete floors are chipped with years of working class feet. Through the clouds of cigarette smoke everyone inside welcomes us with warmth. We ask about smoking laws and the bartender exhales a mouthful of smoke, “technically this is a smoke free establishment, but this is Belhaven and no one cares a damn!”. She opens our beers and starts an evening of local banter with us, with all. 
The pool hall bar in Belhaven

It’s the people. The people, who despite the obvious dismal economy, have a twinkle in their eyes, who are down to earth, honest, friendly, and will always bend over backward to help a stranger.
Towns like Oriental that boast a special blend of boating folks, artsy newcomer locals, and the old salt of the town. Where acting and origami as well as banjo playing each have a dedicated club and where everyone can be found at The Bean, the one coffee shop at some point in the day. If they overhear your foreign accent you can be sure they will have some advice, local knowledge to share or an offer of assistance. You will be invited to the parties and be given free bikes to see the town. You will leave with a feeling like you belong in as much as transients can.
The famous Bean, Oriental NC

Swansboro lines it’s main street with tea lights in white paper bags on an early November night, keeps all the knick knack shops and restaurants open and lets you drink wine in the streets! They light their Christmas tree and let you dance like no one’s watching in the town square to the live band.
The townspeople of Swansboro enjoying the candlelight fest
And the kindness of North Carolina extends to it’s nature. Just when you think that Fall in America means pumpkin pie spice lattes,  you traverse a stretch of the ICW, a stretch of uninhabited tree lined bliss, where you will sniff the fresh autumn air and marvel at the reflection of yellow, red and brown trees on the glass still water. 

The tranquility was broken only by the lolling drawl of some American cruisers chatting on the VHF radio.
“So, how far south you going?” the man asked.
“Well we’re gonna put a pat of butter on the bow, and we’re not gonna stop ‘til it melts!”
Good idea.
What lies ahead or below, however you see it, is hopefully warmer weather and more of the same beauty and warmth from the people who receive us.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The best laid plans and the realm of chaos

Some days living aboard is quite mundane. Some days we make coffee in the morning, clean toilets and hair out of drains. We shake dust out of rugs and surf the Internet. Some days we run our daily errands, cook, wash dishes and in the evening we watch our favourite TV shows. Some days.
But then there are the other days. Days that drag on past the 24 hour mark where mayhem reigns. When there’s no time to be nervous or worried. When we push the envelope and find ourselves and our boat in situations that beg for Sod and his law to wave the magic wand of distaster.
Yesterday morning we woke early with a plan to drag our water craft out of a channel with ripping currents, onto a beach. She would gently tip forward as the tide dropped, exposing the propellers below, which would be changed out for fancy new feathered ones that promise to make us sail faster and look sexier. The work window would be just until the tide started to rise again, then we’d calmly wait for high tide to carry us off the beach without incident. What could go wrong?

JW and our prop guy pulled Shiloh backward onto the sand as I let out all the chain we had (and boy was it rusty at the bitter end!!). The current pulled and tugged Shiloh sideways but we managed to get her tied over. And indeed she began to tip forward ever so slightly.
But despite the best laid plans (over a steak and some red wine the night before), we began to realise as the tide went out, that the spot we’d chosen did not expose the propellers. Shiloh did not tip forward enough and prop guy tried scrummaging in sand, cold, dirty, wet, with no luck at all. We managed to scrape a few offending barnacles away but only on the back half of the boat.

And so, we’d managed to save over $850 to haul the boat out and paying $1000 per prop for a professional prop guy doing the job at a professional boat yard.  Instead, well, we had a day on the beach as it were.
Life onboard all day consisted of sliding sideways. No cooking, not much of anything except a general unease. I knew the evening was coming and the fun and games of getting ourselves out of the sand lay ahead. Prop guy had given up and gone home so it was just captain and me.
Meanwhile other cruiser friends had left the channel as there was a predicted storm with high winds at night. Not us though, we had other concerns.
By 5pm the line holding us to shore was creaking and rock hard, pulling and wheezing at us. I went up on the bow, planning to lift the chain, pull us forward, JW would let go the shore lines and we’d pull into the channel.
But no! One of the back lines snapped, the current swung us wildly sideways and some of Shiloh’s underbits made a thud on sand. “Pull forward on the chain!” Shouted captain. And I tried, but the pressure against it was massive. The windlass trip died. We couldn’t put engines on as the props, or at least one, was still firmly in sand.
Captain jumps in the dinghy and tries in vain to push us away from the shore and looming rocks. The current is winning. I run down and try the windlass trip once more and it works! Just then the tide brings us high enough to get free of sand. We swing a bit, throw the engines on and I am bringing up chain with speed. We’re free! Sigh. Of relief. For now.
But then here come the predicted winds. The VHF radio has a computerized man-voice warning us of 40 to 50kts wind gusts, asks boaters to seek safe shelter immediately. Yeah. It’s dark and our anchor seems pretty snug.
We make supper amidst the howling winds, and as each hour passes it gets colder, windier and the rain starts. And just then we see lights passing by us fast through the salon windows. We run outside to find that we’re sailing around in huge circles.
We’re surrounded by boats on 3 sides, two on mooring balls and one on a jetty. On the other side, our beach. The wind whips my hair past my squinted eyes, my toes immediately frozen. Should we throw the engines on? How high IS this wind? Will our anchor hold? The couple on one boat are VERY interested in us, especially as we sail toward them with speed. Just as we reach 20 feet away, our anchor, the wind, the current, swing us away and careening toward the moored boat.
And as my heart hits the back of my throat we’re off in another direction. The wind hits 36 knots and I’m finding it difficult to come around to the cockpit from the bow. Inside, a movie’s plot long forgotten sits on pause and abandoned luke warm tea gives up and goes cold. An hour or more has passed.
Just then I look up and notice our mainsail has been swept up in a gust and is blowing wildly around. We need to get it tied down immediately. Captain find ropes and balances above on the bimini, swinging around with the boom in the wind. We’ve all but forgotten our bouncing in circles toward boats and rocks yet all around us, it’s happening. The main is stuck behind the stay ropes and it is struggled but we get it held and tie a line round and round it.
Now to the dinghy, which in all the commotion, has been swung right under Shiloh, the outboard engine bashing against the underside. Getting the captain in that dinghy in that current was near to impossible. Getting it tied and lifted, another Olympic event that we came in medalists…
I have no photos from this experience, but this about covers it

Back inside midnight has long passed and we’re still doing intermittent anchor watch, though the wind has come down to a steady 25 knots. Our anchor has held, despite the current vs. wind dance that caught us in the middle. We collapse into bed with one ear open and a far less than restful sleep follows.
The next morning is today. A sunny day, the plan is to motor 24 miles to a quaint little town and take in their candlelight festival. Along the ICW. What could go wrong?

We start out in a bit of a disorganized rush and I’m on the helm with the chart plotter zoomed in real close. It’s a complicated exit from Beaufort. So I can handle it! I get us out and around and lefts and rights through the channel and then I hand over to the captain. I’m going to make breakfast! But the waves are huge. I mean huge. Wait a minute?! This is intercoastal water. How can it be. OH NO! I’ve lead us out the channel to the ocean!!!!! I’m crazy to admit it in print, but there it is. I run out, zoom out on the chart and confirm what I’ve done. “Turn around captain!” Wrong way. 

Well he is not impressed. To say the least. But as we do a watery u-turn, we realise the current is flowing FAST out of the channel into the ocean and hence directly against us now as we head back in. And then, one engine overheats with a loud high pitched alarm. With one engine we are doing 1 knot against the current trying to get back in. The wind is 20 knots against us. This is not good! After one attempt to sort the engine, and our high speed of 2.5 knots, I smell smoke. Shit! The same engine is now smoking. Engine off again. This time we are at the full mercy of wind and current and it takes us over an hour to come back in where it had taken us 10 minutes outbound. Oops.
Today was supposed to be relatively mundane! Instead we’re pulled over and anchored along the ICW, 3 hours into a journey, with progress toward our destination of about 4 miles. The captain is down in the engine (aka our bedroom!), with Capt Al of Alley Cat (also pulled over and anchored to help). I just looked down there and I see two sweat panted butts in the air. There are tools and pipes and black smudges everywhere. An offending burst pipe has been located. 

Hopefully they will get it sorted and we will make our evening festival. For now, a cup of tea. Which I’m going to drink no matter what.

Monday, October 20, 2014

A cold and empty nest

We finally did it. We broke down and bought a portable gas (propane) heater. And it helps. Sort of. It’s better than leaving all three gas burners blasting away on the stove. It’s so less ghetto anyway. Now it’s more like camping in Alaska in the winter with a heater in the tent.
It turns out Lagoon catamarans that were built for chartering in the Caribbean have about as much insulation against the cold as a nylon tent.
And let’s face it, despite being born in one of the coldest inhabitable countries in the world, I am NOT made for winter. I left the icy shores of Canada 20 years ago and since then I’ve never spent more than a 14 day period at a time in wintery climes, and that has always been with central heating. So this, being north of 38 degrees near the end of October, is not for me. Nor Shiloh. We need to move south.
But we’ve rounded a new corner, we’re starting fresh in a way, we’ve got an empty nest once again. Junior captain, aka Devon has been with us onboard since May 2013 and since then he has gradually become an integral part of our sailing team. In fact, if I’m not kidding myself, he has become the hardest working member. He has actually been our captain. He is the one who has sat on watch for endless hours up the ICW and the Chesapeake, plotting our course, adjusting sails, running the boat from place to place. We’ve become lazy and somewhat dependent. Shame on us. The boy needs to break free and start a life of his own. Time for us to cut the apron strings, or jib lines in this case, and let life happen for him. *Sniff*

So….. It’s time for me to resume a more helpful role around here. No more lazing on the couch as the boys check the oil and water levels. No more sitting up front in the dinghy like a passenger, being driven to shore, doing the ‘Queen Wave’. Nope, this girl’s gotta start cranking the dinghy motor and running the generator onboard. Pulling in the jib, lifting the dinghy on it’s davits at night. Time to step up!
The boat show is over. We oogled and criticized, we pointed and pretended. We drank and laughed and bought some toys. New house batteries and folding props to be exact. Not the kind of toys that usually excite me. But it means we’ve ticked that boat show box. We’ve been there! It was great. Like an outdoor mall and open house free-for-all – geared entirely toward boaters like us!!! We’re usually out casts, fringe visitors to the towns we’re in. But Annapolis with it’s free public dinghy docks at the end of each street and free hot, decadent showers for yachties – well now, this is our kind of town. Plus, it’s got the annual boat show! 

But it’s got winter. And it’s coming fast. And our portable heater can only do so much. So we’ve gotta get this boat ‘on the road’ and join the American and Canadian snowbirds on the journey in only one direction: south!

A pic of Spa Creek where we are today, ICED OVER! No thanks...

Thursday, October 2, 2014

900 days of sailing

Today marks exactly 2.5 years or 30 months that we’ve lived aboard Shiloh. That we’ve been cruising. That we’ve been sailors.
I can’t quite believe it to be honest. I still feel like a newbie, an observer, a wannabe. But at the same time, I can’t imagine living on land.
We ticked a bucket list item last month – sailing up to the statue of liberty. It was amazing, tingles all over. 6 months before that it seemed a distant dream. That was back when I imagined that once we’d sailed all the way up to New York city, I’d finally be a ‘real sailor’!
Recently though I’ve realised something profound. (For me at least!) I’d been silently assessing, researching and compiling data from all the sailing folk we’ve met. Trying to ascertain how we fit in to the cruising life. What kind of sailors we are. Which box we should slot ourselves into. And that was exactly the wrong perspective to have. 

Like anywhere, you invent your own life. Your own style of doing things. Carve out your own comfort zones, and then as far as sailing goes, pushing that envelope all the time.
Every time we find ourselves in a big storm with zero visibility, whipping winds, huge waves tossing us around, lightning snapping the water surface all around us, my boundaries are pushed a bit further.
Then there are the days where your boat is anchored directly across from the Manhattan skyline and you find yourself clad in your flip flops and ‘cruiser’ backpack, navigating the eclectic neighborhoods of NYC on foot. You gotta pinch yourself on those days.
Somewhere in my distant tactical memory are the days I pinched myself in the crystal blue turquoise waters of the Exumas in the Bahamas. It was like a different world. Yet what connects the two worlds is us, and our experience of both, and all the amazing worlds in between.
For the first 2 years I imagined that being a cruiser was living on your boat in tropical heat, with no a/c, swimming daily, listening to the ‘cruiser net’ on the VHF radio and enveloping yourself or at least observing the politics of the cruiser community in the islands. It was all about rum punches with frequent squalls, anchoring in clear sandy bottom places, spotting sting rays and turtles, enduring rough seas from island to island.
This year I’ve learned so much more. Cruising is what you make it, where you make it.
I haven’t swam in months, haven’t seen the bottom where we drop the anchor in about as long (there is a correspondence there!), and our VHF radio is constantly buzzing with local fishing boat traffic. I’m wearing faux fur-lined tights and fuzzy slippers and I can’t remember when I last broke a sweat. Cheap golden rum has been replaced with red wine and tots of whisky to warm the chilled soul.
Downtown Boston


Provincetown, Cape Cod

Provincetown dock

Gotta love Provincetown

Guest House Provincetown

But still, we are the observers. Taking our home with us, from bay to bay, city to village, climate to climate.
I’ve learned there is no such thing as a perfect sailor, we are learning more but we still make mistakes. But even my sailing heros make mistakes from time to time. We’re finding the intracoastal sailing quite easy, but we did buy a membership to TowBoatUS, so our confidence extends only that far! (They are on call to tow out boats that frequently find themselves ‘aground in the shoaling mud’).
We’ll be leaving this autumn wonderland soon, heading back to more southern climes, but the world lies ahead, undiscovered, beckoning a couple people who live on a boat, who crave the adventure and the thrill of the unknown. I’ve peeled back the box I started building for Shiloh, choosing instead the fluid, non defined beauty that is this experience. Like the ocean herself, we are moving.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

#low carbin' in the USA

Being on a diet that is highly restrictive, full of fat and pseudo-Paleolithic is just soooo North American. ‘It’s a lifestyle’ we’re told. The fact that it’s nearly impossible to follow in an age where even cows are fed corn and everything is loaded with high fructose corn syrup just makes it more fun/challenging. But in response, the ‘healthy types’ have created a demand for grossly over-priced supposedly organic supermarkets that are popping up everywhere… so it’s a good thing we’re here in America when we decided to join that gang.
As humans we tend to categorize sections of our lives. For us there was the Caribbean phase, then the heaven that was The Bahamas and then there was the US East coast phase. Then it all hit us like a ton of bricks or a ton of weight. On the hips. And the tummies. All this carb rich food and rum squall partying had finally caught up with us.

Enter the post-indulgence phase.
We’re back from a lot of land-lubber life, car rental, road trips, restaurants. Restaurants. And sorry USA, but the inland waterways are NOT tempting as far as swimming goes. The boat is floating in a swamp brown stew, staining our hulls like a 30 year smoker’s teeth. Swimming? No thanks. Not to mention the reports in the news of dangerous bacteria lurking in the Chesapeake.
So, there goes our main form of exercise. We do walk, but hey, not enough. My jeans can confirm.
Now we are moving on the water again – New York City here we come!
But now it’s different. There is no bread. No pasta dinners onboard. No fast food burgers and fries. And the limitless cokes… ha! Not even packaged food of any kind. We’re eating meat and veggies and nuts and a few fruits. We may or may not be allowed dairy, but we’re eating cheese anyway, I mean come on. Who can live without cheese?
We’ve taken to reading every label, so our trips to the supermarket have become day long events. We stop in adorable little towns and have to walk quickly by the local creamery, and if we do stop in a pub to hear the live band, we drink a lot of water and sip one glass of red wine while drooling at the cool refreshing pints of our neighboring tables. And think to ourselves smugly of course: ‘if only they knew!’.
Its’ been at least 10 days. I don’t think we’ve lost any weight. When does that start then? But we’ve convinced ourselves we’re feeling healthier and thinking clearer. I’ve forgotten what a sandwich or a handful of potato chips tastes like.
Instead I’m living on the excitement of our imminent arrival in New York City, sailing right up under the Statue of Liberty. We may also take a road trip up to Maine to eat some lobster (that’s allowed), and tick that off the bucket list.
We’ve got some ocean sailing to do over the next few days, and I’m looking forward to that wide open feeling, sails up, deep breaths. That’s what it’s all about.
Maybe there will be a Trader Joe’s where we can buy some almond butter and organic avocado oil? Ooooh! Maybe they’ll have Stevia sweetened sodas in the fridge. It’ll be a $200 tiny brown paper (highly recyclable) bag of groceries, but we’ll be happy that we have the choice to eat healthy. Cuz this is America – land of the free, home of the #glutenfree, #lowcarb, #eggless, #dairyfree, #sugarfree, #soyfree, #grainfree, #vegan, #sodiumfree pancake mix.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Crystal Clear - the cycles of poverty and ignorance

I used to think that the situations on the Jerry Springer show were staged. But that was before we visited Daytona Beach.
I used to believe that the sheer ignorance and depravity of the people on that show were faked for some sick pleasure of the audience.
But that was before we visited a local laundromat in Elizabeth City. Where we met 'Crystal'.
One thing I love about cruising is meeting people from all walks of life. In every type of place imaginable.
And then there are the ‘Crystal’ days. When I marvel at this world and all it’s made up of. America, fabled land of freedom and opportunity. Where Crystal is a 25 year old blond, blue eyed, toothless, clinically obese girl, sipping on a McDonalds Big Gulp trying to get her laundry done ‘cuz she works 7 days a week at Hardee’s’ fast food up the road. 

Why does she work so much? Cuz she “loves money, sho’ nuff!”
Like us, Crystal is complaining about the laundromat. For me, it’s the thick layers of grime on the walls, floors, and pretty much every machine. I’m worried the clothes will leave this place dirtier than when I brought them in. Crystal says the dryers don’t work and it’s a rip off and the place should be ripped down. I agree.

But we are drawn together in this place, out of necessity.
For Crystal, it’s because her landlord refuses to fix a leak at her apartment and she is refusing to pay her water bill. So presumably the water’s been cut off. She assures us that she ‘ain’t payin’ the rent neither’, so presumably she’ll be on the streets again soon.
This won’t be the first time. She points a stubby finger through the grimy window across the street. “I was staying in the shelter beside the Taco Bell” for a while when I had my kids.
Crystal has two children. Their names are tattooed boldly on each arm. The girl is Nevaeh (heaven spelled backwards) and the boy, Isaiah. She explains that they have been taken away by Child Services and have been adopted by some ‘army family’ who live across the country. They have been gone two years. But she is sure that she’ll get them back one day.
“It’s my family’s fault. They’re racist bastards. They hate black people and my kids are mixed race. They called Child Services on me and had my kids taken away lotsa times. Charged me with neglect. But they never helped me with ‘em. The last time they went to the day care and stole ‘em. Haven’t seen ‘em since.”
Crystal pulls out her fancy Samsung phone and finds some photos to show us. Staring back at me on the smudged screen is a frail 3 year old in a torn pink t-shirt, a huge smile. It breaks my heart.
Crystal tells us that the adoptive family has changed her kids names – both first and last names. At 4 and 6 years old. This sounds absurd to us, along with the fact that she pays child support monthly or it’s garnished from her wages.
She lives with her Haitian boyfriend who she repeatedly calls ‘crazy’. They have his 7 year old boy with them. What about the father of her own kids? “No where to be found. He don’t care, don’t look after them, never did”.
She hasn’t seen her own family in over a year, though they all live in this town. All 14 siblings. According to her, they’re all racist. Except her brother. But he’s been on the run for 9 years.
What for? “He done did some things he shouldn’ta done. Robbed some warehouses…”
Crystal smiles as she remembers, “he robbed Honey Bun warehouse one time, showed up at my sister’s house with a whole heap of donuts. Snacks. Like a whole truck full! We said ‘where you get all them donuts from?! And he’s like don’t y’all worry, just give ‘em to all the kids. Next thing you know the cops show up and tell us we gotta give back all them snacks!”
Crystal also tells us about her other 2 kids, and when JW almost falls off his chair, she explained that they were dead. She casually describes being beaten at 5 months pregnant, at a house party, with her daughter standing by.
It was two women and a man and they kicked her repeatedly in the stomach. As we gasp, she laughs. I guess it’s been a crazy life! But anyway, my daughter was cryin’ after me, and later I jus’ started bleedin’”.  She lost the twins within a few days. Later she was ridden with infection and had to have a full hysterectomy. Maybe that was a good thing. Is there anything good in this story?
She showed us her scar ridden, gelatinous belly. That was the icing on this dismal cake. The life of the uneducated, repeating the mistakes and patterns of their parents before them…
She was taken away from her mother when she was a kid as well. She has never been happy, never felt loved. I saw her in her daughter’s eyes.
And then she was gone. And our laundry was done and we moved on. Untied from this city dock, and headed out. 

Shiloh, tied up on the city dock in Elizabeth City - even had our own gate!

Junior Captain at the helm, up the 'ditch'

Tying up in a lock
What lies ahead and to either side of us?
As we snake our way up the ditch, trees lining our path, I wonder what human stories are lurking, the pain and heartaches, the innocence of the children. The sordid details that are making their way to the next Jerry Springer line up.