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.