The way the cookie crumbles

Cookie shackI had envisioned it much differently. My friend (who happens to be my little boat buying good luck charm) and I would take the bus up to the North Country together. I’d get on in New York City and she’d get on in Boston four hours later with croissant egg sandwiches, and we’d watch the sights of New England whirl by us in a blur. We’d wear flannel and wool mittens while we stomped around the boatyard and our host’s farm, where we would learn to tap the syrup out of maple trees. We’d drink hot tea brewed on a wood burning stove, we’d coerce the guard dog to like us by giving it Canadian Bacon.

Oh, Canada, is where we were headed.Canada LandMy friend and I met on a farm and I guess I got a little too excited about us being together, on a farm, once again. So excited in fact that when making travel plans I failed to take into consideration a big fat body of water dividing the land, making the possibility of us traveling together and exploring the North Country nearly impossible.

(I suppose I’m being cryptic–but I’m wary of giving away too much detail before any deal has gone down. Let’s just say I’m going north to look at a boat, the boat I think is the “one.” I’m being so positively assumptive about said boat that I even have a professional marine survey scheduled for the day after I first see her in person). V Berth
I must admit I was very sad to learn my friend would not be traveling with me, but this entire trip north is about the boat, and for a while I had forgotten that. I was so caught up in waving the Canadian flag and having a north country winter experience with one of my best mates that seeing the boat became an after thought, when really it was the sole reason for going in that direction.

I also felt really alone in this whole matter not having her by my side.

“But it’s good for you to go by yourself,” she said. “It’s a business transaction and you’ll come home as a boat owner.”

And she’s right. This entire endeavor is about being free to chose my next destination, what goes on the boat, who comes on the boat, what equipment to chose, what route to take, what provisions to bring. It’s about being the captain. CaptainSo, it’s fitting I suppose, to go see my future magic carpet all by myself–because I’m about to become a single handed sailor. And even if I’m by myself, it doesn’t mean I’m alone.

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” –William Arthur Ward

 

Soul friend

Silent racing“You’ve always done everything you ever said you were going to do,” my best friend says to me. She’s on a cell phone in Seattle. I can hear the rain and sirens from a passing police car.

“You don’t understand,” I say. “This isn’t just some job I’m trying to get in another country. I’m afraid I’m going to get this boat but be paralyzed by the responsibility, so it will sit there unmaintained and degrading. And I’ll be living on this tiny floating thing that has become some kind of prison.”

“That won’t happen,” she says. “I’ve got to go.”

She hangs up.
Montgomery, Lyle Hess
Somehow this validation from my friends makes me feel better. How they’re already telling their people in these cities so far away from me about this boat I’m getting that they’re going to be sailing on soon.

My fears are not irrational. I’ve been shirking my boat responsibilities. Yes, I’ve been working a lot and socializing more than usual—but I’ve had the time. I need to schedule a survey for the trip I’m taking soon, but I just haven’t done it.

I’m going to see the boat that I think is “the one.” So many sailors have used that cryptic line.

“When you know, you know.”

“But how?” I ask.

“You just know.”

That’s all I can go off. The fact that this boat was the first one I called on four months ago when my pockets were empty. How even when I push her to the bottom of the list she somehow manages to resurface as number one every time. How I’ve already started making the list of what she will need right away in order for me to be comfortable splashing her and living aboard.

How her name is translated into English as “Soul Friend,” and how my handful of nearest and dearest mates scattered across this country, who are the only people that I can talk to when I’m on the edge that can make me feel human again—how I’ve always referred to them as my “soul friends.”Friendship boats

Two years liebster

20150522-DSC_1244Is it too late to claim my prize? Nearly two years ago the magnetic duo from SV The Red Thread nominated me for a kind of blogger to watch award created by, well, other bloggers to watch, and I never claimed my booty. I’m always late to show up to the party, like the time I literally came down with the swine flu in 2011, or the late notice sitting unopened in regard to my overdue library books.

Basically the Liebster Award works, rather, worked, like a chain letter where one blogger nominates another and on it goes. So, without further ado here are my answers to the queries bestowed upon me by two of my favorite voyaging sailors.

1. Who are you and what inspires you to do what you “do” (take that as you please)? I suppose I’m the creative type, definitely a student of life, constantly reinventing myself and always searching for something to feel. I’m a traveler, a nomad. I’ve had many different jobs, most often as a seasonal cellar hand in commercial wineries. I’ve also worked as a newspaper journalist, a farm laborer, a dock girl at a fancy marina, and more. Right now I work as a waitress, freelance journalist, and on the bottling line at a winery.

I try not to define myself by my job. I try not to ask people “what do you do?” Rather, “what’s your story?” Above all I’m a feeler and a writer. I’ve always said we need to feel as much as we can because you never when you may not be able to feel anything anymore. I quell my social anxiety by being an extreme emotion seeker. It doesn’t always work out, but I like to think I can create some piece of art from an experience–whether it be a poem, a song or an essay, which is very cathartic.

2. We are all seeking something in this journey – what are you after? I’m seeking a sense of significance in this life. A sense that I’m living a life well lived. Community amongst like minded people. I want to be a part of something that keeps my hands busy and feet firmly planted in reality, yet allows for plenty of dreaming and scheming. I want to come face to face with myself, be humble enough to accept help from others yet be astute enough to overcome challenges on my own.

3. The sky is the limit; where would you like to go next? Well, I plan to buy, live and sail on my boat around the northeast. When I’m ready I’d like to harbor hop down the Atlantic coast to the entrance into the Intracoastal Waterway and putter my way down to the Florida Keys. From there it’s only 60 miles to the Bahamas… However an old sailor just recently told me a story of how he became shipwrecked in the Bahamas, which got me a bit rattled. “Never sail at night there,” he said.

4. Who is the hero in your life?  That’s a difficult question for me to answer. I suppose I just really respect people who are living the lives that they want to live, and who don’t paint it as this rose colored journey without sacrifices. I also truly admire couples who are still in love after years together and never got sick of or began to resent the other so much that they called it quits. I could easily say something like “Lin and Larry Pardey are my heroes,” but all I can say about them is if you read the entire “Cruising in Seraffyn” series you’ll not only have read one of the best sailing adventure books out there, but one of the greatest love stories of all time.

5. What hidden talent or skill do you have? I’m a ukulele songstress who sings and performs all original music.

6. Share your favorite *simple* recipe (okay, that is actually a request…). I’m no whiz in the galley and basically eat for survival, budget and nutrition. Rice and beans, potatoes and eggs are my staples. But here is a simple recipe for a pasta sauce that a broke Italian taught me to make:

1 can whole peeled tomatoes
Garlic
Onion

Chop onion and simmer in olive oil. Add tomatoes and break them up with a fork. Add chopped garlic. Cover and let stew until all the flavors that will make your breath stink have seeped into the sauce. It costs about a dollar and you can add other veggies if you’d like.

7. If you could meet anyone, dead or alive, who would it be? I’d like to meet the current owner of the boat that is meant to be mine

8. What is your favorite post you’ve written (please link to it!)? I have two, both with a reoccurring theme:
When things went south
Make sure it’s yours

9. Describe yourself in 3 words, no more and no less (oops, again, a request). I can’t do that, but one time I wrote a “room wanted,” ad while I was living in Wellington, New Zealand and it said this: “Friendly. Likes gardens. Pays rent.”

10. What are you afraid of? Other than everything? Waves.

Okay, so now I’m supposed to nominate a blogger to watch and I nominate Justine and Tricia. Justine is a badass Canadian who is living aboard her little C&C 24 with her partner. They have plans to leave the frigid water temps in British Columbia and sail down the wild west coast to the Mexico where the water and beer is warm. Tricia is an English lass that has been living aboard and restoring a good old boat named Gwen with her man friend and they’ve finally made it out of the boat shed and onto the water after a year (or more) of hard work. They also have adventures up their sleeves.

So, here are my questions, ladies, if you’d like you can answer them now in a post of your own, or you can wait two years to do it, like I did.

1. What’s the pants shitting scariest thing that has happened to you while either out sailing or working on your boat?

2. What are the biggest challenges you face living aboard a sailboat?

3. Ever ponder how you are a minority in the sailing community (as a woman)? How does that make you feel and what would say to a woman who is perhaps intimidated by sailing being such a mail dominated lifestyle?

4. What scares you the most and why: pirates, the possibility of a giant squid taking your boat down to meet Davy Jones, or storms? 

5. What do your non sailing friends and family think of you living on a boat? 

The Bristol 27

Self surveying a Bristol 27Sitting in the cabin of the boat ten feet off the ground I felt like I was in the belly of a whale, swallowed whole by her size. Her current owner left me instructions to tie up the tarp properly for the impending snow storm and left me to fiddle around unbothered. Bristol 27
The first time I ever sailed was on a 43-foot catamaran during a 1200 nautical mile trans-Tasman journey. From there I sailed on everything from tall ships to day sailors, with the majority of my time sailing spent aboard a 22-foot pocket cruiser. Ever since that fateful day that I learned about small boats, size has mattered.
Inspecting the anchor locker on a Bristol 27
I’m not a purist, or a good enough sailor to be considered an authority on anything, but I scoff at fancy boats. Give me something with a simple rig, good bones, an adequate anchoring system and a simple way to charge a handheld VHF.Self survey Bristol 27All signs from my self-survey pointed to this boat being a winner. Yes, there were some signs of delamination on deck but nothing indicated an entirely rotten core. Yes, she had beads of silicone around some fittings that indicated leakage. Yes, some of the bolts on the lifeline stanchions were rusted. Yes, her main sail would need to be retired almost immediately. But none of this seemed beyond my skills or budget for replacement or repair. She even had a working outboard motor and the head had been ripped out years prior (I come from the school of using a bucket as a head, just ask Teresa Carey, so that was a plus for me). The biggest issues I found were rusty chainplates and lack of a working 12 volt electricity system. Both were a turn off, but not enough to pull the plug.

The price was right. The owner was honest. It wasn’t the work that needed to be put in that would swallow me, it was her magnitude. She was closer to it but wasn’t “the one.” Now, I look forward to meeting her little sister. . .

“At sea, I learned how little a person needs, not how much.” – Robin Lee Graham

The 30-minute self survey

SnowmaggedonMoving home at the age of 26 had me feeling a bit lonesome as everything in my hometown has remained much of the same, while I’ve changed dramatically. I envy the loners, I really do, but I’m a social creature and always have been. But with my newfound alone time I’ve found something incredible: focus. I’ve saved enough money for my boat, a professional marine survey, and the imminent upgrades it will certainly need right away. I’ve even stashed extra funds away for some travel for travel’s sake before I move aboard in Spring. I’ve studied closely what designs, designers, and builders have created inherently seaworthy vessels, and specifics I need to bear in mind when I examine a potential purchase. The Self SurveyRecently I traveled to New England to look at two boats I was very keen on. They were in my price and size range, and I loved their lines and reputations. Luckily I was able to replace the diamonds in my eyes with concrete and see them for what they really were…

Disclaimer: I am still a beginner and looking to soak up as much information as possible! If you see anything in the photos below that I’ve called wrong, or failed to notice, please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts!

Surveying the Sea Sprite 28The Sea Sprite 28

Using notes from the book, “Inspecting the Aging Sailboat,” by Don Casey as a guide, I found some issues needing repair that were far beyond my skills.

Her rudder moved easily, the prop as well. Her top sides had lots of little bumps but I likened it to cosmetic only. Her bottom had layers upon layers of paint, easy to remedy with some scraping, sanding and painting. I tapped around the thru-hull fittings and the sounds resonated sharp. I found no overwhelming indication that the hull was in anything other than good shape.
paint job
Sea Sprite 28 rudder

Down below was another story. The boat was out of the water on jack stands, yet still the bilges were filthy and full of water. That meant two things to me, 1) the owner didn’t maintain clean bilges so what else could have been neglected, 2) water was getting into the boat.

Dirty bilge

I knew going into it that this boat had some issues, as it was advertised as needing “TLC to bring her back to her original glory.” Plus, she was priced nearly 70 percent lower than any of her used sister ships for sale. The hardware on deck that houses the boats’ spinnaker pole is apparently the source of a leak that has caused damage to the bulkhead veneer on the port side of the boat, but with a few pokes of my knife it seemed the damage went deeper than the decorative layer of wood. While I was sounding the cabin floor I also found rot on the port side at the bottom of the head door where the “wall” meets the cabin sole. It was wet, soft, and alarming. I also noticed salt crystals and other signs of leakage high on the hull, which could indicate hull to deck joint leakage, but I’m not sure.

Pretty quickly I realized these issues were beyond my skills for repair and I didn’t bother doing anything other than a light once over on the mast, rigging and deck.  30 Minute Self Survey

The owner has only had the boat for a one season, and he didn’t get a survey, nor did he know how old the rigging was, when the last time the hardware was rebedded (something important, especially the chainplates, on the SS 28 according to owners forums). He planned to fix the boat up, but other boats came into his life so this one went up for sale. I don’t doubt his honesty or integrity, and I think the boat is priced fairly. This Seasprite 28 will certainly make a sailor who is a little more suited for the task of refitting very happy.

Another major factor was her sheer size and girth, she seemed like she would be too much work to single hand. The cost of maintaining her inboard diesel engine was the third strike and I had to let this boat go.

I want to outfit, not refit my first sailboat, and I don’t doubt that a boat meticulously maintained by its previous owner is out there for me. In my next post I will go over my findings on the second boat I surveyed in New England,  a Bristol 27.

 

Thorough

That word was used again. That word that has never been the right adjective to describe my actions. That word associated with people who are inherently less likely than me to half ass everything. 20160111-DSC_4528I’ve never been obsessive compulsive until I started shopping for boats, and while it may be aggravating to the current owner (who I ask to leave me alone with the boat and then respond with a very generic “eh,” when they ask me how I liked the vessel) it’s a quality I’m glad I developed. Tools of the tradeIt’s difficult for me to describe how uncannily fun it was to stomp around those boats I went to see last week. How it made me feel to scrupulously inspect every inch of the hull, deck and cabin. I felt like I was ensuring my safety, like I’d learned so much since I went to inspect my first boat only a short month ago, like a few taps of the head of a screwdriver was going to save me from having to pay upwards of $500 for a surveyor to confirm my suspicion–this isn’t the right boat for me. I discovered some faults that may have otherwise gone unnoticed by the owners, like a rotting bulkhead on one boat. It was clear, that in my sailing education and theirs, we had come from different schools.
Self SurveyOne of the owners texted me later that evening asking for my feedback, and when I gave it to him I was reminded of the time I quit a job and my boss asked for the same thing. People don’t actually want to know what’s wrong, and just because you’ve been sailing longer than a neophyte doesn’t mean you necessarily know more about boats, or anything about boats. Although I can’t help but wish I had an experienced sailor and boat buyer there with me, to confirm or deny my findings.
My assistantEvery boat I call on brings me closer to “the one.” The stars seem to be aligning for one particular vessel, but it’s too soon to reveal anything about her condition or whereabouts. I don’t want to jinx it but unless a star falls out of the sky…

Until then the search continues, and so does my education in the valuable skill set that is the self-survey.

“There are a lot of people in this world at this moment in history who feel pretty lost in life. Who don’t feel like their life has a lot of purpose, has a lot of meaning, they don’t feel like they’ve actually achieved anything…People have gone to sea or have sought that experience as a means to remedy those lacks, and I would attest that can still be the case. If you do feel there a things in your life that you’d like to have that you’ve never had, sailing can be an excellent vehicle to reach that kind of satisfaction.” -Jay Fitzgerald, Pacific Northwest Engineless Sailor.

Living “well” below the poverty line

When I told the editor of the newspaper I used to work for that I’d never made more than $12,000 per year at the age of 25 he looked me in the eyes and said, “that’s impossible.” Meaning it’s impossible not only to live, but to live well, under those circumstances. People, like my boss (and others), might wonder how it’s possible to live on such a low income without either living in your parent’s basement forever or receiving government assistance. While it may be the case right now that I’m living with my parents to save up to buy my very own tiny floating home (thanks mom & dad!), I’ve never needed government assistance and I’ve been in a perpetual state of (slow) motion for nearly five years.

The reason I make so little is not because of low wages, rather because I chose to work for a while and then not work! My time not working is spent traveling, exploring, sailing…
Sailor girl

So, curious what kind of accommodation less than 12 grand per year can buy a girl???

Dorm style living, in New Zealand.Duncannon, NZ In 2012 I traveled overseas by myself for the first time for a seasonal job at a winery in the wine region Marlborough. That year was lousy for grapes, in fact we coined a catch phrase “Vintage 2012: Bad for grapes good for mates.” This may look like your typical college party but I assure you, it wasn’t. Everyone in this photo ranges in age from 20 to 40 and everyone is from a different country. Portugal, Argentina, Spain, the US, you name it. I’ve never been to to Italy, but I lived with Italians who taught me how to make excellent pasta sauce from a can of whole peeled tomatoes, which of course we ate at 10 p.m.

One third of a van. IMG_0276I was working for Greenpeace as a street team campaigner and was staying at a hostel in a room where beds were constantly emptied and refilled with travelers and seasonal workers. After a couple of months Greenpeace sent me to campaign all over the North Island using that van above as a home base. In theory, awesome. Sharing the van with a very tall, very stinky Irishman and Canadian? Only awesome for a couple of weeks.

A little cottage with a banana tree.IMG_0301
And an incredible view.
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(For any sailors reading this blog, that’s the Bay of Islands where Lin and Larry Pardey live). This sweet little abode was half mine for eight hours per week of housekeeping at the bed and breakfast next door. My then boyfriend/flatmate also worked for eight hours gardening at the B&B to cover his half of the rent. We got sick of the TV so we turned the couch to face outside. The view was always better than what was on.

A room in the cleanest house that ever existed.IMG_3204
Honestly probably my favorite place to live if only for what it represented at the time, a refuge from the storm. I went back to the NZ wine region last minute in 2013 for a job and wound up living in a house that was advertised as having access to the river, and only $75 per week. Well, the river was nice but the owner raised the price to $90 per week because he had bought each of us containers for our food and cleared out extra cabinet space. There were nearly seven people living there and one roommate spoke very loudly (nearly screaming) every night around 2 a.m. to his family in Sri Lanka. The homeowner also refused to turn on the heat and was not very kind to his mail order bride from the Philippines (who by the way was very sweet and made me a plate of mussels and potatoes once). I begged my workmate to ask his landlord if I could stay in the extra room in his house. It was $125 a week and I’m pretty sure the landlord checked every night to make sure I didn’t leave any clothes on the floor (it was a stipulation to living there), but I didn’t care. It was a clean, well lit place.

A handmade clay cabin surrounded by rainforest and permaculture gardens.
IMG_3872IMG_3812In Australia I stayed for free for a month helping my now dear friend maintain her gardens. I went to Australia in hope of staying longer (and because my second visa had expired in NZ), but found myself yearning to experience the coasts of my own country.

A room in wine country.IMG_4385I didn’t get to meet the land lady for a while because she was busy hiking the John Muir Trail (she didn’t like me very much anyway). I remember sitting outside underneath an electric sky of stars and could hear coyotes. Less than a mile away was a dense forest wilderness, vineyards and more sky than I’d ever seen. I felt like I’d finally arrived in California, the promised land.

A really crappy yet fully functional and (basically) reliable car.photo-2
I pretty much lived out of my car for a while as I road tripped both with friends and solo from California to Canada and everything in between, multiple times. When my friend and I crossed the border into Canada the immigration officer was very confused by the amount of stuff I had in my vehicle and I think he thought we might try and stay there forever…

A tiny cabin/shed on a mystical goat farm.IMG_5039
Some of the best six months of my life were spent shoveling goat poop, milking their udders, and canoodling with the guard dogs. This farm was entirely run by (mostly) young, open minded and inclusive people. We were in the foothills of Mount Rainier and on clear days you could see the mountain in all its glory. But even the stature of the mountain did not compare to the bounty that was this farm and the community that kept it thriving.

A prefab log cabin on a little evergreen island. IMG_5148
This cabin was sweet, but I’ll admit I was very lonely at the time and mostly only took pictures of the food on the shelves (I was OBSESSED with trying to have a “clean diet”). The cabin was part of the employee housing at a snooty marina where I worked tying up boats.

A berth on a 22 foot sailboat.IMG_5378
But anyone reading this blog already knows that story…

SNAP OUT OF IT

20160104-DSC_4413When I become giddy over the thought of owning my very own sailboat I remember what my book on inspecting the aging sailboat says, “SNAP OUT OF IT.”

I must remind myself not think about the warm light that will undoubtedly illuminate the saloon, nor the adventures that are sure to ensue. This is a business transaction. Someone is trying to sell me something, and I have to be sure it’s not their problem, or something I can’t afford.

IMG_0628

Going to see this little fine beauty next week. I hope she’s in as good of condition as she seems from her pictures. Since I’m a wee bit superstitious I would paint her hull white as soon as I could.

The devil is in the details, so they say. I’m going to look at two boats in New England next week. I’ve done a thorough job in determining whether the boats are worth my time, and “thorough” is not an adjective normally used to describe myself. “Haphazard” is more like it. But I must admit emailing back and forth with the owners, talking with them on the phone, contacting other sailors who own the same type of boats, spending hours researching, it’s been a surprisingly satisfying experience. I haven’t acted this studious in many years. In fact, nearly two years ago I couldn’t even bring myself to finish my Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) online certification, and I’d paid $400 for it.

I don’t have a car but luckily I have a good friend whom I haven’t seen in two years who lives in New England and she’s offered to pay for half of a rental car and her parents have a house on Cape Cod where we will stay. We will gallivant around the shores of New England looking at potential boats for me and exploring the region to see if it’s where I’d like to keep the boat and live for the sailing season.

Once again this entire process is a mixture of excitement and terror. I can certainly afford to to buy the boat, but can I afford the boat in general? Most likely not–I’m an underemployed journalist and a waitress, but just like when I get overly optimistic about a boat when I become too negative I must also tell myself to “SNAP OUT OF IT.”IMG_1458

 

Here’s to you and here’s to me

2015 was a bang up year. It had it’s fill of tears, but with it came triumphs. I learned a lot about myself–even if it meant just figuring out what I didn’t want I feel like I’m finally on the right path to finding the boat I was meant to sail, and the life I was meant to lead. In between there’s been bikes, beer, and even babies! Join me in this walk down memory lane, and cheers to a happy, healthy new year!

May all of our dreams come true.

This year I… lived aboard one of the most finely built  and well designed sail boats in the world. dsc_8647Finally learned how to row, properly. IMG_1113Was the captain of a vessel (albeit small) for the first time.dsc_9476I learned how to navigate (kind of).
20150629-DSC_2726Quit my job as a full time newspaper journalist to go sailing and gunkholing around British Columbia. 20150622-DSC_2547
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Said goodbye to a community of sailors that were cut from the same cloth.
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Bought and sold four different bicycles.
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bike touring on a single speed
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Went on a fully loaded solo bike tour intended to last thousands of miles, but only rode 100.
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Worked my fourth harvest in the wine industry
Sep 18 008
Reconnected with my family after being away for two years.
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Began the hunt for my very own sailboat.
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