In a Moment

The body of my friend’s 5 year old daughter was just found feet from her boat this morning, a calamity with the same random chance as a star or nebula forming, the same random chance that a dandelion seed finds a good patch of loose soil, and the same random chance that brought her mother and father together, the same random chance that brought them all into the world in the first place… and yet, irreversibly, it happened. A plop into the water, maybe a bump on the noggin, no fault or bad luck or angry gods or evil spirits.


But now, in the aftermath, and because we like to order the unordered, we’ll look to make sense of the senseless. Some will say disingenuously how they never let kids out of sight or that they’re always wearing their Safety Things… that they never look away to stir a pot or to scrub a boat… that they live with so much fear for this very moment that every moment for them is some brand of agony. They react so vehemently because they merely live on the other side of a thin veil, a shared and brittle skin made of a moment and a circumstance outside of their favor.

People outside will look in, everything will draw in too close, and even my dear friend will look within herself, and find only random and sundry stars, seeds, and stories.

Some stories aren’t meant to teach anything. They’re just stories. Here we see a story that had an ending none of us wanted.

I hope the grief hangs lightly over my friend’s head, more like a cloud than a stone; that she might be in the shade of it but doesn’t have to carry it, and I hope the cloud turns into a silver coated memory, smooth and cold to the touch and strong as anything but weightless as nothing. I hope her husband sits in the sunshine today, meditating on the things outside of his control, like the way the constantly-exploding sun can heat us from so far away or how many dandelion seeds land on pavement or get stuck while floating by.

I feel so much love for these people today, a depthless compassion for them and Our Kitty.



Here’s how you can buoy this family up: Please donate.

In Florida Aboard Mary T

From afar, I saw my friend Angie as tough, responsible, capable, and knowledgable. I’ve only known her online, and so I also saw her as helpful, as she’d swoop in and be able to describe just about anything mechanical to an online friend in need. I’ve been watching her progress down the eastern seaboard with some wins and some tough times alike, but making pretty good time, and having a good time doing it.

Stop #2, #logan #airport #travel

It was a no-brainer last week when she lost her crew and sent up an internet flare. I don’t know what it was, but I felt personally called to come meet Angie in Florida and help her as crew to the Bahamas. I was going to take one of her classes… someday. Save up the fair going rate (tough for a gal like me) and take all female class with her in the Chesapeake. Hell, this way, I’d get to cross the Gulf Stream with her and soak up all that info in real life! I looked up tickets. She said, “WAHOO!”

Crewing was never going to happen at a time when it was convenient for me. I’ve been reading about opportunities here and there, and all of them normally want you to arrive within a week or two. One by one they fell away, with either the expenses being too great or the timeframe being too tight.

It was a lot of hemming and hawing, really. Excuses. But this? This was too much goodness to let pass by. I arrived earlier this week, four days after seeing Angie’s virtual flare, and I’ve been able to enjoy some warm weather during the coldest days this winter.

The anchorage where we're at. Public park in the foreground, Intracoastal waterway to the left. #sailing #cruising #ICW #Florida

Lake Worth is kind of odd to me, but warm with clear, clean water. Sprawly and difficult to enjoy without a car, but there is a large, free municipal beach and a close-by grocery store.

Yes please to that jaunty little house #boat. #lakeworth #Florida #travel

I think the best part so far has been meeting Angie in person, though. You don’t really see people in three dimensions when you just know them online, with their voices and the way they move about the world. But they are three dimensional, and complicated, and whole. Things you can’t see online: her thick Tennessee accent, her hospitality, her love of chicken prepared any which way, and her special talent of making people around her feel capable and confident.

Seriously. Chickens fear her.

As we make our way through the Bahamas, or shortly thereafter, I hope to write about and share photos of our adventures.

Perfection in a front yard. #palmbeach #Florida #travel #walking

Ditching the Tree for an Alternative

The first snow of the season was a beast. A snowplow busted the mailbox right off the post, a total of about 18 inches fell, and part of the lilac bush in the front yard of the house cracked away from the rest.

Solstice tree

When my dad was here for this past holiday weekend, I told him how I was thinking of bringing in the busted part of the lilac bush, a large branch indeed, and using it as a seasonal tree inside the house. Dad used the big snippers took the branch off the rest of the way, and upon closer inspection, there are buds on there.

Solstice tree

We’re forcing narcissus and amaryllis bulbs, the ones in the pictures below, and Colin thought maybe the branch would leaf out if treated the same way.

Solstice tree

Solstice tree

I collected some stones from the gravelly roadside. I’m lucky that the plow has uncovered a bunch of good stuff on that will work for this purpose. After carefully rinsing all of the rocks of any potential road salt, Colin and I used them to hold the lilac branch upright in a planting pot. The planting pot, inside of a bucket, is super stable and can hold water without making a mess. I can also see the level of the water, should it need refilling.

Solstice tree

It came out great. There are some advantages to having a tree like this in the house. No dried out needles all over the floor, completely free of cost (you could use a downed branch easily), and you can see the ornaments really well. Things work a little differently, like how the lights can be strung. In some ways, this branch is stronger and can hold larger ornaments in places, but instead of the structure going from wide to tall as it goes up, it’s the opposite. I went for wrapping the main sections of the branch only. Still plenty of lights.

Solstice tree

Solstice tree

Solstice tree

Solstice tree

I don’t have a lot of holiday stuff, as I’ve worked down a lot of my not-so-needed possessions. I hold myself to one storage bin worth of stuff for this holiday, ornaments, lights and all. I do have some knick knacky things, and I like to subtly have the same things as always in the space, but done up a little to brighten things up, like putting tiny fake lights on things, or having books around and about that are holiday themed.

Solstice tree

Solstice tree

Decorating isn’t that important to me, really. Marking the season with some kind of ritual is. I’m looking forward to the days getting longer and for some news from people via mail and holiday cards. That’s the important stuff. Don’t sweat trees or buying ornaments if you don’t have the means, the room, or the energy. You’re better off taking long walks in snowshoes, or making sure you feel the sun on your face if it gets warm one afternoon, know what I mean? It’s what you do, not the stuff, that helps you mark the year and welcome the season.

Elizabeth City has great lights.

Assembling a Tiny Dressing Vanity in a Small House

Finally settling into the land dwelling, new to us this past spring, because we were sailing all summer. I’ll talk about summer later, when I need the warm-thought therapy, but for now, it’s nice to get to personalize the wee house on the back road only 10 minutes from the winter dock where Mimi Rose is tied up.

I’ve always wanted one of those dressing vanities in my room with a little matching stool in front of it. A place to keep the few feminine things I have, a space just for a few treasures and pieces of jewelry. My new tiny room kind of precludes having anything like that or even a little reading chair of some sort.

Here’s a low-profile, zero-footprint version I improvised from found objects. A slightly fancy mirror ($5, thrift store a couple years ago) and what I think is a set of bathroom shelves for hand towels and lavatory sundries ($12 at an awesome junk barn here in town) combine to make a wall-mounted duo that serves the purpose of a table and stool without taking up all the room.

The new little dressing "table" I assembled from a couple of found things.

What I’m stowing here isn’t all dressing-related. Some of it is inspiring family treasure, or little bits and bobs that make me think, but these shelves are also clearly a good match for neatly storing some jewelry.

The new little dressing "table" I assembled from a couple of found things.

Necklaces stored without tangles.

The new little dressing "table" I assembled from a couple of found things.

Even spots for post earrings!

I’m keeping some stuff in little glass trays, too. The lips of the shelves protect the big stuff from getting bumped while walking by, and then the random pins, glass marbles, and ephemera are contained in a couple of these. Clutter with a semblance of control.

The new little dressing "table" I assembled from a couple of found things.

I also dig repurposing jars as earring holders. Inside: sea treasure. Along the rim, a few of my earrings are neatly displayed and ready to grab.

The new little dressing "table" I assembled from a couple of found things.

As I use it, I’ll probably switch out or give away some of the extra clutter and replace it with other things that have a more pressing need to be out and ready to grab. For now though, it’s definitely a nice addition to the room. Now to use these newly-acquired sewing skills to make a curtain for the closet.


I Don’t Have a Bucket List.

Me and our tour guide, who was a fantastic bat-lover and rock nerd! #endlesscaverns #virginia #travel

I went to Endless Caverns on a road trip to Virginia a few weeks ago. Lots of camping, the main cost was gasoline. 

It pokes at me, this whole “Bucket List” habit spreading around. Or at least in my little bubble, it seems to be a habit. I hear people, often, mentioning something nice to do or a great place to go and then, “Oh yeah, man. That’s one for the bucket list.” It’s dangerous, consistently subjugating a (sometimes just somewhat) firey desire to an undocumented, expensive, unaccounted-for list. Perhaps more sad is that, on this so-called bucket list, the idea can reside with a respectful sum of anticipation because this adventure has been categorized as something you’d like to do before you die, but it will probably sit there in that bucket and die along with you. Get going today. Ditch your bucket list or that habit of dropping things on your bucket list. Here’s why:

We’ve got to quit our ‘someday’ culture.

This is the culture that results in the servitude of countless millions of people to go to work today so that for two days a week you can pursue those things that you dream about doing the rest of the week. A bucket list is a “someday” list. If it’s longer and more beautiful than what you do with a majority of your life, think on that really hard.

Most bucket lists are merely things that with money, you just buy yourself in.

I’ve never heard of someone putting a delayed gratification item on a bucket list, like the sort of thing that grit and hard work could bring you to. They’re all parachuting out of airplanes, not flying the airplanes. Or going to a certain country… for a week. Go back to item #1. Why keep working and saving up for these teaspoonfuls of thrills while letting your life slip through your fingers like water?

This is not a zoomed photo. I pet this seal today and fed her a fish. Thanks, Roxie the #seal and @neaq!! #boston #ma #animals #aquarium I was pretty darn misty the whole time.

This is Roxie, a fur seal at the New England Aquarium. I was so thankful and completely elated to have been invited to pet her and get a special tour of the place, but I know it was super expensive to do. 

You can live in a way that makes it so you never, ever think about ‘bucket lists.’ 

I can imagine jobs and routines that bring a lot of joy to your life, I just don’t think a majority of us live in that world. Here’s the biggest secret: It’s not wild and reckless abandon to envision and put to motion a life boldly lived.

Even if it’s said in passing, it’s a sign of this dream/real life dichotomy in your mind.

The struggle is real, people. We get one go-around. I used to do a lot of someday type of dreaming, and now that I’ve shifted to being able to make everyday amazing (not just with the boat!) I just don’t do that anymore.

#Hope. #anchor #sailing #newengland #cemetery #bluehill #maine #carving #stone

Launching Day, 2014

Launch day was set for Thursday the 26th, right at the same time USA was taking on Germany for the World Cup. It was bad luck, set a while back before we were thinking about the World Cup at all, and so when we went down to the boat yard on the 24th to see about having the mast moved from storage, Brooklin Boat Yard’s great people were already moving it, and boy howdy surprise, were going to come get the boat within a couple of hours.

Cue Eye of the Tiger. Cue fast montage of driving across the peninsula, hurriedly putting tools away, tying things down, all that jive… and she was getting hauled down to the yard to be splashed the next day. Everything happened so fast this time around, no sitting in the sling overnight, no great anticipation for a whole day knowing the truck might come but not at what time… my feelings were of general relief rather than excitement. It’s got me thinking maybe this is becoming commonplace.

Launching day went smoothly. #sailboat #sailing #brooklin #maine #brooklinboatyard #woodenboat #weloveuneventful

It was still a bit magical to feel the boat go from swinging to floating, if not because it was thrilling and new, but rather that the boat belongs in the water and not on jack stands, and everyone likes to see a thing in its proper environment.

Here are some other exciting things going on at Brooklin Boat Yard.

The fun shapes possible with cold molded wood. #woodenboat #sailboat #brooklinboatyard #brooklin #maine

Those are some scrap pieces from the production of the Frers 74 project, check their facebook page for more information, because their updates are top notch.

Strip-planked construction in progress at #brooklinboatyard #brooklin #maine #sailboat #boats

They’re also building this strip-planked double ender, which is looking mighty pretty.

And then there was the dinghy launch.

Dinghy movin' time. #woodenboat #sailing #sailboat #tender #ORANGE!

It's a good color.

Colin and Pepper, launching the dinghy. #brooklinboatyard #brooklin #maine #rowboat #sailboat #marshallcovepaint

It’s a good color. I’ve been pleased with the Marshall’s Cove Paints.

Buddhist Teachings, Joyful Effort, and Boat Work

When we came back from the ICW last year and the boat was finally pulled, it was easy for me to walk away from the boat shed and leave that to-do list firmly on the back burner. In fact, it felt good to spend a winter- a long, brutal, dark, land-based, car-trouble-infested winter- in a state of hibernation.

Ferns. #bluehill #maine

But here we are, back in the boat shed grinding things, running wires, and putting a shine on things that were very well used during our year away. I can hear the voice of our friend we met in Brunswick, Georgia, a woman who has many more nautical miles under her belt than I have. “It’s a part of it,” she said one afternoon, “You have to learn to like it.”

It’s not separate from the rest of the sailing and adventuring. The work you do maintaining a boat, for most cruisers and people with budgets, is a pie slice of the time you spend. Luckily, I DO happen to like it. I’m proud of the boat and of the work I do on her. They’re long days though, the ones where I’m working on “work work” and then going directly to the boat shed to keep charging forward toward launch date.

I started thinking about this a little while back, and it came together a little better when I learned earlier this spring about the six perfections of Buddhism. One rings in my head like a tuning fork: Joyful Effort. The application of your efforts, especially ones done to benefit other people, done with joy, zeal, and energy, is behavior befitting an enlightened being.

I’ve been meditating on that as I’m bent over for an hour painting the dinghy, or as my face gets hot under a respirator as I sand. My joy comes from the gratitude I feel that I have the equipment I need and that when I’m finished I’ll get to use the boat. It also comes from new skills and pride when a project is completed. And of course, it comes when she’s finally launched and we get to know what it’s like to float again. Joyful effort can only go in one direction, and that’s toward success.

At first I just amended the way I was moving while I was working. Mindfulness and meditation crept into the way I hold my tools, the way I breathe, the way I move as I work. Straight back, fluid motions, a bit of artful dancing, an occasional stop to admire what’s been done, smile, repeat. If someone were to look at me, I’d want to appear joyful, and to me in my motions, truly BE joyful. And then, eventually, the joy was louder than the grind.

I figure it also helps to enjoy more than just the work itself, but to really revel in making fun decisions. That means the colors are getting crazy:

My dad seemed really disappointed that I was painting the dinghy the same color again. "You could paint it any color! The SAME?" Ok, Dad. I'll go orange.

And the results are pretty rad:

Dinghy painting

What are your projects this spring? How are they coming?

Winter Projects: Splicing Wire Rope

Colin splicing wire rope. #rigging #sailing #cruising #diy #boats

The time has come to replace the standing rigging on Mimi Rose. As Colin practices splices, we come upon this great quote. Brion Toss has a way of writing that adds levity to difficult tasks around the boat, and his words about fairing out a bumpy splice are pretty darn funny. From The Rigger’s Apprentice:

It is difficult to describe in print exactly how hard one should strike to fair different-sized wires, but the matter is important, so as an aid I will tell you a little story. A sailmaker and I once had a loft on the top floor of City Hall in Anacortes, Washington. Ours was the only unrenovated room in the old building–below, city employees typed and filed away in carpeted, fluorescent-lit comfort. Trying to work quietly, I discovered how little muscle was actually needed to fair a splice. Since gentleness is a good thing for wire, imagine, as you fair, a nest of bureaucrats below. For wire up to 5/16 inch in diameter, the noise will not bother them at all; pounding 3/8-inch wire is noticeable but reasonable; 7/16-inch can be tolerated anytime except first thing Monday morning; 1/2-inch should be done only during lunch or after hours; and 5/8-inch and up will drop plaster into the typewriters, so should be done in the parking lot.


Women Who Sail and Why We Work

WWS Members are from EVERYWHERE!

The WWS Interactive Map- One Pin Equals One Member!

I’m a member of a closed group on Facebook that plays a big role for me when it comes to sailing and living aboard. I was invited by my friend Sophi who has lived aboard for a few years now, and she was really excited to add me to the ranks of the amazing group of women known as “Women Who Sail.” When I was added, we were at about 700 members. As of now we’ve busted on through to 1185 members and counting.

The conversation is enlightening, detailed, technical, supportive, and inspiring. I can’t get enough of these people. I really feel as though they’re friends, and we meet up with each other in the real world when our paths cross.

What makes the group special is perhaps the spectrum of its participants. We are old and young; we are new and experienced. We are single-handers out on our own and timid sideline sitters whose partners carry the bulk of the boat tasks. Many well-known bloggers and book writers are among our ranks. Lin Pardey chimes in from time to time, as she’s a member, too.

A good number of the members are at the dream stage of the boating/cruising life, however, many conversations are driven by women live aboard in remote places and have many nautical miles under their belts. I’m in awe of them, I respect them, and they respect me.

As we add new members, most give an introductory post about themselves and comment on how refreshing it is to discuss boat matters in a forum and format so open and accepting. I think this says more about the environment outside of WWS than it does about us, and so for anyone who’s curious about what goes on in our little neck of the internet woods, I’m going to lay it out. Here’s why I think it works. I’m sharing this because I hope it inspires other people with like minds to build their own beautiful webs.

1. Our membership is vetted.

Not just by moderators, either. New folks who come to WWS are typically added after meeting in real life with people who are current members. Sophi is a friend from Portland, and she added me. I’ve invited women I met at potlucks and random anchorages all up and down the eastern seaboard of the US during my first trip on the ICW. This creates a membership that cares. There’s a real feeling that we have a stake in how great the group is and what its inherent value is. We all bring that to the group, not just any particular one of us.

2. Posts are monitored and discussion is moderated.

We have our moments where the moderators have had to remind people to curb their tone, but really, for being over 1000 people I’m going to boast that we’ve got some really peaceful, mindful, thoughtful folks here. I don’t think it’s because we’re women, I think it’s got something to do with the vetting AND with the clear guidelines about the purpose of the group. Some posts about electrical maintenance or ideal finishes for teak could potentially get heated. Ever read a post about the holy act of anchoring in other forums? I won’t name names, but I mean really, if you ask a question a certain way in certain places the sharks come out. I daresay WWS is proud to be shark-free.

3. Conversation flows freely from engine parts to lady parts, and it’s all good.

When it comes to living aboard, there are some serious questions from a broad swath of potential topics that most folks on a wide open forum would not be willing to post. I think that the fact that conversations float at the top of the page and then slowly sink down while new posts are created and discussed makes for fresh, lively back-and-forth banter, advice, and opinion.

Right now, just browsing the page quickly, our group is discussing internationally documented vessels and an anecdotal experience off the coast of California, optimizing a new iPad so the Active Captain app renders a chart properly, how to make your dinghy a little safer for your dog that loves to hang out right on the bow, and what we can do with beach trash if we’re in a remote place and want to do something about it. There have been many discussions about healthcare, remote family relationships, and how to report abusive partner behavior we see in anchorages. We’ve got this one conversation that has gone into the mental archives as the “bra rant.” We’ve got a handful woman who could solve pretty much ANY of your engine issues with just a couple of pictures and a description of the problem. Don’t even get me started about how crafty, creative, and self-sufficient these people are.

Other forums have big lists of topics and so many places to poke around and stick your head in, leave a comment, and then leave, maybe never to return. Facebook might have one up on the traditional forum approach when it comes to talking about big things that really matter, and that might be because the posts flow down from a spotlight position at the top of the page and they move down as things become resolved.

4. Like-minded individuals just might have the most productive conversations.

We’re all women and most of us live aboard or have dreams about living aboard. We’re coming in at a particular angle and have some pretty major things in common. Our politics, our backgrounds, our incomes and therefore our approach to cruising might be slightly different, but fundamentally, we’re coming at this with a lot to offer each other. For example, folks who daysail or go on short cruises have a very different opinions about using marinas or anchoring than we do- we have to anchor or this lifestyle isn’t possible for us, financially speaking. There are many kindreds in WWS.


So that’s about it. If you’re inspired to join Women Who Sail, please send a message- we’ll chat it up and I’ll see if I can get you in! Maybe you’re inspired to start a group of your own, you gents you, who seek to raise the level of conversation or who maybe want to stay in touch, easily, with people you meet or with acquaintances of acquaintances.