A Quick Flag Story for Veterans Day

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I love flags. They tell stories, and they draw stories out of people, they call people to your boat with similar interests or people who might be interested in where you’re from.

The first sailing trip I ever went on was with Doc Pearson, who grew up during WWII during the blitz not far from London. He is an American citizen now, but flew the merchant ensign with the red field.

During WWII, it was the merchant ships that kept him fed. They were so careful with food, not only for their own sake, but because the risk it took to get that food to them had been impressed on everyone in the UK with posters like the one above. Imagine if every meal, every resource, was eaten with reverence to people on the front. Imagine the very real threat of a U boat taking out a ship filled with cargo that was the lifeblood of the civilian population. It was said that even though you were at home, you could fight the war just by saving scraps of metal, eating with care, and consuming less.

Doc Pearson flew the merchant flag on his boat about 65 years later- STILL THANKFUL. He’s also still affected by war. He knows what it looks like. Knows we shouldn’t be going to war because of an intimate knowledge of exactly what that means.

I want to honor veterans by demanding peace and an end to the culture of war. Somehow, with American troops all over the world and with us being at war, almost constantly, since 1939 we don’t feel the pain of war even with billions of dollars spent abroad. We felt the belt tighten at the beginning, but we see very little evidence in our daily lives of the real suffering we’re causing from our actions.

To honor veterans: I’d like the VA to wisen up (you can volunteer), I’d like the military to stop dishonorably discharging people with mental problems, but most of all I want to STOP THE WARS and spend the money on healing.


Spring Rolls all Summer

There are three big reasons to make spring rolls a couple times a week all summer long. Firstly, you get to enjoy the best summer ingredients in their raw glory, or alternatively, the best fresh ingredients you can get while you’re cruising really shine in a spring roll. Second, because all you do is boil a bit of water, it’s an easy cook and clean. I normally get away with a quick wipe of the bowls when I’m done. And then finally, they’re flexible. Anything goes for ingredients with these things, so like all the other recipes I like to share, here’s a roadmap rather than directions so you can make these with all your favorite stuff.

The other night, it was spring rolls for dinnah. #gf #vegetarian #boatfood

Wrappers: Choose the ones that the clerk at your Asian grocery suggests. Some brands break easily, some are too thin or thick. Ask for help. Grab lots of them and keep them in the larder on the boat or at home on land. It’s a pantry staple for me.

Noodles: Rice vermicelli. To soften the noodles, just boil up a kettle of water. In a bowl, put the amount of noodles you think you’ll need and pour over the water. Cover with a plate, they’re done in a few minutes. Water-saving boat tip: Save that hot water aside, you can use it to soften the wraps later on with a little added hot water still left in the kettle.

Fillin’s: It doesn’t take a lot of food to fill a rice wrapper and if you’re going to use noodles, it stretches the good stuff. Even if you just have a few things, I bet you can get a nice yield of spring rolls to please your crew. Last night, I piled in 8 or 10 French breakfast radishes I grew m’ self, 4 little white turnips, 2 carrots, mint leaves, and a few leaves of napa cabbage. Any cabbage will do, removing the outer leaves so the rest of your head of cabbage lasts longer (I used to just cut into the head for shreaddy cabbage- it lasts longer this way). Roll them up and chiffonade. No noodles in the pantry? Just do extra cabbage to fill up room. If you’ve got the patience, cut root veggies into match sticks for maximum pretty.

Other fillings to try: japanese pickles, sauerkraut, kim chi, thinly shaved salami, marinated tofu, grated raw beets (chioggia or golden work awesomely), peppers, chives, whole cilantro leaves, fresh green beans, scrambled egg with a little mirin in it (kind of like tamago), edible flowers that show through the wrapper, and pretty much every single green ever. Below: Pea greens, dandelion greens, radish greens, baby greens, and chives.

Early harvest: thinning peas and radishes, taming chives, oregano, and dandelions. #gardening

Assembly: The best tip I ever got from my local Asian grocer was to have a bowl of hot water (I normally use my biggest frying pan for it) and to dip the wrapper in for just a few seconds. When you put the wrapper down onto a cutting board or counter so you can fill it, by the time you’re done piling the fillin’s, it’s just perfectly gummy and ready to wrap up.

Here’s a tip from me- put all your pretty stuff down first. I do this in a little line in the middle of the wrapper, from left to right in front of me. Lay down a cilantro or mint leaf, then line up some pretty red, orange, yellow, striped, beautiful things on top, then some cabbage, and finally a little handful of noodles. I just get into the noodles with my mitts and tear a little handful. For consistent sizes, you could measure everything. Eyeballing is totally fine. I make them about the width of my hand and about an inch or so around- easy to bite.

Fold in each side toward the middle, then grab the part of the spring roll that’s closest to you and stretch it over the whole thing, forming the little packet of goodness with your hands, and roll the whole thing away from you toward the remaining tab of wrapper, the part that’s away from you, and stretching it gently around as you go to form a the last part of the envelope. Equal parts gentleness and fearlessness is how to handle these. (I’ll add a video showing this later.)

If you stacked it like I described, you’ll have a little leaf or your brightest ingredients showing through the top of the roll. Also, if you’re going to tote these to a potluck or a dinghy raft up, they might stick together. I pour a drop of olive oil in my hands, rub them together, and run my hands around each roll, refreshing the olive oil supply in my hands from time to time. They come apart like a dream later on.

Dippin’ Sauce: I guess you could buy something, but build out your pantry so you can make dressings for everything all the time, and you’ll be ready to make a top notch dipping sauce. I do bout a half cup of tamari with a couple top notch modifiers. Por ejemplo, you could do a couple tablespoons of brown mustard or wasabi if you have it, fish sauce, mirin, chopped peanuts, chopped onion or chive, apple cider vinegar, rice vinegar, Singha beer, a bit of honey, red pepper flake, sriracha, that sort of thing. My go-to? Tamari with the brown mustard and a bit of vinegar with floating goodness like chopped peanuts.

The only thing to do now that all this is done is to make sure it’s cool with your friends to double dip, because you’ll want that awesome sauce on there. I’m half kidding. Think ahead and have a spoon for your dipping sauce bowl though. I like to take a bite of a roll and then spoon the sauce right down into it.

Enjoy, and let me know what you come up with!

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?