Category Archives: The People You Meet

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

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.

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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.

Elizabeth City

The Dismal Swamp Canal is tops. After a dose of enchanting motoring through cypress swamps and and the tannin-tinged corridor resplendent with birds, we came to Elizabeth City, the Harbor of Hospitality.

At the Dock in Elizabeth City

We read about other people sensing a feeling of ‘former glory’ for this small, but well-established, downtown area but all we could see was hopeful re-emergence. They’ve built themselves a boring stripmall sort of a thing complete with fast food restaurants that’s only a 5 minute drive from the beautiful brick buildings you find in the original hub of Elizabeth City.

Elizabeth City, NC

Cruisers know this place for lots of reasons, but my favorite story is the one about the Rose Buddies, Fred Fearing and Joe Kramer. The free town docks had just been built in 1983 thanks to donations, and these two long-time residents decided spontaneously one Sunday to welcome all the boaters who happened to be at the docks. Joe clipped 17 roses from his garden and Fred brought wine and cheese, and the 17 boats on the dock were hosted by the two men who would be known as the Rose Buddies, and the kind gesture became tradition.

Rose Buddies Monument

The Roses that Named the Rose Buddies

When Joe died, his rose bushes were transplanted to the park at the docks. Fred continued the tradition until his death, bringing to the docks more than snacks and wine, but also bringing stories about the Dismal Swamp Canal and about local history. Now local businesses keep the legend of hospitality alive, and the Museum of the Albermarle takes care of the history part.

Sea Nymph at the Museum of the Albermarle
Moth boat SEA NYMPH at the Museum of the Albermarle, a free museum in Elizabeth City

It’s a bit after the season for all that, so we didn’t get to experience the Rose Buddies this time around. There was only one cruiser at the docks while we were there, an old salt who offered us his mooring anytime we’d like it in Stockton Harbor- his boat said he was from Bucksport and he lives in Bangor. From this far away that all means he’s from where we’re from.

Me, Maja, and Jetty

We met Maja and her little dog Jetty. Maja told us, when we gave our usual spiel about where we’re from because most people don’t know where Brooklin is, that she took art classes on Deer Isle at Haystack in the 60s. I ached for home a bit when she described working hard in the studios tucked into the rocky campus rich with pointed pines and then going to beaches for clambakes and bonfires with classmates and locals. Not much has changed.

Then Maja told us the story about how she had been a city lady for a long time, but one day read that there was a boat for sale for $2000.

“I thought surely that must have been the down payment,” she said. But no, that was the cost of the boat. After seeing a home movie of the 40′ wooden racing sloop under sail, she fell in love with the way it moved. Maja had never sailed before. She went to the bank and told them she needed a loan for some dental work, and that it’d be $2000.

“Your teeth look fine,” said the banker.

“It’s my gums,” said Maja. They gave her the money.

It was her intention to take the boat down the ICW and to see where it took her. After a few terrible missteps that I suspect were rookie moves, like getting caught in terrible storms and running aground (the sloop drew 7′), one last big storm convinced her to go live in Louisville with her sister and leave the boat behind in the Chesapeake. She became a yoga instructor there, the only one in the town and a big part of bringing a healthful practice to Louisville. She said that if the boat hadn’t made her question what was next, she would have never decided to pursue yoga so passionately.

One thing that really struck me about her story was when she needed to repair a bunch of the boat’s canvas, somewhere in Delaware Bay. She went ashore, and a man there said he understood her situation, and should she ever need to borrow his truck to get into town, he’d give her the keys. Being from New York City, she was thinking, “What’s this guy up to?” She admitted that after a time, cruising was just like that. People didn’t have anything up their sleeves but the keys to a much needed truck or a nice shower ashore.

Maja's Care Package Left at the Dock

The Contents of Maja's Care Package

Taking the opportunity to pay it forward, Maja left us a big care package of beautiful pantry stuff one day, and later gave me a ride to the health food store and to the Post Office. I think, beside enjoying the town there, meeting her was perhaps my favorite part of Elizabeth City.

Leaving Elizabeth City

Voting Day After Sandy

Today I’ve been working in the mariner’s lounge at Liberty Landing Marina, which has no power. We never stay at marinas, and so even when I learned that there wasn’t any hot water yet, I didn’t really care. I’m in a room with heat, and that took a lot of effort on the part of the staff here.

When we arrived I threw the bowline to a guy on the dock who said, “Welcome to the only place in Jersey City that’s not wrecked.”

There’s a woman here working in the lounge. She’s been diligently cleaning the bathrooms, the windows, the floors… all by lights that are on thanks to a generator. I was worried that she wouldn’t get a chance to vote with work demands and such.

“So how’s your day?” I asked, “Think you’ll get a chance to get out and vote?”

“Ohhh,” Bernie said, “I already went ta vote.” She did a little hip dip and winked and said, “I do my ting early in da mornin’.”

I said I was glad she was able to go, and she said, “It’s so important, this is our LIVES for the next four years. I go vote and now I come here to earn my daily bread.”

She said she’s from the islands, which I had already guessed as her accent is MUSIC to me, and that she’s been here for 23 years. I wish I had my voice recorder running to catch exactly what she said, but we were talking about the storm for a minute, because I’m so worried about the fact that it was all rushing to get Manhattan their power, and that the people of Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Hoboken, and most of NJ for that matter have had to wait for theirs. The people there have so much to worry about, I hope they get to vote.

My new friend here, scrubbing away and working hard… I wish she had a megaphone and I wish I could get her on the back of a truck going through all those neighborhoods to say to them what she said to me. They’ll all get power in the next few days, but you can only vote today, and it’s your life we’re talking about here.

“Maybe we needed this,” she said, when I said that people have probably met their neighbors for the first time ever because of the shakeup with the hurricane. “I’m from the islands, we have lots of hurricanes there. I’ve been through this before.”

I told her my story about going to Parham and about buying ice from a local teacher lady. I told her I loved her hometown of St John’s, Antigua for its markets and that I really liked taking the crowded buses. She said she’s made money selling ice and popsicles to the sailor types, just like the lady in Parham did. I said I had my best times in the islands when I strayed from where all the white people were. “Good,” she said. “That’s how you know you come to love the islands. The REAL islands.”

I’m so glad she voted.

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WoodenBoat School – Friendships Down the Seaboard

This person who you didn’t know a minute ago could be someone you know for a very long time. When you meet people you first hear their name, first shake their hand, first hear their story, then promptly and accidentally forget their name… then, if your heart’s open to it, as many travelers’ hearts are, your lives start to intertwine a bit. Maybe you become friends.

The women who took Elements of Seamanship at WoodenBoat School this year in the all-female class were open to it.

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See more photos from WoodenBoat: Click to see pictures from class, pictures from the library, and pictures from Schooner Mary Day.

We had various and sundry backgrounds. Many of us knew we enjoyed adventuring and thought boats were neat, but had never trimmed a sail or approached a mooring ourselves. I live on a boat. Some didn’t know what a jib sheet was. Some had significant others who had never let them touch a thing on their boat. But this week, that wouldn’t fly. Little Crackerjack, Allene, Fox, Dovekie, We 3, Seal… these Herreshoff 12 1/2s were OURS. We’d pick one as a favorite and sail it with our new friends. We’d help each other. And we had a blast.

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Crackerjack

Bev taking the nutshell out

Getting ready to sail a Haven 12 1/2

We learned from incredible women- Jane Ahlfield and Gretchen Snyder- who both embody a self-reliance that I aspire to. We weren’t just learning to sail, after all. We were learning seamanship skills, the whole picture that encompasses good practices on the water, good planning, and a thoughtful, respectful regard to nature, weather and wind.

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Gretchen in front of the boat house showing us a thing or two about anchoring.

Now that we’re on our way down the ICW and it’s a couple months gone since my time at WoodenBoat, I’ve had lunch with Jane aboard Mimi Rose in Martha’s Vineyard. I’m about to meet up with Bev in Mystic and with Heather in New York City. I’m in touch with Meg who said on the last day of class, “This here,” pointing to herself and me, “I feel like this isn’t done. I want to stay in touch and see you again soon.” I see Mary and Nancy around Facebook. Maybe I’ll see Sarah in New Jersey. I’ll be visiting Lyn’s gallery in Castine someday.

Meg and Me

Meg and Me

Bev and Mary Day

Bev and Schooner Mary Day

To travel down the seaboard and meet up again with these women and to meet and get to know Colin’s teacher from WoodenBoat as well has been overwhelming. We did laundry at Gretchen’s house and borrowed Myles Thurlow’s car. We ate dinner and enjoyed beers at Offshore Brewing Co. with Jane, Gretchen, Myles and other new friends. We painted our dinghy at Gannon & Benjamin Marine Railway after meeting those folks through Myles and we went on a beautiful daysail aboard Nell later that day. All of this hospitality is turning into a giant web that had its genesis in Maine and has reached, so far, all the way down to New York.

So remember that next time you’re in an anchorage or in a classroom or even in a meeting somewhere and meet someone for the first time. Roots grow faster than you realize and they strengthen the ground you walk on.

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