Friday, August 26, 2011


Zimmerman Marina, Mathews, VA 37º24.43N | 76º21.14W

It was dead calm at 7:30 a.m. when they knocked on the hull to tell us they were ready to haul us out of the water. Who would know there was a tempest headed our way?

I'd never seen a lift like this one: a platform that goes into the water underneath and pushes the boat up instead of lifting it on slings.

We were anxious to see the bottom, which was crystal clear when we left the Bahamas two months ago.

Not bad!

Blocked and chained. They lower the keel onto wooden blocks, and then brace the sides with those stands. Then, they chain the stands together from side to side going under the keel -- to keep the stands from slipping out if the wind rocks the boat.

And now, with the marina's work done, ours can begin.

Hurricane Irene: T minus 28 hours and counting.


Thanks to Irene, who is looking more and more like she has a bead on North Carolina and Virginia, we had a two-hour cruise today, from Mobjack Marina to Zimmerman Marina -- on a day we wouldn't otherwise have chosen to venture out. It was blowing a good 20+ knots on our nose with a stinky little chop, but nothing to keep us from getting Cara Mia to her hurricane hole.

It was our first time to be underway with the new canvas, complete with a larger windshield, and what a difference! I feel like we've added a huge picture window!

We're happy to be tied up in this quiet cove, far up a winding bay, anxious to get out of the water tomorrow -- and get to work.

Irene: T minus 36 hours and counting.

Cara Mia waiting to step out of the water.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Mobjack Bay Marina, Mathews, VA 37º25.586N | 76º24.072W

Our life on the water is always subject to the whims of the weather. It seems our life on land is as well.

With a get-back-on-that-horse attitude, John once again delivered us to Union Station today, and Amtrak graciously switched our tickets to today's train to Williamsburg, where Max and Jen of Anastasia have generously offered to pick us up.

Hurricane Irene is predicted to visit our neighborhood on Saturday, so yesterday's earthquake has cut our boat preparation time to about 48 hours putting most marinas out of reach.

Our plan is to move Cara Mia tomorrow just around the corner to Zimmerman Marine, where they can haul us out on Friday morning giving us 24-30 hours to strip her down before the weather turns gnarly.

There have been times in my life when a thwarted trip and a looming hurricane with all its potential perils and definite expense would have really annoyed me. Thinking yesterday that my life was certainly done, this hurricane is just one more welcome adventure.

I'm happy to be alive.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Washington, D.C.

Back in 2001, when the tragedy of 9/11 happened, even though I was living in the Outer Banks, I was working for, a newsroom just down the road from the Pentagon, where Flight 77 crashed at 9:37 a.m. For several weeks, as a small part of a huge news operation, I labored in the middle of the biggest, most tragic story I had covered.

One of my assignments was compiling a list of the businesses that had been housed in the World Trade Center buildings and how they could be contacted for those searching for loved ones or trying to locate missing persons, a minute-by-minute reminder for me of the scope of loss.

In late September that year I had a vision, something I've shared with very few people. Somewhat akin to reporting a UFO sighting, you never know if people will believe you or question your sanity -- and, in truth, even I wavered between the two.

I call the experience a vision, because although I was lying down, I was not asleep, yet neither was I fully awake. In the vision I was not myself. I was a professional working in the World Trade Towers on 9/11. This time, instead of being part of a tragedy from afar, I was transported into its midst.

The vision began just after the plane hit our building. We didn't seem to be fully aware of what was going on yet, but we began evacuating by getting in an elevator. By looking at my hands and clothing, it appeared that I was a black businesswoman wearing a bright blue skirt and matching jacket. Judging from the way I was treated by those around me, it seemed I was older than the others, perhaps in my 60s.

Our elevator was full to capacity, and I was near the back on the right side. The elevator descended for many floors and then stopped for a long time.

I don't remember when those of us in the elevator began learning the details of what was going on in the floors above us, but we did. Nobody panicked but the mood was serious and edgy. At some point, our elevator jarred into motion and began descending again, eventually letting us out on a floor that was not the lobby.

Thrilled to be out of the elevator, we then as a group entered the stairwell to descend the remaining floors. The stairwell was smokey and already packed with people going down quickly, but we merged into the crowd, one man who had been on the elevator with me kept kindly helping me along.

At one point I was on a landing between floors waiting for the crowd to move on when I heard a rumbling overhead. I looked up at the concrete ceiling above my head and saw it crack and then a powdery dust beginning to fall.

And that was the end.

You're are probably wondering why I'm telling you this now.

This morning we woke to the realization that Hurricane Irene is headed right at Cara Mia -- in a spot where she is decidedly not safe. The closest we can get to the boat by public transportation is via Amtrak to Williamsburg, Virginia, about 50 miles the other side of Mathews but in range where our friends on Anastasia, who coincidentally will be in Williamsburg tonight, could give us a lift to the boat.

We entered Union Station in D.C. and bought Amtrak tickets at 1:44.

Union Station in D.C. is a strikingly beautiful, enormous bit of architecture built in 1903 and restored in 1988. This image gives you some idea of its magnificence if not its scope, housing a shopping mall, restaurants, a Metro subway station below, a food court and the Amtrak station.

Union Station is 6 blocks from the U.S. Capitol building. We were standing at the Amtrak desk at 1:51, just a few days short of the 10 year anniversary of 9/11, talking to an attendant when I heard a rumbling overhead. I looked up at the concrete ceiling above my head and saw it crack and then a powdery dust beginning to fall.

At that moment, before anyone knew what was causing that building to shake, there was a collective flashback to a day almost exactly 10 years ago. A man near us yelled, "What have they done now?!?!"

Though we didn't compare notes until later, in that split second I was certain a bomb had gone off in the Metro station beneath us. Chip thought a plane had hit the building from above. I will never know what others in that crowded building thought, but it was apparent by the response that everyone felt certain it was a terrorist attack.

In the next split second Chip and I looked at each, and Chip said "Let's go."

Because I used to live a few blocks from Union Station and Chip had never been there before, I pointed the way to the door, and we ran.

I later read that Union Station was "evacuated," which is a restrained way of saying that people fled in near panic, most abandoning their belongings, some their shoes.

I've always wondered if I would be one of those heroic people who stands in harm's way to help others. Apparently I am not. The whole world in that moment consisted of me and Chip and the door far across the Main Hall. I'm pretty sure I might have leapt over a small child (not really).

My hands were shaking so badly, I couldn't hold onto the cell phone. It was a long time before we knew we had just experienced an earthquake and not a terrorist attack.

Amid the turmoil of an urban evacuation, we made our way on foot and by taxi, back to John's apartment (to which we had no key), bought a bottle of Prosecco and sat on his patio to celebrate being alive.

Our experiences are so acutely informed by both our private and shared history, and in my case, a vision. It was clear that the trauma of 9/11 was playing out in the minds of everyone around us in D.C. today, a sad yet intended legacy of the 9/11 terrorists.

It did not take long for our collective minds to realize that we were not under attack, there was no serious damage and, once we stopped shaking, to place a near tragedy in its rightful context.

An image circulating on the Internet before the end of the day.
Our own version staged in John's apartment,
much funnier at the time of the taking.
Evacuation reenactment. Photo by John Herlig
**As an interesting footnote, in 2002, a year after 9/11, I saw a documentary filmed by the Naudet brothers inside the Twin Towers on 9/11. It was surprising to me (yet somehow not) that a building I had never actually visited could look so familiar, exactly as I had seen in the vision. There were several other things that were eerily corroborated, including the fact that there were multiple banks of elevators in the towers where you ascended to a landing and then took another bank to the upper floors. At one point, I nearly levitated off the couch when someone mentioned how odd it was that one of the elevators had mysteriously started moving again, and people who had been trapped were suddenly coming out.

I find that the entire experience challenges everything I think I know, and I have come to rest in not knowing.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


With our heavy labor done, we've packed our bags once again for another lesson in the challenges of travel when you live on a boat.

Challenge #1: Hurricane Irene
Having lived in the Outer Banks of North Carolina for 15 years before cruising, we are well-practiced at tracking hurricanes. They are big and mean but really slow, allowing plenty of time to get out of their way. Hoping she'll make a turn away from the U.S., our plan as of today is to fly out of D.C. to New Mexico on Wednesday, which gives us 48 hours to watch Irene make her choices. The marina where Cara Mia is now would not be safe, and she's too big to be pulled out of the water there. Should a hurricane visit become imminent, we'll need a few days to move to another marina and get her secured on land, a lot of labor and expense we'd just as soon avoid.

Challenge #2: Traveling without a car
Being car-free is a wonderful thing: no car insurance, oil changes, breakdowns, flat tires, car payments. On the other hand, how do you get from a remote marina on a Virginia peninsula to D.C.? Friends! Our friend John (our Georgetown guest), who lives in D.C., volunteered to pick us up in Mathews, and drive us to Washington, four hours away. And so, the three of us, kindred spirits, went cruising on land, savoring the journey, not just the destination.

We spent a joyous evening on the town with John, one eye on the looming hurricane, feeling more certain we might be headed back to Mathews tomorrow, and NOT to New Mexico.

Even on land, we cannot be free of the whims of Mother Nature.

Friday, August 19, 2011


Mobjack Bay Marina, Mathews, VA 37º25.586N | 76º24.072W

And now what??? A new screened-in porch around the cockpit.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Mobjack Bay Marina, Mathews, VA 37º25.586N | 76º24.072W

And while her new outfit was being sewn, her crew was making her shine. We waxed everything above the toe rails. Imagine having a 38-foot car. Now imagine waxing it. Yep, that's what we did in the August heat.

And then we turned this:

Into this:

Time well spent.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Mobjack Bay Marina, Mathews, VA 37º25.586N | 76º24.072W

They measured.

And fitted.

And sewed.

And as hard as I try ...

I can't find anything wrong.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


Mobjack Bay Marina, Mathews, VA 37º25.586N | 76º24.072W

Our dock cart waiting for a ride to Enterprise.
Mathews, VA --> Gloucester, VA --> Norfolk, VA --> Bridgeville, DE

Getting off the boat for our first of many road trips this summer is starting already to prove challenging. Our country doesn't smile upon those living car-free.

First, our cities, but for the major metropolitan centers, are bereft of public transportation.

Second, we have proven time and again that if you hitchhike in our country, we will shoot you.

Third, if you don't own a car and thus have no car insurance, it is prohibitively expensive to rent a car.

The third point we learned on arriving at Enterprise to pick up our car. Until today, we were under the false impression that if we paid for a rental car with a credit card, we were covered by insurance with the credit card. WRONG. After several phone conversations with Discover, it turns out that credit cards only provide secondary insurance to your primary insurance on the car you own, if you owned one. AND, that only kicks in if you've refused all insurance coverage from the rental agency. In other words, we had been renting cars with neither primary NOR secondary insurance.

But even at $50 a day for the car, this trip was well worth the expense. We picked up our kids in Norfolk and spent a week with Chip's parents, Ted and Nancy, before we head south, Dylan goes back to school in Raleigh, and Casey goes to Paris to start her master's in French.

It's been so long since we went on a good ol' road trip with the kids. We talked and laughed and enjoyed every mile, knowing we were about to go our separate ways on the planet, not knowing when we'd triangulate together once again.

Sweet times.