Monday, October 24, 2011


Swansboro, NC 34º41.151N | 77º07.108W

The sun rising over Beaufort, NC.
"My wracking sobs were bubbling up from a deep bilge full of emotions: relief, sadness, nostalgia, excitement, profound joy and even a little fear laced heavily with exhaustion." 
I wrote that sentence one year ago today as the wind off Roanoke Island breathed life into our hard-earned dream. We had at long last reached the end of a 10-year plan and set off on our new adventure -- and I sat on the life jackets and cried. (You can read more about that here.)

People often ask if sailing around in this 3D dream is all that we had hoped for, and our answer is a hearty "hell yes"! It's hard to describe the rich experiences of our last year without getting sentimental and maudlin, but if you read this blog much you already know we have lived much of it in a veritable series of postcards, complete with lovely people sipping drinks in shockingly beautiful settings.

But the joys have been tempered by an equal measure of new demands. Being green as Kermit the Frog has tested our fortitude, cleverness and wits (and wit too). In fact, I frequently wondered aloud if there would ever be a day when I did not learn something.

While it's way too early to do a retrospective on our life afloat, I do realize that we can now reef the main without utter chaos and reach for the Cheerios without rifling through the pantry. We can remove the fuel filter without scraping off our knuckles and operate the toilet for weeks on end without it breaking -- usually from user error (I wish I hadn't said that).

We've packed a lot of joy and learning into a year, and looking back at our wide-eyed selves, I know we had no inkling of what thrills and challenges lay just beyond our horizon.

Perhaps today is no different -- only this time I'm not crying.

"You can turn the clock to zero, honey
I'll sell the stock, we'll spend all the money.
We're starting up a brand new day."    -- Sting

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Belhaven, NC 35º32.403N | 76º37.854W

Our new screened-in porch confounded swarms of Alligator River mosquitoes.
I used to think of myself as a highly competent person, able to make my way through life with intelligence and grace.

And then I started sailing.

Today is Dale's (Jessie Marie) birthday, so we let him decide whether to lay up at anchor in the Alligator River or forge on through rain to Belhaven. Dale always chooses to move on.

We were up at sunrise, ready to leave. I started the engine, and that's where things went wrong.

Chip was below, and I went forward to take the snubber off the anchor.

"Chip, come look! We're spinning in a circle."

"Are we in gear?!?!"

Of course we were. After starting the engine, I gave it a little throttle, but instead of doing that in neutral, I had engaged the engine. We did a complete 360º (maybe two) before I, or rather Chip, realized what was happening.

My Lucille Ball moment of the week.

Thank god for our amazing anchor.

I always told our kids that if you can laugh at yourself, you'll always have good material, (especially if you're me).

We've dropped that fabulous anchor in front of Belhaven to wait out a 48-hour, 30-knot blow.

Happy Birthday, Dale!!!

Dale vamping in Portsmouth.

In Coinjock with my "sisters": Karen, from Canada, and
Wendy, from New Zealand. The littlest beauty is Lily.
An ICW traffic jam. 'Tis the season.
Chip charging through rain in his new sou'wester' hat from Canada,
under the Bimini, of course.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Coinjock, NC 36º21.06N | 75º56.8W

On a rising tide, we inched our way alone out of Zimmerman Marina Sunday morning in the skinniest of water, too antsy to wait for high tide. We skimmed through with millimeters to spare and turned south, thrilled to be moving again after 12 stationary weeks and hoping we remembered how to sail.

But we were not far down Mobjack Bay before all of us, we and Cara Mia, were sailing along in our old groove on a fresh breeze, a perfect fall day.

Jessie Marie sailing south on the Chesapeake.
As we sailed out of Mobjack Bay and into the Chesapeake Bay, as if by design, Cara Mia sailed effortlessly into place between friends, Jessie Marie, last seen in Manteo in July and Kajon, last seen in Miami in January.

Kajon sharing our patch of water.
Moments like this cannot be planned, but they must be celebrated. We cheered, took photos and shouted greetings, sailing along, side by each until we lost our breeze and motored on, Portsmouth-bound, where we would converge and then separate again, Kajon to the Dismal Swamp, Cara Mia and Jessie Marie to Coinjock, NC.
Kajon and Jessie, hand in hand.
Dale sailing his new dinghy Peony, nicknamed (by us) The Baby Jesus.

Monday, October 17, 2011


Today as we start at Mile 0 on the ICW, it seems fitting to unearth one of my favorite posts. It still makes me laugh.

And here we are, playing it again.

Take the ultimate mariner's challenge through shallow, murky waters, swiftly running currents and heavy traffic as you make your way past unexpected hazards at every turn! Shoals, sunken vessels, rocks and other underwater perils await the intrepid traveler!

Test and hone your skill as you navigate the infamous Rock Pile, Hell Gate, Little Mud River and the dreaded Shallows of McClellanville through capricious weatherpounding you with high wind, freezing cold, dense fog and pouring rain. Read more...

Sunday, October 16, 2011


Portsmouth, VA 36º50.7N | 76º18W

East River of Mobjack Bay.
Fall makes me wistful, with its mushy, warm sunlight and trees dressed to kill, all wafting a reminder that cold weather and winter holidays are almost at hand. But for folks who don't even own winter clothing, fall means it's time to fly south like a bunch of cold duck.

And so, this morning, with the summer's chores done, we pulled in the lines, waved goodbye to Mobjack Bay, and sailed into the Chesapeake, the beginning of our second annual plod south.

Cara Mia is tricked out in a new outfit of beige canvas, complete with a screened-in cockpit. She has shiny wax on deck and on the hull, a new coat of bottom paint -- all planned. Unfortunately, she also has an unplanned and very expensive new shaft and cutlass bearing.

We've whiled away the last few months visiting friends and family around the country by plane, car, train, boat and bus, charging straight through an earthquake, a hurricane, flooding and a right wicked desert hailstorm.

On a visit to New Mexico I discovered that I'm a direct descendant of William "The Lion King" of Scotland and that my mother is surely and steadily succumbing to the heartbreaking symptoms of memory loss.

There is so much more to tell, but consider this an introduction to the backblogging I will be doing in the next few weeks, filling in the rich detail of four-and-a-half months near land.

After six weeks with the boat out of the water, we are afloat and underway, already happily falling into the pack of fellow cruisers and dear friends discovered on the ICW last year, our inaugural season.

What different people we seem this new October, more confident in our boat and increasingly secure in our ever-developing skills, utterly relaxed into the pace of life on the water, truly manifesting the Zen counsel of Ming that seemed so trite last October: I'll get there when I get there.

Along the way, we realized that we have pitiful imaginations. How else could we have so underestimated the rewards of life on the water? Now I can add one more thing unimaginable: a life without cruising.

It has already been said that in retrospect we will surely regret more the things we didn't do rather than those we did, and I'm thankful every day that cruising is duly checked off on our list.

And what next? As our friend Jen said about cruising a few months ago, "I don't think I can afford not to do this."

Onward. South to somewhere.