A Drink and a “Hurricane”

Living aboard a 37 foot piece of real estate while slowly sailing through previously unknown bodies of water is fun and exciting, yet it is an experience that requires vigilance to your ever changing surroundings while paying attention to ever changing details, details, details.

After successfully launching and finally heading south toward warmer climates for the coming winter, we were now making a mad dash south in hopes to get out of the estimated target zones of the approaching Hurricane Sandy. It was a gorgeous day as Rock Hall, MD, grew distant behind us and the Bay Bridge loomed on the horizon. We waved goodby to our familiar Baltimore and Annapolis landmarks, including all the beautiful lighthouses and our favorite anchorages, disconcertedly uncertain of whether we would ever sail these familiar waters again. We waved goodbye to the South River where we had also lived and kept our boat at a community dock, and where on a quiet morning from that house we could hear the distant lighthouse warnings on foggy mornings. We asked ourselves what we wouldn’t miss, and almost simultaneously we said “the sound of gunshots waking us during duck hunting season” and “the sound of lawn mowers waking us on a Saturday morning.”

We had an exhilarating sail and finally ghosted into a wide yet shallow area for the night, not well protected from wind or waves, but fortunately the predictions for a fairly calm night proved to be accurate. We awoke with the sunrise, made our coffee, lifted anchor, and ate a quick breakfast of hard-boiled egg sandwiches with tomato and Brie on rye while we motored out the creek to once again sail down the Bay. We knew the wind would pick up and the waves would build as we reached toward Norfolk. The approaching hurricane had slightly stalled and the potential track update indicate it would not directly strike the Bay. But hurricane wind-driven waves at the mouth of the Bay would mean extremely short wave lengths with predictably higher heights than normal. We had mostly nice yet a slightly uncomfortable ride into our next harbor, which was off the maritime museum just north of the entrance to Norfolk.

The next morning we briefly explored the museum before lifting anchor in hopes of finding better shelter from the slowly approaching hurricane Sandy. The distance was deceiving, because we could see Norfolk, and the wave action was shorter and higher than we had ever previously experienced for that area. Then as we rounded the corner into the mouth of the Bay and pointed toward Norfolk proper, we definitely had rougher waves than we had ever experienced on the East Coast from Norfolk to Maine, or in our years of sailing in the Caribbean. Now we were having an uncomfortable ride with waves breaking over the bow and burying it. This had become a wet and somewhat cold ride. We had already researched marinas in Norfolk and had reserved a slip in one with floating docks that seemed to be most protected by sea walls, buildings, and the Naval yards. And we had friends from the Sailing Club of Washington who were already staying in the same marina. As we entered the channel and the waves were beginning to calm down, we were hailed by the Navy and instructed to turn around and hold position just outside the main channel. As we were slowly complying at our fastest speed…7 knots with both sails and motor…two little gun boats buzzed around us and the channel as our explanation appeared in the form of 2 submarines emerging from the depths where we had been just minutes earlier. We then sailed into harbor with a respectable distance behind them, and our friend, Jack Schwartz, was in a slip right next to us and was there to catch our lines as we safely entered and tied up. After a brief hello, we immediately began preparing Harmony for the hurricane winds that would be arriving the next night.

We removed the dinghy from its davits and securely tied it upside down on the bow of the boat. We did not want to remove the sails, so we tightly wrapped lines around our two forestays, put a cover over our mainsail and boom and tightly wrapped lines around them. We removed our bimini and cockpit enclosure and stowed them below in our aft berth, and we secured their metal structure with extra straps and lines. We put double lines from all cleats to the docks and back to the cleats so they could still be adjusted or released if necessary. We filled our fuel and Water tanks so there would be less room for sloshing when the boat is rocked by wind, but also in case the marina lost power from hurricane damage. The one remaining concern was the potential height of the coming storm surge: a too high wind-driven water surge combined with the existing moon’s high tide could lift the floating docks off the top of their pilings. The marina manager was as concerned as the boaters, and they added straps from the floating docks to the metal fence pilings behind the piers…seemed like a disaster waiting to happen, but hurricane predictions were now indicating our location was less likely to get a direct hit.

We were tired, but happy to be secure, so we went ashore and had dinner with Jack and others, where we all ordered drinks appropriately named “hurricane”.

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Transitions are not Always as Planned

Well…we sold the Annapolis, MD, property and boat slip in Nov 2011, and we sold the DC property in late Dec 2011, and we rented an Annapolis neighbors Back Creek boat slip for Harmony. The majority of our worldly possessions were now in storage, and through Feb 2012 we rented back our former basement apartment while we somewhat reorganized most of our paperwork and financial lives, and by March 3 we had our remaining possessions in a U-Haul truck and, along with our Toyota pick-up, we drove these few possessions to Knoxville, TN, where my wonderful son, Tony, and his gracious wife, Lindsay, welcomed us and our possessions into their home while we looked for a new home.

Initially we had hoped to do a land tour of family and friends until mid-May, then launch our sailing vessel, Harmony, into the Chesapeake Bay at Rock Hall, MD. We had planned to sail through the Delaware Bay and into the Atlantic ocean where we would head North along the East coast of the USA, and in the Fall we sail South to Lake Worth, Florida, and we then hoped to be in the Bahamas sometime in February 2013. We wanted Harmony to be our home for the next couple of years as we began this new chapter in our lives. Wish us safe journeys with a fair wind and a starry sky. But the universe had a different plan for us.

My son, Tony, had purchased a custom home-building business from his wife’s stepdad before the economic downturn took it’s toll on the industry and, subsequently, his livelihood. Upon our arrival he still had two properties, one of which was completed and thankfully had a buyer (al beit at no or little profit), and the other was an older home in a great school district that he had hoped to remodel for his young family. Upon our arrival, a new plan was hatched. Lindsay was working and searching for a better job, hopefully one with great benefits. I would babysit, Kai, our grandson, while Ken, Tony, and his father-in-law, remodeled the remaining older home and they would sell it instead of move into. As with many homeowners, the beautiful home they had custom built and were living in during a booming economy, could not be sold for what it cost them to build it. Subsequently, the remodel project of the remaining older home was a success and sold in short order and they made a small profit. Whew!

Meantime, staying in Knoxville for the summer instead of sailing north as we had originally planned, gave us a great opportunity to get to connect to and love Lindsay, Kai, and Tony in a much deeper way. A reminder that life is not always what you plan. Ultimately we all benefitted in unexpected ways, and in the end we decided to buy a house in Knoxville.

We FINALLY went sailing in mid-Oct, and it was a mad dash south from Rock Hall near Baltimore, MD, to get us and our boat launched and South down the Chesapeake Bay in an effort to outrun the rapidly arriving Hurricane Sandy at a time when it was uncertain where she would hit land. But that is a story for a future post.

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Retirement is hard work

It has been a long time coming, but we are as ready as we are going to be and will finally push off the dock this morning and head South down the Chesapeake Bay. We have a short weather window and will push hard for the first 3-4 days to get as far south as possible. It is difficult to imagine everything that goes into planning for a journey of this magnitude.
The sight of a boat sailing in the breeze invokes unspoken dreams and a haunting beauty for the casual observer. The reality is quite different. Preparing for a long boat journey takes time and attention to a multitude of details ranging from the mundane laying in of provisions that will stand up to the humidity, bouncing, heat, cold, and still satisfy the need for healthy and tasty meals. Add to this the desire to stock up heavily with provisions that are the bulkiest and those that are heaviest while we have a motor vehicle to shuffle us between stores and boat. Once we wave goodbye to that car, we will be trekking provisions some distances minus the mobile convenience.
And there is the dilemma of mail forwarding to an ever changing forwarding address. Then there is our new old house on land that is still very much in need of more remodeling and the hope that some of it can be done while we are sailing. And because of that, we are not fully unpacked, and we are certainly not organized. But then again, that is a different story for another time.
This is already a test of my fortitude. It had been Ken’s dream to sail away for most of his life, and I love the idea of it, but the reality is a challenge. It is hard work and a test of our mental and emotional fortitude, especially for Ken as he realizes the sometimes unexpected limitations imposed on him by the progressing onset of a form of dementia. While frustrating for both of us, for him it is sometimes overwhelming to adjust to more changes–every trip to the bathroom, known as a “head” on a boat is a learning experience for him, and consequently, also for me. Day 1 on the boat he almost sank us at the dock because he forgot to flip the switch that flushes the commode from “wet” to “dry” after flushing the commode. For those of you who are landlubbers, the process of flushing on a boat potentially means all that water we work so hard to keep out of our boat, must now come into your boat through a line controlled by a pump handle and a switch that flicks between the “wet” setting to fill the commode with water and flush waste into a holding tank. After flushing, the prudent boater then sets the switch back to the “dry” mode to prevent any additional water from coming into the commode and overflowing into the boat. Ken’s first time or two using the head was a re-education in this exercise, and a dose of reality for me to realize what it will be like sailing with Alzheimer’s.
One of the first lessons in reality was how lost Ken could become within a 35-foot piece of real estate. We spent a couple of extra days at the dock just so he could find the head in the dark, then find his way back to his berth, which is all of 2 feet away. He has a flashlight very nearby, but can never seem to find it, and he refused to switch on the overhead light because he didn’t want to wake me. Instead I waken when I hear his sad yet hilarious request for help finding the head while he is stainding in the very location he is looking for while holding his crotch with one hand and an urgent sound in his somewhat quiet inquiry. This scenerio was repeated for two nights, with the added insult of not being able to find his way back to the berth when finished. By the third night he finally learned to turn on a light.
I question how well he will acclimate back into our house once we return to land, but that is a risk he wants to take. I suggested we go home every 3 months or so, and he thinks that could help.
We added a Wave WiFi…but I don’t know if my computer works. I discovered that all the screws in the bottom were missing…pretty certain that was no accident…pretty certain who might have done it…no time yet to get more screws and get it back together, so I am relying on my iPad, which is somewhat challenging for things like mobile banking. All we have had time for is to fix up 3 homes (DC, MD…sold, and TN, which is still not finished and not totally unpacked!).
Ken especially does not want to give in to this ravishing disease, even though I question whether we are up to the challenge of Sailing with Alzheimer’s. We agree that we will give it a go, that we will have “intentions” rather than a “schedule”, and that we will try to hook up with our friends in their boats along the way if and when possible. And while I have not yet discussed it with Ken, if we cannot do it on our own, we will need formulate a new plan, ranging from the extreme of selling the boat, or changing our timing, to the opposite end of the spectrum where we would bring on crew. The potential reality we both fear is a scenario where it is harder to sail the boat with Ken than without him.

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Nothing Worthwile is Easy

Just sayin…it is time to leave the unfinished business behind!  All One good thing I learned from my career was the importance of setting deadlines. Without them, time seems to just slip away, and before you know it, plans need to be firm. So we have set a deadline for when we will set sail for the warmer climes of Fl and the Bahamas. Hmmm…I also know that deadlines can be moving targets…and sometimes they move so fast you just cannot intersect with them no matter how hard you try. But a little retrospective soul searching could prove beneficial toward making that deadline more fixed. So what if there are multitudes of unfinished projects in our new home…and in spite of that, we have managed to get most of the highly desirable boat projects finished or almost finished. So, it is just going to have to be o.k. With our neighbors that our bright work is not finished, or that there is moldy foam on our lifelines…but it does have fresh bottom paint and a new cockpit enclosure. Enough is enough. It is past time to just go sailing. 

We are busy trying to get ducks in a row … Not an easy task!  They just waddle all over the place, and refuse to cooperate. It is a bit like rounding up a heard of stay cats! Paperwork will be the death of us all! 

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Getting closer to sailing…

Visited Harmony, still on the hard, to check on progress of much needed repairs, and to place some boating items, including new dinghy oars, onboard in preparation for our return this Fall when she is launched. She had much needed repairs to her shaft and to her keel–actually replaced the shaft, so hopefully when all the fiberglass work is finished it is the end of that nagging problem…caused by an extremely incompetent boat yard and my naive trust–lesson learned. So much truth to the saying “boats are holes in the water into which you pour money”! Hope to return in early Sept., but mid-to-late Sept is more realistic

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Landlocked on the Tennessee River

It has been an ultra busy few months since we sold our house in DC and our condo in Annapolis. We stayed with my son and his family for a couple of months, which was a bit tough on them, but everyone coped very well, and it was an amazing opportunity to finally really get to know my youngest grandson and to reconnent with my son, Tony, and his wife, Lindsay. We bought a house with a $M view overlooking the TN River and have been renovating it since mid-May. It has been way more of a project than what we anticipated, but we hope it will be worth the effort when finished. Currently the house, built in the early to mid-70’s, is a bit like camping except with air conditioning and limited indoor plumbing.
We plan to join the local yacht club, but have failed miserably at making anything fun a high priority–although we did host a 4th of July celebration at out new house, complete with home made MD crab cakes…yummy! And we had an amazing vantage point from the pool, which overlooks downtown–and our view of the fireworks was great! And we have some great neighbors, some of whom are sailors, and we join them one evening a week for a cocktails. We hope to have more fun before beginning our extended cruise.
We will visit Ken’s Aunt Sis and family this coming Sunday. They live in Georgetown, KY, which is about 3 hours from us. At some point soon we will return to our boat and our Chesapeake-area friends and family. And we plan to visit PA family at some point, and we will be bringing one of my best friends, Joanna, for a brief visit, and I hope our house is at least mostly finished by then and that we are mostly, finally, unpacked. Seems all our plans are centered around the multitude of house and boat projects, and it is challenging to schedule visits with friends and family! But we may decide to delay some of the projects, as I am reminded that life is short, and it is 5 o’clock somewhere. So “Skoal” for now!

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Winter blues

I sit here in my crowded room struggling to focus on a long to-do list so our lives will be ready for living off the grid. The digital age is a steep learning curve, especially since just as I learn the “how to”, it all changes! I am really looking forward to living in at 4kts…but it is hard work getting there, and I am struggling with the winter blues. To give myself motivation, Ken and I visited our boat yesterday along with our friend, Jack, and his sweet dog. We made a to-do list, and with help from Jack and another friend from the boatyard, Haven Harbour in Rock Hall, MD, we figured out a puzzling issue with our mainsail. It seems that “someone” loosened the mainsail halyard, which resulted in it not furling correctly…Harmony has a roller furled that furls into the mast. Check one item off the list! Then we had a late lunch at one of our favorite restaurants on the Eastern Shore…Fords. I had delicious crabbed-filled mushroom caps and a bowl of hot crab soup. That lifted my mood:-) … and Ken had a chicken dish with enough leftovers for 2 more meals, and the sandwich Jack ate–well, he had leftovers galore. Excellent food, large portions, and great service keeps us coming back. As we were leaving I felt a bit sad that once we are living on the boat it will be hard to get to Fords since we won’t have our car with us, and it is a bit far to go by bicycle from Rock Hall unless we make it an all day outing. I can recall winter racing on the Severn in my youth, but these days this is as close as I ever want to get to winter sailing!

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