the adventures of a girl, her dog, and two cats.

Monday, April 18, 2016

this is not a sailing blog

Apologies for the long gap between posts. I don't have any good excuses; sometimes life just gets in the way. 

A couple months ago I was reflecting on my dissatisfaction with work and financial aspects of my life. I decided to try writing down the things I enjoy and the things I am good at. Unfortunately, the overlap between those lists is slim. Pretty much writing and cooking. There are other things I'm good at, but I don't enjoy like arguing and lawyering. There are plenty of things I enjoy, but am not very good at like singing and snorkeling.  I don't know that I'll be able to limit my work sphere to writing and cooking any time soon, at least not if I want to put food on the table, but I think I do need to place greater focus on finding a path that may eventually lead me there.

I also started writing down the things I don't enjoy and the things I'm not good at. At the top of both lists: sailing. I don't know if I don't enjoy sailing because I'm not good at it, or whether I'm not good at it because I don't enjoy it. Probably a mixture of both. But it was a relief to let myself acknowledge that reality and stop forcing myself to do it just because everyone expects me to. I love being out on the water. I enjoyed heading out fishing before dawn, the water glassy, hardly another boat to be seen. I enjoyed the days in Miami when I just threw lines and drank rum runners, took sun on deck, and snorkeled a bit, with no responsibility for navigating or taking the helm. But far and away most of my pleasant boating memories are from power boating. I can't say I have ever enjoyed sailing; sailing is something I suffer through to get from point A to point B or because I feel pressured to learn and try. 

I understand that many people are passionate about sailing and can't imagine life without it. For me, taking the boat out is about the last way I want to spend my sparse, precious free time. Particularly because I live aboard and have all the stuff of life strewn about, (cue the sailors looking down their noses at me for still owning more than two pairs of shoes). Getting the boat ready to take out involves hours of preparation and then hours getting things settled upon return. Taking the boat out means a day of stress; I can't relax, can't enjoy some cocktails, have to be on constant guard not to run aground, not to tangle up in crab pots, not to draw the attention of the Coast Guard or DNR, having to make sure guests know where flares and fire extinguishers reside, and making sure there are PFDs to go around. All of that is "work" in my book; it is not play, or fun, or relaxation. If other people enjoy it, that's all well and good; I wish them fair winds and following seas. I enjoy running but I don't expect everyone else to think it's the cat's meow or somehow "better" than anyone else's chosen hobbies.

The boat is my home, the only home I have ever owned. I do love her and she has saved my life in many ways. I plan to stick with living aboard for a while more to save money and, with hope, save up for a down payment on a house. From the outset this blog has been about how the world is not enough. It's a blog about a girl rebuilding her life, the challenges of pets, being broke, the ups and down of love and loss, and now and then it's about making boat living work. I hope the story here continues long after Ambrosia has found a new captain to sail her away to bluer seas. But this has never been a sailing blog.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

winterizing


New Year's Eve the surfer took me to DC to see a funk band from Brooklyn, the Pimps of Joytime. I love dancing with the surfer and the music was fun and groovy. Definitely my first NYE being kissed at midnight by someone I love. We danced the night away and then spent New Year's Day walking all over DC and through the National Zoo. 

Our first date was five months ago today. It's definitely a challenge nurturing a relationship in the small confines of a boat, where the only way to "take a break" when there is a disagreement is to take a walk. Not every day is a cakewalk for us, but the good outweighs the challenges and I wouldn't want to be with someone who always agreed with me or expected me to always agree with him.  Ups and downs, this one has my heart and I hope I have his.

After an unseasonably warm December, winter arrived. Initially I'd only seen one brief bit of snow, which didn't stick, but we've had some cold nights/mornings, even down into the high teens. And typical winter aboard... we've had north winds blow water down the Bay, leaving us a couple feet below the dock. Pup dog doesn't like it when the cabin top is level with the finger pier. Those are the days that I'm in the galley and the port light looks out under the pier.

Just a few days later we were high above the dock, but it's just about as difficult to board (other than being able to at least move the boat closer to the pier since we aren't stuck in the mud). I would have had a very difficult time getting pup on and off the boat during the high tide, especially as the winds were howling (we were under a gale warning). So thankful to have the surfer here with us; where I would struggle to lift the dog, he can lift the pup with relative ease and doesn't have my fear of falling.

Pup and I both seem to have a fear of falling. I have to keep telling her she's brave, that she has to just "puppy up" and deal with it to get on and off the boat, get down stairs. I don't expect her to be fearless, I'm certainly not. The surfer seems to think I'm silly and scared of everything and I admit, the list of things I'm not afraid of might be shorter than the list of things that terrify me. But being brave is not being fearless; being brave is being scared as hell and doing something anyway. I'd rather be brave than fearless and it's probably my fears that have kept my recklessness in check so that I'm still alive so much longer than I ever would have expected. I just have to remind myself not to give up when things are hard, or sad, or frustrating. I have to keep reminding myself that I'm braver than I know and I can get through anything.

Here are some photos of the very high tide we had in early January.

The water didn't overflow the docks but was ankle deep in portions of the parking garage.


Water was rushing into the parking garage. We moved our cars to the back wall. Luckily it never rose too much or made it all the way to the back of the garage or my storage locker would have been swamped.


Lots of snow on deck after the late January blizzard.
One Saturday, the surfer and I played disc golf out on the Eastern Shore and pup got to spend most of the time off-leash wandering the wooded course. At some point she found something especially interesting, not sure if it was deer poop or a dead animal. Then at a party that evening she and another Lab decided to tear open several bags of garbage and have a party. I thought for sure her being sick the next day was related to one of those excursions, but it seems it was just a boring old urinary tract infection. Nonetheless, we were worried because she was shivering, listless, drinking copious amounts of water, and peeing excessively. She had to take an urgent trip to the vet that Monday and was on antibiotics for a few weeks. Naturally, her need for urgent medical attention coincided with me having less than $10 to spare after setting aside just enough cash for my commute to work for the week. Luckily, the vet let me float the bill until I got paid the next Tuesday. Even when I knock myself out to get hours at work, nothing seems to make a dent as the bills just keep rolling in. Alas, I didn't hit the Powerball numbers. But the surfer took good care of pup dog while I was gone long days to work so that gave me some peace of mind that she wasn't sick and alone. 

With more bitter cold on the horizon I couldn't take the risk of damage to the engine so I had the mechanic winterize the Perkins diesel. It means staying in the slip until Spring, but odds were that would happen anyway, and the peace of mind that I won't have a cracked engine block is well worth the $75 bill from the mechanic. Unfortunately, I still have to keep a 60 watt bulb going in the engine room (and sometimes run a heater in there as well) to keep the bilge pump from freezing up in the cold. 

The blizzard that came through the third weekend in January dumped two feet of snow over most of the Annapolis area. I made the tough decision to leave the boat, board the cats at the vet, and hunker down with the surfer and pup dog at the surfer's parents' house. We spent a few days snowed in, during which I fretted over the fate of the boat, but gratefully dockmates kept an eye on her lines and shoved some snow off when the weight of it, combined with the strong winds, had her listing to port. The entire cockpit was filled with snow upon our return, but the only damage was the loss of a fender--it must have become trapped between the pier and the boat and the line snapped (the line is still securely tied to the lifeline). A week later I noticed a fender floating into the adjacent slip and we grabbed the net to fish it out. Lo and behold--it was the very fender we had lost in the storm, come back home on the tide.

So... I quit school. I lost all respect for the massage therapy program at Anne Arundel Community College after seeing how they handled the creeper in our class who was repeatedly inappropriate with class members and could hardly identify any muscles other than the gluteus maximus on which he was quite focused. Despite his inappropriate behavior and his dangerous lack of knowledge of anatomy, he got to skate through the semester getting free massages and groping girls he would never otherwise be able to even buy a drink. I just couldn't get excited about having to be massaged by relative strangers every week and I definitely do not wake up and want to have to massage whatever random client may end up on my table. It'll also be nice not to have every guy I know "volunteering" to let me practice on him. Ugh. Anyway, relieved not to be spending money on tuition and not have school as an impediment to getting in hours at work. I am sick of jobs that require licensing in every different jurisdiction and massage would have just been more of the same, and more throwing licensing and membership fees into the wind. Time to move on.

The entire cockpit filled with snow.
While my running has slacked off to nothing of late we have been playing disc golf as often as weather and schedules permit. I got to try a new course, Rockburn, which was challenging, but a nice change of pace. I'm still far from being competitive with the surfer, but every once in awhile I even win a hole, and more and more often I manage to make par on a couple of holes during a game. I just bought a putter and another driver to add to my fledgling disc collection and replaced a lost "Nuke" for the surfer. I ordered the new discs from Amazon and there was no guarantee on what colors we'd receive. I like the funky green Mantis and the pale pink putter, but I'm jealous that they picked a bright pink for the surfer's Nuke when I'd love that color and he'd probably prefer anything else. C'est la vie. It'd be nice if there were more courses nearby. I probably most enjoy that playing disc is a way for the surfer and I to be out together without phones, television, or other distractions coming between us; it can be so hard to find that quality time when people can truly connect.



Pup dog adventuring while we played the course at Tuckahoe.

New discs; woo hoo!
Work is, as usual, draining, monotonous, and of uncertain duration. The latest I've heard is that the project will last until the end of February--which means I may be out of work in less than three weeks. Naturally, my budget cannot handle that sort of hiccup, so I need to cross my fingers they roll me onto another project and redouble my efforts to secure more lucrative, meaningful, and reliable income. In my heart of hearts all I want to do is write. I would love to be able to travel the world, experience all the different sights, sounds, flavors, wildlife, and cultures. But I think I would be happy in a little farmhouse in the middle of nowhere if I could support myself writing and have the privacy I crave. 

I've certainly been having a bit of an existential crisis with respect to being aboard. While I love being rocked to sleep by the sea and love to be out on the water, I do not enjoy sailing. Sailing is a means to an end--travel, getting to an interesting destination--and is not something I enjoy in and of itself. I suffer through it because I don't really have a choice anymore, but I wish I had bought an old VW camper van back in 2012 and driven around the country having adventures, seeing new sights these past few years, instead of being stuck in one place, never able to cobble together the funds needed to fix up the boat and take her places. Being at the helm is a chore; it means a day of being the responsible one, worrying about running aground, having safety gear at the ready, not being able to relax and have a cocktail. I can't really fathom why someone would want to spend precious free time that way. I certainly don't. I want to get somewhere and then enjoy myself. I fear that on a boat it just isn't going to happen, at least not anytime soon. But the boat did save my life in more ways than one and she keeps me from being homeless, so for now, home is where the boat is. Whether aboard or ashore, I just want to find some peace, joy, and prosperity with my pack around me. Home and family are so incredibly important to me and I guess home is wherever my pack and I manage to land. I can hardly wait for spring to come, with warmth and light and hope.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

frost

The first frost arrived and pup dog was wary of hopping off the boat. I still have to see whether the stern is close enough to the bulkhead to run her dog ramp so she doesn't have to brave the finger pier when the ice and snow arrive. Luckily, it has been an unseasonably warm December. Unfortunately, I have heard January is supposed to be our usual cold and February is supposed to be much worse than usual, with heavy snowfall. I try to keep telling myself that this is the last winter, at least for a while, and we simply have to hang in there and get through it.

Pup dog has been very spoiled having a guy who will throw the ball far enough and often enough to tire her out. He even bought her a Chuck-It. If only she would retrieve a little better--she has a habit of dropping the ball about 15 feet away. For years I have worked on getting her to bring the ball all the way to me, so she has this funny routine where she keeps nudging it with her nose to roll it toward me as I keep telling her "closer, closer." We took her along last weekend when we played disc golf and only about half way through the 18 holes she was slowing down and eventually "lost" (or more likely hid) the ball so she could rest.

School ended in early December for fall term and I was relieved to have made my "A"s in both Swedish Massage and Anatomy and Physiology. I also managed to avoid being massaged by the total creeper who was in the Swedish Massage class and who was incapable of being professional or appropriate. Many of us in the class were disappointed that the program didn't take any real action to remove him from the labs, instead giving him useless warnings. If by some miracle he passed and ends up in the Deep Tissue class in the spring, I'll refuse to work with him and either leave the program or the school can have a legal battle with me. I came to dread the massage class but feel I'm already committed to finishing since the time and money already invested are completely wasted without a license. So, we'll see what happens.

Not exactly news, but I have too much stuff. I’ve gotten rid of 95% of my worldly belongings, but still have too much. I know I’m only supposed to care about people, not things, but I am such a Cancer--my home is so important to me and some of my “things” are part of what makes it feel like home. Then there is the bigger, deeper issue that I feel I am unlikely to have the financial wherewithal to replace things or acquire new things. I’ve been living with piles of stuff everywhere and although it bothers me it wasn’t mission critical to deal with it since the boat isn’t ready to head anywhere yet. But now I have the surfer living aboard with me and I want him to have space to feel at home. I bought him a hanging shelf and added it to the main hanging locker so he would have a place for clothes and I got rid of the mini fridge to make more space and have a better spot for his guitar. I need to do a lot more organizing, cleaning, and paring down so he doesn’t feel like a houseguest and knows he has his own space. But somehow we are juggling the Rubix cube aboard and fitting two people, two cats, and pup dog on this little boat.

Although I gave up the mini fridge, my marine fridge is still not working. We’re sucking it up right now and using block ice; at least it’s cold out so it doesn’t melt nearly as fast as it did in the summer. But once I get the car paid off and tuition covered, repairing--or more likely replacing--the refrigeration system will be a priority. Although a new compressor will be pricey, I have a feeling it will be more cost effective than paying for hourly labor to troubleshoot whatever is wrong with a 20-year-old unit.

I’ve only been out running twice since I fell back in September and scraped my knee badly, but I have made it out ice skating a few times. A few years ago I was skating 4 or 5 days a week but the past two seasons I only made it out once or twice. This year I spoiled myself with a 30-skate pass, one of my Christmas presents to myself. I do love to skate and I’ll enjoy the pass, but I quickly remembered why I stopped skating at Quiet Waters regularly--rink rats and jerk parents who raise brats. I have to force myself to be on the ice right at 9AM if I want to get any time to skate before the a$$holes and their kids arrive. Sigh.  

My other Christmas present to myself was three discs for disc golf. I didn’t expect to enjoy playing stoner frisbee and initially just went along because the surfer really likes it and I wanted to spend time with him. But I’m not terrible and the surfer is a great coach, so we try to play as often as our schedules and weather permit. His discs are mostly better for someone bigger, stronger, and more experienced than me, so I picked out three different discs, a distance driver, a fairway driver, and a mid-range, better suited to my level and my backhand throw. One of my Christmas gifts from the surfer was a bag for my discs.

The holidays have been very stressful as usual. I never have much of any money and am always missing my father. This was the first Christmas in four years (since my father died) that I exchanged any gifts and while I enjoyed picking out some surprises for the surfer, the financial and emotional stress of the gift exchange process overwhelms me and fills me with dread. We did finally put some Christmas lights up the day after Christmas. I managed to get through the weekend and now just want to get past New Year's. I'd say "maybe 2016 will hold better things" but usually each year is worse than the last and hoping otherwise is likely to jinx me. But just maybe this coming year will be full of health, wealth, and love. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

salt

I've seen a saying about how salt cures everything, whether from tears, the sea, or salt-rimmed Margaritas. We all need salt to survive, to make our neurons fire. I think the salt that cures the most for me goes in my body on my french fries and comes out as sweat while I run. If I sweat enough I figure there won't be anything left for tears.

Cut my hair again trying to give those curls some bounce.
I apologize for the lengthy lapse in posts. The juggle of school, work, and my heart has left me sleep-deprived and frantic most days. Gratefully, I finally got back out for a run after being sidelined for several weeks since the unpleasant incident between my knee and the sidewalk. Four little miles this past Saturday and I was sore for 36 hours. I hate having to start back over, but I know I can get back in my running groove if only I drag myself out of bed and head out there. The payoff in mental health and getting trim will be worth the pain; I just have to keep reminding myself that when my warm bed doesn't want me to go.


School. It's one of the very few things I happen to be good at. I agonize over every quiz and test, belly-ache that I haven't studied enough and will tank my grade, and more often than not still manage to get an A. Thus, the sympathy seems to run thin for my plight when I have procrastinated my studying and homework to the bitter end. I'm something of a test-taking machine, though I did do poorly on my second test in Anatomy & Physiology--a 79%. Ugh; I do not believe in getting Cs, in being "average." But it was a lesson learned that I needed to read more than one of the three chapters we were being tested on. I got one more lackluster B in A&P but have otherwise pulled off As for six of eight tests thus far. Why must I have an A in the class? No scholarships or graduation requirements turn on it. I just need passing grades in my 29 credits for the Massage Therapy certificate program and I can sit for the licensing exams. But over the years I have kept up a streak of straight-As in community college courses so now it's become a "thing" that I can't let go. So if I tank the last exam in A&P and get a--gasp!--B in the course, the sky will probably not fall and angels will probably not lose their wings, but somehow I will be a failure in my heart of hearts. When I am critical of others I really do feel awful; I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. I try so hard to stop expecting perfection everywhere. Yet I keep expecting it, never finding it, never achieving it. I guess I need to cut myself a little slack, too, because I seem to klutzily fall off my own pedestal about a thousand times a day.

A big chunk of our exams is identifying parts on models.
Anatomy and Physiology is challenging. Academically, Swedish Massage is far easier. But the challenge in massage is learning the techniques and the mental grounding, more than in learning muscles and their actions. Ironically, the part of the massage classes that most people like best--giving and getting a massage each class in lab--is the part I dread. It has become rote at this point in the term but the bigger stressor for me and many girls in the class is the one creeper guy none of us wants to work with. My fingers are crossed that he finally dropped the class yesterday--the deadline to do so without a bad grade wrecking his GPA. I think after 12 weeks of class he could probably only identify one muscle: the gluteus maximus on which he seems quite focused. I had to work on him once, but at this point I will flat-out refuse to work with him again. He's failing the class, can't perform a professional health screen (asking girls if they've had any "recent pregnancies" rather than if they are currently pregnant and even asking one girl if she'd had any recent plastic surgeries). But beyond his simply dangerously not knowing what the hell he is doing and being incapable of acting professionally, he is one of those guys that just gives you the creeper vibe. No girl is going to talk to this guy at a bar much less pay him to massage her. The whole idea is preposterous but the school has no balls to give him the boot. I can't imagine he passes and makes it into Deep Tissue, but if he does, I will likely leave the program and transfer my credits elsewhere. This girl has a strong self-preservation instinct and is tired of letting schmuck creeps get a pass when they need to be called out and shamed. So, that's school. Not my favorite place to be these days, unfortunately.

Yep, this happened. I did the makeup. Note the little skull barrettes, so adorable.
I've been cooking and baking often now that I have someone to cook for. The surfer loves my cooking, or at least tells me so. He's not what I expected but probably exactly what I needed. He makes me laugh and smile, serenades me, and holds me tight. And perhaps what I need most of all, he lets me take care of him and he takes care of me. This past nine-and-a-half-weeks has had its challenges, but I think we came out the other side stronger than we started. I could dish all sorts of sweet nothings and challenges, but as I said before, I don't ever want him to feel he'll be dissected here, so I'll keep it sparse for the time being. But I'll leave you with this: Good cooks know that salt is a critical ingredient to bring out the flavor in a dish. It doesn't change the flavor, but it opens up your taste buds and lets the meal blossom. This guy, he's like just the right sprinkling of salt that brings out the best in me and makes life taste just that much more satisfying.

Monday, September 21, 2015

stars

Sometimes the stars just align. Even for klutzy, crazy girls like me. After plenty of roller-coaster riding and hanging in there, the universe has cut me some slack or rewarded my resilience and sent some blessings my way. Normally, I might be worried that bad tidings are on the horizon with so much good feeling around me right now. But I'm too busy feeling energized, hopeful, and grounded to let worry harsh my mellow.


A friend convinced me to take a little cruise across the Bay to Kent Narrows to meet up with some friends for drinks and live music. It would be a 20 minute drive from Annapolis, but a five-hour sail. I hesitated to spend the bulk of the weekend in transit when I had studying to do, but with Labor Day weekend likely being the last opportunity to make such a trip with my friend before winter sets in, I decided to just go for it. 


We made good time, raised all the sails, and burned off stale diesel. It was my first time "cruising" Ambrosia away from her home dock overnight. A baby step, perhaps, but a start, a great shakedown sail, and the cats made it there and back with all their bodily fluids kept in check. 


Kent Narrows may not be an exotic location, and at about the same distance perhaps "We sailed to St. Michael's" sounds more sailor-y. But not long after docking we were at The Jetty and those rum runners went down so smoothly. The early band at The Jetty was fun, but we found out the later band would be hip-hop so rather than have to guard my tush from jerks grinding their junk on me without invitation, we decided to find another spot for the night's eats and drinks.


A group of us enjoyed the marina pool, jammed out a bit aboard over drinks, and then looked at our watches and realized it was getting late. Not having eaten, we now had to find a fun spot with a kitchen still open. I figured Ram's Head Shore House would have live music and a hopping scene, and the kitchen would at least be open until 11pm. We piled in a car and headed out, but when we arrived there were literally two people there other than the bartenders. Then they said the kitchen was only serving appetizers. I felt terrible having convinced the gang this was the spot where we wanted to be. But there was a pool table and my friend is a pool shark, so the games ensued. 


I needed another beer and headed over to the bar to order something. More people had arrived, but still there were only two or three people sitting at the bar at that point. I could choose any spot along the bar to find the bartender, but I "might" have picked a spot near a cute, floppy-haired surfer guy, just because. He quickly struck up a conversation that lasted until my friends came over and said they were heading back to the boat if I wanted a ride. My friend had been the consummate wingman and let me enjoy my chat uninterrupted. I said my goodbyes and gave the guy my card. Some twelve hours later he texted me that he wanted to continue our chat and the rest is history as they say. I could dish all kinds of wonderful things about him, but I don't ever want him to feel he'll be dissected here. Let's just say he's a great tipper, a Southern Gentleman, and makes me want to sing for him, bake for him, and take care of him.

Trying to keep up and build up my running, I headed out last Saturday for a six-miler. I was killing it for just shy of the first four miles until this happened. Gratefully, a cyclist and some drivers stopped to see if I was okay, and the kindness of strangers got me home alright.


I may be bruised and bloody, but I always bounce back. The scars just remind me that I'm out there, living life, seizing the day, and seeking out adventure. I would take a thousand scars over a day of the zombie-like life I escaped. 

Finally, among the blessings that have come to me of late, my friend sold me his old car. So after over a year without a vehicle, at last I have the freedom to get to work, school, the store, and fun when the whim strikes me. The car and I are tight; she wants to be driven fast and decisively and has plenty room for pup dog and a massage table. 

You never know where great friends will come from. Someone who was once among the "friends I haven't met yet" became a true friend in "real life" over time and only because of that friendship did these blessings find me, Ambrosia's first cruise, the freedom of a vehicle, and meeting a wonderful man in whose arms I've never felt so safe and at home. And so I am starry-eyed and so very grateful for the blessings that have fallen like shooting stars at this mermaid's feet.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

waves

The past month has been marked by waves. Waves upon waves of sadness, though eventually the sets grew farther apart and now there is just an occasional light chop on my heart. But there have also been waves of joy. Water, life, they ebb and flow, bringing bad tidings and good, but ever changing. Knowing that a high tide will come and wash the tears, blood, muck, and hurt back out to sea makes the low tides of my days survivable. 

First things first, I owe you photographs of my beautiful new battery box. The wooden box was custom fabricated and epoxied. It holds my house bank of four 6V "golf cart" batteries and the black box in front is the group 31 dual purpose start battery. The bottom photograph shows the water pump relocated forward near the engine rather than laying loose atop the batteries as in the past.




I finally removed the stand-up portable air conditioner and returned it. It never condensed any water and just operated as a glorified fan. The boat is actually cooler without it! I have the window unit running over the forward hatch and it keeps the v-berth frosty and the rest of the boat comfortable enough. 

I had to finish sanding the brightwork on my own. It was both physically and emotionally tough to spend several days on a project that the Midshipman and I were working on together. I can call him that now, because, sadly, now that's all he'll ever be. The Mid had done all the parts that were easy to reach with the 5" orbital sander, so I was left with all the difficult portions that had to be tackled with a multitool or by hand. Here are snaps of the brightwork, before, during, after, and one of me after the final 8-hour day of sanding. I haven't finished the hatch, but can't currently afford the mural I want painted on it, so I figure it's better to leave what varnish is left as protection until I can tackle that project properly.











The new batteries and wiring didn't solve my engine problems, so the electrician removed the starter and took it up to Best Battery in Baltimore for testing. It failed the test so they did a rebuild. Before and after:



In the midst of all the repairs, the electrician had to disconnect and reconnect the water pump frequently to access the starter. Something must have jiggled loose at some point and the pump ran continuously, dumping half my water tank in the bilge. Below is the icky old automatic bilge pump that wasn't doing its job. Now there is a beautiful new automatic pump running well (donated by Doria, thanks!). It gives me peace of mind when I see the red light come on the electrical panel and the pump gurgle for a few seconds to clear the bilge (while my galley sink drains overboard, the head sink drains to the bilge...so the bilge is always getting a fresh influx of water when I wash my face or brush my teeth, yuck.)


I received a lovely bottle of port from a reader. Thanks! (Also pictured a bottle of Italian red I haven't opened yet, a gift from a dockmate). 


The electrician installed the rebuilt starter and miracle of miracles, the engine started right up. Of course, I had 45 gallons of old diesel in the tank I was worried wouldn't cooperate, but I gave it a good dose of tank cleaner and haven't had a problem. (Knock on wood.) Friday the new starter went in and Sunday the boat was out of the slip for the first time since the end of February 2014. 


A friend came to help me on the adventure--a trip down to Thomas Point Light, anchoring out a few hours, and then the hardest part--docking! Coming out of the slip we had our first big surprise. I had the wheel hard a-port but the boat was heading hard to starboard. I freaked out, backed her back in the slip, and fretted a bit. My friend hopped off to look at the rudder and indeed, the steering had gotten reversed. Apparently when my old mechanic and I installed the new engine control cables a year ago and the chain slipped down into the binnacle, we lost the twist in the chain that is needed for the correct steering. We didn't let it stop us, though it made for stressful moments when dodging shoals, crab pots, other vessels, and when docking. 




We went almost to the lighthouse and then headed back north looking for a spot to anchor. Everything shallow enough to be feasible was a minefield of crab pots but we managed it. We anchored out for a few hours, had lunch, and enjoyed the sun and breeze. Enjoying some waves of joy getting my beloved Ambrosia away from the dock at last.




We took some decent waves right on the beam--unable to turn into them quickly enough due to crab pots-- which caused the mini-fridge to tip open and spill its contents everywhere. The fan on top of it tumbled to the floor, pulling the power strip and the computer monitor connected to it to the floor as well. Luckily, nothing was broken, but since every surface on the boat is cluttered, I have a lot of work ahead of me to clear all those surfaces and secure appliances and such with shock cord to prevent mishaps in choppy seas or when heeled over. This was, however, the first cruise when no cats puked. I put them together on a towel in a pop-up dog crate so they wouldn't be able to get sick in some remote locker unbeknownst to me, and so they would be safer from falling objects. It was a good plan that worked out well.


On the way back north we opened the jib and got an extra knot and a half. Naturally, the furling line got fouled beneath the drum rather than wrapping onto it, so I had to go forward and unwind it while carefully jumping back whenever there was slack since the sail would take the slack and fill, spinning off the furler with force. Yes, that is my lovely hatch A/C in the photo. It is too much of a hassle to remove it so we just let it be. And, yep, below you can see the ratty weathered bungee cords keeping my main halyard from slapping against the mast. Don't judge me.




Docking was a major challenge and I freaked out quite a bit. I really don't want to hit another boat so I get very trepidatious in close quarters maneuvering; this is a tight docking situation and a slip I'd never docked her in before. The reversed steering situation didn't help. Gratefully, the dock master was waiting on the pier to throw lines and give advice and we eventually made it in unscathed. But I think next time I will try backing all the way down the fairway and into the slip. I really need someone very experienced to come help me spend three hours going in and out of the slip over and over until it's in my muscle memory and my crocodile brain. But all in, a great trip, a huge relief to get out on the water, and some much needed waves of joy and relaxation.

Here's a nugget of truth to remember: bad tippers are bad lovers (and bad bosses, friends, ...). As soon as I saw that the Mid was a bad tipper I knew we would have problems. I should have heeded that right off the bat. People who are stingy and selfish in one area of life, like money, are often also stingy in other areas of life--in bed, with their affection, and with their time. The same goes for people who cut in line, cut people off in traffic, and generally seem to have missed the message about the Golden Rule.

I had been planning to end things with the Mid because he was more into material things than into me (or anything real) and, most importantly, because despite my attempts to gently coach, he would not make the slightest effort to meet my needs in bed. I did so enjoy his body, but I knew how to use it and I know my body well. But it was long past time to take it up a notch and he had no interest in making the effort. I knew he didn't care about me when he didn't even think about picking up my suitcase after my sleep-deprived sailing trip, didn't open doors, didn't carry groceries. Little things, perhaps, but very telling. So whenever I get sad and missing him I remind myself of him saying to me "you good?" and the incredible restraint it took not to slap him.

But despite knowing in my mind that I deserved far better, my heart was still wrecked when he left.  I was overwhelmed for some time with waves of sadness hitting me over and over. He had been the person I shared my day with, the first one I wanted to see in the morning and the last one I wanted to see before I slept, who I wanted the best for, wanted to take care of. Without someone to take care of, what purpose do I have? For a week I barely ate... running in the heat but only getting 600-1000 calories a day. Looking at some of my favorite dishes and feeling my stomach turn at the thought of eating. It took a couple of weeks before I could get through a day without breaking down in tears. But I was heartbroken over the idea of him, not the reality. All the promises and plans, sailing and anchoring out together, cooking au naturel, ample sex, a fearless team, I definitely grieved the loss of that, illusory as it all was. It makes me so sad to know that all the times I was making love to him he was just fucking me. That all the sweet nothings were just plays while it was convenient. He just didn't like me for anything serious. He liked the boat, the cats, he just didn't... and I cut him off before he could finish the sentence that he just didn't like me. It just wasn't what he wanted. I don't even know what it was or what he wanted. We never defined anything and he never shared with me after our first weekend together. What a complete change. That first weekend was with a sweet, sexy, funny, vulnerable, real guy who showed me some of his gooey insides and smiled when he saw me. The other times together were with a military robot, a shell of a man, only interested in cars, guns, and sunglasses.

The tragi-comic part of it is that I broke my "no military guys" rule to be with him. The last relationship I was in ended five years before I met the Mid. That guy is a Marine, like the Mid hopes to become. He was full-on crazy, discharged from USMC on a full psych disability, and psychologically abusive to the point I fled Maryland for Oregon (and yet still got back together with him).  I finally managed to end it when a co-worker said to me "You know how the orca throws the seal around for a while, not quite dead, bloodied, plays with it before the kill?" "Yeah." I replied. And he said, "You're the seal."  That is why I frequently write on the mirror: Be the lioness, not the gazelle. I have to get back to that, channel my inner strength and power. Because no guy should be able to make me feel like a gazelle bleeding out on the savannah.

It would be funny if it weren't so true: hippy mermaid seeks loyal, authoritarian stud to bring order to her world. I keep thinking that military guys will be like my father, have real character and honor. But that generation of military is long gone. It was a terrible setback for me, being with the Mid, but at least I've learned I probably cannot be with someone quite that young. Eventually they will want children I cannot give them; although I would've been a great mom I have a blood disorder that doctors said means I'm a high risk of bleeding out in childbirth. And I would rather have the freedom to travel the world with my partner than be tied down by children. But it would be nice to be an aunt again; perhaps someday. And so it's been another tough year, marked by three very regrettable one-night-stands and two months of long-distance sweet nothings during a twelve-night stand, the first three with an amazing guy with so much potential to become a great man, and the rest another terrible mistake selling my body, heart, and soul far short. Many waves of sadness, but eventually they have to lay down, right?

While I spill my insides all over the Internet here, the funny thing is how very edited this is. I've been told that in "real life" I have no filter.  Believe me, this is very filtered, and primarily to protect the guilty.

I needed to distract myself from the Mid somehow and made an OkCupid account. Within 30 minutes I was overwhelmed by messages and wanted to delete the account. But I decided I should sleep on it. I figured I should at least give it a try despite my horrible experience with eHarmony almost 6 years ago. But after too many messages, some of them snarky because I ignored the guy's messages, and with it seeming like more scammers and fake accounts than real potential matches, I disabled my account after nine days. The two guys I would most have liked to meet in person I never did meet up with though we did exchange numbers and text a bit. C'est la vie. The whole online thing is just too overwhelming and the reality is it is just too difficult to determine if there is any chemistry from online messages and a smattering of profile photos. It's much better to be out and about living life, going to the store, going to bars, going out for live music, and if a guy makes my head turn, then see if the chemistry is mutual. 

I've been running a fair amount, though not back up to my desired 30 miles per week. But I am trimming down, building muscle, and getting faster. Running is my meditation, my church. I listen to Matisyahu, take in nature, feel the connection of my body, mind, and spirit. Sometimes I am overwhelmed by grief and have a panic attack and hyperventilate. But it happens less and less now. So many days I just want to stay in bed, don't want to head out on that run. But I always feel better that I did it, even if it was slower or shorter than my goal. I need to focus on taking better care of myself physically, emotionally, and financially. In a sense, my body is all I have and I have to make taking care of it, making it the best it can be, my priority. 

I started school this past Monday. It seems crazy to be going back to school yet again, but at least this path (massage therapy) feels like it has potential both as something I can do while traveling and that is actually in demand (which is not the case with law). And after many years of lawyering and hating it, it will be nice to do something that reduces the level of stress in the world rather than increases it. Law is just a soul-sucking endeavor and I feel like I need to do something with a far better karmic balance. And it turns out that colleges are full of cute, young guys...so that's not so bad, either. I am juggling only being able to get in 30 hours a week of legal work in DC, so that's a $1,000 a month less income when I need it most. So, I need to make a better push to find something local and lucrative that will accommodate the school schedule for this next year.

But more seriously, I am nervous about whether I will be any good at massage, because if I'm not great at it I won't succeed. But I am also nervous about getting through Anatomy and Physiology, which will be the toughest course in the program and I am taking right now along with Swedish Massage. I've been a professional student, had an amazing memory, was a test-taking machine. That's how I got through law school, an MBA, three bar exams, and into a couple Ph.D programs I abandoned along the way. But since all that I've had two serious concussions. My memory has never been the same. The effects of a traumatic brain injury are so cruel and unpredictable. There are times I look at close friends and for the life of me, I have no idea what their names are. So, more waves. Waves of sadness at the loss of a skill I was very good at, at the loss of memory, at the effects I may never shake, but waves of joy at the potential for a new life, at some new chance to find a purpose, meaning, bliss.