the adventures of a girl, her dog, and two cats. adjusting to life aboard, running ultramarathons, figuring out how to cook and bake in an itsy bitsy galley...

Thursday, December 4, 2014

(happy?) holidays

If you don't have a perfect Pottery Barn house and a centerpiece Martha Stewart would be proud of then, well, let's be frank: you're a bad wife, a bad mother, a bad woman, a bad American. Spend, spend, spend! Buy, buy, buy! These are the modern carols of the holidays. Our American (Western?) society is founded upon buying cheap plastic crap from (inhumane, animal-testing, slavers) China and then promptly throwing it in US landfills so we can buy more cheap plastic crap from China. Since this is the only way to fuel our economy now, (because American ingenuity and support of local small businesses is effectively dead), this incessant, addiction-riddled, consumerism has somehow become Patriotic. Yes, it makes me want to vomit.

Society puts ridiculous pressure on us all to buy gifts (I haven't in maybe 5 years) and to put on a perfect holiday. I remember being so poor growing up that we had an enormous box under the tree. Elaborabately decorated. And empty. The note said the box wasn't empty; it was filled with love. Most of the gifts under the tree today aren't filled with love. They are filled with guilt, obligation, and fawning attempts to buy affection.

Despite this rant, I actually love Christmastime. The smell of Douglas Firs, the sparkling lights, decorating the tree, drinking cocoa, hoping for a white Christmas. I still watch classic Rudolph, Grinch, and Charlie Brown Christmas shows if I manage to catch them. But as with most things in life now, I am concerned with the substance, not the appearance. I would rather have fewer friends who are top-notch, focus on quality not quantity in my meals, relationships, and how I spend my time. Things break. Things generate clutter, mentally and physically. Experiences and adventures provide a lifetime of memories. 

On the subject of materialism, but colliding with the soap opera of my life, I headed to the pub for my Thursday night chicken tostados the Thursday before Thanksgiving. I noticed "Dimples" was sitting at the bar and tried to stroll past but he'd spotted me and I got roped into sitting there with him. I don't know what I saw in him other than the dimples but there I was getting lectured for two hours. I'm sure you all know just how much I relish unsolicited advice. (Sigh.) He went on and on about how with all my education I should be on a nice, new 60' sailboat. That I need to go back to a real job and make real money, that even if I only made $150,000 I could at least be paying my bills, my student loans, and get rid of my boat. Although a life in the law is not much of a life worth living in my opinion, I explained it isn't exactly easy to find a legal job these days, and that until you're post-menopausal law firms don't want to hire women because they think you'll immediately go on maternity leave. He looked at me and said I obviously don't have to worry about that anymore. Excuse me? I'm still quite fertile and only a hot 35-year-old who wants a lovechild away from being a mom. 

So, the idiot basically tells me I'm lazy, old, and that my boat is a dilapidated wreck. Not exactly the way to my heart, that's for sure. But gee, Prince Charming said he would help me with "exactly two" things: borrowing his diesel mechanic to look at my starter and getting my boat to a marina for a haul-out. Those two things, he repeated, he would help me with and for those two things I could call him. I was puzzled insofar as I never asked for his help and I'm sure not going to take it from some schmuck making me feel like a charity case. I politely smiled and nodded. He kissed me on the cheek and told me he'd see me later. I walked out the door and deleted every last trace of him from my phone and iPad. I didn't even want to risk sending a drunken text rant or anything. He's a rich guy who only cares about and values shiny new things. Me, my life, my boat, we sparkle from within, but he can't see that. His loss. I texted friends in town to smack me upside the head if I start getting all gooey over Dimples again. I deserve so very much better than the likes of him. Gratefully, one of my best friends in town has been at the pub with me the last few times I saw Dimples there and I simply ignored him and he's ignored me (other than feeling my ass when he walked by on Saturday night, ugh). It sucks to have that awkward feeling at my local watering hole, one that he is new to. But I'll just have to suck it up and not make that mistake again. 

What do I need in a guy? One like this! www.twentyeightfeet.com. (Please watch the beautiful documentary; it's only 8 minutes long and a feast for the eyes and soul.) Floppy hair, check. Jim Morrison curls, check. Young and adventurous. While you're blinded by that chiseled bod, don't forget to notice the great smile. Loves his boat from the bottom of his heart. And has the right ideas about life, money, and what it means to be rich. Yep, my dream guy. Unfortunately for me, that guy has a lovely girlfriend and she's one of those rare white girls who can carry off dreadlocks, so no competing against that. But if he's got a doppelganger, I sure need to meet him and sail off into the sunset. (A big thanks to my friend Chuck who sent me the video; I needed to see that there really are guys like that out there somewhere!)

How did I sell myself so short in life and love? It's hard to explain how demoralizing it is to have literally applied for thousands upon thousands of jobs in the past decade and have had interviews I can count on my fingers and toes. Probably just my fingers. It really tells me I don't have anything to offer that this society wants or values. Admittedly, I don't really like, respect, or value this society. So I guess the feeling is mutual. But I am so underutilized and we all want to feel useful, purposeful. And we all have to eat. I don't need a fancy life. But my pets, who have kept me going through it all, get a fraction of the medical care they should. And their medical care exceeds mine by at least double. I haven't seen a dentist since 2008. It just wears me down sometimes. But I keep on keeping on, because that's what one has to do. If I am anything, it's resilient. But when people ask "How are you?" I want to stop saying "hanging in there," and instead wholeheartedly say "the world is my oyster!"

So, in other news, my engine won't start. I was all ready to head out for a little day cruise, but the starter just buzzes and the engine doesn't even try to cough or strain or anything. My diesel guy came and listened to it and said it's likely the battery is kaput and just not enough juice getting to the starter to even spin it. I protested that my battery monitor says 13.2 volts. He said that is probably only because I'm on the battery charger, hooked to shore power, and if I disconnected the shore power I'd likely see the voltage plummet. Now that I think about it, the voltage has stayed constantly at 13.2 for a while, whereas it used to drain down to 12.4 and then recharge up to 13.4. I still need him to come back and help finish the diagnosis so I can plan accordingly. I have been planning to pull out the two 4Ds (200 pounds each) and replace them with as many (75 pound) golf cart batteries as I can fit, and also replace the starter battery. One problem I won't repeat: prior owners connected the house and start banks, which should be separate. Naturally, I don't have several hundred dollars laying around to buy the new batteries, or the solar panels I wanted to install at the same time so it would all be in sync and happy. OK, I know I just ranted about not wanting things, but I admit batteries are the kind of things I need cluttering up my life. They are things that will help me move forward rather than things that hold me down. There, see how I rationalized that and made it sound very beautiful and philosophical? 

In other boat news, I had a diver out. Sean from Open Water Diving called me back within two hours of my initial call, made it out in less than a week, was very professional, and fairly priced. He also does search and recovery so if you lose a phone overboard in Annapolis, now you know who to call. I will admit that I got his card back when I was working on the fishing charter. He had been cleaning a boat in that marina and was changing out of his wetsuit into street clothes. I walked by and said "whoa, no need to rush putting on that t-shirt." What can I say, we all like youth and beauty. Most guys take their shirt off and you'd beg them to put it back on, so when a guy has a nice physique, it's nice to enjoy the view. I got his card and of course I waited until winter to call him, so alas, no show for me. But trust me, he's more than a pretty face. Very professional and did a great job. In the cold and rain he came out the day before Thanksgiving and cleaned the hull and installed a new zinc. The hull was very dirty, but he said the bottom paint is in good shape and I should be good until July for another cleaning. Bad news was the old zinc was totally gone. But a new one is there now so I'll sleep a little easier. 

Someone on one of the boating forums has a signature line that says "rust never sleeps" and it sure is true. The corrosion is a battle I feel I just can't get ahead of. It just gets overwhelming. All the projects. Not having the money to repair things I know need attention. I love my boat so much and I frequently tell her I'm sorry I haven't done more, done better. She saved my life and I have to return the favor.

Friday, November 14, 2014

be at peace

Three days after my 14-miler I ramped up to 16. Just shy of a week later I was planning to run 18 but the weather was gorgeous and somehow my legs talked me into just going ahead and knocking out 20. This photo is right after I finished. It was a long, grueling run, and I was pretty damn sore for two days afterwards, but very glad I got it done. This weekend I'll run shorter and then hit another 20 next weekend. The 50K may not be a personal record time as hoped, but I will be able to get through it 5 weeks from now. Then my focus will go back to a solid 30 miles per week and losing weight. I gained back 3 pounds on my trip but another 5 since my return. It's just enough that I can't fit my smaller, sexier clothes and I feel squishy instead of hot. My goal at the end of last year was to lose 25 pounds. I lost 18 but gained back 8 so the setback is very frustrating and it's always that last 10-15 that are the hardest to lose and the easiest to gain back.

I've been trying to get the boat organized and cleaned up. I'm still a long way from the finish line, though not sure that's one I will ever really cross. But living in a jumbled hoarder-esque disaster zone wears on me and scares off any guys who see my boat (not always a bad thing, I guess). But a few days ago I did actually locate a countertop underneath all the dishes, condiments, and liquor bottles in the galley.  The fridge is back on the fritz, either running like crazy and freezing everything or off. I'm running it a few hours and then turning it off the rest of the day to try to avoid losing any more delicate veggies.
Since I'm carless, I've repurposed a couple of nets that are meant to be car trunk organizers. I mounted this one in the galley to hold various random items. It also somewhat obscures the window so I can still get some natural sunlight in and see the weather but pretend I have a little privacy. Now that it's in the 30s and 40s outside, however, the condensation around port lights is bad so this evening I put the Reflectix insulation back in that one. I'm in the process of mounting various other small net bags for organizing things, but I think the fundamental reality to getting organized will be getting rid of stuff. I've already gotten rid of probably 90% of my worldly possessions but I still can't fit on this boat, so more will have to go. The decisions are difficult and I am, admittedly, a hoarder. I think a lot of it springs from being perpetually broke my whole life and never knowing if I'll have the money to replace whatever I throw out or give away.

In the process of cleaning and organizing, naturally I encountered more mold than I cared to. Although it is less than in the past, it is still an ongoing battle. I wipe surfaces down with a tea tree oil solution, but need to be doing it weekly if I'm going to stay on top of it. I think the best solution is the tea tree gel pots but they are soooo expensive. But I have to admit the price may be worth saving myself the aggravation and allergies.

Winter aboard is truly upon us here in Annapolis. The cats wanted to get outside today but it was very cold and windy so I put their cuddle cups on deck and Hunter happily climbed into one as you can see. Yesterday the winter water was set up and I expect the dock water to be turned off shortly, so I topped off my water tank yesterday afternoon. That should last almost two weeks. Tomorrow I will need to set up some lights in the engine room to keep the engine and water pump from freezing. A few days ago, when it was still warmish out, I tried to start the engine. The starter sort of buzzed but the engine made no attempt to turn over. I've actually never had that problem before. So, I've been stranded in my slip for 9 months when I had planned to be out at least twice a month. I hate being a dock queen. Even if sailing itself doesn't excite me, I want to get the boat out, exercise the systems, practice my docking, anchoring, and general boat-handling skills. It's just depressing. I'm so sick of this marina and want the boat ready to leave when my contract is up at the end of March. 
 
I don't know exactly when I'll leave or where I'll go. With no real job and no guy here in Annapolis, there is nothing to keep me here. But there is nothing to go to anywhere else, either. But I don't want to just sit here while life passes me by. Even if I go "south" and turn around and come back, I feel I at least have to leave Annapolis sooner than later.

When I was on my trip, everything upended, uncertain, nonetheless I felt centered, balanced, at peace (though never content). Lately I feel off my game, frustrated and anxious. I need to get back to that place where I am centered regardless of what is swirling around me. I know I have it inside me, and just need to clear away all the other noise to get there again. If I have to choose just one word to describe myself it is resilient. That isn't necessarily the quality that would be my first choice, but I am grateful to have the resilience that I do. I just have to use it to help me get back to my center, to be at peace and perceive a deeper love.

Monday, November 3, 2014

all souls' day

I was tempted to get done up again yesterday on the actual Day of the Dead, a/k/a All Souls' Day. I'm not Catholic, but came very close, and it never hurts to take a day to remember our loved ones who are gone. I told pup dog the story about the last time she saw my father. He had measured out individual ziploc bags of dog food for all her meals on a crazy road trip of me and pup driving alone across the country. On the larger bag he had put all the small ones in he had written a note: "For Buttercup, hand-packed with love by Grampa."

Here is a photo of my Halloween Sugar Skull Bride. Random strangers were coming up and taking photographs. The makeup took three hours and three glasses of wine, (twice I had to scrap it and start over because the white hadn't gone on as smoothly as I wanted), and I only had it on for three hours. The night was pretty much a bust and I never got where I was headed. C'est la vie.


I was trying to get to my local pub, where I probably could have won the costume contest. It should have been easy to make it there by 7pm, I only planned to stop for a quick, cheap, happy hour beer and pizza at Boatyard at 6pm. A friend and her new beau met me there and then my drinking crew got there, two guys I've only known three years but seems like we've known each other forever. Time started slipping away, but I figured we would get out of there soon. Then someone else ordered food and an acquaintance hijacked me on the pretense of introducing me to a friend who is a local attorney. I only left my friends thinking it'd be a quick intro and since I'm always looking for work I just wanted to make the connection. But instead they were trying to fix me up with some guy I wouldn't even be able to recognize if he walked past me right now. Zero chemistry, completely not my type. And I just hate people trying to fix me up. If they knew me at all they would know that. If I'm interested in a guy he'll know it. So I was wishing my friends would come grab me and rescue me from the hijacking but they headed outside to smoke. 

It seemed like they'd been gone forever and I worried they'd already headed to the next spot and a busser started clearing all their stuff away. I asked the bartender for my tab, and totally freaked out when I saw it was $60. After paying bills, I only have $50 until my next pay day around the 11th. So my Halloween drinking budget was $30, which was still more than I hoped to spend. A couple beers at the pub is all I really wanted to have since I wanted to get up early to run and didn't want to feel like hell. And since my cheap beer at the pub is $3 a pop, I could pretty easily have a $20 night out. My tab at Boatyard should have been a whopping $8 plus tax, so when I saw this huge tab I started freaking out. The first things I saw were a bunch of beers and one of my friend's margaritas, so I thought the bartender had put my friend's boyfriend's tab on mine. I told the bartender I don't even know the guy. He said it was my friend I had lunch with the other day and he put his stuff on my tab, we're friends, so he put it there. I looked farther down the tab and saw a pizza and shots he'd ordered. The extra beers were likely his, too. I guess they were right outside smoking but when I texted I didn't hear right back from him because he was on the phone with someone. The bartender just kind of shrugged rather than splitting off my stuff and I headed into the head to take a deep breath and get away from everyone. One of the people trying to fix me up came in and over my objection just snatched the tab out of my hand and someone in that group paid it. I didn't want to be some charity case, I just didn't want to be stuck with anyone else's tab since I'm so broke and literally couldn't have paid the whole tab. I always hate having my tab mixed with someone else's. I just want to be able to pay what I owe, not have to hassle with anyone over who owes what, and be able to leave when I want. After putting all that stuff on my tab without my permission and then just shrugging about it, hell will pretty much have to freeze over before I set foot in Boatyard again. I was frantic to get away from the acquaintaces trying to fix me up and wanted to get out of there right then. I should've just waitied, gone to find my friends so they could take care of their portion. But I was all flustered and just freaked out, needlessly. I guess being stuck in this noisy, crowded bar, trying to get away from these people, and then not being able to, being so broke, it just all wound me up into a panic attack. I washed all my makeup off there in the bathroom and rolled straight home to bed. So, Halloween fail. 

To make matters worse the acquaintance gave my phone number to the guy he was trying to fix me up with and showed him my boat, so the guy was banging on the hull when I was trying to sleep and came on the boat to drop a note with his number. High on my list of pet peeves is people just "dropping by" my boat. Just text me if you're in the neighborhood. If I'm up for company, I'll respond. I like my privacy aboard. I would never just show up at someone's house banging on the door. Even if I'm home that doesn't mean I want to see anyone. I might be sleeping, taking a shower, on the phone, screwing someone, or just not in the mood for company. I keep odd hours, so one night I might be up until 2am and another night I may go to bed at 8pm. I sound totally anti-social; maybe I am. I just think I have a right to be social on my terms, when and where I feel like it. 

The winds howled all night Saturday. I stood on the deck pulling a stern line, leaning back with all my weight, trying to get another inch or two off the dock. I forgot to take my sleeping pills so the wind and banging and rocking kept me coming in and out of sleep. But I worry about being too deeply asleep during a gale. I had a bad feeling the tides would be very, very low from the north winds, but it's only the beginning of November, it wouldn't be too bad, right? Then I accidentally caught a glimpse out a port light in the morning and saw how far below the dock we were. 


No way I could get off the boat without getting soaked climbing up to the wet dock, so donned my snow pants and foulie jacket. I thought I would have to untie the dog ramp from the deck and run it from the cabin top to the dock for pup dog to make it ashore, but she looked at the dock and looked at me and while I was adjusting lines she just jumped on up. I had to climb up on hands and knees. When we returned from our walk I figured I would have to get the dog ramp because jumping down is definitely scarier than jumping up. But pup looked at it and then looked back at me and then jumped right down. She turned back and gave me a look: "Mom, I got this!" I told her what a good pup she is, so brave. Then she kept climbing back to the side deck as if to help me. I had to sit on the dock, reach my feet down to the toe rail, and then launch myself over. But this was nothing compared to how low it will get and doing it in daylight without snow makes it much easier. Ah, living the dream.

The schlepp into DC for this project is a major drag, very hard on pup, and completely wrecks my running schedule. Gratefully, I managed to knock out 4 miles on Friday, 6 on Saturday, and 14 long, slow, cold, windy miles yesterday. I should have ran that 14-miler two months ago, so I am under major pressure to get my mileage up quickly without getting injured so I can make it through the 50K right before Christmas. I'm really good at procrastinating, but I'm also a machine when I'm down to the wire and something simply must get done. So, we'll be ramping up to 16 and 18, umm, immediately. The good news: I'm not even sore from the 14 yesterday. Everything else may be falling apart, literally and figuratively, but these legs are rock solid!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

sleep away camp

The past few weeks have been hectic. I was gifted a pass one day for the boat show, so I headed to the show to renew my unlimited towing policy with TowBoatUS. Renewing at the show got me a 10% discount, not much perhaps, but every little bit helps these days. I didn't look at boats at the show, and rarely do. Just doesn't interest me. I'm really only there to see the vendor tents. One interesting product I saw was SoftSand, rubber particles for mixing with paint for non-skid decks. The pup doesn't like walking on the decks so I've condsidered doing non-skid paint, but it is often done with sand, which holds heat and can make decks uncomfortably hot if you like to go barefoot. The rubber particles won't have that same effect, so I think they will be a great option. Other than that, the boat show was the same old thing and once you've seen one, you've sort of seen them all. I did buy a whopping two $2 sail ties to add to my small collection.

The following weekend the pup dog went to "sleep away camp," or really, went camping with a friend and his daughter, who had been missing the pup dog after having puppy-sat during my trip. I wasn't able to get away to go camping with them, but I packed Buttercup an overnight bag with bowls, toys, food, treats, leashes, a towel, and a snuggle blanket. Yep, I'm a smother-mother. I've been battling a sinus infection or cold off and on since that weekend, so I'm glad pup got to go have fun rather than just hang around with me sick in bed that whole weekend.

My professional face paint for my halloween makeup arrived. I ordered it from Mehron, which appears to be cruelty free. I'm running short of time to practice, so need to do another practice run tonight, but my first practice run with the face paint went well. I picked up a smaller brush to make the lines across my face for teeth finer, and it should also work well for small dots and other little details. I also have glitter and glue-on rhinestones, which I haven't experimented with yet. I had really hoped to go out in costume tonight to see John Brown's body, one of my fav bands, up in Baltimore. But with no car and little cash, it looks like that isn't happening.

When I did the practice run it was a Friday night and the face paint had arrived that afternoon. I decided to just stay in for the night with a bottle of wine and practice the make-up. I had finished it and was just hanging out on the boat when Max came zooming in and out. He was acting oddly and when I got a closer look I saw he had a mouse in his mouth. While he was on the deck with it I scurried out and closed the hatch so he couldn't take it back inside. While Hunter is a hella mouser, this was Max's first. My baby cat is all grown up!

While I was out on deck with a glass of wine and my face all painted some folks visiting town for the boat show walked by. We started chatting and they asked if I'd be willing to take them out for a day sail that Sunday or knew anyone who would. Apparently all the charters around town were already booked; there are surprisingly few out there, too. I explained that I really couldn't do it (my boat's too much of a wreck right now and I don't have a captain's license to be able to do it legally). But I suggested they wander down to Davis' and ask around. They convinced me to head there with them for a drink; thanks and cheers Mark and Kim! I guess they'll have a good boat show story about some goofy girl in her Halloween make-up, or maybe everyone will just think they had too many Painkillers!

So I rolled on over to the pub in my wild sugar skull make-up. People didn't even recognize me until they saw my insanely long hair. I tried to round up someone to take Mark and Kim sailing, but no luck. After they headed out I chatted for a long time with a guy with the most adorable dimples you've ever seen. No floppy hair and a good 10-15 years older than my usual, but he was fun to talk with and wasn't fazed by my ghoulish appearance. But one minute he was showing me photos of his daughters and the next he just disappeared.  

That left me sitting at the bar next to a creepy guy trying to pick me up. He asked me what I was doing later. I looked at the clock: 1:30AM; it is later I explained, and I would be heading home to get a good night's sleep. Then he just straight out propositioned me and said he'd "make love to my dead face." Eeeks. Check please! Drunk as he was I guess he felt that might have been awkward (ya think?) but I politely thanked him for the offer, and said no thanks, I'd pass. Everyone wants to be wanted. It's flattering. But there comes a point when it is pretty tiring to feel like all anyone, everyone, wants is to get in your pants. But I have to admit, that make-up is pretty sexy, right? Sigh.

It had been a year since I had had a haircut and I needed to find a new stylist since my beloved one recently passed away. I did lots of research about DevaCurl and found a stylist for a special curl-friendly DevaCut. Dawn at Morgan Gerard Salon in Annapolis was great. Before and after photos below. My hair feels so much healthier with all that old growth gone. I love the DevaCurl products, but will have to wait until next month for the cash to buy them. So, making due for now, and very happy with the cut.


Although I loved having really long hair it was too much. The ends were dry and frazzled from having been colored (currently it is totally natural), blown dry, and flat-ironed for years. It would get caught on the Velcro on my foulies (probably still will, but not quite as much). My arms would get tired doing my beautiful french braids. It was time to let go. I liked the long mermaid hair, but the length and weight were weighing the curls down and I was finally ready to embrace them!

Out being silly. Raawwrr!
I was out with a friend Saturday night, after having gotten up early to tend bar at an event all day. I was exhausted and figured it'd be an early night so I could get up in the morning and knock out a needed long run. But just when my friend was heading out, I ended up running into the guy with the cute dimples. Let's just remember that my life has been a series of tragically bad decisions, generally about men and career. Thus, I have no guy and no career. (But more importantly, I have me, my pack, and my freedom.) 

Not that this was a bad decision on that level. But I really have to remember that no guy, absolutely no guy, is worth missing a long run for or being a bad mom to my furry kids over. But I left the hatch open and the cats running loose for around 11 hours because I didn't get back to my boat until almost 5:00AM. Which is when I needed to be waking up to knock out a 14 mile run that has been pushed back and pushed back on my schedule to the point of being seriously behind on my training for a 50K that is just over 7 weeks away.  I really consider my body a VIP room and not just everyone gets in, but every once in a while curiosity gets the better of me and I can't help myself. I knew at the time that I should have headed home, but we all have moments of weakness and it was nice to hang out with a smart guy for a change. (The boy toy who fell overboard was painfully dumb.) But if it's going to be meaningless, then I'd rather they were young and dumb. Maybe it won't end up having been totally meaningless, I enjoyed his smile and his company, but I'm not holding my breath.

I make a point of not getting involved with anyone I meet at my local pub because it's my place that I just want to feel at ease. I did meet the floppy-haired sailor there two years ago, but he was the only one, and I knew from the outset that he was just passing through and wouldn't be a fixture there. I should have followed my own advice because running into the guy with the dimples at the pub was exactly that uncomfortable situation I wanted to avoid in my local watering hole. Instead of picking up where we left off after a long night and a beautiful dinghy ride under the stars at 4:30AM, there was that awkward distance that seems to nullify and debase the intimacy and closeness I felt, reveals that they were just an illusion in a passing moment of passion. That feeling is also so sad, knowing that I sell myself short. Any Homeland fans out there? Saul has a great line telling Carrie "You're the smartest and the dumbest person I know." Yep, that's me. 

I deserve someone who is crazy about me. I definitely don't want a guy whose world revolves around me; I've been there, done that, and can't handle the pressure to be responsible for someone else's happiness. But I do deserve someone whose eyes light up when he sees me. Someone who appreciates that I am bat-shit crazy, because it may be a wild ride, but it will never be dull. Someone who doesn't need me to lift him up, and who doesn't pull me down. Two whole, independent people who are just better together. Someday I will find that. 

A special shout out to fellow mermaid, Julia. Thanks for reading and thanks for your kind words. Don't let them get you down!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

winter is coming

Yes, I'm missing Game of Thrones. When I grow up I want to be Khalesi. Fierce, fearless, and all about freedom. But even if you're not a Game of Thrones fan and the reference is meaningless to you, winter really is coming here in Annapolis.

This will be my third winter aboard, so I've figured out tricks for getting through it and know to brace myself for low tides and slippery docks. One of the suckiest things is the water from the tap being so cold your fingers hurt to the bone when doing dishes. This winter I may try putting dirty dishes in a bucket and taking them daily to the bathhouse to wash with the piping hot water there, like several other folks in the marina do. The past couple of days have been lovely and kissing the 70s again, but a couple of nights before required sleeping in flannel pajamas. I officially declared it "winter aboard" when it was only 55 degrees inside when I got up and cold enough out that I walked the dog wearing my flannels. The other sure sign it's winter aboard: the cats are all about snuggling up with me on the bed. Yep, they think of me as their space heater just like I joke that they are mine. 

All of a sudden I'm having to think about when dock water will be turned off. I'll need to link hoses to reach the winter water line that is sunk in the mud so it doesn't freeze. The day before yesterday I had a massive laundry day, and when I was making the bed I realized it was probably time to put the heated mattress pad back on the v-berth mattress. Yesterday I went to my storage unit and got my oil-filled radiator just to be ready, as well as a down puffer coat. I can't find my three pairs of winter boots, so that has me a little freaked out. I'll end up finding them shoved far behind and under something and coated in mold, no doubt.

The other thing I haven't been able to find since my return from New Zealand: my fav purple Prada sunglasses I wore throughout the trip. I didn't have room for them in my carry-on so I popped them in the middle of my checked bag. Someone seems to have stolen them from the duffel somewhere between Auckland International and Baltimore-Washington International. Rats. I keep hoping to find them among the craziness aboard, but I think they really were swiped. [Update: I was putting away my favorite lavender Keens and there was something stuck in one. Huh? Oh, joy! Oh, lucky day! Yes, I stuffed my beautiful sunglasses inside one of the Keens for protection! No thieves, after all. Faith in humanity not as diminished as had been thought. Yay!]

Boat show starts tomorrow (OK, today now that it's past midnight) but I'm too broke to go. Just the admission cost would be half the cash I have left and I won't be able to even buy a sail tie at the show (I only bought some sail ties at the show last year and at the Spring show I didn't buy a thing). I couldn't care less about looking at boats there, honestly, it makes no sense to me other than to make fun of how ridiculous and un-boatlike the interiors usually are. I only go to the show to walk the tents and see all the gadgets, ask vendors questions. But the reality is the "boat show deals" are rarely much of a deal and for most gear you are better off just buying from Defender. I guess the boat show made sense before the Internet, but now, it's really just spending $20 to walk around and buy $12 Painkillers. I have orange juice, cream of coconut, and rum aboard, so perhaps I'll just make my own painkillers and watch the show from the cockpit...I'm right across the creek from the insanity of it all. (A really strong Painkiller #4 is 4 oz rum, 4 oz pineapple juice, 1 oz OJ, and 1 oz cream of coconut. Oh, and a whopping 487 calories, which won't hurt quite as bad as the hangover all that sweet stuff will give you.)

I'm really stressing about having fallen behind on my running. I had kept it up very well until my last hectic week in New Zealand and since I got back it has been hard getting back in the groove, especially the two weeks that I schlepped into DC. Now I'm under the gun to get my mileage up in time for the 50K in December. Gratefully, I had an awesome base before I left on my trip, but I didn't want to have to claw my way back to it or be trying to lose weight while actually training for the race, but I need to get down at least 10 pounds to really run it well. So, we'll see. I just have to get back to my mental state where I knew down to my core that getting in my run was the single most important thing I do any day and it can't be set aside. That can be hard, even for someone like me who can really put her head down and tough it out. Sometimes, lately too often, I give in to the temptation to sleep in, have an extra beer or glass of wine, and let myself eat too much junk. So I have to buckle down and get back in my groove before I lose any more ground. I knocked out 5 miles today, but I wish I'd have gotten up at dawn and run 10. But the 5 matters, and I do feel better having gone out for a good run.

I'm often thinking I'm going very slow, worried about the pace, but look at my watch and see I'm running a minute per mile faster than I thought. So my body has adjusted to a quicker pace. (Still not fast for most runners, but I'm usually running about a 10:15 average, i.e., 10 minutes and 15 seconds per mile. But in New Zealand I was running around a 9:30 consistently, so something about the air or whatever there really gave me an amazing boost.) Most of my runs in the past few months are somewhere between a 9:45 and 10:30 average per mile, (usually closer to 10:00), which is just fine for me. My personal record for a marathon is an average pace of 10:17 per mile. I'd love to run one at a 10 minute mile, but we'll see. Right now I'm focused on my 50K, which at just five more miles is a different animal. It's always good at any race to have three finish times to target: something you can live with, something you will be happy with, and the out-of-the-ballpark time. I definitely want to beat my last time of 6:40 (6 hours and 40 minutes) overall, so I can live with anything at or under that time. I'd be really happy with anything between 6 and 6.5 hours. And the out-of-the-ballpark would be a 5:30 finish, but I think that's a stretch. But stretching, pushing your limits, that's what it's all about, right? Always looking for that place, that line in the sand, "oh, this is my limit." But if you're one to just "embrace the suck" and find the adventure in every challenge, it's hard to find that thing that breaks you, that line you can't make it across. I guess that's why I keep looking for it, and I only hope I never, ever find it.

Just keep running (sailing) (cruising) (living) (smiling) (singing) (laughing) (living). and leave the naysayers in your dust (wake).

Saturday, October 4, 2014

two year liveaboardaversary (and postscript on sleazy captains)

Thursday marked two years since the pets and I moved aboard. I've heard most liveaboards only last a year and a half before they give up, frustrated, and move back ashore. I feel like I should be so much farther along on all the projects, but nonetheless it doesn't occur to me at all to move ashore. Ambrosia is the only home I've ever owned, the only place that has been truly mine.


practicing my sugar skull makeup for halloween
So, what next? I am somewhat loathe to state any plans because people relish pointing out when one doesn't achieve the deadline or follow the stated plan. But I'm just drawing really broad brush strokes right now and I don't owe anyone apologies or explanations if they change. In the most general sense my plan is that of most every liveaboard I've met: to sail off to that mythical destination called South. For some that's the Carolinas. Or St. Augustine. Perhaps it means Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, or the Keys. For many it also means the Bahamas and the Caribbean. In my case I can see myself heading home to Miami for a bit, on to Key West to look for work fishing or slinging drinks. Ideally, taking a few months to hop around the Bahamas; if I find remote work, perhaps the island-hopping is indefinite.

While I have a few close friends in Annapolis there is nothing to hold me here. I don't know that the prospects for work are any better anywhere else, but they are very meager here, so "career," whatever that is supposed to be, certainly doesn't tie me down. In the end, I'd like to leave the US entirely and for good. I think it will take some time to find a job overseas and secure a visa that lets me emigrate, but this is no longer a land of opportunity and I need to find someplace else to get a chance to start over and build a life. In the meantime, I may as well take advantage of having a slip that includes electricity until Spring. I have work to do on the hard, but don't expect to have the funds to get hauled before winter sets in here. Thus, my thinking is that I'll leave Annapolis and initially head for an area where yard rates are more reasonable and spend a bit of time on the hard making repairs and upgrades before continuing down the ditch, heading South, wherever that is. 

I had thought I'd have contract work in DC for the next few months and while it's a terrible grind commuting four hours round-trip, I would just try to keep my head down and save money. I need to save up a lot for the repairs and upgrades I need aboard, and more urgently the pup dog needs an $800 surgery to remove a rotten tooth. But of course the project I was working on that was slated to last two to four months instead lasted just seven working days. It gets tiring being down to the last penny all the time, but at least I'm not trapped in a horrible marriage or slaving away in an evil law firm. Though I'm poor and have little hope of that ever changing, I'll take the strain of poverty any day over the life I was trapped in before.

As the situation quickly deteriorated on my trip to the Cooks, I didn't dish all the details in real time. So, here's the postscript on sleazy captains and the sordid tale of my brief visit to beautiful Aitutaki.

Regrettably, I doubt I will be willing to crew for any single guys for quite a while. I have been too trusting and too generous in thinking guys who are wildly outside of my age-range and/or seriously not my type understand that and won't be sleazy. And even if a guy is of an age I might consider, that doesn't mean I'd have any interest in sleeping with him. What part of the 30-second rule is so hard to understand? I guess I just have to be rude and tell guys bluntly as soon as I meet them, "Dude, I am never going to sleep with you. If you still want to have a drink, hang out, sail, fine, but you have been friend-zoned, period." Perhaps I'd be willing to crew with a couple making a passage, but I've even had bad experiences (though not yet when sailing) with what appear to be swinger couples with an agenda just like the creepy solo guys. Maybe I have to find a nice gay couple to crew with so I know the guys really don't have any agenda with me. I still want to be able to work on a fishing charter, but after the last charter gig I will definitely have to bluntly tell the captain that he'll lose a hand if he lays a finger on me. I know there are decent guys out there, but the sleazebags sure do give all guys a bad rap.

As for the recent trip, I absolutely never thought the captain had any expectations since he's plainly too old for me, so incredibly not my type (which I also explicitly told our mutual friend), and he knew I quit the fishing boat because of the handsy old captain. I wasn't sure if he was either trying to or did hook up with our mutual friend, but he referred to her as an "ex" to someone in conversation, which surprised me. In the Cooks he was constantly trashing her and her boyfriend, saying how jealous the guy was that he was there, and how it was a nightmare staying with her, what a disaster it was staying on her boat. This from a guy with zero personal hygiene and no working head on his boat; ugh. But he'd definitely like to get his hands on some of her boyfriend's money since the captain is broke, in debt, and living off credit cards. He was scheming how to get the boyfriend to invest in his daysail / fishing charter in the Cooks; hopefully the guy will steer well clear of the captain and not get scammed. 

So, how did the trip unfold?

When I arrived in Aitutaki on Monday and we got to the house, the captain showed me a little twin bed, which he said I could use, then showed me the big bed where he sleeps, and said I'm also welcome to sleep there. I actually laughed out loud at that suggestion and made it clear I'd be on the twin alone. That was such a ridiculous proposition that I mostly took it as a joke but that was the first indication that he might have expectations beyond the crew and cook role I had signed on for. It was cool at night in Aitutaki and I asked about a blanket. The captain said there was only one blanket so if I wanted to use it I had to sleep in the bed with him. I said that's nonsense and took the blanket. He bitched and moaned the next evening about how cold he was and wanted the blanket back. I argued that there couldn't seriously be only one blanket in the whole house and to find something. He took the good blanket and gave me a light bedspread he found in another room. Fine. Being old and highly unattractive is unfortunate, but not a character flaw. Being a manipulative sleazebag is a serious character flaw and pretty much sums that captain up.

Tuesday we had to run all over the island with a borrowed pick-up buying groceries and hauling things to the boat. He was supposed to return the truck the night before and when we ran into the owner of the truck the guy was pretty pissed off and told the captain to move all his stuff out of a house where he was storing things. The captain ended up just bad-mouthing the guy the rest of the day and decided to keep the truck all day and not move out his stuff. How he would have ever fit all the junk he has onto that catamaran anyway is a mystery and he certainly was no where near being ready to sail to Tonga. 

The captain only appeared to have three "friends" on the island after some six months: (1) the American ex-pat guy he borrowed the truck from, who didn't exactly seem to like the captain; (2) a Samoan guy married to a local but who was out of town for an extended trip; and (3) a local auto mechanic who always looked very annoyed by the captain any time we went by there to borrow things or use his shop. The captain would put on a front of being buddies to anyone we came across and as soon as they were gone he'd be bad-mouthing them or gossiping about them. The actual locals never seemed genuinely friendly to him and likely the only people who really tolerated him were outsiders who had happened to marry a local.

It must have been Wednesday morning when the Samoan guy's son told the captain that they had a plan to get the island council to approve him to stay. The plan was for the captain to sign half his boat over to the Samoan and/or the son and be partners in the business so the council would consider the application to be made by a local. Personally, I'd think that was a steep price, giving up half your business and boat to be able to stay. But I guess if it's the place you really love and want to be, it'd be worth it. Ah, but it turns out the captain has a different plan. He said that whatever paperwork they did in the Cooks saying he'd signed anything over would be irrelevant because he wouldn't be changing the ownership documentation with the US Coast Guard, so after a few years he'd just sail away and the locals wouldn't get anything. So, one of the few people he was supposedly friends with and he'd happily screw him over once he got what he wanted. Maybe they were both planning on screwing each other over, but it was pretty clear the captain had no moral compass whatsoever. I feel so sorry for Aitutaki if the island council approved him for a business. He'll just milk the place and the tourists for everything he can and then move on. 

On Wednesday the captain was being pissy and I suspected perhaps he was mad that I wasn't sleeping with him. He would constantly be in my personal space and trying to touch me, which I really hate. When he came back from lunch on Wednesday he left me on the dock when he took the dink to the boat, and that was just the beginning of the snippy, petulant behavior. It was Wednesday or Thursday evening that he cornered me, put his arm around my waist, and said he "wasn't opposed to some female companionship." Eewwww. I pushed him away and told him he was totally in the friend-zone, which definitely pissed him off. Thursday evening I was going to try to watch the traditional dance at the Tamanu resort, but the captain's inability to ever stop talking or invading my personal space was too annoying and I called it a night by 9:00pm. 

It was pretty clear by Friday that the captain planned to stay in Aitutaki so I had been trying to find another boat to join to sail on to Niue and Tonga, or even Auckland if possible. Unfortunately, not having a cell phone and very limited Internet access made it too difficult to connect and coordinate with the few other boats in the harbor. Friday night we went to a local bar, Crushers, with a little dance floor inside and picnic tables in the sand outside. As obnoxious as the captain was, I had just been trying to slide away from him whenever he got in my space and just bit my tongue for the sake of being peaceable. Walking to Crushers, however, I had had it. He kept touching me, goofing off, rambling on, and doing anything he could to get attention. I finally told him that being around him is like babysitting an 8-year-old, to please just shut the fuck up and walk. 

Naturally, he was all piss and vinegar but once we were at Crushers he was acting nice because he wanted people to think we were together. I did whatever I could to not have to sit next to him and was relieved when Mary and Patrick, a couple from another boat in the harbor, arrived and I could chat with them. Mary clearly felt bad for me being stuck with the captain. Mary and I were on the dance floor and a local guy came up and asked if I "was the girl running on the island [that] morning." Yes, indeed, the one and only runner on the island, that was me. When I was dancing the captain came up and was trying to dance with me and I kept evading him and finally had to just yell at him to get the fuck away from me. The owner of the bar invited Mary, Patrick, and I up to a rooftop deck where a few other people joined us and we hung out for hours having an impromptu jam session. Thankfully, the captain didn't know where I was and went home. I ended up crashing at a friend's, a few houses down the road from the captain's rented house. How nice to have indoor facilities and a good night's sleep!

Saturday morning I strolled in and said good morning, but the captain was chilly. He left to work on the boat shortly after I arrived. I took some time to actually enjoy the beach a bit and then investigated the Internet access at the nearby resort, (where I met Carol and Nikki, both of whom ended up generously opening their homes to me in Aitutaki and Papamoa Beach, respectively). I figured it was going to be very difficult logistically to find another boat to join and researched flights to get to Auckland. It's much pricier to get from Aitutaki to Auckland than to get there from Niue or Tonga. Even though the captain was a scumbag, I would most likely have suffered through a passage if it looked like he was actually going to relocate. I wouldn't travel half-way around the world and leave someone hanging. But it was pretty clear at that point he planned to stay in Aitutaki. And while I wouldn't want to leave anyone short-handed, I don't know that I'd have felt safe trapped aboard with him for any length of time. 

When I got back to the house Saturday afternoon the captain had a total hissy fit. He said that it wasn't working out and he didn't think I was ready for 1000 miles of open ocean sailing. Complete bullshit, of course, which I told him. I've got more mental and physical aptitude in my pinkie than he'll ever have. (And it'd be 800 nm consisting of one day sail plus two 36-hour passages, but whatever.) But I agreed that we should definitely part ways as soon as possible. He said he thought I should fly out on Monday. He lied about the cost for a ticket to Auckland and belly-ached about it, trying to push it off on me. He said I should just make something up to qualify for the travel insurance to fly back to the States early. He explicitly told me to commit insurance fraud. Wow. I told him I'm obviously not going to do that.

I headed back to the nearby resort for happy hour and some more Internet access. Nikki asked if I'd found a boat and when I said I hadn't, she generously invited me to stay at their house in the Bay of Plenty when they got back to New Zealand. The locals were insistent that the captain had to pay for my ticket to Auckland and seemed pretty disgusted that he was trying to push it off on me. I asked about a cheap hotel for the following night, but Carol invited me to stay at her home instead. I dreaded going back to that house with the captain, but thankfully it was the last night I had to put up with him.


On Sunday morning the captain was under the gun to move out of the little house and onto his boat. I told him that I just needed my plane tickets to Auckland and I had a place to stay that night, so we could just part ways as soon as he handed me the tickets. He was clearly pissed off at me, and then the real reason he wanted me gone came out. He went into a tirade about how it was totally "disrespectful for me to be sleeping with someone else when I was living under his roof." I burst out laughing. How completely ridiculous. We were roommates, period, sharing a little rented shack. I'm an adult American woman, no one makes rules for me and no one owns me. Even a really stupid American guy should know that. He was acting as if we were married and I'd had an affair. This guy is seriously disconnected from reality. There's not a universe in which I would have ever dated him but somehow he created that little fantasy world in his head. He went on about how all the locals are laughing at him and talking behind his back about it, blah, blah, blah. And the really funny thing about it: I didn't actually sleep with anyone there, though I certainly could have. He stormed off on his little scooter to get online and find plane tickets.

I packed all my things up and hid out at the resort. I obviously wanted to minimize the amount of time I had to be around him. I managed to just pop back to the house and get the flight confirmation numbers from him and when I returned later to get my bag he had left. Naturally, he got me the very most inconvenient flights possible just to be a jerk. Oh, well. The girl who arrived to clean the house said that last time he left it was "very messy," but I told her I had cleaned the kitchen and swept the floors, so it shouldn't be too bad. Carol picked me up and her family welcomed and spoiled me and made sure I got to the airport the next morning. 

Hopefully karma will deal the captain the hand he deserves. Although one very ugly American did his best to ruin my trip, I met countless amazing people, saw great sites, and enjoyed the adventure that presented itself, even if it wasn't the one I had planned. And in the end, I still think the world is my oyster. But perhaps it's best if I'm "the captain of my own ship," as my friend Mike likes to say, so I don't have to worry about any more sleazy captains.

Monday, September 29, 2014

milestones

A lot of milestones this time of year. Yesterday marked two years since I closed on Ambrosia, the first and only home I have ever owned. It is bittersweet insofar as I feel I should have made so much more progress on boat repairs, sailing skills, and miles under keel than I have. But I live hand-to-mouth and there is only so much one can do on such a constrained budget. I either have time or money, but never both, and both are necessary in order to afford equipment and make repairs. So I plod along and do the best I can. If that isn't good enough for someone, they can, well, fuck off. Apparently a lot of people relish giving me crap about being in a floating apartment and not sailing my boat enough. But they aren't cracking open their checkbooks to fund the repairs so they can shove it. And to the great disdain of many sailors, the sailing just doesn't really matter to me. I don't live on a boat so I can daysail around the Chesapeake. I live on a boat so I can be rocked to sleep by the sea and so I can experience endless locales. Cruising for me has nothing to do with raising the sails and everything to do with reaching a peaceful anchorange in Paradise and then a bustling port full of a cacophony of sounds, smells, flavors, and new adventures to embrace. It's great that some people love just sailing around even if they never get anywhere in particular. But they aren't better than me and I'm not better than them. There are a myriad of reasons people choose to live aboard and/or cruise and people would be wise to respect that and be more open-minded, but, yeah, people are stupid. I've been connected to the water my entire life and can't imagine being land-locked, but boating for me is similar to loving a roadtrip but disliking driving (which is also very true for me). I love the personal/spiritual journey, but otherwise it's all about the destination and that adventure. The actual transit, whether by boat or car, involves time, stress, and money, I can't relax or have a cocktail, so it's work. That part is something to be endured so that I can get to some interesting new destination. I guess I'm quite the opposite (and thankful for it) than all the folks who enjoy their sail to the Bahamas and then never spend a dime ashore because they are too cheap and would rather eat all their Costco provisions from Florida and/or who are too scared to leave their boat and venture around the islands actually experiencing anything. Okay, I do think I'm better than those people, so sue me.

Last night I had a strange nightmare that most of the lines on the boat snapped and the boat lurched and rolled when only a stern line held it in a storm and I was flung in the air, trying desperately to hold onto the bow railing. I was tossed about but survived and the pets were all okay.

Another big milestone today: Hunter's first swim. After a long day commuting to DC for junk project work, I got home, walked the pup dog, and took a shower. Shortly after I got back from the bathhouse I heard Hunter wailing. He only makes that kind of loud, guttural cry if he's in a fight or hurt, so I popped my head out the hatch and called to him, but I didn't see him. Then I looked down. Halfway between the dock and the water, there was Hunter, soaking wet and bedraggled, clinging to the piling by his claws and wailing. I immediately talked to him so he knew help was there and jumped off the boat. At first I was going to try to get him to grab the mat I had tied off to a line just for this purpose, but figured if he had any more climbing in him he'd have kept climbing up the piling. I had to lay on the dock and hang over the edge to reach him. He was slippery and thin, and I was worried about him sliding out of my grasp. But I got ahold of him and started pulling him up. He leapt to the dock and ran right onto the boat. The cabin sole was soaked and he tucked into the very forepeak, trying to lick himself dry. I kept trying to towel him off, but he resisted. Eventually his brother came in and helped him dry off, likely explaining that he's "been there, done that" twice already and everything would be okay. Just a mintue or two after I pulled Hunter up a dockmate came by asking if I'd gotten him out. He had heard the cat crying all the way at the other pier and come to help. It's a good thing that cat has a set of lungs on him and I'm grateful there was a dockmate alert enough and who would care enough to come help. I feel bad for Hunter, but it's a lesson better learned at the dock in early fall than while under way or in the winter. He's a brave kitty and I'm glad he's got a good survival instinct. 

In just a few days it will be my two-year anniversary of living aboard. I'm grateful to say that I can't imagine living any other way and I don't regret moving aboard at all. Are there things I may have done differently in hindsight, of course, but working within the financial, logistical, and tempero-spatial constaints I have, I think I've done well, adapted well. While living aboard is definitely not for everyone, it suits me. I've also found that I have a lot more inner strength, stick-to-it-iveness, and determination than I or others gave myself credit, and--as when long-distance running--I know I have an amazing reserve of resiliency to draw on to get through just about anything life throws at me. My recent adventure was quite an adventure, though not at all the one I had planned. But I rolled with it, made the most of it, thoroughly enjoyed myself, challenged myself to leave my comfort zone, and found that my "centeredness" really does give me the balance and strength to do and survive anything.

A postscript/portmortem on the sleazy captain will come shortly. For tonight, I am thankful for my boat; every night I tell her that we love her, that she has saved our lives and we are working to save her, too. I am thankful for my pack, who love me even if they fall overboard, who put up with all the crazy I put them through. And I am thankful for all the amazing people I have met along the way in this cruise through life that has been anything but a "cruise." 

Here are a couple of snaps of the new ink now that it is all healed. I love the piece and hopefully I will make it back to the land of the long white cloud sooner than later and for the long haul.