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

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

solitude, freedom, and starry nights

I'm not anti-social. I simply choose to be social on my own terms, when, where, and how it suits me, rather than society forcing its social expectations upon me. The ringer on my phone is off 99.9% of the time, I respond to texts and emails if and when I feel like it, and I don't feel obligated to answer when someone knocks on my hull. While many people see running as a social activity, I prefer to run alone. Going out for a run is my meditative time, my time to both focus and let my mind wander, and sometimes my spiritual space.

My willingness to go out and be social definitely ebbs and flows. Although I enjoy new adventures, I am also inclined to be a homebody. Before I moved aboard, I could easily spend a week without ever leaving my house, just letting the dog out into the yard to exercise and throwing a ball all over the house for her. I am perfectly happy to putter around in my pajamas reading, writing, listening to music, watching television, cooking and baking, and napping whenever the moods strikes me. This past Fourth of July I stayed in all day and night happily watching the entire first season of Game of Thrones. I recently went on a three-day binge of the latest two seasons (i.e. 24 episodes) of Homeland. But I can easily do without television, and just entertain myself with writing, reading, or working on a variety of half-finished projects.

Some people simply cannot handle silence or being alone. The Most Annoying Dockmate Ever (well, so far) is this kid who simply has to be constantly talking. He lives alone on his teeny tiny boat and although he is now two slips over, one can hear him on the telephone around the clock. Aside from the fact that virtually everything that comes out of his mouth is misinformed or insulting, what is most annoying is the inability to just be quiet. A lot of people are plagued with this affliction. Just because you are in a car with someone does not mean you have to engage in conversation the entire time.

Other people cannot handle being alone. They don't necessarily have to chatter on the entire time, but they either don't want to be left to entertain themselves or don't like going places alone. I'm used to doing most things on my own, whether eating out, running errands, going to a movie or museum, or traveling. I don't mind my own company, and enjoy being able to change my plans without conferring with anyone. I can also enjoy doing those things with others, but it's not a deal-breaker for me the way it is for some people.

When I overhear people checking in with their spouses and significant others it makes me so grateful that is not part of my life anymore. I don't have to check in, be anywhere any particular time, or answer to anyone. Well, I do have to answer to the pets, who need to be fed and cared for. Sometimes even that responsibility somewhat overwhelms me, but they are my pack and I am so thankful to have them; they are worth sacrificing a bit of my freedom for.

This rant was partially inspired by someone making the mistake of dock-mothering me.  Twice dropping by uninvited, once with a snow shovel, though I already have two aboard. Calling me to say the pump-out boat was out, as they are every Saturday, which I obviously already knew since I hail them on the magical VHF radio when I need them. Emailing me to tell me what the tides would be. Seriously? That's pretty much where I snapped. I tried to be kind, said I know he just wants to be helpful, but: don't dock-mother me.

I had made the mistake of mentioning offhand that I had taken the boat out and the tide was too low when I returned for me to get the boat all the way back into the slip. In the winter there just isn't much water in my marina and I was threading a narrow needle to get out and back in at high tide, but there just wasn't enough water at the bulkhead end of my slip and the rudder stuck in the mud. As with many people who are poor listeners, the dockmother must have heard not a simple statement of fact, but a desperate plea for help that simply wasn't there. I waited 24 hours for a better high tide and easily pulled her in to where I wanted her; pup dog could once again happily use her ramp to board and disembark.

The rub was that this guy just presumed to plan to come over and pull the boat in (cringe), and to tell me the tides, as if I don't know what the tides are doing (guess what? there's an app for that... indeed, I have several!). I know I sound overly sensitive. Perhaps I am. If it was just one of these things, I'd concede that. But taken as a whole and in combination with other past behavior, I think he was out of bounds. I should have stopped him in his tracks the first time he dropped by my boat unannounced. He had a very bad habit the year before of just boarding the boat next to his. I know that because I was sometimes on that boat when he did so. Sometimes the owner of that boat and I were in a state of undress when the dockmother would step aboard and say "hey, what are you guys up to?" It really pissed off the guy that owned the boat, but I don't think he ever said anything. So, it's an issue of boundaries. The dockmother doesn't respect them enough and I'm very aggressive in defending mine. Not a good combination.

Also related to privacy and freedom from meddling, I've been more upset lately about the lack of Fourth Amendment rights aboard. I am constantly amazed at the number of boaters who do not realize they have no Fourth Amendment protections aboard when it comes to the Coast Guard boarding a vessel. It's been the law for over 200 years but that doesn't make it right and it should change. The anemic lobbying efforts out there to protect boaters are ineffective and are prone to roll over to state and federal wishes rather than take a stand and offend the powers-that-be. If you're living aboard or cruising in the US, we really need to start organizing and fighting in court, at the ballot box, and in the legislative process; being polite has not worked and never will. For more background on our lack of rights aboard and what it means as a practical matter check out this SAILfeed post and this thread on Cruisers' Forum.

Now that I may be heading to Florida, I'm particularly concerned about rights aboard. Florida is notoriously anti-liveaboard/cruiser. Florida pretty much views all people living on their boats as derelicts, homeless, pumping sewage overboard. Quite frankly, the people I know who do illegally pump overboard are the very wealthy. Most of us impoverished folks on our boats are sort of hippy green environmental types who don't pollute and have a low carbon footprint. But god forbid the facts ever get in the way of Florida and others trampling on us. *Sigh* They also like to say we don't pay taxes so we shouldn't get any services. That isn't actually how our system works in this country, but just because someone does not directly pay property taxes does not mean they are not paying them indirectly (just as a tenant does) or that they aren't paying plenty of other taxes, such as the exorbitant sales taxes in Florida. In Florida's attempt to rid their waters of boats with people living on them, a few areas of the state are in a pilot program to allow local government to "regulate" (read: eliminate) anchoring in their waters. One of the purported goals of the program is to increase access to the state's waters, but since the actions taken under the program involve replacing anchorages with paid mooring fields and instituting rules and regulations aplenty in the mooring fields and government docks, the regulations are actually an impediment to using Florida waters. In the Keys, the pilot program requires having proof that one's boat has been pumped out in the past seven days. Seriously? It takes 5 or 6 weeks to fill my holding tank. I understand that some boats may have smaller tanks and/or more people, but a weekly requirement is extreme and intrusive. I couldn't believe it when I saw that Miami's Dinner Key mooring field requires pump out every 72 hours. Wow. These people are just far more involved in my bodily processes than can possibly be reasonable. Most liveaboards don't pump overboard. But even if they did, it is a drop in the pollution bucket. Our waters are polluted by shore-based waste treatment overflow, agricultural and golf course fertilizer runoff, et cetera. I would at least have more respect for Florida if they would just state the truth: that they are trying to outlaw poverty. My stomach sort of turns at the thought of going back to Florida. I haven't had time to research the federal case law, but I hope the guy who is challenging the pilot program kicks some local government ass.

OK, rant over, for now.

So, how did I end up only partially docked in my slip the other week? I dragged a friend out for a quick one-hour anchoring lesson. I motored out into the cove before Back Creek proper. We discussed the various steps I should be taking in preparation for anchoring solo. I got the boat stopped and we went to the bow. I measured out about 60 feet of rode and cleated it off. My friend showed me how to figure eight all the rode on the foredeck so it is free to run once I lower the anchor. I dropped the hook and we backed down to set it. Then came the "fun" part. Rather than motoring up to the anchor, I pulled us there with the rode. I had a hard time pulling the anchor in, so in the spirit of learning and doing it myself, my friend showed me how to run the rode back to the jib winch and I slowed grinded it up. Definitely a workout for the arms and back. Once the anchor was pretty close I went up on the bow sprit and tried to lift it out. The problem was that this anchor was mounted on a bracket on the bow pulpit, so I needed to lift it around the bow sprit and up onto the bracket. Easier said than done, trust me. I had some tough moments with my broken finger not too pleased with the process, but finally managed to do it. My friend suggested using the larger Bruce anchor in the future; it is mounted beneath the bow sprit so it will be simpler to bring it up solo. He also suggested setting up a remote release with a snap shackle tied to a small line that I can pull from the cockpit to drop the anchor and then back down on it once the rode has run off the deck. We were going to do another practice round but I nervously looked at my watch and suggested that we were one hour off the highest tide and should get back before it dropped too far. Well, you know the rest of the story... But I did do a very nice job docking her; no fending needed and (knock on wood) never even bumped anything.

As were were going in and out of the channel I was nervous about clearing around a trimaran that has been anchored there for over a month. It is probably home-built, and certainly has a lot of DIY work, including a wild paint job. We snapped this photo as we went by. The next day I asked the pump out guys what the story was and wondered why he was still there when others had been ticketed in that spot. The harbormaster's guys, to their great credit, told me not to worry about him and that he's a really nice guy, not bothering anyone. (Talk about 180-degrees from the treatment he'd get in Florida). I had been worried about not being able to get past him when coming and going, and bitched about it a few times (shame on me), but admittedly I didn't end up having any problem and I think either way he swings in the wind I could squeak by on one side or the other.

The next day I was filling my new back-up propane tank at the hardware store and there was a guy just finishing up ahead of me. He was wearing foulies and had a bicycle with a cart attached. I noticed the bicycle had this crazy yellow/red/blue paint job and all of a sudden I realized "Hey, are you Lapisi?" His eyes lit up and he smiled and nodded. He's a very friendly French-Canadian with a thick accent. We chatted for a while. He mentioned plans to leave soon and even offered to buddy-boat south with me, which would actually be very cool. I could still be on my boat solo but have someone experienced (and experienced at doing it on the hook and on a shoestring budget) to provide some back-up and moral support. He confirmed he's got a little wood stove aboard for heat and said that despite the cold, he could never be in a marina. His boat doesn't like to be tied up like that, he said. She needs to be able to swing in the wind and he wants to be able to see all the stars. It was a beautiful little glimpse into the soul of a cruiser. One with his boat. Not wanting her to be tied down any more than he is.

"Living the dream" isn't about palm trees and fruity rum drinks; it's about not being tied up or tied down, swinging with the wind under the stars, and being free.

[Post script: I later learned the trimaran is named Lapis Lazuli.  I mistakenly thought the name was Lapisi because of a chainplate or other linear hardware painted blue and that appeared to be an "i" at the end of "Lapis." "Lazuli appears on the starboard side.]


  1. Very well put! I love the last line...that quote. You mind if I use it on my own blog? I'll credit you, of course!


  2. Of course, Mike; quote away! I can't wait until Ambrosia isn't anxiously tugging at her lines anymore and we're anchored out beneath the stars.


Thanks for reading! Have you had a similar experience you'd like to share? Have a link to an interesting blog fellow readers and I might enjoy? Just want to say hello? Post your comments below. I'm a smart, resourceful girl doing things her own way, so I just ask that folks keep the unsolicited advice to themselves.