Light at the End of the Tunnel

Light at the end of the tunnel? We don’t even have a tunnel; we don’t even know where the tunnel is.

Lyndon B. Johnson

 

Moving out of the house we built and lived in for 30 years, and reducing everything we own to fit on a 43 ft. boat, was the single most difficult task we have ever faced. It was so down to the wire that as the buyers were coming in the front door to do a walk through prior to the contract signing, we were frantically shoving the last contents of cabinets into boxes and rushing them out the back door. We had arisen at 6 that morning and worked straight through until 11 without food or a break to remove what we thought were the last few things in the house. Those “last few things” turned out to be way more than we expected. We had filled both our cars and still had at least 2 pickup truck loads of items that needed to go to the boat. However, we arrived at the contract signing at 1, and got some much-needed help from our friends the Beckets to transport everything to the boat. By 7:00 Sunday evening, we were officially homeless and moved onto the boat.

 

It was monumental moving onto the boat. I thought I would be elated to have finally gone through the labor pains of selling the farm, and getting to call our boat home. This process we are going through has benchmarks which I keep telling myself, “If I just get through this one, everything will be easier.” Unfortunately, while I was ecstatic to finally be moved onto the boat, it has had its own set of challenges.  While they aren’t as bad as selling the house, they do come with their own set of unique obstacles.

 

First and foremost, since our boat is not in the water yet, living on it while propped up on the stands in a boat yard is very much like camping. I have to climb a 10 ft. ladder to get on and off the boat. It’s a bit wobbly and I keep envisioning myself falling and breaking my neck before I ever get to set sail. We have no plumbing, no water, a single electric burner to cook on, and a mini fridge on the ground under the boat to keep a small amount of food. We have one electric cord running to the boat across the parking lot that often gets unplugged, which is our only source of electricity. We have one fan to try and keep us cool through the hot and muggy evenings. Promptly at 6 Am, the workers begin arriving down the crunching stone driveway to begin sanding and sawing, so all hope of sleeping past that, is a moot point.

 

We are diligently whittling away at the painting process and have finally finished the last coat on the hull. Some stripes and bottom paint are all that is left before we can finally put our boat back in the water. It has been 8 long months since she has felt the water on her sides, and we are all a little antsy. One more benchmark, hurdle, monumental task before the next step can take place, but we are making progress.

 

Meanwhile, I’m mentally preparing for our voyage. We have signed up with a fleet of boats to make our first Atlantic crossing on November 1st. The fleet is designed for first time crossers. Boats will stay in close proximity as we cross, and the organizers will ensure we are timing the trip with the best weather window. They will check our boats before departure to make sure we are Coast Guard compliant and basically guide us through until we reach our destination of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. We will have guidance on provisioning and all the other factors that need to be taken into consideration when crossing an ocean.

 

So, as this all starts rapidly becoming a reality, and the truth hits home that we are about to leave our country, I have to have a few last adventures here in the good ole USA. Dan and I happened to stop at a bar a few miles from the marina to have a cold beer on a Saturday night. This bar was about as close to “Cheers” as one can get without being in the town of Boston. All the locals hang out here, everyone knows everyone else, and strangers are welcomed with open arms. Before long, the story of us having moved on a sailboat down the road, and our preparations to live on the boat for the next 10 years and sail around the world, circulated through group. Multitudes of questions were asked and everyone wished us well and was excited for our upcoming adventures. One such man, Crab Man Mark, I talked to for quite some time and learned that he was a professional crabber. I have always been fascinated by fisherman and crabbers and before I knew it, Mark invited me to come along and experience a day in the life of a crab fisherman.

 

A few days later, I awoke at 3:00 AM in the pitch black and met Mark in the bar parking lot. We traveled south to where the boat was docked in a sleepy little town along the channels that lead to the Delaware Bay. With the stars and moon still bright in the sky, and water black as midnight, the captain, his son, Mark and I, headed down the winding channels with nothing more than moonlight guiding our way. By the time we arrived in the bay, the sun was still below the horizon, fingers of colorful light began wrapping around the horizon.

 

The process of gathering the crabs began with the captain locating the strings of pots which were tethered to his signature black and white buoys.  He would pull along the last pot in the line,  reach into the water with a hook to grab the line and drape it over a hydraulic pulley. Before long, a pot would appear, dripping with water and filled with scuttling crabs. He would pop it off the pulley and throw it on a table for the crab handlers. The men quickly sprung into action. They emptied the day old bait out of the pot and replaced it with the fresh, frozen fish. The pot was tipped and shaken to dislodge the crabs, then snapped back shut and dropped into the water as the next trap quickly arrived to take its place.

Meanwhile, the crabs awaited in a snapping, squirming mass in a wood box, not so patiently, to be culled into their appropriate baskets. There were four categories in which they could be placed, 1’s, 2’s, females and those about to shed into tasty soft shelled crabs. This was accomplished by the two men quickly and efficiently. The errant and feistiest of the crabs resisted of course, and clung to friends, to the thick rubber gloves protecting the men’s hands, or to anything else they could get their claws on. Every once in a while, one would scuttle free and raise his claws in triumph and dance on the gunwale or deck, celebrating its escape. The little guys, were tossed unceremoniously back overboard with a new lease on life, most likely doomed to end up back in a trap the following week.

 

I felt very fortunate that fate allowed me the opportunity to embark on this adventure. Much of the focus of my next 10 years will be learning about new cultures, people, places and writing about the abundance of unique human beings that exist on this diverse planet. I have lived in the US my entire life. The crab fishing experience reminded me that there is so much I don’t know about the people and occupations in our own country. I watched these men work for 6 hours, hauling in trap after trap, handling the crabs with dexterity, in an artful dance of perpetual motion. It was obvious after talking to them, watching them work, that this was not just a job. Facing the elements day after day, 7 days a week during the season has to be more than just a paycheck. They loved what they did, it was in their blood, a heartfelt task they did because the enjoyed being in their element. Too many people spend their lives behind desks, performing routine tasks that in the grand scheme of life are almost meaningless, but make the money needed to survive. How wonderful is it to have a job that challenges you mentally, physically, brings happiness to others, and makes you feel tired and satisfied at the end of the day? It is people like this, and jobs like this that I want to learn more about. I want to experience the diversity that drives our human race and capture the essence of that which maybe we can never do ourselves, but can surely appreciate.

 

So my journey to learn about the world begins. It started right here in the Delaware Bay on a small voyage to see a sunrise and learn about an ancient trade. I’m thrilled to be closer to the goal of sailing to exotic lands, but there certainly are wonderful things to learn before I even leave our harbor.

 

 

This weekend, Dan and I took a very much needed holiday and traveled to one of the most gorgeous parts of our New England coastline, Portsmouth, Rhode Island. My freshman college roommate and I have reunited after many years apart. While our lives took different turns and tracks, we still have a bond and understanding of one another that time cannot diminish. I felt so privileged to share her birthday weekend with her and her beautiful family, in their spectacular home with incredible views of Narragansett Bay and Hog Island. For one precious weekend, we ate amazing seafood, laughed, played, went paddle boarding, and immensely enjoyed not thinking about any responsibilities or doing any boat work. Our eyes however, drifted longingly toward the myriad of white sails dotting the bay. Each small town we toured had marinas in which we surreptitiously glanced at every sailboat, wishing ours was nestled among them.

 

Soon, not soon enough for us of course, we will be among those that sail with no ties to places and continents filled with unique beauty and wonder. Our journeys will take us to places beyond our wildest imaginations. It’s our hope to be able to share images and stories of all these destinations and let you feel a part of what we are experiencing. Our hatches will always be open for visitors, our cockpit equipped with extra cushions for guests at Captain’s Hour. Sharing our journey with old friends, new friends and family will be what makes our story great. Till next time, fair winds and following seas my friends.

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