Sunday, July 26, 2009

Summer Sailing Adventure Part 3

Wednesday 15 July 2009

Todd looked up from the Eldridge tide chart and clicked on the laptop one more time, “OK, looks like this afternoon is our chance to get back to Narragansett Bay. The weather’s going to suck on Thursday and the wind we saw last night is only going to get worse.” He turned the page in the Eldridge, “The tide’s going out around 2 today. We’ll pick up about 3 extra knots of speed by going out with the tide. We need to be ready to leave right then.”

“OK, sounds good,” I replied as I carried two bowls of dog food onto the deck. “Let’s get these guys ashore right after they get fed.” When we’re at home the dogs get fed twice per day, once in the morning and then once when we get home from work in the evenings. Feeding them two small meals every day helps them keep their metabolism high, so they won’t get flabby. While we’re on the boat we only feed them in the morning, this way we can control their digestion a bit, and not have to walk them ashore twice.

The biggest problem with this plan is that we tend to feed them a bit later in the morning on the boat. In the time between their waking up and their feeding, their digestive systems continue to percolate. If we don’t get them shore immediately after feeding them, then we end up having to scoop poop off the deck of the boat.

We don’t actually mind if they poop on the deck. If they have to go they have to go, and there’s nothing we can do about it. They’re trained to use the foredeck if they need to. But if we can get them to go ashore, then it’s one less thing to worry about. So far every morning on the trip has involved scooping poop because even at our fastest, we didn’t move quick enough.

“OK, I’ll pull the dinghy to the side of the boat, let’s get them in it fast,” Todd shut off the laptop and climbed the stairs onto the deck.

From the cockpit I saw Nemo squat on the starboard side, “Dammit!!” I groaned as I went back below to get the Green Works, the scrub brush and paper towels.

Getting into the dinghy with the dogs has become more challenging over the years. Griffen’s impulse control has waned, and his separation anxiety has increased drastically. In recent years he’s begun randomly jumping into the water because he cannot contain his desire to swim. I’ve watched him lie across the edge of the boat and stare longingly at the water below, then pace as if to wait for the urge to pass. Eventually he cannot take it anymore and needs to feel the water on his fur. His brain becomes focused on swimming, that it shuts itself off to any other stimulus. He sits back on his haunches and prepares for the leap into the water, his eyes intently focused on the glistening surface. He doesn’t hear the “Griffen! NONONONONONONO!” from his humans. He hits the water, and an expression of pure joy and relief crosses his face. As he swims, his humans grouse at each other, “You were supposed to watch him!” “Me? I told you to get him!”

While Todd pulls the dinghy up to the side of the boat, Griffen also lets out this horrible yowl, as he fears being left alone on the boat without his people. I don’t know if he fears we’ll never come back or if he thinks that where ever we go will be fun for dogs and he’ll miss out. But he makes this screechy howl that makes my teeth itch. No amount of commanding him to be quiet, or even forcing his snout shut, will stop him.

Todd stepped into the dinghy, “Nemo, come on pal!” he called. Nemo easily leaped from the deck onto the pontoon of the dinghy, while Griffen screeched at the injustice of being left behind. I climbed in, and then Griffen clumsily flopped in. I instinctively grabbed Griffen’s collar and forced him to sit. He will only sit for .05 seconds before trying to jump from the dinghy into the water, so we command him to “sit!” over and over for the entire ride to the beach.

Westport Point has miles of pristine beach. The sand is soft, and there are few rocks unlike other New England beaches. We pulled the dinghy onto the soft shore and the dogs hopped out and began exploring. Griffen barreled into the water, while Nemo sniffed near the sand dunes. I donned my shorty wetsuit and joined Griffen in the water. The incoming tide was strong, and I felt the water force against my legs as I waded in. A sandbar presented itself and I called to Todd, “I am going to swim out to that sandbar with Griffen.”

Approximately a third of the way to the sandbar I turned to the shore and noticed that I’d been carried several yards over from where we beached the dinghy. I heard the dinghy motor behind me, Todd called out to me, “We’re joining you guys on the sandbar.” He passed Griffen and I, and beached the dinghy onto the sandbar. Nemo jumped out and splashed around in the knee deep water. I turned to Griffen just as he turned to head back to the beach. He was closer to the sandbar, but sought the stable ground of the beach as he fought the current. I doubled back and put a hand on his collar and we swam together.

The sand abruptly curved upward, and we were able to stand. We climbed onto the sandbar where Todd was playfully chasing Nemo. The water splashed around them, and Griffen and I couldn’t resist joining in the fun.

We splashed around on the sandbar until the tide had come in to the point where the dinghy no longer would rest on the sand. We climbed in and headed back to Sabine for a shower and lunch.

At 2 PM I untied the mooring line. The wind was directly from the west at 20-30 miles per hour. We exited the harbor and followed the GPS heading to the buoy that marks the end of the channel. Sabine rolled back and forth on waves that were forecasted at 2-4 feet, but looked more like 4-6.

We reached the buoy and turned the boat west and directly into the wind. Our speed dropped to 3 knots, even with the tide pushing us along. The wind was stronger offshore and it battled the outgoing tide and created the humongous waves that Sabine teetered over. We rode the waves for about 10 minutes then Todd said, “OK, at this speed we are in for a 10 hour ride to Newport. This is going to be a miserable fucking ride.”

“So, what do you want to do?”

“I think we should head back. This is dangerous and stupid.”

“But you had said that tomorrow would be even worse,” I reminded him.

“Well, then we’ll have to stay in Westport until Friday, then,” he sighed. “I just know that I don’t want to go today.”

We turned around and headed back into Westport.

“So, you want to try the other place for dinner tonight? We did try the one place already, might as well try the other place in town,” I shrugged.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I Am a Paddle Ball Ninja

Last night my boyfriend and I went to my co-worker Dennis’s house for his birthday celebration. On the way to the party we stopped to shoot some footage of a hurricane coming up the coast. We managed to record humongous waves slamming into the concrete walls of an abandoned building on the shore. It was quite beautiful, and I imagined it would be a welcome addition to some future video project.

We arrived at Dennis’s house, where upon entering the house I gave him his birthday present: a paddle ball.

He was, of course, thrilled with the present and invited us in.
For the rest of the evening we partied our heads off, and then woke on Dennis’s floor in the morning with absolutely no recollection of the night before. Dennis stumbled into the room, “Man that was a hell of a night last night.” Then he pointed to the ceiling, “OK, I definitely don’t remember doing that.”

Suspended from the ceiling were hundreds of paddle balls. The paddles were removed, and the balls were suspended from the ceiling by their rubber bands at varying heights. They were multicolored, and swayed in the breeze from the open living room window.

“Wow!” I gaped at the ceiling, “It’s kinda pretty.” My boyfriend scratched his head in agreement. He’s a man of few words, I like to say that it’s because he only knows a few. I briefly wondered where all those paddles ended up, and then decided that I really did not want to know.

“So, do you have any idea what happened last night?” Dennis asked, yawning.

I thought about it for a few seconds, as I strained to remember, “No, I really don’t.” Then I saw it sitting innocently on the coffee table, its silver casing shining in the faint stream of sunlight. “But I am sure we have video of whatever the hell we did last night.”

The three of us gathered around the camera’s tiny display screen and watched the footage of the hurricane ravaging the concrete walls. “What is this crap?” Dennis asked impatiently. “Fast forward! Fast Forward!”

We watched the disjointed video from the night before of all of our drunken antics. We winced at a few of the more embarrassing moments, and laughed at others. I uttered the phrase, “Oh no I most certainly did not do that!” at several moments during the viewing.

The video ended with a clear picture of Dennis’s couch. Then I entered the picture from behind the camera wearing my green wool cardigan sweater. At some point during the night I must have gone home to get it. The camera tipped on an angle; I must have failed to prop it upright. I whipped out the paddle ball from behind my back and held it out to the camera and roared, “I! AM! A! PADDLE! BALL! NINJA!”

In my drunken mind the paddle ball was converted into a pair of nunchucks. I swung the paddle ball wildly in front of myself. I may have squealed like a ninja from a Kung Fu movie, I will neither confirm nor deny this. The ball, tethered to the end of the rubber band stretched to the limits out of frame a few times as I whirled it around as they taught me in my paddle ball ninja dojo. Then the ball smacked me in the temple and I groaned out a soft, “Oof!” I reached out to the camera and shut it off, and the video ended in static.

I rolled over and laughed into my pillow this morning, that is before it occurred to me that I may have shouted out “I am a paddle ball ninja!” in my sleep.

Analyze THAT!


Monday, July 20, 2009

Summer Sailing Vacation Adventure Part 2

Monday 13 July 2009

One of our vacation days always ends up being a chore day. We let go of the anchor in Jamestown and motored east across the bay to Newport. We had a shopping list of boat supplies we needed for a few of the projects that we wanted to complete that day. We had a few items on the to-do list that needed to get done. The water filters for the sinks hadn’t been changed in who knows how long. The antifreeze from seasons past coagulated in the filtration cartridges and made teeth brushing nauseating. The water from the galley sink was entirely undrinkable as well.

The floors in the boat were utterly disgusting. My springtime cleaning binge this year was rather disjointed and there were whole portions of the boat that hadn’t been cleaned. The radar system was still not functional, and Todd also wanted to wire an electrical outlet into the cockpit.

It sounds like a crappy thing to do on vacation, you know, fixing stuff on the boat when we’re supposed to be relaxing. But this is how we relax. Boat restoration is a hobby of ours, and spending an afternoon checking a few items off the list is worth it to us if it means that life aboard will be just a little less like camping. I am happy to say that I can now brush my teeth with water directly from the tap without getting the urge to barf. I can also drink the water from the tap without fear that I am drinking antifreeze. We can also plug electrical things into the cockpit, and the floors no longer had that layer of filth which clung to the bottoms of our feet. The radar system, however, still eludes us. It remains classified as “decorative” rather than “functional.”

Tuesday 14 July 2009

I woke up with an itch on my brain. (No amount of thinking about sandpaper would relieve it.) This itch would only be scratched by going somewhere we’d never been. We’d been examining the maps, checking the forecast on the Internet, and trying to make a decision as to where to go. We settled on Westport, Massachusetts, which is pretty much a stone’s throw east of where Narragansett Bay lets out into the Atlantic Ocean. We untied the mooring line and set a course for south once we left Newport Harbor.

We watched coastal Rhode Island pass us on the left as we headed east. There was no wind to speak of, so we motored the whole way, Auto von Pilot steering the way. After about 2-3 hours we came upon the entrance buoy for Westport Point.

Westport Point is located at the mouth of the Westport River. The entrance into the harbor is a bit tricky as the river and the rides have worn in a narrow channel that winds around a humongous sandbar in the center of the entrance. The tide was on its way out and was producing a three knot current that we had to steer against while we tried to keep the boat in the deepest part of the channel.

We tied to the mooring and turned off the engine then did what we normally do when arriving in a new anchorage. We took a nap. There’s something about the drone of the diesel engine and the salt air that makes us sleepy. Once siesta time ended, we headed into “town” to explore.

“Town” consists of two restaurants. That’s it. That’s all there is in Westport Point. We settled on one of the restaurants for dinner, figuring that we had a 50/50 chance of finding something good to eat.

After dinner we explored the river in the dinghy. We motored under the drawbridge, and avoided the fishermen casting their lines on the bridge above. The delta of the Westport spread north in front of us and mansions dotted the shore. In all the places we’ve sailed, I’ve seen my share of mansions on the shore. They consist of huge houses with docks with boats or several jet-skis where the perfectly manicured lawn meets the water. I ask Todd the same question every time we see a place like this, “What the hell do these people do for a living?” I am sure that waterfront property is expensive enough without the mansion with several dozen bedrooms, probably several dozen bathrooms, and the dock with the toys thrown in there as well. I forced my jaws closed and we motored on.

By the time we decided to return to the boat we burned nearly a half tank of fuel. The tide was on its way in and the wind was kicking up from the west, precisely in the direction we were going. The incoming tide and the wind from the same direction caused us a very bumpy and wet ride back to Sabine. At one point I took the tiller so Todd could sit, and promptly drove us right into a gigantic wave that sent water splashing over the bow and soaking Todd.

It would be this strong westerly wind and the strong current from the tide that would cause problems for us in the days to come.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Summer Vacation Sailing Adventure Part 1

Day 1 Saturday 11 July 2009

The day started out with nearly getting run off I-95 by an obviously drunk driver. We watched him weave in and out of traffic in front of us. We got on the horn and called the Rhode Island State Police. We got transferred to this station and to that one, and were assured that a cruiser would come out and intercept the guy. We watched him take swigs from behind the wheel, and nearly hit a half dozen other cars. Before we knew it, we’d followed the car into Massachusetts and called the state police three other times on the way to report on the driver’s position. We considered our citizenly duty complete and hoped that Tipsy McDrinkerton didn’t kill anyone once he’d gotten off the highway.

We ran errands for the remainder of the day, then left the dock at around 3:00. We left Greenwich Bay and headed south to Jamestown, RI. Jamestown is an island in the middle of Narragansett Bay that has a few great restaurants, many many humongous houses, and a few of our favorite dive sites. This time we picked up a mooring on the west side of the island in Dutch Harbor. Not the same Dutch that the guys from Deadliest Catch go to, but whatever, it was still all good. We’d never stayed on the west side of the island, so it was nice to be somewhere different, yet still have the center of town in walking distance. I discovered my new favorite drink at our favorite restaurant, Tricia’s. The drink, called the Purple Nurple, tastes just like grape kool-aid and went down way too fast.

At 2 AM I felt water dripping against my arm. I woke up and realized that it was raining and the windows in our stateroom were open. I reached up, closed them, and hunkered back into my nest. Not two seconds later Todd called out to me from the cockpit “Beej! I need your help!”

I stumbled through the galley and up the stairs into the cockpit, where Todd was closing the panels on the cockpit enclosure. I helped him close the remaining curtains, and held the flashlight for him while he finished. At that point I realized I was standing in my cockpit stark naked. I frantically turned around and made a dash for the stairs into the cabin muttering “Stupid Purple Nurples.”

Day 2 Sunday 12 July 2009

We puttered around Jamestown in the morning, then let go of the mooring to sail around the north side of the island. The wind was coming directly from the south, and we stretched out the main sail (big sail in the middle of the boat) and the jib (big sail on the very front of the boat) and let the wind effortlessly shove us north.

I made a new friend along the way, called the Auto Pilot. All you have to do is set a course and it keeps a straight course on that bearing. Of course, you can’t set the auto pilot and go below to make a sandwich, because you still have to watch where you’re going, but it’s nice not having to do the little corrections to keep the boat on course.

We rounded the north of the island, which put the wind across the boat from the right. We reset the sails and made our way across the northern tip of the island. Eventually we tacked our way south to the other side of Jamestown, then started of the diesel to motor in for the rest of the way. I watched the Newport Bridge pass over as we motored beneath it and still noticed my mouth falling open at the sight. I have a thing about travelling under bridges, and have scads of photos of our mast against the backdrop of the underside of various bridges. Just anyone can drive over a bridge any old time. But it’s something else entirely to sail under a bridge.

We picked up a mooring on the east side of the island, headed in for dinner at Tricia’s again, then watched a jazz band play on the town green. We people watched while we listened to the music then headed back to the boat to bring the dogs ashore for their nightly walk. They made friends and flirted with anyone holding an ice cream cone from the local stand, in hopes that some sucker would take pity on them and give them a lick. No dice, guys.

Sleeping on the boat has been great so far. We go to bed earlier and wake up earlier on the boat because we alter our routine to match the sun. We don’t stay up late watching TV (though we might watch a movie on the laptop) and we just don’t have the same distractions to keep us from sleeping. Todd, typically a light sleeper, sleeps much better with a more natural rhythm. Reason # 45436 for cancelling the cable at home.

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Sobering Up in Wal-Mart

"So, what did you guys do on vacation?"

"Well, the first night we went to Cilantros to get some tacos, had a few margs and then went to Wal-Mart."

"Meh. You guys aren't the first to go to Wal-Mart drunk, and you sure as hell won't be the last."

Our vacation officially began yesterday at 5:00. We will leave to go sailing somewhere for the next week, we're not exactly sure yet.

But it's Saturday morning, the sun is shining, there's not a cloud in the sky--and not a breath of wind in the air.

Let the games begin.


Thursday, July 09, 2009

Looking for Proof

Sometimes it’s not enough to know that I’ve done something, I need to see evidence of it in other people. I struggled with this when I returned from a year abroad in Australia in college. It wasn’t enough to know I’d been there. It wasn’t enough to have three photo albums filled with pictures, many of them including me standing in front of Australian landmarks like the Sydney Opera House, Ayers Rock, or in dive gear on the Great Barrier Reef. It wasn’t even remotely enough to listen to CDs by Australian artists purchased in Australia or to tell a story of something I’d done or seen while there. After all, I could easily get a “My Friend the Chocolate Cake” CD off of Amazon, and I could just as easily make up these stories.

I struggled with the question, “Was I really there?” after I returned, and couldn’t seem to answer it on my own. My year down under had to be justified by someone I hadn’t seen in that year. “Hey! You’re back! How was Australia?” Or “Did you buy this gift for me in Australia? I love it!”

The other day I saw a man riding in an inflatable dinghy in the cove, and I recognized the logo on the back of his navy blue T-shirt. The same logo is on the back of a few T-shirts on our shelf at home. In the last few years I hadn’t seen that logo anywhere other than in my house. That logo appeared on my dive shop’s web site, on the marketing materials I had developed, on a tent that we had made for events at dive sites, and on scads of those T-shirts. I had seen it on someone at the gym awhile back, and then just a few days ago I saw it on the back of a stranger as he rode by.

For that moment the question was answered. Did I own a dive shop? Yes I did, and there was living proof just cruising by for a few moments. And now I seek out the next shred of evidence, only to justify it to myself.


Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Watching Our Backs

In general, Todd and I are very trusting people. We tend not to conduct our lives as if there are thieves lurking in every shadow. We only lock the doors in our house if we’ll be away from it for more than a day. And while I do lock the doors on my car, in the summer it’s soft top season—if someone really wants what’s in the car all they have to do is unzip it and climb in.

We’ve taken the same approach with our boat. We don’t lock it while we are away from it. The main reason why we don’t lock it is because there’s always the chance that we’ll forget a key and go out there just to not be able to get in. The other big reason is that if a burglar is hell-bent on getting into the boat we don’t want them to have to break a very expensive overhead hatch to get around a locked door. In the past we didn’t lock our dinghy, the equivalent of our car, when leaving it at the dock. We’ve kept it in the same spot for seven seasons now, and haven’t had too much trouble. Except for that one time when somebody stole it. It was later discovered floating around in the cove with a rope wrapped around its propeller. Apparently the thief didn’t know enough to keep the rope away from the spinning prop blades and thwarted their own getaway. Then there was that time last season when our gas tank was stolen. So, in seven years we’ve had two incidents. While we’d prefer to have none, two occasions out of seven years isn’t so bad.

We’ve grown very comfortable with leaving the dinghy tied to the dock with the key to the engine secured out of plain sight. This season we filled the gas tank for the dinghy’s outboard engine, and left it at the dock on a Sunday night. We returned on Tuesday after work and noticed that the key to the engine was conspicuously missing. Upon inspection of the gas tank we noticed that half the fuel was gone. Obviously someone had used our engine, traveled quite a distance with that half tank of fuel, and probably kept the key in hopes of using it again some day. We discussed getting a chain and a lock, and lamented having to do that.

We hopped into the dinghy and went out to Sabine’s mooring. While we were on deck one of our neighbors on another sailboat moored in the cove pulled up. The captain informed us that his sailboat had been broken into. The crooks broke the glass hatch on the deck, slipped inside, and took his tools and his foul weather gear. (Good foul weather gear is quite expensive. I recall dropping a few hundred bucks on ours.) He also said that a few other boats had been burgled, and that we should spread the word so everyone in the cove would be on watch.

The guilt washed over me as I thought back to the spent half tank of fuel in our dinghy. What if our carelessness helped our neighbors get robbed?

Over the weekend I slipped another key onto my key ring, which opens a padlock on a chain that secures the dinghy to the dock. I also brought my bicycle lock and tried to secure the outboard motor and gas tank to the inside of the boat, but the lock didn’t fit. I’ll have to get one that is narrower. And I hate that I have to do that.

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Monday, July 06, 2009


We've now owned this boat for seven years. In those years we've restored every single system in the boat. We've put in a new steering system because the prior owner neglected to tell us that the hydraulic steering system was leaking in to the pantry. (When the outside of an unopened jar of peanut butter is oily, you've got a problem.) There was a massive leak where the propeller shaft enters the boat, which we fixed last season. We ripped out the water tanks and installed new ones, along with new hot and cold water lines and an electric hot water heater. (Our diesel engine also doubles as a hot water heater.) We take our hot showers in a newly tiled shower as well.

This season, so far, has been riddled with big boat accomplishments. I've shown you the paint job already. And we've also installed new canvas around the cockpit, so it'll stay nice and dry in the rain. The cockpit often doubles as the living room when aboard, and it's nice that the rain doesn't get on our couch or easy chair. We fixed the auto pilot, and now we can have a mini computer keeping a course for us. We can also steer the auto pilot from a Gameboy sized remote control as well.

There have been two nagging projects that we checked off the big list this year, and we crossed them off over the long weekend. One of them was installation of brand new dinghy davits. The davits are these poles that stick out the back of the boat, and we can now hook up our dinghy to them and hoist the dinghy out of the water. Like so:

Extra special thanks to my brother Kaz and his mad machining skillz. My brother MADE these davits (the curved poles in the picture). He made them. With his own bare hands.

Now that we've painted the boat with the black accent, you can see the dragons near the bow of the boat. For some reason, I crave Chinese food every time I am aboard now. I can't quite put my finger on the reason why.

The next nagging project was putting the correct name on the boat. The prior owner had named the boat "Tara Vana" which, allegedly, means "Crazy Man" in Tahitian. I am usually very suspicious of names and characters in languages that I cannot understand. For seven years, the name plates read what might possibly be "American Asshole" in Tahitian. Not anymore. I present to you you, Sabine, with her given and proper name emblazoned on her:

But wait, there's more!

In this one you can see the full enclosure over the cockpit. The panels are rolled open here, but when they are all rolled down the cockpit is completely enclosed.

And now all I want to do is spend every single waking moment aboard my dry, shiny boat


Wednesday, July 01, 2009

A Little Help for a Friend

Summer's here, do you need something to read as you lounge on the beach? (I write this from a cafe in East Greenwich, RI where it is currently raining cats and dogs. Pardon the ironic opening sentence.)

Anyway, I ask again, do you need some really great fiction to read? My pal Crisitunity is now selling her short stories for a few bucks a pop. You can learn more here.

Crisitunity is not only a terrific writer, but also an aspiring yoga instructor. Your purchase of a story will help send her to yoga instructor training school.

Go check her out, I promise you won't be disappointed.

Now, I need to pack up and head back to the office in this downpour. And I have no idea where my umbrella is.