The Fall

I’d love to be able to explain the full body feeling of falling into a bunk after three solid weeks of working on a tallship for no less than 12 hours each day, but I (James) can’t.  I just don’t have the words for what that feels like. Day in and day out, two sailing adventures a day with up to 50 people aboard, setting sail, setting up for dinner service, serving food, washing dishes, cleaning heads on my knees, mopping cabin soles on my knees, load and unload bilges on my knees, ow, my god damn knees! And of course there’s putting the boat to bed at the end of every day, every single day… Furling sail, washing deck mats, finding hidden improvised trash receptacles, and ultimately falling into a bunk that is not my own and makes my entire body ache all the time. Did I mention sailing? Hmm, I guess I didn’t. Sailing the Mystic Whaler is spectacular but even somebody like myself who totally loves sailing and all that it takes to make that happen at some point wears down. And this is how that happens… We lost two crew members in two weeks, leaving the two of us, Marie, and Pat to crew the boat, cook, clean, and make happy customers through storytelling.  We did a three day Whales Tales adventure to Shelter Island and Sag Harbor, followed by a day sail and a shit-faced drunk wedding that evening that went until 11:00pm that night, after which we got up at 6am the next day for a day sail followed by a lobster cruise with another day sail and lobster cruise the day after, and then we loaded up the boat for a five day sailing adventure to Martha’s Vineyard with another full weekend of[…]

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Respect…

…Is freely given if graciously received. So I started working on the tall ship S/V Mystic Whaler on Thursday, July 18th and suddenly everything in my life changed for the better! After my interview on Wednesday with Cap and Pat we came to the conclusion that I would make for a good ship’s engineer for the rest of the summer sailing season. The job is pretty much the same as the rest of the crew aboard only I’ve been given the added responsibility of learning and keeping an extra watchful eye on the working systems aboard ship. Those systems include the rig, the engines, the electronics, the plumbing and anything else that may need the attentions of a sailor with my particular talents and level of interest. Again, it’s not a job that pays anymore than any other job aboard the schooner nor is any more or less important than any other job but Cap and Pat just wanted to let me know that they recognize the fact that I would most likely be the guy that would be the first to jump in when or if the shit went down. In other words, they gave me respect. For the previous three months I’d been working a job I hated in an industry I love for absolutely nothing. Really, I mean, yeah I got paid but that was all done by computer so I never actually received anything from my employers, no props, no thumbs up, no “hey that’s pretty cool that you rode your bike 13 miles through a lighting storm, after rowing your 7 foot dinghy in 5 foot seas to get to work”, nothing… Not even an inkling of respect after 3 months and my new employers dole it out in our introduction. Fuck yeah! Captain John[…]

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This is Life

We’ve had such different experiences of this last bit of time that it’s rather difficult to pull it together into a coherent post.  So we’ve decided to let images speak for us for the most part. I (Dena) got aboard the Mystic Whaler in Manhattan and we left immediately.  The Clearwater Festival was the weekend’s big event, and the Whaler looked great. My cabin was modest, and short term.  I’ve slept several places since this, including the co-ed foc’sle.  (Or forecastle, as it is spelled properly.) As a West Coast girl, I had no idea there was so much greenery on the East Coast.  Even very close to the City, along the Hudson, beauty can be found easily by sail. Back at anchor in New London, I (James) rode the 16-mile round trip to Niantic daily, climbing Mount Motherfucker, Holy Shit Hill, with the occasional Motherfuckingcocksucking Mountain to alternate the pain between my knees and my lower back.   Most of what I (Dena) do on board the Whaler is work – real work.  I’ve been exhausted by long days of hard labor, sweating profusely and assiduously guarding against sunburn while at the same time putting on a show of ultimate saltiness for the patrons of my daily adventures.  The pauses to tell sea stories refresh me and, I am quite certain, fatten the eventual tip pot. One fun day, the maintenance task was climbing aloft, harnessed and gloved, in order to slather the mast with Vaseline.  Too perfect. The job in Niantic took a turn for the miserable.  There’s nothing like being loaded down with meaningless office work shoved off by a bossy lackey who can’t perform her own job, while at the same time being expected to cut through the cloud of hateful negativity generated by the born-again[…]

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A Circumnavigation of Fisher’s Island

The day was absolutely perfect. I rowed in to get ice, take out the trash, and arrange for a short-term slip.  We have some work to do on the dinghy, and it’s hard to take something apart when you use it a dozen times a day. This is an entrance to the marina – bathrooms to the left. First we had to clean the bottom.  Rather than break out the brushes, we went for a sail. James dropped the pennants that attached us to the mooring.  I pulled the jib out as we blew down on the wind.  In very few moments, we were sailing out of the mooring field. Down the river we sailed.  The wind was fresh, the sun was shining, and it was warm. We ran downwind under jib alone until we got past the bent number 5 green. Somebody must have smacked this thing awfully hard, because they’re made out of solid stainless steel beams and tough stuff that normally you would want to avoid while underway in a little plastic boat. James raised the main and tied two reefs in right away. We were promised 10-20 all day, and that’s what we got. James decked himself out for all weather before we got started. I was acting like it was summer. We had a goal for the day – to circumnavigate Fisher’s Island.  That involves leaving the river, transiting the infamous passage between Long Island Sound and Block Island Sound, known as “The Race” for its swift currents, and rounding back up through Fisher’s Island Sound. Race Rock is well marked. We sped through the Race at 6-7 knots, picking up a nearly 3 knot boost by hitting the Race at the strongest ebb.  Then it was broad-reaching down the Fisher’s Island shoreline with the[…]

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Still Life on a Mooring

So we’re on a mooring. As much as we dissed it last summer, having a 400 pound anchor with battleship chain makes for a restful night under all conditions. (You got me tied down with battleship chains, 50 foot long with a 2-ton anchor…) We were at anchor here for a while – you may remember our account of the storm.  Then we went into the dock for a little while. During that time, I started some projects.  The cockpit coamings were due for a new coat of paint.  But the big’un was the jib sheet winches.  Whew.  We hadn’t done a cleaning and regreasing yet – 4 years in with pretty constant use, and it was time. After struggling with the retaining nut at the top for three days – soaking the bronze/stainless mating surface with Liquid Wrench and hammering at it (in the process, smashing my thumb and losing our mallet overboard…grrr, argh) – I separated the pieces and went to town on cleaning them up. A lot of grease where it belongs and none on the pawls and springs (machine oil for those), and they went back together easily.  Now the motion is smooth and the pawls click into their teeth, making a nice crisp snapping sound.  Just like new.  Goes to show the quality of Barient winches. And now we’re at home for the summer. The up-sides: The sunrises have been breathtaking and they are unencumbered by the structures of shore.  Since James leaves the boat at 6:15, I (Dena) get in the little boat with him and blink sleepily at all the beauty.  He gets up a little earlier in order to have coffee, and he gets the real glory. Then I row back to the boat and have my own coffee before starting my[…]

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Infinitely Employable

Holy shit, we’re out of money! …Just like that after two months of, pretty much, constant spending, getting the boat ready for living off the grid on the hook, we found ourselves (once again) in the familiar predicament of being out of funds so it was time to “beat the street”. It’s always been one of our great orders of pride that the two of us are employable, meaning, it doesn’t matter where we go, we can work at making our lives comfortable and, being as though we don’t require a whole hell-of-a-lot to do that, we in turn don’t require a bunch of money for that purpose. Not only that but we’re both smart, well educated, good looking, well spoken and with a wide variety of workable skills, in other words, infinitely employable… …That is, if there’s employment to be had. As for me, (James) the things I’ve done to support my (not so) lavish life style while we’ve been underway these last 14 years have taught me a great deal about what it means to be employable. I mean, looking the part is important and all but convincing a potential employer that it’s amazing that they ever got along without you takes a certain level of skill that takes years and 100’s of interviews to refine. Really, it’s all about your motivation and running out of PB&J is a powerful motivating factor to say the least. After we scraped the last of the peanut butter on to our (slightly stale) .99 cent wheat loaf this past Monday and then didn’t get the call back from the lame-assed local temp agency, my need for employment skills kicked into high gear! First off I had to look like I wanted to work, so with a little help from Dena with[…]

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Home Again – or do I mean still?

What a lovely vacation! After quitting our grindingly tense jobs and keeping our noses to the boat-work-grindstone, we took some time to enjoy ourselves. Threemile was lovely and peaceful until the night before we set off for New London. At about 3:00 am we got hit by a screaming squall with winds in excess of 40 knots broadsiding us and rocking our little home in the Hamptons for about an hour before dying back down before sunrise. After the sun came up we sailed away from Long Island heading back to Connecticut to find our summer fortunes. As we hit the deeps of Gardiners Bay, our winds died and some of the local colors began to pop. We motorsailed all the way across the Sound but as we made our way into the Thames (rhymes with, me, James) River our spring winds kicked back up to bring us into the downtown free moorage. Our plan was to shag some free showers at the public moorage using the key-code that we got from them last summer. The key-code worked but the city of New London hadn’t turned on the water in the showers yet. Damn! So we (Dena) did a little research and found out that we could transfer our gym membership from Groton to Waterford (which is about a mile from our new marina) online so she made that happen and we motored back down the river to our new digs. On the way down river to Burr’s Marina, we got a good look at the Coast Guard training vessel S/V Eagle. I recommend you google that ship if you don’t already know about her. She’s got an incredible history! We buried the CQR in 8 feet of water, launched the dink, and struck off on our bikes (we’d dropped[…]

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