Captain’s Quiz II

Back by popular demand … another Captain’s Quiz!  It seemed many of you really enjoyed testing your maritime knowledge in my last quiz and asked that I do another.  I have signed up to take the Captain’s License exam the end of June, so I’ll keep a few more of these coming to you along the way so you can continue to learn with me.  Phillip and I are also going to STCW (Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping Code) training this week, so we’ll be picking up some great firefighting, life-saving skills there which we will share as well.  And whilst we’re getting our learning on over here in Bayou la Batre, I thought you could too over here at HaveWindWillTravel.  Last time I tested you all on some of the “Rules of the Road” portion of the Captain’s License test involving navigating oncoming ship traffic and the many different nav lights and signals.  Now, I’m knee-deep in marlinespike and seamanship, boat handling and meteorology.  Let’s see how you do on these.  Send in your answers in a comment below and I’ll come back after our fire-fighting session and post the correct answers.  Have fun!

 

#1  Boat Handling

Two vessels are abreast of each other and passing port to port in a confined waterway.  What should you expect as your bow approaches the screws of the other vessel?

A.  Your speed will significantly increase.

B.  You draft will significantly decrease.

C.  Your bow will sheer towards the other vessel.

D.  Your bow will sheer away from the other vessel.

 

#2  Marlinespike and Deck Seamanship

Under identical load conditions, nylon, when compared with natural fiber line, will stretch _______.

A.  less and have less strength

B.  more and have less strength

C.  more and have greater strength

D.  less and have greater strength

 

#3  Meteorology

The wind circulation around a high-pressure center in the Northern Hemisphere is _______.

A.  counterclockwise and moving towards the high

B.  counterclockwise and moving outward from the high

C.  clockwise and moving towards the high

D.  clockwise and moving outward from the high

 

Isn’t learning fun?  Hope you all are enjoying the Captain’s journey with me!  Ahoy!

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Good Stress

It’s actually called eustress.  Have you heard that term?  I first saw it in Timothy Ferris’s Four Hour Work Week.  Definitely an exciting, kick-in-the-keister read if you’re looking for a book to make you rethink and reform your work habits.  But, I remember seeing the word for the first time and having one of those Aha! moments.  Ferris opens the book with a scene where he is preparing to perform in an international tango contest.  He is nervous, anxious, scared, excited—many of the same emotions we feel when we are stressed—but he is feeling them for a good reason.  Because he is doing something exciting and challenging.  I remember stopping mid-sentence on the word, snapping my head up and laying the book in my lap.  Eustress.  What a great concept.  It is a form of stress, in that it is exciting, it makes you a little frightened, a little anxious or worried, but it’s good for you.  It’s invigorating and healthy.  That is what I am just now learning cruising can be.  Good stress.

Actually a recent article in Cruising World (Good ole’ Fatty, does it again) inspired me to write this post when one particular line stuck me like a harpoon.  Cap’n Fatty was quoting a female sailor who had, like his daughter, grown up on boats, but who was just now starting to learn how to actually handle, maintain and sail her own boat and she said: “I felt like there were a thousand decisions to make.”

That is exactly how it sometimes feels when you’re living aboard cruising.  Deciding which weather window to seize, which route to take, which port to go to, when to reef, when to fuel up, where to provision, when to make repairs and how best to make them, where to moor, when to leave.  Then it starts all over again: which weather window to seize, which route to take, which port to go to …  On and on.  It can sometimes feel overwhelming making all of the decisions necessary to keep a boat and crew in good running shape and actually cruising her around different parts of the world.

A big part of mine and Phillip’s decision for me to go for my Captain’s License this summer was the goal that I not only become a better sailor and boat owner, but also a much more helpful mate and partner for Phillip.

Since we bought our boat in 2013, I will be the first to admit, I have been lazy.  I have.  I have relied on Phillip to handle the helm 100% of the time, to make all of the decisions about when we would leave, where we would go, which ports we would stop in.  All of the navigation and weather decisions I left to Phillip.  He would occasionally run things by me, probably more as a matter of courtesy than anything, because I didn’t have the knowledge to actually help him make the right decision.  (Although we all know there is no “right” one, only that an un-made one is the wrong one.)  But, this last trip in April/May, when we brought our boat back up from the Keys, I was infinitely more involved and I felt just like that gal said.  Like there were a thousand decisions to make.

Phillip and I watched the wind graphs and radar the days before leaving and decided when was the best time (both which day and what time of day to ensure arrival at the next port in daylight) to leave.  I pulled the boat off the dock.  You all remember that harrowing, heart-pounding moment.  *gulp*

Together, we planned the route together from Stock Island across the Gulf Stream, into San Carlos Bay to Ft. Myers Beach.  I was at the helm when we snagged a mooring ball there.  While at Ft. Myers, we assessed again the movement in our rudder post as we had noticed still some slight movement starboard to port in the rudder during our passage up and Phillip and I talked at length about the best temporary fix as well as the possible permanent fixes once we got home to Pensacola.

After Ft. Myers, we decided our next stop would be Cayo Costa, a national state park north of Captiva and a place we had never been to before.  We had been told by fellow cruising friends that it was a beautiful, secluded spot but a little “tight” coming in.  Meaning, we would have to navigate carefully around the shoals to find enough depth, a decision which also required us to watch the tides and try our best to time our entry during high tide.  Decisions, decisions.

I was at the helm when we pulled into Pelican Pass and I recall how stressful it was, watching the depth gage and trying to steer my way toward depth without knowing whether the shoal was on my port or starboard, or dead ahead, much less which way to turn to find deeper water.  I think we got down to 6.5 at one point and I found that’s not a number I like to see on the B&G.  And, the big lesson learned there: If you pick your way into an anchorage, lay down a freaking track on the B&G so you can pick your way back.  We ended up getting into Cayo Costa just fine but it was a mutual half-educated, half-guessing game and it was stressful.  But the good kind.

And well worth it.

And, the most important part was, Phillip and I were actually now doing it together.  I suddenly saw all of the work and thought and research and worry he put into all of the passages and trips we had taken before while I did not.  Sure, I’m a hard worker and will help with any sort of manual labor aspect of cruising, but it instantly dawned on me how little mental effort I had been putting in while Phillip had taken on the lion’s share.  For the first time I appreciated all that he had been doing.  And, Phillip, for the first time, appreciated having a true, equal partner.  Someone to help carry the mental load, to talk through all of the variables and possible outcomes and help make those thousand decisions.

We need challenges in our life.  Things that frustrate us, cause adversity that we must overcome and make us feel alive.  Captain Yannick, in fact, chose to bear down the very difficult path of buying, maintaining and sailing a boat across the Atlantic Ocean so he and his family could move aboard and go cruising as a means of keeping himself occupied and stimulated after retiring as a Navy fighter pilot.  While I’m not sure cruising can ever be quite as stressful as re-fueling a fighter jet mid-air, I do believe there were moments during our Atlantic crossing that pushed Yannick to his mental limits.

But it is much more rewarding to worry and stress about something you are passionate about and love to do, rather than something you don’t like or even dread doing. I remember worrying myself sick over motion deadlines, asking the wrong questions in deposition, disappointing my partners.  I was an absolute stress bomb.  Twenty pounds heavier, out of shape and shoved into pantyhose every day to go sit and work and worry in front of a computer all day.  Bad stress will kill you!

Cruising stress, good stress, I can assure you, will not but you should fully expect to feel worried, scared, anxious and nervous at times.  I guarantee you will feel very much alive.

And while I do still worry sometimes about disappointing my partner, now Phillip.  It seems as long as I keep trying, I never do.  We now make all of our cruising decisions and mistakes, together.

Posted in Sail Skills, Sea School, Voyage to Cuba | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Captain’s Quiz!

Tow lights, fog horns, distress signals … OH MY!  As many of you know, I am currently studying for my Captain’s License and *man* is some of this stuff mind-boggling.  I chose to do the study-at-your-own-pace program through Mariner’s Learning System and have been very pleased with the decision.  Captain Bob Figular who runs the Mariner’s Learning program has also answered many of my questions personally and helped me every step of the way.  After speaking with him and others and learning that the school (where you attend for several hours each evening for ten days before taking the test) is 100% scripted–meaning, the instructor reads to you verbatim for several hours–I know myself well enough to know I probably wouldn’t have learned much that way.  My mind would drift, the teacher would start to sound like the one from Charlie Brown (various pitches of honking horns) and I would snap to at the end wondering what in the heck I just missed.  With the books, I am able to read and re-read if necessary, then quiz myself using the practice exams at the end, taking them as many times as I need to, to make sure the information stuck.  I am still blonde remember … 

I highly recommend the program if any of you out there are thinking about going for your Captain’s License and I thought it would be fun to share a little of what I am learning with you.  I have been told the “Rules of the Road” section, about navigating oncoming and crossing ships and understanding the many lights, bells and whistles, is the hardest so I dove into that one first.  Let’s see how some of you do on these.  Three questions.  Leave your answers in a comment below and I’ll come back later and let you know what the correct answers were.  No Googling or checking outside sources.  Just go straight from the ole’ noggin.   It’ll be fun.  Go!

 

#1  Steering and Sailing Rules

BOTH INTERNATIONAL AND INLAND:  You are in charge of a stand-on vessel in a crossing situation.  The other vessel is 1.5 miles to port.  You believe that risk of collision exists.  You should __________.

A.  take avoiding action immediately upon determining that risk of collision exists

B.  immediately sound the danger signal

C.  take avoiding action only after providing the give-way vessel time to take action, and determining that her action is not appropriate

D.  hold course and speed until the point of extremis, and then sound the danger signal, taking whatever action will best avert collision

 

#2  Lights and Shapes

BOTH INTERNATIONAL AND INLAND:  Which statement is TRUE concerning a towing vessel which, due to the nature of her work, is unable to keep out of the way of another vessel?

A.  By day, she shall carry a black cylinder shape.

B.  By day, she shall carry two black balls in a vertical line.

C.  By night, she would show the same lights as a vessel not under command.

D.  By day, she would show the same shapes as a vessel restricted in her ability to maneuver.

 

#3  Sound and Light Signals:

BOTH INTERNATIONAL AND INLAND:  In restricted visibility, a towed vessel must sound a fog signal when it is _________.

A.  the last vessel in the tow

B.  the last vessel in the tow and it is carrying a crew

C.  manned, regardless of its position in the tow

D.  None of the above are correct

 

I can’t wait to see how you guys did.  While much of this stuff has been intuitive, and I’m thankful for my time on the water which taught me these things via so-called “on the job” training, the rest has been tedious and new and simply a game of memory.  But, I’m plugging away at it.  Hope you guys are plugging away toward your own goals too!

Posted in Sea School | Tagged , , , , | 26 Comments

First Time With a Frenchman (Article in SAIL Magazine!)

There she is, hot off the press!

Man … I look a little TOO excited!  But, it is exciting!  Another article penned by Yours Truly, Author Annie, in SAIL Magazine, this time their Multihull Sailor edition, covering our Atlantic-crossing in 2016 on the esteemed Captain Yannick’s 46′ Freydis.  I had a lot of fun with this one from start (catchy title, no? ; ) to finish, tying together a memorable moment from each of our thirty days at sea across the Atlantic Ocean.  I have included the complete text from the article below so you can read at your leisure, but definitely pick up a copy when you get a chance and see what a great job the folks at SAIL Magazine did with the photos and eight-page layout.

Phillip and I also had a great time making and sending Captain Yannick a fun video letting him know about the article (it was a total surprise) and how it appears he’s right up there with the Vagabonds now.  Mr. Big Time!

There she goes, crossing the Atlantic Ocean herself, off to Nice, France to find her way into Yannick’s hands.  Go, little magazine.  Go!  Let us know when she arrives Yannick!

Without further adieu … I give you:

FIRST TIME WITH A FRENCHMAN: 

A Virgin Crew Sails a Catamaran from Florida to France

Dolphins and diesel fumes.  A blood orange moon rising on starboard as the muffler melts on port.  A taut, glowing veil before a sun that will shine down later on its wet, shredded remains. We were thirty days at sea.  A virgin ocean-crossing crew aboard a French-built multi-hulled rocket, bashing our way non-stop from Florida to France.  That was the plan anyway, before the tide came in.  The actual unscripted voyage, however, with all of its detours and unexpected deviations, proved infinitely more memorable than our foolish man-made scheme as daily it was feats and failures and one of the most exciting, exasperating experiences of our lives.

In the Days Before One:  Fate has twisted plans for our French Captain.  With both retirement as a fighter pilot in the French Navy and his family’s next chapter as live-aboard cruisers on the horizon, Yannick has one solitary goal in mind: sail his 2005 46’ Soubise Freydis single-handed, non-stop from Pensacola, Florida home to Roscoff, France. Fate, laughing, devastates his boat with a lightning strike that suffers Yannick six costly months at the yard but also an impressive re-fit and a loyal, motley bunch to serve as his Atlantic-crossing crew.

Crew emerges first in the form of Johnny, a weathered sailor and diesel engine mechanic who helps Yannick repair his engines and who—at 71, still surprisingly healthy and with bucket in hand—seeks to scratch “cross the ocean” off his list.  My boyfriend, Phillip, and I—slugging away on a devastating re-fit of our own Niagara 35 at the yard—catch wind the Frenchman on the freaky-looking cat is taking on crew and shamelessly ask for passage.  Having crossed only in cavernous carrier ships to remote, scorned places in his youth as a U.S. Marine, Phillip is chasing his lifelong dream to cross the pond in a small boat.  A tomboy turned lawyer turned “this sucks, I quit” vagabond so I can seize the very type of opportunity a trans-at affords, I sign on for fist-clenching adventure and blue water experience.  Two weeks from cast-off, the newly-formed crew scrambles to replace blown windows, step the mast, test new sails and pack the cat with thirty days’ worth of food, safety gear and supplies in the sweltering Florida May heat.

Day One:  Heat pours out of the starboard engine locker as Yannick lifts the lid two hours out of the Pensacola Pass, with the high temp alarm still ringing in the crew’s ears.  Boiling the extracted thermostat reveals impaired coolant flow and installation of a new one affords us a slightly high, but steady temp on the Lombardini albeit with a “lot of piss,” I note.  The Captain finds it comforting enough to keep motoring across the glassy Gulf and amusing that the first language I start to pick up on is Diesel, not French.

Day Two:  “It’s French for ‘Cheers,’” Yannick tells us as the crew “Santés” over an immaculate steak dinner in the cockpit.  The motoring, while monotonous, affords us beautiful satin sunsets in the cockpit and leisurely time for quid pro quo French-English lessons.  “Well how should I say it?” Yannick asks when I snort at his post-dinner inquiry of “How are you going to clean your dirty body?”  Chuckling, I reply, “Would you like to take a shower?”

Day Three:  Showers of glitter trail behind them as they zip and glide through the dark waters below the bow.  Yannick and I forge a lifelong memory during a midnight shift change when we are mesmerized by a pod of dolphins slicing through phosphorescence.  Forty-six feet away from the chugging engine on starboard, their breathy puffs and water lapping on the hull are the only things we can hear.

Day Four:  “Did you hear an oil alarm?” Johnny asks, raising his head and greasy hands out of the starboard engine locker, a silk sheet of saltwater behind him, trying to figure out why, at 5:06 a.m., the starboard engine shut down on its own.  Replacing a clogged fuel filter proves an easy engine fix.  Making drinkable water with a faulty water-maker proves not and starts the slow parade of minor equipment failures and boiling of the Captain’s blood.

Day Five:  Blood rains down from the fighting tuna on his hook as Phillip thunders “Fish on!” to the crew.  Soon, boat sushi is bouncing in our bellies during a swift, sweaty two-hour stop in Key West for fuel, ice, water, “And a not so crappy can opener!” Yannick shouts, orchestrating our pillage from the boat as the crew shoots into the town like darts.

Day Six:  Rain darts into Yannick’s eyes at the mast while he directs the crew’s first attempt reefing as a squall off the tip of Florida brings winds over thirty on the port beam.  A merely intense but brief storm proves fortuitous as the crew learns their many mere discussions about safe practices did not serve them near as well as drills would have.  The afternoon is spent doing reefing drills where the Captain has made separate reefing instructions for each crew member and taped them up at his/her designated post.

Day Seven:  “Post A connects to Post B,” Yannick reads from yet another manual.  I watch in half-admiration, half-exhaustion as the Captain flutters from one boat project to the next, cleaning out the elbow of the starboard engine exhaust, tapping new holes in the water pump, even sawing a chunk out of our only cutting board to make a mount for the windex that allows it to account for the fancy rotating mast on the Freydis.  “That’s fine,” our head chef, Phillip, grunts from the galley.  “If you use it all, I’ll just cut on the counters.”

Day Eight:  Cans jump on the counters. Teeth jar in mouths. The bashing of the water on the hulls of the catamaran is like a nervous system message so strong it bypasses your brain.  Muscles flinch without instruction.  The crew grows accustomed but never comfortable with it.  When two hundred nautical miles are slaughtered in a day, we know: with the bashing comes bumpy but beneficial speed.

Day Nine:  “It is used, primarily, for speed,” Yannick says, trying simultaneously to learn and teach the crew the purpose of his rotating mast, one with so much windage it can be trimmed like a sail.  Strictly monohull sailors, the crew stares at him dumbly, not nearly as intrigued by the ability to use the mast as a fourth reef as the initial inquiry that started this free physics lesson: With a rotating mast, what happens if you overtighten the shrouds?

Day Ten:  The shrouds continue their murderous shudder with each crash of the boat. As non-catamaran sailors, the crew knows not how tight the shrouds on a Freydis should be but, as mere sailors, they know they should not be so loose as to vibrate and clang to their death with each romp of the boat through the Atlantic. The Captain sends satellite messages to professionals, checks hourly the chain plate on the port side and tears through texts on rig tuning.

Day Eleven:  “Tuning must be done very slowly,” Johnny and I chuckle to ourselves, cotter pins in our teeth, wrenches in trembling hands, as we tighten the shuddering shrouds on each side the following morning and wonder how anyone could possibly do this quickly.  Coupling this “slowly” advice from a rigger back home with a turnbuckle thread measurement from the previous owner, Yannick supervises the rig tuning and we slowly ease the shuddering of the rig underway.

Day Twelve:  While underway on a cat, it is a myth you do not have to stow anything.  Bowls slosh off counters. Wine glasses topple (but are quickly refilled) as the crew members “Cheers!” a record 243 nautical-mile day and peak boat speed of 19.5 knots.  Steady winds of twenty-three and eight to ten-foot rolling seas entrance as the catamaran climbs and skids down each magnificent wave.

Day Thirteen:  “Magnificent,” Yannick sneers as he eyes the melted end of the muffler Johnny has extracted off the port engine at dawn.  Phillip and I now know we were wrong in thinking the eased winds and smooth motoring the night before had been a gift as we now cough up plastic melted fumes while clambering out from our port berth.  Undeterred, Yannick earns his “MacGyver certificate” for the trip by reassembling the melted exit point of the muffler with the PVC tiller extender arm for his outboard, a blow torch and some hose clamps.

Day Fourteen:  Hands clamp and tug the head of the spinnaker as she billows ethereal and enormous in the water behind the starboard transom.  Her halyard cinched only in the winch but not clutched at the mast allows the sinister waters of the Atlantic to suck her down between the hulls and drag her all the way back to the stern.  Yannick, in a sacrificial attempt to salvage both the sail and the rudder on starboard, emerges blood-spackled, dripping on its remains splayed out on the trampoline, wet, twinkling and tattered.

Day Fifteen:  “Tattered glittery skirts,” I hear Yannick telling Phillip as he hunts for a hard drive.  Mourning the loss of our spinnaker, Yannick claims, will be eased by a video he and the other wearisome pilots used to watch during long hours on the carrier ship.  It is a four-hour rendering of the glittered, scantily-clad, cosmetically-enhanced women who populate the neon-lit night clubs of Ibiza, and he is right.  We find ourselves immensely comforted by thumping pink panties.

Day Sixteen:  “They’re my Paris panties,” I explain as Yannick eyes a pair of rather fifth-grade looking underwear with little Eiffel Towers and “Bonjour’s” on the lifelines.  “I bought them special for the trip,” I say with a smile as Laundry Day proves special bonding time for the crew and reminds us all how truly few blue-water days we have left.

Day Seventeen:  Left, only left.  It freezes the wheel only when Yannick turns left.  The ten-year old electronic auto-pilot on the cat starts to show its first signs of wear when it refuses to disengage when de-powered and allows steering only to the right in what the Captain dubs “ratchet-fashion.”

Day Eighteen:  “Hand me a ratchet.” Yannick’s requests come muffled from the starboard engine locker as the auto-pilot’s housing refuses him any attempt for disassembly or repair underway.  Auto-Turn-Notto will die.  Soon.  All we can do is watch and listen as each mechanical movement of the wheel is followed by a grind and squeal.

Day Nineteen:  “Whee!” I can’t help it.  Gleeful squeals leak out of me at the top of each wave.  The boat moves underneath me like a stallion galloping at speeds equal to the 22-knot winds that hold during my entire night shift.  But when a wave kicks the the stern out and shoves us almost ninety degrees off our heading, the thought that it might soon fall on me to right us, I stop squealing and decide to get my bearings.

Day Twenty:  Bearings and bolt threads that were once intact and operating in the cavity of the auto-pilot now pour out into a pile of metal dust on the salon table.  “R.I.P. Auto” reads the log book as I head up to hold my first night shift hand-steering.  “Dress warm.  Wear gloves,” Phillip warns.

Day Twenty-One:  Warning him we “should not do it” would have been better, but the crew knee-jerks initially and simply tells the Captain we “can do it” as he struggles to decide whether to hand-steer the remaining eight or nine days to France versus stopping in two days when we reach the Azores to repair the auto-pilot.  A stern discussion between the fighter pilot and the Marine results in a wise decision to stop our non-stop voyage mid-Atlantic.

Day Twenty-Two:  “Mid-Atlantic Yacht Services,” she answers over the sat phone as the crew books a slip at Horta Marina and schedules auto-pilot repairs with MAYS fifteen hours out from the Azores.  Morale soars as we see whales and our first sighting of land in sixteen days and immediately tanks when bad injectors on the starboard engine cause it to shut down an hour out from port.

Day Twenty-Three:  I’m on port with the big “boat-saver” fender as we shove off from the hundreds of colorful, weathered boat insignia on the Horta dock.  After nine incredible days downing beers at Peter Café Sport, exploring volcanos, and indulging on impossibly fresh cheese and beef from the very cows chewing cud and watching you eat from the hillside, we leave the Azores under port engine alone but steer our catamaran north to France by daintily clicking buttons on a screen.

Day Twenty-Four:  The screen lights our faces as the crew indulges in book after book, movie after movie, matinees, even double features in beautiful fifteen knot winds on the stern.  Crossing an ocean with a functioning auto-pilot makes even devil’s work too much for our idle hands.

Day Twenty-Five:  My hands are tied.  Yannick has outright busted me. “Oh, it’s a time change day,” he says in a mocking high-pitched voice.  “Oh, we need to conveniently jump forward an hour again during Annie’s shift again,” as he squints his evil French eyes at me.  Putain!  Time change occurs during Phillip’s shift that day and I take revenge by choosing My Cousin Vinny as the movie that night as it seemed, among our rather impressive 500GB hard-drive of movies, the most … American.

Day Twenty-Six:  “Try not to act so American.”  Yannick advises us as we approach Roscoff.  “No selfies, eat slow, wait for the check, and don’t revert to Spanish when you can’t recall your French” he looks at me.  “We know the difference.”  Fun, lighthearted discussions about our expected arrival in two days seem to jinx us as the day ends with a rather harrowing hoist of the Captain up his seventy-two foot mast after the main sail came flying down on its own inexplicably around dusk.  We suspect the topping lift, inadvertently left taut, may have chafed through the main halyard.  This mystery, however, is instantly tabled when the Captain’s descent brings worse news: the rig is compromised.  The troubling shuddering of the shrouds earlier in the trip has caused five of the sixteen wires on the starboard shroud to snap just below the swage at the mast.  Worried a wind-filled main or worse, change to a starboard tack, could dismast us, the crew decides to remain on a port tack, flying only the genny for the remainder of the now four- to five-day trip.  Yannick spends the night poring over rigging textbooks and catamaran specs.

Day Twenty-Seven:  Yannick spends the morning documenting potential cracks at the base of the mast and re-tightening the spinnaker halyard we ran to a starboard cleat in case the shroud goes.  I find him later standing in silence, his heavy head laid against the bulkhead in his berth.  The crew tries to rally le capitaine with the cinematic masterpiece that is Hot Tub Time Machine and succeeds when we settle upon Yannick’s mantra for the trip—“I’m on my waa-ay.  Home sweet home!”—blasted at decibels that could be heard from Roscoff, rounding out the movie’s final score.

Day Twenty-Eight:  I score no sympathy points from the Captain in my plight as I pass him at 2:00 a.m., flashlight in hand, on my way to the port engine locker.  I can’t decide whether I want to prove or disprove my mind’s wild concoction—down in the auditory carnival that is my berth—that the port engine has become submerged, fallen out and left a gaping hole in the hull of the boat.  Yannick laughs when I seem vexed at the sight of a completely safe, dry engine and says, “Tonight, I’ve only slept twenty minutes.”

Day Twenty-Nine:  Twenty ships surround us in the English Channel.  The radar screen that has offered only an empty halo around our boat for weeks is now filled with dozens of vessels.  The excitement of the night shift is bittersweet as we all know it is our last on this trip.  In an amazing show of endurance and inspiration, the boat and Captain, equally tired and compromised, carry on, both fighting their way to France.

Day Thirty:  Fighter pilots scream by in a heroic show of unity seeing their former comrade coming home by way of sailboat across the Atlantic Ocean.  Yannick waves heartily at them from the bow, his smile so big I can see it from the stern.  A small crowd cheers as the crew and boat see it, the finish line, the final feat in sight as we prepare to dock the gallant Freydis in Roscoff.  Yannick’s son’s is the first voice we hear in France as his small, powerful pipes rip through the air: “Bonjour Papa!”

Posted in Annie's Books, Atlantic Crossing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Traveling Book

Funny, that title makes me think of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.  Not a terrible chick flick.  At least that blonde gal—who I believe is now the dashing Blake Lively—was not at all terrible to look at in the movie.

You’re welcome.

No, here, we’re dealing not with pants but with a book.  A kind of special book.  One that has very specific travel powers and that has opened itself only to those salty mariners who dare to find literary magic in the most hit-or-miss of places: the Pandora’s Box that is the free marina book swap.  Many of you have seen them, perused them and—more often than not—taken them up on their very kind offer of “take a book, leave a book.”  The free marina book swap is a fantastic concept, particularly for cruisers who love to read and are generally aiming to travel on the cheap.  Everywhere you stop, there it is: a free, no-membership-required little library with a wide variety of books and no return dates.  I have previously written about my love for book swaps as well as the apparent voodoo that goes along with them, the ever-illusive “book swap mojo” and the deference it demands.

Annie here, returning (with much reluctance) a very powerful read, The Paris Wife, to the book swap in Key West during our trip down to the Keys in 2014 to pay homage and ensure my continued good book swap mojo.

I am also intrigued by the typical books you always see in the marina book swaps.  I like to imagine the types of cruisers who leave and read these genres.  I’ll bet the Clive Cusslers are the sort of Captain Ron type cruisers that bump their way into any anchorage and usually ask forgiveness rather than permission when it comes to docking their dinghy, borrowing power, water and the like.  Then, there’s the Danielle Steels and the Nora Roberts, the “Fabio books” (I like to call them), like our Western Man here.  Shazam!

I’ll bet the readers of these rather unabashed love stories are just that: romantics.  They likely see their husband/captain in a bit of a lofty, heroic manner and while many aspects of cruising may frighten them a little, they find the chivalry of their mate taking the wheel against dangerously beautiful blue water so moving, they find the courage to go.  So, kudos to you Romance Ladies.  Cruise and read on!  Now, who’s reading the John Grishams, Deen Koontz, Tom Clancy’s and the like?  Probably problem solvers.  Those types of boat-project gurus that love to talk for hours about whether you should Loctite that transmission shaft key back in place or drill a hole in it and use seizing wire.  (For those of you thriller/suspense fans who are familiar with our “tranny key” problem, feel free to weigh in in a comment below.  ; )

But, what type of cruiser leaves or takes a book like this?

Me, of course!  Being it’s duly-appointed author and just so darn proud of that little salty gem.  But also being the type of person—to a freaking “T”—the very book itself describes: “A durable but not-so-dainty sailor.”  I like to envision the other boaters and mariners out there who have read, enjoyed and especially shared Salt of a Sailor with others feel they are somewhat the same, or had somewhat the same experience when they were just getting into sailing.  Graduating from the ignorant-but-eager “What rope should I pull?” to the more seasoned “They’re not called ropes.  They’re lines.  Or sheets or halyards or topping lifts.  Anything but ropes.”

These are my people.  Having enjoyed the experience so much myself—of becoming, first, a sailor, then a cruiser, then a bonafide “I finally get it, boats … always something” boat owner—I love sharing my experience through each phase of the transformation.  My revelations, my fears and, particularly, my lessons learned.  But, what I did not quite know, until I stumbled back across the Traveling Book, was how much others were enjoying my stories as well.  Now, it’s time to share the story of the Traveling Book with you.

Travel back with me to last week.  Phillip and I cruising up Florida’s Forgotten Coast, really soaking in all the little sleepy marina towns along the Big Bend, for the first time in years feeling once again live true live-aboard cruisers.  Ahhh …

     

On our way north from Key West, we stopped again in one of our favorites Florida ports—because of its few fantastic restaurants, quiet coastal walking trails, great kitesurfing cove and rightfully-titled “friendliest marina in Florida”—Port St. Joe.  We love that place.  And, it was really fun to learn, turns out, they quite like us too.

We had just docked at Port St. Joe Marina after having spent the day motoring up “the ditch” from Apalachicola along Apalachicola River and Lake Wimico.

And, I should say up-and-coming Captain Annie docked us right and proper in Port St. Joe, because I did.  I nailed it!  And we had just finished washing the boat down—the chore we always tackle the minute we get docked up after a passage—when Lisa, who runs the marina office, walked out to our boat, knocked on the hull and asked: “Is this the famous author?”

I stammered a little, blushed, a little slow on the uptake.  “I don’t know about famous … ” I started in making my way up the companionway stairs but was wondering: “How did she know?”  Or at least how did she remember so quickly put two and two together having not yet seen my face.

“Plaintiff’s Rest,” Lisa blurted out, and Phillip and I shared a kind of “Yeah, so … “ look not knowing where Lisa was going with all of this.  “The name of your boat.  I’ll never forget it as I’ve never met another Plaintiff’s Rest, so I knew, when you hailed us out in the bay, it had to be you.  You’re Annie, right?”

I nodded and then recalled that fateful day years ago when Lisa and I first met.  You see, when Phillip and I were in Port St. Joe last on our boat (it was during our way down to the Keys in 2014), Lisa had found me pouring over all the treasures in the marina book swap and we struck up a conversation.

I’m such a sucker for books!

I told her I was a very amateur writer and wannabe author working, at the time, on my first non-fiction sailing book that did not yet have a name.  An avid reader herself, particularly of pieces written by cruisers as she meets so many running the busy marina there at Port St. Joe, Lisa immediately said she wanted a signed copy of my book once it was published.  It was the first time anyone asked me for that.  I was so flattered and motivated by our conversation that I feverishly wrote several chapters after Phillip and I left Port St. Joe on our way down to Key West.  I completed the first rough draft of Salt of a Sailor during that voyage, self-published in February, 2015 and—remembering Lisa’s request for a signed copy and her very-encouraging excitement about reading my book—sent a first edition signed copy to Lisa at the Port St. Joe Marina office.

I also decided to make that my first “traveling book,” writing a little note in the inside cover explaining why I, as the author, had donated the book to the free marina book swap in hopes that it would travel from marina to marina, being shared among cruisers, each of them writing inside their name, home port, date they finished the book, and what they thought of it for the next reader, and that I might somehow stumble across it again one day and get to see all of the “durable but not-so-dainty” mariners it had touched.  What a cool prospect!  I didn’t know if it would work, if cruisers would really follow my lighthearted instructions and keep the Traveling Book alive, or, much less, if the book even made it to Lisa in Port St. Joe.  But, I soon learned, it had accomplished much more.

“We all loved your book!” Lisa said.

I smiled.

No, take that back.  I beamed.  Lisa told me she was so excited when she got my book in the mail (now over two years ago) that she saved it for herself first, read it, loved it and then shared it with many of her permanent tenants at the marina, who then shared it with others.  Apparently my little book went all around the marina in Port St. Joe for a year or more, with all the cruisers talking about it and sharing their favorite parts, before it traveled off.  Where to?  Lisa did not know, but it didn’t matter as the whole point was that the book traveled—from book swap to book swap—not to which marinas it traveled to.  That little worn copy may be somewhere in the South Pacific right now for all I know.  I like to imagine it is.  Sitting salty, sun-dyed and dog-eared next to a leathery old cruiser and his scruffy dog, waiting to be read (perhaps finished!) during sunset.

And what an awesome moment to share with Lisa again.  “Well, you played a big part in it,” I told her, because she had, that fateful day when we chatted by the Port St. Joe Marina book swap.  So many of my followers motivate and encourage me to continue to share our ups and downs as Phillip and I are, ourselves, still working toward becoming full-time cruisers.  My writing is where it all started.

My goal when I left the practice was to build up some sort of online company where I could earn remote income through my writing.  While I have failed many times in that effort and had to learn from my mistakes and misplaced efforts and strike out in new directions, I also learned so much each time about marketing and how I can best use my writing skills (and new skills I have learned along the way) to help my clients reach and engage more people and grow their businesses, as I grow mine in turn.  Although my career as a renowned author—where Phillip and I were supposed to simply sip Mai Tais and watch my royalty checks roll in—never took off quite how I imagined, I don’t mind at all.   I simply love to write and when book or story ideas come to me, I love to run with them.  It’s the ultimate creative high!  And the ultimate reward.

Lisa, too, was about to get a very-surprising reward for her contribution as well.

“That book was so much fun,” she said, talking about Salt of a Sailor.  “I wish you had written another.”  I smiled again as Phillip and I shared a glance full of fun secrets.  I told Lisa I had written a sequel to Salt, that actually covered parts of the trip Phillip and I were taking at the time I met her, on our way down to the Keys in 2014 and that I would bring her another signed copy to the marina office later that day.  And, much to my surprise, Lisa asked:

“Does it have all of those old stories about your grandma and growing up in Alabama?”

You’re darn right it does!  And just like that.  BOOM.  Traveling Book #2 was born.

Go little book, go!

If any of you haven’t read Keys to the Kingdom yet—the story of my escape from corporate-consumeristic America—go to the Books tab at HWWT.com to download a free preview and check it out.  Next time we stop in Port St. Joe, Lisa will be thrilled to hear as well about my third book and I’ll leave her a signed copy of None Such Like It to round out the trilogy.  Books are such fun!

Also, as a fun aside.  While my docking at Port St. Joe went well, unfortunately the DE-docking did not when this amateur helmswoman took the wheel, didn’t handle the prop wash too well, backed up like my buddy Chuck would say, “a drunk elephant,” got us all whopper-jolled in between the two dock aisles (I call them) and had a slight boat bump on the way out.  Well, technically it was a very minor anchor-to-outboard *kiss* at the last minute, so Phillip says it’s technically not a boat-to-boat collision.

But, docking.  Still scary.  Still not great at it.  But still working on it.  My nerves were better this time, though.  Throughout the very tedious 10-point turn Phillip walked me through, I didn’t lose the ability to function, and I only left the helm for a second (just a split-second!) to fend off another boat’s bow.  Apparently as helmsperson that’s the one thing you’re not supposed to do.  Whoops.  Still learning.

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The Thing That Scares Me Most About Cruising

What do you think I’m going to say?  What would you say, those of you out there cruising?  I’m really curious, so please share.  For me, it’s docking.  Yes, dammit, still docking.  Granted, with practice I am getting better and I am intensely pushing myself to be brave and try and just say “It’s okay if you bump something, we can fix it.”  Those things are easy to say, but not so easy to act out in real life.  I hate that I get all jittery and panicked.  My hands and leg muscles shake.  My eyes become stupid huge saucers.  It’s like I’m having a mini-heart attack.  Why?!

I really am just venting here because it irritates me that I get myself all worked up into such a state of terror at the sight of pilings, piers and other boats.  A part of it is the thought of damaging our Niagara because that would royally suck.  But a bigger part (I believe) is damaging someone else’s boat.  Wrecking my dreams is one thing, but wrecking another’s by plowing a huge hole in their stern makes me sick to my stomach.

Then there’s the thought of disappointing Phillip.  I know this is all internal because he is immensely proud of me and I am a very lucky gal because he tells me this often, but that doesn’t mean a huge part of everything I do is still intended to impress him.  The thought of me turning to starboard when he says “Turn to port!” and crashing our bow into concrete makes me feel so embarrassed and sad for him.  What a crappy mate he has!  And, why would I turn to starboard when he says port?  Because I am literally in that moment an absolute nervous wreck.  Port is starboard.  Forward is reverse.  I’m panicked, remember?  A babbling idiot.  It really is quite embarrassing.  And almost inexplicable.  I’ve been in some pretty gnarly stuff out in the Gulf and the Atlantic—winds of 43 on the nose, 15-foot seas—but it has never made me feel like docking does.  This instant on-set, heart-pounding dread.

Many of you may have already seen this candid, unedited video we posted to Facebook of my first de-docking that—in my mind—didn’t go so well.  But, as Phillip says: “If we didn’t hit anything and nothing’s broke, it went well.”  But I had not yet published it on the blog, so I wanted to share it here, as well as a few other docking incidences we’ve racked up in the last couple of weeks while putting me more on the helm as I believe each one is a lesson and a confidence builder.

Here is my first (very scary, very harrowing, shockingly near-miss) de-docking out of Key West:

Undeterred, we continued to put Annie on the helm and let her try her hand at docking against the fuel dock in Venice in some rather calm conditions.  Thank goodness!  The winds were light and I had a moderate tide pushing against the boat and keeping my speed down along with some great instruction from Phillip about making sure to err away from the dock because the wind would easily and quickly push me toward it.  (Oh, and some fantastic dock hands that helped us as well.  I will never be ashamed to ask for hands on the dock to help grab lines.  “Save my baby!”):

So, Annie did good there.  We didn’t hit anything and nothing got broke.  Gold star.  But, our next docking opportunity was a very telling one.  A thankfully-successful, but rather-difficult docking by Phillip.  The winds were blowing about 15 kts with a very strong current pushing in the same direction.  Phillip still wanted me to try it because “You’re going to have to dock in these conditions someday.”  While that is most definitely true, I was a little reluctant but was willing to try because Phillip is right (and, remember, I still want to impress him).  After about a ten-minute discussion with the dock hand talking us through all of the dangers, the conditions to pay attention to, the best approach and how quickly the boat could get sideways in the slip if I “undershot it” (which I wasn’t quite sure what that even meant), I was—needless to say—more than nervous.  But, I was still going to do it right?  Right, let’s go.

You’ll see, however, in the video, that just backing off the fuel dock, I’m completely petrified, shaking hands and legs, not sure which way to even turn the wheel to control the stern in reverse.  I throw it all the way over hard to port then back to starboard, then back to port again.  I’m a mess.  Phillip was initially on deck, but when he made his way back to the helm, he could see the terror in my eyes and the lack of focus and confidence to truly handle this docking, so he took the wheel.  And nailed it!

Five thousand gold stars for Phillip.  Another successful docking!  We didn’t hit anything and nothing got broke.  Again!  So, I should now be all rainbows and sunshine, right?

I’m not.  I’m pissed.  Furious.  In a fuming cloud of funk.

Why?  The answer is embarrassingly stupid.  It’s not because I got too nervous to do it.  This was a very tricky docking situation with winds and current pushing in the same direction, up against the pier in a narrow, short finger-piered slip.  While I will have to handle those conditions someday, I know I am not yet experienced enough to handle that one confidently just yet.  Giving up the wheel wasn’t the issue.  I was totally comfortable with that.  I’m infuriated because we’re docked, everything’s fine, and I’m the only one who’s all Petrified Patty about it.  It is only my heart that is beating through the bones of my chest.  Only my hands that are shaking like a junkie in detox.  I’m the only one who’s freaked out.  Me.  Annie.  Everyone else is all: “Great, we’re here.”  “Good job Captain.”  “Where did you guys come in from?”  And I want to scream: “From the fuel dock just over there and we almost crashed!  Didn’t you see?!  I can’t just chit-chat with you right now!”  I hate that I’m a nervous, frustrated wreck and I’m so mad at myself about it.  But that is what I feel in the moment, when we have a hairy docking—even a successful one—and it takes me a while to calm down.

Perhaps this is just a personal venting, or perhaps many of you feel this way.  Do you?

All I can say is: It’s frustrating and embarrassing, but I’m working on it.  Annie Raw.  Out.

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Oh The Places You’ll Go!

Congratulations Annie!  Today is your day.

You fly to Key West on a plane.  Up and away.

 

Your gallant Niagara awaits.  She’s ecstatic for you to see

Jeweled-toned waters, lush shores, a million adventures to windward and lee.

Oh the spellbinding places you’ll go.  You she will carry.

And she’ll show you, the helm is really not that scary.

 

You have gumption in your soul and salt in your veins,

Courage to follow your path, this way or that, even change lanes.

 

And lucky you, lucky you.  Lucky heart, lucky brain

Because you’ve got a partner who you know will remain

Beside you, to help guide you when you’re choked in a fog.

When you’re slumped in a funk, a real bump on a log.

He’ll hold your hand, sopping wet, through the pain

When clouds sometimes find you, because they will, and it just has to rain.

 

Lucky you!  Lucky you!  You’ve got air in your lungs!

Your dreams are all achievable if you just climb the rungs.

Grateful you can, climb you must.  Soar you will!

Because you’ve decided to spend time, only time, and chase what is real.

 

Your life is your own, because you’ve made it so

And only you can decide which way you want to go.

Turn right.  Turn left.  Turn three-quarters and ninety degrees.

The great thing is it doesn’t matter, because wherever you go, there you will be.

 

You, lucky you, the open ocean ahead.

No fear, no regrets, no sense of dread.

In your future you see, challenges and victories,

Big belly laughs in the amount of 4,003.

 

Today is your day.  Launch your new adventure.

No GoPro.  No mic.  No video indenture.

Words, pure words, and the simplicity of pictures.

 

You, lucky YOU, just wait and see.

What lies ahead with this boat

This man and the wild, open sea.

This was mine and Phillip’s first photo together underway, bringing our Niagara home across the Gulf for the first time in April, 2013.  Here’s to many more firsts my love.  

Let’s go.  I’m in.

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