Tuesday 13 JUN / PORT WASHINGTON, NY USA
We are here.
Ava and I arrive at La Guardia with 200 lbs. of luggage, most of it for the boat. We rent a car and drive ourselves to Main Street. We wind all the way to the end and find the parking lot for the town docks. Even before I stop moving I am scanning the water for a dinghy with a dude. I park facing the water and I see him inching toward us.
Reunited …and it feels so good. (- Ha! )
We pile our duffels onto the boat and sweat. It’s really bloody hot in New York today. Like, melt your brain hot. So, the breeze of moving through the water is welcomed.
The boat looks good! Everything is familiar and the feelings of fear or confinement that I expect, don’t come. We are, I suppose, really doing this. Fourteen months at sea.
Wednesday 14 JUN
We check out Port Washington today. Glenn is looking for a padlock: not too big, won’t corrode, and preferably French. Got one? Neither does Port Washington.
We stop by the town’s yarn shop. (Great, by the way!) There are three lovely women knitting and inviting us to browse even though they are about to close. They can stay, they say. We get asked a handful of questions. Who are we? (World class adventurers… er, I mean, professors from Michigan on sabbatical.) What are we doing here? (Starting a new chapter?) How are we going to do it? Are we worried? Are we knitters? It’s fun to talk about the trip. In this case it’s fun to just talk. We don’t get asked questions like this in the shops of Ann Arbor. People are more reserved there, afraid to be too intrusive or too personal. But I grew up on the east coast and I miss this particular cultural difference. I miss a bit of prying and knowing who the people around me are. I even miss the good natured judgement and gossipy opinions. (The women thought the trip sounded great and that we were a bit nuts.) What makes a form of relating familiar? Can the type of cusriosity of a people be the mark of a place? I’m sure it can, but how is this perceived? Are there any cultural anthropologists in the house?
Thursday 15 JUN
Glenn and I provision the boat with food today. I make a long list. I try to balance the need for longevity and our taste buds. We have refrigeration (small) on board and so this task is not too difficult. Or, rather, I have learned through the years how to do this… But still, I rely a lot on instinct and not heavily planned or scheduled meals, just general ideas. My big flaw: I am carbohydrate averse. Rice and pasta are always someone else’s wishes – those I have to write down. And still I forget something. This time it’s honey. Surmountable.
I return the rental car to La Guardia this afternoon. It’s a short drive and then a ride back on the Long Island Rail Road. The guy in front of me is talking to Sophia (his wife?) on the phone. He fired three people today. It sounded fair, except for one employee who seemed only tangentially related and possibly innocent. While I am having such a nice day, three people aren’t…
Friday 16 JUN
I dreamt I was a fraud last night. Actually, dreamt that I was legit, but was wrongly accused of creating false citations in an academic article. In the dream, I knew I was innocent, so I didn’t react to the accusations. The result, though, was that my reputation was forever tarnished because my accusers had more (academic) standing. Whaaaaa?
Here’s why this is weird: 1. I don’t really write academic articles and 2. I am not invested in that world so much. Taken metaphorically, however… well, then I get this dream in a whole other way.
Saturday 17 JUN
We go to NYC today. It Ava’s first time here and we go where every kid her age wants to go: MOMA (Museum of Modern Art). I swear to you, people, that’s where she wants to go. We see a great show of female artist and a huge and fabulous retrospective of Robert Rauschenberg’s work. (I will not gripe about how Rauschenberg got more than double the amount of floor area than all of the women artists combined. I will not. Not.)
The Rauschenberg show climaxes for me as I step into the room with the large silk screens. I am pushed back by the work and pushed back into being a young college student who has found these awake canvases that resonated with her. I am pushed back to a 1991 Rauschenberg show at the Whitney… when I marveled for the first time at the very same canvases. That time I went with a boyfriend. It was December. We drove my car from Philadelphia to spend the day looking at art. We went to MOMA first and left the Whitney for last because it was the Rauschenberg show we really wanted to savor. It was a revelation and dream. Afterwards, in the gift shop I bought a poster of the show to give as a present at a birthday party we were attending that night. Then, almost a year later, long after that boyfriend had left, and after a semester in Rome and many other experiences, I went on my first date with Glenn. He invited me over for a homemade dinner (scallops!) And there on the door between the kitchen and his bedroom was the poster.
We spend the rest of the day walking in Greenwhich Village and Washington Square Park among the students and dogs. We see the New Museum and skip the Cooper Union building in favor of the Highline. We finish with a “dinner” of expensive french fries and lemony wheat beer at a place called Death Avenue.
A good friend of ours from Ann Arbor, who is coincidentally in town, comes back to Port Washington on the train with us. We buy wine on our way downhill to the dinghy. It’s a cool and calm evening as we make our way “home” across Manhasett Bay. When we land there’s still a drop of daylight left. Visibility! We give our guest the grand tour of Netzah. It takes two minutes. Then we drink and hang out to enjoy the rest of our night together. Our friend stays the night in our new “lounge”. Glenn has made the table so it can drop down to the level of the benches and make one large-ish bed/lounge and I have sewed cushions for extra luxury. When we add sheets and a comforter it all feels like a cozy and warm bed. Just before going to sleep, I get a lesson in how to pee over the side of the boat. This will come in handy, I’m sure. My friend is a good professor.
Sunday 18 JUN
We all sleep in. By this I mean that we wake up at 8AM instead of the usual 6AM. We attribute it to the perfect conditions and the sense of relaxation a boat can provide. We walk the professor back to the train. She has to be back to the city before noon. Sometime before our hug goodbye, while we are still on the boat sharing a quiet moment, she turned to me and smiled with watery eyes and said, “I’m so happy for you.” My heart ached for a flash. I think I understand now, as I wave goodbye to her and this memory comes back. I take her words as validation of our decision to go on this trip and validation of our decision to risk. Sabbaticals from work are not vacations. They are work. For me this means shifting into new territories, not continuing on the same tried paths. It means coming back changed. It means venturing without a plan or strategy – hard for an academic. I am nervous about it right now, but confident that I will find it/me so I can… move.
Today is Father’s Day. People in Port Washington wish the men happiness on this ground. It’s nice. I have a gift for Glenn hidden away in my clothes. I’ve had to smuggle it on board and am excited to give it to him. Ava does most of the wrapping in her quarters and just before dinner we give it to him: a bottle of Jura 10 yr. scotch and a small black flask to carry a bit around. I’ve had the flask engraved with the following words: “And this was all to be here in this moment.” Which comes from a father’s day card that Ava gave Glenn when she was 9. Then I serve Sriracha Glazed Salmon and some sautéed asparagus. Yep, I should have made some rice, but I didn’t think of it.
The full text of Ava’s card, given to Glenn in Mexico while sailing on our old boat the Ava Skye:
This is a day for a special someone I love
Oh my god! We’re here! You have worked so hard for this. First you drove across America over 200 miles per day while me and mommy were sleeping. Second, you worked over 12 hours a day, strait no half days, while me and mommy were working less than 1/2 your amount of work. Third, you sailed through the night navigating by the stars, you sailed over 12 hours. And this was all to be here in this moment together. You brought us together as a family, a team.
We would never be here without you.
I wish you the best father’s day ever,
Ava Skye Wilcox
*I get short shrift in that card, but it’s worth it for the prose. Maybe she’ll be a writer?
Monday 19 JUN
We are waiting for the last spring storm to pass over tonight and will sail tomorrow. To kill time Glenn is crossing things off his TO-DO-ALONE list. Today he:
- finished replacing the lifelines with Dyneema (him: “stronger than steel!”… me: skeptical face)
- connected the VHS to the AIS so we can call with DSC. (Y.E.S.)
- installed an electric bilge pump
- fixed Ava’s fan
- fixed the bathroom sink drain
- a whole bunch of other stuff
In an effort to not look like a total sloth, I tried and failed to make pizza dough. Twice. Damn you, ye olde yeast! Flatbread pizza instead.
Tuesday 20 JUN / departing PORT WASHINGTON, NY USA
And just like that we are off.
Our next destination: Provincetown. It looks like it will be smooth and downwind for a bit.
We’re scissoring already. 😉