Tuesday 27 JUN / Passage from Harbor Islands, MA to Boston, MA
We wake up in a beautiful, calm anchorage called Perry’s Cove. It’s situated on the north side of a small harbor island just south of Boston. The tide is very low now, the opposite of what it was when we dropped the steel otter last night.* It’s a fairly shallow area so we pulled up very close to the beach. This morning our rudder is tapping the bottom a bit. Don’t be alarmed, dear reader. This boat does not have a keel but a much shallower, flatter bottom with a retractable centerboard (fully retracted at the moment). This means we can beach Netzah if we so wish. Running aground here is only a matter of waiting for the tide to come up a bit. Fortunately, this area has steep edges and pretty good tide fluctuations (10 feet vertically!) so the rise should be quick. A few years ago I took students to Anchorage, Alaska. The tidal fluctuations there are the second highest in the world. The water rises around thirty feet vertically and fifteen hundred feet horizontally across expansive areas of flat land beaches. It’s an amazing landscape of mud that humans have not conquered with construction. The class I was teaching proposed an architecture project that would not dominate through drying (damming), but would allow for a waterfront port that would get flooded and floated twice a day. It was equal parts rugged and dreamy… a project that I think of more now that I am living on (and with) the water.
The water floats us. We are free.
We motor through some more islands alongside several large-ish ferries for about two hours to get to Boston. In the Inner Harbor we pick up a mooring ball at the Water Boat Marina as there is no anchoring for a boat our size anywhere close to downtown.** This accommodation costs $55/night, but for this princely price we will receive the luxury of hot, pressurized water pelting our desiccated, crusty bodies. We have not had proper showers in two weeks. I have found that my temperate zone clean-limit is one week. (My clean limit in the tropics is about three minutes.) Then, I must throw some form of water and soap at myself. In our case we have a sun shower which we heat up during the day and use by gravity feed in the cockpit. I know what you’re thinking, but I swear to you it’s not that bad. Or maybe, it is, but the clean, hot water feels so good that I just don’t care. Anyway, we get actual showers this time, so, moot point.
We hit the city. We have some light shopping to do. We hunt for a salon carpet (an epic quest now), a cast iron skillet, and long underwear that costs less than $160 (REI, what the hell is wrong with you?)
Sometime in the late afternoon we head back across town to meet with Sean, a friend of ours from Glenn’s grad school days at Cornell. When I say a friend, that underplays it. In those Ithaca years, Glenn and I had a small circle of friends who were our… family. Those eight or nine people were the closest friendships we ever had. You want to know how close we were with Sean (and Shari – now his wife)? They came on our honeymoon. Why? Because we shared so much with this small group of friends that we couldn’t imagine not sharing our good fortune of having landed a condo in Park City Utah for a week of skiing (a wedding present from Glenn’s dad.) That, and we’re weird.
As life and we have moved on, we have had less contact with all of those friends. Now we are out of touch with all of them, save a few facebook/instagram moments. Stopping in Boston was a chance to reconnect. And… yes, young people, you’ll be happy to know… nothing has changed. Humanity is good, people are awesome, or at least, Sean is. (I will now only write glowing positive things since we gave him the address of this blog.) He is still as affable, charming, and hilarious, except now he pushes interns around in his big architectural firm. And he has a few gray hairs. Anyway, we meet up in a bar, we play trivia (Team name: Steve Perry) and we lose because everyone on my team, but me, is dumb. Then, we go to the North End for a dinner Italiano. We drink some wine. We reminisce. We laugh at old times. We laugh at new times. Things are easy to pick up where they were left off. It turns out we were good friends for a reason way back then.
To be continued…
* I know the correct slang for anchor is not “steel otter.” I know. I also know that it sounds vaguely wrong to make my new, folky term an animal, but it IS after all, a swimming animal.
** A mooring ball is a permanent anchoring point provided by a marina. A boat can tie up to one and then use their own dinghy to get to the dock. It’s far less expensive than a boat slip, where one can just get off the boat onto a dock, but still more than our usual cost of anchoring – free.
Wednesday 28 JUN / Boston, MA
Boston highlights of the day: (1.) Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum; (2.) Ava and I introduce Glenn to Uniqlo. Glenn is blown away. (3.) We learn how to really pronounce Fjall Raven. And then we forget.
In the afternoon we meet up with Sean, who I guess, is now a character in my blog. He shows us his office. It’s really cool. The vibe is casual and comfortable. Many of the designers are young and many are female (yay!) There’s a kitchen with an espresso machine (love), a receptionist with torn jeans (love) and a ton of carpet samples which really could have worked as carpets in our boat. Walking around his place I realize that in a way, Sean presents what could have been an alternate path in life for us. (Sliding Doors, anyone?) This parallel life would have included living in bigger cities and probably being more set financially. I let myself inhabit this life for a while, considering the options. Would we be happier? It’s not that different, but probably not. Glenn and I gravitate toward the experimentation and freedom of university jobs which keeps incomes lower, but satisfies in other ways. Like this sabbatical…
After dinner we row Sean to our digs. He’s hard to read. If he thinks we’re crazy, it doesn’t show. He seems to like the boat and our view of the city. But he also laughs with us when we rock every time a ferry or the subway (which we can hear through the water below us) pass by. Good with the bad, I say (but not out loud).
Thursday 29 JUN / Boston, MA
We decide to stay one more day to see Shari and to meet Sean and Shari’s son, Max. That, and to do laundry at their house. (Obvi.) The drive to their house is tripled in length courtesy of some outdoor event and excellent google rerouting, but I don’t care because I’m in the back catching up with Shari, marveling at how so very much the same she is. Even her gestures are familiar and warm. We hang out at their place getting to know Max and meeting Luna, their newborn baby (just kidding. Luna’s a dog.) We grill burgers and eat corn and asparagus and salad and s’mores – all the food groups. We talk about every person from our past we can think of, each of us filling details of what we last knew. We talk about what we think might be ahead for each of us. We watch Max draw and we chat about Ava’s interests. Soon it’s time to go. We don’t clean up enough. We hug our goodbyes and think about staying in closer contact from now on. And I really hope we do.
Friday 30 JUN / passage from Boston, MA to Rockport, MA
We head out fairly late (9:30) because I opt to take one last shower and do one last load of laundry at the marina. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough change to actually do the laundry. In the meantime, because I thought I would have this tiny morsel of time and have arranged to meet up with a former student for a quick goodbye during (what would have been) a dryer load, I walk over to the café. Some my favorite former students and colleagues now live in Boston. I don’t contact any of them on this trip, mostly because it was a very short stay that kept getting extended, but also because I’m somewhat reserved that way. Now I reprimand myself. Next time, Boston peeps. Next time.
Our sail north is excellent for a long while. Good winds in a good direction (10-15 SW?). We make good time (4-5kts/hour avg.) Good, good, good. Coastal sailing is more changeable than open ocean sailing where the weather patterns aren’t interrupted by pesky land masses. Around 4PM we see two things: a large, beautiful racing yacht with a Dutch flag off its stern and a storm heading our way on our weather app. As luck has it there is a long arm of land inviting us to come on over for the night. If we continue sailing through the storm (and night) we will be in Portland by tomorrow afternoon. If we stop and anchor to ride out the storm however, we may have to extend our passage by two nights not just one. This is because we never want to land at a new anchorage in the dark and stopping tonight will leave us with about 65 more miles to Portland. Depending on the wind (which is predicted to be very low) we will not want to risk a night landing, so we will anchor again the following night. But, there aren’t that many anchorages around here. Our option is to stop about half way through and do the rest the next day. The storm looks rough and we are not in a hurry. Besides, I reason, it’s better to get a lot of rest now before the longer passages which are exhausting. We decide to stop. So does the giant Dutch boat. Storm far less severe than expected.
Saturday 01 JUL / Passage from Rockport, MA to York Beach, ME
Dear Ladies and Gentlemenof the blogdience,
It is with sadness that I must inform you of a great, great tragedy. Today, aboard S/V Netzah a mass suicide of approximately one million (biting stable?) flies came to pass. One after another, without explanation or motive, each fly came to our mighty cockpit only to be met with a guilt-ridden, but nevertheless mighty, swat of instant extermination.
Regrets, The Crew
P. S. Thank you, York Beach for the evening Neil Diamond / Elvis concert.
Sunday 02 JUL / Passage from York Beach, ME to Portland, ME
Word of the day: FLUKEY.
Today’s passage was characterized by high, rolly seas and very, very changeable winds. Sometimes the winds were high. Mostly they were low. Sometimes they came from behind and other times they came from the front. The love/hate was too much to take. Gratefully, the fog burned off early and the sun came out. I wore short sleeves and leggings for the rest of the day.
We arrive in Portland at about 2ish. It’s glorious. There are boats of every type and size and they are e.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r.e. I’m in love with the city at first sight.
Monday 03 JUL / Portland, ME
Well, let’s see… I am fifty today. This is unexpectedly harder than I thought it would be. I usually don’t mind birthdays or care about superficial stats. In fact, I usually feel like a feminist superhero who finds power in the very degradation by numbers (age, size) that women endure. Oh, my age makes me invisible? Actually, I can do more without your gaze, thanks. But this one is hitting me right in the gut. I just feel old, for once. I drag around in bed lingering for as long as possible in the warm forty-nine before I have to step into the cold fifty.
Otherwise it’s a pretty good day. The weather is gorgeous: Warm (80!), low humidity, and sunny. I spend the day walking the streets of Portland, which is as lovely from within as from the water. I window shop and actually shop (shoes! a salon carpet!), I shoot from the hip, I stop and write, I caffeinate, and no one seems to notice that I am now an old hag. At 4, I meet up with Glenn and Ava for an extended biergarten birthday situation which includes a card, a book (Roxanne Gay’s latest!), a guy wearing a JFK shirt, and several servings of cheeses, meats, beer, cider, and a Nutella-slathered waffle. We take an extra-long route to get home to walk it all off… I can’t wait to wake up tomorrow and be thirty-five again, though.