Tuesday 04 JUL / Portland, ME
There’s nothing like eating cherry pie for breakfast in the cockpit of a sailboat on a sunny, dry, and cool Fourth of July morning to make one forget fifty years of woe and sorrow.
Because, we’re patriotic, today is devoted to indulging in our independence together. Rather than work on the boat, we get to know Portland’s east side. It’s hilly and mostly residential. We stop for a drink at a hilltop café. Inside, in the corner, there’s a woman making delicate bead bracelets. She has long, dark hair held back by a thin headband, the kind that goes across the forehead not the top of the head. Maybe she’s forty. She’s friendly and chatty. She says likes my turquoise necklaces. She tells us that she grew up in London and Los Angeles. She tells us that she just moved here from Santa Fe because “they like artists here.” This means she’s free to sell her wares to the tourists on the streets without fees or hassles. That’s good, I think. People should be free to do such things. It makes me like Portland a tiny bit more. “one thing, though,” she says wistfully, “I hate the humidity.”
Soon, we get kicked out of the café so the owners can go to their independence parties. We continue eastward and drift over to the park on the outermost edge of Portland, the Eastern Promenade. This is a proper park designed by the Olmstead brothers (I didn’t know there were two; two brothers and two parks! There’s a Western Promenade too.) This one is a large, sloped grassy field with graceful paths, old sturdy trees, and benches on vistas. It drops smoothly to the water forming a picnicgroundamphitheater space. The whole town is here. I recognize a few faces including the Santa Fe beader we just met. (Have we been here that long?) People set up blankets and folding chairs. Then they walk around, socialize, sign various petitions. They eat fried dough or ice cream. All this to wait for the fireworks to begin over the water late tonight. I want to stay and eat from trucks with them. Glenn and Ava want liberation. They choose the somewhat fancier eatery Duckfat, a restaurant that… do I have to describe it? It’s all in the name. I have a duck confit panini, Glenn has a sirloin one, and Ava, of course, has the Cuban. (Does this girl ever eat anything other than pork?) We roll home, get on the deck of the boat and watch the town’s fireworks from our own lower, but private, perspective.
Wednesday 05 JUL
We decided not to leave today. We are waiting for the right weather window to cross the Bay of Maine to Nova Scotia. Instead, Glenn does engine maintenance. I do laundry. And later, I go into town and get lobster for dinner. ($8.99/lb. pretty good compared to Michigan, where we never buy it.)
Thursday 06 JUL
The days that we are in waiting to leave can be quite slow. They have no direction or set tasks. Due to good technology we can see the weather very accurately about a week out now. We have decided to leave on Sunday as the winds appear to be good and the rain will be over. We will provision tomorrow and move the boat to an anchorage on Saturday in preparation.
Today, then, we laze about for a long time. Glenn reroutes a wire. I cut (er, shave) off all my hair. We shower leisurely. We go to town to stretch our legs. At the Bard Café we drink iced teas and read our books on a break. I notice this youngish, white guy sitting with a mammoth camera and a laptop. He is “interviewing” young women at a large, communal table in the middle of the space. In his downtime he ambles over to me – the mom – and asks if we would be interested in a trade of sorts. I look up, Ava looks up. What kind of trade? I ask. He tells me about his prospective business – wedding photography. Okay… He tells me he is building his portfolio. That’s good… He says his prospective clients, future brides, love to see images of fresh faces with clear skin. Mmmhmmm… Even if they are twenty or thirty years younger. I see… So, (handing me a card) would we be interested in having some photographs of our kid – “you have a great look,” to Ava – taken that he could use on his website and we could have copies? He looks at me. He is patient and nice. Ava is behind him. She is smiling broadly, barely waiting for my response because she knows how I feel about this schlock (er, modeling). I take the card. I try and look like I’m considering it. I tell him we’re on vacation. I tell him we’ll discuss the request and get back to him if we want to trade our kid’s image for some photos in a field surrounded by birds, as he put it, so he can sell himself to bridezillas. He thanks us and tells Ava that if she isn’t already modeling she should be. She smiles again and returns to her book, The Supremes Greatest Hits, a book about the most important cases decided in the Supreme Court of the US. He walks back to his spot. I look at her. She doesn’t look up, but she does smile. Before I can even mutter the question, before I can even say that it’s her body, that we support her ideas and her identity, blah, blah, blah, she spouts, “No!” (whew)
Chicken Leg Soup (chef: Glenn Wilcox) for dinner
Friday 07 JUL
We provision for our trip to Nova Scotia. The trip from Portland to Shelburne will be about 250 miles. Given good conditions, this will mean two overnights. After a brief stop, we then will then cruise up the coast to Lunenburg and then Halifax, another 100 miles. If we stay for a day or two in each town we will need supplies for about seven days until we will have good provisioning again. Basically, this is a week’s worth of grocery shopping without the staples which we already have. Plus, because it’s not seven days of sailing, but stopping here and there, I can make some more complicated meals at anchorage. Eating well makes a big difference I have found and, oddly, I love to cook on board the boat.
We walk to the big supermarket in town, Hannaford’s, with a detour for breakfast at Becky’s diner. (Famous in these parts!) The trip is relatively short on foot and the detour including the wait in line for food is well worth it both for the food itself and for watching the locals and tourists intermingle. On the way back from the food shopping it starts to drizzle. Plus, we have too many things to carry, so we call an Uber. Our driver, John, is a former fisherman who, in a thick, melodic Maine accent, tells us that he used to catch wicked halibut, cod, and haddock commercially with his uncle before the regulations made it too difficult to make a living by fishing.* Nowadays, many fisherpeople have turned to lobstering because it’s less beaurocratic, but he’s not interested, he says. It seems too easy or something for him. Still, he’s thinking about fixing up the old Jones Sport forty footer again, not for fishin’ just for his own use. What are we up to, he asks. We tell him about our trip. He’s interested and asks about our boat a bit. Then, he asks us if know about Someone Dunlop (I forgot the first name) who, in the eighties, left from Portland harbor to try and cross the ocean in a ten-foot sailboat, but was never heard from again. Nope, we say, haven’t heard of him. Just in time John swings around as close as he can to the marina and drops us off. We’ll probably never see him again.
It’s time to leave Portland now. I have fallen for this place. For one, this city integrates water life into city life more than any other city I know. It also has a raging food scene, a comfortable climate (especially in the summer) and it’s a visually beautiful place. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this one nagging reservation. And it’s a big one. For me, there just isn’t enough racial diversity here. Everywhere I went I saw very few nonwhite people. This is surprising given Maine’s history. (Remember the Missouri Compromise? Neither do I exactly, other than to recall that Maine entered the nation on the condition that it be a free state.) Portland has many underground railroad sites, the third oldest African American church in the country, and the welcoming legal conditions for greater racial variety. Yet, where are the black people? Did I miss them?
Saturday 08 JUL / Anchored off South Portland, ME
Today is a moving day. We shower one last time, launder one last bit, we linger at the café. And then we go.
At the fuel dock we share the stretch with a yuge Emirate super yacht, which incidentally, drove sideways (perpendicularly) to park itself next to us – a miracle to behold. We need about half of our 70 gallons capacity to fill up. The emirate yacht needs 10,000 of its 20,000 gallons.
Sunday 09 JUL / Enroute from Portland, ME to Shelburne, NS
We leave a bit late, 7:30AM, waiting for the wind. She finally arrives around 10AM and we are able to turn off our motor. Once we have her, she is perfect. 10-15 kts coming from our hind starboard quarter. The seas are quite low and also coming from behindish too. We travel at 6kts.+ the whole day, making very, very good progress. It is a fabulous day (and night) of sailing.
On passages that dislodge us from land such as this one, we cease to have access to the internet. So far on this trip we have had relatively little interruption in our data service since we’ve always been close to coasts. Traveling with a thirteen-year-old American girl, I have thought that having this tether to her friends would be a soothing instrument in the transition to our new way of life. I thought that if she could text mates or check statuses she would feel right there with them even if she wasn’t right there with them. Isn’t that the whole premise? And so, it is with great pleasure that I can report, after heavy scientific analysis, that young people without internet are in much, much better moods than those with internet. Yep, it’s true. Today is the most delightful day of the trip so far as a family. All day Ava is bright, bubbly, and fun even though, or maybe because, she has no device in hand. She reads books out loud to us, debates ideas, learns how to knit “in the round,” and washes dishes almost without being asked. Dare I say so early on this trip, the deep secrets of the world are already being revealed.
I, on the other hand, spend the day feeling somewhat woozy. I’m not sure if what I have is sea sickness. I am not vomiting. I just don’t feel quite right. I try sitting in the sun. Bad idea. I try lying down below. Bad Idea. I read. I knit. I write. I eat. Nothing works. Maybe I’m dehydrated, I’ll drink some wine. Very. Bad. Idea.
Sometime in the afternoon we abruptly realize we are in a yacht race. Large boats are overtaking us. They are flying spinnakers. We are scissoring and smaller and slower. Some have to divert their course around us. Some come fairly close. We think they think we’re in this thing. This lasts all night. It’s kind of great actually. We wonder which race we’re in. We wonder how we’re doing.
Cup O’ Noodle for dinner. It’s all I can muster. No one seems to care. In fact, they may be excited. I’m going to find some good recipes for altering these pre-made noodle soups.
Monday 10 JUL / Enroute from Portland, ME to Shelburne, NS
The overnight passage is easy, but I am still not feeling well. As a result, I can’t read. And since I have no podcasts lined up, I am luxuriating in my own thoughts about myself and what I think of me. Sometime around 1AM, I get an intense craving for, of all things, mint tea. I mean, in-tense. I imagine running through fields of (and strangely tall) mint. I imagine that I arrive at some sort of dark medieval kitchen in a basement or something. There is a dirt floor. There is a cauldron of boiling water. On the massive wooden table are piles and piles of dried mint leaves waiting to be steeped. I pick them up and crush them in my fingers releasing their scent. I burrow my nose in them (like a bad fabric softener commercial). Finally, I boil them. The whole space fills with the minty vapor. I ladle myself a cup. And then, and then, I wake up. Oh noooooooo, I need to drink some mint tea NOW. When Glenn comes to take over the shift he doesn’t even let me make non-mint tea because we don’t have quite enough battery power or something. The mint-y frustration is now deep.
Glenn takes over from 3AM-6AM. Then I do from 6AM-9AM. Then Glenn. And finally, finally, when I wake up at noon, I am me once more. My body has returned to me. Which is to say, I no longer feel my body again.
This second day is very good sailing. We mostly hang out in the cockpit. It’s cooler but still sunny. We wear long sleeves.
I finish Roxanne Gay’s book Hunger. I finish this on the tail of Maggie Nelson’s book The Argonauts. Both of these books probe questions of the amount of freedom we have with respect to bodies, ours and others’. These authors push us to overcome the oppressive regimes that dictate what our bodies should look like and how they should be used and/or treated. They ask us to be more open, more accepting, more tolerant of the extremes and the in-betweens. How much freedom should a person have to be a shape they choose? Can a person choose to be between genders? Can sex ever not be stigmatized?
I go below at 5PM. I start dinner. From there I hear Ava reading to Glenn from her SCOTUS book. They discuss the chapters. Topics: Abortion/Right to life and Right to Death. For Ava, this is, at times, the first time she’s thinking through these corporal questions. When do you think life begins? she asks. Is it my body to decide? She wants to know. It’s your body, I want to say. You can do anything you want with your body without shame or guilt, I want to say. And I do. And I will. Over and over.
Again the evening is easy. We continue to move at 6kts with SW winds 10-15kts. We continue to be taking part in the Marblehead to Halifax Race (got some internet for a bit.) We continue to be overtaken by other racers, but they are curteous and avoid us with large berths.
Overnight I learn about the “Fourteen Day Rule” on the podcast Radio Lab. The unspoken agreement among scientists studying human development is that experimental testing on embryos should stop at fourteen days. This is (coincidentally?) the day when an embryo starts looking like a body.
(Sorry for the) CLIFF HANGER: This post is a bit late. In general, I am trying to post on Tuesdays. This post was delayed firstly by lack of access to internet/data. It was also delayed, however, by a fairly dramatic run in with the CBP (Canadian Border Patrol). I will write all about it for next week’s post because it sucked. A lot.