This weekend I went to the Annapolis Boat Show, which is a dangerous thing to do when you’re temporarily estranged from your boat.
Boat shows have a way of both inspiring and frustrating me. I am inspired by the sailors I meet and the adventures they’ve had, and yet I’m also frustrated that I don’t have a spare $2.5 million lying around to drop on a Gunboat. I mean, seriously? The toys I would buy…
But back to my estranged sailboat and, as it happens, my estranged sailing blog.
Just as the Annapolis Boat Show has given me the kick in the ass I needed to start online shopping for our next boat (sshhh, don’t tell Hideaway), I have also had a nudge from 4 amazing sailing bloggers, who have unwittingly encouraged me to get back to doing what I love – writing about sailing. And this Liebster Award nomination — like a blogging chain letter of sorts — is the nudge.
So, I’m extending a big thank-you to Genevieve of It’s a Necessity, Jessica of MJ Sailing, Dave and Alex of Sailing Banyan and Mark of the Cygnus III Blog for their amazing sailing and blogging feats and for reminding me that, yes, I still have a sailing blog.
And even though it might not be talking to me anymore since I went over to the dark side and moved onto a motorboat (look, it’s a temporary thing, alright?), I will be dragging my new web site and all its stories with me to the Dominican Republic next month where I will finally be reunited with s/v Hideaway and those enticing Caribbean waters.
But before that happens, it seems I have some things to answer for. So I’m doing a little mash-up of a selection from Genevieve, Dave & Alex, Jessica and Mark’s questions, in no particular order.
Just think of this as Turf to Surf’s 15 Q&A Greatest Hits — we’ll tie bandanas around our heads, roll up our shirt sleeves, light cigarettes and get rockin’.
1) Describe yourself in 5 words. No more, no less.
Loud. Competitive. Giggly. Hungry. Passionate.
2) What do you blog about?
I blog about sailing and travel and all the stupid ways I manage to hurt myself. Because stupidity always makes for a good story.
3) How much wine is too much?
I apparently answered this out loud when I said, “You can never have too much wine.” Which resulted in a dirty look from Ryan.
So I’m editing my response to say too much wine is exactly the amount that makes me rugby tackle strangers, argue politics with my parents, climb very tall trees or perform other stunts that I generally don’t do successfully when sober.
Some of these things may or may not have happened recently.
(Stop looking at me like that, Ryan.)
4) What is the worst travel spot you have been to?
There was this time in Russia — all my worst stories start that way – when I was backpacking through Siberia with this English guy who wanted to do some pretty remote hiking and needed a Russian speaker (me) to get to these places.
I don’t remember the name of the little village we were in, but we went there on a mission to get a boat across to the other side of Lake Baikal. Except when we arrived to this town — which took us several days to get to — we discovered the boat had left that morning. And it only goes once a week.
So we walked over to this little “baza” in the woods run by a semi-drunk owner who reluctantly agreed to rent us a room, albeit an unheated one. We didn’t really want to stay a whole week in this frigid town, which looked like the village where Lenin was exiled, but then again we had to figure out how we were going to get out of there, considering we had hitched a one-way ride and couldn’t count on a boat anymore.
We were only there for a few hours when two sketchy looking men turned up – a Russian and a Chechnyan – and seemed to appear wherever we happened to be. If we went for a walk, they were there. If we went to buy beer from the kiosk next door, they were behind us in line. If we cooked dinner in the kitchen, they showed up and started cooking next to us. Eventually, they introduced themselves, asked our names, made polite chat and, before long, insisted we sit down and drink vodka with them.
I didn’t have a good feeling about these guys, so I kept giving them excuses about being tired, ill, suffering from liver failure. But they wouldn’t give up. They insisted, as Russians do, that we had to drink together. So we cracked open the vodka and started tossing back the shots and telling stories. The boys matched each other shot for shot, but I dumped every other shot out on the floor under the table. The last thing I wanted was to wake up in the woods with a kidney missing, or worse.
The weird thing was, the more we drank, the more sober these two guys seemed to get, and the more personal their questions got.
Where are you from? How did you get here? What is an American doing in the middle of Siberia? Does your family know you’re here? Can I see your passport? What kind of work do you do? Do you work for the government? No, really, you work for the U.S. government, right?
Despite all the vodka we were throwing out on the floor, my travel companion and I were taking quite a clobbering, so our defenses were low. And before long, we found ourselves talking about where we were going next. And when the conversation turned to plans to get out of this town, the Russian and Chechnyan insisted that they personally drive us to wherever we wanted to go. And they wouldn’t take no for an answer, in a rather creepy and sober way. I kept trying to convince them we had another ride lined up, but they wouldn’t have it.
Yet when we woke up early the next morning, the two guys were gone. The owner of the “baza” said they had left in the middle of the night, shortly after we went to bed.
Let’s just say any place that leaves you feeling like you might have just dodged a bullet from the KGB definitely floats to the top of my list of worst travel spots ever.
5) What are you afraid of?
Other than the KGB?
I am always afraid of time running out on me, that there’s not enough time in this life to do all the incredible things I want to do, like sail around the world, row across the Atlantic, write a book, run 100 miles, live in Cambodia, build a house in Bali, go heli-skiing, cycle across the U.S., get really good at surfing, plus all the other adventures that have yet to enter my mind.
6) If you could have one wish granted, what would you ask for?
9 lives. If I weren’t so afraid of dying, I could take on some seriously crazy shit.
(Ryan is giving me that look again.)
7) What made you decide to live this lifestyle?
I have always loved traveling. It’s the thing that drew me to English language teaching – I could get a job almost anywhere in the world and support myself as I moved from country to country, seeing new places, learning languages, meeting interesting people and experiencing extraordinary cultures.
When Ryan first told me he wanted to sail around the world (back before we ever owned a boat), I thought he was nuts and that that was the craziest thing I’d ever heard of.
But when we bought Hideaway and learned to sail, I was completely smitten with the thrill of turning up to new ports by boat. It seemed like an amazing way to see the world, so it didn’t take long to get me on board (see what I did there?).
8) What is the best thing about your lifestyle?
Total, absolute freedom. We can go where we want (visas permitting), when we want (weather permitting) and we take our home with us.
When we’re sailing, we’re completely self-sufficient and yet at the same time, we’re always surrounded by communities of knowledgeable, adventurous, generous sailors. It’s an amazing lifestyle.
9) What is the worst thing about your lifestyle?
Boat work. So much boat work. And maybe my fashion sense. It deteriorates in equal proportion to the distance I sail from New York City.
Every time I step off the boat wearing the same pajama pants and salt-soaked T-shirt I’ve been wearing for a week straight, accessorized by my matted hair and comfy fur-covered Birkenstocks, Ryan gives me a look like, “Really? This is what you think is publicly acceptable these days?”
10) What do you carry on your boat that is completely useless?
Tomato paste. I have no idea what to do with it, what to make with it or what to lubricate with it. We bought a ridiculous amount of it in Florida for the trip South and I still have no idea what it’s for.
11) What is the stupidest thing you have done aboard your boat?
I once got into a very heated argument with Ryan (over something he was most definitely wrong about) and, in a huff, I tried to get into the dinghy and row myself to shore where I was hell-bent on finding alternative sleeping arrangements.
After rowing furiously for several minutes, I realized I wasn’t going anywhere…because Ryan had gone and tied the painter to a cleat when I wasn’t looking. So our mooring field in Long Island got to witness me spitting obscenities while rowing in place like a madwoman.
It wasn’t my finest moment.
12) Is there anything you really miss living aboard a boat?
Downhill skiing and roller derby. I would bring my slalom skis and roller-skates on board, but I’m not sure where I’d get to use them.
13) When was the first time you ever set foot on a sailboat?
It was my second date with Ryan in Doha, Qatar. We were both teaching English there and I think he was hoping to impress me by taking me out in a little Hobie catamaran he’d rented.
It was rather impressive, actually – particularly when Ryan flipped us over and had no idea how to right the catamaran again. We just stood there, neck-deep in water, mast pointing downward, balanced on the bottom of the boat with our mobile phones completely wet and fried, laughing our heads off.
14) What did your family say when you told them you were going to up and leave everything in order to travel?
My mom said, “Don’t talk to strangers.”
My dad said, “Here’s a can of mace. Just make sure the nozzle is pointing away from you when you spray it,” which shows how well the man knows me.
In reality, I didn’t feel like I was leaving anything behind because I didn’t have anything to leave at the age of 22. I’d just graduated from college and was joining the Peace Corps to teach English in the Russian Far East. My future seemed completely wide open and I just wanted to move towards it as fast as possible.
I’m sure my parents thought, “It’s only 2 years. Then she’ll come home and get a real job.”
(Sorry about that, mom and dad.)
15) Do you think you’ve found the place you’d like to retire to?
I don’t believe in a “forever place,” the same way I don’t believe in a “forever boat.” There is a perfect place for every time, age and purpose, just like there is the perfect boat for every kind of sailor and sea adventure. The place I would love to go to right now isn’t going to be the same place I want to be in 20 years’ time.
I loved living in London, Nakhodka, Doha, Barcelona, Seville, New York, Cabarete and Ubud – each of these places had something to offer me at different times and phases of my life. Some of those places I’d go back to in a heartbeat and some of them I wouldn’t, because I’ve moved on and I want different things now.
I have the same feeling about boats as I do about places. We’re still sailing on our first boat, our Catalina 34. She’s been good to us as a training boat and for cruising through the Bahamas and the Caribbean. But when we wanted to go racing, we left her for 18 months and got on 70-foot racing yachts for the Clipper Race.
Next, we’ll be looking for the boat we want to do our circumnavigation with and we’re toying with the idea of buying a catamaran. I know, I know, you monohull lovers are recoiling in horror as you read this, but we like the idea of sailing around the world in something with enough space that the next time I get mad at Ryan, I can just go sleep in my own hull, rather than try to row to shore.
When we finish our circumnavigation on whatever kind of boat we decide to buy, I have no doubt we’ll want a completely different boat (a monohull racer/cruiser would be awesome) for whatever it is we want to do next. Or maybe we won’t want a boat at all – I have no idea. What’s in the future remains in the future.
The only thing I know for sure is that there is no place or boat on this earth that can hold my interest forever. So the idea of “retiring” somewhere for the rest of my life terrifies me.
Sharing the love by passing on the…
However, there are a few blogs that seem to have gotten left out of the chain. And they are some of the most kickass sailors out there writing and making videos about their adventures. Which is why I’d like to nominate the following folks for the Liebster Award…
Liz Clark & The Voyage of Swell – Captain Lizzy is a truly incredible sailor, surfer and all-around human being whose blog I’ve been following for a few years. Her impressive feats sailing solo around the world looking for the best surfing spots have me in constant awe of her strength and tenacity.
Sailing, Simplicity & The Pursuit of Happiness – You probably already know Teresa Carey and her story, as she is an incredibly inspiring solo voyager. She amazed and confused the sailing community by responding to her partner Ben’s desire to solo circumnavigate the globe by buying her own boat to take on her own solo journey. At his side. On a separate boat. She is also the reason why every time I get fed up with living on a tiny, floating vessel with Ryan, I demand that he get his own boat. Or that I get my own boat.
S/V Delos – If you haven’t seen the awesome and inspiring sailing videos these guys make yet, then get yourself a nice cup of tea, glass of wine, or whatever you need to settle in for a few hours, and just start watching. I’m not certain, but it’s very possible the young folks on board s/v Delos are having the most fun EVER on a circumnavigation. Mind you, this is primarily a video blog, so hey, Delos crew — if you guys feel like answering questions on video, that would be fine by me.
More Hands on Deck – These young guys are also inspiring and entertaining video bloggers who have put a TON of sweat equity into their old boat, s/v Destiny, which they’ve revived with very little money and a lot of hard work and resourcefulness. And they’re having a lot of fun doing what they do, which is getting ready to sail around the world however they can.
Summertime Rolls – Rebecca and Brian generously invited us out to sail on their catamaran with them in Nantucket this summer and I couldn’t be more grateful for their hospitality and friendship. They’re fellow New Yorkers and they’re headed South this year to the Caribbean where we’re hoping they’ll raft up to us and share a few Painkillers.
10 questions for you intrepid sailing bloggers:
- Where are you now and where are you headed?
- What’s the feature you love most about your boat?
- What things are broken on your boat right now that urgently need fixing/replacing?
- What’s the most scared you’ve ever been on a journey and what happened?
- What do you wish you were more skilled in and why?
- What adventures other than sailing across oceans would you consider taking on?
- Who taught you to sail and was it love at first experience?
- What is the most important thing your sailing experiences have taught you about life?
- If you were left alone in your favorite anchorage for a week, what would you do with your time?
- What’s next on your list of things to achieve? (Sailing or non-sailing related)
And if you haven’t already checked out the blogs of the lovely folks who threw these questions at me, you need to open a few new browser tabs and go check them out pronto. Here’s a little bit about them:
It’s a Necessity – This blog chronicles a gorgeous family of four who I was lucky to be able to spend time with in the Dominican Republic. They sail on a boat called s/v Necesse, and they’ve been charming the world with their adorable children and their giving nature. They just spent a year in the D.R. working for a non-profit organization called Live Different and we’re hoping we’ll get to hang out with them again when we get down to the D.R. next month.
MJ Sailing – Matt and Jessica have just made it across the Atlantic and I’m looking forward to following their adventures, as they have just closed the deal on an aluminum boat, which they’ll be picking up in Florida some time this year. They’ve had some pretty awesome adventures since we last saw them in St. Augustine, Florida in 2012.
Sailing Banyan – Dave and Alex are a wealth of fun, energy and expertise. We’ve shared many anchorages and rum punches with these two in the Bahamas and are looking forward to tracking them down in the Caribbean this winter so we can carry on getting into trouble with them.
Cygnus III – Mark is, hands-down, the funniest story-teller in the sailing world. So if you don’t check out his blog, you’re missing out on a good chuckle. His dry wit allows you to laugh at his blunders as he sails around the world with his family in tow.