End of the Season

Although it wasn’t the plan when we set off at some point we decided that it would be best to sail the boat right to the marina where it will be stored for the winter rather than making a round trip. In light of Hurricane Sandy‘s imminent arrival, I am very thankful that we made that call.

Our two day journey from Breton Bay to Goose Bay was mostly uneventful. On Thursday we hopped up to Cobb Island, where we stopped for fuel and stayed at a marina for the night. It had been a damp, chilly night and the chili I’d brought for dinner was perfect in our cozy little boat, followed by an Italian ice treat we bought at the local grocery store. We walked over to look at the fire-boat  and when Felicity saw all these seagulls, she exclaimed, “Holy poop eagles!”After a brief thunderstorm in the morning, Friday turned into a much prettier day. On our way out of Cobb Island we were contacted by a Navy range boat by radio letting us know that the naval base at Dahlgren, Virginia was about to do live testing in the river so we needed to stay well away from them. They called Alan “Captain.” The conversation was interesting. After inquiring about our destination, they instructed Alan to get out his charts and proceeded to give him very specific marker-to-marker instructions for how to proceed. Basically they were just keeping us as close to the Maryland shoreline as possible, but they left no grey area for wandering any closer than was absolutely necessary to keep us out of shallow water.

By mid-afternoon we arrived at Goose Bay, where she’ll stay for the winter. The marina is just down the street from where I grew up. The feeling of being home, in a place where things are as they should be hit me hard for some reason on this trip back. I miss the trees of southern Maryland. The area where we live in Pennsylvania is all fields, where trees only line the open spaces. I realized how deeply I want again one day to live where the water is close and the woods are all around. As Savannah solemnly informed her siblings as they watched me add Old Bay to our tuna fish salad, “we’re Maryland people.”

The Monday following the end of our journey, Green Eyes was hauled out for the winter. I was a bit sad, but we weren’t sure if the weather would cooperate for the time we had tentatively scheduled for sailing her to the marina. As it turns out, the weather really would be a problem if she was still in the water. I’m still rather nervous just knowing she’s going to be sitting there in the kind of winds they’re predicting with this storm. We’ll have to change her home port before she goes back in for the spring, since we’re Maryland people.



Saint Clement, Pray for Us

After our lovely visit to St. Mary’s City, we got another pre-dawn start to our next historical destination: St. Clement’s Island, which was the first landing site of the Ark and the Dove before they settled at St. Mary’s City. There they celebrated the first Catholic Mass in the English New World, and waited as negotiations with the Yaocomaco Indians proceeded for the settlement of the St. Mary’s site.

It was an absolutely gorgeous sunny day, although there wasn’t a breath of wind. We motored the whole way there.

The island couldn’t be more beautiful. There’s not much there. At one end is a replica of the original lighthouse (which the Navy dynamited in the 1950s after it was declared unsafe), a bell tower, and a 40 foot tall cross dedicated to the memory of the first Marylanders.  St. Clement's IslandThat’s about it. There are picnic tables, grills, restrooms, and even a little stage that Felicity particularly enjoyed running about on. For the whole day, we were the only people on this little piece of heaven. The kids collected shells and rocks at the beach. We grilled hamburgers and ate a picnic lunch. We walked the length of the island, reading all the signs, soaking up the history, the beauty, and the sunshine.

Sammy named his little caterpillar friend “Daddy” after Alan.

It was a day I will never forget and I can only hope my children will remember. Truly that day it was our own secret paradise. All ours, and yet, not abandoned, but pristinely maintained.

At some point the breeze finally started to pick up a bit. Alan went down to the boat to check on the lines and returned musing that we might need to just hunker down there for the night, it was getting a bit rough. We soaked up a few more minutes of sunshine on a bench in front of that big cross, then decided it was time to leave. By that point ‘a bit rough’ had turned into uh-oh scary rough. The wind had picked way up and it was beating right into the island. The boat looked like a bucking horse as the bow surged up and down with each wave.

We got the kids into life jackets before even walking them down the pier toward the boat. Alan leaped aboard first, then grabbed each kid in turn by the shoulders of their life jacket, heaving them aboard and walking them safely down below. When my turn came, I assumed I’d have to grab on and help pull myself up, but before I even knew what had happened Alan had grabbed me and flung me on board like it was nothing, even as he grunted that I didn’t have shoulder straps.

I tried to take a picture that would show how rough it was, but the picture doesn’t begin to convey the situation. The only indications are the soaked pier and that Alan had all our lines doubled.

After checking and re-checking the lines, Alan sat to listen to the weather on the radio and worry. A cleat on our stern snapped right in half, and Alan worried some more, as it began to get dark. As the wind and waves continued to beat us all around, Sammy and Felicity blessedly fell asleep and Savannah experienced seasickness for the first time before falling asleep as well. I noted with a detached bemusement the irony that there at St. Clement’s Island we were in our worst sailing predicament yet. Maryland’s first settlers, surely travel weary after their ocean voyage, had named the island for Saint Clement because he is the Patron Saint of Sailors.

We reached the decision point. The weather reports indicated that the winds were only going to get stronger the next day. We had to try to get out of there. Alan said it was go time, say a prayer, and I said several. I was absolutely terrified that I wouldn’t be capable of doing what he needed me to do.

How we actually got out of there is a bit of a blur. Through a series of tying and untying lines from the pier, Alan managed to get the boat turned around so the stern was toward the pier in the next slip down from where we’d started. I was on board, catching lines and tying them off (badly and messily) and doing my best to keep us off the pier. Both of us nearly fell in the water at least once, but thankfully, neither of us actually did. At one point we were very nearly beaten into the pier. Alan was trying to pull the boat back with the lines and was absolutely at the end of his metaphorical rope with exhaustion. He gasped to me, “Watch…the dinghy….it’s…not…mine.” As if I didn’t remember the dinghy was borrowed? It was safe anyway. He was imagining it being crushed between the starboard side of the boat and the pier, but the tide had dropped enough that it had slid cleanly under the pier.

We did manage, after what felt like hours, but I’m sure wasn’t, to get all untied, with Alan back aboard. One of my big fears had been him somehow not making it back onto the boat after the lines were off and I had no choice but to get out of there before getting blown back into the island. I gunned the motor, which luckily was strong enough to get us away from the island without getting thrown back into the rocky point.

Darkness had set in completely as Alan rushed around undoing the mess I’d made of the lines, securing them properly and I steered us away from the island. I made a whole slew of LOST references in my head at this point. After he got things cleaned up a bit, Alan dug out the spotlight to check things out. Lo and behold, I’d missed an unlit marker by…. not very much. (I’m terrible at judging distance, but more on that another time.) That spooked me terribly. Why the heck would they put an unlit marker in the middle of the channel in the Potomac anyway? As much as possible I avoid steering at night now. After Alan took over I was able to appreciate the beauty of the sky full of stars and just a sliver of red moon.  It took us about an hour and a half to get to our anchorage that night: a nice protected little cove in Breton Bay.

All in all, our adventurous night cost us only a little bit of fiberglass damage and that broken cleat. Not nearly as bad as it could have been. Perhaps Saint Clement was looking out for us after all.


In 1634, the first settlement in the proprietary colony of Maryland was established at St. Mary’s City. It was the fourth permanent English settlement in the New World, after Jamestown in 1607, Plymouth in 1620, and Massachusetts Bay in 1630. Lord Baltimore Cecil Calvert was 27 years old – my age – when he received the charter for the Maryland colony in 1632. Whew. Makes me feel rather unaccomplished.

Last Tuesday, we stayed where we were and explored Historic St. Mary’s City. I highly recommend it as a family trip. It’s a very hands on experience for the kids. October seems to be a great time to go, too. The place was empty except for a couple school groups. We were able to join in with their tour and hear their guide when we wanted to, but also explore some of the sites totally on our own with the exception of the interpreters, who were, on the whole, excellent.

The favorite of the kids was the Maryland Dovea replica of one of the two original ships the first Maryland settlers arrived on. They ran up and down the boat and got to try out the bunks and the bilge pump.

They even got to try out the old fashioned knotmeter.

I appreciated the memorial for Margaret Brent, who served as executor for Governor Leonard Calvert’s estate, and in that capacity twice demanded and was refused a vote in the General Assembly.

Next to the Maryland Dove, the kids’ favorite part was the “Indian hamlet,” their recreation of a Yoacomaco village, with parts representing the village as inhabited by Yoacomaco and after the settlers purchased the lands from them.

The reproduction church will probably be very nice once the interior is completed – for now it’s basically empty inside except for a concept drawing. The downside is that it is based entirely off (educated) guesswork. They don’t have any contemporary descriptions of what the church actually looked like.Other notable sites include the replica of the 1676 State House and Maryland’s oldest barn. The historic city is nicely spread out, which allowed the kids plenty of room to stretch their legs after being cooped up on the boat for a day. It was a really lovely trip and we’ll certainly have to go again by car to check out the Plantation, which was a far enough walk from the city part of the historic site that we skipped it. It was a really lovely family day.

After we, by which I mean Alan, rowed back to the boat, we had a lovely evening drinking wine (which we poured right from the bag as the box had disintegrated in the cooler) and watching the St. Mary’s College rowing and sailing teams practice. The college is just beautiful; Savannah was even musing that she might want to go there. After dinner we rounded out the evening with hot chocolate, hot apple cider, and our first ever Jiffy Pop. Family time with absolutely no electronic devices – probably something we could use a lot more of.

A bumpy ride and other challenges

(This will be the first of several posts about our family fall sailing trip.)

Sunday we and all our stuff left for Maryland and the boat. I’m not quite sure how we made it all fit into the car and find places to live on the boat. Alan is a great packer. I tease him about it, calling him a Master Packer, but really, he sure does master pack stuff into a space.

It’s funny how our perspective of living in that small space changes with the weather and our experience. In the heat of the summer, it felt way too close at times and made me feel anxious at times trying to walk without bumping into or tripping over the table or a child or whatever random objects were about. It really seemed quite cozy and homey this time around. The night before we set off, we got everything stowed, and set up the bunks for sleeping. Alan programmed our course into the chart plotter while the kids staked out their corners up in the V-berth. I wonder how long they’ll all comfortably fit there?

We set off in the wee small hours of the morning, into the dark while the children slept. They were all up by sunrise. They day started off beautifully, and we noted such sights as a bald eagle, a Navy ship, and the Solomon’s Bridge.

Once we got out into the Chesapeake Bay, we ran into a bit of a storm. Scattered rain showers and some fairly strong winds. The ride got quite bumpy. I actually rather enjoyed it as long as the rain was at a minimum. A pat on the back is always nice, and Alan used the word “fantastic,” not once, but twice, to describe my steering job through the waves as he reefed the main. (That’s right, using the lingo. Just don’t make fun of me too badly when I completely botch the lingo, please.)

A little choppy out, but all was well, until I had to go down below to do something or other for the kids. As soon as I got down there I started to feel a bit nauseous. My first ever bout of seasickness! Ack! From that point I was not good until the storm passed and our ride got a bit smoother. Any time I went down below, it got much, much worse. Yes, I actually vomited a couple times. I’m sorry to say we never did eat lunch that day. Alan was sailing the boat and I couldn’t bring myself to stay down there long enough to make something.

I’d never had any kind of motion sickness before so this was all new to me. Alan told me to keep my eyes on the horizon, but that didn’t really help any more than just being out in the open in general. I did find I felt better when actually steering the boat, which I attributed to the great power of distraction, but from what I read later helps your brain make sense of the motion.

It was perhaps an hour after dark when we reached our first anchorage: Horseshoe Bend, just off of St. Mary’s College in St. Mary’s City. Ah, rest, relaxation, and DINNER! Although we munched down about a dozen individual size bags of pretzels in that last hour or so of sailing, we were still rather starved after missing lunch. I asked Felicity what she wanted for dinner. Miss Picky said tacos. Luckily for her, I’d brought the fixings for taco bowls – our word for what are basically individually fixed taco salads. Cozy in our little boat, we had the fixings all set out on the table, while a propane camping lantern provided light and a little bit of heat. It was lovely, until the gale blew in from the hatch. This ridiculous wind howled out of nowhere, rocking everything. Our dinner blew off the table, filling our bed with a whole jar of salsa as Sam screamed for fear the lantern would fall and set the boat aflame. I rushed to hold the lantern steady to minimize the kids’ freak out as Alan went out to check things and let the anchor line out a bit. The wind only lasted a minute or two and other than making a mess of our dinner, didn’t cause any trouble. Alan got up a few times during the night to check on things and make sure the anchor was still set well after that wind, but I slept soundly after our long first day.

Knitting: “Starghan” Baby Blanket

I’m glad to report that our sailing trip last week was absolutely wonderful, and sometime shortly I’ll have lots to say about that. Right now, though, it’s time to share a knitted project. Of all my knitting ventures so far, this is the one I’m most proud of: the Knitted Starghan.

I made this for the baby of a friend who happens to be a big Dallas Cowboys fan. In fact, the little guy’s name is going to be Dallas, hence the pattern and color selection. (Nobody tell my Pop Pop, please, I was raised a Redskins fan and this might be considered heretical.)

This was a really great project to make because seeing how the increases and decreases were used to create the star shape really helped me develop a better understanding of how different stitches work. (Oh, there really is a difference between k2tog and ssk? I get it now!)

Since the pattern instruction kind of stops and just tells you to keep following the established pattern, I made a chart to help me keep track of which even row type I was on, how many stitches were in the row, and where to do my color changes. It was very, very helpful. The other thing I found absolutely essential was working on bamboo needles in the beginning when it was on double pointed needles. That soft baby yarn just slipped off the metal needles waaay too easily. I actually started this project twice. After I got to my first color change in my first attempt I decided I needed to get a softer yarn. The yarn really does make the project. That’s becoming one of my fundamental beliefs. 

Now that I understand how the pattern works, if I were to do it again, I think I would try knitting the odd rows rather than purling them, just to give it more of a “knitted” look.

‘Twas the night before vacation…

We’re about to leave for a week of sailing. The preparation for these trips always overwhelms me. Just how much stuff does a family of five need to survive for a week anyhow? This will be our longest trip yet, and now that we’re properly into fall, preparing for weather possibilities is a bit more involved. I’ve made so. many. lists…

My notebook has been with me constantly all week – generally it’s traveled in my knitting bag, which is already constantly with me. I’m a bag lady.

I’ve shopped, and shopped again to pick up the things I forgot. I bought a gazillion snack things, made chili to freeze, boiled eggs, and carefully planned other easy meals for the week. I’ve packed clothes to take us through mild and dry to cold and wet weather. Thankfully, the forecast looks good right now, but one never knows. We have blankets, pillows, sheets, towels, toiletries, etc… Where the heck will we put all this stuff?

This is the main pile of stuff to be packed, but oh yes, there are others. (Shameless self promotion: I LOVE my SailorBags sailcloth stow bag that contains our towels and sheets. Once emptied it will make a perfect laundry bag. I just happen to sell these and other SailorBags products over at Hartlove Books and Gifts. The store is “closed” now for vacation, but will re-open in a week.)

Space is a big concern of mine. Our boat is a 32′ Bristol. Apparently it’s a “small” 32′, in that it has very little storage space compared to other 32′ boats. Alan explained to me why this is in regard to the design of the boat, and at some point I remembered and understood. Regardless, just like my nearly closet-less house, the boat has very few places to stow things. I’m not sure how all this is going to work out. Fall and winter clothing takes up a lot more room than summer clothing, and we just have more of everything this time. I’m sure somehow it will work out, but along with food supplies, it’s just one of those things I stress over.

And while I stress and pack and plan and check my list two dozen times, almost everyone else is calmly enjoying the anticipation of a lovely trip. Sammy must feel a bit of the worry I do. He was concerned enough to make sure his favorite friend Puppy Bear was not forgotten he choose to forego sleeping with him to leave him in the pile of things to be packed. He fell asleep hugging his stuffed shark instead.

I’ve hired Savannah as a product testing intern. She’s trying out a sailcloth book cover with her copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Assuming it passes her quality control test, that’s a product I’ll soon be offering in my store.

Meanwhile, Felicity pretends to sleep, betrayed by her cheesy grin.

We’ll be off to Maryland after church tomorrow and pushing off early Monday morning. The plan includes St. Clement’s Island and historic St. Mary’s City – places I haven’t been to since the Maryland history unit in 4th grade – so the history nerd in me is excited to return and to share the stories of these places with the kids. Here we go!

Time Management

The trouble with having a boat is that you actually want to use it. This becomes more of a problem when you live in a landlocked place like, say, Pennsylvania. Which we do… So, the boat resides in Maryland, about 3 hours away from us. Between shuffling schedules and the price of gas, going down there becomes a big deal. Alan’s schedule is a little more forgiving. He is a firefighter that works 24 hour shifts, so he gets some nice chunks of time in between shifts, which means he gets to go down more often than the rest of us do.

He was supposed to go down today for a day of sailing, but, as seems to be happening, it didn’t work out. His sailing buddy was unable to come along because of illness in his household. As it turned out, the weather is pretty crummy on the East Coast anyhow. Our street has turned into a river, as it likes to do in a heavy rain.

Alan is pretty bummed. It does get discouraging. When I asked him this morning what his plans were, he said to sell the boat before it falls into disrepair from neglect. Sigh. The kiddos are enjoying this ducky weather, though.