The idea was to stay at Roque for a day or two, after that late arrival in the night. But morning came, awake at 6:30, and a lovely north wind. And if I hopped right to it, almost an entire incoming tide. The forecast said “around 10 knots” for the wind, continuing from the north. One might think that a north wind would not be the best, but this coastline is really northeast/southwest, and if the breeze goes a little northwest it’s truly ideal. So off I went…
Naturally, by an hour later, when I was thoroughly committed, the breeze died back to a moderate riffle on the water. But the boat was still moving, and that early bit of wind had allowed for getting out into the current. And the best part about light wind is that it really lets you see what’s going on in the water. Porpoises, for one thing, and seals, and the swirling current patterns.
Eventually I was again passing Cross Island – site of the twilight zone experience from the afternoon before. With a good number of lobster buoys, each trailing their pickup buoy about 10 feet down current, one could see the wild pattern of what was going on out there. Each buoy had its own particular current direction, generally going the same way, but with enough variation – as much as 20° or so – to help explain what had been happening the day before. That day there was too much wind/waves for this to stand out. Added to the wavering current, the wind had its own shifting thing going on, coming from the north across the various islands. No wonder I had been having so much trouble!
Dave has a theory about current that I’m inclined to agree with, that it’s like a garden hose left loose on the ground with the water turned on full blast, causing the hose to flip around, snake-like. And seemingly randomly, never doing the same thing twice. His theory is based on observing current in the same spot at the same time of tide doing different things on different days. Or different things at different consecutive moments on the same day. This makes sense – like watching a river with rapids that move and change as the river gurgles. And of course the Bay of Fundy, with its enormous tides and resulting enormous currents, is a great example of the hose turned on full blast. It was so much nicer observing this process with loads of daylight, a couple of hours of favorable current left, and a mild breeze suitable for studying the water. I’ve been learning so much in these big tides, and really enjoying the process.
As it turned out, that bit of breeze barely made it to Cutler. At about a quarter mile out from the point that you have to get around to go into the harbor, there was a gurgling noise off toward the open water. The tide line! The main current out in the open water had turned, and where that current sheared against the still inbound water near the shore, there was enough activity to make a clear gurgle. Fundy is amazing.
Out came the yuloh, and I gave it a good run toward the point. I was still pretty committed about declining the motor – but pretty determined to get into that harbor! The yuloh still has to get its own blog post – but the longer that gets postponed, the more I learn about it, so it’ll be a better, more thorough writeup when it finally happens. Anyway, it worked! It was possible to get the boat close enough to the corner, just as the current was starting to be too much to go against, to be in position for the perfect little bit of wind that came up at just the right moment and pushed the boat across into the more protected beginning of the harbor. Hooray!
By an hour later, with a combination of wind and yuloh, we – boat and I – were anchored up at the shallow end of Cutler harbor. Again I had this idea that now I would take a rest, and sail farther in a couple of days. And morning came, and it seemed the perfect set of conditions for a run up to look at Canada.
Because of the plants, and the home canned beef stew, neither of which are border-worthy, the Canadian border is the defined limit of this trip. I was all fired up to sail to Nova Scotia, when I left home – charts are on board, along with passport, appropriate flags, etc. – but I hadn’t completely thought through the food situation. Beef is not allowed across either border, and soil and live plants are unlikely to be accepted. I have ideas for how to do this differently in the future, but for now, I’m unwilling to give up my food!
So my goal became to at least look at Canada. And I’ve succeeded! Grand Manan Island, and Campobello Island, both Canada. In the end, I turned around about 3 miles south of West Quoddy Head, going across Grand Manan Channel to within about 1 mile of the border marked on the chart out in the middle of the water. Technically you can cross the line without going through customs processes so long as you don’t anchor or tie up anywhere on the other side. But I didn’t want to push this, and the tide was about done anyway. So I had a really good look, took a bunch of pictures, and turned around.
The way back involved spending a rolling but beautiful half the night in the outer part of Haycock harbor, and then setting out before dawn to once again catch the tide going the right way. Next thing you know, the tide was about done, and I was almost but not quite into Cutler. One of these days I’m going to go into that harbor with enough wind and no tide stress! But it worked out again, and I spent the next few days cozy at the shallow end of the harbor.
The lobster folks are a little slow to warm up to you in Cutler. But by the time I was leaving – after three days that included a false start and return when there wasn’t enough wind to get around to the next bay – some of them had actually started waving, and I had started to become familiar with specific boats. It’s an interesting harbor, and well protected at that far end, and I would go there again.
So now I’m at Roque Island, again – delighted to have a strong phone signal and a workable Internet connection once again! The wind is supposed to be light for the next couple days, and I’m hoping it’s true. This is a lovely place to stay.
As of this writing, it’s Tuesday, August 27, 2013. I’m anchored in Cutler, Maine, which is about 15 miles southwest of the Canadian border.
After that last post, I had a tremendous rest. Dyer Island was beautiful, and the fellow who does the puffin tours and cookouts came back out, just to visit. That was a real treat, and as things developed it worked out that Suzanne would send the new charger for the phone to Buzzy, this new friend, and then he would bring it to me, wherever I was anchored in the general vicinity.
One thing I’ve learned with all these equipment issues is that “overnight delivery” is a figure of speech, not a definition of service! My desires for receiving things quickly happen to have fallen on the weekend, which is probably part of the issue. Regardless, both the post office, and even FedEx – who charges more than twice as much – decline to carry things around on the weekend. FedEx has the poor grace to receive a package on Saturday, accept “overnight delivery” rates, and actually deliver the item late on Tuesday. I’m only mentioning this in case somebody needs this information in the future – I had no idea how these things go. The post office said that they could not guarantee delivery until after the weekend, but actually managed a Saturday arrival after receiving the package on a Friday.
As it turned out, FedEx was helping ensure that I had a nice long stay near the town of Milbridge, which was not a bad thing. Buzzy was doing another cookout at Dyer Island on Sunday, and brought another lobster! Nice visits were had, I went up the river to Milbridge for one night, and out to Trafton Island, which was also very pretty. Here is a shameless plug for Buzzy’s business, Downeast Coastal Cruises, which has a nice, detailed website: http://www.downeastcoastalcruises.com The puffins have now pretty much left for the season, but earlier in the summer they spend a lot of time in this area. I didn’t see one, but wasn’t looking in the right places. The cruises are still going out for other wildlife and lobster…
Going back to the story, nearing sunset on Tuesday the phone charger package finally made it – and it worked! That was at Trafton Island, and the next morning I was off. When I visited with my friend Bill Cheney a few weeks ago, who sails a lovely catboat without an engine, we talked about his sailing this summer, and his biggest comment was that there hadn’t been much wind this year, and that he had been doing a lot of floating around. I can second that… I’ve covered a good bit of distance, but doing that has involved a lot of very minimal wind, floating around, moving gradually with the current, and admiring the sights of particular locations – for extended periods of time!
So I made it to Great Waas Island, about 10 miles away from Trafton Island, after a full day. The breeze did come up more seriously around four o’clock, which was a great blessing. I was able to get into my all time favorite harbor – The Mud Hole – and stay a couple days. From there I made an attempt to sail to Cutler. Plan B was something to do with Machias.
By the time you get up this way, it’s almost the Bay of Fundy, and the current is a serious factor. There was a little bit of a breeze, and the current running the right way for a good long time. But a funny thing happened off of Cross Island, about 5 miles southwest of Cutler. The current had turned – just past full moon, so the current was extra substantial – and the wind was shifting between north and northwest, tending to push the boat away from the shore. I had been happily moving along about 3 miles out, with the afternoon wind blowing quite nicely after a very slow morning. After the current turned I gave up on Cutler and started thinking about one of the harbors on the other side of Cross Island. Not to happen! In fact, any way I turned, there was no progress to be made toward land. On the port tack the boat was headed straight into the current. Sailing nicely the boat was going about 3 knots through the water, which is about how fast the current was going in the opposite direction. Which meant that the boat was at a standstill, in spite of the substantial wake it was making. On the starboard tack, theoretically headed toward land, the only direction that the boat would hold was a little bit off the shore from where I had begun that morning at Great Waas. Which was about 15 miles away.
It felt like the Twilight Zone – according to ordinary sailing dynamics, a port tack that heads parallel to the shore on your left should mean that on the starboard tack (wind coming toward the boat across the starboard bow) you should be making progress toward that previously left-hand shore. Both tired and frustrated, I was also confused. Debating spending the night out and waiting for the next incoming tide, but I had just succeeded in getting rested with that almost a week around Milbridge and a couple of nights at The Mud Hole. An overnight of constant vigilance with short dozing naps was really not the right answer so soon after the last one, and night navigation in the vicinity of the Bay of Fundy is not something to be done with anything less than full attention.
On the bright side, I had a working telephone! And friends who sail without motors in challenging conditions. Miraculously, those friends were handy to their phone, so there I was getting to run through the situation with Dave and Anke, the folks who sail in Southeast Alaska. After laying it all out, there was Dave’s voice sympathetically saying “I think you’re in it.” Ah well. I had called mainly because I wasn’t sure of my analysis of the situation, thinking that maybe I was missing something, and feeling very aware of the fatigue issue and how that affects thinking.
Anke said that if it was her, she would go for the conservative approach, and go back to where I had started, even though it meant giving up so many miles, and coming in after dark. I pondered all this, and felt comforted by the conversation, even though I was still tired, and the sun was still getting lower. So we got off the phone, I looked around for another few minutes, holding position sailing into the current, and then said the heck with it and turned back the way I had come.
Eventually the ebbing tide ran itself out, and it became possible to work more toward shore. Sometime after dark I was able to make real progress toward Roque Island, which was a few miles east of where I started, though also more north. The moon was due to come up about an hour after sunset, and it felt like a harbor I could get into with that bit of light. Fortunately there was no fog! The wind died back after sunset, so it was a slow business tacking toward the island, but it was possible to make progress, and satisfying to see the various landmarks gradually move along.
As it turned out, I sailed about half the night, anchoring by the big beach at Roque Island at about 12:30 AM. But it worked out pretty well – I got to have a beautiful night sail, with lovely stars and moon, and I got to have that lovely sail knowing that I didn’t have to keep going all night long. Once anchored, it was a great sleep!
The primary lesson in this experience has to do with distance from shore. Ordinarily I like sailing a little ways out – the navigation is less complicated, it’s less stressful as far as variation in the self steering equipment, and when there’s a favorable current it often runs faster at some distance from the shore. But my crucial mistake was that I didn’t start moving closer in while the current was still favorable, so that when it turned I could duck right in to one of my Plan B harbors. So one learns! And also about the Fundy tides, which make themselves felt so strongly even this far away. It’s been just fascinating, on many levels.
The other day sailing started at about 6 AM, from Bar Harbor, and went through until the following day at about 4 PM, when I anchored in Dyer Bay. This wasn’t exactly planned ahead, but since doing these various overnight passages it has become more comfortable to just not worry about “anchored for the night” as a desperate priority. I’m liking this a lot – it has significantly reduced my stress levels about wind that quits blowing, and choices about nearby harbors that for one reason or another do not seem appealing.
If I had been aware of what the weather was going to actually do, rather than what was in the forecast, I might have done something different, but as it was I had a very, very interesting night. For one thing, there was fog. From about 10 AM until about 3 PM the following day visibility varied from 50 feet to about a quarter of a mile, averaging about 100 feet. Talk about sensory deprivation! I’d rather be in a cozy harbor for that kind of extended fog, but it really was an interesting experience. The AIS worked, showing me where the fast catamaran whalewatch boats were going, and showing them where I was, and I’ve never been so happy about all the noise that lobster boats make! Between the engines and the squealing winches, even though I almost never saw them I always knew where they were. And apparently they were picking up the return off the big radar reflector, and occasionally hearing my foghorn blasts, because we never seemed in danger of a near miss. Eventually I started to relax more about that.
Adding to the visibility issues, the wind stopped blowing. For a very, very long time. By evening I was a few miles off the entrance to Frenchman Bay, and things pretty much stayed that way, with a little variation here and there, until well into the next day. Sheesh!
But here’s the fun part: after dark, eventually with a quarter moon showing through the hole in the fog straight overhead, the other boats were gone, and it was all about sea life. Porpoises, who had been coming by now and then during the day, came by in the night also, making their typical breathing noises. And some kind of seabird, or rather a group of them, spent quite a bit of time around the boat chattering in the dark. They were flying, fast, and there were no splashing sounds like terns diving, and then when the light came up in the morning they were gone. Petrels maybe? They seemed small rather than large. I’m looking forward to getting home to my bird sounds CD, or maybe taking a crack at bird sounds on the Internet while I’m out here.
The most exciting thing was the phosphorescence in the water – and fish! About 2 AM I was out to fuss with sails and steering – with all that open water and miles in almost every direction, the boat left to drift was making a beeline for the only nearby land, Baker Island, some ways off of Mount Desert Island. Plotting our position with the lat/lon coordinates off the GPS, we were 3 1/2 miles from that island. No more casual drifting in the non-wind…
So anyway, there I was out in the cockpit to sort things out and thinking gee, that’s a funny reflection in the water. Then it came closer, a faint oval splotch, maybe 6 feet long. Apparently this was minnows, stirring up the phosphorescence, because the next thing that happened was individual streaks shooting through the water, bigger, and then some bigger streaks after them, and then all the light was gone except for the individual sparkles of the phosphorescent plankton that light up when the waves disturb them. I don’t think that big oval thing happened again – maybe once or twice – but the shooting streaks came by a number of times. One set looked like the pattern of schools of mackerel that I’ve seen going by during the day in a couple of harbors. But who knows! It was like watching shooting stars – never knowing where they would come up, and such a thrill every time it happened.
Now it’s three days later, and I’m in a relatively cozy cove on the northeast side of Dyer Island. I’m still recovering from having gotten so tired – I really could’ve been resting instead of sailing, starting out the other day! As it was, I sailed overnight already a little in need of rest. But gosh it was fun! The lobster folks who came by in the morning I’m pretty sure thought I was out of my mind, out there floating on the glassy water, but they were friendly about it, and I could hear them talking in the fog afterwards, snatches of words about the sailboat, and the motor (unused), so I think it made for some entertainment.
I do have some thoughts about fatigue, as a result of this particular venture. The wind started blowing, finally, around noon on the second day, so I was able to start sailing, rather than mostly hanging around floating in place or drifting as the tide went first one way and then the other. I sailed into Dyer Bay – after an attempt at Gouldsboro Bay that was eventually abandoned as too hazardous in the fog and the giant swells, which were breaking dramatically on the island rocks very close to the narrow channel. Dyer Bay, right next to Gouldsboro, was much simpler to get into but not as protected from the swell. By 4 PM I was anchored in a spot that rolled as much as Bar Harbor but was vastly more peaceful in terms of noise and boat wakes. It was so nice to go to sleep all snug! Leecloth up, but otherwise no worries.
Next day (this was the day of the lobsters) I sailed off in search of a truly restful place to stay a little while and catch up on both sleep and general restfulness. It took about six hours of sailing to get to this cove on Dyer Island, and oddly enough since I had just had that great night’s sleep, this was the day that I felt truly compromised by fatigue. By fatigue I don’t mean sleepiness – rather, the changes in reflexes, thinking, situational awareness, and decision-making that come with inadequate rest. I made three mistakes that day, over the course of that sail. They all turned out okay, but they were things that should not have happened in the way that they did.
So now I’m grounded – at anchor until I can show myself that I am neither exhausted after some small task, nor mentally confused at something that is normally a little mentally challenging but perfectly doable. The striking thing about fatigue is that it’s kind of like hypothermia – when you’re in it, your brain is affected, and your ability to perceive what’s happening is compromised. I’m accustomed to hypothermia issues, and know how to maintain my awareness and vigilance, and how to stay aware enough to take appropriate action if I am becoming that kind of cold. While I’m here resting, I’m thinking about how to develop that awareness and vigilance about fatigue. And even more important, refining my priorities so that choices I’m making well before this kind of fatigue can happen mean that I have a much better chance of avoiding it in the first place. I love sailing through the night – but I’m going to do a better job of making sure that my average state of rest is in a better place, so that I have better reserves for unexpected things like no appreciable wind for a solid 12 hours (NOAA forecast 5 to 10 for the entire time!)
Meantime, it’s the image of those fish shooting phosphorescent streaks through the water that keeps me perfectly delighted to have done exactly what I did. You don’t see that stuff if the wind is blowing, because the water isn’t still enough for that sort of thing to show – it was an extraordinary night.
A funny thing happened today. First thing in the morning, at about 6:30, I had just woken up about 10 minutes earlier. Sleeping in – after being out all night the night before that – more on that next time!
But this morning I was waking up in a small shallow cove just inside Dyer Bay, which is a little bit east of Schoodic Peninsula, which is just east of Acadia. It’s beautiful. A small lobster boat was hauling traps right nearby, and I decided to try for a lobster. They came over, and dropped a nice sized lobster in my bucket. I handed the skipper $10, which is pretty seriously overpaying, especially when the price he quoted was “a couple dollars,” but it makes me crazy how hard the lobster folks work for such minimal gain, when the lobsters cost so much retail. This friendly older guy with a tremendous Maine accent said that was too much, looking a bit distressed, but I said hey, you delivered to my boat! He offered me a second lobster, so I said okay, and he had his crew guy pick out a smaller one, which was tossed unceremoniously on top of the one already in the bucket. We talked for another minute, and off they went.
I looked at that second lobster, and thought about my slightly complicated lobster cooking arrangement, and plans for sailing off this morning. Before I went back in the cabin to finish waking up and do morning things I told the second, smaller, lobster that it was going to go free, and have a chance to go grow up a little more.
Later, ready to properly start the day, I was having some second thoughts about turning lobster number two loose, thinking that it might be really nice to have a nice big lobster meal. But then I thought, well, I told that lobster I was going to turn it loose, and that would be lousy to go back on that, especially considering the consequences for the lobster. And I thought about my cooking arrangement, and that what I really need is a pair of tongs, if I’m going to cook more than one of these creatures.
For cooking, I use a small propane stove with a gimbaling arrangement so things won’t spill when the boat rolls. It doesn’t hold a broad pot, so I have a narrow somewhat deep one. It turns out that for lobster, if I do in the lobster first and then separate the claws and tail from the body it will all fit, just. An inch of water in the bottom of the pot is enough to steam it, and the whole business comes out really good. I think it’s tastier actually, compared to boiled in salt water which is more the standard. But for two lobsters, it’s going to be complicated… the pieces are very, very hot, when it’s time to get them out of the pot, and only one lobster will fit at a time.
And then there’s that I made that promise. So when I was getting ready to go, out came lobster number two, rubber bands snipped off its claws, and over the side. I hope it knows enough not to run right back into another trap! Lobster number one stayed in the bucket, with hopes that it would hang in through a few hours of sailing.
As it turned out, it took until about three o’clock to get to where I am now – Northeast Cove at Dyer Island (which, oddly enough, is not in Dyer Bay, but a couple of bays over.) As I was anchoring in this truly beautiful spot, which is much better protected than last night, there was one other boat, a fairly small powerboat on a mooring, and a skiff with several people on shore. When they came back to their boat we had a little fun chatting about who was from where – most of them were from North Carolina, and the boat skipper said he brings people out here for lobster cookouts on the beach. Just before they left, next thing you know they said that they had two lobsters left over, and would I like them? Two lobsters, already cooked!
Now I’ve had dinner – two lobsters, served intact. What a gift, especially after what turned into six hours of sailing! Lobster number one from this morning was looking like it wasn’t doing so well after the day in the bucket, but now that the boat is stationary I was able to get out the wire mesh fish basket. Lobster in basket, over the side, and an hour later it’s looking quite feisty again.
So this has been my day – I reluctantly let go of the idea of two lobsters for dinner, turned that little one loose, and set off. And ended up having two lobsters for dinner, with one left over for tomorrow! Miraculous.
Yesterday morning (Friday, August 10) I set out from Mackerel Cove with the idea that I would go east. West wind, directly behind, unhappy autopilot, traffic in the form of power mega yachts, and me thinking “there has got to be a better way.”
So on the theory that the autopilot would be happier, which makes me much happier – constant steering uses up way too many stamina points in a given amount of time – I turned north into Blue Hill Bay, on the west side of Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park. I was grouchy about this, and frustrated that, because of timing related to an outside world commitment, I did not continue sailing two days before when the wind was perfect and easy. That day there was not even any traffic, with the lousy weather forecast and obvious rain coming. Given a similar choice in the future, I’ll be sailing!
However, I’ve been having quite a bit of fun, regardless. Sailing up Blue Hill Bay wasn’t so easy, because the wind farther up the bay was northwest, instead of west or southwest down where I first turned. But it was fascinating watching the transition. I even got faked out and turned back south, thinking that the wind had shifted northwest everywhere. Shortly I was back in the west/southwest area… turning north again. First I thought that the lobster boats would think I was a little crazy, but then I decided I would just look like a daysailor, even though that’s something I almost never do (daysailing – who knows what I look like!) Then it was back to tacking north, struggling to turn the corner past Moose Island.
That night – after a long day of fussy sailing – was spent at the north end of Bartlett Narrows, which was quite pretty and fairly peaceful. The goal was Mount Desert Narrows, for a little wild fun going the long way around the island. The vertical clearance for the highway bridge that crosses the Narrows is 25 feet at high tide, and quite a bit more when the tide is down. This boat only needs 20, so that looked fine. No information on the current, in either the current tables or cruising guides. And mention in one of the cruising guides that the shallow channel is entirely unmarked. Oh, I said, they probably have sticks or something put out by the local people… but just to be on the safe side I waited for half tide, rising, to give it a try. The chart shows about 1 foot of water in the channel at low, and surrounding mud flats as well as rocks (this boat needs a little less than 2 feet in order to stay floating). Half tide would mean about 6 feet of water in the channel, and likely water over the mudflats. I figured if worse came to worst and I stuck on one of the mud flats, perhaps with current problems, I would just let the anchor down and wait for another hour or two of water to arrive.
As it turned out, I scooted through without mishap, but it was fascinating. No local markers. In the wide entrance before the bridge, no current. Under the bridge, about 2 knots running westbound, but I had a good breeze behind me. Actually, it was nice to have the opposing current, which helped slow the boat with the wind directly behind. The bridge pylons aren’t very far apart, so it was nice to go at a more moderate, controlled pace. I had considered reefing ahead of time, but was worried about losing the wind under the bridge and having to deal with whatever current I was going to find in that tight space. So too much sail felt like a better option than not enough – bridges are notorious for completely blocking the wind while you are under them, which can get very stressful if current starts pushing you toward the pylons.
The trickiest part with the channel issues in Mount Desert Narrows is on the east side of the bridge, and the water isn’t as clear as most of the coast. At one point I saw weeds about a foot down, indicating a rock just below that… mostly through cosmic grace, no other rocks materialized so close, and I never did see the mud. I took my best guess at the more southerly channel, swinging around toward the shore and staying away from the big rocks in the middle. No current on the eastern side either – just in that tight little squeeze under the bridge where the Narrows are practically dammed off for the highway, with just one little gap that’s an actual bridge.
So that’s my adrenaline story for the day! Then several more hours of fussy sailing, with the wind shifting all over as it moved around the thousand foot mountains of Acadia. It actually would have been less hand steering to have just sailed west from the beginning – but I’ve had a great adventure! I don’t think I’ll go around this way again, but it was really fun to do once.
Now I’m near the north end of Frenchman Bay, in the Eastern Harbor at Sorrento. Thank you Kent, for pointing out this harbor! I’m anchored in a small bit of a cove on the south side of the harbor, right underneath my own personal steep rocky cliff! The light wasn’t right for a picture, but maybe in the morning. It’s very, very beautiful. Tonight a meteor shower is forecast, so the anchor light is going to have a vacation, and I’m hoping that the clouds and the fog hold off. It’s a tossup about tomorrow – maybe a day of rest!
Besides all the technical details of planning, provisioning, sailing, etc., doing something like this kind of trip involves a good bit of work on how you get yourself through it, body and spirit. It’s often just plain fun, which does the trick just fine at those times. But being out, particularly for so long, is also challenging, both physically and in terms of how it feels emotionally. I have a small but sturdy collection of tools that help keep my personal well-being reasonably in order, on both counts.
On the body front, along with basic things like regular exercises and attending to sore muscles, including carrying a “thera-cane” on board to be able to easily and effectively work on back and shoulder muscles, I’ve also been working with a variation on Yamuna Body Rolling (thank you Joanne!) Ordinarily this version of bodywork self-care involves using a soft ball about 10 inches in diameter, but the small boat version is scaled down, with a firmer ball about 5 inches in diameter. It works well for following muscles, using one’s body weight to apply gentle pressure from where the muscles begin to where they attach at the far end, helping them release and let go. This helps not only the muscles but nearby nerves, connective tissue, etc. That’s a tiny description of a more involved process, but if anybody is interested it’s easy to find out more at: http://www.yamunabodyrolling.com I’m particularly fond of the book Body Rolling: An Experiential Approach to Complete Muscle Release, by Yamuna Zake. Though this book is directed toward bodywork practitioners, it’s a gold mine for anybody who’s inclined to really get into the subject, regardless of background.
The bottom line, on the body front, is that along with good food and a moderate collection of favorite supplements, quite a bit of time doing bodywork has been really helpful. Days in quiet harbors are a real treat for this, and have made the difference between this whole boat project being doable and simply not.
And then there’s the inner work. I do a lot of this anyway, at home, in the process of working through old history. But I’ve been surprised to find that the same tools I’ve come to for working on old issues have been very, very useful for the more immediate strains of sailing/cruising. The two from which I get the most mileage are EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) and TRE (Trauma Releasing Exercises).
EFT involves tapping on a series of acupuncture points, while focusing on the particular issue at hand. The theory is that this releases blockages in the energy meridians, leading to more ease and comfort, both physically and emotionally. One of the lovely things about it is that there is no need to force a dividing line between physical and emotional experience – whatever seems primary, whether it’s fear of the rocks, or pain in a shoulder, one can go through the EFT routine focused on that issue, and allow the strain to move, and change, following and tapping one’s way through, and out the other side of, wherever it leads. Surprisingly often doing this makes a real difference, creating ease where before there was anything but.
There’s a lot of material on the Internet about EFT these days, some of it better than others. The book that I like the best is The Promise of Energy Psychology, by David Feinstein, Donna Eden, and Gary Craig. It’s coherent, and low on hype, and does a good job of explaining some of the more detailed levels of what’s going on and how to best use this tool. On the Internet there is https://www.emofree.com/eft-tutorial/tapping-basics/how-to-do-eft.html which is the website run by Gary Craig, who first worked out and continues to develop EFT. Free tutorials are available on that site, both text and video, and with a bit of time one can very effectively teach oneself how to work with EFT and begin using it. (I’m probably going to say this about a million times on this blog – I’m not affiliated with any of these folks, and I’m not getting anything for making any of these references. I just like their work, and I’ve gotten a lot from it.)
On the sailing front, I have used EFT for everything from fear of leaving a harbor to mortification over discovering that when I anchored at 9 PM in the dark in a small, unfamiliar harbor I ended up square in the middle of the channel, which became obvious at six in the morning when just about every lobster boat in the harbor was squeezing by about 3 feet away. EFT is great for mortification…
It’s a broad subject, potential topics for EFT work while sailing, but I’ll leave it there.
There are also things that happen while sailing/cruising that can be really, really scary. Sometimes this is because present events resonate with old ones, and, hopefully not often, sometimes this is because a present event has had the potential for real catastrophe. For these situations, I start with EFT – sometimes during, if it doesn’t interfere with appropriate action in the moment, and almost always after. And a funny thing can happen in the time when it’s safe to relax after the event is over, and one has the space to settle in with what’s going on internally. Bodies have a way of releasing fear, tension, and stress, by shaking it out – the kind of shaking that many people have experienced after something like a car accident. The technical term for this shaking is “neurogenic tremors.” Trauma Releasing Exercises are a technique for accessing those body tremors, but I’ve found that once one is familiar with what’s going on it’s easy enough to just let them happen, and run themselves out, with no need for specific exercises. There is fascinating work, done by David Berceli, on this subject.
Berceli has written a couple of books and produced DVDs based on his work, which has been done primarily with survivors of war trauma and survivors of extreme natural disasters, particularly the big earthquakes in China, and I believe with the tsunami that did so much terrible damage a few years ago. Unfortunately you can’t just get all the information on the Internet – but one can understand that a person needs to make a living! It’s just a little less convenient to have to actually order the book or a DVD (my how times have changed!) I found the shorter book, titled Trauma Releasing Exercises (TRE): a revolutionary new method for trauma/stress recovery (2005) really useful.
Anyway, the technique of actively choosing to shake out the effects of seriously scary situations has been really, really useful to me. It’s so simple, is grounded in what other mammals on the planet do routinely, and is incredibly effective for moving beyond difficult experiences.
People bring up with me fairly often this subject of fear, when it comes to being out and about this way, sailing a good distance from home. And of course I get scared, or worried, or significantly stressed about one or another aspect of being out on the water. I’m a person who’s prone to worry anyhow, and there are, after all, significant concerns, given weather, rocks, equipment issues, and the multitude of judgment calls involved in sailing. The real answer is yes, it can be scary – or embarrassing, or a number of versions of distressing, or sometimes simply infuriating (for exactly how long is that wind going to NOT blow?) – but it’s just a bit more of a compressed version of everyday Life. It’s the tools for moving through these everyday events that make it doable. What I love about being off in the boat is that being out here also provides space for moving through everything that doing this brings up in the first place. And the more one moves through, the more peaceful the whole business gets. It’s a fascinating process, and that fascination is part of what keeps me so engaged with the whole undertaking.
I used to do this kind of distance sailing without most of the above-mentioned tools. And of course I found other ways to deal with the very same strains. But I like it better this way. There’s nothing like the right tool for a job.
Now that the Internet is relatively accessible again, I’ve been gradually posting the entries that had been accumulating during the Internet lull. There are still a couple more of those, but it seems like a progress report is in order!
I am writing this in Mackerel Cove, on the north side of Swans Island. Swans Island is a big one, alongside the open sea, within nearby sight of Acadia National Park. A couple of days ago I went into Burnt Coat Harbor, on the south end of Swans Island, and had the great pleasure of visiting with Bill Cheney. A lot of south wind was forecast for the upcoming days, with rain and thunderstorms, so Bill’s end of the harbor – the north end of a harbor on the south side of the island – didn’t seem like such a good spot to settle. After a peaceful night and that lovely morning visit, when the breeze started to come up around noon I headed off.
Swans Island is very, very beautiful. Rocks, trees, and I was surprised to find on the west side, a perfect white sandy beach, with small dunes and green salt grass growing on the top – like something you’d see on Cape Cod – tucked in between all the pink granite that comes out from the shore at either end of the beach. And the fir trees growing down almost to the high tide line.
Continuing around the northwest corner of the island there are more coves, gradually more sheltered from the south and west. I spent one night in Buckle Harbor, hugely enjoying the peacefulness after all the flurry of lobster boats and the big annual folk festival in Burnt Coat Harbor. The south wind was beginning though, and although perfectly safe, I wasn’t wild about how directly the wind fed across the low land and stretch of shallow water to my spot. It wasn’t going to be so fun when that wind picked up another few notches.
So at 6 the next morning it was anchor up, sails up, and a nice little exploring trip around the corner into Mackerel Cove. It was hugely tempting to make it a big sailing day – once around the corner from Buckle Harbor it was a straight shot past Mount Desert Island, with the outlying islands on the other side of the path, and the most perfect wind direction to sail easily toward the outside of the farthest visible point about 10 miles away to the east. It was forecast to rain, and the thick dark clouds were piling up to the west, but it looked perfectly nice and cheery up ahead, with the sun shining through gaps in the much lighter eastern clouds. Looking behind, you could see rain falling two or three miles away…
I debated right up until the last second where a turn was required for the harbor option. Complicating the question was that I had a once every three weeks phone meeting due to take place at 5:30 that evening. And phone connections are not guaranteed in every nice harbor. Never mind nice protection from the upcoming weather.
It was a real shame to pass up that lovely wind – the autopilot hates it when the wind is off the stern, which it will be when this weather clears out, and it was so perfectly, easily content with how things were going. And being rained on is no reason not to go sailing. But all in all, with the balance of everything, it was probably the best choice to go in. It took another hour to tack into the south end of Mackerel Cove, and for a while the breeze half died, reminding me for the zillionth time that sailing and schedules are not a good combination. As it turned out, after the boat was anchored and settled and various chores taken care of, the rain began and I fell sound asleep for a good couple hours. So I guess a little rest was in order, rather than sailing all day!
Now, the next day, it’s blowing about 15 knots in the harbor (more rain, and thunderstorms), and I’m quite delighted to be tucked in here. Anchoring plan A didn’t work out, in the bight along the west side of Mackerel Cove – 11 (ELEVEN!) other boats had had the same idea about the weather and that spot – but I saw a couple of masts farther down, and as it turns out the next little cove around the corner is just perfect. Hills with trees to the south, and the bottom sloping enough that I was able to get reasonably close to the shore. And a phone connection, and that connection strong enough to support the Internet gizmo. And then for an extra treat, a visit from one of Bill’s friends, who recognized the boat and rowed out in his dinghy to say hello. All pretty nice!
Tomorrow the weather is forecast to clear out, with a west wind of 10 to 15 knots, so I expect I’ll be off. It’ll be fun to see the mountains in Acadia come out of the clouds.
There’s a thing that happens in boats, that has really caught my attention. You get out onto the water, and suddenly an enormous number of total strangers care about your well-being. I am fascinated by this, and am studying.
The basics are pretty simple: you do your very best to stay out of trouble, taking care with everything from knowledge to equipment to weather, tides and currents. Your judgment develops with each passing experience, whether it goes well or not quite so much. And all the time, people on the water are looking out for each other. It’s even in the law – the requirement that if a boater is able to provide assistance to another boater in distress without placing her/himself at risk, one is legally bound to do so.
There are all manner of safety equipment and distress signals carried on board: radios, EPIRBs (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons), flares, flashing lights, distress flags, dye markers, signal mirrors, and more. Items strapped to lifejackets, and the lifejackets themselves. If you float longer, there’s a better chance that somebody (including yourself) will be able to fish you out of the water.
I carry most of these items, but I draw the line at the EPIRB. This is because I question whether I am willing to set off a signal like that. Not put to the test, I think that if I get myself into trouble, I should get myself out. And even more importantly, I should not invite other people into trouble in order to solve a problem I made for myself. Though I do have a satellite phone and GPS, so the door is not entirely closed. And I am very aware that even thinking about this as a question is a luxury of sailing alone.
On the broader plane, there are so many too many people on the planet presently, with the Earth utterly overburdened by our expanding presence, and our incredibly extravagant use of resources. So although I like it here, and it would, I know, be personally sad to the people with whom I am connected, one more person leaving the planet, honestly, does not seem worthy of ships and helicopters and enormous effort and materials just to stave off (postpone) that end. Never mind that in other situations the powers that be are actively trying to do people in, for one reason or another (thinking drones in Pakistan, for example.) The question is: why does going to sea suddenly make one person’s well-being so incredibly valuable, and important?
This is the voice of an abuse survivor. Total strangers talk with me intently, obviously caring about the outcome, encouraging me to be safe and well, in this time on the water. It is perfectly clear to me that if the boat were sinking they would instantly come to my aid. And that’s a good feeling, but it leaves me asking: what about before? Child in the hands of people who should not be so entrusted. Why is it that suddenly, you go out on a boat, and everybody cares. They will move mountains in order to rescue one little person who has, even stupidly, with poor planning, preparation, or judgment, gotten themselves into trouble. But on land, children, people with poor health, all those who have “fallen through the cracks,” are so terribly, terribly on their own.
I lived for many years, as a child, at the bottom of one of those cracks, and then it happened again, as an adult, as a result of combinations of poor health, finances, and a learning curve for dealing with life changes that was beyond my capabilities at the time. They were long, long emergencies, which I guess is exactly the problem. Eventually things changed, probably in both cases because of aging and developing maturity, and now here I am, sailing the salt water. But I look at those emergencies, and I look at people on the water so quick to respond, and I ponder. Child inside asking, “where were you then?” And even more important, in this present, “what about the children now?”
So this is the big question: how is it that our society is so carefully, and effectively, structured for ocean rescue, while in so many settings people live or die, suffer, unaided.
But before I rush to judgment, thinking about family members, neighbors, who hesitate to intervene, to perceive, officials who don’t understand what’s happening, or worse, are part of the problem, I have to look directly at myself.
Nowadays, I am blessed with the resource of a comfortable amount of cash. Abundant enough that if I’m careful, and pay attention, I can do pretty much whatever I want (fortunately I have no interest in fancy cars, fancier houses, or quite a few other things that could make a decent amount of cash look small.) Anyway, I have more than enough. And here’s the tricky part: not everybody does.
So how do I address the long emergencies of so many people I know. Not to mention the broader community on the planet. What happens to relationships when you “simply” share. What happens when you don’t. I have tried this so many ways, and the gift from this terrible question has been understanding my past. And coming to some kind of answer about the question of ocean rescue.
I think that ocean rescue is so well set up because it’s easy. The resources aren’t easy, and the tasks aren’t easy. But it’s immediate, it’s anonymous, and it doesn’t last. If I died tomorrow I could leave money to 10 different people, perhaps helping. Or perhaps not helping, which is another one of the ironies of money, and of attempts at help in general. But if I’m living, and offering that help, it is endlessly complicated. And nowadays, I am much slower to do it, for those reasons.
Ocean rescue, it seems to me, is so successful because it deals with the other side of the same issue. So many of us so intensely want to help, in so many situations. But in so many situations the action of help is utterly fraught, and leads to outcomes that do not necessarily inspire doing it again. On a boat on the water, “helping” is so much simpler. People are free to care, and they embrace that freedom, with intensity, and with commitment. They rescue small boats, they rescue small people – and big ones. Nobody asks questions when somebody is floating in their life jacket, and nobody hesitates. They pull them out of the water. It’s the same dynamic as a land emergency – fire, traffic accident, some natural disasters – but on a boat, in the everyday non-emergency, this care for other people’s well-being seems to be more routinely expressed, in that intent look, and wishes for staying safe.
So now the challenge is this: how do we translate that enormous triumph of spirit, that unconstrained caring, to our everyday lives, once again on solid ground. How do we translate “helping” into a community standard, so that falling through societal cracks elicits the same response as somebody on the ocean tumbling out of a boat. I’m continuing to study…
A few weeks ago the farm suffered a setback – fungus gnats! After all that care with the “pathogen free” potting soil and everything. The containers in the cabin all had them, as did the containers with deeper soil that generally stay in the cockpit, at that time with chard and chickweed.
On the bright side, I knew what I was looking at. Over the next two days I had a feast on all the sunflower and broccoli and pea sprouts that were inside the cabin, and the soil went into a sealed plastic bag. The cockpit plants got to keep going, since at least the gnats were outdoors (rather than buzzing my face), and Suzanne and I had a shore-support meeting planned for about a week later. The almost immediate harvest of the indoor plants staved off the annoyance of fungus gnats flying all over the place, since their population had not yet really gotten into gear, and because I knew what I was dealing with I didn’t start any new indoor containers while the cockpit population was still present.
Before the gnats issue surfaced, Suzanne and I had already planned to swap cockpit containers. She was bringing a new one that she had started with lettuce plants a few weeks before, and I would be giving her back the one with the chard, which was having issues with its cockpit location. Since the chickweed was especially infested, when Suzanne came she took that container away also – I was sad to lose it, but have some ideas about how to do this better, collecting seeds from the chickweed plants at home rather than digging up plants and soil. Chickweed – so often weeded out rather than harvested – is incredibly nutritious and quite tasty, as well as being a good laxative, and thrives when the weather gets cool and moist, as it does when one goes up the coast and fall comes around. Suzanne also brought a yogurt container with a lovely, thriving parsley plant. At home I eat a lot of parsley, not really as an herb, but as a leafy green. It’s loaded with things that are good for you, is strengthening for bladder issues, and I’ve developed a real taste for it. It’s been a treat to have such a nice, big plant.
For most of the last couple of weeks since Suzanne’s visit I didn’t do any new indoor planting, allowing a bit of a quarantine period for the new containers with the lettuce and parsley, even though they were originally staying mainly outside. No gnats in sight, so about five days ago, in clean containers, I got to plant some more seeds for the cabin racks. Sunflower, buckwheat, and chard, one container each. No worm compost this time – it’s not labeled as “pathogen free,” and it seems like a possible source for the gnats. It’s also possible that the cockpit chickweed container was the gnat source, and being flying creatures, some of them moved indoors, so the idea is to rule out various possibilities one by one. So far so good.
Lately the parsley seems happier indoors, and I’ve taken to moving the lettuce container inside whenever I am sailing, even when there is no obvious spray. Little brown spots on the leaves have looked like more spray than is apparent is getting to the plants. They go out for the coolness in the night, and for days in harbor, and seem to do well with the rain and fog we’ve been having. The lettuce had been starting to bolt already when it arrived, what with that intense, ongoing hot weather that was all over southern New England in July, but since things have cooled off it does not seem to be shooting right up, so I’m hopeful that I’ll have it for another while. The parsley is growing fast enough to replace the sprigs I’ve been picking every day or two, which is very encouraging, and it makes a pretty kind of house plant here in the window. Still no gnats in sight, even with the deep-soil containers coming indoors.
So now the sunflowers are sprouting, as they do so readily, and I’m happy to say that both the chard and the buckwheat started coming up a few days ago. The buckwheat is particularly energetic, so I guess the reason it wasn’t working before had to do with old seeds. When Suzanne came to South Freeport she brought fresher ones – I’d had the other batch in the cupboard for longer than I should have, probably two or three years. None of these were seeds for planting, just raw buckwheat, from places that sell raw foods. The ones that are doing so well came from Raw from the Farm, an Internet store by that name, but it’s very possible that any bulk buckwheat groats from the natural food store would do just as well. It’s probably good to get the kind that still have their hulls.
So that’s the latest on the farm. I’m really liking how well the yogurt container with the parsley is doing, and am thinking that two or three more yogurt container plants, with more substantial soil than the little sprouts containers, might work out just fine. If the tiny chard sprouts grow well, then in addition to harvesting small leaves, one or two of the plants might work as transplants in yogurt containers, intended to grow larger for picking big leaves.
The broccoli from the previous batch of planting started off with very leggy little plants, so I started putting the container outside for full light when it was convenient, and harvested the really long skinny ones. The next ones that sprouted were behaving better (all before the big gnat-inspired harvest). Some time with outdoor light may be necessary for the chard also. So far the buckwheat, which sprouting resources refer to as “buckwheat lettuce,” seems to be growing properly with the available indoor window light, with broad little lettuce-like leaves, though the plants are still only about an inch tall. The sunflowers always get a bit tall, but they have nice thick stems, and the stems are just as tasty as the leaves, so it feels like a perfectly fine way for them to grow. And they love the heat inside the cabin, so they just get to do their thing in here.
That’s about it for plants excitement. What with lots of recent visiting, folks have been bringing me everything from blueberries, microgreens, and a new supply of romaine lettuce, to garden lettuce, zucchini, and foraged seaside greens and flower petals, which have all been a huge, enormous treat. Thank you, thank you, Patsy, Polly, and Reilly! With the farm still being in development – and then round two of the fungus gnats – it’s been a real treat to have an abundance of vegetables from off the boat!
Last week I tweaked something in my arm, and a substantial rest, of at least several days, was in order. This situation may have had something to do with the ladder, and swimming. We’ve had an enormous run of hot weather (now changed, I’m happy to say) so I was really hoping to do some more swimming, but minus the ladder.
At this time, I was anchored in the outer cove on the east side of Little Whaleboat Island in Casco Bay. This is a beautiful, beautiful spot, and as an overnight stop it’s ideal. As a place to stay for days it’s not quite so exciting, because there are an enormous number of lobster pots in the nearby water, and the boats tending those pots, and charging along between locations, make for an enormous number of boat wakes. Getting knocked around by boat wakes – especially at anchor – is one of my least favorite aspects of this entire boat undertaking…
Meantime, there is a narrow cove around the corner from the spot where I was anchored. At high tide this island is two islands, and at low tide the two are joined by a substantial sandbar across the west end of the slot between the islands, and they are also almost connected by a more moderate sandbar across the east end of the narrow channel. A shallow pool is formed in the middle between the sandbars, during each low tide. I had my eye on that spot with the pool.
A boat with a long shallow keel, like this one, is well-suited to letting the tide go out underneath it, so that it rests about halfway over on its side on the sand or the mud. I had done this by accident last year, but it had been on my mind to try it again with more planning. One of the good things about letting the boat go down on the bottom is that the low side of the cockpit allows for stepping right off the boat – no ladder needed! And another good thing is that you don’t get a lot of company nearby because of the shallow water, which is perfect in a crowded summer bay.
Not every sandbar or muddy cove is ideal for doing this drying out thing. It’s important that when the boat is making the transition between floating and not floating that there are no big waves or boat wakes heaving it up and down, causing hard landings. That cove at Little Whaleboat is so inviting because of the two sandbars and because there are also protecting outer rocks at the entrance to the cove. While one is floating, virtually no boat wakes make it all the way inside. Heavenly. As I’m writing this in Potts Harbor, it’s boat wake city, reminding me of just how special a quiet piece of water is!
For all these reasons, going into the inner cove at Little Whaleboat looked like the perfect thing to do – out of the wakes, not to mention any actual wind waves, absolutely, stunningly beautiful, and an ideal setting for experimenting with letting the boat go down on the bottom. And besides, it really was time to stop for a little while.
The tide was low around noon, so at about 10 in the morning it worked out just fine to pull up the anchor and go around the corner. The lobster boats were hard at it, so there was loads of inspiration. Just that little sail made it very apparent that stopping to rest was pretty much the only choice – nothing like necessity to help in a decision-making process! So into the cove it was, anchored in the deepest spot I could find in what was going to be that central shallow pool.
It was a lot of fun to watch the boat settle, and even more to step off into 6 inches of water. Nice sand would have been a treat – but why be fussy! The only tricky part was the shells mixed in the soft mud. I tried water shoes, but the ankle-deep mud just sucked them right off, so it was back to bare feet. I have the knicks to prove that boots would be a good idea. My friend Anke, who sails, and is familiar with grounding out for extended periods of time, in southeast Alaska, brought up the subject of boots last year when I was talking about doing stuff like this, and she was so right. I’m going to work on that. In the meantime, nearby there was just enough water to swim/float, which was a nicer way to get around.
The boat stayed down for about two hours, resting at a little less than 30° off from level. This adventure inspired me to finally install the gizmo called a clinometer, kind of like a level, that shows degrees of heel on a boat. Better than television for entertainment… and useful for understanding what’s happening in more detail. The boat went all the way down, and then a little while later it came up again – no big fuss, just like it was a regular day, even though the boat had managed to drift back over its anchor and came down with the forward part of the keel resting squarely across it. Part of the mud adventures involved taking a second anchor out the other way to prevent this happening again…
When everything was once again upright the whole process seemed pretty doable, so I decided to stay. The tide is low roughly every 12 hours, so at midnight we did it all again, minus the swimming, and with the second anchor keeping the boat from coming down where it shouldn’t. The interior of the boat was rearranged so that nothing would fall, and my berth had every soft thing available – pillows, fleece blankets, and most of the clothing – moved into the long, low corner between the berth and the side of the boat, in order to make a surface that was reasonably level while everything else was over at 30°.
As it turned out, I did this for three days and three nights, through six cycles of low tide. It was pretty much a clinic on letting the boat dry out. Anchors were adjusted, small but undesirable rocks were avoided with further anchor adjustment, interior stowage of things prone to falling was refined, the nicely exposed bottom of the boat was cleaned, and my case of nerves about going through this particular exercise was vastly reduced.
By the last round, low tide #6 in the middle of the night, I thought it had really been quite enough. But the issue was more that I didn’t want to go through the production, rather than that I was worried about it. What a nice change! And during that last round I tried something different with the berth arrangement that worked particularly well, and slept through two hours of the boat being down. The moon had gotten full over these three days, making for much higher and lower tides, so the last round left the boat truly high and dry, and over on its side for more like four hours rather than the original two. But I was sleeping for a good part of that, which was just great.
All in all this exercise was a success. I did set out to try the beaching legs on the second day – these are special boards that go in brackets on the sides of the boat, and if they work, the boat stays level, resting on its keel and kept from tipping over by these stilt-like legs. They use these in Great Britain quite a lot, and I’ve been looking for the perfect opportunity for a test. Sadly, the special boards, and probably the brackets themselves, have all swelled up, what with being out to sea and all, and the boards were too tight to go into the brackets. But I learned a lot about trying to set the legs themselves, and about details to do with the square plywood boards that go underneath the legs so the legs won’t sink in the mud. Now I’m full of ideas about how to make another version of legs, and am looking forward to getting to try this again. There’s nothing like being over at 30°, repeatedly, to inspire further thought on keeping the boat level!
There are some interesting details that came up through all those drying out repetitions. Twice, the boat didn’t go over so far. When it was resting on its side it was at something more like 18 to 20°. Because of the anchoring arrangement it came down in somewhat different locations each time, and must have found the perfect spot to let the keel down a little lower, and to support the side of the boat a little higher. This is consistent with when I went over by accident last year, when it was at more like 15°. Looking at the photograph from this current experience, (likely to be added later, when I have a stronger Internet connection) one would think that if the boat was lying toward the beach rather than away from it that all this would be explained. But it’s not so simple – on the last night it worked out to have the boat go down toward the beach, but it was at its familiar 27 or so degrees regardless.
If a boat beaches in a storm, it’s crucial that it lies down toward the beach – otherwise, when the tide comes back the waves will come toward the low side and the boat can be flooded before it has a chance to come up. There are sad stories about this. In this little cove I wasn’t so worried, and indeed wanted to see if lying away from the beach would make much of a difference. As it turns out, because of the shape of the hull this boat begins to float beautifully very early in the process of coming back up, so it doesn’t feel like a worry in a protected setting. But it was nice to confirm that. Either way, the bottom of that little pool is pretty flat, so it wasn’t such an issue. On more of a slope I’d be careful to encourage the boat to go down on the preferred side.
Another of the interesting bits that came out of all this is how mobile the boat is even when you would think that it was down for the duration. In one of the daytime rounds, when I really wanted the boat down on its port side so I could clean the starboard hull, I waited to do something in the cockpit that involved me moving onto the starboard side of the seats, staying on the port side until after it seemed like the boat had settled with that side down. As I finally scooted over to sit on the starboard bench, up came the boat, and it settled over to starboard! I quickly zipped back to the other side and miraculously up the boat came again and back down to port. This was a real surprise given the angle of heel. I don’t have a measurement for that, but it was fairly significant. It’s good information to have in case of a less-planned situation, when one might assume that it isn’t even worth trying. It’s a real surprise to feel the boat come right up like that – it doesn’t match one’s intuitive sense of the physics.
Which brings me to another funny thing about boats over on their sides. For one thing, it can make you feel really seasick, which is ironic considering that the time when you feel most seasick is when the boat is solidly immobile on the ground. But it’s like a funhouse – one of those roadside attractions when you drive across the country, advertised on billboards for 100 miles beforehand, saying come see the Anti-Gravity House. All the angles are wrong, and marbles (appear to) roll uphill. With the boat on its side, most especially inside the cabin, and even more especially in the dark at night, visual cues are completely skewed. The curtains hang at the most bizarre angle, and it takes time to feel for where to brace yourself to actually move around. The second night I rolled all the curtains up beforehand, and put away the hanging washcloth and towel, which made things look a lot less alarming. It really felt like being on the set for a supernatural movie. Something about the stillness of being aground really contributes to this – it’s never felt like an issue while sailing, even when the angles can get just as severe. For one thing, in such a small boat, while sailing it’s always a very changeable situation, though I imagine on a big keelboat it could be different. Either way, solid on the ground and the curtains hanging like something in Star Trek took real getting used to.
It’s extraordinary how visual cues on familiar objects are so important to one’s sense of equilibrium, as well as to one’s sense of “everything being okay.” The brain science folks must have a field day with this, but I really didn’t expect it. It’s as if going on the ground turns the boat into a house – rooted to the earth, suddenly it matters desperately that vertical objects stay vertical, and that frames of reference maintain their place. It was literally impossible, for me, to find the true horizontal plane just by feeling for it. After awhile, sometime into all those repetitions, I spent some time entertaining myself by eating pistachios in the dark with the cabin light, dropping the shells one by one, watching their angle of fall to see the line of true vertical. It still makes my head go buzzy just thinking about it, but it was an absolutely fascinating experience.
For now, I’m thoroughly enjoying sleeping through entire nights with a regular, right side up boat. But I’m glad to have expanded my familiarity with going aground. It’s a useful thing to be able to do for so many reasons: access to quiet coves; safety in big storms, grounded out up a quiet creek; access to the bottom of the boat for cleaning or repair; and, like my friend Dave first described it, a route on and off of the boat without a ladder – like a kneeling camel. A friendly camel, who really looks after you.