I wish I had some grand excuse for my radio silence, but the honest truth is that Nick and I simply spent our summer and fall working, traveling and enjoying our weekends on our sailboat. Alas, we are now landlocked, and I’m back to say hello and happy almost-2017!
So where did we disappear to for half the year? Well we spent almost every weekend from April through November on the water and had so much fun during our second sailing season now that we had a little bit more experience under our belts. We also had a lot more wind than last summer, which allowed us to use our boat’s engine less and get much more practice with the sails.
I feel truly blessed to be able to spend our time on the boat, away from our hectic work and home lives. And with no TV, we simply spent our time relaxing, talking and making plans for the future, swimming, listening to the radio and playing games. Some weekends we explored cute little waterfront towns and other weekends we anchored in a quiet cove and spent two days alone on our 400-square-foot boat, without our feet ever hitting solid ground. Somehow we never get bored of it.
I have to admit that it hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows, and we had a few challenging experiences this year too. Strong winds all summer meant we really tested our sailing skills; I’m slowly learning to remain calm when we are overtaken by a strong gust of wind and the boat heels (or leans) heavily into the water on one side. And after dodging hundreds of crab pots, our luck ran out this summer and we snagged a pot with one of our rudders and pretty quickly came to a halt (we adjusted our sails to turn the boat and thankfully left it behind).
After a long day of sailing earlier this summer, we weathered a severe rain and thunderstorm later in the evening, which came with heavy winds from the opposite direction that we anchored, and our boat was dragged about 100 feet on our anchor. Thankfully we were pulled into deeper water and away from other boats, but on top of our exhaustion, it made for a very frightening and stressful nighttime situation.
And a few weeks later, after trying a new downwind sailing technique, we attempted to right the sails without stopping to talk and make a plan and the wind caught our sails in a not so good way (an accidental jibe, for all the sailors out there), which could have done some damage to our boat if the conditions had been worse. But through it all we keep smiling!
Despite all those heart-racing situations, and that sailing the boat often requires us to communicate and work together and even that can sometimes be challenging, we continue to love sailing and the community we’ve found within it.
Over the Memorial Day weekend, Nick and I made the first of our furthest solo treks on the boat to date, down to the near tip of Maryland’s western shore, to Solomon‘s Island. From our marina near North Beach, Solomons is only about 30 nautical miles south (a 6-8 hour sail depending on winds), but cliffs line the shore for most of the way and once you get south of Chesapeake Beach city, if you run into weather or mechanical problems, there are no marinas or rivers to slip into and out of the open waters. Thankfully, we had a mostly uneventful trip there and back and really enjoyed visiting the area.
We stayed on a mooring ball for the long weekend and enjoyed taking the marina’s courtesy bikes to ride into town and relaxing at the pool and club house.
Another highlight of our weekends on the water and away from the city is that we enjoyed glimpses of so much marine and wildlife. Throughout the season we spotted numerous bald eagles (they are truly so majestic), and we’ve also seen dozens of small groups of cownose stingrays swimming right alongside the boat. The Bay is also infamous for its sea nettles, a member of the jellyfish family, which overtake the warm waters during the summer months; Nick and I both got stung for the first time this summer, which results in a red, itchy patch of skin, so we are officially salty Bay sailors (or something like that).
We’ve also added some new fishing gear to the boat this year and have been trying our hand at trolling for rockfish (also known as striped bass), which are the official fish of Maryland (say that three times fast) and the most popular catch in the Chesapeake Bay. So far we’ve had no luck, but we plan to keep trying!
Another first this year was that Nick and I took a week-long vacation on the boat and headed north of the Chesapeake Bay bridge towards Baltimore and Chesterton. We stayed at a marina in downtown Fells Point in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor for a few days (a lovely area close to shops and restaurants and the Oriole’s ballpark where we caught a game). We spent the rest of the time at anchor and tucked into coves; it was our furthest and longest trip aboard the boat and such a fun adventure since we had mostly great winds and weather.
The highlight from the trip was that we ended up docked right next to our teaching captain, Tom, who arrived with a new batch of sailing students. We spent an evening with them on our boat and shared our sailing stories over drinks. (I’m not sure who was prouder, us or Tom, that we were there on our own boat and actually pursuing our dreams of sailing!)
A few weeks later we were joined onboard for the long Independence Day weekend by our friends, Nick and Jessica, who own a powerboat. Three nights was the longest we’ve had guests aboard, and I’m so happy to say that the trip was a success and we all really enjoyed ourselves.
Nick and I also made an effort this year to socialize more with those in the sailing community and joined several sailing groups as well as attended a few weekend sailing gams to take courses. We are often the youngest attendees at these events (many are retirees who live aboard and cruise the U.S. and Caribbean full time), but we enjoy the camaraderie and appreciate all the tips and advice we’ve picked up along the way.
As of last month, the early sunsets and cold temperatures means our sailing season has now ended, and we’ve hauled the boat out of the water for the winter season. We’ve been bitten hard by the sailing bug, and saying farewell (for even a few months) to our boat and weekend adventures makes us a bit melancholy. Our second sailing season has affirmed that this an activity and community that we love, and it’s been so great for Nick and me to be able to share the experiences and adventure together.
As silly as it sounds, finding sailing has been the best thing for us, and now that we know our passion for it, it has motivated and inspired us, and helped make our next steps in life so much clearer.
Happy 2017, friends!