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November 18, 1999
If anyone has read 'twixt the lines, they may have detected some disappointment in this East Coast cruising lifestyle for me. Ellen is still very positive and is interested in this adventure. Both of us have certainly seen some beautiful places and have met some interesting people. That part has been a joy for Ellen and myself. Maynard, Giffy and Peter in Maine, John and Bertie and Bart in Mystic, Russ and George in Connecticut, Pepper and Alice in Maryland are some of the finest people we have ever met. There's an incredible dog named "Rocket," (her name should be "No Fear") a Jack Russell terrier, that jumps off the boat to attack dolphins and/or seaweed and then must be rescued with the Williamson Turn and a man overboard procedure. This happens to be Cap't Giffy Full's dog.
The problem with cruising the East Coast is the winter weather and the summer weather. Cruisers head south in the fall to avoid the harsh New England winters. Then, after winter passes they head north in the spring to avoid the summer's humidity and heat in the southern states. This trip with "Silver Heels" has been about going south 1400 miles. It seems we have to move along each day to avoid the blustery weather developing to the north of us. One also must consider the weather to the south. Hurricane season exists from July to November. In Maine in September we had Dennis pushing warm tropical air up and over Maine's cold waters, advection fog. There were extended stretches of foggy days. Then hurricane Floyd moved up the coast and forced a stop for us in Salem as it passed overhead. Gert and Irene upset the normal mild weather and winds as we moved farther south. Then hurricane Jose, a new one, was winding up in the gulf. After "the hurricane season" was officially over, Lenny turned up 120 mph winds in the Virgin Islands exactly where some of our cruising friends were "wintering over." Experienced East Coast cruisers don't seem to worry about hurricanes unless it's on top of them. They get concerned when it's headed their way and about a day off. They then hope for a near miss or a change of the hurricane's direction. If it stays on course, they, of course, know that a direct hit is catastrophic, but they feel that "rarely" happens. If it's a day away and not changing course, these cruisers hunker down by hunting for an inlet in the lee of some land, setting extra anchors, removing sails and placing chafe guards on the lines. They may even stay aboard their boat and hope for the best.
Now, "Silver Heels," to be kept looking right, requires maintenance, lots of maintenance. I enjoy maintaining a boat properly - and you, who read this page, are invited to come aboard - and help varnish. While on the move and under these weather conditions, I find it next to impossible to maintain this boat. Of course, we do not have a car so access to marine stores is difficult, although a few harbors have marine stores within walking distance. I had hoped to do the varnishing and the topsides myself. In reality, we're never at rest long enough to complete any work whatsoever. Varnishing, painting or doing any sort of mechanical work or wood work on the boat is complicated by the circumstances even with favorable weather. Favorable weather? I'd have to say we've seen one sunny day for every two foggy, rainy and/or windy days. We have been at a mooring or at anchor every night from June 25 until mid October. To work on the topsides, I have to launch the dinghy and secure it to the hull side. Even the slightest chop causes the dinghy to pitch and roll. I tried to varnish the half round molding on "Silver Heels' " outside rail and soon gave up. When we lived aboard in the 1970's, we were at a marina. We had a car and easy access to supplies, groceries and other necessities. I could stand on a float and paint, waterline to sheer. That was our model of the "liveaboard life." You sort of had "roots." We have met cruisers that enjoy the move about, vagabond lifestyle year around, transitioning from harbor to harbor after short stays. We don't.
Ellen and I have decided to hold up here at The Wharf at Handy's Point, and have the boat "winter over" in this well protected harbor. "Silver Heels" will be in the water, covered at dockside, with a bubbler in the water to prevent ice formation around her hull should ice occur. Ellen and I will head to the West Coast for winter and visit with friends and family along the way. We will consider the best way to carry on this boat adventure. The West Coast may be better for us. We have checked with some trucking companies. Some truckers have trucks dedicated to boat transport. They've told me that they can pick up the boat - yes "Silver Heels" - in Maryland and five days later deliver it to Vancouver, Canada or Seattle or San Francisco Bay or Santa Barbara. Ellen and I love the boat and feel a strong bond. It would be hard to part with "Silver Heels." As we move west we'll measure our interest in this lifestyle on the East Coast.
November 25, 1999
We have purchased a Ford pickup truck, and we've loaded our "stuff" in the back. I've got tool boxes, foul weather coats, fishing gear, sextant, binoculars, books, camera, dividers and all the personal things we had aboard "Silver Heels." Our kids say, "...that their parents are sixty, homeless and living out of their truck!" Not quite, but I am sixty. I do have a home - a schooner, and we are staying in hotels.
I have come to the realization that my life, a good part of it, is over. I don't have a house, I don't go to work anymore. I am off the work-every-day merry go round, and I don't feel as important. My children are three thousand miles away; I can't hug them. The way this cell phone works, it's even hard to talk with them. I don't have a shop, and my hand tools are strung throughout eight wooden boxes. I had to open seven the other day to find my small block plane. I don't have a bench or a vice. My old friends are far away on the West Coast, they're busy and don't have time to communicate. Not fully realizing the value of some parts of our lives, Ellen and I left the West Coast heading for better times.
It was elective, and we anticipated a new adventure and a change of life. We wanted less hassle and some rest. "Too many mortgages, bank notes and college tuitions for sums not yet imaginable depended on my diligently bartering my days for dollars." said Howell Raines. I wondered how many days did I have left to barter?
I do have a new life. Ellen and I have a new life ... and new friends. I feel good. My days have a new value. I do think I need some time to make a few adjustments. We have some "new family" that we haven't ever visited here in the East. Much of this different new life is a vast improvement over what we suffered back "home." Beating the road ... and buying gas at $1.09 per gallon ...in South Carolina, we're now amused by some typical signs of the local culture: "BAIT, FUDGE AND CIGARETTES" or "BOILED PEANUTS" or "ANTIQUES AND COLD WATERMELON" OR "DETOIN DRAG STRIP AND MEMORIAL CEMETERY." True there's been improvement, but we realized, Ellen and I, that we haven't fully bonded with the East Coast, not the Southeast anyhow. We still feel we're inbetween, in some sort of cocoon, not caterpillar and not butterfly. Quietly thinking about our ambivalence, we were driving through Georgia, not saying a word when, at the same time, we stared at each other. Ellen said, "I miss the boat!" God, I couldn't believe my wife said that. Just that. My mother always, always, disliked my father's boats, all six of them. Appeasingly, my father named them all after my mother, "Ruthie" or "Ruth E." It did no good. I can remember only one time when she went out on the boat, on open water. She was sure Davy Jones had his locker open and was going to suck us up. Could it be that I have a different situation than my father had? Could it be possible that my wife, my marriage partner, likes "Silver Heels" ... even more than I do? Mind you, not out of joy but out of sadness, Ellen cried the night we left "Silver Heels."
It has been exactly four days since we left "Silver Heels" at Worton Point, and now we have refocused, again. We wanted to return to our boat where, in Herreshoff's words, our souls will be fortified against a world of warlords, politicians, and fakers.
"Silver Heels" is a thing of beauty, and for sure, a joy forever. She'd be admired by a sailor of the past. In my mind she's a Rembrandt. Before we left her at Handy's Point, I varnished the rails and cabin trim. I painted the house sides gloss white. Her lines, the sweep of the sheer, her sail plan would draw the attention of any person with a single molecule of seawater in their veins. And now, we want her back. We can't have her back, not on the East Coast, without being on the move year around. So we decided we want her back on the West Coast where we can live aboard her all year and in one place. Our cruising territory will be more limited on the West Coast, but we can go when we choose and always return to a "home base." There, I can give her the care she needs. She won't be dried out and frozen in the winter and baked in the summer or dragged between anchorages for half of the year. For now we decided that we'd still go west in the truck and visit family along the way. Once on the West Coast, we'll look at suitable marinas from San Diego to Vancouver that will accept livaboards.
With our best regards, Terry and Ellen
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