Bringing My Boat Home – 2nd Leg

This time I had ‘parked’ my boat in a marina near Coinjock, NC. What a lovely area! The people there were great and the entire atmosphere was beautiful. Someone asked me why I’m so far from home. “What brought a girl from inland out here?” he asked. “Simple, it’s not there and it’s not inland.” I answered. I smiled. Why wouldn’t I want to be on the coast or near it? Why would anyone want to live so far from the water? These questions seem trivial but they are so real for me. I breathe better when I’m away from people and chaos. I feel better when I can see and feel the water, oceans and rivers. Since I finally have a choice, why not choose for a life that I love?

My adventure this time began with my son dropping off myself and his two sisters at the boat. I was the captain this time and it was going to be a girl’s journey. I expected we’d be at our destination by the end of the day if we started bright and early in the morning. We said our good byes to him and made certain he knew where we planned on needing to be picked up. Inside we went and rested until morning. I love sleeping on the water. The gentle and constant movement of the boat makes sleeping easy. Morning came quickly.

In the morning I awoke and began breakfast. We ate and then set off for our destination. Problem number one arrived before we left the dock… we couldn’t get away from it! What on earth? All I had to do was go forward and all the boat wanted to do is sit there. The engine was working fine, the ropes were all stowed and we just couldn’t get away from the dock. I was beginning to question my sanity already and we hadn’t even moved! (I think the problem was we were at low tide and the current was working against us.) We did finally manage to push away from the dock enough to go forward and we were finally off. There was no wind and so we motored along the intracoastal waterway until we were out of Coinjock. Once we passed the bridge it felt there might be a little breeze so we set the sails…

Problem number two… setting the sails. Remember this is my first time on my boat as the sole captain. I know how to do this and I know what needs to happen and yet… the main didn’t want to go up. I double checked all of the lines, nothing was tied that needed to be loose, there was something else going on… Problem solving 101, use your eyes. One of the lines was wrapped around the sail wrong. Drop the sail… fix the line… raise the sail… It’s much easier this time, raising sails is supposed to be easy. Remember never to force it!  We were finally on our way. The wind helped push us along a little better, even though it wasn’t great. We were able to move along and able to save our engine battery longer. The girls and I were having a great time.

We made it through the ICW with very little problem, slowly but surely, using our sails as we were able and motoring when we weren’t. The only thing that was bothering me was that we weren’t going particularly fast. I kept hoping for a good breeze when we got to the Albemarle Sound. I was watching the winds and they were coming from the NE, which was perfect for when we would make our turn to the west on the Albemarle. Things were going to be fine. I am forever optimistic! Exactly what does ‘fine’ mean? Fine means, we’re in a good boat, we’re not going to sink and if anything goes wrong we can call for help and the weather is good.

We did make it to the Albemarle and the wind was fantastic for a while. Life was so good! This is what sailing is all about. The wind rushing around us, the boat going forward on its own. The land flying by, the waves perfect. Peace, ultimate peace. And then? Problem number three…

Problem, the wind dies down some… and some more… we angle a little different and keep going.  There are absolutely no marina’s between where we are and where we want to end our trip. None. So, we keep going forward, but slowly. We take advantage of the wind as much as we can, saving our battery for our motor. The day is speeding by and we aren’t. We see our destination ahead of us, we know where we need to go but it never seems to get closer. This is November… days are shorter… the sun begins to set. I’ve not yet sailed in the dark, I worry some. But, I’m the captain of this ship and no one is going to get hurt and I am going to get to our destination tonight. My determination makes no difference on the speed of my boat. We turn the lights on. We are the only boat within site for miles. It’s a chilly day and there’s no wind and we’re not on the ICW any more because we’re taking a stop at another’s personal dock where I can keep the boat for a couple of weeks until I can bring her the rest of the way home.

The big problem… number four… we stop. Not just stop moving forward, but suddenly stop. Hit bottom, stop… grounded, stop… now what. Optimism? Yes. I still know we will be fine, safety is my first concern and so long as we are safe I don’t care what time it is or where we are. My youngest freaks out and I’m forced into a different part of my brain. We aren’t hard stopped but we did stop. Motoring backward doesn’t help. Drop the sails, stow them quickly so what little breeze doesn’t get us more stuck. Take a breath and take charge so everyone knows that we are going to be fine, still are fine. Tell my youngest not to worry, the worst that could happen is we sleep here tonight. We’re fine. (Fine… I’m getting tired of that word. I’m not fine! I’m frustrated, I’m sorry for putting them into this situation, I’m tired, I’m cold, I want to get to land as much as they do. But I promise them we’re fine and I keep going… praying… hoping.)

I call for a tow, the tow driver that answers me is the same one we met last time. “You’re not anywhere near me. Why did we get sent to you?” I ask. There’s only two in the vicinity and so he took my call since he knows me already. “Why are you over that way? I thought you were heading toward Washington?” He asks. I explain what we had decided and what happened. He’s not able to help us until morning and suggests we throw an anchor and settle down for the night. I’m not ready to give up yet. He’s worried we’ll get stuck on crab pots or get stuck worse. I notice the depth meter and that we’re not stuck any longer. The waves had moved us off of the sandbar we happened upon. Still, I’m scared, there’s a lot of shallows around me. What on earth do I do?? Play it safe and anchor? Or move forward a little at a time…

See that circle? That was me trying to find a way through the shallows…

Problems solved… it’s about 9 o’clock at night and we finally, carefully, approach the dock where we will leave the boat for the next couple of weeks. The boat is fine, we are all fine. It took us about three hours to get there and we had to turn ourselves around more than once to avoid grounding again. I spoke with the people who lived there and they helped me to navigate the area better. We docked, we packed up, we thanked everyone and we began to drive home… (I called the tow driver and told him we made it and were safe, he was glad to hear it and told me to touch base if ever in the area again.) After driving for about an hour I began to fade and convinced my son to continue the trip for us. I laid down in the backseat and passed out until we were home. Exhaustion, peace, accomplishment all overwhelmed me. We had done it, we had made it. I had successfully brought my boat closer to home and learned even more about sailing. I still love it all, the getting stuck, the getting unstuck… the land being so close and yet so far away… the night-time air, the chilly breeze, the wind and the stillness… loved it all. I had faced my fears and won, again. Life is good.

thanks for reading,


ps. last leg of bringing my boat home coming up…



Bringing my boat home – the first leg

Previously… At the beginning of November, on Thursday evening the 2nd, I drove myself up to Virginia in order to begin a trip to bring my boat home. I began my new life, my new way of living, my new hope in an amazing future. I became a boat owner, one that I can live in if I choose to do so. That first night I went onto my boat for the first time as mine and the first time by myself. I brought my things aboard and then sat down in the cockpit and ate a Wendy’s baked potato with cheese, bacon and sour cream. I just sat there and wondered at the newness and the craziness of what I had done. After eating, I made my bed and went fast to sleep. My life had begun a new trajectory, one that had never been attempted so far.

4 Degrees – Mine now, renaming later

About three in the morning I had to pee. I wasn’t quite sure how to use the toilet on board yet so I went to the marina house and relieved myself there. The night was so bright, a full moon, I didn’t need a flashlight. The peace and the calm of the mid night air, with the freshness of the unknown, was riveting. Back to bed, back to sleep, the morning comes quickly and it’s time to arise. I sit up and smile. I’ve made the right decision. I don’t know much about sailboats yet, but I have a hunger to learn. I place my things as best I can and go back onshore to take a shower.

A little while later the previous owner arrives, brings her things aboard, and we begin to prepare to sail. She has graciously offered to help me take the boat home and to teach me as much sailing as possible along the way. She’s patient and cautious. She never shows frustration nor gives up. I have a hard time at first realizing it’s my boat, and keep asking her if I could do something. She finally tells me, “It’s your boat now,” and laughs. Over the next three days we work together and I begin to gain confidence in my abilities. We stayed at a marina on Friday night and are off to a great start in the morning. I’m anxious to get on our way because our first stop was short of what we had hoped to reach. I really wanted to get her to her final destination for this trip where I could dock her for free for a week. Money is tight, I did just buy a boat after all.

Beautiful day but not much wind…

Saturday looks good but then when we enter the Portsmouth area the winds die down. We travel along the intracoastal waterway (ICW) and are at the mercy of our electric engine. We had fully charged it and it was fine but we wanted to use it carefully to maximize how far we could go. Night comes and we anchor in the middle of the canal, set the generator on and go to sleep, hoping for her to charge well over night. The battery is low but not too bad, not yet. When the generator goes off in the middle of the night, about 4:30 that morning, I get up and check the batteries. Nothing. It didn’t charge. Problem. We can’t sleep anymore and fix us some breakfast. The sun rises beautifully, removing the night and showing us the grandeur of our surroundings. Peace. God is here somewhere. His presence is in everything I see. The wonders of his creation are all around us.

The beauty of the ICW at dawn.

Sunday we make way and head toward Coinjock. We’re getting closer, hoping for winds enough to get us there. The engine is down to its last three percent and there’s no way to charge it. I’m counting the markers and the wind is dying down. It’s time to call for a tow. Always safety before comfort, we continue sailing in slow motion getting as close to our destination as we possibly can. We are being passed by yachts more than twice our size and finally I see a boat speeding towards us, coming to pull us in the rest of the way. The waters in the channel are plenty high but just to each side it drops to as little as 2-3 feet and without our engine and so little wind it’s all I can do to keep us from grounding.

Attached to the side of the tow boat… Relief!

Seeing him pull along side of us was a huge relief. We dropped our sails quickly and stayed I stayed as close to the center of the channel as I could. Once we were tied up, I could finally breathe. I’m not certain how it must feel for him to pull another boat but on my side it gave me a chance to rest. Being towed is interesting. He pulled us to our docking and our adventure for the weekend was over. We’re picked up by her husband, drive back to Norfolk and I drive myself back home… Home by midnight isn’t bad. I’ve accomplished more than I could imagine and there’s more to come.