Wednesday, September 30, 2009


QUESTION #2: How did Isabella get a big-ass dent in her belly?

a. What??!?!! There's a dent?
b. By running over a giant sea squid
c. By doing a big belly flop in shallow water
d. By a badly placed jack on a long road trip from Florida.
e. Any of the above.

If you answered any of these, you could be right. We don't know for sure, but when we first got the call it was definitely a. Then after throwing around about 29 possibilities, we decided it must be d. We bought Isabella in Fort Lauderdale and trucked her to North Carolina. Was there a jack in that spot? Maybe.

I would show you a photo of the indentation, which sounded much worse on the phone, but you can't really see it. It's a shallow indentation that none of us even noticed until they went to prop her up on jacks.

This is not good news, but we just keep saying, "at least we didn't have a prospective buyer in tow." That would have been a real deal killer. A surveyor is going to look at the hull tomorrow, and then we'll regroup.

Life is interesting. Stay tuned. This could be expensive.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Question #1: Chip and Tammy's trip to Wanchese on Isabella was hairy because of:

a. a late start
b. a wrong turn (or a really long, wide one)
c. a big blow
d. running over a giant squid
e. all of the above
f. all of the above except d (and technically e as well)

If you said f, you are correct.

About three hours into the trip, when we were at the R in OUR, things went south. Well, we were TRYING to go south(ish), but there might as well have been a giant squid in our path. The wind had been slowly building all morning, something we knew was coming, but there was that a. and b. problem.

So by the time we got to the R in OUR we had the c. problem. It was blowing a steady 20-25 with much higher gusts. The waves had built to 3-4 feet, and we were under power, very little of it. At the confluence of all those arrows, we were going about as fast as I could walk (on land). If the engine had died, it would have been SO ugly. The channel is about as wide as that red arrow with shallow water on either side, not shallow like 6 feet, shallow like 1-2 feet.

All this was a good reminder of why we love sailing and hate motoring. We were at the total mercy of the engine.

But, frankly, if it hadn't been a wee bit terrifying thinking of all the possible things that could go wrong with the engine, it would have been a hoot. It's a natural thrill to ride the waves, to lean into the wind, to take the occasional spray -- and to watch for sea creatures (we saw dolphins).

But, it was a wee bit terrifying, the engine did not die, we did not run over (or even see) a giant squid, and we made it safely to the boatyard. High fives in the cockpit.

a. don't be late
b. don't take a wrong turn
c. give a big blow plenty of sea room
d. fear the giant squid
e. all of the above

Sunday, September 27, 2009


I cried the day we bought Isabella. Tears of joy, relief. Tears of hope for our future onboard.

When Chip and I met, the kids were only 8 years old, and the happy years of raising them stretched out far into the future, almost as far as the mind could comprehend. But the day we bought Isabella was the first crystallized moment when it was about just the two us, about building another life beyond school lunches, band concerts, soccer and visitation schedules.

The day we brought Isabella home, the kids were sixteen and so wrapped up in their own teenaged world, that they hadn't paid much attention to our cruising plans. But that day Casey took one look at the new boat, eyes wide, and said, "You're really going to do this, aren't you?"

It's what we were thinking as well, our first major step toward the water, and every step after became more focused and purposeful. Isabella, we believed, would be our next home, and all our time on her was taking us closer to realizing a dream.

It was a sad moment when we decided last year that she would not be our cruising boat. The decision was about needing a bigger boat and not at all about our feelings for her.

People frequently ask us if we were sad to leave the house or if we'll be sad when we sell the store. The answer is always a resounding no.

But will we be sad when we sell Isabella? She is our only "belonging" that holds our emotional investment. She was, after all, our first mental ticket to board a dream.

We know all her strengths and weaknesses, and she taught us so much about our own.

The day we wave goodbye to her is one I can hardly bear to imagine. She will surely sail away with a new owner on water mingled with my tears, tears of sadness that she sails without us, tears of hope that she will always sail on fair winds and kind seas.

--Weather permitting, we are taking Isabella to Wanchese tomorrow for new bottom paint. If it's blowing too much, we'll take her on Tuesday.
--We continue to be deafened by the noise about the wine shop, but no real news to report.

Friday, September 25, 2009


I am water in a family of concrete, an antonym in a book of synonyms. I'm a tumbleweed in a family of oaks, a tent amongst brick houses.

My mom has lived in my hometown her whole life. She married an 'outsider' who had only lived there since he was three. The two of them raised four children, three that took root and live even now within 10 miles of the hospital where they were born -- and me, the tumbleweed, who has lived in twelve cities in seven states and now threatens to leave dry ground completely.

Despite the fact that most of my family stays well rooted, we've never been overly curious about our ancestry. There have been little tidbits here and there, rumors of a great-great grandfather killing a man in Oklahoma, a grandfather's secret second family in Texas, but we aren't one of those families that can declare clear lineage or exact percentages of national origin. None of us really knows or thought to care.

While Chip and I were in Ocracoke this week, we meandered past a small cemetery where I took this photo:
"This is weird, Chip. That's my great grandfather's name, George Howard."

We moved on to the next graveyard a few yards down the street where all the markers bore Williams, my mother's maiden name.

We crossed the street to a third small cemetery where half the stones were etched with Fulcher.

Someone once told me that every child deserves to have someone unrelated to them that loves them unconditionally. Curt and Tommie Fulcher were that for me. They filled my childhood with outdoor barbecues, fishing trips, cards games and laughter. I always considered them my adopted grandparents. And here was their name too, alongside those of my family.
On a tiny island on the easternmost reaches of the country, I was surrounded by names from home, a home more than 1,800 miles away, names of people who were not rooted in New Mexico but surely arrived on this island by venturing across the wide open ocean, wanderers, adventurers, tumbleweeds. It got me wondering about the secrets deep in our DNA, wondering if those underground roots that we cannot see could be more binding than I thought, and wondering if maybe we're all woven together a little tighter than we know.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


While we were in Ocracoke, Chip was struggling with the can opener I had stolen from a neighboring condo. (Hey, I returned it.)

Me: We should look into getting a mandolin (grater) for the boat.

Chip: I think I just need a password.

Me: What?

Chip: To check my voice mail. You said manual for the phone, right?

Me: No, mandolin. Kitchen tools for the boat.

Chip: We should check camping supply stores.

Me: For a mandolin? I don't think campers would be that into using mandolins.

Chip: I thought you were talking about can openers.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


All our bags were packed, the provisioning done. Chip was finishing up the last few chores before we left, not to go cruising but to celebrate our anniversary in Ocracoke. With a little time and a lot of nervous energy I turned to online shopping to distract myself.

As you know, our entire last year has been focused on disposing of belongings, but once we had disposed of  everything (mostly), we've noticed a new chore: fending off the potential tide of incoming stuff. We humans seem to have some attracting force that like a rogue comet pulls debris into its wake.

Lucky for me that electronic data does not count!

I was paging through's Kindle Store looking for something, anything to help stave off the "waiting doldrums" I've been feeling, the I'd-rather-be-doing-something-else, my-life's-not-that-bad-but-I-still-want-to-be-somewhere-else and other hyphenated-phrase blues. In the travel book section on page 43 (okay, I didn't actually count) I found a book about a couple cruising on a small sailboat, written recently -- that I had neither read nor even heard of. Cha-ching.

It's called The Motion of the Ocean by Janna Cawrse Esarey, and I devoured it on our trip. This is not a sailor writing about cruising. It's a writer writing about sailing. BIG difference. Since I hope to be the same, I started reading it with that third eye observing the tone, the voice, the literary devices until about page 29 (okay, I didn't actually count and Kindle doesn't really have pages) when I became the third crew member, riding along with two people tackling life, the sea and inner demons on a small boat in a big ocean.

It's the first book I've read about cruising that pulled me into the galley trying to boil water on a 30-degree heel through pounding surf. It's the first time I actually felt elated and a little bit sad to spy land after a 20+day crossing. I was right there with them, and not just because I really wanted to be, but because a talented writer took me there.

A pleasure. An inspiration. A taunting reminder of why I have all those hyphenated-phrase blues.

Monday, September 21, 2009


Casey in the Outer Banks. Photo by Chris Hannant

Dylan in Ireland. Photo by Brett Wyatt

Hey you kids! I don't often quote Jimmy Buffett, but, among other profound things like "I blew out a flip-flop," he said, "the years get shorter, not longer." They also get crowded and a little messy. Right now you've got long, wide open years stretching out before you. Don't wait to do the things you dream of. Whether it's on a $100K boat, a $5K plane, with an $800 plane ticket or a free ride from a friend, the adventure is the same. Now quit rolling your eyes, and get going! We'll see you out there.

Happy birthday. I love you.

Go on.

And don't forget to laugh.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


335: Dalmatius is raised to the rank of Caesar by Constantine I

1778: Continental Congress passes first budget of the United States

1881: President James Garfield dies

1900: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid commit their first robbery

1934: Bruno Hauptmann arrested for murder/kidnapping of Lindbergh baby

1957: United States conducts first underground nuclear bomb test

1970: Mary Tyler Moore Show debuts

1985: Thousands killed in Mexico City earthquake

1991: Iceman discovered by German tourists

1995: Unabomber Manifesto published by New York Times and Washington Post; September 19th declared International Talk Like a Pirate Day

1998: Chip Sellarole and Tammy Kennon get married in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina

1999: Outer Banks begins recovery in the wake of Hurricane Floyd

2001: Chip and Tammy prepare to move into newly finished house on Sir Chandler and completely forget that it's their anniversary

2003: Outer Banks assesses damage from Hurricane Isabel as the storm overtakes Washington, D.C.

2005: Chip and Tammy celebrate 10th anniversary by working 115th straight day at their new wine shop

2008: Bush administration asks Congress for $700B to shore up U.S. financial institutions; Chip and Tammy list house and business for sale

2009: Chip and Tammy leave for a four-day mini-vacation to celebrate surviving 11 years of marriage, 5 summers in retail and one year of waiting.

Friday, September 18, 2009


I just finished reading Kon-Tiki, the tale of Thor Heyerdahl sailing across the Pacific in 1947 on nine balsa logs. Really, right? He had this theory that the Polynesian islands were settled not by explorers from the east but rather by South Americans on rafts, carried by the tradewinds across 4,300 miles of ocean.

Nobody believed his theory, which I can sort of understand. It does SOUND ridiculous, but none of the "experts" would even read about it, so he set out to prove it was possible and convinced five other men to go with him -- on nine balsa logs tied together with homemade rope. 4,300 miles.

As I was reading, random thoughts rolled through my brain, like how cool is it that they were only a foot above the water, practically living with the sea life. How awesome would it be to look a whale shark in the mouth? Balsa rafts cannot sink. Hmmm. Isn't it brilliant that tons of boarding seawater drains right through the floor. Wouldn't that be fun to wrestle a six-foot shark on board by the tail.

I'm pretty sure these are the things my mother is referring to when she tells my niece she's worried about my sailing plans.

Of course, at some point during my reading, another thought floated by ... you're an idiot.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


No, I'm not referring to George H.W. Bush. Forty-one is the number of prospects that have contacted me since we listed the business in April.

Apparently business shoppers were in the doldrums in August as well. From August 3rd to August 30 I didn't get a single inquiry. Now I've had five in the last week. This is one of those weeks we refer to as 'noisy.' (You might recall, one of our prospects threatened to submit a letter of intent this week.)

Some other numbers according to my spreadsheet:
Number of emails to, from and about prospects: 267
Number of states represented: 17
Number from North Carolina: 7
Farthest away: California
Most inquiries in one day: 3 -- and this happened twice
Number of prospects named Patel: 5
Number of buyers: 0 (zero)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


When I got up Sunday morning and trudged into the kitchen, I found a small note tacked to the refrigerator door. It said, in Chip's handwriting, "No thing lasts forever."

I marveled that so small a magnet could hold up such a weighty thought.

There are entire books written about waiting. And now an entire blog...

--Sold the Windvane (self-steering). Thanks, Jim!
--Got hotel reservations for the boat show.

Monday, September 14, 2009


Our culture just isn't set up for leaving the dirt behind. Take mail for instance.

For the last year, we've methodically tried to cut back on the volume of mail that we receive. Every time a piece of mail came in, we would call and ask the sender to delete us from their list. It always got tedious when they asked why. The lady at AARP was particularly flummoxed. I don't think "Moving onto a boat" was on the checklist. She said, "I'll just put 'going to sea,'" which I'm sure must be the AARP metaphor for "deceased."

Despite our constant attention to mail issues, when it came time to move out of the house in July, I had not thought about how to handle the remaining mail, things we couldn't legally leave behind like IRS information and car registration. In a last minute effort to avoid actually dealing with the issue, I had the post office hold our mail until I figured out what to do. That was working great until I realized they were also holding the mail of the new owner of our house.

I didn't want to pay for a post office box. Our new apartment doesn't have a mailbox. So, again under the gun, I had the mail forwarded to our work address. Our official residence is now a wine shop.

You might ask, like I do, what happens next? When we sell the store, we can't exactly forward the wine shop mail. I look forward to a life without catalogs of wine diva t-shirts and wine glass flip flops, and the new owners will likely want things like wine license renewal notices.

There are mail handling services for people doing what we're doing (cruising, I mean, not waiting to cruise). This year we might actually have to talk to them at the boat show before I get our mail any more twangled than it already is. Please don't drop us a line.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


The last few weeks have been too damn quiet on the business and boat front, so we started making some racket.

First we decided to get Isabella some new bottom paint. We're taking her to Bayliss, yes the powerboat, fish killing boatyard. She'll be one of only three sailboats to get pulled there. We're honored, but I have a bet with John about how bad the bottom will be after sitting in the water for five years. If she's 70+% covered in debris/barnacles, I buy dinner, and he buys for anything less than 70%. I promised not to cheat by diving down and scraping off barnacles. That's about as likely as me sticking my head in a bucket of bloodworms.

Next, I did another round of craigslist posting. Since craigslist only allow you to post an ad in ONE market, I have four logons with our four email addresses. I log in and out four times to place our ad in various markets up and down the coast, a clear violation of craigslist policy. (Craig, if you're reading this, please help a girl out. Actually, you wanna buy a boat?) Chip emailed all the prospects that were left hanging. No takers so far, but we've been offered to exchange a nice plot of land in New Hampshire.

On the business side, we still have several prospects that have neither made offers (I would have mentioned this earlier) nor officially dropped out, so I emailed all of them. (Actually, that's not true. I only emailed the ones I like.) I was stunned to hear back from one of them saying that even though they haven't been in touch since August 1st, they are preparing a letter of intent. Intent to what!?!? According to our lawyer it's the beginnings of an offer. Supposedly next week. Just noise? Stay tuned.

  • I started a new blog to help Casey (and me) with French: Un mot a la fois (translation: one word at a time). I'm trying to get back up to speed (2nd grade level), and Casey's trying to live in French. Next up: Spanish. Some French and Spanish will allow us to tell people we don't understand them in the Caribbean, South America AND the Med.
  • We made our first re-purchase of a previous belonging: a heating pad. My old stomach pain was back the last few weeks, although I did avoid the emergency room this time. We've now got it mostly figured out -- and it's treatable and maybe even preventable.
  • Remember when I dropped my cell phone in the water while I was working on the boat? Chip did exactly the same thing this week. I asked him what it means. He said, "we're fumbling our communication." Eke.
  • Our 11th anniversary (we think) is next week, so we're headed to Ocracoke for four days to sleep, eat, walk on the beach and play cards. Next month we're headed once again to the Annapolis Sailboat Show to pretend we're cruisers. Plans. We're good at making plans.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


About seven years ago, we went on an overnight sail in the Albemarle Sound in Bella Luna, a sweet little 26' Balboa. We anchored in an ill-chosen spot and, like two fools, failed to check the next day's weather, which called for a nor'easter and a small-craft advisory. About 6 a.m. I clung to sleep in a v-berth that was not unlike sleeping on a bolting horse. Chip drug me out of my warm nest to say, "LET'S GO!"

At the helm, I watched Chip, sprawled on the foredeck, losing a head-to-head standoff with boarding waves as he tried to raise the anchor. About ten minutes into our pounding path across the sound, a gray fog came down on us, shrinking our entire world to a 30-yard bubble of gray. Since, like two fools, we had not taken a compass heading, we were adrift with no real idea which way to turn. We had only our instincts and a vague notion of which direction would take us where we wanted to go.

That's exactly what last month was like. The days of cloudless skies (a couple of hurricanes notwithstanding) and brilliant sun couldn't pierce through our personal fog. We had burst out of July riding the crest of selling the house. We were barreling along towing several business prospects in our wake. We were ecstatic, certain that cruising was at hand.

Then came the fog of August. Our world shrunk to a 30-yard bubble of gray formerly known as Camp III. Everything went quiet in the bubble. No wind. No sound. Just us waiting, playing cards in a near empty apartment. We had only our instincts and a vague notion of which direction would take us where we wanted to go.

Seven years ago, we found our way, lessons learned: carefully choose your vessel; research your anchorages; faithfully track the weather; don't both be fools at the same time; always plot your location and destination, no matter how close and obvious it seems.

We found our way through August as well, and fortunately ended up in September, not July. Another summer of retail behind us. The fog is beginning to lift, and so far we have no idea what August's lessons might be, no matter how close and obvious they seem. Sigh.

Friday, September 11, 2009


"I'm a typer who WANTS to be a writer..." --Cap'n Fatty Goodlander

I've never met Fatty, but I know the sound of his voice and his amusing way of turning a phrase. I ponder Fatty's advice on preventing sail chafe and proper anchorage etiquette. I know his wife's name is Caroline, that she's Italian, that his daughter Roma Orion was raised on sailboats and that she recently married and honeymooned onboard with her parents in Thailand.

In the small pond of sailing literature there loom great giants: the many that sail, the small subset of sailors who write and the tiny subset, really a handful, that do both well. Cap'n Fatty is one of the latter.

While I've known that Fatty makes a comfortable living from his writing -- comfortable, that is, in cruising terms -- I didn't know anything about how his writing career developed until my friend Jim forwarded an article by Fatty describing just that.

He did not land in my magazines by happenstance but by setting his sights on a goal and relentlessly tilting at it for hours, days, weeks, decades. Typing alone in a small empty room for hours a day. Submitting articles and query letters by the dozens. Reading about writing. Talking to writers. Going to lectures on writing.

"I ... continued to write six hours a day, five days a week without let up. "The job of a writer is to write," is the best advice I've ever received," he says.

Just as with the hard work of going cruising, there's no such thing as "lucky."

Time to get back to my typing career.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Stone Lake, Wisconsin
August 25, 2009

Angers, France
September 1, 2009

Still here.
September 2, 2009