Sunday, October 24, 2010


… how people arrange their lives to go sailing full time? I sure did, because that was our goal. I scoured blogs and books and magazines, but every story about cruising full time began with "We threw the lines…." But how did they do it? Did they sell everything or keep a storage unit somewhere? How did they choose their cruising boat and how did they outfit it? Which clothes did they keep, and did they take along the stapler and the dictionary? Did they ever feel alone and tired? Was their To Do List so long they feared that they would never reach the end?

I started this blog to leave a blueprint for those who came after us, a daily log of each decision we faced, each land tie we broke and each footprint we made on our plod toward the water. My first post was on July 19, 2008.

Over on the left, you can find links to two years of posts on topics like how we chose our cruising boat, those endless To Do Lists, the rigors of downsizing, the emotional toll of reinventing our lives, and a surprising and horrible financial crisis that threatened to derail our plans.

But we did it!! We successfully completed a 5-year plan to sell everything and sail away on October 24, 2010!

If you haven't already made the leap, come on over to our new blog: We sailed for four years and have set off on ever new adventures. Don't miss a thing.

Friday, October 22, 2010


Manteo, NC -- Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of my life.

I know what you're thinking. Every day is the first day of the rest of my life, but let me explain.

Tomorrow, at long last, we will untie the lines and leave this dock in Manteo, sail out of the Roanoke Sound and leave our home waters. In this marathon plod to the water, tomorrow is the finish line, the successful culmination of a 10-year plan. We made it. We did it. Our plod to the water is complete.

While I don't know yet exactly how I'll feel tomorrow, today is an emotional salad bar. Tomorrow is the first day of school, graduation, every vacation rolled into one, an appointment for a root canal, my final exam in calculus, the first day of a new job, Christmas and birthdays and anniversaries. Tomorrow is everything.

And as we head south, we'll be following Old House Channel, notoriously treacherous, strewn with markers that tenuously guide the way. As our navigator, I study the charts to determine what lies ahead and then scan the horizon, watching, waiting with faith that the next mark will not only appear but make the path clear. And just when my nerves start to fray, my faith wavering, knowing that a wrong turn means running into underwater perils, the mark appears.

But at some places along the way, the water, the marks and our movement through them conspire to create an optical illusion, and I experience moments of utter confusion. The only way to find perspective is by looking back at the last mark and then looking ahead to the next, lining them up to make sure we are on the path.

As we have navigated this long, long plod to the water, through the dense fog of an economic downturn, so many times I scanned the horizon ahead with faith that a mark would materialize in time to show us which way to turn. And each time, at what felt like the very last moment, there it was, tardy in my book, but there all the same.

Just as on the water, that next mark points us to where we were going but not how to get there. It is the path behind us that gives us the perspective we need to make our way. It is this blog that reminds us where we've been. This is where we look to line up all the marks behind us together with the one ahead to know we are in the channel, to assure us that we are on the right path.

And tomorrow, as we finally leave the dock behind us and set off into the wide open water that is our future, we laugh, we sing, we weep, we tremble in fear and jump with joy.

And then we scan the water ahead, looking for the next mark.

Chip and me and Cara Mia, we three. May we always sail on fair winds and kind seas.

TO OUR READERS: This blog, has now ended. Our long plod TO the water is now complete. You will now find us We hope you'll come along for the ride.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Bridgeville, DE -- A four-night stop at Chip's parents in Delaware to provision.

Monday, October 11, 2010


Annapolis, MD -- As we stood at the gate of the Annapolis sailboat show this morning, I felt overwhelmed by how very far we've come in one year. When we entered the show last year, sad and wistful, Isabella, our old boat, was back in the Outer Banks having her belly repaired. We were living in a small apartment with no viable prospects for the business, wondering if the waiting would ever end.

Last year, we watched with aching hearts as a long line of sailboats headed south from Annapolis, their bows pointing toward the Bahamas.

This year, we enter the show triumphant, no longer dreamers but cruisers, inexperienced, yes, but ready to take our place in line heading south as soon as we return to the Outer Banks.

Our shopping list for the boat show was titled "Mission Critical." This was not intended to be melodramatic but rather was descriptive of the contents:
  1. Life Raft
  2. Life Jackets
  3. Foul Weather Gear
  4. Anchor
We were waiting at the gate at opening time with our friend John, who came along as part moral support, part sherpa, part tempering agent and part court jester, all well served.

We were among the first 20 people to enter the show (nerds) and were escorted out at closing (nerds). In the meantime, we snagged an amazing deal on a Revere life raft and two Mustang harness life jackets, all the while trying on every major brand of foul weather gear.

Mission accomplished.

One amazing year. One amazing shopping trip.

One happy toast to good times -- despite the fact that the bartender was pissed at the world as embodied by Chip, and dumped half a bottle of nutmeg in his painkiller. Look at that!

Saturday, October 9, 2010


And below:

Manteo, NC -- Our friend Pete helping us with electronics installation. He'll be continuing his help from above and below while we drive to the Annapolis sailboat show.

Thanks, Pete!!!

Friday, October 8, 2010


Manteo, NC -- Boat projects sound so easy in theory, but the old formula about tripling your time estimate when planning a boat job seems conservative to me.

So, the new radar and GPS arrived, but the old stainless steel stand is too short, so we had to order a new one.

The new standard for a stainless steel helm stand is 1.5", but we had to order the old 1" pipe, so it would fit the current (old) pedestal. Why does it matter? All the instrument wires have to be threaded through the stainless steel tube.

The new equipment comes with plugs that are just over an inch wide, and just a little wider than our old 1" pipe. All the wires will have to be cut, threaded and spliced or traced back to their source, disconnected, pulled back to the helm, threaded through the new pipe, pulled from the helm back to their original source and reconnected.

And those wide plugs that make the new equipment so easy to just plug and go? They are wider than the PVC conduit inside the mast -- the conduit that keeps the wires from clanging around inside the mast, which is a hollow metal tube. Nothing to do about that, so now we have two wires free-ranging in there, lying-in-wait to torture us on rough nights.

Top all this off by chasing the old wires through hatches, under tanks and behind the walls -- and then threading the new wires through the same paths. We did this today, only to discover that the new wires aren't quite long enough to reach the helm, so we now have to figure out how to get them extended.

Retro-fitting. This is how sailors learned to curse.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


Manteo, NC -- Our new GPS and radar have arrived. We're taking apart everything at the helm to make way for the new configuration to be installed.

I had the compass out and was peering down into the well beneath it. When I setting the compass back in place, I thought, "Wow, we better be sure to get the compass back in with north pointing the right way!"

I'm not making this up. I actually thought this.

Sometimes I really scare myself.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Manteo, NC -- Before I moved onto a boat, I thought, bamboo chopsticks, perfect!

Now that we've been through two hurricanes and tons of rain, the boat is a little damp. Not because it's leaking, but rather because the air is humid.

I opened a drawer in the kitchen and found those mildewed chopsticks in the photo.

Wood is fine, it just has to be finished or heavily oiled. Lesson learned.

On another note, you might wonder if it's possible to mess up a recipe with only three ingredients. The answer is yes.

I made corn tortillas tonight. They were terrible.

Guess I'll try again another day... If you have advice, please, click on that "comment" link below and let me know!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Sunday, October 3, 2010


Manteo, NC -- A marine first aid kit came with the boat, so I decided to inventory the contents to see what needs to be replaced.

I fully expected to find things like bandaids, alcohol swabs and gauze. I was not disappointed.

I was not expecting a scalpel, skin stapler and a CPR mask. The instruction booklet has step-by-step instructions for things like reviving an unconscious person and performing an amputation. Jeez.

Give us a gurney and a triage team, and we'll be a floating hospital.

I'm all about being prepared, but let's hope we only use the bandaids for paper cuts and the aspirin for rum hangovers.

Friday, October 1, 2010


Manteo, NC -- If Hurricane Earl brought September in like a lion, then tropical storm Nicole took it out like a screaming banshee.

We'd been keeping a wary eye on the storm and the low pressure over the eastern seaboard, yet, it still caught us a bit unawares.

About 8 a.m. yesterday the wind went from zero to 20+ gusts from the south -- right on our stern. Within 30 minutes, the bow had blown too far forward and the anchors that rest on the bowsprit were pounding on the dock. It took both of us to inch the lines in enough get clear of the dock. One of us would pull the line up to make some slack while the other would pull it in on the cleat. Pull, pull, pull, "Ready? GO!" It was inelegant, but it worked -- for the moment and at relatively low winds.

The prevailing wind for the storm would be from the south, the only vulnerable direction in this marina -- and the total opposite of the heavy winds during Earl. The morning preview at 20 knots was a good warning for us that we didn't want the same thing at 40 knots.

The wind kindly backed off, giving us a calm window to get the heck out of dodge, or at least to the outskirts. We bolted to a slip on the other end of the marina that the dockmaster calls the "Sea of Tranquility."

Every 30 minutes or so for the next 24 hours, sometimes more often, I said, "Thank god we moved!"

As evening approached, the wind was gusting in the 30s, and waves were breaking over the dock. Yes, over the dock.

And then it kept blowing, not in gusts, but like a big-ass fan. We thought Earl went on for a long time, but this one, thanks to the series of lows along the East Coast, lasted at least twice as long.

Fortunately the "Sea of Tranquility" turned out to be an accurate title. Cara Mia remained calm and unscathed, yet again, even as other boats were flailing around, some sustaining a good bit of damage.

We are thankful that we safely weathered a big storm in familiar water, yet again.

Monday, September 27, 2010


Manteo, NC -- I've been looking for the perfect broom to sweep our very small stretch of wood floor in the boat.

My dreams came true at Walmart yesterday. As we were standing in line to pay for our basil plant, sewing thread and ledger book, I spotted the Slipper Genie!

Thanks to Oprah, the genies might be familiar to those who have television, but to me they were a shocking revelation.



Cue the music!

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Manteo, NC -- Okay, what boat chore requires the following tools:

  • 10 inches of small line
  • a small grabber tool
  • a paint stirring stick
  • a cup of water
  • a shopvac
  • a sheet of rubber
  • pair of scissors
We didn't know either. Well, we knew the chore: clean out the raw (sea) water filter. What we didn't know was how complicated it would get.

The housing of the filter is clear glass, but in this case it was jet black. When Chip pulled up the basket, the bottom disk broke off and stuck on the shaft.

My hand fit far enough in the opening to slide the disk up to within three inches of the top where the opening was smaller. Hmm. What now? String! We looped the string under the disk and it popped right off -- and fell down into the glass. Sigh. That's where the grabber tool came in.

With the disk out, we could now see an inch of sludge in the bottom of the glass tank. The shopvac nozzle was too wide to fit, so we put the tube over the shaft, only able to suck the water out from the middle. Paint stirrer and cup of water, er, cupS of water. We scraped the bottom with the paint stirrer, poured in water, turned on the vac. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Empty shopvac. Repeat. Repeat until all the sludge is gone.

So, now we just drop in the new basket. Wait! There's no hole in the bottom. Let's drill one.

Great. Now we just put in the new gasket, and we're done. Wait! West Marine discontinued our gasket. Let's cut one ourselves.

People often ask us, "What do you DO all day?" We just shrug our shoulders.

Friday, September 24, 2010


Manteo, NC -- As our departure date looms, my excitement is feeling more and more like anxiety.

As we complete more and more of our preparations, I feel less and less prepared.

The last few days I've worried about everything: my inexperience, the weather, whales, equipment failure, our health, bedbugs. Okay, not the bedbugs, but now that I think about it....

And then, tonight, we were walking down the dock and saw the most beautiful wooden kayak, which we failed to photograph (sorry). It was as beautiful as any of these.

We stopped to talk to the owner of the kayak, who paddled here from just north of D.C. and is headed for Savannah.

Savannah, Georgia.

In a kayak.

In the ocean.

Suddenly my big, brave sailing adventure seems like going on the flume ride at Six Flags.

Savannah. In a kayak. Jeez!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Chip bought a boat-friendly guitar, a Little Martin. Since it's made of mostly composite materials, it's resistant to changing temperature and humidity. It's supposed to hold its tuning -- so far so good!

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Manteo, NC -- Today is our 12th anniversary. I decided it was time to tell Chip the truth, something I'd been hiding, avoiding, skirting, making light of for a long time now.

At brunch, I swallowed hard and came out with it:

"I don't want to go north."

"Really? Me either!"

Well, happy anniversary to us, because now that we decided we can just head south -- where we REALLY want to go -- we are jacked up.

I pulled out all the Bahamas and ICW guides. We bought a Caribbean travel guide.

YAHOO!!!!!! Now THAT'S cause for celebration.

Crystal clear turquoise water, here we come...

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Manteo, NC -- It finally came. Our wonderful mattress topper that makes the V-berth bed feel like a mattress.

After making fun of their ad for the last five years:

It seemed only fitting to make our own:

p.s. -- Chip asked me to add: That is NOT me in the first photo. That is the ad for the topper. Chip did not ask me to add this: That IS Chip in the second photo.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


The solar panels. They arrived today!!!!

Two big ones that will be over the bimini, one of each side.
And a little guy that fits between the backstays -- or will when that rack is built.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Manteo, NC -- Our society is not set up to deal with drifters like us. There is no clean way to go off the postal grid.

We now have a post office box in Delaware, but we want OFF the lists, not to have the junk FORWARDED.

Sure we could just ditch and leave the new owners of our house and business to shovel the deluge of paper, but, well, that seems rude.

For two entire years, we have called everyone who has sent us a piece of mail and asked them to desist. We have gone online to request removal from lists, returned mail with RETURN TO SENDER in red Sharpee. We have called again -- and again. I have called The Company Store more than I've called my own mother. You just wouldn't believe how much freaking time we have invested in erasing ourselves.

And still, the wine shop gets spammed with piles of trash. We bring the pile of trash to the boat and once again call, write, return to sender, lick our paper cuts.

Then, here's the worst part, we order something and have it delivered to a friend's house. Guess who now inherits our junk mail. AAAAAHHHHHHH.

Not having a physical address causes some odd dilemmas. This is one of my favorites: I went to my credit card's web site to stop mailings to the wine shop. No problem, I'll have them mail stuff to the PO box in Delaware. Problem.

There are three mailing addresses associated with the account: A card mailing address, a correspondence mailing address and a statement mailing address. One of them has to be a physical address, no PO box. So, stick with me here, I put the PO box as the card mailing adress and the correspondence address. I left the wine shop address as the statement address and signed up for paperless statements. Will this work? That remains to be seen.

A few weeks ago I tried to add Google ads to my blog to make a little money when you click here. Guess what? You can't use Google ads without a physical address. Post office boxes don't count.

If I were smarter I would think of a clever play on "I think, therefore I am."

Sigh. Don't write.


If you're just checking in to see if I've updated the blog lately, you might want to scroll down to August. There are a lot of new entries (and will be more) that show up after the Hurricane Earl hoopla.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, September 13, 2010


One of my readers has published a book! Congrats to Laura Wharton on the publication of The Pirate's Bastard. Best of luck, Laura, and let us know if you'll be doing a signing out here before we leave...

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Manteo, NC -- September 11, the anniversary of the unspeakable tragedy wrought by extremism. Religious zealotry without spirituality excludes and destroys.

There is no god worthy of worship who would approve violence against the innocent.

May the families of the 9/11 victims find some measure of peace in their loss and hope in our collective future.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


No caption needed.
We took Cara Mia out for a test sail today. It was the first time I raised the main by myself. It's a beast! The full battens make it really heavy. I got it within six feet by hauling at the mast and a little further by winching. Chip had to step in for the final heave ho. It will be my workout challenge.

Downeast Rover led us into the harbor.


Now that we've had a few days to ponder weathering a hurricane on the boat, it's time to evaluate how it went.

On the face of it, I realize that riding out a hurricane onboard a boat seems careless, cavalier, stupid. Yeah, but ours was calculated stupidity.

We've been riding out Outer Banks hurricanes on land, and securing our boats at dock, for 15 years. We are in familiar waters and have a good feel for how things will play out. Had we been far afield, our decisions would have been different.

First, let me throw out a retroactive blanket of forgiveness to everyone who didn't call ahead and offer us a place to stay. We stayed on the boat by choice, because a) we wanted to do everything we could to keep the boat safe, and b) we wanted to experience that level of storm, to hear 40-knot wind in the rigging, to see how the boat responded.

We get an A+ for predicting Earl's antics. He stayed offshore and blasted us with steady 40-50 knot winds with gusts up near 70 (we think). No water issues -- no water blowing out or flooding in.

The only thing that caught us unawares was the actual size, and therefore length, of the storm. In a closed-off cabin being tossed around in the clamor of pounding rain, yowling wind and groaning lines, it seemed interminable.

Were our lives in danger? No. Had the hurricane made a sudden change in course, we probably would have stayed ashore and kept watch.

Was the boat in danger? We were on the opposite side of the dock from the heavy wind, protected from derelict boats. The only boat next to us was a power boat, so there was no rigging to worry about. Nothing went wrong, but the wee hour scenarios went something like this:
--What if the pilings give way? That was a clear possibility. In that case, we would have had some serious banging around and likely a lot of damage. Everyone here was worried about the pilings. A large powerboat took one out a few months ago in a minor blow.
--What if the cleat on the dock gives way? Same as above.
--What if the staysail starts unfurling?

--Doubled up all our dock lines
--Removed the jib
--Removed the bimini

--If we tie up to a cleat on the dock, check its integrity. Otherwise, we'll fret about it all damn night.
--Remove the dinghy and put it ashore. We didn't have any trouble, just another precaution that seems prudent.
--Remove the staysail. We had no issue other than worrying about it. The time/effort in removing it would have been much less.
--Decide based on the storm if we should remove the main. Several dock walkers thought we were negligent in leaving it on. I noticed they did not come back by to say, "You were right." The main was safe because the prevailing wind direction came right on our nose (which is why we left it).

--Dropped two 5-gallon buckets on each side to arrest rocking motion. Jeez, it's impossible to know. We were definitely rolling around.  I now feel a certain kinship with ice cubes in a cocktail shaker.
--Staying on the boat. I wouldn't want to stay onboard in anything above 50 knots.

Finally, we offer a sincere apology to Cara Mia. We should not have been in the Outer Banks during hurricane season. Please forgive us for putting you through that.

Saturday, September 4, 2010


We went roving around on the Downeast Rover, a test of the post-hurricane sail installation. The sail and sails were beautiful!

Friday, September 3, 2010


The wind has started from the Northeast, quiet and cloudy. We watch with nervous energy.

It blows. There's a light steady rain on fiberglass. The boat is rocking and groaning. Every once in a while the boat heaves a big stuttering shiver. I flirt with sleep. It plays hard to get.

The motion changes, the wind picks up. All the sounds that had made themselves familiar the last three hours have left and sent in a new platoon of noises. The most unsettling of them is a high mew like a kitten, mew mew mew, mew mew mew. Sleep still taunts and runs away leaving me feeling slightly queasy.

I was roaming around restless and stopped to look out to port. A man was walking down the boardwalk and turned up our dock. He bent his head against the wind and rain. A few minutes later we heard a loud horn blow. Wee hour mysteries.

Okay, that was a big gust. A loud bang and the trash flew open on its track. Hmm. Getting more queasy.

I'm seeing what they mean by "bands." Every 10 minutes or so, we get blasted. That damnable cat sound is consistent and annoying. My muscles are getting sore from being thrown about in a washtub.

This should be the worst of it, the next hour. We talk briefly about the cleat on the dock giving way, then quickly change the subject. Conversation is difficult amidst the cacophony.

Chip is sleeping. Amazing. I watch. A storm blast wakes him, and the boat shimmies. We turn on the spreader light halfway up the mast and look up through the hatch. The rain is almost horizontal.

A sudden pelting like gravel thrown on the deck. I jump up to turn on the foredeck light. It looks the same as before. Hail? Not sure.

We've started to get stripes of quiet, calm. Taunting. But then it comes back with a vengeance. Perhaps we'll be finished soon. I hope. My nerves are frayed.

We've passed now into what will surely be the final hour. The gusts are so strong, the boat bump-bump-bumps along like it's passing over a wooden bridge. The bigger world out there might know where Earl is but in our isolation we track it by wind direction, still north, and the plummeting barometer, still going at 29.7.

According to FM radio, Earl will not be passing Nags Head until 8 a.m. Could that be true? We have 5 more hours of this? Really?

Sure enough. This has not let up. The rain pounds. The wind howls. The boat pitches. I snatch little bits of sleep between bands.

"We expect winds to continue for several more hours and ease around daybreak." This according to automaton man on VHF weather channel. Bastard. And so we enter the fifth hour.

We both prowl around restlessly. Minutes ago we were standing three feet apart facing starboard, holding tight as the boat bucked. Two items started flying across shelves, one in front of each of us. We each in unison reached out and grabbed the one nearest us.

I guess the hours before dawn are always the hardest. We both fret. The water rises. We realize now that if something happens, a line breaks, a piling gives way, there's not much we can do. I question our decision to stay onboard. The water's too high now to get off safely.

Howling wind. This is the worst, and we're tired, nerves shot, watching the minutes tick by, cringing at every gust. I study the eastern sky, begging the sun to rise. We listen to FM radio to hear human voices. We strain over the noise only to hear them saying schools are closed today. There's some news.

The sky is brightening. Chip just went on deck to secure the boom. It's still wailing. The power has gone out in Manteo. No more AC.

The barometer has gone up a smidge. Could we be almost out of the weeds? Woods? Winds?

No, it's getting worse. The wind is intense, sometimes sounds like a low-flying jet. The rain is pounding. We rocking so severely that I'm seasick. We're suiting up and waiting for the first chance to get off the boat. She has proven herself capable. We need a break.

We left the boat just before 8:00 and huddled in the dockmaster's office with some other wet folks, the wind and rain still howling. McDonald's was the only place open selling hot food, so we got nourishment, coffee at Front Porch and then settled onto a now perfectly still boat for a 5-hour nap.

Cara Mia sustained no damage. I'll review the lists from yesterday once we've had an actual night's sleep.

I like reading my wee hour thoughts. Time will tell which ones will take root.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


A note to my blog readers:

I'll be busy the next few days getting the blog up to date, but didn't want to keep you in suspense about this hurricane. We are tied up at the docks in Manteo, ready to weather it.

What we've done:
--Doubled up all our dock lines
--Removed the jib
--Secured the staysail and main
--Removed the bimini
--Secured the dinghy on the davits
--Dropped two 5-gallon buckets on each side to arrest rocking motion (a new theory we've never tried before. Stay tuned.)

What we'll do tonight during the storm:
--Stay onboard and adjust to changing wind and water levels
--Monitor Channel 9 with all our dockmates in case anyone needs assistance
--Keep an hourly log that will eventually show up here.
--Play cribbage.
--Not sleep much!

What we didn't do:
--Remove the staysail
--Remove the main
--Haul out
These decisions will be evaluated here after the storm.

All told, it's nice to weather our first hurricane in familiar waters with friends all around.

God speed, Earl.

Monday, August 23, 2010


Manteo, NC -- Our long-awaited engine has arrived. You might recall, we took it in for repair, which took two weeks. They called to tell us it was ready as we were leaving town for two weeks. So, now, four weeks later, the engine has come home to roost.

Chip paired up the dinghy and the motor (with the help of a small crane we found onboard), and we're in business.

The dinghy will serve as our car, sort of. For the most part, we'll be anchoring out, because, well, anchoring is free. We'll lower the dinghy off its davits (brackets that hold it up on back of the boat), use the small crane to move the engine from the cockpit rail to the dinghy, and off we go. The dinghy will wait for us on shore while we're messing around on land.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Manteo, NC -- We're feeling a bit wistful on returning to an empty beach. Our kids, Casey and Dylan (and Brett!), left for college while we were in New Mexico. We had hoped to be here to send them off. Instead, once we get things situated here, we'll be heading west again, this time to Asheville and Boone.

In the meantime, we're hard at the last-minute preparations for our watery departure, the one that has now been delayed by at least three weeks.

The big items on our short TO DO list:

--Order the Tufted Topper for our bed
--Get solar panels and install them
--Buy and install electronic navigation equipment
--Fix the water filter
--Sort out my folding bike

For that first item, we had to cut a pattern in the shape of our mattress. That sounds easy, right? Few things associated with boats are easy. Since there's no space big enough to lay the mattress out on the boat, we had to get it off the boat and onto the dock. Fortunately we were able to manage this without dunking either the mattress or ourselves, although not without making ourselves look silly. The pattern is now wending its way to get us a poofy pad to soften our sleep. So long aching shoulder!

Our work was done in time to avoid this:

Friday, August 20, 2010


Asher, Sally, Ben and Zeke

Albuquerque, NM -- How do you know when it's time to leave? We didn't. I just made a plane reservation, and we're flying home tomorrow.

Mom is able to manage fairly well on her own now. She lives alone, so we made her act as if we weren't there the last few days. She has showered, dressed, made her own meals (mostly) and gone for short walks. Her strength is slowly returning just as we're leaving.

Flying out of Albuquerque used to be an annoyance until my nephew Asher moved there with his family, Sally and their 2-year-old twins Ben and Zeke. Now it's a blast!

The six of us hopped a train this evening and had dinner in Santa Fe. The 45-minute ride back turned into a 2 1/2-hour ordeal when our train hit a pedestrian. The pedestrian was barely injured, but the paperwork took hours.

Ben and Zeke kept us entertained -- in fact the whole car. Zeke came out of the bathroom and announced, "I pooped in the potty!!"

The train attendant put him on the intercom, "I pooped in the potty!"

Fun times.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


Roswell, NM --

Chip: Our relationship needs a tuneup, some attention.

Me: Are you feeling tense?

Chip: Funny.

Me: Didn't you say there's too much tension?

Chip: No, "some attention."

Me: Oh. yeah, I have a hard time emotionally multitasking in this kind of situation. I suck sometimes.

Chip: Yes.

Me: You're not supposed to agree with that!

Chip: What? That "it sucks sometimes?"

Me: No, I said I suck sometimes.

Chip: Oh. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Roswell, NM -- ... to recovery, that is. Mom is making great strides now that she's home. She is still on oxygen but is getting up and dressed on her own.

We gave her a silly marine whistle that sounds like a goose to call us when she needs help in the night. She rarely needs it now and instead uses it to scare the bejeezus out of us when we least expect it. That's progress.
tamale |təˈmälē|
a Mexican dish of seasoned meat wrapped in cornmeal dough and steamed or baked in corn husks.
Chip has discovered the tamale. He now orders at least one everywhere we go.
sopaipilla |ˌsōpīˈpēyə| (also sopapilla |ˌsōpə-|)
(esp. in New Mexico) a deep-fried pastry, typically square, eaten with honey or sugar or as a bread.
I have rediscovered the sopaipilla. They are what makes New Mexico the Land of Enchantment.
enchilada |ˌen ch əˈlädə|
a rolled tortilla with a filling typically of meat and served with a chili sauce.
WRONG. In New Mexico we don't roll enchiladas. We make them flat and put a fried egg on top.

Chip and I are making the most of our time here, the most weight gain.

Long live the green chile.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Roswell, NM -- While living on a boat is fabulous, fun and fulfilling and sometimes other "f" words, I have found that "I live on a boat" is an endlessly handy excuse.

I'm not dressed appropriately? Sorry, I live on a boat.

My luggage doesn't match? (What luggage?) Oh, I live on a boat.

My clothes are wrinkled?
I'm taking too long in the shower?
My hair looks a mess?
I smell bad?
I don't understand your cultural references?

It's a bit of a reach but worth a try for others:
I was speeding officer?
I forgot your birthday?
I can't remember your name?
I caught your hair on fire? Sorry. I live on a boat.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


Roswell, NM

When people ask me where I'm from, I change the subject.

If asked again, I give a vague regional reference, like, "I'm from the Southwest." Only under harsh interrogation and Klieg lights do I divulge the inconvenient truth: I'm from Roswell.

And I think my truth is much more inconvenient than Al Gore's, because I'm from the UFO Friggin' Capital of the World. And if you're me, that's really inconvenient.

What is my own alma mater, Roswell High, known for? Not academic excellence. No, it was the setting for a paranormal, science fiction TV series. I wonder if that renders my diploma invalid?

Although I have not embraced my UFO heritage, the town certainly has. Here is their logo:

My thoughts on UFOs? Here's a reprint of a column I wrote for in 1996.


My Paranormal Life in Roswell
by Tammy Kennon Hudson Production Manager
June 21, 1996

To some, my hometown, Roswell, may be just a sleepy little dot on the southeastern New Mexico plains, but for fans of the "X Files" and flying-disk buffs called "ufologists," it is the UFO capital of the world.

Yes, it's true. If you haven't heard of Roswell, you must not watch "Unsolved Mysteries." It seems that back in July of 1947 some wayward little intergalactic craft, or a weather balloon, depending on who you ask, was zipping across southeastern New Mexico near Roswell, and took a wrong turn. Down, that is. It crashed into the only thing it might encounter in the plains outside Roswell: the ground. The rest is, well, quasi-history.

The UFO vein runs deep in Roswell, even in my own family. Long before the 1947 "Roswell Incident" began to get attention in the late '70s, we were well versed in our own UFO lore. There was the story that my mom's friend told about her relatives who cowered in their northern New Mexico ranch house while a UFO zipped around outside. Another favorite was the huge, mysterious glob of colorful wire that hitched a ride on my cousin's car in the desert outside Las Cruces. And, even better, there was the chilling story about my sister's close encounter while camping in the woods near Capitan. This UFO actually flew in and out, making the lights flicker on and off in her camping trailer.

The relationship between Roswellites and space has always been a strange one. On the one hand there is the legitimate relationship. Robert H Goddard, the father of modern rocketry, launched his first prototypes from the plains outside of Roswell. My mom and her siblings would surreptitiously watch him drive past their place in the country. They thought he was crazy. He always had mysterious paraphernalia hanging out of the back of his truck. They would hear strange explosions coming from his land just over the horizon. 

Then there was Edgar Dean Mitchell, who went to Berrendo School with my mom. He turned out to be a real, live space traveler -- a NASA astronaut.

But on the other hand, there's the "UFO thing." Just ask around in Roswell. If the guy you ask hasn't seen a UFO, his aunt has, or maybe his neighbor or his girlfriend's second cousin has. The way people talk, you'd think Roswell is some kind of intergalactic Stuckey's -- you just have to stop. There is so much terrestrial interest in these cosmic tourists that Roswell now sports two thriving UFO museums.

Last year one of my old high school buddies told me the "real" reason all the UFOs are buzzing the Land of Enchantment. You see, she heard that those industrious extraterrestrials are running an interstellar mining operation. They're getting something in New Mexico that their own planet can't produce (green chiles, perhaps?).

Regardless of the reason for the visitations, the Holy Grail for a Roswellite is definitive documentation, actual proof of extraterrestrial existence. Every Harry, Louise and Mabel has a video camera at the ready, hoping to be featured next week on "Inside Edition" and make an all-expense-paid guest appearance on Oprah.

In the quest for documentation, it is my uncles who lead our clan. One year my family was all atwitter because my Uncle Bob took an actual Polaroid snapshot of a UFO. Sure enough, there it was for all us earthlings to see: a flying silver disk hovering just above the trees in Uncle Bob's back yard. Turns out he had glued two pie pans together, thrown it in the air like a Frisbee and got his daughter to snap the picture.

Then there's my Uncle Dow, who features a UFO in his annual Christmas light display, which is so elaborate the Roswell Daily Record featured it one year. Well, old Uncle Dow spotted a real UFO zigzagging around in broad daylight last year. Last time I was in Roswell he invited me over to watch a videotape of it. Despite great effort on my part, all I could see was a brilliant blue sky with patchy clouds. In the background I could hear my uncle saying, "Oh look, there it goes again!" Then, the camera operator, my Aunt Hazel saying, "Well, Dow, I just can't see it in the view-finder!"

As a kid, it never occurred to me that all the UFO lore was, shall we say, paranormal. Maybe I've been gone too long, but I couldn't help smiling recently when my sister complained to me on the phone about the growing UFO hoopla in Roswell. 

"This UFO thing is just getting out of hand," she said. "It's bringing some real weirdos to town!"

Friday, August 13, 2010


Albuquerque, NM -- We found it. The store of our dreams.

Okay, maybe that's an overstatement, but we often walk through entire stores without seeing anything relevant to our lives, usually leaving without buying anything.

And then we went to REI. First there was the bike department. Then the backpacks and bags, and then the high-tech fiber clothing and then the hats with UV protection. A few hours and several hundred dollars later, we came out with that amazing bike tool, which has everything we don't know how to use to repair our bikes, two tire patch kits, a little bike saddle bag that fits under the seat, a couple of hats, a foldup Sherpani backpack, a computer bag for Chip....

Mom's been released from the hospital now. She's making quick progress. Hospitals are no place to get well. We're all staying in a hotel, still taking turns mom-watching, spending the remainder of the time that we're not at REI with my nephew and his awesome family. It's unplanned family time and perhaps more precious for that.

Cruising offers us more time to spend with our families, but otherwise takes us so very far away from them.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Albuquerque, NM -- Days pass in the foggy existence of hospital life. We laugh, we sit, we talk.

They ask mom what day it is, and we all glance at each other, uncertain. They ask her what year it is. I can tell she doesn't know, so she cracks a joke to steal time.

She's stable now but weak. They promise us parole soon.

"I'm sorry I interrupted your plans," mom says.

"I'm sure I interrupted yours a few times over the years," I reply.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


Albuquerque, NM -- I sit in the eery light of the nighttime ICU. The whir of machines, the beep of the heart monitor, my own nervous watchfulness keep me from sleeping.

Mom has been here for a week. I just arrived tonight.

Sometime during the night I heard her stir. I rose from my makeshift bed on the recliner to see if she needed help. She reached out with her eyes closed, took my hand and gently stroked, stroked, stroked it, for those few moments spinning us back through time. I stood beside the bed in my socks feeling small and weepy.

We're keeping a schedule, my sister, Chip and me. One of us on watch around the clock. It's always the nighttime when mom gets restless, when I wonder if she misses my dad, wonder if she feels alone, wonder if we're enough.

Friday, August 6, 2010


Drop boards in bad need of refinishing.
Waiting doesn't have to be unproductive. Today we taped the toe rails and I slapped on another two coats of finish -- and while I was at it, I decided to sand down and coat the companionway drop boards (our front door).

Could someone please remind me to take "before" photos? I'm lame at that, but the photo there shows pretty much how bad they were. Now they're shiny and lovely along with the toe rails.

Today was not a good day for mom. They opted to do another emergency procedure to clear some of the blood clots from her left lung. The lung collapsed on Wednesday night and has not recovered.

Drop boards refinished.
After a tense (on my part) hour, they emerged successful. Our hope is that she will now stabilize. We've purchased one-way tickets to Albuquerque leaving on Sunday, two days from now.

p.s. -- "You know what happens tomorrow," I told Chip yesterday. "The dinghy motor will be ready." Sure enough. The doors are opening.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Two weeks ago -- and two days before I was going to list my car for sale -- I backed out of the parking garage and peeled the rearview mirror off the driver's side door. ARGH.

I took it to Luke, our awesome mechanic, with visions of a $300-400 bill. He fixed it for $180.

Yesterday a young man called to ask me if my car was for sale. He took a cursory look and called to say he would buy it.

This morning I met the guy's dad and mom (who turned out to be customers from the wine shop) at the bank. They gave me my asking price in cash. I signed over the title, just like that. Done.

"How did you hear about the car being for sale?"

"Luke our mechanic."

Aren't broken mirrors supposed to be bad luck?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


The new, undamaged grill has finally arrived, the grill we've been admiring at the boat show for 8 years.

One more thing checked off the list. We now have a second kitchen in the cockpit.

Mom continues to have complications and procedures, far away in New Mexico. Every day, every hour her condition changes.

We check flights. We make checklists for leaving the boat. Then we wait.

And grill in the cockpit.