Thursday, September 26, 2013

the anchoring dance

To non-boaters anchoring looks relatively simple. Stop the boat, drop the hook, sip the margarita and enjoy the sunset.  It's infinitely more complex than that. There is etiquette and safety and a steep learning curve. If your anchor fails or even decides to siesta, you can lose your boat. We've had a couple of close calls back in our full time cruising days, and it is hair raising. Once we were on a friend's boat in Allan's Cay, Bahamas drinking and schmoozing into the wee hours under a perfect full moon. My friend poured another round and said casually, "Look behind you, it seems your boat missed you and decided to join the party." Our boat which was anchored a nice safe distance away was now so close we could step aboard.

(Random, old, crappy scan of our first boat somewhere in the Bahamas with the world's greatest dog in the foreground. This was a couple of days after the anchoring incident.)

Picking out an anchor is one of those topics that will get sailors foaming at the mouth debating why THEIR very well researched anchor is the best. One thing became clear over the past few years, we needed a new one. Every time we anchor in the chocolate pudding that is the bottom of the Chesapeake, our boat does the electric slide. Re-anchoring became the norm.

So we read everything. And we asked everyone. And we decided to try out a relatively new, boater owned anchor company called Mantus. The enormous box arrived and Doug got right to it installing the new beast. Zach joked that our old anchor (which came with the boat 9 years ago) looked like a toy next to the new one. After hastily posting a new anchor photo on facebook, the owners of the company were kind enough to gently point out that we installed it backwards. Whoops. Thank you!

(This was before we corrected the mistake.)

Then we were off to one of our favorite gunkholes. We do the anchoring dance and pick the perfect spot on a busy weekend. It seems power boaters were out in full force, but there was plenty of room for everyone even if the anchor did a slip'n'slide on the bottom. The anchor bit hard, on the first try! There was no resetting, no slipping down the creek. Sweet!

We thought we were all done. Just start dinner and let the fun begin. That's when the first one came. A group in a small day tripper stink pot. They circle like a clueless shark and then it happens. They drop their anchor right next to us. I mean RIGHT next to us. Like, hey can you pass the Grey Poupon close.  My pal Behan wrote a wonderful article all about anchoring etiquette that you can read here.  But when these guys plopped down that close I will admit I resorted to this stance so perfectly described by my friend Mike.

Here's where it gets worse. They had friends. Loads of them. They were planning a freaking party and even though we were close enough to see the play list on their stereo we weren't invited. Nor would we want to be. Half dressed, very drunk adults shaking things that should be covered up and music so loud it rattled our windows.

Should we move? Should they? All I could think was, but our beautiful anchor is set so perfectly! I. AM. NOT. MOVING. So we put on little kid music as loud as we could on the exterior only speakers. Have you ever taken a Music Together Class with your tot? Yeah, it was THAT cd. We went inside and pretended not to notice. They actually pulled up their anchor as the "Hello Song" came to a close. WHOOO! Success! But then the whole raft of them tried to re-anchor, they were so drunk and their anchor was so bad that they ended up sliding through the mud right back on top of us.

We gave up. But we didn't move. And thankfully they started leaving by sunset. As they motored off into the coral colored horizon, one woman in particular was still shaking her money maker on top of the main boat. "Mama, why dat lady got her boobies out, I don't see her baby with her?" Sigh.

We slept peacefully, not worrying about whether we would wake up across the creek in the morning. After breakfast we hauled up our trusty Mantus. It was only the first time using her, but she proved herself in a spot we have dragged in time and time again over the years. The only thing better would be if it had a dingbat avoidance system and moved itself when folks like these guys arrived. Here's hoping our dances with the Mantus are all slow and steady.

p.s. If you don't know the song Anchoring Dance by Eileen Quinn and you are a boater, stop what you're doing and find it on amazon. So. SO. Funny. Eileen is an old cruising friend of ours and her songwriting is hilarious, especially for the nautically afflicted.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

fruity kids

The boy who claimed just a couple of years ago to HATE apple pie is coming around. A little. He'll eat it now, but with plenty of ice cream on top. It's a good thing too because now with Naia big enough to tag along and pick too, these guys racked up A LOT of apples.

We made an outing on a perfect September day to the local you pick farm and did just that with some boat friends. The weather was perfect and nobody whined or complained or peed in their pants or got hurt. As a parent I consider that a major success.

And it was wonderful to have a tribe of worker bees helping process the apples to make into apple sauce and apple pie...

... and apple art.

(apple play dough, which is just home made red play dough with apple pie spice and a stem and leaf stuck in the top.)

Our favorite apple books this time of year are Apple by Nikki McClure, How To Make An Apple Pie And See The World by Marjorie Priceman, and we love the poem for September in Elsa Beskow's book Around The Year.

Oh, and then they picked some peaches...

And as if that were not enough... Naia then sat herself down in the blackberry bushes and ate, and ate, and ate. Did you know if a toddler eats a certain amount of blackberries their poop... oh never mind.

Monday, September 16, 2013

tribe of campers

Shenandoah National Park has become an early fall tradition for us (2010, 2011, 2012). Hiking and deer and views and park ranger programs and cave visits and sitting in the warmth of the lodge are part of our family rhythm now.

This year it was extra special because our friends the Blasers joined us. Joy and I met because of blogging, and we've become friends in person because she happens to live in the same small town as my inlaws. This was our first time traveling together, and it was such fun!

Joy and Paul's kids are truly fabulous. Aside from everyone getting along and having similar likes and such, it was so lovely to see all the different age groups hang out so nicely from 14 to 2. Nobody rolled their eyes and stomped away when Naia would perform her full repertoire of toddler tricks. Quite the contrary. The bigger kids were so kind and giving to her, always helping out and making her feel included. When a game of hide and seek in the woods would break out (not exactly a toddler friendly game in bear country), rather than tell her, "Sorry this is a big kid game, you can't go along." They offered to pair up with her and held her hand or carried her the whole time while romping out in the woods and letting her take part in hiding and seeking.

Oh and Naia was in love with the two Pauls. Both Paulie the teenager and Big Paul, Joy's husband have a special touch with little ones. She was in full flirt mode and they were more than happy to play along.

Of course Joy and I had all kinds of schemes to glamp out the camp site and have long knitting sessions in the lodge and create crafts for the kids... None of that happened. But none of it needed to because we were having too much fun just camping and hiking and hanging out.

It's always makes vacation more relaxing when you head out with people who you just click with so nicely.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Zach is aboard

I keep getting remarks from folks about how big Zach is looking. I am in denial because he is still my baby... just taller. It's truly hard to comprehend that this wee thing we brought home to the boat at 3 days old...

Is this big strong lad now.

As we've been sailing this season, I've noticed a change. He's suddenly part of the crew. I mean really part of the crew in a concrete, meaningful way. All of us sailing folk engage our kids in the process of sailing the boat even at the youngest ages. We want to keep them engaged, teach them, help them feel important, all that. But in the end, we are still doing the work and they are along for the ride.

Zach's been sailing aboard our boat and friend's boats since he was a few weeks old. However from the time he could talk and walk sailing has been a big, imaginary adventure for him. He's always taken the perch at the bow where he could bounce and watch out for ships and chatter and dream. Mom and dad would raise sails and tack around races and navigate to gunkholes and troubleshoot rigging issues and once in a while he'd come by and want to "help". But more than anything he was in his own world while we sailed. Narrating an adventure, looking out for pirates, battling invading armadas, looking out for whales and mermaids, barking orders at his crew of scallywags.

This year he's emerged from his dream state and is suddenly very rooted in the reality of sailing the boat. It's bittersweet to say the least. I realize it's developmentally appropriate for children at 7-8-9 years old to make that shift. And of course the sentimental mama in me mourns the loss of that boy deep in his imagination, like when little Jackie Paper stopped coming to see Puff The Magic Dragon.

But I am also excited for this new stage and just as ready as he is. As soon as he knows we're planning to head out, he goes on his own to start closing the correct hatches, securing the few things we need to stow, helping his sister with her life jacket, and getting tools for Doug to do engine checks.

He wants to have a real hand in figuring out our course, adjusting the sails for maximum speed, determining right of way, learning about different types of boats and ships, and of course taking his turn at the helm. Doug was below changing a diaper and I was at the helm when our mainsail had some trouble recently. I was about to holler for Doug, but then realized I didn't have to. "Hey buddy, you take the helm. Steer us straight into the wind while I run to the mast and fix things." And he did. No need to call daddy.

It's all questions, but not those nattering little kid questions that go on and on. He is absorbing, processing, putting his own spin on things, figuring out, retaining. It's like he's truly aboard now and not just along for the ride.

 I'm glad to have another wee sprite lost in dream land, so I don't have to fully wake up either.

But I am so proud of my big boy and how far he's come and how much more he has to discover.

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