Woman Enough

And A Little About You

Posted in Uncategorized by womanenough on September 29, 2011

I’ve had a few people ask lately how many readers are coming to WomanEnough.

At first, I didn’t know. I purposely don’t check the analytics for the site because I don’t want it to matter; I write the blog because it enriches my analysis of my experience. It also keeps me writing something audience-worthy every few days, which is very different from the mad scribbling that happens in notebooks and unnamed Word files the rest of the time.

So I was surprised and delighted to see that there are about 80 of you stopping by each day, and that 80 is made up of about 450 people a month.

Thanks for coming, even though I take photographs with a camera with permanent smudges on the lens, and my posts are erratic, and I don’t respond to your comments and emails quite so regularly as I might if I had a house.

Let me know you’re reading in the comments if you want. Tell me about your adventures, your boats, your favorite destinations, your own dreams-turned-possibilities. Or don’t, whatever’s right for you.

But really, thanks very much. I’m delighted to share with you.

 

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Collecting Maine

Posted in Uncategorized by womanenough on September 29, 2011

Owls Head Lighthouse on an early, windless morning

Just a moment here to recap my travels; in early August, Elias and I left Belfast to go sailing in an aimless sort of way. We were unemployed, had saved some money by living aboard all winter, and were hungry to wring some salt water out of our clothes. Off we went sailing down east, only to return to Belfast two weeks later with a broken engine and hurricane on our heels.

Three weeks later, we were off again, ready to explore September sailing in Maine, which we had only heard to be wonderful. We left without a schedule or expectations, and our first few stops were islands in our own backyard.

That was over two weeks ago, and we’re just outside Portland now. The two trips combined have provided a rare opportunity to carefully examine the farther reaches of the place I call home.

I was raised in inland Maine, in a little town that makes up for it’s complete lack of industry with a large dazzling lake and a couple of charming villages. The family farm still thrives there, but more likely livings are made in larger towns 20-30 minutes away, where there used to be paper mills processing pulp from up north, but now those have been replaced by retailers. My neighbors growing up were not wealthy, but I think they were largely happy being left to themselves to lead simple lives.

I also grew up spending summers on the coast, in my grandfather’s house on a small island, unconnected to the mainland by bridge or ferry. Here, lobstering locals and summer people have reached a pleasant symbiotic arrangements over three or four generations of sharing the same postage-stamp sized piece of land and its surrounding waters.

A Port Clyde trawler.

I have always considered myself the product of two Maines, the one where the mills closed slowly over the course of my childhood and the one where the lobster industry rose and fell season by season.

I have traveled at two or three knots per hour along much of the Maine coast in recent days, and I am glimpsing the Maine that belongs the people of these other harbors and islands. Many of the things are the same, but the pulse of each place is markedly different.

Soon after setting foot on Chebeague island, there is a sign. It told us that locals wave when they drive by each other. It has a map, with the store, library, recreation center, golf and tennis courts all labeled. On North Haven, we were picked up almost immediately by summer people offering a ride to town and a guide book’s worth of island history.

When we first came into Port Clyde, it was unclear which of the many fishing wharves is for public access, and once ashore, it takes a good number of helpful strangers to find the general store and a good thirty minute walk to reach the lighthouse and museum. It’s all very pleasant, but the feel distinctly different from arriving in an area driven by tourism.

Sunset from Gay's Cove

When we arrived in Gay’s Cove off Cushing in the mouth of the St. George River, all the houses were closed for the season and the place felt blissfully deserted. We were there less than fifteen minutes when some kayakers approached to welcome us, answer questions, and offer advice on good walks ashore and protected anchorages.

Each spot is a little different, but they are all Maine. It is quite a thing to be from a place and still have so much to discover about it. I’ve always felt an incredible sense of place; I am from Maine, and that is a big part of me. But now I am discovering that there is a lot of Maine still to experience.

The world moves by awfully fast. We drive around at 65 mph, or pop under ground to ride subways to new neighborhoods in a matter of minutes. We fly across countries and oceans, we nap on trains as we commute from city to city.

This has been the summer that I slowed things down and watched a small part of the world pass at a much slower speed. A few days ago, I stared at Seguin Island for a good three hours, sailing around it. I took a picture, but I sure didn’t need it. It’s part of the collection of my Maine now, part of my experience and preserved within the story.

Seguin Island

Pitchin’ Woo!

Posted in Uncategorized by womanenough on September 27, 2011

This is Pitchin’ Woo! the tender to Mama Tried. Where I grew up, tenders are called “punts,” although some would argue a boat must have a flat bottom and square bow to be a punt. I would argue that’s a pram, and that the proper term, regardless of region is dinghy, but then no one would be listening because I would have become so terribly boring. Back to Woo!….

Pitchin Woo! had three rather severe tears in her hull when we came into her. We gave her a refit last winter, including steaming new oak rails for her, and she has ferried us back and forth from Mama Tried ever since.

Woo begins to feel sort of like the family mutt when we’re under way; we tow her along behind us all day and row her around for a little exercise in the evening.  “Sorry Woo!, brace yourself!” I’ll yell over the stern when we take a lumpy wave.

She puts up with an awful lot, and I’m glad to have her.

Having named the boat, blog, and now punt with seventies country music references, Elias has asked that I not name the next thing in life that needs naming.

I think this is really unfortunate, because don’t you think “Jolene” has such a sophisticated ring to it?

The Whale!

Posted in Uncategorized by womanenough on September 27, 2011

Yesterday, we saw a whale. It’s in this terrible picture. The whale is the amorphous speck in the middle, slightly darker than the water.

A whale!

We heard it surfacing for a long time before we ever saw it. The blows were loud, and we thought they were [large?] harbor porpoises nearby. It must have been our whale friend pretty far off, though. Because a few minutes later, a minke whale came up for a breath right beside us.

A much better picture would have been our faces, which were frozen in a state of surpised delight and disbelief for quite some time.

That is not a porpoise,” I pointed out, needlessly I suppose, to Elias.

The whale surfaced around us a few more times, and eventually I pulled myself out of awed paralysis and took this picture, just as it was working its way a good distance from the boat.

But you know what? Our boat is really little. And even a small minke whale like ours is quite significant. And it was fabulous!

And right now we’re on a borrowed mooring in a great little cove. There’s a Great Blue Heron on the shore nearby and the sun is making its way into the sky for the third in a string of crisp, lovely sailing days. Who knows what we’ll see or where we’ll wind up, or what things will be like when my head hits the pillow tonight.

My life has taken to boats

Posted in Uncategorized by womanenough on September 20, 2011

Mostly, I am surprised and delighted by the turn my life has taken to boats and the sea. It is so beautifully far from where I always thought I’d be.

Still, every once in a while I am reminded that some piece of my current life has been there inside me, patiently waiting, all along.

Yesterday, we put into Owl’s Head, a harbor almost exclusively dedicated to a thriving lobstering community. Visiting yachts are expected and encouraged to pass Owl’s Head by on their way to the larger harbors ofRockland, Rockport, andCamden, all of which are very close by.

We came to Owl’s Head because the Food Network recently voted the Owl’s Head General Store the home of Maine’s best hamburger. The burger was really very good, although over priced, but it was not the clue that things these days maybe make a little sense..

Rather, as we cut through a lobster buyer’s wharf and made our way up a road towards burgers and a post office, we passed a familiar house, and I was reminded of a family story.

Thirty-four years ago, my mother and father and my grandfather, Ted, were out sailing for a few days on Penobscot Bay. My mother, who had never been troubled much by motion sickness before, struggled with nausea for most of the cruise. After three or four days, she was met with the surprising certainty that she was no seasick. She was pregnant.

And so the cruising party dropped an anchor in Owl’s Head, and my father went ashore to hitchhike to his vehicle in Winterport, about 90 minutes by car up the western side of the bay. When he finally arrived at his VW bus, it would not start, which was not uncommon but, this time, was certainly inconvenient.

In the meantime, my grandfather went ashore and knocked on the front door of the house nearest the harbor. He asked for water, which they gave him, and let him use the telephone.

In Winterport, my father set to repairs on the bus, and eventually it started, and he drove back down to Owl’s Head a couple days after having departed. He picked up my mother and Ted finished the cruise alone.

Later, my brother Jake was born. A few years ago, my dad drove me down to Owl’s Head during a visit home for the holidays. He showed me the house that had helped Ted, and told me the story.

And so, in some ways, it isn’t all that surprising at all that I slept in Owl’s Head and woke to the engines and wakes of fishermen headed out for their morning haul.

Ted died a little over a year ago. He would have been 101 years old this week. Partly because he had the wisdom that comes with being very, very old, and partly because he was  sailor, he would not have been surprised a bit that his youngest granddaughter took her life to boats, at least for a spell.

Good afternoon!

Posted in Uncategorized by womanenough on September 16, 2011

First off, my apologies for the visual blandness of the post. Wireless at the current anchorage exists, which is exciting, but it’s not strong enough to upload images. But that aside….

I wish you could see my afternoon today. We awoke this morning to strong Northwest winds; exactly the wrong direction for the otherwise snug (and free!) mooring we’ve been sitting on off Warren Island State Park. After a night of rocking and rolling, just a few moments of upright wakefulness made it clear we needed to set up shop elsewhere.

Our newly repaired outboard pushed us along with the help of a steady tailwind, and we made our way to the far side of a nearby island. We’re now anchored in a quiet cove. We’re all alone, save a tern who keeps stopping by to say hello. There are a few summer homes high on the hills providing our protection from the wind, but their windows are boarded up until Memorial Day and their lawns overgrown.

It is a bright, crisp, day, sunny with a near-cloudless blue sky and a wild driving wind.

We delayed breakfast until we’d anchored, and thus at 1pm we sat down to french toast and cool four hour old coffee.

I don’t know what the afternoon will hold in store. Maybe a trip ashore to explore the island lending us shelter. Maybe a fresh coat of paint on deck, the rig could use some tuning.

It’s a magnificent day to be foot loose and fancy free.

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How to Sail (in a million irritating steps)

Posted in Uncategorized by womanenough on September 13, 2011

The secret is this: I had no idea how to sail four months ago.  I had spent time at sea, an experience for which I can get eighteen individual chicken pot pies on the table by the strike of six ,with homemade cranberry sauce, no sweat. I was not so well prepared for, well, anything nautical. I could tie some knots.

Specifically, two. I could tie two knots.

And I knew the names of some things and I knew only to listen to your captain, and that when your captain yells at you, s/he probably doesn’t mean it personally.

And that was all well and good until I was learning how to sail my own boat, and my boyfriend was emerging as the captain, and all the power and all the information seemed to be stacked on his side of things. We had a serious list, and it was starting to feel a little personal.

Sailing can be hard*. Sailing with someone who knows what the heck he’s doing makes it easier. And it makes it a little harder, in a way that has more to do with pride, self-esteem and patience than with sailing. But nothing is worse for a ship than strife within the crew, and thus my sailing experiences have been greatly improved by considering the role of pride, self-esteem and patience in my overall success as a student. Frankly, I’d love to hear from anyone anywhere for whom pride, self-esteem and patience don’t benefit from consideration.

I was a pretty good student in school, and thus it has been a shock for me that learning has been the hardest part of learning how to sail.

It feels bad to do things I’m not good at, and, predictably, I’m not good at anything I’m doing for the first time. Most people aren’t, because skills are learned with practice. We wouldn’t value them if they were innate.

But it doesn’t change that I want to be really good at things. I don’t want to wade through the part where I’m bad at it to get to the part where I’m good at it.  I don’t want it explained to me in six ways I may or may not understand. I don’t want to watch someone else do it better. I just want to do it. Often, I just want to be left alone to do it. On my 24′ floating home, there is no “left alone.” There is no privacy within which to make and correct your mistakes before they go public. And, usually, there is some sort of tangible consequence to my mistakes.

So the pressure is there. Whether it’s starting the engine or  sailing off the anchor or plotting a course or raising or dropping sail, I have to do it all poorly for a while so I can do it well later.

Unless things are really breaking down and the consequences are frightening, Elias does not yell. He calmly corrects. I get really sick of the correcting. But I’m getting better at recognizing that it’s part of a process, that I can’t be great at everything right off the bat. He is correcting me because he wants me to be a good sailor. He wants me to be a good sailor because that will make me happy. I can’t really fault him for that.

But correcting is tough, because it means being really comfortable knowing that I will make mistakes. Often, they’ll be stupid mistakes. Avoidable. Repetitive. There is often no redeeming aspect to a mistake, they’re just mistakes. They don’t make me stupid, they don’t make me a bad person, they don’t even make Elias wish he lived on a boat with someone who knows more knots or makes fewer mistakes.

They’re just mistakes. If they’re the good kind, they give me valuable information and maybe I won’t make them again.

Like many men and women who sail together, Elias (man) calls the shots underway. It feels terrible to write that sentence, but it’s true. I’m pretty sensitive to this, because I’m not really a let-your-gentleman-friend-call-the-shots kind of girl. But I am definitely a don’t-sink-because-you’re-too-proud-to-recognize-your-boyfriend’s-strengths kind of girl. For now, it works, because Elias has a lot of knowledge that I don’t.** He can teach me a lot if I’m patient enough to acknowledge what I don’t know. I’m starting to get better at things, and that’s exciting for both of us.

It’s a shared responsibility to make sure we don’t sink into a pattern in which I stop learning and just follow orders. I can’t become complacent about the learning, even though it’s a lot easier to sit back and watch the world pass by at three knots. I have to keep absorbing that information, thinking critically about the decisions being made, and building my own confidence.

Elias has to keep sharing information with me, he has to keep correcting, even though sometimes his help is ill-received.

We both have to treat each other with love and respect. All the time. Even when I’m mad because I made a mistake. Even when it’s raining. Even when it’s raining and we’re hungry and something breaks.

It’s tough, but it’s working. I know a heck of a lot more now than I did when we set out on our first day sail in early May. And I don’t just know a lot about sailing,  I know a lot about how I learn. And I know more about how terrible inexperience can sometimes feel, and how great small successes can be. I know that the business I mentioned earlier, about the pot pies? That’s nothing to sneeze at, because that job was really hard and I didn’t have any idea how to do that the first time, either. But I learned.

And now I know six knots.

*It can also be playing cribbage in your bathing suit while a record spins.  It can go either way, and whichever kind of day (er, moment) I’m having, I try to remember that the other kind exists, because it’s probably right around the corner).

** Elias was asked to review this post before publishing. His only edit was that he doesn’t actually know that much more than me, but is much more confident faking it. I don’t believe him.

Photograph of sail school from travel-to-croatia.org.

Kindness and Baked Goods

Posted in Uncategorized by womanenough on September 12, 2011

I’ve written before about how often I am the recipient of great kindnesses. Last time, I wrote about it while stepping out of a pool of jealousy.

Today, I’m firmly planted in gratitude as I think about the currency of kindnesses around here. The most important things I learned while working as a cook on a small expedition cruise vessel had nothing to do with culinary skills. Rather, while traveling through remote parts of northern Canada and Greenland, the take home point was always to be generous with what little you have, no matter where you are in life.

During those northern travels, we were often the beneficiaries of fresh fish and berries, baked goods, stories, salvaged treasures, showers, tours of interesting places. Gifts were always reciprocated with what we had to give; kindness and baked goods. Kindness and baked goods have become a natural currency for me.

One of the silver linings of the land-based life right now is access to my mother’s oven, which allows me to bake up  some gratitude  where before kindness had to suffice on its own.

Last week we were given lobsters by a local fisherman, and I just got done baking the “thank you” loaf of blueberry citrus bread. It’s left me thinking of all the thank you gifts I owe near and far. Some of them will be baked, some of them will never be, due to time, geography and resources. In the absence of baked goods, however, I maintain that kindness goes a long way in the marketplace of human relationships.

Here’s the recipe for Blueberry Citrus Bread. Not in blueberry country? Try fresh cranberries, too.

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries or frozen, thawed, drained
3 tablespoons lemon juice

Method
Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease and flour an 8×4 pan. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside, these are your dry ingredients. Cream butter with 1 cup sugar until mixture is light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat well. Add lemon peel. Alternate adding milk and dry ingredients, stirring by hand until batter is smooth. Fold in blueberries. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake until golden brown and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, a little more than an hour in my oven . Cool 20 minutes in the pan, turning out onto a rack to finish cooling.

A Shift in the Wind

Posted in Uncategorized by womanenough on September 5, 2011

Just when I think I know what’s coming next, I don’t.

Repairs are done and the weather looks good. Reasonable people would be setting sail in the early morn.

But I was thinking this morning I could handle some trees and dirt and a good walk in the woods, and the rest of the crew happened to agree.

So we’re into the woods until we come out, and then, maybe, we’ll go sailing?!