Woman Enough

The Ritual of the Wood Pile

Posted in Uncategorized by womanenough on November 30, 2011


I spotted it on Friday afternoon; a newly delivered pile of wood in my parents’ front yard. A wave of enthusiasm washed over me, and some part of my body ached to stack a little wood. I woke up still thinking about it on Saturday, and by the time I actually made it up to their house, my father had most of the pile stacked into neat little rows. There was still a good third remaining, though, and I got my back, arms and legs into the familiar process; end, reach, lift, carry, stack, repeat. The pile grew.

When I was a kid, we relied heavily on wood heat, and there wasn’t much financial leeway, and thus most fall weekends were spent on the project of wood. It must be cut, split, and stacked, and generally this required the transfer of a large woodpile a couple times. transferring a wood pile is not like transferring twenty bucks from account A to account B. Each piece gets picked up, thrown into trailer or wheelbarrow, and emptied on the other end.

Wood is a process. It is methodical and tactile and your body remembers everything about it for a very long time. When I lived in city apartments, fall felt incomplete without the process of putting up wood.

I had a grandfather for whom wood was close to religion; he didn’t regard it as omnipotent, but the process of preparing the wood, building the fire, it was all steeped in ancient wisdom for him. The art of fires and firewood was lofty and he granted it reverence. It makes sense to me, to be in proper awe of this thing that grows free and wild and keeps us warm and turns chickens into something delicious.

Mama Tried also heats with wood, but ours is mostly scavenged building scraps that Elias splits with a rigging knife and a ninja impersonation on top of the battery box. Recently, I tried my hand at splitting it myself, and it’s the most amazingly therapeutic experience imaginable. I felt extraordinarily capable and productive, and maybe it’s because of my current career path, but that combination felt rare and special.

The wood we gather today is different from the wood pile of my youth, but it’s still part of that conflicted celebration Mainers engage in; the preparation for winter. We pretend that we hate the battle each year, but there’s palpable joy as we gather our weapons, log upon log, black the stove, and wait for winter to fall.

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Heating Up

Posted in Uncategorized by womanenough on November 23, 2011

The most often asked inquiry into the well-being of Mama Tried’s crew these days is “are you staying warm?” which I suppose is something of a form of small talk around these parts, but I think we get it more often than others. We do, after all, live in a piece of plastic, and the temperature of both air and water are dropping.

But I can assure you that yes, we are plenty warm enough.

Mostly because Mama Tried is insulated. The decision to insulate was made after we spent our first night aboard last November. The next day, I went to work and Elias lined the interior hull with inch and a half thick foam insulation. And then, because pink isn’t really my color, we covered the insulation with a wood tongue and groove ceiling. It’s actually quite fancy looking.

So we keep most of the heat we make.

On top of that, it’s a very, very small space, and it doesn’t take much to heat it. So we have this tiny, football-sized wood stove that does and darn good job keeping us toasty, as long as we do a good job keeping it fed.

Gathering wood is yet to be a problem; last winter we scavenged building scraps, and this year it looks like we’ll be able to do the same. Lots of manufacturers around here sell their hardwood scraps for $10 a truckload, and we’re thinking about this option, too (although storage is a tough consideration, and it’s actually easier for us to collect a week’s worth of wood than a winter’s  worth).

Of course, a wood fire doesn’t last long when no one’s tending it, and so we run an electric heater when we’re not on board. It keeps the plumbing from freezing up and it means things aren’t quite so frigid when the people arrive home.

About this time last year, Elias suggested an electric blanket might be cozy. I’m not sure what I was trying to prove in terms of heartiness, but I refused to bow to such luxury. That was pretty stupid. We spent $40 on an electric blanket this month and it is worth twice that.  If this is what getting soft looks like, I’ll take it.

Granted, it has been an exceptionally mild fall. I don’t recall being cold last winter, however, and we’re in much better shape for it this year. In fact, last year at this time Mama Tried was just being launched for the first time in years, and we were checking the bilge obsessively and shaking our heads in shear disbelief that the thing actually floated. Today, I take the wonders of buoyancy for granted and manage to whine that it’s really too warm in the cabin once you have the fire going and a couple of stove burners chugging to boot.

The problems aboard are really great problems to have.

Just listen for a sec, okay?

Posted in Uncategorized by womanenough on November 16, 2011

Today’s post was going to be about heating with wood. But I changed my mind.

I have a confession.

Of the many perks that came along with leaving my life in Washington and turning to the sea, among them was insulating myself from the politically fueled world in Washington. While I lived there, I was fortunate to be able to march and protest many times on many issues that are important to me. I also got to watch thousands of other people protest for things that were important to them. Sometimes I agreed, sometimes I was disgusted. I was always proud to live in a place where citizens could speak.

2005

My first morning in DC happened to be President Bush’s second inauguration, and the peace protest it inspired happened to begin in the park behind my new apartment. I marched, the first time, because of a lucky accident.

Protesting feels powerful, and when it’s done correctly, the level of positive energy it creates is infectious and inspiring. When it feels that the world is hopeless to your cause, there is nothing more affirming than a group of people harnessing their hurt, outrage, and passion into something hopeful.

In the six years I lived in our nation’s capitol, the government felt less and less hopeful to me, and when I left I was still marching for the same issues; people are dying in an unjust war and all Americans do not share an equal right to marry. No matter how disheartened I felt by those two facts, I was always cheered by the notion that I lived in a place where people from across the country gathered to speak.

Everyone had a voice.

2008

When Occupy Wall Street first took shape, I was sailing and it wasn’t on my radar (pun intended, I don’t actually, have radar).  I’ve heard more and more as I’ve been on land, but for the most part, I’ve disregarded it. I was angry about the pepper spray incident in Oakland, and I have tried to practice patience when overhearing people say things about the participants motives, intentions and values that I do not believe are true. I’ve read the paper, but I have not, until today, found myself sinking into a place of anger, hopelessness, or disappointment.

The NYPD took away the voice of American citizens in Zucotti Park this week. Citizens whose entire movement is centered around anger that no one is listening. These are the people who decided to go speak, while the rest of us report to work and hope things will get better, hope as a nation we will start listening to each other, taking care of each other, practicing the values of peace, fairness, hard work, determination, that we all should share, regardless of income.

I can ignore ignorance and irresponsible government, and I prefer to ignore corporate greed. But I can’t ignore robbing anyone of their right to speak. today, I’m a little ashamed of how removed I’ve chosen to remain from the Occupy Wall Street movement. It’s not easy anymore, I don’t live down the street from the center of the action.

But complacence should not be the default, just because it’s easy.

So I am officially offering my congratulations to the Occupiers, for using their voices. I hope it’s not over, because I just started paying attention.

At the same time that I am outraged by police brutality and abuse of authority, I also understand that two months of people sleeping outside in small spaces can get rank. So maybe, instead of silencing the passionate with billy clubs, we can find away to honor our Constitution and remain reasonably sanitary. I’m just throwing it out there, because the New York City government has a job to do, and I’d rather they did something positive with it than trample on my rights.

To all of us who are living our lives, quietly and without disruption while all of this happens in distant cities, can we ask ourselves how willing we are to ignore those who choose to speak? Because they may not look like us, or talk like us, or convey their anger the way we do, but next week it might be the issue that’s close to your heart that is swept under the rug. And then you’ll be angry, and it will feel all the more hopeless because no one is there to listen.

Next time I’ll be back to heating a small fiberglass boat with wood. But for today, I’m listening.

Wrecked!

Posted in Uncategorized by womanenough on November 10, 2011

Elias and I were looking at a chart of our home harbor closely the other day, for no other reason than it was in front of us and we don’t have television to stare at in the evening.

“Look!” I pointed, “A shipwreck!”

Shipwrecks are probably my favorite part of charts, except for the parts of charts that keep me from running my boat into things and let me know I’m going where I want to, those are great features, too.

But back to the wrecks. They’re subtly marked, but the mere word conjures up so much mystery. What kind of ship, and when? What happened, and how many souls were lost? Shipwrecks are inherently perfect stories; their setting is always interesting, the characters dynamic, and tragedy hits, unexpected and insurmountable. There are an estimated three million shipwrecks on the ocean floor, a number I find horrifying, and yet still, somehow, loads me with questions about each of them.

So today is the 33rd Anniversary of one of the most famous modern shipwrecks, that of the Edmund Fitzgerald in 1975. In honor of that tragedy, and all the many, many others marked on charts and those that never were, today I have a list for you of some compelling shipwrecks in history.

Warning; reading about all of these is kind of a downer, like reading the police blotter in the paper, without the thrill of maybe seeing someone you work with. I’d check them out one at a time.

Batavia, a real treasure ship!

Yongala, sunk by a cyclone.

The ocean liner Lusitania, struck down by German U-boats in World War I.

Estonia, a more recent and particularly tragic incident

The ship that came to the rescue of Titanic, Carpathia, which went down itself in WWI, and the wreck was just discovered in 1999.

In the meantime, I’m off to the Historical Society to see what they might know about that wreck in one of the shallowest spots of our own harbor. And then again, maybe my imagination doesn’t really want to know.

Autumn always falls

Posted in Uncategorized by womanenough on November 4, 2011


Last night, we started sorting through photographs from our summer sailing, and I was really struck by how grateful I am for the weeks we had on the water.

The moorings here in Belfast are nearly empty. Our fancy new shipyard has more boats on the hard than in the water, and all of us live aboards are scurrying into our winter births.

So many of the boats coming out of the water barely moved this summer because of a shortage of time or energy, or a surplus of malfunction. I know we will have summers like that, too, when a beloved boat sits more than she sails. But for our first summer, while we didn’t travel as far as we hoped we might, we certainly traveled more than most.

So, in memory of those blissful summer afternoons, we’re trading sunburn for windburn and heading out this weekend for what will probably be the final sail of the 2011 season.

Here’s a video I’ll be turning to in the depths of February, I’m sure. Won’t you sail with us for just a moment?

Water, Water

Posted in Uncategorized by womanenough on November 2, 2011


“Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink.” It is not quite as dire aboard Mama Tried as Coleridge intended when he wrote those famous words in the Rime of the Ancient Mariner. But the water situation isn’t pretty right now, either.

We spent most of the summer blissfully happy on a dock in the middle of the harbor. We  had our delightful neighbor boat hippies and were left undisturbed by boat gawkers and wharf walkers passing along the docks.

As the temperatures are dropping, however, we’re less thrilled to be  out on our float, and we’re anxiously waiting to move into our winter slip.

The winter dock is a wharf, attached to land, with a parking lot and other boats. It also has these handy electric outlets, and we can plug our boat into them, and then we aren’t supplying all our power from our solar panels anymore.

With this electrifying power, we can run a small heater, which means that when we’re not on the boat, something is still heating the boat.

What does any of this have to do with water?

Water condenses everywhere in a fiberglass boat. Mine is insulated, and thus condensation only forms on the cabin overheard, which is not insulated (really, we didn’t have any standing head room to spare).  So as I sleep, all my breath condenses on the overhead above me, forming heavy drops of water, which, once heavy enough, release their hold on the overhead and fall down. Onto me. And my bedding.

And, if being wet were not uncomfortable enough, it’s important to remember that this is happening because it’s really, really cold. As in, today temperatures may hit the low 50’s and they’re calling it a warm day.

On the opposite end of the water spectrum, we can’t seem to keep any in our tanks, which we’re filling five gallons at a time because it is TOUGH to row five gallons of water out to your boat, we don’t really think about making it ten or fifteen. Try as I might to conserve, we’re still out of water more often than not.

So I’m looking forward to moving the boat shore-side, which still may be a month or so away. In the meantime, it’s rain gear pajamas and a good old fashioned water bottle.

And because I don’t want to write wines and moans about a trivial inconvenience associated with a lifestyle I truly love, let me make it perfectly clear that I have woken up to some of the most beautiful, sun-drenched, frost-coated mornings of my life this week. It has been  truly pleasant, except for the cold, damp and thirsty part!