Woman Enough

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.


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.


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.



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!

Better late than never?

Posted in Uncategorized by womanenough on October 28, 2011

I promised a glimpse inside my office. Here it is:

I’m sort of in love with the office cooperative model. Right now, three of us occupy the space (one in a nook like mine, one in an actual office with a real door), and there’s room for four more people. It’s sort of an incubator  for new business, because the rent is much lower than a single-occupancy office and much, MUCH lower than a Main Street store front (which we have, the front office is, indeed, a Main Street store front for $300 a month, less than a third the going rate).

I like the idea of giving new businesses a place to set up, meet with clients, and an address for their business cards. For me, it’s a pleasant place to write and it gives me a physical space ashore to align with. I’m around the corner from where Elias works, and we can have lunch together most days. I have a view of the harbor and, despite all the things that can make writing a little isolating, I have office mates who cheerfully breeze in and out every little while.

Like any office, there’s terrible coffee and no one deals with their recycling properly.

Meanwhile, temperatures here in the great north are dropping steadily. This morning, we had frost on the portlights for the first time. Mama Tried is cozy and sweet. I got a bunch of oak wood scraps yesterday and they’re good, hot, slow burners in the woodstove.

I’m settling nicely into the rhythm of fall, and enjoying watching how a harbor prepares for winter. I am further reminded how much I appreciate living close to the weather, when it’s fair and when it’s poor.

Mostly, I’m feeling grateful to live in a place with the kinds of people who start office cooperatives, where it’s easy to live on your boat all year round, and the company while you do it is just superb.

She’s the one.

Posted in Uncategorized by womanenough on October 24, 2011

I don’t really want a new boat. I mean, I have a boat.  And I love Mama Tried.  I have a lot of sweat equity in her, and she provides a place to live and a thing to sail. Really, she’s great.

So why was my weekend spent dreaming about this boat?*

Because boats are kind of like that, aren’t they? You never stop thinking about the next one, what it will look like and what it will have that the current one lacks. For me, it’s self-tailing winches and an oven. What I would give for those two things! Throw in an inboard engine and a wet locker, and I start to forget what Mama Tried looks like.

While a year ago Elias and I needed a home and something to learn to sail on, today we have a place to live and a little more knowledge about ourselves as small boat sailors.  It’s not so much that I’m dissatisfied with Mama Tried, but I just know we’ll be moving on eventually. I didn’t stay in my first job forever, even though it was great, because I had to take the skills it gave me and move along to greater things. The same will likely be true for boats.

And if we have to upgrade eventually, what’s the harm in looking around a little now, right?

The harm is that my dad has seven boats, stored in various places and splashed into a couple different harbors. It’s clearly more boats than he needs, but not more than he wants. At moments, its a strain on his marriage, and at others a strain on his back. Boats just sort of arrive in his life and he accepts them.

My father is the maritime equivalent of the eccentric cat lady, and I’m worried it might be catching.

That old wooden boat we looked at this weekend just looked so easy to love, so willing to come home with us. Just a modest investment of funds and a significant deposit of labor and heartache and she could be ours.

Really, what’s the harm?


*I’m linking to the boat ad because I’m not going to buy it, but if any of you, patient blog-reading friends, wanted to purchase this beauty, well, I’d be happy to let you take me for a sail!


Posted in Uncategorized by womanenough on October 21, 2011

I’ve been sick this week. The kind of sick where, at first, you play it off as no big deal, just a scratchy throat. And then you feel like a big cowardly baby because you’re in the rack at 4:30 in the afternoon, whining about a scratchy throat.

And then it’s four days into your scratchy throat and it’s a little worse and you think “hey, wait a minute!” And despite your status of one of America’s unemployed and uninsured, you go to a doctor, and it turns out a nasty little bacteria’s been making its home in the back of your throat and a little penicillin should clear your strep throat right up.

I don’t get sick very often. I get a cold a year, maybe, and then every three or four years a solid case of something big (one year it was the flu, another poison ivy, sometimes strep).

Feeling poorly made everything about living aboard seem impossibly hard. There is that water filled punt with it’s wet seats to sit on while you stroke, stroke, stroke across the harbor, wetter each second. And it’s tough to keep the stove fed when you’re body doesn’t want to move from where you’re lying to fetch wood every fifteen minutes. And when you’re snug in your bunk, all your diseased breaths are constantly condensing on the walls and overhead and little sick-o water droplets periodically splash down onto your sick-o face.

So, it’s not the ideal environment in which to be ill.

Yesterday morning, when I emptied both the water tank and the stove fuel resevoir to make a lukewarm half cup of tea, I finally called “uncle.” I headed up to my parents’ house, where there was television and oil heat and extra blankets and did I mention television?

It was a great six hours. Nothing dripped, nothing rocked, nothing mildewed or leaked!

And today, feeling a little better and properly diagnosed and medicated, I’m back to the tasks of every day life. I should fill the water tank and add some fuel to the stove, and there’s a mound of infected laundry to be done. But I think maybe I’ll milk this just a few more hours, and sip hot tea beside a sun-drenched window just a couple moments longer. Because really, what’s the point of the miserable feeling part if you can’t linger on the bright-eyed lazy moments just a bit too long?



The home office

Posted in Uncategorized by womanenough on October 18, 2011

For a kid who doesn’t go to work, I enjoyed one heck of a legitimate weekend! After a string of dreary, rainy days last week, the weekend brought clear days, cool breezes, and a calm harbor. Lots of walks, visits with friends and neighbors, and a little community theater.

And now it’s Monday morning, and while I have no employer and no paycheck, it’s feeling pretty work-like.

Last week I secured some adorable little office space for myself downtown. From my new 36 square feet of space, I can see the harbor and all the comings and goings at the town wharf. For a delightfully affordable rent, I can use the internet, shower, and set up my desk for endless creative endeavors.

It’s a little magical, and I’m realizing that while living on the sailboat provides the basics; a place to sleep, to prepare a meal, to store [some] clothing, there are some other things that sure add a lot of oomph to quality of life. A space to unpack my books from their half dozen boxes in my parents’ attic, to set a plant (A Christmas cactus from my lovely friend Aasta), to think about writing and possible careers is really adding a lot to my days.

It raises some interesting questions about living aboard. The absence of a physical address is a lot of the charm of life afloat, but a physical place, with its windows, heat and hot water, certainly has its share of charm, too.

Sense of place is a big deal for me, whether I’m thinking about Maine, or the boat, or the houses and apartments I’ve lived in over the last thirty years. Being in spaces that inspire me to live more fully is a big part of it, and my new office certainly does that. Everything about it is me; my aunt Betty’s hand me down table, a chair from my grandmother, Aasta’s plant, a pencil holder my father made for me.

I know it won’t work out forever, and sooner or later I’ll be showering at the YMCA and writing from the library, but in the meantime it’s nice to be surrounded by things I like in a space conducive to dreaming just a little big bigger.

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.


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