Just before departure

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My current view of the world. Rain, rain, and rain again. From down below

Well, friends, we are ready to go!  After three months in marina, the last of the tasks has been completed.  The refrigerator is stuffed with food and the bulkheads are crammed with cans and dry goods.  The water maker, solar panels, dingy davitts, AIS and SSB radio have been installed and all systems are go.  The rigging and sails have passed inspection and endured what repairs they required.  The new toilet and plumbing smell delightfully un-head-like. The new teak cockpit table is varnished and sturdy.  We have roared around in our new dinghy and with a brand-new outboard motor and installed both on deck.  The ditch bag is filled with everything we can think of that we hope never to use, including a small stash of dark chocolate and honey, which cleans and disinfects wounds and never goes bad.  Whew!   

Ryan has completed a myriad of other tasks to get the boat ready to go.  My contribution has been largely interior and decorative, furnishing useful galley supplies (such as a Breville immersion blender that also functions as a mini-food processor; a hold-load of lock n’ lock boxes and globe glass solar lanterns for the cockpit).

Our weather window has opened and we are going to step into it tomorrow morning at 9 am.  We expect to sail most of the way for three days, crossing the Gulf Stream at 32 N, off the coast of Charleston, where it’s narrow and runs west-to-east.  We need to arrive in Whale Cay, in the Abacoes, by Sunday morning to avoid the high winds expected to stir things up dangerously Sunday evening and Monday.  If we can’t get there on time, we’ll either round the Abacoes and head for the Berry Islands or veer off course to Memory Rock on the North west Abacoes.

For the passage, I have made the following dishes:  Beef, barley and lentil stew; Arroz con Pollo (both using stock from scratch); Bacon, onion, and gruyere quiche; cornbread with unbolted flour (crunchy!); and roasted potatoes.  I brought three cookbooks: Deb Morgan’s Kripalu Seasonal Menus; The Boat Galley Cookbook by Carolyn Sherlock and Jan Irons; and Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything.  The latter is my Bible, the book I could not do without.  It’s big and bulky but well worth its weight and volume.

O, and of course I’ve loaded up the Kindles with largely free or very cheap classics, Melville and Burney and Hardy and Woolf and Edgeworth and Dickens and even Goethe, in addition to some great Sci-fi, Doris Lessing’s Shikasta (which I’ll be reading for the 10th time) and Nancy Farmer and Ursula K. LeGuin and Octavia Butler, the great classics of Sci-Fi in my opinion.  Also old childhood favorites: Treasure Island and 20,000 Leagues under the Sea and Anna Karenina, Wuthering Heights and the Collected Stories of Poe.   Also Marlon James and Tiphanie Yanique and Anne Carson. 

It’s currently raining in Oriental, as it has been for the majority of our time here.  It patters down with irritatingly regular gentleness.  It has soaked my hat, which I set out on a flat part of the deck to reshape. I hear tell that I will enjoy sunny, lovely weather in the Bahamas.  But as I’ve never been there, I don’t really know what to expect.

And then there is the worry I carry, a heavy burden, my concern for my son, who has not finished college or found a job (although he says he has looked), or found a direction for himself in this life. He is a wonderful, charming, beautiful person, a joy to talk to, a Mensch, intelligent and engaged in thinking outside the norms that most people don’t even recognize.  I love him very much.  But I also worry.  What will become of him?  How will he pay his bills?  He lives with his girlfriend, who has little money, barely enough to feed the two of them.  I pay their rent, but only until April, and that is far longer than I had expected to do so.  The plan was that he would get a job or go back to school and start his life.  My intention was to help him launch, to move him out of the house, like a mother bird, shoving her fledglings into the air.   All of these details amount to so little about him.  I despair of understanding him.  I try not to feel guilty.  It is the nature of motherhood to feel guilty. 

Thank you, my wonderful friends, for your thousand kindnesses to me.  I miss you all!  I will write next when I have an internet connection.  I can’t say when that will be, but I expect it will be soon.

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Clamming on Ocracoke, O!

Ryan with our clamming spoils
Ryan with our clamming spoils

Yesterday we went clamming, which involved a long bicycle ride through flat marsh on the Sound side, then a trek through yellow-brown muck through razor sharp grass and into the murky waters where the sand is gray and studded with cob-web like seaweed.  I clamped my jaw tight, which made my teeth hurt, as I waded out, fearful of coming into any contact with the slimy, tangled, underwater strings.  It was as though I was holding my nose with my entire, rigid body, and I said over and over, loudly and crankily, “I don’t like this.”  Every three or four steps I stumbled into a whole, for the bottom is anything but even and the water very cloudy.  Ryan stomped right out into it, whipped off his shoes and wiggled his toes into the sand.  “Clam!” he chirped.

I clambered up onto a duck blind and recoiled while pretending to meditate on the broad shoal, which goes on for miles and never gets any deeper than three feet of water.  Finally I saw that Ryan was struggling to hold his shoes and the clamming bag and waded over to help him.  At first I hung around, holding his shoes, while he found clam after clam with his toes.  The backs of my legs were badly sunburned and I tried to face them away from the sun.  Then I started to rake the sand with my own shoes, still strapped to my feet.

I wandered over a sandy spot, noticed something white and round in the water, and gingerly reached down for it.  “Clam!”  I shouted.  I found another one, and then another, and then it occurred to me that I could keep my legs out of the sun if I squatted down into the water, and while there I might as well fish around in the “clean,” sandy parts for a clam or two.  Before long I was hooked and digging down even into the cobwebby weed.  The clams were plentiful and easy to find, and each one I brought up came with a cloud of inky sand.  It was fun.  I filled Ryan’s shoes again and again, emptying them into the big mesh bag he carried.  After an hour or so we must have collected 15 pounds, more than we could eat, so we headed back to shore, through the muck and the mud.  And that was our day clamming.

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