I Bit. Now It’s Time to Chew

Here we are, a third of the way through the month of June, and I’m still in Annapolis. Not that that’s a bad thing — Annapolis is a great town and I enjoy being here. But the plan has always been to take Further and head back home to Plum Island for the summer, and to sail on the Atlantic as opposed to the Chesapeake. So why am I still here?

Well, a couple of reasons. And in the spirit of open honesty, I’m here to admit that those reasons are procrastination and fear.

I’m still checking off items on Further’s to-do list, and a lot of those things I really should have — and certainly could have — taken care of over the winter. But some of that procrastination was based on misguided faith in the boat and systems that I purchased.

For instance: I was under the impression that the dinghy that came with Further was in decent shape and just needed a few patches. But I couldn’t make those fixes during the cold weather of the winter so I waited until spring, at which point I realized I was not having success fixing the dinghy. I took it to the folks at Annapolis Inflatables who let me know that no, the dinghy was in sad shape. So finding a decent used dinghy took a while (and thanks to Jesse at Fawcett Marine who hooked me up with an Apex inflatable in great shape).

Similar situations arose with many other to-do items, and compounding my procrastination was the island-time mentality in the sailing community here in Naptown. Seriously, if you want to get that “mañana” or “soon come, mon” vibe without going to the tropics, just come to Annapolis and get involved with the boating industry. “I’ll be able to look at it this week” means they’ll get to it in two-plus weeks. And even the seemingly honest accounts — “We won’t get to it for three weeks” — means you have to chase them down after three-plus weeks so they’ll look at it. A lot of this is due to the fact that the marine-related companies around here are swamped with work, but some of it is definitely due to a laid-back attitude that surprised even laid-back me.

The other factor delaying my trip north is the challenge in finding experienced crew able to make the journey. And that has actually raised some very ominous specters for my longer-term dreams.

I have every belief that I could take Further north by myself, but for a first journey offshore in several years (for both boat and me), going solo is not especially smart. Simply keeping watch for the entirety of the trip — much of which is spent crossing the shipping lanes going into and out of New York City — would be an exercise in ultramarathon endurance. And it would be a hell of a lot smarter and safer to have others aboard to help with sail trim, steering, navigating, anchoring/mooring and so forth.

I’ve sent out a couple of group emails to friends who are experienced sailors but no one’s schedule permits them to make the run. And I have some fear — or rather, a nervousness — about making the journey home on my own. I’m nervous about the seasickness I always feel on my first evening at sea after a long time ashore. I’m nervous about crossing all those shipping lanes. I’m nervous about dealing with the tidal currents in the Delaware Bay and the Cape Cod Canal. I’m nervous about dealing with the mouth of the Merrimack River and the currents upstream in Newburyport where Further’s summer mooring awaits. I’m nervous about dealing with all of the systems on board Further when (not if) issues arise. And I’m especially nervous about dealing with all of them alone. Sure, plenty of people sail around the world solo in all sorts of contraptions. Sure, I know what I’m doing and Further is strong, solid boat that can cross oceans without batting an eye. But I’m still nervous. I’d like to have some help along the way.

There. I said it: I’m scared/nervous/fearful.

And going forward from a few-day trip back to Massachusetts, I’m nervous that I’m SO close to my dream but won’t be able to realize it because I can’t (or don’t want to) do all of this on my own. I’m wondering now if maybe I’ve bitten off more than I can chew with regard to the whole cruising dream. Is Further too much boat? Can I really go and chase those adventures I’ve dreamed about since I was a teenager? I always figured I might have to go solo for stretches, but I was optimistic friends would want to join up for some of the fun parts; indeed, that’s one of the reasons I wanted a boat with two separate cabins. I also figured I’d meet similarly minded people along the way (and I may yet) but now I’m not so sure. And I’m now grappling with the fact that as much as this has been my dream, and as much as I’ve wanted to do this — even solo — for so long, now I’m thinking that maybe doing it solo isn’t really what I want. That maybe even this curmudgeonly old loner might prefer a little more people time than he likes to admit.

I’m confident that I just need this one trip under my belt and everything will fall into place: my sea legs will come back, I’ll rediscover that joy I feel when I’m offshore, my adventure-lust will come back full force and my deal-with-it attitude will enable me to address anything that might arise on board in the future.

It turns out the procrastination was the easy part; that just meant a delay. No big deal. But the fear, well, that’s created a big obstacle to a short trip and a lifelong journey. I’m dealing with that every single day right now. Stay tuned.

(Note: This post also appears over at my personal site.)

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