After living onboard for a week I thought I had everything all figured out. I was used to sleeping in a tiny bunk, using the ocean as my sink for brushing my teeth, keeping all my clothes in plastic bags to stave off the dampness, the piles of clutter everywhere; I was even used to the annoying anchor taking up valuable space under my bunk and the enormous coil of rope in my head. Then, of course, we left the dock. It was not the departure, sailing off into the sunset that I had envisioned. The seas and skies were a stormy grey. Soon after our departure the rocking that would continue steadily for the next few days, and semicontinuosly for the next few weeks, began.
The first two days were quite uneventful in comparison to the days that would soon follow. On the third day, just after we had raised the foresail, a nut and a small oblong piece of metal fell to the deck from aloft. Not a minute after, the throat, the end of the gaff closest to the mast, followed. The opposite end of the gaff, the peak, then had to come down. Once all the fallen pieces were found, the shackle that held the peak halyard to the gaff was easily reattached. The main inconvenience was that we had to endure the exhausting labor of raising the sail a second time.
That evening, we moored in Portland harbor. There, we met up with my maternal grandparents, who had driven all the way from upstate New York to see us off. After their long drive, they then ferried us around to various marine stores, and we used their hotel room to take much needed showers.
The next morning, I crawled out of my nice warm bunk to be assaulted by the frigid morning air. I dressed quickly, and went straight out into the even chillier ocean breeze. We raised the sails with my mother at the helm while my father, brother, and I hauled away, with some degree of normally. But, this was not to be a normal day to any degree. Before long, the seas began to steadily increase; from 6 to 10 to 15 to 20 feet, and occasionally even more. Our fairly rugged vessel pitched violently, making any and all movement about a struggle. All our stuff above and below deck was tossed about, making an enormous mess. Our cooler, above deck, went on its side, strewing its contents about. But, fortunately, just about the only casualty, in this case, was a bottle of milk that spilled all over the deck, but was quickly washed away by the seawater splashing on deck. But, of course, there is no use crying over spilt milk. The ocean continued to rage, drenching the decks. With each wave, an outboard motor lashed to a railing was caught in a tempest of swirling brine.
Quite often, the somewhat large size of our boat tends to cause some problems. But, in this case, we were all very thankful that our boat wasn’t a foot shorter or a pound lighter, for any smaller of a boat would have made this day even more miserable than it already was.
At times, I had to try very hard not to fear what could happen, but just focus on what had to be done. Looking back, one of the scariest aspects of that day was falling overboard. Of course, you wouldn’t want to fall overboard any other day, but with the waves as monstrous as they were, the result could have been disastrous. With waves nearly four times as tall as I am, staying afloat would have been nearly impossible, and getting back onboard quite difficult. Not to mention hypothermia and other such added dangers. Fortunately, this did not happen, but we didn’t come out completely unscathed.
At one point, while I was down below, trying to further secure things, a jib sheet had become caught around a running light on one of the stays. My brother went up to free it, but, just as he let go, a wave hit. For the split second that he wasn’t holding on, he was tossed back, and the side of his jaw hit a belay pin. As I was coming up from the galley, I gasped when I saw his face dripping with blood. But then, to pour salt in to the proverbial wound, as my mother was cleaning him up, another large wave hit, and she was thrown into the side of the wheelhouse. Fortunately, Scott’s wounds were minimal, and just looked worse than they really were. As for my mother, she remained virtually unharmed thanks in part to a rather thick collar on her foul weather jacket. My father and I were lucky to be little more than fatigued by the labors of such a long and strenuous journey.
After nearly six hours of being tossed about like a rubber ducky in a splashing child’s bathtub, we reached Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Although we were safely at anchor, and the boat had stopped rocking, our day had not ended. There was still the matter of cleaning up the huge mess caused by the constant lurching. Definitely the biggest inconvenience was a large Tupperware container of rice that had overturned and spilled all over the marble counter top and into all the nooks and crannies of our propane stove. After raising the sails, tending lines, securing gear, and skipping lunch, the last thing you want to do is bend over and scoop rice out of and disassemble a stove, but that’s exactly what I did. After an eternity of picking up the rice with serving spoons, spatulas, and my hands, my mother pronounced it good enough, and made dinner. After hungrily scarfing down our dinner, we all went straight to bed, for we were all quite exhausted. Even my 15 year old body felt quite ancient after the physical and mental stress of that day. The following day, we stayed right where we were and licked our wounds
On the 6th day of our voyage, after a comparatively calmer, easier, and shorter sail, we arrived at Gloucester, Massachusetts. We were greeted with a cannon salute from a local chartering schooner, the Thomas E. Lannon. Shortly after, the harbormaster came and escorted us to a superb anchoring spot and gave us a packet of maps, pamphlets, and other helpful items. Thanks in part to our warm welcome; we decided to finish the rest of our first week there. Not only were a lot of the people friendly, but also the wildlife. Two large swans came right up to the side of our boat, not a foot away. We gave them our old, moldy bread, of which there was good deal. They even came back for seconds later that day.
My first week living onboard has been a bit trying at times, but also somewhat enjoyable. I can only hope that there are more good times ahead, rather than bad.