2017 was a difficult year. I was completely consumed with a major acquisition and renovation project at work that required me to work 50-60 hour weeks and left me with no day off. Erin was pregnant for the later half and she describes her pregnancy as “difficult.” From an outside perspective, I would describe it as “miserable and challenging.” To finish things off our two beautiful boys were born but they were a little too early so they spent their first month of life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. This was extremely difficult for Erin and me.
All that said though we are blessed to have my job responsibilities elevated as it comes with increased job fulfillment and compensation. We are blessed that our two little ones are healthy and do not have any life threatening problems. We are blessed to have one another throughout all of this. I also feel like, while we didn’t get to work on the Alberg as much as I would have liked to, we made progress by finishing the deck re-core project which was a major milestone. I have also been plugging away at smaller, drawn out projects that I have not posted about on this blog for fear of boring everyone to death. Truth be told, I haven’t had much time to sit down and write at all.
There doesn’t seem to be much hope in sight as taking care of Jameson and Ronan has taken the life out of Erin and myself. Twins are hard. Very hard. There is no sleep and its difficult to do anything but take care of them. Erin often has no time to eat herself because she is engaged in the momentous task of feeding the boys. She is absolutely amazing in her determination, will, and grit to get this job done, often working 14 hours a day just on producing for and feeding the boys. I still work full time and have some big projects on the horizon for 2018. Luckily, Erin is employed by Starbucks which has a great healthcare and maternity leave program so she can be at home with the boys full time.
The Alberg is always on my mind and the desire to be working on her is consuming. It’s frustrating to have so many high level responsibilities that all fight for attention and the Alberg does not win any of the battles. That’s as it should be, we are engaged in keeping two other people alive right now and have been for the past 11 months. They have to take priority. In the mean time I have tried my best to bring work home. I have all the teak caprails at home and I recently built a little workshop in our attic where I can refinish them. I’ve been doing a ton of research in between feeding the boys and this has been fulfilling as well. Recently I’ve tried to get out to the boat here and there but can never stay long enough to tackle a big project. I’ve been reading Cap’n Fatty Goodlander’s new book “Cruising Boat Basics” and found a bit of solace in the fact that he mentions several times how plugging away at a fixer upper boat can take years and that is all part of the tenacity it takes to succeed. Many people don’t make it. Life gets in the way.
I know what its like for life to get in the way. When we first bought our Catalina and had her docked at the same Sail Club that I grew up sailing at with my Dad on his Pearson 26 we would see all the other neglected boats around. I just couldn’t understand why anyone would have a boat and never come sail it! At the time it was quite literally beyond my comprehension because I was so excited to have my own boat and be able to go sailing on it with my wonderful wife. It was the best! And now that very boat sits there and we haven’t been sailing in months. I know what its like now. That small dream of mine was steamrolled by life’s other requirements.
The completion of the Alberg and setting sail upon her is no small dream. I have been working at this on and off for my entire life, preparing in one way or another. I remember the first time I sailed my own small boat out into the “big part” of the lake. My dad and I went to an auction and found a Hobie 12 sailboat that needed some work. My dad bought her and found all the parts to restore her so that I could sail my own little boat. It was amazing. I remember sailing back and forth at the same Sail Club that our Catalina now sits. Then one day I decided to sail out into the main part of the lake to get around all the docked boats and go over to the other side of the cove. There was a nice little breeze pushing me along in the calm water and then when I got to the end of the peninsula the fresh breeze came whipping around the end of the point and slammed into my sails. The boat heeled sharply but I knew what to do almost as if by magic or instinct and the boat remained stable and shot off like a rocket. My heart was racing and the whole world disappeared, it was just the boat, the wind, the water, and me.
My teenage years pried me apart from sailing for a time but the magic never left my body. When I was in Chicago in college I would go down to the water often and look at all the boats. It was like the water was calling me. All three places I lived in Chicago were walking distance from the water. I would fantasize about owning a little 26 foot boat and living on it. At the time that seemed the perfect boat. When I moved to NYC for graduate school I would bike along the Hudson river and there was one spot where a couple small sailboats were moored. I would always stop there and just watch them dance on the water. I dreamed of moving out of my apartment and living on a little boat on the Hudson. It all seemed so out of reach. A far fetched dream. I had no job, no money, no boat. It wasn’t meant to be and I moved on.
Moving back to North Carolina from NYC ended up being a pivotal decision in my life as it allowed me to completely switch gears and start my life anew. I needed a re-start and by the grace of god I was given a second chance. Whats amazing is that immediately after sobering up and re-focusing my priorities the desire to have that little 26 foot boat came flooding back in. For some reason, at the time, it felt like I could escape everything and the boat was the answer. Luckily, it was not so easy and I had to work for years and be humbled time and time again before I was finally in a position to buy a small boat.
Erin and I had just moved in together and I found a Hobie Holder 15 for sale locally. We bought her and this is the boat Erin learned how to sail on.
I would often take the hobie out on the lake by myself and go sailing. One day it was really blowing and I was loving every moment of it. For some reason I had absolutely no sense of fear or danger, I had full sail up and the boat was planing. It was exhilarating and I was fully hiked out with my feet under the hiking straps and my body hanging out over the water. I could tell I was on the brink of being knocked down but I felt confident that if I needed to I could just stop the boat and point up in to the wind. I also knew that if I did capsize I could just right her and be back on my way, no big deal. The moment came when a gust was just too much and I knew we were going over if I didn’t do something. On a big boat in a situation like this you can ease up on the helm and the boat will naturally swing into the wind and everything levels out for a moment. Well, I let go of the tiller and the next thing I knew I was in the water and the boat was completely upside down, mast pointing straight down to the bottom of the lake. I was completely caught off guard and had no clue what had happened. As it turns out, what happened is that the boat did swing around into the wind, all in about half a second, and it kept going and the wind caught the other side of the sails and threw the boat upside down. Totally insane but still all part of the fun. I was treading water and thinking “well this is kinda cool, I’ll just need to right her and sail back on in to dry off a bit.” That is when the experience took a turn – the boat would not come back up. I worked on it for hours, I worked on it until my hands were bleeding. I swam under and released all the sails, rigged a line around the boat to give me leverage as I stood on the centerboard trying to get the momentum to have her come up. Nothing. It wasn’t working, I was tired, I was exhausted and in 100 ft of water with no life jacket. I knew that I was wearing myself out and things could get dangerous soon so I stopped struggling and just sat on the upturned hull until a power boat came along and offered assistance. I threw them a line and swam under and rigged it up to the boat in a kind of fish hook type way. They had to give it all they had to get that damn boat to come upright. It was insane and it infuriated me. I had made many mistakes, the first of which was to trust that a boat was designed with safety in mind. I thought that every dinghy could be easily righted singlehandedly. I thought that was a design requirement. I was completely wrong. It changed my perspective. I can honestly say the experience traumatized me. It still haunts me today and is one of the reasons I am now so concerned with the safety of a boat. I know it seems trivial from a third person perspective and its such a small little experience but it broke my trust. I sailed that boat back to the dock and never put it in the water again. It had broken my heart and I was confused.
I have mediated on that many times since and its one of the reasons we purchased the Alberg, a full keeled boat with encapsulated ballast. I know that she will take care of us, I know that we can trust her.
All of the experiences that I just shared, and many more, have been grooming me to set sail on the Alberg. I can feel it with every ounce of my being. I know it in my heart. For my entire life I have felt the call of the water. I have felt a communion with sailboats. When I think of a life calling all I can think about is sailing. When I try to think about what type of business I would start if I started my own business all I can think about are boats. When I think about what I want to do with my life all I can think about is sailing a small boat on a big ocean. Erin is excited to travel and to experience new places and cultures. The kids will have experiences that will shape the rest of their lives and will give them a world wide perspective on things. No doubt I will be forever changed by the places we visit and the people we meet as well, however, when I think about our voyage, I yearn for the part when we are in the middle of the ocean. I feel like I could just sail and sail. Almost like how Bernard Moitessier must have felt when he changed course on the last leg of the Golden Globe Race and kept on going.
When we have to wake up every few hours to feed the kids I think of it as practice for short handed passage making. When I have to wake up at 5:30am and work until 11:30 at night out in the cold to get the job done and meet a deadline I think to myself, “good. this is good. This is what it means to work hard. This is me working towards a goal. I will do whatever it takes to reach this goal.” The goal is sailing. I will work my hands to the bone every day all day if it means providing for our family, paying off our debt, and sailing away free. I call that an easy bargain.
So, all that is to say – 2017 was a rough year for us and 2018 will be another challenge. Who knows if I will have time to work away hour after hour on the Alberg. Who knows if I will have time to keep this blog up like I wish I could. But every single day we will be working towards our dream of sailing away on the Alberg. Absolutely nothing will stop us. Within the last year I have seen a side of Erin that I never knew existed. She is every bit as strong and determined as me. She has true grit. As Fatty says – Tenacity is what it takes – and tenacity is what we have.