Bubba is a vagabond sailor and an occasionally published writer who is wandering aboard his Bayfield 29, Ruth Ann.
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I have a new boat;
since July. She is a 1984 Bayfield 29. In fact, for most of the last
six months I’ve had three boats. Luckily, my Westsail project in
Florida has sold and I gave away the little daysailer I’d been
sailing here in Michigan. I wrote a series of posts about how I came
to acquire the Bayfield. She is a bit of a compromise and not quite
the badass ocean boat that the Westsail would have been. She will,
however, take me most of the places that I’ve longed to go.
I’m headed to
Navassa, NC by the end of the month(November) where I had the Bayfield hauled
in July. There is three or four months worth of work to get her back
in the water. Some small work on the hull, a barrier coat, bottom
paint as well as some sanding, cleaning and varnishing are all in
order. I’ll probably replace the standing rigging since she is out
of the water and I don’t know how old the rig is. Once she is safe,
seaworthy and cleaned up a bit, we’ll be off to wander. More on
I named my last two boats after important, powerful, early twentieth
century anarchist women. Emma Goldman, namesake of the Westsail
project, was an important writer and political activist; especially
around the First World War and birth control. Wikipedia says “During
her life, Goldman was lionized as a freethinking
"rebel woman" by admirers, and denounced by detractors as
an advocate of politically motivated murder and violent
Her writing and lectures spanned a wide variety of issues, including
of speech, militarism,
love, and homosexuality.”
We need more people like Emma. I named my little daysailer after Lola Ridge, an anarchist poet and editor of
avant-garde, feminist, and Marxist publications. She was a confidante
to Emma Goldman and worked with both Goldman and Margaret Sanger. I
thought it was especially appropriate that my little boat that was
keeping me sane while I waited to return to the big boat was named
after someone who had worked with the namesake of that bigger boat.
In mid-summer along
came the opportunity with the Bayfield. I had been spending a long
Fourth of July Weekend up at Torresen Marine where my little boat
was. I sailed a lot and just hung out by the water in my camper van.
A post about the Bayfield came up on Sailfar.net, a discussion forum
where I’ve been hanging out for more than 15 years. A cheap boat looking for a good home. I had been
trying to ignore it.
2019 has been a tough year.
I came back to Michigan the previous October because Mom was going into
chemo. I wanted to be available as much as possible to help out her and
Dad. We lost Mom in April. I was shattered and heartbroken and
grieving. Sailing was literally a therapeutic way for me to process
everything. Her passing focused my mind on what I’d been trying to
do for over a decade. I’ve been through four boats and 12 years but
was still a fair distance from my ultimate goal – wandering the
Caribbean basin and perhaps even the Atlantic by sail. The Bayfield
was supposedly ready to go. I sent an email. That story is here.
I have written a
post about my Dad and a special day we had sailing here. I’ve always
meant to write about Mom in the same way. I know that she felt my
love and respect, but I would have never dreamed that she wouldn’t
ever read my appreciation “up-in-lights” on my blog.
I’m not fool
enough to think that an inexpensive sailboat would actually be ready
to go, but she appeared to be much closer to ready than the pile of
boat parts I had in Florida – really, a potential boat. Despite not really needing another boat in my life, I talked to the owner a couple times on the phone and
made a date to go look at the boat. Last July, I traveled to Little
River, SC, looked at her, made the deal, and sailed her to a boatyard
to be hauled out during hurricane season. That series starts here.
Mom & GG, last January
Since that trip in
July, we also lost my grandmother; who we called GG. Mom’s mother
was nearly 102 years old when she passed and was a wise and
beautiful human. I will greatly miss the wonderfully aimless,
thoughtful conversations we had. Grandma was a modern woman despite
her generation. As I edited the obituary she had written for us, it was
curiously cool to uncover a couple small, yet telling, details. I
discovered that she had been a proud member of the American Association of University Women, an organization that “advances equity for women
and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy, and research.” Also, in describing her parents, GG listed her mother first rather than
the traditional “Mr. and Mrs.” which had to have been
intentional. Also, there was a note at the end of her obituary that
said “this is about 150 words less than Dad’s obituary.”
Surely, that was on purpose too.
My favorite story
from GG was about someone coming to the door of her classroom one day
years ago to ask how many black children she had in her classroom.
When she answered “I don’t know, I’ll check,” the person
asked how she could not know. GG simply stated “They're all just children to me, my students.” That story has always made me
proud to be her grandson.
As I compiled my
project list for this new boat and started buying tools and equipment
for the tasks ahead, I also needed to name her. The boat came with
the slightly-too-cute name “Afraid Knot.” I started to think of
names in my important anarchist women series. Lucy Parsons was a good
option and as a boat name “the Lucy P” had a nice ring to it. Mrs. Parsons was
an important activist and was married to Albert Parsons, editor of
the radical Chicago newspaper, The Alarm. After her husband’s
execution subsequent to the Haymarket Affair, Lucy remained an
activist and helped found the Industrial Workers of the World. I
considered non-political names as well; like simply “Black Star”
or “Pax” which is latin for “peace.”
Then it occurred to
me that I had always had powerfully important women in my life and
that I had acquired this new boat the same year that I had lost Mom
and Grandma. I didn’t need to look very far to name a boat after a
strong woman. Both these beautiful and strong women that I had just
lost, were formative to who I became as a human. Therefore, I have
decided to call my Bayfield 29 the Ruth Ann; Grandma’s first
name and Mom’s middle name.
When I get to North
Carolina, the old name will be removed. As sv Ruth Ann gets dipped back
in the water in the coming months, I will celebrate her renaming with
a little ceremony for her, for me and for Mom and GG.
After a mystical
night of stars at anchor, Monday was the day to finish the mission.
Cape Fear Boat Works was a few hours up the river. I had told them
I’d arrive about midday. All I had to do was motor up past the port
facilities, past the USS North Carolina ship museum, and turn left.
The Cape Fear River splits off to the west while the Northeast Cape
Fear River goes on through downtown Wilmington and off to the -- you
guessed it -- northeast.
However, when I
tried to start the engine, the battery was dead. Likely, the little
solar panel that I stowed inside had drained all the battery. When
sun is not going in the battery from a panel without a blocking diode
in the cable, a solar panel can suck juice the other way. It was time
to call Towboat/US -- again. Three calls in three days must be some
kind of record for a new policy. Towing insurance was the best money
I ever spent. A Towboat/US skipper came out in the bright light of a
Carolina morning and gave me a jump start. Those will be replaced
when I come back to work on her.
The rest of the trip
was uneventful. I cruised by Wilmington’s Port with ships, tugs,
cranes, containers, and all kinds of equipment. After I got to
downtown Wilmington, the ship museum was indeed on my left and I
turned up the tributary just past it. The boatyard is a couple miles
up the river from Wilmington; through acres and acres of sawgrass. It
was like cruising back in time; especially when I got to the ancient
bascule railroad bridge.
The bridge is
normally closed and opens on demand. I circled around below the
bridge while trying to reach the operator with the same damn radio as
before. Finally I saw the guy saunter across the bridge to lower a
gate on the other side. Then he sauntered back, while I still circled
slowly around and around. The bridge mechanism started to creak and
pop and complain. Finally, the two massive concrete counterweights
quivered and started their slow descent.
A bascule bridge is
a one-sided drawbridge. As the bridge began to open, I circled around
one last time and then goosed the fuel lever to power under the
bridge. I waved and shouted ‘thanks’ toward the blank looking
I called the
boatyard to let them know I was under the bridge. Less than a mile
and the yet-to-be-renamed boat and I would be getting hauled out. As
we approached the slipway, the boatyard guys waved me right in. I cut
the fuel, shifted into neutral, and ghosted. The guy on the travelift
raised the inward canvas strap and caught my bow like a child running
into their mother’s arms. We were there.
The boat was hauled
out and the yard set up for pressure washing the hull. The travelift
guy turned out to be the owner of the yard. Sam and I chatted as we
walked up to the office. I filled out some paperwork with Amy. She
said she’d email me the bill. Sam even gave me a ride into town so
I wouldn’t have to pay a cab.
On the way, Sam
talked my ear off. He was a college champion baseball player,
hometown mover and shaker; and had once tried to buy the Southport
marina where I had crashed (literally) Saturday night.
The motel I had
picked out online didn’t look like it survived the last hurricane,
so Sam took me down the block to another. I settled on a cheap but
well kept Quality Inn. Now, I live for sailing but I have to tell
you: that first shower -- first in four days -- was glorious!! So
good that I took two more by the time I left in the morning. I had to
be chilled out and scrubbed up because the next day was bound to be
another exciting travel day.
I checked in with my
cousin Sherry as I was going to try and fly standby again to get
home. The flight looked OK, but since I didn’t depart until early
afternoon, we agreed to check in the morning. Next door to the motel
was a large convenience store/gas station and beyond that an Arby’s.
Though I’m usually plant-based, Jimmy Buffet’s “Cheeseburger in
Paradise” was ringing in my ear. So I hiked over to Arby’s, got a
couple roast beef sliders AND a turkey sandwich. On the way back the
convenience store was too much a temptation. I went in for junk food
desserts, big bottles of water, and some snacks for the flight
tomorrow. There was an historic Wilmington seafood restaurant across
the street and down a bit, but I just couldn’t get up the gumption
In the morning,
Sherry informed me that the flight from Wilmington to Chicago, with a
layover, was probably not going to work. She had found a flight that
looked good but out of Myrtle Beach. I found a minivan airport
transport company nearby and booked a ride. It was an hour and a half
down to Myrtle Beach. The driver talked about his guns the whole
trip. I just smiled and kept my mouth shut.
At Myrtle Beach, in
the terminal, the gate agents were telling me the flight was well
packed and they couldn’t guarantee I could get on. I found some
coffee and a chair and got on Priceline.com. There was a flight into
Chicago on another airline two gates down and about two hours after
the flight I was waiting for. Priceline has a fantastic cancellation
policy, so I booked the flight, leaned back and relaxed.
The flight started
to board and the people lined up. They were quite a crowd. It might
have looked grim, but I had my backup just down the hall. There were
a couple young ladies hanging around the desk at the gate; obviously
holding out for a standby seat. The crowd thinned out as the plane
was filled and I heard the agent tell the gals that she wasn’t sure
there was room; she had a list. She called my name and when I stood
up, the two standby ladies hung their heads. The agent gave me a
boarding pass and I was on my way [thanks, Sherry and Ed!!].
I stowed my gear,
took my seat, and looked up just in time to see my fellow standby
passengers had also got on. I gave them a smile and a thumbs up. As
the flight attendants went through all the safety procedures, I got
online while I still had airport wifi and cancelled my backup flight.
The flight was
uneventful, and I landed in due course at Chicago O’Hare. There was
plenty of time to get downtown and get on the Southshore Railroad,
but I didn’t want to mess around. Haunting me was the fact that I
had left my car in Michigan City in the wee hours Friday. The
railroad website had no information about whether long term parking
was allowed. When I had arrived there were no obvious signs
prohibiting parking a while, but I didn’t know for sure. In
addition, I had to get back to my car, if it was there, and drive
back to Michigan to get to work at midnight.
I took “The El”
into town, walked 4 or 5 blocks to the Millenium Station. Once there,
I dropped my bag to rest my shoulder, bought a ticket to Michigan
City and found a Chicago Hot Dog stand at the station. Before the
train left I had a couple Chicago Dogs and a great big Diet Coke.
The students at
Notre Dame call the Southshore Train the “Vomit Comet” because
they take the train into Chicago to party and suffer the way home.
The train is pleasant with comfortable seating and clean; no evience
that ND students had preceded me. We lurched through down through
Hyde Park, South Shore, South Chicago, Hammond, East Chicago, Gary
etc. There was a stretch of wilderness around Burns Harbor and the
Indiana Dunes before we got to the edges of Michigan City, where I
started paying attention.
Heading east, the
first station in Michigan City is 11th Street -- not my station. A
few people got off there and the train wobbled through town to
the Carroll Street Station where I had left my car. The moment of
truth had arrived. I leaned this way and that looking for my car. We
were coming into the station from the opposite direction that I had
imagined. A little panic. A stretch. Another look. And there it was!
I had made it and the car was still there -- and I still had time to
get to work. I grabbed my bag, disembarked, and jumped in the car. It
was two hours back home, where I laid down for about an hour and then
went to work for an eight hour shift. It was a helluva travel day;
all in the service of getting my new-to-me boat out of the water and
safe during hurricane season.
The Bayfield 29 will
be at Cape Fear Boatworks, on her own for a few months before I
return. She and I will be there in Navassa, NC while I work to get
her set up the way I’d like and back in the water. Basically, I
only have a little bit more work than normal annual maintenance. She
has a couple small blisters to fix, then a barrier coat and some
bottom paint. I’ll also get a couple solar panels, new batteries, a
better radio and a chartplotter of some kind; probably on a tablet. I
also have my eye on using a Raspberry Pi computer to monitor the
ship’s systems and eventually do navigation and some automatic
In fact, since it
took so long to get all these travelogs written and posted, I can
tell you that I will be back at the boat before the First of
December. Stay tuned.