Bubba is a vagabond sailor and occasionally published writer preparing to wander aboard his Bayfield 29, Ruth Ann.
Tuesday, November 12, 2019
The Big Boat Name Reveal.
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.