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 that later.

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 revolution. Her writing and lectures spanned a wide variety of issues, including prisons, atheism, freedom of speech, militarism, capitalism, marriage, free 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.

Lucy P
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. 

 Soon, her stern will say:
Ruth Ann

Detroit, Mi


  1. That’s a great name in honor of two important women in your life. Happy sailing Ruth Ann!

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