Sea Monkey

Dear friends, family, and all finned frolickers of the seas,

C & Me are expecting a sea monkey.  

This was not in the plans.  Actually the plan was to have a big fat sailing adventure before having a family.  Ha!  Plaaaans.  Amiright?  So our adventure accidentally got way more adventure-y.  

Q:  What are we going to do?

A:  We have no idea.

Q:  When is the monkey due?

A:  Mid-August.

We found out in Northwest Washington while visiting my family for the holidays.  My period is about as reliable as a rope made from saltwater taffy.  Call us oblivious, but we were, well…oblivious.  We knew there was a chance, but that chance was statistically slimmer than a dolphin humping our dinghy.  I thought I merely had the world’s worst bout of indigestion, until Santa brought me nausea on Christmas weekend (apparently I was very naughty last year).  

As we gazed out over icy Bellingham Bay the morning after Christmas Day, while the stick of plastic I’d just peed on in the public bathroom determined our fate, dread silently descended upon our vision of the future: Selling Drakka, moving into my parents’ basement, C getting a job milking mechanical cows, me numbly nursing around the clock in front of Gilmore Girls reruns in the never-ending Pacific Northwesterly gloom.  We didn’t say anything for a while.  We merely shivered and strolled through Boulevard Park.  

The slime ebbed and we started to formulate a different vision.  One where our lives still mirrored our dreams.  We believe in adventure.  We believe in not-too-many-plans.  We believe in being closely entwined with nature.  We believe in being kind and open-hearted global citizens.  What kind of parents would we be if we denied our own values?  How can the monkey respect us if we don’t respect ourselves?

Q:  Are we scared?

A:  O God yes.

We also believe in not-being-totally-broke, which makes this whole prospect challenging. Buying our sea dragon Drakka cost $7,000 dollars.  That's half the cost of my friend's recent hospital birth.  We saved money to live off of this year, but we anticipated more of a pirate hobo lifestyle:  90% nudity, fishing, drinking collected rainwater, and then launching into a luxurious lifestyle of philanthropy and environmental saviour-ism when this blog (obviously) gets bought for a guhzillion buckers to be turned into a blockbuster staring Ryan Goosling and Natalie Sportman.

We also believe in not-being-totally-broke, which makes this whole prospect challenging. Buying our sea dragon Drakka cost $7,000 dollars.  That's half the cost of my friend's recent hospital birth.  We saved money to live off of this year, but we anticipated more of a pirate hobo lifestyle:  90% nudity, fishing, drinking collected rainwater, and then launching into a luxurious lifestyle of philanthropy and environmental saviour-ism when this blog (obviously) gets bought for a guhzillion buckers to be turned into a blockbuster staring Ryan Goosling and Natalie Sportman.

Anyway, we returned to Drakka in January and drifted through the first trimester, me dozing off like a drunken sailor while C pretty much did everything.  Our pace has been sea-cucumberly, due to my gluttonous sleeping, which is also why we’ve stayed on the Intracoastal Waterway so far.  Overall this fleshy vessel I inhabit has been a trooper!  Among friends I am infamous for constipation and tummy troubles (anyone want to chat about parasites?  O friends, email me!), yet pregnancy has bestowed a heretofore unknown health upon my rosy innards!  Seasickness is far worse than my morning sickness.  Morning sickness is a warm, yeasty, steady churning of peptobismally fermentation.  Seasickness is an oily, putrid wave that rises and falls like a sea of sour brown avocado sludge.  Yummers.

So here we are in Charleston, SC, bobbing about on our spritely boat with a fifteen-week-old mini monkey in my burgeoning belly, with no idea where to be by mid-August.

Q:  Are we excited?

A:  Flying fish have nothing on our soaring hearts right now!

C is gonna be the best Daddy-O on the planet.  He's got a kid-tuned antenna, a spunk, a goofball curiosity that kids are drawn to like mosquitos to my ankles.  He's in the zone.  His hands on are round-the-clock belly-rubbing shifts.  He's in awe of my pendulously plump miraculous melon boobs.  Heck, so am I.  They're galactic.  We're in a perpetual state of ponderous marvel, like stoned starfish that just got sucked into the Gulf Stream.   

Here are some possible outcomes:

  1. Live like savages in the Bahamas on conch & coconut, give birth in a saltwater lagoon, and name the baby after the hurricane which will certainly be churning overhead.
  2. Never leave Charleston.  Me, I’ll paint names on the backs of big yachts while C grows heirloom rice varietals, and we name the baby Arabellum Cobblestone Genteely-Pants.
  3. Hide out in the Florida Keys.  C will serve warm beers out of a tiki shack while I give prison-style tattoos of busty mermaids in the back, and we’ll name the baby Margaritaville.
  4. Sell Drakka and move to Washington state.  Live in my parents’ basement while C grows marijuana and I wallow in seasonal depression, and name the baby Eagle Raincloud.
  5. Have Drakka trucked over to California where C can manage one of a zillion hippie farms.  I’ll paint vineyards all day and sell them to retirees in RV's, and we’ll name the baby Redwood Sunshine.
  6. Sail back to New York City over my dead body where C will not only be forced to dispose of my corpse mafia-style by throwing it off the Brooklyn Bridge, but will also be subjected to a rent-ravaged and lonely life of single fatherhood.   Name the baby Hole In My Heart.
  7. Ignore all logic and consequence, continue heading south, end up giving birth somewhere in the middle of the Panama Canal, and name the baby Oops (or Epa, which is Spanish for oops).
  8. Open to suggestions.  Anyone looking for two charming vagabonds to caretake their coastal farm somewhere in the world? 

P.S.  Here is an actual photo of us.  We are real people.   

 

FullSizeRender.jpg

ICW to Pamlico

Imagine a snake who is addicted to cold coffee.  He drinks the stuff non-stop, all day and night long.  And then imagine you are a gnat-sized sailor on a gnat-sized boat motoring through the snake.  That's the ICW!  Opened in 1912, it's an impressive patchwork of excavated canals that connect natural bodies of water, providing an inland artery of transportation, as an alternative to the open ocean.  Natural tannins from decaying leaves steep the water into a murky brown brew.

We began (C and me only for this leg) at mile marker 0 in Norfolk, VA.  Having recovered from our harrowing pre-gale overnighter on the Atlantic, we sauntered into what we expected to be smooth sailing.  Not so!  The ICW has it's own stacked deck of treacheries, like other boats, shallow waters, and short bridges. 

DAY ONE presented 8 bridges and 1 lock (Drakka doesn't like bridges, they make her feel cagey).  Fortunately she had rendezvoused with her new buddy, Gypsy Soul, for company.  Some bridges are sky high, others are shorties and you must radio ahead to request an opening.  Most open quickly.  Others notsomuch.  This goes like:  "Gilmerton Bridge, Gilmerton Bridge. This is sailing vessel Drakka, southbound."  "Sailing vessel this is Gilmerton Bridge.  The bridge will open at 20 past the hour.  Await instructions".  Then ensues the fingernail-gnawing slow-motion waltz of multiple boats backed up in a narrow chute of coffee stained snake intestine.  One cannot stop, nor dock, nor go anywhere, for there are boats and shallow waters on all sides!  

Bridges and lock successfully behind us, we prepared to anchor at the end of the long, attentive day.  Ah!  But the waters we intended to anchor in were not at all as deep as they purported to be, and swiftly saw both Drakka and Gypsy Soul run aground.  Remember what I said about charts, shoals, and politicians?  Trust none of them.  Here is how you get free from running aground:

1. Hop in your dinghy and row a line out to a bigger boat to pull you off.  

2. Get your friends to come over with a line in their much zestier dinghy with a vroom vroom engine.

3. Row an anchor out, drop it, and kedge it back in (go ahead, look up that word; I'd never heard of it either).

4. Wait for the tide to rise (which it doesn't in the ICW).

5. Hop up on the wake of a passing powerboat and pray it lifts you off.

We went with #2, and it worked like a charm, untilllll the line we used caught under Drakka's belly and wrapped around her propeller shaft.  Damnit!  C wriggled into his wetsuit faster than you could say piss in a porpoise and dove into the coffee murk to untangle the mess.  Freedom!  At last we anchored further downriver next to Gypsy Soul and our other new buds on Elizabeth Jean, grateful for the calm overnight waters.  

DAY TWO was mellow yellow.  We woke to ice on the deck which swiftly melted into slippery autumnal dew as we motored through the waterway.  The ICW is allegedly dredged to a minimum depth of 12', which it mostly is, but leaves one anxiously eyeing the depth reader all the livelong day.  One cannot stray outside the charted (yet invisible) track, or face the peril of shallow shoal monsters that shall eagerly slurp up your keel and hold it fast.  After safely anchoring without muck or mire that eve, we rowed over to the classy Passport 40, Elizabeth Jean, for sundowners.  Rowing back in the calm, moonlit dusk the world was glossier than a pearl rubbed in whale blubber.  We gazed up at Drakka where she perched upon the varnished black water in awe.  She looked like a glowing computer generated version of herself in the surreal stillness.  That's ours.  Our dragon.  Our home.  So much more alive and precarious than a house on land.

DAY THREE woke to rain.  Flat, monotonous rain.  A treadmill of steely gray horizon all the way across the Albemarle Sound.  We were spacing out hard.  Until suddenly....what are all those boats doing up there?  Closer.... Why are they all clustered together like that?  Closer... Mussels in a moshpit!  What the heck is going on?  The wind started to kick up out of nowhere and there was a schooner run aground at the twisty neck between the Albemarle and the Alligator River.  No, two boats!  No, three!  One valiantly tried to tug another off and grounded himself, then our friends on E Jean got stuck trying to avoid another crossing boat, and voila, ménage à crap!  Wind-pushing, rain-spitting, eyes a-squinting and Coast Guard a-crackling on the VHF as Drakka narrowly maneuvered between buoy and mired boat, blessedly escaping the shoals but still in the throes of the wind that was rapidly turning the coffee water into a friggin frappucino.  Shortly thereafter we tried to pull in one of Drakka's wings when a beastly gust nearly tore her out of our hands.  A radio call to our buddies with all the fancy gadgetry returned the facts:  A gust of 41 knots, with wind holding at 27 knots.  Alligator River more like Alligator Blender.  Wet, tousled and wound up on adrenaline, we made our way out of the weather to a lovely anchorage just as the fickle clouds parted and deposited in their wake a mild night for pumpkin cookie & whiskey celebration on Gypsy Soul.

DAY FOUR was a gunshot straight canal of pliable waters leading from the Alligator River to the Pungo River.  Tawny and flanked by swampy autumn foliage on either side.  No alligators, trust us, we looked.  Mostly uneventful, except for the occasional roll of a passing motorboat's wake, or the comedic relief of going to the bathroom in a bucket (we're having toilet problems).  A brief but intense dance party.  Snacks.  Still watching for alligators.  More snacks.  Successful anchoring at Belhaven.

DAY FIVE forced us all to part.  Playing it cool, Drakka coughed on her molten tears and waved farewell to E Jean and Gypsy Soul who were headed further south.  We bobbed down the Pungo (which is an excellent name for a river, or for anything really) in the mildest, warmest weather of the entire journey.  Sky a shrimp colored haze.  Waters spread out like a beckoning picnic blanket.  It was like motoring through a movie set while the filming was paused, like we were sneaking through a slice of time.  C napped.  I listened to a podcast interview of Vincent Harding.  Drakka glided along like Oksana Baiul as we entered the Pamlico Sound.  I want to say it was surreal, but checking my own tendency to overuse that particular adjective the thesaurus led me to the word hypnagogic.  Hypnagogic!  What a word!  Thank you, thesaurus.  Hypnagogic it was indeed.  The warm sweet weather, the stillness of us two in quiet contemplation of our adventure (except when we started arguing politics), the simultaneous weight and release of coming to closure.  For now.  

I feel immensely proud.  Even after my most grandiose murals or intricate miniatures I have been pleased but not proud.  To be proud feels vain.  But there is something about simply enduring that feels less self-congratulatory.  We did not beat anything.  We did not win.  We are definitely not the first to attempt similar and much harder feats!  We merely did not give up, and tried to keep loving each other, and tried to stay attentive for the sake of one another's safety.  I'm really, unabashedly proud of that.  

I'm also no less fearful of the future, especially now that I've tasted the tequila shot of weather knocking me sideways.  We will remain snugly docked in Mesic, NC until mid January, so that we can take on some big fixes (like that toiiilet, for goodness' sake!) and see our families for the holidays, and stuff ourselves silly with Becky's Christmas cookies.  

Hugs, K

Pamlico View.jpg

The GREAT ESCAPE

Drakka has been giving us the stinkeye.  She's bored.  Poor gal has been tethered at the dock for weeks while we attend to THE GREAT ESCAPE.  We showed up to patch some gaps n' scour some scum, and she let out a passive aggressive fire sigh that, coming from a dragon, was enough to singe our eyebrows.  

"Drakka!  Babygirl, what's the matter?" 

"You don't love me anymore," she groaned, flopping her head against the dock with a resounding thud.

"That's not true!  We’re crazy about you!  We’re just spending our time pimping you out for the journey ahead."

Her head whipped around so fast it almost knocked C into the water.  "Journey!?!"  

"Ohhh... we... sort of forgot to tell you darling, we're sailing SOUTH.  To the magical land of not-so-cold, where snotcicles melt away and wool mittens are used as coozies to keep beer cold.  Plus, hold on to your dragonly dorsal fins, we've gotten you presents for the journey!"

She eyed us coyly, batting her molten lashes, "What kiiind of presents?"

"For starters we found you TWO new anchors, so that nobody has to rely on drunk Hank.  First we have Danny, who is a standard Danforth anchor good for mucky bottoms (mucky bottoms!  Such a good name for a southern blues singer!), as well as Ohshit, who was described as such by the man at the marine consignment store on Long Island next door to the titty bar which we did not go to, thankyouverymuch and sorrybutnotsorry, C.  Ohshit has our back if a tsunami comes (more or less)."

"And then," C and I grin, exchanging glances and biting our lips, "we got you..."  (cue Sebastion the hermit crab's musical entourage; seashells trumpeting, steel drum fanfare, etc) "... A Dinghy!"

Drakka hiccuped an orange puff of fire.  "A what?"

"A dinghy!  A sidekick!  Mini vessel extraordinaire that barnacles on deck while we sail, then pops out and plops down when we anchor, allows us to go ashore, get groceries, set anchors, and I dunno maybe get away from each other if things get too snug, who knows!"

Our dinghy, which we found at that same blessed consignment store, is a used Porta-bote.  A snappy contraption that accordions up to something about the size of me if you flattened me out with a steamroller, but can be pried open and forcefully wedged with seat planks, adorned with oars, and rowed out to wherever you please.  It sounds super ingenious and convenient and it definitely is the former.  Convenient, well, let's just say getting her ready is like C & I trying to fold an origami snapping turtle out of a slab of petrified beef jerky on the very narrow bow (front) of our boat.  Then she gets tied to the halyard (a rope that is connected to the tip top of our mast), so we can use the winch (blessed rotary device that transfers weight like Arnold Schwartzeneggar in clockwise form) to lift her up, push her over the edge, and lower her into the water.  That sounds reasonable and plausible.  In effect it's extremely awkward and gangly.  Our dinghy may as well be a giraffe with rigor mortis when it's time to drop her overboard.  

What else you ask??  Gosh you are such a good, curious audience.  Continuing the pimping, we tensioned the rigging (steel cables that hold the mast in place), put in valves to make sure she doesn't take on water when we sail, restitched some worn areas in our front sail that are getting shabby, repaired the tiny solar fan embedded in the deck (amateur soldering hour), patched her docking scars (C's surfboard repair skills coming in handy), and gave her a butt lift.  By that I mean painted her name.  No self-respecting sign painter can go tooting around in a vessel with vinyl lettering <insert vomit here>.  Sprawled out on the deck draped over the edge swearing at the rippling water every time it made Drakka bob and jiggle beneath my poised brush-in-hand.  So now she's got some fancy rump work laden with deep juju of frustration and ire.  Excellent.

Kinda like this.  See the wave, see?  Neptune gonna be impressed.

Kinda like this.  See the wave, see?  Neptune gonna be impressed.

On to THE GREAT ESCAPE.  Firstly we are going to sail to North Carolina.   This means:

1.  Leave November 2nd, or thereabouts wind and weather permitting.

2. Sail down along the Jersey shore.  Stopping at treacherously shallow inlets OR sailing through the night and leap-frogging incremental nap shifts until we reach Cape May (at the very bottom tip of NJ).

3.  Not being seasick.  (Please please puhleeeease, body of mine, embrace the tipsy turvy!)

4.  Not freezing to death. 

5. Either sailing up through the Delaware Bay, through the D&C man-made canal to the Chesapeake, anchoring in Annapolis, sailing down the Chesapeake to the entrance of the Intracoastal Waterway in Norfolk, VA, OR (as in "or", not Oregon; you all know VA is nowhere near OR, don't you?) continuing to sail along the coastal Atlantic, bypassing aforementioned bays until we reach that entrance.  

6. Continuing into the ICW, a narrow waterway of partially natural bodies/partially manmade canals that serve as protected waters more or less inland.  Involving mucho motoring with Little Penny and not-so-much sailing with her wings up.  

7.  Arriving in Mesic, NC, where we will have the most glorious hot showers of our lives at the home of C's parents who will host us through the holidays.  Also where I will paint minis.  Also where we will take on mighty Drakka projects with the help of C's dad who knows way more about diesel engines than we do, in preparation for the rest of THE GREAT ESCAPE, which, let's not get too excited but who are we kidding let's get naked and dance around ululating about it, involves tropical islands that will as yet remain unmentioned (wouldn't that be a fun illustration).

We're giving ourselves two weeks, knowing full well there may be blunders, snafoos and sea monsters.  People are asking, how do I feel about all this?  Mmmmercurial.  Three weeks ago I was clogged with terror.  Two weeks ago caterpillars of joy were tickling my gut with excitement.  This week all the feelings, combined with the stress of packing & moving, have thrust me into a numb shock.  We're both very aware of the gravity of this endeavor, but I think C is better at maintaining a buoyancy and an eye on the horizon.  I tend to navel gaze and gnaw on potential man overboard scenarios as I'm falling asleep at night.  That's why I draw!  To shake myself out of seriousness.  

Internet access, that great beast that we are either busy taking for granted or gritting our frothing teeth at the lack of, is mighty unpredictable from here on out.  Hoping to post incremental updates as we go if I can keep my puke off the watercolors!

All the love & emojis,

K (&C)

Who the Heck

C & I have been together for a year!  Holy mackerel!   Didn't see it coming, I tell ya.  Maybe it's time to take a break from the sailboat saga and delve into a little background:   A year ago I was living in a big gay rambling farmhouse in upstate New York.  C was living in Rockaway, surfing his life away, and working as a farmer for Queens Farm.  I visited his farm, he visited mine... nothin like vegetables to get the old wok hot, ya know what I mean?  

So vividly can I remember him visiting the farmhouse for the first time.  I'd been out in the dirt moving rocks and I was downright filthy.  He rolled up the country road in his little pickup truck.  He'd come straight from the city and was downright filthy.  No shoes, no shirt, just a pair of lime green swim trucks, a crate overflowing with vegetables, and a twinkle in his eye big enough to reroute a satellite.  Also Rosario Dawson was at the house for the weekend (No big deal, only my image of envy/perfection along with maybe Penelope Cruz, who both have the legs/skin/hair/lips I'll never attain in a zillion reincarnations).  Her mom, Isabel, is old friends with my housemate.  Isabel is this thunderous matriarch, and I was wary of how she would take to C barging in on her dinner preparations.  Little did I know C has this trick up his sleeve called fried green tomatoes, which softens the hearts of lions, tigers, bears, and women.  Later that balmy night we had a bursting summer feast; tables set elbow to elbow with friends, neighbors, and guests.  He charmed the seeds right out of the sunflowers.  Afterwards we stayed up til the wee hours chattering excitedly about big dreams and big futures, within which he dropped the boat dream on me.  It went something like, "Can't wait to have a farm... yaddah yaddah family... blah blah blah vegetables... but FIRST, I WANT TO BUY A BOAT AND SAIL AWAY WITH MY LOVER ON A GREAT BIG ADVENTURE."  And I couldn't reply because I was busy scooping the starry-eyed putty that was my heart back into my body cavity.

Anyway that's how it all started.  He's a dreamer and I'm a hooker.   No!  He's a hooker and I'm a sinker.  No?  You know what I mean.  So who are we?

C (written by K):  Fun maker.  Early riser.  General jump up and doer.  Vegetable whisperer, earth harvester, and composter.  Wave rider and Ocean jumper inner.  Waterfall cowabunga-er.  Maximum snacker and smoothie master.  Garbage picker upper.  Traffic hater and pollution detester.  Joke maker.  Smirk smiler.  Romantic doer.  Blue eyed twinkler.  You Tube tutorial watcher.  Boat book highlighter.  Frustrated glasses wearer.  Unabashed road rasher (he's got a scar collection that looks like a polynesian archipelago).   Essentially he's an action-packed funhouse of adrenaline, snacks, and colorful shorts that came out of Zach Morris' closet.  Or he's taking a nap.  Living with him ensures that I never sleep past 8, take plenty of ice cream breaks, and always, always, pause to salute the sunset.  

We'll be cooking and he's got say, a lemon, in his hand.  He'll turn his twinkle eyes on me and toss the lemon behind his back and over his shoulder.  The idea is that the lemon lands in his outstretched palm, but he never looks in order to catch it because he's too preoccupied grinning that smirky smile that says, "I've got charm on tap and you're crazy about me," meanwhile the lemon is going every possible direction, getting it's brains bashed out on the floor while I laugh and he grins like Willy Wonka with a gobstopper in his pocket.  That's C.

K (written by C):   Yes, this fairy of the miniature, mistress of the mural, does exist. She is flesh and bone, and when you prick her she bleeds (not that I go around jabbing her with needles all day). She comes to life everyday with a series of wriggles and coos, then methodically makes her way to a hot cup of tea as black as coffee. Her best mornings are spent purging bound up thoughts, worries, passions, wild ideas, and restless emotions in either her handmade journal or her weathered yellow sketch book.  After breaky her creative energies begin to flow into one of several directions.  Most often she's off to the locket laboratory, where she shrinks down and enters through a little mouse door.  A combination of paint fumes, podcasts, and nips from sneaky stashed elixirs keeps her in a psyco-smellic haze; while her tiny brush mixes tiny paint to create tiny worlds into tiny orbs of joy (or just commemorating people's dead pets).  Other days you might find her painting big letters on the sides of buildings, so that even the most unaware, phone-absorbed New Yorker can find their way to a hot plate of artisanal Mac & Cheeze.

Every now and then the stars align and our free days coincide, in which case we ply the mighty waters of New York Harbor, readying our skills and taming her sea sickness for the Le Grand Voyage.  Hard to believe that one year ago I reunited with this tree lovin, nose scrunchin, sauce makin, speed readin, skinny dippin, accent weavin, wander/wonder lustin, fungus findin, real photo takin, urban loathin, cuddle monsterin, and overall seamstress of the silly.  Her eyes are Big, and they consume the world around her like a wetland absorbs a river, endlessly filtering the beauty and contamination of life until it reaches her hands, and all those droplets of inspiration pour through her fingertips and onto the canvas.  Miss K's the biggest, brightest, most beautifullest little gal I've ever met, and I can't get enough of her.  At this point, if you're not barfing from all that sappy mush, you're probably asking yourself:  How did this schmuck get so lucky? ...... And I really don't know? 

So how did we get here?  That's what I want to know when I meet people making unusual life choices.  I certainly didn't plan on arriving here.

Me, I grew up in the misty grey pillow of the Pacific Northwest, nursed on drizzle and swaddled in flannel.  Land of tall cedars and vitamin D deficiency.  Over achieving art geek fighting for early independence.  C was raised by wolves in the Midwest, and came up bareback riding deer, getting grease under his fingernails and trekking the territory of questionable mind-altering substances, adrenaline rushes, and Grandma Shirley's game dinners.  I found art school.  He found outdoor ecology.  

C, little newbie that he was, pioneered over to the PNW to Lopez Island and learned how to crew on a sailboat up to Alaska, where he conquered glaciers and put some hair on his chest.  Fell in love with the ocean and all that.  Later hopped east to farm in the Hudson Valley and hock vegetables in the city.  C moved to Rockaway a couple days before hurricane Sandy and rode out the storm in a wetsuit on the second floor of a flooding house prepared to be swept away.  In the aftermath co-founded an arts-n-survival-skills program with a few other magical unicorn humans teaching kids about food, shelter, crafts and yahoo.  Surfed his arms off, farmed around, and lent me books one day at a fateful backyard barbecue (Wendell Berry, Aldo Leopold, and The Good Life, if you're curious (nerd-city)).

Nigh on 11 years ago I moved to NYC, little newbie that I was, and blitzed through various jobs putting no hair but plenty of city grit on my chest:  Restaurant industry fresh meat doozie brunch shifts, hustling here and there, painting on the side and eventually hired on at Evergreene Studios.  Lovingly opinionated Russians driving me to tears over poor paint strokes and all that.  At the twist of the economy dip changed over to middle school octopus diplomat, juggling the turbulent lives of pre-teens.  Always always always painting on the side until signs, murals and miniatures grew to a tipping point of survival.  I shirked off the city for the Catskills a couple years ago until I ended up at a fateful backyard barbecue in Rockaway Beach.

Here is what my past self keeps reminding my current self:  What you expect to happen doesn't happen!  Every future horizon I peered out upon never came to be what I anticipated.  All that frenzied imagining of delights or anxiety of potential threats!   (I'm going to be famous!  I'm going to have to work in a cubicle!  When I move to Italy my hair will get thicker!  When I move upstate I'll die alone with cats!)

BUT.  

What actually did come to pass was always more complicated, and always more interesting.  Last time I looked at my future I thought I'd be buying a tiny house in upstate New York and scouting out a sperm donor.  Now I'm living on a sea creature with an ocean-eyed adventurer preparing for the arms of the Atlantic.  

Squish City

Living on a boat is very romantic.  

Oops.  Did I write romantic?  I meant to write squished.  But that can be romantic too!  Especially when C and I have a boundless homestead someday in our 50's and are looking back on how nostalgic it all was.  Our youth.  Our days living on that tiny boat.  Sigh.  Darling, wasn't it just so romantic?  

Hold on, imaginary middle-aged K, you're still 33, living on a 29' sailboat with your boyfriend.  It's very much the present.

The interior living quarters of Drakka the Dragon are that of an igloo, a VW bus, or a newsstand in New York City.  When you say, "I live on a sailboat with my boyfriend."  The response is, "Oh!  That's amazing!  Good for you!".  But if I said, "I live in a walk-in closet with my boyfriend."  The response would be more like, "Ohhhh.  That's... an interesting choice." 

Also it turns out that boats require more of a crap entourage than babies do, so what space does exist is sardine-crammed with pumps, ropes, floats, tubes, bumps, mumps and measles.  Technically she can sleep 5, but one berth is stuffed like a cannoli with cushions, sails, and life vests (don't worry, mom!).  We have a Dolly-Parton-shoulder-pad sized kitchen, which is called a galley, and boasts two alcohol burners, an ice box, and a sink the size of a six pack.  Space for food is limited, so we mostly imagine the exotic groceries and elaborate meals we'd cook whilst we snack on peanuts and some radishes that C brought back from the farm.  The bathroom is called the head (does this strike anyone else as a poor word choice?), and is like peeing while wedged in a locker which is actually useful when under way (Imagine using a toilet on a tilt-a-whirl carnival ride and trying to stay put).  Showering is another imaginary act, otherwise known as "jumping in the ocean".

The concept credit for this drawing goes 100% to C's co-farmer Jen.  Her imagination nailed it.  Jen, come sailing already!

The concept credit for this drawing goes 100% to C's co-farmer Jen.  Her imagination nailed it.  Jen, come sailing already!

The bedroom features the NO-CUDDLE V-Berth, which at first glance seems like it would enfold us in an eternal embrace, but in fact forces us apart by the physics of sleeping in a triangle.  The only way we can fit our bodily lengths (ok, who am I kidding - the only way C can fit his long ass skeleton in this sucker) is to lie the lengths of the two far sides.  Plus, if someone negligently sleeps in the middle with their head at the entrance, the other, waking in the night to either 1. Pee or 2. Check on that weird noise*, must climb over their head, trying not to mash their ear with a knee or fart in their dreaming face.

*Weird Noises:  noun, pl.  A spectrum of creaks, squeaks, groans, grunts, shudders and shakes.  Have you ever set your ear on someone else's belly and heard the mongoloid opera inside?  We are living inside of Drakka's mongoloid opera.  Every time the wind varies the symphony changes.

Every time there is a new symphony I lie awake, alert to every unfamiliar peep.  That is how I first met Leak.  There i was, crunched into my corner of the V-berth (not cuddling), eyes wide as radar reflectors, looking up at the stars through the window hatch.  The weather was windy and rainy, and each gust would send a shiver down Drakka's spine or tug at a dock line, causing her whole body to shudder.  

"Pssst, C, did you feel that?  Is that normal?"  

"Zzzzz...."  

A rubbery squeak wailed on the other side of my pillow, "Eeeeeeiiieee..."

"Ummmm....C, did you hear that?  Do you know what that is?"

"Zzzzz...."

Ohhh, it's just the fenders rubbing on the dock.  Okay.  Then a small splat sounded in the cabin.  Hmmm...those acoustics are suspiciously different than the splats outside.  "Splat!"   There it is again.  "Splat!"  Oh damnitall.  I climbed around C's outstretched elbow and quietly vaulted to the floor.  "Splat!".  There it was, right in front of my feet.  A tiny puddle collecting just underneath the solar fan.  Curses!  I was rummaging around for a pot to catch the drips when his little voice piped up.  A bright sound, like what you'd expect to come out of a baby guppy.

"Hi!"  

I whirled around, looking up, down, sideways. 

"Swell night for a drop, isn't it?"

"...Drakka?"

"My name's Leak!  I just love your sea creature.  She's super.  She has so many tiny holes that I can play in!"

I peered up at the rim of the solar fan where water was collecting into shiny droplets.  "Ahh!"  (What an imp).  I placed the pot on the floor below the fan.  "Look," I said, pointing, "I made you a swimming pool down here, do you like that?"

"Golly yes.  Thanks!"

"You're SO welcome.  Have a blast.  I'm going to go back to bed now.  Goodnight.  Feel free to drown."

"You betcha!"

Next day we sealed the gasket around the solar fan and patted ourselves on the back.  The next time it rained Leak fell on top of my head as I sat in the cabin.  "Howdy!"  The incorrigible little imp had been sneaking in under the portlight.  Not to mention the handrail in the ceiling over the galley.  Also dripping into the quarter berth.  Occasionally even creeping into the corner of the hatch over our bed on really stormy nights.  

"Hi guys!  Gosh I missed you both.  Hasn't rained in a week.  How ya doin?"  

We groaned in chorus and rolled towards each other, "LEEAK!  Is nothing sacred?  Even our no cuddle V-berth?!"  

"Golly friends, don't ya know I'm an eternal force with physics on my side and a persistence that rivals time itself?  Also I'm an orphan and I'm lonely and I sound like a baby guppy.  What's not to love?"

So that's how we came to meet Leak.  

Below it all is the bilge.  A mysterious underland where dark sea fairies mate with seedy kelp gangsters and produce a bastard offspring of three-eyed algae that proliferate and create a colony of swampy murk.  A fiberglass boat is essentially a shell.  All the fluids, Leak included, that dribble from here and there drain along the inside of this shell and collect in the long narrow channel beneath the floorboards called the bilge.  I guess this is normal?  Occasionally we flick a switch and an automatic pump sucks the murk out.  If we ever take on water in a storm, the bilge is where we go to give our sea dragon some seriously unsavory mouth-to-mouth with a hand-pump and a bucket.

Drakka, like any living man or beast, has her own potpourri of odors and fluids.  A shifting menagerie of assaulting perfumes we've come to know.  Here are a few:

Mildew Mist - a dramatic and musky cologne wafting from unventilated corners and hidden crevices in which sneaky leaks slowly drip through bolt holes and port lights.

Divine Diesel - a gaseous cloud that emotes from Little Penny and permeates everything in Drakka's entire body.  Oh, those clothes that you just laundered this morning?  They now smell like the leftover sweat of a crude oil convention.

Head Cheese - not to be confused with the European delicacy, but just as stomach-turning, this is the pungent wave of suspiciously human tang that occasionally wafts from lower cabinetry no matter how much you curse, bleach, and scour.

Sweetsalt - a wondrous and inspiring scent, present with every breeze that glides through Drakka's open hatches.  A briny nose tingle that whisks up your nostrils and makes you do crazy things like buy a boat.  The one that smells like the dreams of Herman Melville and the burps of Moby Dick.

Speaking of Sweetsalt, above all this glory of a sardine can is the veranda, otherwise known as the cockpit.   This is our control center.  Our balcony.  Our high-class cocktail lounge.  Our patio extentionado.  It has two long cushions, an enduring breeze, and a view to die for.  When we close our eyes chubby baby seagulls hover over with palm fronds fanning our faces, and trained otters bring us happy hour cocktails on silver platters.  It's amazing.  

We've been sailing this little shell around more and more lately, getting the hang of her jib and the cut of her...halyard?  I definitely messed that up.  Week by week we find a home for another tool and make a comfort adjustment like sewing a mosquito cover for the hatch or simply putting soap in the bathroom.  Is it what I thought it would be?  Euuuhhh.... in some ways yes.  It is exciting and charming, and let's be honest; fun to casually brag about.  It's also way more like living in a garage than I anticipated.  I like tools, but living closely (like, sitting-on-top-of-close) with wrenches, hoses, and rigging hardware is less than homey.  Limiting water usage and being smelly was to be expected.  Smelling like a mechanic's shop was not.  It's difficult not to be myopic when you're crammed into such a tiny universe, trying to find your underwear and get out the door for work.  Then you stop to watch a squid ink summer thunderstorm roll in, take a big breath and think about how incomprehensibly vast the ocean is, and some invisible emissary of Abeona pats your shoulder and reminds you why you're doing all of this.  (Abeona is the goddess of outward journeys which I definitely google searched to complete that sentence.  I'm not so clever that I can pull those details out of my buns at poetic moments.  Sigh.  Maybe when I'm that middle-aged K...)

Next I'm going to write about this gut-twisting, heart-palpitating act we've been engaging in which is putting Drakka down for a nap, or docking.  It's terrifying, and I haven't been quite ready to bring it forth in words.  

Thanks for reading!  Drakka sends her fearsome fire-breathing nuzzle of love out to you all.

 

 

Allow Us to Introduce

Our Sea Beast,

Her full given name is Drakkar, which is an ancient viking word for longship, NOT to be confused with the modern word for a tacky cologne.  After a few rounds of Should-We-Change-Her-Name we allllmost settled on Falcor.  After all, what child of the 80's wouldn't want to soar away on the nostalgic wings of that furry white luck dragon?  But Drakkar grew on us like barnacles on a shipwreck, and admittedly I was wary of offending Neptune if we didn't follow the laborious purification of a proper renaming ceremony.

Drakka is a 29' Columbia sea beast, born in 1977 (or 1777; it's hard to say).  C found her in Groton, CT, where she'd been hibernating for a year or two in the care of Joe the Dragon Keeper, who had been sailing her around since 2009. 

Joe the Dragon Keeper was as menschy as mensch could be!  Of his own will and generosity he was alongside us for the shower of kinks and questions that come with a new mysterious being.  What is this strange gadget under the berth?  Ask Joe!  How do we de-winterize her guts for the new season?  Ask Joe!  Where does this very important looking wire attach?  Ask Joe!  Bless that man and all his offspring forever and ever.

Joe the Dragon Keeper was as menschy as mensch could be!  Of his own will and generosity he was alongside us for the shower of kinks and questions that come with a new mysterious being.  What is this strange gadget under the berth?  Ask Joe!  How do we de-winterize her guts for the new season?  Ask Joe!  Where does this very important looking wire attach?  Ask Joe!  Bless that man and all his offspring forever and ever.

In early May, on a lovely spring day, we brought our sea creature to life.  C and I were both sick, though his miraculous metabolism has the bounce-back of a sand flea whereas I was floating around in a dreamy congested stupor throughout this thrilling culmination.  

First her new tail needed to be attached.  A weighty thing requiring much maneuvering, hammering and bolting.  Thank goodness she was still asleep, as one can only imagine the ire all that jostling might have provoked!

A towering dinosaur on four wheels with impressive lifting power, let's call him a Hoistadon, came along and scooped Drakka right up into his loopy arms.  We attached her tail in his lovin' cradle, then giddily followed them down to the water's edge.  Old timers at the yacht club thought it was real cute that we were taking pictures, "First time, eh?"  At the dock the Hoistadon rolled out on two side ledges and lowered Drakka down into the murky marina water.  Next a pterodactyl came along with her spine and wing bones, and suspended them overhead while we scrambled to connect them all.  

Bugger of all buggers!  C, Me, Joe and our fellow marina aids began to scratch our heads.  The bones were tangled and the joints didn't fit!  Being the loving new parents that we are, we had had shiny new joints manufactured and they were a mere millimeter off.  A fish scale discrepancy!  An infinitesimal seashell calcium deposit difference!  But hell no they were not going to budge.  Thus ensued an acrobatic event of old bone disassembly and reconnections.  Imagine someone taking all your bones apart and then trying to put a tibia in your elbow and an ulna in your kneecap.  Half her exoskeleton was already up when we realized, and in the end we even had to sweet talk the pterodactyl into raising up one of the crew to switch out some ligaments up top.  Madness!  At last we sorted out her femurs and lemurs, her fibias and bibias, and prepared to start up her guts.

Drakka's Guts.

Affectionately known as Little Penny (more formally known as Miss Moneypenny because she costs lots of moneys and pennies), our sea dragon's guts are 300 pounds of metal alloys, hoses, bolts, and belts.  She rumbles like a herd of bison with bronchitis and revs up like she's getting ready to catapult to Mars.  Her intestines and various tummies connect to holes in the boat belly which take in cooling saltwater and squirt out used up hot water, not to mention exhaust (she is a gassy little thing!).  She's a universal diesel engine, and she brings Drakka to life.  Guts are a notoriously troublesome aspect of caring for a sea dragon, and Little Penny will soon prove to be no exception.  She's a sturdy old cluster of guts, but that don't mean she ain't persnickety. 

Affectionately known as Little Penny (more formally known as Miss Moneypenny because she costs lots of moneys and pennies), our sea dragon's guts are 300 pounds of metal alloys, hoses, bolts, and belts.  She rumbles like a herd of bison with bronchitis and revs up like she's getting ready to catapult to Mars.  Her intestines and various tummies connect to holes in the boat belly which take in cooling saltwater and squirt out used up hot water, not to mention exhaust (she is a gassy little thing!).  She's a universal diesel engine, and she brings Drakka to life.  Guts are a notoriously troublesome aspect of caring for a sea dragon, and Little Penny will soon prove to be no exception.  She's a sturdy old cluster of guts, but that don't mean she ain't persnickety. 

On this blessed launch day, with Joe the Dragon Keeper by our side, she came to life as easy as a sail in the breeze.  Gurgle gurgle gurgle ROOAArrrr!!  All at once Drakka was a living, breathing sea dragon.  It's REAL.  All the projection, all the hope and expectation, all the money (and I mean ALL the money), all the trepidation, and this nutty dream we stirred up last autumn was a salty, greasy reality.  

There is a unique flavor of terror in a dream coming true, do you know what I mean?  You give a dream this enormous margin for failure, expecting it will probably remain a dream.  Then suddenly that tang smacks you on the tongue and knocks your senses off their seats.  I reached for something, and now I grasp it.  What else might I be capable of!  Ack!  Quick, go back to the couch and turn on Captain Ron, this dream-lassoing stuff is way too empowering.  Not that we singlehandedly (dualhandedly?) made this dream a reality - goodness knows we had a lot of help and good fortune.  Yet here we are: C, Me, & She.  And the waiting sea.

Let's Talk About Her Pants

They are the most tenacious, toxic, cuss-inspiring, skin-tight bottom huggers in existence.  We care a lot about this old gal, and we want her to stick around for a while, so we decided to buy her some new, very fancy, pants*.  

*PANTS: noun, plural, consisting of two parts:  1. two-part epoxy barrier coat in four pricey layers; essentially an enormous condom sealing her fiberglass hide from any water penetration.  2. two outer layers of even more pricey anti-fouling pants; a very special kind of pants designed to fall off (no kidding!) when barnacles and sea algae attempt to colonize upon them.  Usually these pants are made with copper, but we care about the oceans goddammit, so we sprung for the modern eco pants with who knows what (angel tears and starfish sperm, probably) instead of copper.

Her old trousers were hanging in there, but epoxy pants provide super protection against nasty blisters that apparently occur especially in warm waters, which is where we hope to voyage.  Or so our surveyor, Barnaby (I did not make up that name), informed us.  Would you not trust a distinguished fellow with an English accent named Barnaby Blatch?  Exactly. 

Before putting on new pants, guess what?  Yeah.  We had to take off her old ones.  There are a few ways to do this:  1.  Have a dragon burn them off with flame-breath.  2.  Pay a magician.  3.  The old-fashioned way: muscles, tools, and GOOP*.  Being able-bodied youngsters, and also being on a budget tighter than those aforementioned pants, we figured we could opt for #3.  Her old pants were chunky layers of ablative paint.  Parts of it chip off like a breeze.  The rest comes off like the devil from his pitchfork.  We thought it would take a few days.  We did not think it would take three weeks and years off of our lives.  DON'T EVER DO THIS.  Pay the magician.  They're called soda blasters.  

Now we know.  

C & I arrived with an arsenal of scrapers, youtube tutorials, chemical goop and snowy white tyvek suits.  Mine fit like a glove, being a svelte size XL, and with my respirator let me tell you I was walking hot sauce.  We went to town, really throwing our backs into it, and soon came to realize what we were up against.  Had it not been for our naive and jubilant love, six-packs of semi-cold beer, and a blessed visit from my little brother along with his muscles and good attitude, we probably would be dead, and you'd be mourning our loss instead of perusing this riveting blog post.

*GOOP: Sticky slug guts designed to be thickly applied in drippy droopy gobs in order to gnaw their chemically way through old paint, turning it into sloppy, putrid, vividly pigmented paint slime.

Persevere we did, racing the impending rain to apply her new pants in all their technicolor dreamcoat layers, finishing at a rather scanty last hour, plopping our butts back into Tortuga*, and driving blearily back to Rockaway.

*TORTUGA: noun: our truck: A '94 Ford Ranger.  He's slow and steady, with a shell on his back and a bench-seated interior the color of dried Mexican salsa.

Next up:  Her new tail arrives from Florida!