Ronna's Blogs

This is my most recent post. Scroll down for my previous blogs. Enjoy.

When it’s good, it’s very, very good (when it’s bad, it’s pretty ugly)

Sunday, April 30, 2023

When I last wrote, I was at my desk aboard Exodus looking out from my porthole at the boats passing by, longing to be “out there”. Well, we are out there now, sailing around the beautiful Exuma island chain in the north central Bahamas. On the one hand, it is the life portrayed in my Instagram feed- playing cornhole and drinking margaritas on the white, sandy beach with fellow cruisers. Yes, the water is an impossibly gorgeous aqua blue, the snorkeling amazing, the days hot and sunny. There are wonderful dinners with friends and every so often a lazy day when we are not fixing something and can enjoy a swim around the boat. Magnificent, magical, memorable.

But of course, all is not as perfect as it seems.

At times, I live with--not fear--but a general anxiety about all the things that might go wrong. And, of course, there are the things that do go wrong. And those things feed, amplify and create new anxieties. I am a newbie again, getting used to a new boat, getting used to life on the water, getting used to the boat breaking and bad weather.

Today, it is overcast and bleak. To be fair, since we arrived in the Bahamas over a month ago, we have only had warm, sunny days, filled with friends and beach parties. Before today, it had not rained once. But now I am back at my desk, looking out at that same porthole, feeling just a touch of sea sickness as I try to concentrate on writing, while the boat is tossing on its mooring as the wind whips around at 25 knots.

We are in Warderick Wells, which I believe could be one of the most beautiful anchorages on earth. The surroundings of white beaches and gin clear waters fading into aqua and deep blues are amazing, but the wind blowing like stink makes it hard to appreciate where we are. While we are in a protected spot from the waves (hidey holes from north/west winds in the Exumas are few and far between for a sailboat with a 6.6 foot draft) we are a mere 12 feet from rudder destroying shallows should the mooring not hold (and yet that is what makes it so charming). So, while we dove the mooring and feel it is secure, and we have a second line attached as a safety, it is unnerving when a gust comes and our mooring line stretches. There is no room to maneuver if something goes wrong. Honestly, I would like to take a Lorazapem to calm my nerves this afternoon, but I won’t-- I’ll power through. Just another five or six hours and the winds will (hopefully) subside a bit. This didn’t used to bother me so much.

For now, I worry that we will run aground on one of the many coral heads;

I worry that our mooring will break free;

On other days, I worry that our anchor will drag;

Every day, I worry that our generator will crap out (because this has happened);

I worry that our dinghy patch will not hold (our brand new dinghy got slashed on a sharp part of the boat that shouldn’t have been there);

I worry that our refrigerator will stop holding temperature, all our food will spoil, I will have to eat only pasta, and I will get fat;

I worry that I will once again scrape the scab off a bad burn (incurred while taking a challah out of the oven), leading to blood all over the teak, then infection, then an inability to get to a hospital and then.. yes, death from said infection.

I worry that my kids and mother-in-law won’t be able to reach me because Starlink cuts us off (Please Elon, keep us connected!) and then my grandson will forget what my face looks like and I will lose my mind.

I worry that the flies that have adopted Exodus as their home will eventually drive me further into insanity.

I worry that something will happen to Mike (there is only about a million things that could happen to Mike) and I will have to get him and the boat to safety by myself.

I worry that we will be hit by lightning.

I worry that I will go another week before I see a fresh vegetable.

Eventually, I know that the wind will die, and as it dies, I will stop ruminating. As we start moving again, I will begin to rebuild the confidence I lost during life on land.

Post Script

Early May, 2023

We did not break free of our mooring during that period of bad weather, though the wind certainly did not subside that day; in fact, it got worse. It rained like crazy. Then the winds accelerated as the evening progressed. Then came an extremely impressive three hour display of lightning (which awed and freaked me out simultaneously). The icing on the cake was inverter trouble right before we retired to bed, which Mike finished fixing around midnight. It was not a great night.

But since that night, everything has worked. The weather has turned benign. All is good, and this life, when it is good--it is very, very good.

We have had a few incredible sails, with wonderful, strong winds. We have so much confidence that the boat can handle a lot of wind and sails beautifully.

We have anchored off incredible white sandy beaches, watching the sun set in calm seas.

We found fresh vegetables (never mind that a head of lettuce was $7.00 and bunch of asparagus was $13.)

We have had morning dips in the ocean. We have cleaned the stainless steel in the sunshine, listening to The Bridge. We have walked on the beach. We have had many cocktail hours socializing with old friends and new. We have laughed, commiserated, and planned for upcoming voyages.

Every so often, you are reminded what a small, wonderful community this is.

By complete chance the other day, we ran into friends that we met in the San Blas islands (near Panama) four years ago. Last we knew, they were headed through the Panama Canal and we were headed in the opposite direction. While we have often thought about these people, we never thought we would see them again. And yet, there they were, at a random restaurant in March Harbor, Abacos, headed North, just like we are. This cruisers world is so incredibly small and wonderful.

Tomorrow morning the two of us make our Exodus from the Bahamas as we leave for a 3-4 day passage to either North Carolina or Virginia, depending on the weather and our stamina. I am excited to bring Exodus north to meet our family and friends. I can’t say I’m looking forward to the passage, but I believe I am ready. It’s all part of the adventure. Got to climb that mountain to appreciate the view.

Commissioning Exodus

April 8, 2023

I am sitting at my desk in my cabin looking out my porthole. A sparkling silver, black and chrome superyacht powers slowly by, followed by a blond dude on a speed boat texting as he drives, clearly not looking where he is going. Then comes a Cigarette boat playing loud music as bikini clad twenty-year-olds holding red plastic cups overhead flaunt their (incredible) bodies. Then comes a dinghy filled to the brim with strollers, parents, and kids waving and smiling. They are waving at Bikini, the Boston Terrier who runs up and down our deck protecting us from potential visitors (sadly, she is not mine; she belongs to the Hylas Service Manager.)

We are dockside, and my writing area is private, and I love this view. I watch the endless parade of swanky new boats, maneuvering into slips, doing 360s or just turning around, with names that never fail to amuse me, and promise adventure, risk and excitement - Tasty Waves, Dealer’s Choice, Contender, Totally Hooked, Love Her Madly.

We have been living on “new” Exodus for about a month now, having left our Airbnb in early March. The boat is everything we hoped for and more, and we have made it home. The plastic is off the salon cushions. The pictures are hung. The rug is down. We have moved almost all our 80 items (60 boxes) aboard and thrown out or donated what we didn’t need. I have arranged the galley. Mike has somehow found a place for all his tools. But up until recently, we were not close to leaving the dock other than for test sails. We have a waterfront condo in Fort Lauderdale, but what we really want is to sail away.

Aside from the hot, sunny days and visits with my college friend and his wife, this Bostonian does not find a lot to like about Fort Lauderdale. I can’t tell one strip mall from another- which one has the Home Depot, TJ Maxx and Publix, which one has the Container Store, Best Buy and Whole Foods. The red traffic lights in town are interminably long, causing people to read a book, check their email, or take a nap, and delay moving on the green. We were warned not to beep (which for Boston drivers is like holding back horses at the start of a race) for fear some enraged driver might take out a gun and shoot us (I know, I know, but that is what we were told.)

To make matters worse, the traffic stops for trains, of which there are many, and for bridges, of which there are also many. It takes a long time to get to the highway, and when you finally do get to the highway, it is interstate 95 which is bumper to bumper, seemingly any time of day or night. If that weren’t enough, 700-pound alligators come out from nowhere and eat grandmothers and pythons are invading the neighborhoods! And if THAT weren’t enough, the No See’ums have found me! And Florida politics? Shoot me. Oops, I don’t really mean that literally!

But like it or not, we are here for a while. The commissioning process of a new boat is long, hard and often frustrating to the new owners (us), who are impatient to get out sailing, meet their friends, and watch the sunset from the stern with a drink in hand. The boat ships without a mast or sails, so we needed all the rigging installed, and inevitably there are a myriad of problems that arise with any new boat because no one has yet lived aboard to work out the bugs. Some of the stuff I understand, but many, I haven’t a clue. Apparently, the batteries are not “talking” to the inverter/charger or to the voltage regulator and there is “cross talk” along the bus (huh?), and the whole system needs updated firmware. What is firmware anyway, and when did batteries start having computers in them? It’s all very complicated. And just when you think you are making progress, either more items get added, or items that you thought had been crossed off randomly stop working.

But the experts tell us that work will be finished on our timeline to leave the dock early next week, and today, it seems we are making progress. Today, the list seems to be down to a few small items. Today, it seems as if we will leave the dock shortly with everything (mostly) working. Today, we couldn’t be happier with our choice of sailboat.

So, early this morning, we checked the weather, excited to finally “get out there.”

According to our weather forecaster, there is a “relatively high-impact weather potential” for next week. This, I do understand, and do not like. A big front is coming in. North winds. Gusts to 40 knots. No way we are leaving the dock to cross the Gulf Stream in that.

We call all of this "boating". Doesn’t it sound like fun?

My Previous Blogs

A Year Ashore and a New Chapter - Fingers Crossed

February 6, 2023

I have lists galore on my iPhone, on an app that my highly organized friend Shiera introduced me to, called “Anylist”. On this app, I have a list for everything- from boat inventory, to medications, to birthday gift ideas, to the menu for Thanksgiving Dinners since 2019. They are all on my Anylist app, just a finger swipe away. I am more organized than I ever was, although that is certainly not saying much. I sometimes forget that I have created a list as I wander around the grocery store, the tech equivalent of leaving your grocery list on the kitchen counter.

As I was cleaning out and editing some of my old lists the other day, I came across a list I created while still living on our sailboat, named “Year Off Things to Accomplish”. I created the list because I did not want to squander the opportunity of living on land while retired. Certainly, great things could be accomplished in a year, living in a city where same day Amazon package delivery is a “thing,” with a washing machine and dryer steps away. With these modern conveniences, I would have lots of time to fill, and boy was I going to get things done. I planned to kick butt (literally and metaphorically), and somehow make a difference.

Reflecting on the list, it was mostly personal and doable: lose 10 pounds (although when I finally weighed myself after four years, it turned out to be more like 15), take an iPhone photo class, create a family recipe book, knit sweaters for the new grandbaby, volunteer at a place that does some good, and take a safety at sea course. I got to cross most of these off the list. But I fell short in numerous ways- by not join a writing group, by not making any progress on a children’s book that I had started years ago, and by not writing. I basically continued my long hiatus from writing; I have no idea why I couldn’t write; it just didn’t happen. Am I ok with all of that? Not really, so here we are (it’s never too late!)

In many respects, it seems like it was yesterday that I was living on the boat, creating the Anylist, afraid of the freedom of living on land rather than at sea, where just the necessities of life keep you busy all day. But now the end of my time on land is closing in on me. And now is not the time to add things to the list or feel remorseful about things not done. It is a time to anticipate and plan our next stage and anticipating (or some might say “worrying”) is what both Mike and I have been doing.

Mike and I worry about whether the boat will arrive on time and undamaged. So much can go wrong at sea, and we have planned so much around her safe and timely arrival in Florida. We compulsively track UHL Focus, the cargo ship that carries our new sailboat. We tracked her as she left her birthplace in Taiwan at the beginning of January, traveled in the wrong direction to pick up more cargo in China, then headed across the Pacific. As ridiculous as it might seem, Mike and I both worried that China might take this exact opportunity to impose a sea blockade against Taiwan and stop the cargo ship from leaving the South China sea. It didn’t.

We worried about bad weather and difficult seas across the Pacific, and yet the weather was benign. When the cargo ship made it across the Pacific and arrived in and then departed Ensenada, Mexico safely, we briefly breathed a sigh of relief. But just the other night the ship simply stopped her 14-knot progress toward the Panama Canal, coming to a complete stop for over six hours off the Pacific coast of Guatemala. Mike and I just about lost our minds. Was there an engine problem? Was there an accident? Was there a pirate in control of the helm declaring “I’m the Captain now!”? We have no idea. She just started moving again.

Will our stuff get there? For the fist time in our lives, we hired movers to move our boxes to Florida. We have no idea where our stuff is. Did the movers leave our boxes in a truck out of doors when the temperature outside was minus 17? Our boxes could be in South Carolina, but they also might be in Chelsea. Again, we have no control.

But mostly, I am anxious about moving back on the boat, to a life I remember loving very much, but now seems like a lifetime ago. Did I really love it that much? I have become reliant on the conveniences of land living: Trader Joe’s down the street, a CVS on the next corner, boarding a plane if I want to go somewhere new, popping over to see my grandson.

Will we love her, this new Exodus, this sailing life? How long will it take to get to know this new boat like the back of my hand? Will we still have our dear friends in our sailing community? Will my grandson remember me when we are gone? The worries are piling up, as they tend to do with big transitions.

I do not sleep well.

As Carly Simon once sang, “we can never know the days to come, but we think about them anyway…Anticipation is making me late, is keepin’ me waiting.”

Our new adventure is imminent (I think). Stand by and stay tuned.

Don't Talk to me - I’m Knitting!

October 24, 2022

I am sorry for being a bitch right now, but I’m knitting. I can’t be bothered. As in, whatever you do right now, DON'T BOTHER ME…please. Don’t tell me where you are going, I don’t care. Don’t ask me a question, even if it’s simple. Do I want to walk with you to CVS? No! Do I want to go buy some food for the empty refrigerator? NO! I don’t want to go out- ever-- I just want to stay home and knit.

Please, don’t sit down next to me on the couch. Don’t even sit on the far end of the couch. And certainly do NOT put on the TV. Actually, can you simply stay far away any room I currently occupy as I sit and knit? Don’t you have somewhere to be? I love you, but you are very distracting, and even though I know you have the right to be in the house with me, I am not sure I accept that right now.

Oh, why did I listen to them, these Women Who Knit? They said I could do it. They said I would learn new techniques. They said it would be hard, but not too hard. And I believed them.

I joined in on the fun of the autumn Westknits Mystery Shawl knit-a-thon on the day it started three weeks ago. Basically, I have done nothing else since I cast on those first i-cord stitches. We are knitting a shawl, in parts. Participants have picked their three colors, but don’t know what the entire shawl will look like. A new section of the pattern is revealed every week for a month. Three sections have been revealed so far. I am halfway through the first. They say it’s not a race. Good thing.

Admittedly I have gone off the deep end, and I might be there for say, oh, maybe 6 months or so (if I able to continue with my current frenzied rate of progress, which is doubtful). I want to quit, to go back to the relaxed knitter I once was, making baby sweaters and blankets. I could knit and talk, listen to a podcast, or watch TV, and I would happily rise off the couch, as long as I was allowed to “just finish this row.” But now that I have started this project, I can’t quit. I am on a mission to completion.

I am counting the stitches until the next slip slip knit, pass one over. I am concentrating on the slip, slip knit. I am trying to remember what row I just finished, what pattern repeat I am on. I might lose a stitch. I might split a stitch. I might skip a make one left. I live in fear of messing up and having to stop everything and spend an afternoon at the knitting store, losing precious hours while waiting impatiently for the owner to fix what I have messed up. And as all knitters know, knitting stores do not hold emergency hours.

I don’t want to exercise, I don’t want to clean up my breakfast dishes, I don’t want to answer emails, I don’t want to visit your mother. Do I even want to babysit my grandson? I take the fifth. And the worst of this is that I idiotically convinced my best friend to do the knit a thon with me. Now she hates me. I sure miss her as my best friend. But I have no time for friends anymore, so maybe it’s for the best.

I might lose everything I love, but in the end, I will prevail. I will have a new shawl, replete with mistakes, in colors that I am not sure I really like. When I finish this shawl, it will be the only thing I ever wear, even if it is hideous.

Enough with this writing! I want to be knitting! I want to finish pattern repeat four thousand and seven. I am sure I could have done another row or two instead of dithering on about my misery. The typos and mistakes in grammar be damned! I may make one right, but it won’t be in this essay.