Honey looked wistful as we motored past the beach. No digging in the sand today. We were having an adventure.
And during an adventure, it’s tough being a dog.
Do you want to know the best thing about living on a boat?
You can spy on folks from your cockpit with binoculars and no one calls the police. Just try doing that from the balcony of your condo.
We were anchored off Hughlett Point Nature Preserve in Dividing Creek off the Chesapeake Bay of Virginia.
There was a nice beach nearby and we were going to take Honey off and spend the day playing on the sand.
Then I spotted a sailboat coming in with a fluttering sail. I got out my binoculars thinking the boat was under sail and tacking through the wind. But when I got a closer look, I saw the jib wasn’t just fluttering; it was drooping in the water.
I mentioned it to Mike and speculated that the boat was probably going to anchor and fix their sail. I tried to hail them on the radio but got no reply.
When I looked up a few minutes later, the sailboat had not anchored so I thought perhaps they lived farther up the creek and would take care of the problem when they docked.
By the time, I started making lunch, we saw the boat motoring back out with the sail still flapping.
That’s when Mike said that he’d put the engine on the dinghy and motor over to see if they were okay.
I agreed to stay behind to make lunch and to get Honey ready for our trip to the beach.
Of course, my nautical nosiness never rests. So I used my binoculars to watch Mike tie his dinghy to the back of the other boat. Then I saw him on the deck wrestling with the sail. And finally, I saw him heading back to our boat.
Honey had been watching me pack water and tossing our lawn chairs into the cockpit. With the sound of the dinghy engine getting closer, she knew we’d be going off the boat for her walk.
Poor puppy. She was going to have an adventure. But it wasn’t the adventure she was expecting.
Everyone Has A Bad Day Sometimes
When we first moved on board and told stories about our learning curve, people told us how unlucky we were.
I kept explaining that we weren’t any more unlucky than anyone else. Everyone, no matter how experienced or well prepared, can have a bad day.
The weather and sea conditions make a monkey of any of us silly enough to find boats fun.
Apparently the couple on the boat were having a bad day.
They left a marina in a part of the bay we ALWAYS experience as rough. In fact, our worst day on the water happened in the same area.
Mike gave me a brief description of what the couple had been through (I’ll call them R and L because I didn’t get their permission to write about them and it seems only fair).
R was quite seasick and all they wanted was to get to a safe harbor where they could recuperate and plan their next move. Mike said he had agreed to helm their boat 15 miles north to Reedville while I followed with Honey in our boat.
Once there, Mike would help R and L dock while I motored nearby until Mike was able to row the dinghy back to Meander.
Sounded like a good plan. Except I had never single-handed Meander before. Conditions were probably still rough on the Chesapeake. The boat was a mess after a day at anchor.
And Honey had not been off the boat since 8:00 the night before.
Before launching into an adventure that I felt unprepared for, I called the Coast Guard to share our plan.
Apparently they had every confidence in my ability to move our boat myself. They said it sounded like a solid plan and that we should call to let them know we had landed safely when we arrived.
I guess we were going to take Meander out with a crew of two: me and Honey.
An All-Female Crew
With Mike back on board Meander, F and L were slowly motoring around the anchorage waiting for us to get ready.
After rushing around to get the cabin prepped for travel and bringing up the anchor, I took Honey forward and encouraged her to relieve herself on the deck.
She just looked at me like I was crazy.
Mike hopped into the dinghy which was tied to the starboard side of Meander while I motored close to R and L’s boat, Lizard (also not its real name). Once we were close, I pulled slightly ahead of Lizard and Mike slipped the lines tying the our dinghy Mini Mea to Meander.
On the second pass, Mike tied Mini Mea to the port side of Lizard and climbed aboard.
I’m sorry I don’t have video. It was like the sailing version of when a cowboy jumps off the back of his horse onto a runaway stage-coach in an old movie.
I also have to give credit to R for his helming. Seasickness is not like motion sickness in a car. It makes you want to die. It ruins your concentration. And after losing all the contents of your stomach, the sufferer is dehydrated and lacks concentration.
The fact that R was captaining his boat, keeping it from the shallows, and able to pick up a passenger underway shows what a truly tough person he is.
Honey (remember Honey?) showed her first signs of dismay when Mike set the dinghy loose. She and Mike spend a lot of time together traveling in the dinghy. Something was just wrong about him going off in it alone.
Besides that, Honey always likes the three of us to be together.
But once Mike was out of sight, Honey settled in for the ride.
And she turned out to be pretty good crew.
We were both wearing life jackets because it was choppy on the Bay. Standing at the helm, I was getting sea spray on my face.
Unfortunately, Honey kept standing too.
Nothing makes me more nervous than seeing Honey standing on the cockpit seat in rough chop. Luckily, I had grabbed a package of crackers before taking off. And hearing the rustling of plastic sent Honey pancaking to the seat.
No puppies get treats from this captain unless they’re lying down.
Underway, I felt relaxed.
I’m always nervous thinking about moving. But once we get moving, I feel like the cockpit of a boat is where I was born to be.
It can’t have hurt Honey to know that I was feeling calm and relaxed alone at the wheel.
I like to sing at the helm.
I often hum sea shanties whose time signatures match the water’s motion.
But today, alone for the first time on board, another song seemed right. I found myself singing Beyonce’s All You Single Ladies instead.
If the trip had been longer, I would have probably trotted out Run the World (Girls) as well.
Honey must have heard Brahms Lullaby in her head. Because pretty soon she nodded off.
Her Boyfriend Is Back
As we motored into the Great Wicomico River, the water started to smooth out.
By the time we entered Cockrell’s Creek, I saw that R was back at the helm and Mike was getting dock lines ready to land.
I hovered nearby while they docked at the marina and then I moved a little farther down the creek to drop the anchor.
Yep, another thing I had never done on Meander—anchoring. It was usually a two-crew operation with Mike on the bow handling the anchor and me steering and shifting the engine.
I wished I had taught Honey to shift the transmission. It’s always nice to have an extra paw. But I’m happy enough that she was quiet and calm while I was busy.
Apparently I did okay. After putting out more anchor line we stayed two nights in the same spot without dragging.
By the time I got the anchor down, we had nothing left to do but wait for Mike to bring the dinghy back so Honey would finally get her walk. By now it was after 4:00 p.m. and Honey had gone 20 hours without any time off the boat.
When Mike rowed back to pick up Honey for her walk I don’t know if she saw Mike or a puppy porta pottie.
Once Mike got back to the boat with Honey, we left her to nap while we met R and L for dinner.
So far I had only seen R giving a weak wave from the cockpit. And briefly talked to L on the phone relaying information from Mike.
But I knew I had to meet these people. Anyone who had been through what they had and were kind enough to treat us to dinner were pretty special people.
Both still sick, L and R showed a lot of equilibrium despite their bad day. I think I would have cried and headed straight to bed.
L, in particular, struck me as someone who was totally unflappable. I’d take lessons from her if I thought she could teach her state of mind.
Oh, and they’re dog people. Because, of course, all the cool kids are.
We All Need Each Other
When you live on a boat, you understand how much we all depend on each other.
I am always looking for opportunities to help other boaters. And I appreciate others who do the same for me.
We all need each other on land too. But most people forget, thinking their cell phone or car or money will help them out of any jam they get into.
But recent news stories about hurricane and wildfires serve once again to remind us that we can’t afford to despise other people. Because we all need each other.
The Adventure Of Being The Dog
R and L left the next day to take their boat home. I heard from L that they arrived safely and I’m glad their next day on the water was better than the one before.
We stayed in Reedville until it was time to move north so Mike could help set up the Annapolis Boat Show and I could serve jury duty.
Now the boat is settled on the dock just steps from a grassy lawn that is perfect for rolling on.
But still a perfect adventure for Honey. The kind that isn’t tough to be a dog in.
We’ll be in Annapolis with a relatively light schedule through September. Once boat show set up begins in October, we’ll be swamped. Get in touch if you’re nearby and would like to swap stories in the cockpit.