Sailing Dreams Converge
Updated: Dec 7, 2018
November 3, 2018
Christoph and I leaped out of bed before the fall sun drew its first breath over the eastern sky, a sliver of pink over the pine trees lining the still- green fields behind our home in rural Lambertville, NJ. The sun illuminated the tawny and gold leaves that remained on the trees, after endless gray days of soaking, relentless rain. We moved swiftly, methodically, packing the last of the provisions that we would load into a rented Ford Escape. Our destination today was Deltaville, VA, where we would board our majestic and seaworthy Hylas 49, the sailboat that would be our home for the next four months.
I had awakened with a shiver of anticipation, words of gratitude on my lips: “I am grateful to You, Mysterious Life Force, who enlivens me, and who has brought me to this long-anticipated threshold of departure." The Hebrew prayer of gratitude that I recite each morning ends with words, not of supplication, but of divine encouragement: “I have great faith in you.”
I want to believe in such divine faith, to be implored and impelled, to live into my dreams. Faith is a deep well from which I will draw for the sailing journeys ahead.
We live our lives on the threshold of the unknown. We are forced to learn this stark reality time and again. Human nature calls us to bank ourselves in, to cling to what we know and what we create, the familiar accoutrements of stability and security; our constructions of identity, family, and legacy––hoping that something of ourselves will last. The First Noble Truth of Buddhism teaches that such desire for permanence is the very definition of suffering; stubbornly clinging to this desire is the cause of our own suffering. The mere intention to loosen my grasp on long-held ideas about myself generates a habitual fear, and causes me to strengthen my grasp. For me, this sailing journey, like meditation and prayer, is an opportunity to practice letting go.
We purchased Delfina in 2014, after a two year search for a liveaboard sailboat that took Christoph to boatyards and sailing communities around the country, from Annapolis, to the Great Lakes to Florida. Delfina had belonged to a couple who had lived aboard her for 7 years, sailing from California to Europe, Africa and the Caribbean. She was a seasoned cruiser, build in 2005 in Taiwan, with the same design as the Stevens 47. It was love at first sight for both of us––an elegant boat combining superior sailing and gorgeous, practical design. I love the word often used to describe the Hylas 49: “sea-kindly,” emphasizing comfort over performance. Delfina, daughter of Apollo and Daphne, and a word play on the German word for dolphins, has received a lot of TLC over the past year. Delfina has captivated Christoph’s natural grasp of all things mechanical and functional. She bears a beautiful new stainless steel arch, co-designed by Christoph and fabricated in Quebec, mounted on her rear deck, supporting solar panels supplying 300 additional watts of electricity, and from which our dinghy is now suspended. Christoph installed a spate of new electronics—a chartplotter, with downloaded Aquamap charts, integrated AIS, (automatic identification system that identifies every boat within VHF radio hailing distance), and Sirius weather.
Over four days in early October, we had sailed Delfina from our home port in Keyport, NJ, down the Jersey coast, across the Delaware Bay, through the Delaware and Chesapeake Canal and south on the Chesapeake Bay to Deltaville––a small town on the bay, where every business caters to the needs of sailors and their vessels. Before leaving Delfina there, we had met with riggers to consider options for future rigging–– a staysail for sailing in heavy weather, a whisker pole for sailing downwind. We had contracted a canvas fabricator to design an enclosure for our cockpit, and commissioned another to replace Delfina’s worn cockpit cushions with bright white vinyl. Delfina had spent the past 3 weeks at Sting Ray Point Boatworks in Deltaville, where her bottom was meticulously sanded and evenly coated with a matte gray ablative paint; her winches were greased, her handrails varnished to a gleam.
Christoph turned off the water intake to the house and set the thermostat to 58 degrees. Efficient project managers, we had worked our way through dozens of checklists and nightly debriefings to prepare for this day. Ed and Eileen, friends who had made the trip to the Bahamas on the ICW and offshore for 17 seasons, served as our trusted advisors. The day before we left, Christoph turned 61, and worked his final day as Managing Director of a stone sculpture fabrication facility, capping a career that spanned more than 20 years. We loaded up the rental car and headed down the gravel driveway with purpose and excitement, our hearts and eyes on course.
My dream of sailing was born before Christoph and I had ever met. Single after raising three sons, and nearly 20 years of marriage, I was in search of new horizons, and had developed a longing to sail. Sailing seemed to offer a unique combination of serendipity and mastery, an acknowledgment of the mysterious forces that shape our planet, our movements, and our lives. As a Pisces, I seek the solace of water. I had investigated local sailing clubs where beginners are welcome for weekend sails on the Delaware River. I thought I might try that, but somehow never got around to it.
To celebrate my 44th birthday, I went to a local new age shop that specialized in the esoteric, including crystals, runes, tarot, and other forms of divination. I thought this was an appropriate occasion for a tarot card reading. I had begun dating someone, and wondered about the direction of this relationship. Laying out the traditional Celtic Cross formation, my card reader studied them. “You will meet a man who is a master in his trade,” she told me definitively. I was puzzled, but she had no more information to add. This was clearly a future encounter.
Six months later, Christoph entered my life. He was undeniably a master—a stone sculptor, born in Germany, who had apprenticed to a stone master in the European journeyman tradition. When he showed me his website, I became aware of a curious convergence: two months before we met, I had been vacationing in Wellfleet with my sons, and was drawn to several small sculptures, simple geometric forms carved of granite, surrounding interiors of glass, reflecting sun in the windows of the Cove Gallery. I inquired about them. They were Christoph’s work.
Christoph was also an experienced sailor, and had crewed on many blue water boat deliveries with his good friend, Captain Wayne, whom he had met while living in Vermont. For our first vacation together, in 2002, Christoph and I chartered a sailboat out of Key Largo. This beat-up 26 foot Beneteau was tossed about during a squall that overtook us in the Bahia Honda channel. As the winds whipped up, a jib shackle broke loose, setting the jib, sheet and shackle flailing in the strong wind and driving rain. Christoph told me to take the helm while he caught the flying shackle and whirling sheet like a cowboy handling a lasso, grabbed a pin from somewhere, and improvised a way to affix the shackle to the gunwhale. Sailor Stacey got her first turn at the helm.
And now here we were in Deltaville, 16 years later, lugging bags up a 12 foot ladder to sleep aboard Delfina as she rested upon jack stands in the boatyard. We had a few days to finish up currently-needed repairs, receive new equipment, and buy fresh provisions. Christoph was still working on getting the Sirius weather cable to feed data into the chart plotter display. He had successfully enabled our PEP wifi router, creating our own on-board cellular network, and was working on installation of a wifi booster. It is our priority to stay connected to family and friends back home, and to keep up with our 15 month- old granddaughter Juniper’s rapid-fire developmental milestones.