Fair Winds and Following Seas

Hello, and welcome to the Skeptical Sailor! I regret to say that I have decided to discontinue writing here, as I’ve come to realize that the sailing life isn’t really for me after all. (That’s the short version; the much longer explanation starts here.) However, I haven’t given up writing, and if you’re interested in travel and other such adventures, I encourage you to check out my current site Trapped in Paradise. Thank you, and I hope to see you soon!

Cheers!
Brit C

Outside the cave, part 3: New goals

(Continued from Part 2)

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I came across this quote a while back, just one of those silly inspirational memes, but it’s stuck with me. For so long I didn’t even remember what it was that that I was passionate about; I just felt like I was floating through life without feeling anything.

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In reevaluating my current life, I realized that literally everything I’ve done in the past years has been centered around Chuck. School, as I said; my social life, since when we’re together we almost never stay out (citing “being old and done with partying” as our excuse even though I often feel like staying with my friends a little longer), my social media accounts, my name, even this blog. I tried so hard to get into the sailing lifestyle because it’s what he loves, but I’ve come to realize that I hate sailing. Oh, I don’t mind the day trips, but the long overnight ventures on the high seas? I’m seasick, I’m bored, I’m restless, and did I mention that I’m seasick? Anyway, I no longer had an identity of my own, and I set out to fix the things I could – I changed my profile pictures from couples shots to pictures of just me, I insisted on going out with my friends more. The name change will have to wait until the summer, but that’s definitely important. It’s funny how something as simple as a name has so much power; my name with his last name makes me feel like an impostor.

Finally, I had a talk with my estranged husband once we were finally back in the same city, and told him everything I was thinking. His response was that only one of us can have a career; the other will have to give something up. And since he’s the one who’s on track to do great things in the military, and I’m not even out of school yet and can’t get a job anyway…

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Wait… this was NOT what we had talked about

My response? I emailed my school that night and committed to being an exchange student at Tel Aviv University for the entire fall semester, from October to February.

A conversation I had with one of my classmates while in Israel sticks in my mind. She had asked what made me want to join the Navy in the first place, and I’d replied that even though the full scholarship was a nice incentive, I’d had perfect grades in high school and was accomplished in band and choir, and therefore could have gotten scholarship money through other means. However, I was drawn to a life of service, and I knew I was gifted with good health and strength (both physical and mental) and the idealist in me felt the need to use that strength to help others. I felt I could change the world for the better. Flash forward sixteen years, and despite everything that’s happened, things haven’t changed. That girl is still in there, still an idealist who believes she can change the world. Something I’ve long dreamed of doing was getting involved in humanitarian works, specifically two causes that mean a lot to me: helping military domestic violence victims, and fighting human trafficking. The former is something I have touched on here in this blog as having experienced firsthand, but I was never sure if I would ever be ready to make the jump from survivor to advocate. I know now in my heart that I am ready.

It’s going to be hard; I know there will be days when I’m wondering why I’m subjecting myself to judgment and criticism again, but something else that defined my old persona was courage. I never used to worry about standing up for what’s right, although that trait got crushed while working at the JIOC and stayed crushed while I’d tried to mold myself into the perfect Navy wife. It’s courage I need back in my life now – and more importantly, so do others who don’t have the means to help themselves.

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“The light you are looking for has always been within.” -The Word Virus

So the point of this tl;dr trilogy is to bid adieu to this blog. I’m still going to write, but seeing as how I have no desire to be a serious sailor I feel like there’s no reason to continue here. Instead, I’m going to resurrect my old blog Trapped in Paradise. Even though I’m obviously no longer on Hawaii and hopefully never will be, it somehow seems more fitting. Plus, that site doubled as a travel blog, and since I should have plenty of traveling this year, it only makes sense. By the way, I’m writing all of this while on a grueling twenty hours long journey to Cambodia. So to those who have followed my musings here on this site, I wish to thank you, and encourage you to check out the DC edition of Trapped in Paradise.

Cheers and best wishes,
Brit C

Outside the cave, part 2: The parable

(Continued from Part 1)

In high school, I remember talking about the Parable of the Cave in our humanities class. This is the story of the guy who spends his whole life living in a cave, thinking that the colorful cave paintings depicting the outside world were beautiful, until one day he’s able to actually go outside. Of course the actual sky and trees far surpass the paintings. Sadly, once he’s forced to go back in the cave he realizes that the paintings no longer hold the same beauty. Depressing story, right? But how applicable it can be to certain parts of our lives. I did indeed have my own cave paintings, and it was during my school trip to Israel over spring break that I realized it.

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Pretty, but not quite the real thing

I had signed up for this trip back in November, shortly after I’d attended the Veterans MBA conference and decided I wanted to pursue a career in the tech industry. It was, I thought, the perfect way to combine my military and international experience with my desire to help people while working in an innovative, fast-paced environment. (The opposite of naval intelligence, in other words, but I digress.) However, I had found the pursuit of that career path to be an uphill battle – to most employers, military experience doesn’t actually count at “real” job experience, and I had unfortunately chosen to attend a school that… let’s just say that I found out too late how important B-school rankings really are, and how much my decision to attend a school based on location would cost me. My networking attempts fell flat, and if I was able to get an interview at all, it almost never progressed past the initial phone screen. “Have you ever had a real job?” someone once asked me. Right.

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Oh, you’re grateful, are you? Then why isn’t my work experience good enough?!

So by the time March rolled around, I was feeling pretty shitty, and trying to come up with an excuse to skip the spring break trip so I could focus on my job search. Of course I couldn’t do that since this was actually a class and I was being graded, so off to Tel Aviv I went.

Found the beach! #springbreak #surfing #israel #telaviv

A photo posted by Brittany Caranto Matykiewicz (@thecrazyqueenb) on

Maybe it was the serenity of being in the desert, maybe it was the rich culture and history, maybe it was getting to see firsthand so many tech start-ups and be around all these brilliant, innovative minds. I love the idea of setting off on your own to start a company that might make a lot of people’s lives better. So many times I found myself thinking, this is it. This is what I’ve been looking for. There is a lot of courage and passion for your work required to successfully build a start-up, but what is life worth if you’re not stepping outside of your comfort zone to achieve something great? A couple days into the trip I started to feel different, and it took a couple more days before I realized exactly why – I was feeling like my old self again, for the first time since I had lived in Japan years earlier. I was once outgoing and fearless and passionate about my work, but between my demoralizing years in Hawaii and settling into married life that all changed, and my classmates had come to know me as a nice but reserved person who once did some things in the military. But now the old me had come back with a vengeance, and suddenly I was salsa dancing with strangers during our hotel’s happy hour and engaging in friendly banter with CEOs (and winning business cards and Linkedin connections in the process.)

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One of the most significant things was that this was the first time in a very long time that anyone was interested in my experiences. I had gotten so used to being ignored in favor of my fighter pilot husband, so I was astonished whenever the Israelis inquired about my time in the military, and even more so when they asked why I wasn’t bragging about myself more. I didn’t think I had anything to brag about, but they insisted I was wrong – being a former NFO and intel officer made me a certifiable bad-ass and I needed to own it. I can’t describe how nice it felt to be treated as something more than a pilot’s wife who didn’t have enough ”real” job experience to get an MBA internship.

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A mantra I once lived by

So anyway, I enjoyed my time with my new friends, partied probably more than I should have, and did some pretty impulsive things like submitting an application to study abroad at Tel Aviv University next semester. When I came back to DC I knew that I had indeed left the cave, and that there was no way I was going back in. I’d gotten a glimpse of the life I wanted for myself, and it was not what I currently had.

To be continued in Part 3

Outside the cave, part 1: Birthday blues

It’s been a long time since I’ve updated this blog, and although it would be easy to blame my absence on business school (and I admit, I would certainly be justified in doing so) the real truth is a bit more than that.

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At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, I had an epiphany about a few things sometime during the winter. My birthday was in January – 34 years old – and it wasn’t quite the traditional 1/3 life crisis some have (you know, the one that goes something like “oh no, I’m getting so old, my life is over, etc, etc.”) No, I don’t feel old despite the fact that I have nearly a decade on some of my classmates. Maybe it’s the fact that I still look younger (wear sunscreen, you guys) or that I can out-party a lot of the other students (thank you, U.S. Navy). No, my 1/3 life crisis has more to do with the fact that I reached a point where I should be stable in life, where I have everything a 30-something should have, everything that made me successful according to my mother and all the older relatives in my life. And I realized that I was miserable, although I couldn’t pinpoint the reason why.

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Years ago when I was in college the first time, I remember reading an article in Entertainment Weekly or some movie magazine about actress Nicole Kidman revamping her life after she turned 34, shedding the “discarded wife” image after her divorce and becoming a superstar. It’s ridiculous how something so silly can stay with you over the years. I don’t even care for Hollywood gossip (I was reading the magazine to kill time at an airport, if I remember right) but I recall that the article then gave examples of other actresses reinventing their lives at that age. Ingrid Bergman was one, leaving her husband after finding love with a director. (Now that I look back, I’m wondering why these examples of changing your life involved marriages ending, but I guess you can’t expect much else from an entertainment magazine.) Anyway, I began to wonder if 34 was this magical age where everything clicked in your head and if you weren’t happy with your life, you said “fuck this” and threw caution to the wind to seek out whatever it was you were looking for.

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As I approached my 34th birthday, I started wondering if I had already done this. After all, I had gotten out of the Navy, leaving behind a line of work that had made me very unhappy, and gone back to school which was something I’d been wanting to do. I’d been married for almost a year and no longer had to deal with criticism from my more traditional-minded family members about my “scandalous” single life. I was preparing to write a blog post about how, at 34, I was finally truly satisfied. But the day came and went, and I still felt like something was missing. I wasn’t happy, and I had no idea why.

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It would be a few more weeks before I would figure out what was wrong, but at this point in January all I knew was that I didn’t know what I wanted for my life, only that the direction it was going wasn’t it. Something was wrong, and I couldn’t fix it if I didn’t even know what the problem was. Chuck choosing to spend the winter in Key West was both a blessing and a source of resentment; while I needed to focus and school and the all-important internship search, I was committed to spending the next year and a half in a city I didn’t enjoy, and wouldn’t have even been in if not for wanting to be close to him. I gave up going back to school on the West Coast because of him, and he decided to hightail it to Florida. So I did the only thing I could do which was throw myself into schoolwork, convincing myself that if I worked hard I could find that job that would help me break into the tech industry like I’ve been wanting, and then everything would be fine.

To be continued in Part 2

Snow Daze

Well, I survived Snowzilla, although I’m not sure I can say the same about my neighbors’ vehicles.

I have never been so grateful for a parking garage in my life.

I was definitely not looking forward to snow in the city. While I like snow just fine in the mountains and the ski slopes, snow in the city? Where it turns into nasty mush that refreezes overnight to make it walk or drive anywhere? No thank you!

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Yuck. What a mess!

I know this is ironic coming from someone who used to write a blog complaining about living in Hawaii, and where one of my chief complaints was the lack of seasons. Year-round sunshine and 80 degree weather got old after a few years, okay? Sometimes a girl just wants to wear her boots and cute sweaters without sweating all the time.

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Such as my favorite pair of boots that hadn’t seen the light of day since that time I hung out with the temple deer at Nara, Japan back in 2012

Having heard the stories from my friends who’d endured Snowmageddon and how DC in particular cannot handle snow at all, I’d been hoping to be spared any repeats of 2010 during my two years living here. Oh well.

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The day after was quite clear, although the roads were still quite impossible to navigate without snow boots (or skis)

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People were sledding down famous landmarks, like Capitol Hill and the steps to the Lincoln Memorial

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I was impressed that some restaurants and bars were committed to staying open all through the storm! #thatsallyougotjonas

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The “snow madness” got me! After two days of being cooped up, I decided to make an addition to my roommate’s giant bowl of Skittles

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Nothing out of the ordinary here!

Classes (and everything else) were cancelled today while the city dug itself out from under two feet of the white stuff. My classmates and I are now frantically refreshing our twitter feeds to find out if we’ll be that lucky tomorrow. I’m doubtful, but the public schools and several other universities in the area have already cancelled, so we’ll see.

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Like watching water boil

In the meantime, the extra time off has allowed me to do a few things:

-Catch up on schoolwork (always exciting, I know)
-Submit more applications for summer internships
-Continue nerding out over All Things Tech

Since I went without updating my blog for pretty much all of my first semester in business school, I’ll have to backtrack a bit and do some explaining. However, it’s getting late and we just got word that we do actually have class tomorrow. I’ll save the story of my newfound interest in the tech industry for next time…🙂

The French Connection

Being stuck in the first great blizzard of 2016 has its advantages, in that now I have time to do all those things I’ve been meaning to do! In my New Years Resolution to write more, I need to update about my winter break travels. First there was skiing and Star Wars in Idaho.

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Snow! Skiing at Bogus Basin near Boise, ID

Then there was a sailing trip from Jacksonville, Florida to Miami. I got sick a lot (the winds were straight from the south the entire time, so there was a lot of tacking back and forth in addition to rough seas) and sadly, did not get to party with Pitbull on New Years Eve despite being parked next to the superyacht where his NYE party was being held.

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It wasn’t for lack of trying! We bribed the security guards with water bottles, but to no avail. I guess we should have used Dom Perignon instead.

I just got back from our class trip to France and Luxembourg last week. What a great experience that was!

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Paris is SO much more fun when you have travel buddies!

This was my second trip to Paris; my first was last year on my mini-honeymoon turned solo Eurotrip (link). I had a blast this time around, even though we were so busy with our class project that there were times we forgot where we were. (To quote one of my teammates on the night before our big presentation: “We could be in Luxembourg right now, or I could be in Dallas, Texas. I truly have no idea because all we’ve seen is the inside of this hotel room.”)

It wasn’t all work, of course. We did get a chance to do a few touristy things, since many of us arrived a day or so before our official start date, and stayed for the weekend after our final presentation before heading back to DC.

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I made sure to actually go INSIDE Notre Dame this time. Worth the wait!

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We did at least have an evening to walk around Luxembourg (after our project was done, of course.)

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However, I got tired of the baguettes and foie gras fairly quickly this time around. On day four I went on an open rebellion and had dinner at a dim sum restaurant. Although I did make sure to pair it with a rose from Provence, so it sort of counts.

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A definite highlight of the trip: a VIP tour to the Pommery winery in Reims. While the champagne tasting wasn’t as good as the Veuve Cliquot event I went to last year, Pommery’s cave was far more impressive! They had turned it into an art gallery, in addition to being a place to age champagne.

Our main purpose for being there, in between the Seine boat tours, champagne tasting, fine dining, and everything else, was our school project: working on a marketing strategy with Ferrero Worldwide; specifically, their Kinder brand. (Or as Americans may know it, “that heathen company that puts toys in their chocolate eggs, what are those guys thinking trying to choke their children?!” This is where I was going to rant about how the reputation is unwarranted because kids almost never choke on the things, but my team informed me that there was an incident in France recently. In fairness, the child was under the recommended age limit, but it’s still sad. Supervise your children, everyone.) Anyway, after many nights of working until 2am to perfect our project, we got to present to a panel of judges at the Kinder headquarters in Luxembourg.

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We’re here for serious business, you guys

Sadly, my team did not win the competition, but we came away with alllll the chocolate anyway. So much, in fact, that I had to send it off to relatives as soon as I returned to the States so that I wouldn’t be tempted to eat it all! Even though I’m a dark chocolate connoisseur and I find most Kinder products a little too sweet for my taste (which is typical of many Asians, as I learned during this project) there are a couple that I could happily eat all day. Kinder Buenos? Just leave those with me.

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Our spoils of war

Anyway, it was a great experience, and I’m glad I signed on for this whirlwind tour even though doing so meant that my winter break was reduced significantly. (My mother was not happy that I was video teleconferencing with my team while I was visiting the family in Idaho over Christmas.) My resume, I’ve found, is chocked full of leadership experience thanks to my time in the military, but sorely lacking in industry experience. This was one of many projects that I’ve taken on over the course of the year to help fill in those gaps. I have the privilege of attending one of the top schools for international business in the country; why not take advantage of it? Especially if I get chocolate!

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“I have to say, while I enjoyed taking a year off from official responsibilities, I’m very much looking forward to being productive again. Cheers, happy Sunday, and I’ll talk to you soon!”

Hey, remember when I wrote this, way back in August?

 I suppose “soon” is relative. For some people it means next week. Apparently for graduate students, it means sometime around Christmas when I’m finally done with the semester and can actually take a breath. Oy.

*sigh*

 That said, business school has been a fun experience so far, even if I spent my first semester studying harder than I had since my flight school days just to stay afloat. The first few months of the program had been frontloaded with a bunch of quantitative-heavy subjects – statistics, accounting, microeconomics, etc – that have always been my Achilles’ Heel, so I was expecting that I would have to drop off the face of the earth for a while. The good news? My efforts paid off, and I wound up with a higher GPA than I could have hoped for. The bad? Well, supposedly I live in a great city called Washington DC, although I couldn’t tell you the first thing about it.

What IS that thing?!

 Oh well, it’s all good. There’s so much to get caught up on, and the nice thing is that I’ll have a nice, long sailing trip over the next week. Chuck decided to be a snowbird this year and flee the “cold” winter up north –

“Winter” = 70 degrees

 -and brought the boat down to Saint Augustine, Florida a couple of weeks ago. After my finals were finally done, we visited my family on the West Coast for Christmas, then came to Florida to finish the cruise south. If all goes well, it will be a very good New Years in Miami!

I’m being told I need to hurry up and shut off the computer, so I will write more on the flip side.🙂

What I did on my summer vacation

Wow! Can you believe that it’s August already? Time really flies, and even more so when there’s a lot going on.

But really, where does the time go?!

But really, where does the time go?!

I took a little time off from writing for two reasons, the most obvious being that I got pretty busy this summer in between travel and moving to DC for school. The second reason is that during the sailing trip to Rhode Island that I’d written about I started wondering if I should take this blog in a different direction. I’d originally intended to make this a humorous account of adjusting to living on a boat for the first time, in addition to writing about our various sailing adventures. But on that trip back from Newport, weather and timing issues meant that we couldn’t stop anywhere on the way back to Virginia Beach. (I’m not counting the night we anchored in New York Harbor; imagine how painful it was seeing the beautiful city lights and knowing that you wouldn’t be visiting!)

That pretty much sums it up

That pretty much sums it up

I came to realize during the sail home that while I enjoy sailing on a short afternoon or evening cruise, for me the allure behind the multi-day trips is getting to visit different places. Sadly, I just don’t think I like sailing for the sake of sailing. I looked back at some of my blog entries and decided they were a little dry; fake enthusiasm makes for uninteresting reading.

Sadly, I don't have a dog

Sadly, not everyone has a dog to draw on

I still want to write, of course, and I still want to talk about the oddities of boat life. I guess where I’m getting at is, I don’t think I can make this into an “all sailing all the time” thing like I’d tried to do. And that’s okay; there’s far more informative sailing blogs out there already. I’m about to start business school anyway, so in due time there will be plenty for me to write/complain/make snide remarks on. I kid! Maybe.

So, what have I been doing for the last couple of months? Let’s see:

-Chuck and I finally went on our honeymoon, for real this time! It was the first time either of us had visited South America, and we loved it. This deserves its own blog post, but for now I’ll just say that Uruguay is quite the gem that many people don’t know about.

The perfect getaway for romantics and wine-lovers alike!

The perfect getaway for romantics and wine-lovers alike!

-As a graduation present for my youngest brother (more like a “I’m sorry I couldn’t make it because I was stuck on a sailboat NOT going to Bermuda” consolation gift) I flew him out to Key West to hang out for July 4th. I’ve been to Key West a few times in the past year, stowing away with Chuck since he goes there a lot for his job. I keep meaning to write about it because it is a good time, but really my brother summed it up best: “The guy on the plane told me that people come here to fish and drink. Is that true?” Well…

Yes. (photo credit: Huffington Post)

Yes. (photo credit: Huffington Post)

-Since I was coming up on the end of my “gap year” between getting out of the Navy and starting grad school, I figured I should tie up any odds and ends that I’d been putting off because of wedding planning and what-not. I don’t want to think about how much time and effort I devoted to navigating the endless caverns that make up the Department of Veterans Affairs. I will say, however, that so far I’m impressed with the Disabled American Veterans, who helped me write up my claim. That said, I’ll reserve my final judgment until I see the end result.

-I burned some frequent flier miles and made a trip out to Hawaii. (You know you’re lonely in Virginia when you hop on a ten-hour flight just to spend a long weekend with friends.) Hawaii is about the same as I left it. On the plus side, we discovered that soju (Korean rice liquor) comes in a seemingly infinite amount of flavors.

Oddly enough, the best was the yogurt-flavored one

So many flavors! The struggle was real.

-And finally, as I mentioned before, I moved up to DC. Finding an apartment was tough! You’ve got to have some serious cash to afford to rent something bigger than a closet. Thankfully I know a lot of people here from my time in the Navy, so I was able to find a roommate to help split the costs. (Chuck is still stationed in Virginia for at least another year, so once again we’ll be doing the long-distance thing. It sucks since we’ve only been married for just over four months, but at least we’re on the same continent! After being 5000 miles and six time zones apart while I was in Hawaii, a four-hour drive up the road seems like nothing.)

I can’t stay up too late tonight, because I start school tomorrow. Good lord! I can’t believe it’s finally here. I have to say, while I enjoyed taking a year off from official responsibilities, I’m very much looking forward to being productive again. Cheers, happy Sunday, and I’ll talk to you soon!

Cartoon from Patheos.com

Cartoon from Patheos.com

Newport and world class racing (and us)

Newport is a pretty neat place – definitely a sailor’s town, with a lot of history and charming colonial architecture. It also smells like waffle cones and fudge shops, and as the guys put it, “it’s like going to Busch Gardens but without the rides!”

Downtown Newport

Downtown Newport

As luck would have it, we got here about a day or so after the tricked-out sailboats participating in the Volvo Ocean Race arrived. Newport is one of the last stops in the race that started back in October and circumnavigates the globe.

Just your average 5 million Euro sailboat, NBD

Just your average 5 million Euro sailboat, NBD. Our poor boat seems so primitive in comparison!

Their previous stop was in Itajai, Brazil. They'd traveled over 5,000 miles in 15 days! And here, I thought we'd made good time with our measly 120 nm/day.

Their previous stop was in Itajai, Brazil. They’d traveled over 5,000 miles in 15 days! And here, I thought we’d made good time with our measly 120 nm/day.

It was pretty awesome to walk around and look at the boats, and learn about how they live and travel during such an intense race. The sails are so thin they feel like they could be made of paper, and because they have to travel so light, they live off of freeze-dried meals and multivitamins despite burning some 5,000 calories a day. It’s common to lose up to 25 pounds per leg of the race! “Hard core” doesn’t begin to describe it.

Although my perpetual seasickness would prevent me from being an effective crewmember, I would love to be a fly on the wall for one leg of the trip (preferably the short one between France and the Netherlands) just to see what it’s like to travel in one of those boats. I’ve never raced before, never even ridden in a sailboat that’s gone faster than 8 knots, so I can’t imagine the intensity and excitement of a world-class race like this one.

Oh, and because the race is sponsored by Volvo, we got to see a demonstration of the “future” of automobiles: remote controlled cars that can be commanded to pick you up, or park themselves, by talking to an app on your phone. Supposedly it will be available in 2017. Better order yours now! (Yeah, okay. Maybe after I win the lottery.)

I wonder if you can name it? "Knight Rider, come get me! And bring me some wine!"

I wonder if you can name it? “Knight Rider, come get me! And bring me some wine!”

We decided to spend the majority of the weekend in Newport so that Chuck could finish fixing the engine, and so we could relax and enjoy the town. I’ve lived on the East Coast for a while now, but I haven’t spent much time in New England, and certainly not in a town that feels like New England, if that makes sense. We moored out in the harbor and rode the dinghy to downtown, where there are plenty of great restaurants and pubs to enjoy. (And yes, the fudge stores are pretty legit, too. We tried a couple just to make sure.)

Downtown Newport

More Newport

Something that I noticed that made me laugh was what the locals were wearing. Yes, it’s May, but we’re pretty far north so it’s still around 50 degrees in the evenings. Maybe it warms up close to 60 during the day. But most of the residents are wearing outfits like what I’d packed to wear in Bermuda! Shorts, sundresses, flippy-floppies, t-shirts without jackets. I felt slightly ridiculous breaking out my furry boots and heavy coat to go out at night, but it was cold, dammit! I mean, check out this picture I took this afternoon: about 5 pm, the fog is already rolling in, and look at how these people are dressed!

Didn't your mom tell you that you'll catch a cold?

Didn’t your mom tell you that you’ll catch a cold?

I suppose it’s not unlike how when I lived in Hawaii, we’d start donning our sweaters and long pants as soon as the temperature dropped below 70. It was a rough winter on the East Coast, so I imagine they’re just happy that it’s above freezing. Still, it’s kind of hilarious to see everyone walking around like we’re in Key West or someplace else that’s tropical, weaving in and out of the fog that settled in during the evening.

Creeeeepy

And this is the part in the Stephen King novel where the monster comes out and terrorizes the town, right?

I suppose it’s just one more thing to get used to if you live here, but we lived in constant fear that we’d no longer be able to find the boat once we left shore in the dinghy. The fog made it a scary trip at night! It was a good thing we’d picked a mooring so close to the Ann Street pier, which was are usual dinghy parking spot when we rode into town to grab food. (By the way, the brick oven pizzeria that’s right there as soon as you leave the pier is phenomenal.)

So that was our weekend in Newport. A charming and fun place to visit, especially when there’s awesome transoceanic racers in town! I’m looking forward to following them on the rest of their journey, almost as much as I’m looking forward to our own journey into Long Island Sound.🙂

For more about the Volvo Ocean Race and to follow along, check out http://www.volvooceanrace.com/

It’s free to visit the race village, and the boats with their teams will be in town until May 17th. For more about the Volvo Ocean Race and to follow along, check out http://www.volvooceanrace.com/

Not quite Bermuda, but close enough

Our latest sailing venture turned out to be one of those trips – you know, where you try to go to Bermuda, but end up in Rhode Island. I hate it when that happens.

Although in fairness, Block Island is considered "the Bermuda of the North."

Although in fairness, Block Island is considered “the Bermuda of the North.”

We set out last Saturday with the best of intentions: winds were forecast to be good, we had a few of Chuck’s friends coming along, everyone had plenty of time off from work, I was all Dramamine’d up, and we had stocked enough food and alcohol to last us through the zombie apocalypse. We’d just left the Chesapeake and were setting our course across the Atlantic when the winds died. No big deal, we’d just have to motor for a while, right? Well….

A reminder that things can always be worse: as we bobbed along with no wind and a broken engine, the USS Bush rolled by, bringing up old memories of long deployments. At least we have non-spoiled food (and beer!)

A reminder that things can always be worse: as we bobbed along with no wind and a broken engine, the USS Bush rolled by, bringing up old memories of long deployments. At least now we have non-spoiled food (and beer!)

Long story short, we hung out off the coast of Virginia Beach for the rest of the afternoon while Chuck troubleshot the engine, which had suddenly decided it no longer felt like going to Bermuda. Diagnosis #1 was a faulty injection pump, but for some reason we happened to have an extra one (no, I have no idea why, either.) However, the engine still wouldn’t start after we switched it out, so our trip came to an unceremonious end as we got towed back to the marina.

On the bright side, thanks to Chuck's membership with BoatUS (basically AAA for mariners) we didn't have to pay for what turned out to be a $1500 towing job. Strongly recommended! www.boatus.com

On the bright side, thanks to Chuck’s membership with BoatUS (basically AAA for mariners) we didn’t have to pay for what turned out to be a $1500 towing job. Strongly recommended! http://www.boatus.com

By Monday, Chuck had figured out what was wrong – when he replaced the injection pump, it was installed 180 degrees off so fuel wasn’t getting to the engine. A quick adjustment, and voila! The engine started, Chuck called his friend who was still available to come with us, and we decided to go sailing. Bermuda was no longer an option, so we picked a place we hadn’t been to yet: Newport, Rhode Island.

Unlike our last trip up the East Coast it was rather uneventful – almost too uneventful. Consistent winds out of the south meant we got to go wing-on-wing for almost two days straight, leaving plenty of time for wine, cheese, and trying out our new-and-improved Scrabble board, custom made for rolling on the high seas.

Velcro solves everything!

Velcro solves everything!

Strangely, we didn’t see anyone else until the evening of the second day, when a ghost ship appeared off our port side!

Ghosts... or PIRATES!

Ghosts… or PIRATES?!?!

It turned out to the the US Coast Guard’s barque Eagle which, while impressive, was not nearly as exciting as ghost pirates. Oh well.

That night the wind started to shift and die, so once again we turned to the engine, which once again refused to work. Diagnosis #2 was that it wasn’t the injection pump after all, but an air leak that was causing it to stall. Thankfully Chuck was able to rig a hose and fuel canister to bypass wherever the leak was (really technical terms, I know.) And good thing, because this is what the ocean looked like on the morning of the third day.

A transoceanic sailor's nightmare

A transoceanic sailor’s nightmare

No wind and flat seas. Who knew the Atlantic Ocean could ever look so calm? At least we weren’t too far offshore. Half a day of motoring finally got us to our first destination, Block Island.

aka Not!Bermuda

aka Not!Bermuda

Block Island is a popular tourist destination in the summer, but right now it’s quite empty save for the local population. It was cool to have the place to ourselves, if only because the locals were eager to enlighten us with stories of how crazy it gets during the high season from late June to August. The tiny island fills up with over 9,000 people, there are so many boats in the harbor that you can walk across them to get to shore, and the poor fire and medical response teams (all-volunteer) are overwhelmed with idiot tourists who do things like rent mopeds although they’ve never driven a motorcycle before. A favorite evening activity for the locals is to grab a bunch of mudslides (the drink of choice on Block Island) and cruise around in a dinghy to laugh at all the boaters in the harbor, where it’s turned into a giant game of Bumper Boats.

So that was our day in the Bermuda of the North, a quirky little island that’s probably a bit colder than the real thing (“Why do we keep sailing north?!” Chuck asked at one point while we were bundling up in our winter coats) but still a pleasant place to spend an afternoon. After a good night’s rest we set off the next morning; our plan is to gradually make our way back down the New England coast while stopping in different towns along the way, starting with Newport.