Sea Stories

Long Cruise, August 2009

by Mate Jessie Dowd

I mean, really. I keep going back for more. Therapy is in my future, I just know it.

Over my birthday weekend I went on a “long cruise” with the Sea Scouts. Some back story for those that missed it….we found out the hard way that the ship was missing alllllll the pots/pans/utensils. Have you ever cooked for 8 people for 3 days on just a griddle? Not easy.

This trip we made sure to purchase the pots and pans.

But, of course, nothing in my world could ever go right, so here are the highlights of the cruise.

1. 30 miles on Thursday. 30 miles on Friday. 25 miles on Saturday. 55 miles on Sunday. 30 miles on Monday. At a whopping 5 knots per hour.

2. One of our crew members needs to learn moderation on the cologne. It’s not THAT big a boat.

3. We’re on a boat. For 5 days. Do you really need to bring 2 laptops? Do you really need to set them up on our eating table? Do you really need to unplug our FRIDGE to run the second laptop?

4. It’s a boat. We need to stow everything that isn’t currently being used. And that means your nasty old smelly clothes and underwear. Ugh.

5. When none of you are even 14 years old YOU DO NOT NEED COFFEE!!!!

6. If we tell you to put on sunscreen and a hat, listen to us. We are adults. We know things.

7. Once again. Boat. Water. When getting off the boat, don’t hold things in your hand. They end up in the water. Then Amy ends up in the water fishing your stuff out. Marina water is NASTY.

8. Boat. No land. Do you really need to be on the phone EVERY SINGLE MINUTE? What would you have done 20 years ago when you had no possibility of contacting your friends every waking minute?

9. We are supposed to be sailors. We are supposed to know things. Like descriptions of boats. Our boat, for instance. A schooner, definition – 2 masts, with the aft mast being taller or the same height as the fore mast. So, when we head to the raft up, and you tell us to come up on the starboard side of the one masted schooner, what, pray tell, do you mean?

10. Our raft up was 7 boats tied together in the Magothy River. Since our boat was the biggest, it was the most fun to jump from. But, again, sailboat. Watch out for the boom. How many times do you need to hit your head before you remember it’s there?

11. Sailing away on Sunday morning and we discover a crabber (crab fisherman for those that don’t know) following us, holding up a bathing suit. Yup, it’s ours. We have clothes pins for a reason. Pin your wet stuff to the railing. It’s embarrassing to have someone chase us down to hand us a bathing suit.

12. When planning for a 5 day cruise, some forethought is necessary. Do we have gasoline. Yes. Do we have PFD’s. Yes. Do we have keys. Yes. Do we have pots? Now we do. Do we have pans? Nope, but we can make do. Do we have utensils? Oops. Forgot those. It’s okay, we can wash the plastic ones we have and share if necessary. Does the stove work? No. Um, what do you mean, NO!!!! We have 5 days worth of food that is just going to rot? We have to eat sandwiches for 12, count them…..12 meals?

13. When sailing down the Chesapeake Bay, in the channel, WATCH FOR TANKERS. That sucker got close to us. Close enough that I couldn’t fit the whole thing in the lens frame.

14. Last wonderful piece of advice? Check the tide tables. Really, check them. Because fighting the tide out to the river and then fighting the tide while going up the river leads to a really, really, really long day. At less than 3 knots, that’s a loooooooooong time to go nowhere.

So, folks, the moral of the story is? Sea Scouts – always an adventure.



Small Boat Sailing, June 2009

by Mate Jessie Dowd

My life is one great big fish tale after another. Did this really happen the way she says it did? How in the world do all these things happen to her? My grandmother once said about me, If she didn’t have bad luck, she’d have no luck at all. So, I learned (not easily) to just go with the flow, and enjoy the ride.

The ongoing saga of my life.

Saturday dawns and it’s a beautiful day. 6:00am, and I’m up, straightening up the house, feeding the dogs, tripping over the cats, making the coffee, because, you know, the world will stop spinning if the coffee isn’t made. Or, to be clear, my world will cease to exist, and my children will stay away, cowering in fear until the caffeine goddess has bestowed my morning cheer.

Now I’m getting very excited for the sailing day. We’re going small boat sailing. All other sailing I’ve ever done in my life has been on big boats. The smallest being a 30 foot dory. When you sail on a big boat, so much of what we do is dependent on the others in the crew. Small boat sailing is so much more personal, and I’m very eager to give it a try. There’s a two person catamaran and a single person Sunfish. The kids are getting the chauffeured tour of the Wicomico River on the cat, while one of our Sea Scout mates (and the owner of the BEAUTIFUL property and boats) and I get the sunfish ready.

The boat was a donation, so you know there has to be some problem with it. There’s no cleat in the front of the boat, and there’s no hardware on the mast, so the sail has to be tied up through a bit of rigging at the top of the mast and then tied off at the bottom, as opposed to tied off on the cleat. We get the boat ready to go and Anne decides that I should go out for a spin.

Now, we know that I’ve never done this before, but I’m game for anything. I get a crash course in how to handle the boat, how to track in the wind, how to use the rudder. I head out into the river and I start to FLY! It’s the greatest feeling in the world. I’m leaning back out over the water, the sail is full, and I don’t ever want to stop. I test myself and the boat and I tack up into the wind, I circle around, I let her out again and fly down the river. The boom swings around, I fold myself forward and she catches the wind, perfect. This is just perfect. Finally I decide that I should let some of the kids have a chance with her and start back to the beach.

I bring the boat back to the beach and the dock, with a bit of a miscalculation. Nothing major, just about 15 yards further upriver than I really needed to be, but not bad for a beginner. As I bring in the Sunfish, the chase boat we have heads out to pick up the canoe.

You see, three of the kids, my eldest daughter included, decide to take the canoe out for a spin. We didn’t realize at the time, and hindsight being what it is, we should have asked, but they didn’t have a clue how to paddle a canoe. Or, as they claim, they were arguing as to who really knew what to do, and so did nothing and stranded themselves about a mile down river.

Feeling confident in myself, I take the Sunfish out again, with Amy as a passenger. Now the Sunfish is a one person boat, but she’s small and she sat in the knee-well. Again, I catch the wind, let her ride and we have a fabulous time. We decide to go back up river and the first tack change didn’t quite take, so I decide to loop the boat around one big circle again. I feel the wind change as we circle, so I watch Amy’s head as the boom comes around. I duck to the side, so I can keep an eye on Amy as the boom clears her.

The rigging on the boom line is loose as it clears me and starts to catch the wind. The rigging line starts to tighten up and catches on the bottom right corner of my life jacket. I look down, think, “Oh, (insert word of choice)” and look up at Amy as I fly out of the boat backwards.

Now, this could go any number of ways. I could fly out of the boat backwards, Amy could be in the boat by herself and be panicky. Or she could jump out herself. Or I could hit the sail on the way out of the boat and completely flip her upside down. We went with option number three. As soon as Amy sees the boat is going over, she jumps out (thank heavens, because she cleared the sail and rigging when she jumped) and as soon as I make sure she is okay and not hurt, the laughter starts.

Because from the moment the wind first caught the sails my first spin, the Kenny Rogers song “The Greatest” has been running through my mind. Yep. I am the greatest. I’m so fantastic that I capsize the boat. And our chase boat is trying to save the canoe. I’m a half mile down river, in the middle. With a capsized boat and my daughter. We’re swimming towards shore, pushing the boat. Not that we were making any progress, but, hey, why not?

The first people on scene were two fishermen in a bass boat. I called out to them as they came up, “Hey, how are you today? Isn’t it a great day?” Their response was, “Well, we’re obviously doing better than you!” They offer to help, but it seems they can’t swim. Huh.

I thank them, but let them know our chase boat is coming for us, as soon as they save the canoe. Next on the scene is another powerboat that came flying up, cutting the engine about 100 yards out. Of course, this creates quite a wake, so Amy and I start bobbing in the water like corks, holding onto the boat, laughing and laughing. Amy thinks it’s fabulous that we didn’t give up the ship.

Again I thank our Samaritan and let them know that our chase boat is coming, and this time they are actually on their way out to us. They pull up and we get Amy on board, while I continue to bob in the water while we discuss the best way to get the Sunfish upright. We finally decide to get one of the kids to stand on the centerboard to try to counterbalance and bring her up.

Yeah. The kid we sent? Nice kid. Home from college for the summer. Doing great in school, he’s a fabulous sailor. He really came into himself at college. Lost a good deal of weight. He, um, no longer has the body mass to bring the boat up. With a little leverage and some creative thinking we manage to get her upright, but the sail is wet, and the boat is not very responsive. We decide to tow her in. But because of the sail and the wind, we opt to bring the sail down first.

Oh, crap. We tied the sail to the mast. This is going to be interesting. So, here I am, hanging off the motor boat, only my legs on board, using ab muscles I don’t have to hang over the water and over the Sunfish to untie the mast while our two saviors are holding onto the sail and the boom hoping I don’t let the rope fly and knock the poor kid in the Sunfish unconscious. The only injury of the day occurred while I was trying to untie the sail. I hurt my thumb.

Well, fabulous sailor me, gets the sail untied, marlin ties it to the boom, does a cleat hitch and a double half hitch to tie the sailboat to the motor boat and we head back to the dock.

As we head back, again the song is running through my mind?..I am the greatest sailor of them all…because I remembered all these knots from a 30 minute introduction 9 months ago.

I can’t wait to go sailing again. Because I may not be the best sailor, but I never give up. And that makes me the greatest of them all.

Wardroom Dinner Drama, February 2009
by Mate Jessie Dowd

The end of the story begins with Skipper saying, “I went to the mall with three women.”

The beginning of the story is not so exciting. It’s the details in the middle that are killer. Knowledge that would have been helpful BEFORE we started this journey.

But anyway, here goes our drama.

On Saturday evening we were to attend the District Wardroom Dinner. I have never been. There were only four of us attending. Skipper, Catherine, Brenda and myself.  We arrived in the area earlier than planned, and the girls wanted to go to the mall to kill some time.  So, Brenda, Catherine and I went walking. Skipper stayed in the car to rest. Now, for those of you who don’t know, Skipper is..well, he’s just Skipper. He’s in his seventies. How far in, nobody knows and he’s not telling. He’s a bit gruff, but mellow. A big teddy bear that the kids just love. He has amazing stories from his 50 plus years in scouting as well as his 20 years as a police officer in DC. Add to that his four kids and grandkids and he’s always got something to tell you.

Except the important things. But we’ll get to that.

So, the girls and I are walking around the mall.  I take the girls by Godiva chocolate and we have to stop in when I found out that Brenda had never eaten Godiva chocolate. (Imagine my horror and the look on my face when she said that. The poor, sheltered child!)

We swing by the MAC store because Catherine has been begging and begging and begging and begging to be allowed to wear make up. Of course, she’s already been wearing make up, because she’s been sneaking into mine and trying to hide the fact. Yeah, that’s working for her. Like I can’t tell that she’s been into my mascara and eyeliner. Raccoon? Meet Catherine. I tell the lady in the store that I want her to learn how to put on very subtle, simple makeup. I was incredibly impressed. Beautiful job. We do Brenda next, because, really can I say no? Of course I end up buying for both of them. Why? Because I have SUCKER tattooed on my forehead. More SUCKER issues to come. *BigSigh*

Next we head to Hot Topic. Because we have to tweens with us. And that’s what they do. While in the store the girls decide to get their nails done for the dinner. Okay, says the sucker mother. Why not? We have 45 minutes and they said at the salon that it would only be 30 to 40 minutes.Oh, nay, nay.

We get to the nail shop at just after 4pm. I told Skipper we’d be back at the car at 4:45. Dinner starts at 6pm. It’s only 10 minutes down the road. We should be fine.

Oh, nay, nay.

They start on Brenda and Catherine at about 4:25. I start to get nervous. 4:45 rolls around and they aren’t even close to being done. I mean, the acrylic hasn’t even been applied. Catherine calls Skipper and tells him it will be another 15 minutes.

5:00 comes around. Brenda calls Skipper and tells him it will be another 15 minutes. Because she is suddenly getting her nails AIRBRUSHED!!!!!!

5:15 comes along and they haven’t even started painting Catherine’s nails. Skipper calls. He’s waiting for us. He laughs when I tell him where we are.

5:25 I tell the lady to not even try to dry Catherine’s nails, she’ll wave them as we run down the mall to the absolute other end to meet Skipper. I go to the desk to pay. $75 for nails! The SUCKER tattoo starts to pulse. I don’t have time to argue. But I am not a happy camper. $45 for nails for a 13 year old? $30 for nails that we didn’t even have time to dry?

5:30 We are running down the mall, Brenda on the phone with Skipper telling him to meet us at the door. We run through JC Penney. Bolt out the door and hurry into the car. Skipper asks us if a woman had given us the time estimate. We say yes, and then he asks what smells so awful. It’s Catherine’s wet nails.

5:45 We finally enter the American Legion building for our Wardroom Dinner. The girls and I hurry into the bathroom to do a quick change. We meet Skipper in the dining room and find a table.

6:00 And the host for the dinner stands up to make an announcement. He says that the event always starts when the Admiral arrives. And that time is at the Admirals discretion. But, because the Admiral was “not late” we were going to eat dinner and then have the awards ceremony following, not before as originally planned. At the awards ceremony the Admiral could tell us what held him up.

That’s when I found out that it was supposed to start at 5pm, not 6pm.

SUCKER tattoo is throbbing by now.

Brenda and I are sitting with Skipper at a table, Catherine off to another with some friends from another ship. We ask Skipper who the Admiral is and why is he late.

He looks at us.

And says, “I’m the Admiral.”

O…MY…GOD!!!!!!!! WHAT…DO…YOU…MEAN??????

How did we NOT know that Skipper, our Skipper, fun-loving, gruff, story-telling Skipper was the flipping ADMIRAL?

My SUCKER tattoo is neon and pulsing.

Dinner was a lovely affair, punctuated by Brenda begging Skipper not to tell anyone why we were late.

And this brings us back to the end of the story..when Skipper got up in front of the room full of people who had been kept waiting for him and said, “I went to the mall with three women.”

Arctic BBQ, January 2009
by Mate Jessie Dowd
You know how they say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach? Well, the way to a teenager’s heart is with Dunkin Donuts. After almost no sleep on Saturday morning I loaded my gear, as well as a comatose Catherine (with her gear) into the car and headed over to her friends house for a 6:30 pickup. Lorianne was…..not really awake. I never actually saw her mother, but Lorianne and Catherine head back to my car with a small overnight bag after I assume they said goodbye to her mother.Being the mean, evil, awful person that I am, I waited until they were in the car and buckled before I asked if Lorianne possibly wanted to bring a sleeping bag. Ha. They trudge their way back to the house and proceed to bang on the front door. Oops. I thought she had a key. After a moment or two, we are fully geared and ready to go. Except I don’t have coffee. That is NEVER a good thing. You don’t want me to face any day without coffee, but you add in a LOT of teenagers and 18 hours until I may possibly see a bed again, and coffee is a necessity.Originally I was just going to run into DD and grab some coffee for me and I figured we’d stop for gas somewhere before we hit PA and I could grab a munchie or two if needed. But you see, the DD around the corner from me recently started baking on site. And I walked in at just after 6:30. Lack of sleep, fresh donuts and a very long day ahead means I buy 2 dozen donuts.When we pulled into the parking lot to meet everyone else there were lots of bobbing heads in the van as kids started to nod off again. Catherine carried the boxes of donuts to the van and suddenly there was life. It’s like Frankenstein…..they’re ALIIIIIIIIIIVE! Thanks and praise and love was flowing from the van as the masses descended on the boxes and almost instantly decimated the first box.

The three and a half hour ride to Pennsylvania was then filled with passing donuts, Hip Hop music blaring from the back of the van, criticism of Skipper’s driving and old stories. Well, actually, that encompassed the first two hours and 15 minutes. The last hour and 15 minutes consisted of 6 sugared up very very very bored teenagers in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Soon Lauren was making monkey faces at passing cars and Catherine, Lorianne and Saya were making signs and sticking them to the back windows for passing cars to see. Skipper and I stayed facing front doing our level best to ignore the antics.