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Back on the Water

Shortly after returning from the SNAG conference this past Spring I had a realization. I haven’t been sailing in a long time.

For an artist who makes work about boats, sailing, the wind, waves and water, I felt thirsty to get back on the water and experience again the things that inspired me in the first place, so I started to see what I could do about that.

S2, tentatively named Suzie Lightning in her new slip Dredge Harbor after our two day trip from the Chesapeake.

I checked into chartering in the Chesapeake or the New Jersey shore and was floored by how much the prices (and requirements?!) had increased in the decade since I last went sailing on OPB (other peoples’ boats). Then, just for giggles I started looking at the price of used boats. That’s when I realized it’s a buyers market out there for old plastic sailboats.

Now wait. For the cost of a weeklong charter in the Chesapeake, I could own my own boat and pay the marina fees? I had a chat with my husband David and instead of having an expensive weeklong adventure, I was going to become a boat owner again.

Never owned a boat on my own. It was always with my ex-husband, Lary.

Lary passed away suddenly this past March. I found myself thinking about the boats we had owned when going through some of his things with our kid, Gwen. I think this may have been where the initial longing to get back on the water began.

Of course I was overeager to start and initially purchased a very inexpensive boat that I realized too late was going to be much more work that I was willing to do. It actually took until early October until that boat was off of my hands.  But in late July, I found my boat. A 1981 S2 8.0m (26 ft) sloop. My friends Fran and Shirley lived on a center cockpit S2 at one point and I remember it was very well designed. This one just had a familiar feel as soon as I stepped aboard. Lary and I lived aboard a 27 ft sailboat for about 2 years, so I was feeling pretty comfortable on this one.

Any boat needs work, even a perfect brand new boat still needs maintenance. This one needs work, but is usable in the meantime. She was in a marina in Havre de Grace, MD and was ready to take a trip home.

Taking a selfie with as we pointed the boat out of the Chesapeake Bay and up toward the C&D Canal.

Gwen and Keegan signed on as crew and in mid- August, we pulled away from the gas dock at the marina and pointed the bow towards Philadelphia. The first day was a long one. Heading across the upper tip of the Chesapeake Bay we sailed for a little while and dropped the sails to power through the C&D Canal, we had the strong current with us only part of the day.

Gwen down below in the S2

The long run up the Delaware had the wind and the current opposing one another which made for a rough ride a good bit of the day and knocked a few knots off of our speed. This only compounded the slow progress up the river as the current turned against us.

The sun set while we were still several hours from where we could stop for the evening. I thought about pulling out of the channel and anchoring, since I really hate navigating the Delaware river at night, but we motored on, watching Aqua Maps on the ipad and all three of us keeping watch on the heavy commercial traffic around the Marcus Hook area finally gliding under the Commodore Barry Bridge with the lights of the traffic reflecting on the water around us.

Barb looking at the moon rise while navigating up the Delaware River
Barb looking at the moon rise while navigating up the Delaware River. This photo was taken just after we passed the Commodore Barry Bridge and finally began to relax as we left the commercial shipping channel.

We arrived in Essington after 9pm and it took two passes in the dark to find the gas dock where we were going to tie up for the evening. To our surprise, David was there to meet us and drive to Wawa for some sandwiches. We slept under the approach for the Philadelphia International airport which made for some interrupted rest, but we were up with the sun to finish the journey up the Delaware.

We encountered very little commercial traffic that day and arrived at the marina in Delran about noon. It took some time to get tied up since there really wasn’t enough water in the slip we were assigned. We had to move it to a different spot the following week.

Keegan steering through the Philadelphia/Camden waterfront approaching the Walt Whitman Bridge.

It is now late in the season and I’ve not had a lot of time out on the water with the boat, but I spend a few hours on board every week. Cleaning, repairing things, adjusting the dock lines. The marina will be pulling the boat out soon and placing her on stands for the winter and that’s when I’ll get the fiberglass work done, rebuild the fresh water pumps and give the outboard a good once over.

Best of all, I feel more connected to the source of my work. I’ve been thinking about new pieces inspired by the bottoms of bridges, waves and wakes of tugboats. It’s going to be interesting to see what comes of it.

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