Weeks before we closed on Morning Light, we were hatching our plans to bring her from her former home in Annapolis up to our marina in New York Harbor.
Timing hinged upon an important question: do we hire a captain to bring her up to us, do we hire a captain to join us on board, or do we go it alone? Having our bareboat charter certifications, a fair amount of small boat (J-24) experience on the Hudson River, and solo charter experiences in the Virgin Islands (40’ Island Packet) and Great South Bay (35’ Hunter), we knew we could go it alone if we needed to. However, as relative novices (our longest single-day outing totaled about 30 miles), it would have a been a slower, less confident, and more stressful journey that might have taken anywhere between 3 and 6 days. Given our full-time job schedules, I felt better going with a pro and an estimate of 4 days (barring terrible weather) and confidently telling my boss to expect me back in the office on the Tuesday after Memorial Day. In the end, predictability, and the chance to learn a lot from someone seasoned, won hands-down.
The weekend before our big trip, we drove down to Annapolis in a little Zipcar loaded with possessions from our land life, a fraction of our apartments’ content, to squeeze into the lockers and cubbies of our new home. As we cruised down Route 95, grooving to our yacht rock playlist, we were pretty excited. Not only would we be sleeping aboard our boat for the first time that night, but we’d also been given the rare gift of spending the weekend with her previous owner to get a two-day intensive on the systems and mechanics aboard.
Our first boat project began the moment we arrived: stowing all of the things we’d hauled with us to move aboard. Back in Brooklyn, we’d torn through the drawers and closets of our 1000 square foot apartment, evaluating objects for durability, usefulness, and likelihood that they would fit inside one of our boat’s many irregularly-shaped storage compartments. Items that made the cut included durable/machine washable clothing, outerwear, books about sailing and boat repair, pans that work with the small stove and oven, kitchen gear, tools, and bedding. Fitting all that stuff into nooks and crannies hidden all over the boat is maddening to begin with, but it pales in comparison to the frustration of reclaiming a stowed item when you need it again. You wouldn’t believe how quickly order turns to chaos when you’re ripping through the cubbies beneath your salon cushions, scrambling to find the sweatshirt you could have sworn you put there not two hours earlier. It quickly became apparent that a total reorganization would be necessary once we arrived at our destination, but for the time being, just out of sight was good enough.
Once we’d put things away, we got down to reviewing the boat’s systems with the former owner, a very impressive sailor named Virginia. It’s a pretty unusual case in the male-dominated nautical world to find one female purchasing a hulking, 42 foot sailboat from another; an aspect of this deal that I took as a blissfully good omen. Virginia and her late husband, Bruce, took ownership of Morning Light in 1994, and they sailed her all over the East Coast, Caribbean, and as far as Belize. After Virginia’s husband passed, she kept his legacy alive by pouring love and hard work into the boat and single-handedly sailing her in the Chesapeake Bay. Now in her mid-80s, Virginia decided it was time for Morning Light to carry new adventurers, and we believe that destiny brought us all together. We felt that there was something very special about our boat the moment we stepped aboard.
It’s quite possible that Virginia and Bruce were the most conscientious, meticulous boat owners to ever sail the seas. Throughout twenty-plus years of owning Morning Light, they kept meticulous, organized binders containing detailed instructions, original manuals, and every repair record, receipt, and warranty for the equipment and systems aboard, from the windlass motor that pulls our anchor up from the sea floor, to the completely rebuilt Ford Lehman engine, to the manual pump heads (toilets). As Virginia took us through each part from forward to aft, she shared secrets and tips that most new boat owners must discover on their own by trial and error (some as specific as “turn it on, let it run for five seconds, turn it off, wait for five, turn it back on again”). Brian and I clung to her every word, taking notes on the precise procedure for changing engine oil, where to order replacement parts for things that are no longer manufactured, how to flake the anchor chain so the windlass doesn’t jam, and which electrical systems can and cannot be used simultaneously to avoid blowing our our electrical system (fridge + hot water heater + AC = trouble). We couldn’t be more lucky to be buying our boat from someone who cares so deeply and knows so much.
By late afternoon, not being accustomed to the 90 degree heat and 100% humidity, we decided to call it a day. We popped the champagne we’d been holding for a few years (it was a gift from the broker who sold the last home we owned, our apartment in Manhattan), and toasted our first night in our new home. As we sipped in the cockpit, the humidity broke into pouring rain. We chowed down on Maryland crab cakes and fell asleep at 9:30 to loud pitter-patter on the deck. We didn’t stir even once, and discovered only two small leaks to add to the project list.
The next morning, we were awake with the sun (turns out our boat is aptly named, with a big, windowed hatch over the sleeping berth – no more sleeping in!) Our hired captain, Gerry, stopped by to take a look at the boat and review the delivery plan for the following week. After logging more hours with Virginia, one task remained: filling the pantry with provisions.
I was having trouble envisioning what meal time would feel like on our trip (How often would we be anchored? How rough should I expect the rocking to be?), but I’d gleaned from sailing blogs that you can’t go wrong with filling, nutritious, and easily-prepared sustenance. Since we don’t own a car, we utilized our rented wheels and loaded up the pantry with dry goods, cat food, emergency water, beer, and staples for the long term, in addition to some fresh fruit and veggies for our upcoming trip. That, along with some hot meals I’d be cooking and freezing back in New York to bring down for the trip, could definitely get us through as we pushed north.
We were pretty reluctant to get back into the car and leave our boat behind (not to mention, brave Sunday traffic on 95). I was sure I’d burst with anticipation before getting through the work week that stood between us and our boat.
Next up: Annapolis to NYC: Bringing Morning Light Home