How to own a boat in the city and remain parsimonious, Chesapeake Bay, MD August 2013

We bought a boat. Or, as I said to Mr. Fantastic “We bought a $%# BOAT??!!  With what? Where do we park it?”  But the deal was done.  And the more I learned, the more I liked it.


Really rowing on the street

Last year, Papa Fantastic shamelessly petitioned friends, friends-of-friends, and random people on the street to borrow a boat as we prepared to go to Vicars Island.  He managed to wrangle a somewhat seaworthy – or I should say lakeworthy – rowboat with one oar from an acquaintance a few blocks away which we loaded from the alley onto our minivan (RIP 1996 Dodge Caravan Sport we had it Oct 2008- Jan 2013) and used for that trip.  We bought another oar and rounded up some life vests. I will say with all respect and gratitude that the rowboat did the job and we may not have been able to take the trip without it.  I must also say we all have seared into our memory rowing the thing while the kids bailed out the lake water that was leaking in, once while Truly was vomiting and twice in the rain.  We thought a lot about motors and larger boats and especially sailboats on that trip.  Papa Fantastic continued to scheme on somehow getting a boat and he cruised Craigslist all year.  Along the way, he talked two other families into helping us pay for it co-owning a boat.  So now we own- along with the Stupendous family of Vicars Island fame, and another adventurous family- a Siren Sailboat!  It ended up costing each family about $600, plus one needs a tow bar to pull the trailer.  We got one and I believe it was under $100 installed.  The other families have relatives outside the city so we have two driveway options for parking the thing – much like worrying about my kids or a naive houseguest,  I shudder to think of what could happen to the little sailboat in the city streets at night!


from L to R: Minivan, boat, Mr fantastic

Papa found a 17′ 1974 Siren sailboat.  Actually, he found not one but two of these little beauties.  They were made in Canada from the 1970’s until the mid-1980’s and are cute as a button.  There is a cabin that sleeps two, a small motor and a mast for the SAILS!!  Yes, its a little sailboat.  The great thing about finding two listings on Craigslist is that he could compare the two.  The one we bought was slightly more expensive but was in vastly better condition since it had been used more recently.  Of course, he drove it right to our door so we could climb all over the thing, then the next day we happened to have a babysitter so just Mr. Fantastic and I headed with our Siren for Elk River Park in Elkton, Maryland.  The siren is a great size – big enough for a cabin, yet it weighs only 750# so it doesn’t stress our car (which has a towing capacity of 2000#).

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Sailing on the Chesapeake

The Bay was beautiful and we had excellent weather.  Getting there was a trick, however.  Once at the boat ramp, we had to set up the mast, which of course was down for towing.  There was a lot of schlepping around with the trailer ties, motor, rudder, etc.  Next, I had to watch as our car – a used minivan we bought in February to replace the other minivan we had driven to death with our wanderings – backed into the water as it lowered the boat down the ramp.  Then I parked the car, went back to the dock and we started our maiden voyage on the 39-year-old sailboat.

Everything worked well, but soon the motor started whining and stalling.  The keel was not down because the inlet was shallow, we were soon to find out how shallow.  With no motor or keel, we were pushed towards the land and we had to get out and push.  I got down in to the water… and my legs kept sinking.  The bottom of the inlet was over a foot of fine silt, and it was hard to get a grip with my feet.  But with some finagling we were able to get back into the deeper part – which was only about 8″!!  The motor started again and soon we made it to the Bay.  There we opened the sail and it was really nice!  I had to crouch down so the boom would not hit me when it turned, we have to mess with it and see if it can go higher next time.  The other boaters did not laugh at us, which I appreciated.  People were very nice and we saw others getting stuck as well.  The buoys were inaccurate, directing boaters into more silted areas, which did not help matters.  We did not have much time due to the babysitter schedule so we had a short sail, made our way back through the inlet without having to get out and push, and loaded up the trailer to get home.  I’m looking forward to more adventures, check out the boat tent that came with the boat!

1986 Siren 17 sailboat

Honduras March 2011 Part 2 – the Village

IMG_0128 Fiercely with some kids on a path, Cleverly with a friend IMG_0184

So we arrived at the village.  Unannounced.  After 14 years.  It was beautiful!  Somehow word had traveled, it had something to do with someone who rode in the truck bed getting a ride up the mountain.  I’m sure Bartolo had told people, since I later found out everyone in the village had a cell phone and was in contact with the GROUP of young men from the village that had settled near my neighborhood in the US.  That’s right, I learned on this visit that in the US I had neighbors about 20 blocks away who were from this tiny village.  We rode the same buses, shopped at the same grocery stores, and negotiated inner city life nearby each other for almost 7 years!  I had to go back to the village to find this out.  The strange thing was, I had lived in Ohio when I joined the Peace Corps, but I ended up on the East Coast.  They were from the village and ended up 20 blocks from me.  The coincidence absolutely floored me.


The village with cell phone tower!  Fiercely and Cleverly with Bartolo’s parents!

Anyway, there was a happy reunion as people ran down to the road to the truck and word spread quickly.  All of the children I had known were adults now, of course, many with children of their own.  We were surrounded by a growing crowd and shouts of “gringita!”.  Now, don’t think I get a big head about this because although we do have a lot of love for each other, I am aware that the village is a tranquil, one might say boring, place, and any entertainment is always welcome.  When I lived there, I was a constant source of entertainment as people passed by my house to see how the gringa lived.  There was one television powered by a generator.  Computers and cell phones were unheard of.  Church and soccer games on Sundays were a big deal.  And now the gringa had returned – with children!  This was front page news.  There is still no electricity there, BTW. Wires are placed, but “the government hasn’t connected them” I was told by locals.


Marta and Chema – parents of my Honduran family. They have about 12 kids, several are my neighbors in the US and some are still home with them.  They built a new house with this nice kitchen with funds sent from their kids working in the US.


Horses in front of old wooden house, laundry drying next to new house

We first went to my Honduran family’s house.  It was so good to see them.  They were doing great.  Their house was a large, tidy cement structure uphill from their house I remembered, currently used for storing grain, which was wooden with a dirt floor.  From the porch of their new house, they called their son Ever “in America” and I spoke with him.  He told me where he lived and I almost passed out!  I had travelled over 3,000 miles and Ever was talking to me from my neighborhood back in the US!  It was truly a moment I will never forget within an amazing day I will never forget.

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Fiercely playing a hand-clap game, kids in the coffee field with banana trees and Cleverly looking a little brava

We were shepherded around like royalty, or like long-lost family.  We were given “pan dulce” (sweet yeast bread, made like cake on special occasions) and lots of coca-cola until we felt sick from all the polite eating we had to do.  We were shown photos (on a laptop!) of a local wedding we had missed by a couple of weeks (darn! would have been fun!).  Fiercely ran around with village kids almost from the get-go, but Cleverly hung back and sulked a little, earning some gentle teasing with the nickname “Brava” which is what they call a rude dog.  She warmed up eventually and made a friend.


Marta and daughters making pan dulce in an outdoor wood-fired oven.

Cleverly and Fiercely spent the week running around with village kids, also helping with some chores like baking pan dulce, doing laundry, and picking avocados.  I visited and was visited by people I had worked with and general people I remembered, and some I didn’t.  I loved how I was welcome everywhere, both as entertainment and because Hondurans are genuinely excellent hosts.  I could literally walk into a stranger’s house and they would chat with me for a while, people would call to me from doorways as I walked by.

It was just lovely to see Don Berto’s farm where he was practicing natural farming that we had worked on all those years ago.  And he was as energetic and full of stories as always, giving us a tour of his medicinal plants, crops, and his hilly little farmland a short hike from the village.

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Picking avocados from the tree, walking through the center of town – church on left has new towers since I lived there, blue building used to be a school but now for meetings