Sassea Sails


Loneliness, Inspiration and Boredom

Writing my autobiography is more emotional than I considered. I began this project as a means of moving out of denial into acceptance. From childhood to old age, I felt the need to document my life’s experiences. Like Jimmy Buffet said about making his music for him, I write for me. Since my girlfriend JoAnne went away to college, leaving me behind to fulfill my parents idea of how my life should be, I wrote profusely. For two years I wrote to JoAnne every day.

When a guy, I thought was my boyfriend, went to Korea to serve our country, I wrote to him everyday, too. My unknown claim to fame was a story I wrote. It was about 20 hand written pages. Every sentence had the title of a song. One day, I hope to recreate a similar vignette.

What surprises me about writing my autobiography is how emotional it becomes. It seems each experience leaves me laughing so hard I feel silly or overcome with grief. Alone in my loft, alone in my house, alone to live out the rest of my life, an outsider might think I am ‘nuts’ if they suddenly walked in and saw me laughing like a fool or huddled in a fetal position.

My writing coach reminded me that Sally Fields spent 7 years writing her autobiography. I can see why it takes so long. Aside from getting the grammar correct and the order of things in order, the emotional response by putting events on paper, takes its toll. After each experience is documented, I need to take a break, go for a walk or call a friend. 

Still I find writing an effective way to deal with three things. Loneliness, inspiration and boredom. Loneliness, with its negative connotation goes against my usual sense of humor and carefree lifestyle. Inspiration aggrandizes hope. It allows me to think of what experiences lie ahead. Boredom, something boring people indulge in, just isn’t for me. I crave something to do. Something with a bit of a challenge. Whether it be shopping for a piece of furniture, landscaping our yard, or fixing my vacuum cleaner, writing is the perfect escape from tedious chores, and negative thoughts.  

Hell, I’m only 72 years old. I got a lot of living to do and new experiences to write about. 

Meet Ted and Toodles

Inspired by my sailing friend Suky Cannon’s facebook page of her buddies Margie and Doris, I decided to introduce Ted and Toodles. Ted, aka Teddy, has been with me since my first birthday. This makes him 71 years old. Santa brought Toodles to me when I was about 8 or 9 years old. Both Ted and Toodles have had an adventurous life. More than anyone else, they are the ones who know everything about me. From as far away as Jeffreys Baai, South Africa, to life aboard my 35 foot tri, these guys have been my calm in every storm and my joy in every day.

Ted, recently had a make over. In a future blog I will compare his original 70 year old look. I was determined to preserve him. His fur and material was so frayed I could pass a sewing needle through it without piercing a hole. Just passing the needle between the threads made it fray more. An acquaintance suggested I use baby socks to cover him. It worked like the charming bear he is. Stitching buttons from an old collection, to stitching his tiny smile took patience. One of these days his ears will be perked up. The original bell inside his left ear was replaced. When he has his ear implant his bell will again ring.

Toodles, is pretty much the same. Her skin is a hard plastic. Her dirty face is as clean as bleach will get it. Her left eye is sometimes sleepy. She used to wet her pants. Her worst accident was the result of rambunctious play. Her head popped off when she was only a day old. Inside her body was a red tube that connected her mouth to her hi knee hole. Changing diapers was never my thing. I was just as happy to throw the tube away. (Actually, I don’t recall what happened to the tube.) Feeding her fake food and pretend water has been my preference.

I have a great video of Toodles riding on the forward crossbeam of SPRAY while cruising the Bahamas. Ted was destined to stay below on cabin duty. He is too frail and small to risk riding on the deck. Even the cockpit is off limits.

Now, living in rural Colorado, as bizarre as it may seem, Ted and Toodles give me a sense of security, that despite the loneliness, I crave. Stay tuned for more in the lives of Ted and Toodles. You will eventually meet their brothers and sisters, and even their pets Bunny and Bear.

We Don’t Know

Before you tell me, “at least he died peacefully,” please consider what you don’t know. 

The mind is made up of complex mental processes, thought and consciousness. While we 

We caan speculate on what someone else is thinking. we can never know for certain.  The sad clown is a classic example. Laughing in front of people, painting an exaggerated smile on their face, and even playing practical jokes are characteristic of the funny circus clown. Do we really know what is behind the mask? Mental, emotional pain can be as frightful and horrific as physical pain. I know people say things to ease their own discomfort when talking about the deceased, I just wish they stopped making assumptions about things they know nothing about. 

Sure the thought of someone peacefully asleep is more pleasant than the vision of someone mangled from a head on car collision. Moments before the car crash the now deceased could have been the happiest in their life. It sounds gruesome but whether a person dies in a horrific crash or at home in their bed snuggled with their loved one, we don’t know what really goes on in the mind of someone else.

Maybe I have been alone too long causing me to think these thoughts. It just struck me when the other day someone said, “At least Danny died peacefully.” For some reason, I questioned whether or not he died with loving thoughts of his dad, his grandma or even me. Maybe the guilt he carried because he wasn’t home when his died was haunting him when he laid down for a nap.

I don’t know. I may never know. I just hope other people realize there is so much we don’t know about the mind and about death. Assumptions may help the living cope. We don’t know for certain. I certainly don’t know.

EEEK, A Mouse in the House, Not, he/she was in my car, my nice little Subaru Xtrek,,,

This blog post is being posted without a single second of editing. Why? Because this episode had me so stressed I used my writing to help destress. I think if I edit it I may loose the sense or urgency with which I handled the situation. Here goes…

According to a recent talk on the local NPR station people are only born with two innate fears. All other fears, the speaker said are learned. This opening statement caught my attention. Currently, I have been dealing with a mouse, well maybe mice is more accurate. They are in my car.

The stench was so bad one morning I was convinced the mouse was dead. A cursory look by myself and a friend determined the mouse could be inside the housing for the rear seat belt. This was evidenced by a chewed area on the seat belt where the fuzzy stuff was exposed.

Throughout the next week I cringed at the thought of taking apart the seat belt mechanism to dislodge the dead mouse. Each day I managed to avoid the task. That’s what happens when we are in fear. It is the old ‘flight or fight.’ The stench disgusted me.

After a beautiful hike to the St. Charles Natural Arch in Rye, Colorado I wearily opened the back door to my beloved little Subaru. There on the floor was the scattered remains of a Kit Kat candy wrapped. It was shredded. Squeezing my eyes shut, my body froze. Intuitively I took a few breaths. Embarrassingly I told my hiking buddy that the dam mouse was alive and in my car. 

The good news is that this traumatic reality of living in rural America, convinced me to NEVER eat in my car again. In the meantime, I had to face my learned behavior. A fear of dealing with mice.

So that afternoon I stopped at my neighborhood Lowe’s and bought four sticky pads, four traditional mouse traps and one weird gadget to capture the mouse in a plastic container. Still, on the drive home my body shook. What if the mouse showed him or herself while I was driving. I turned the music up ridicously loud to drown my unpleasant rumination.

At home I called my friend Phyllis who had recently told of a time she had a mouse in her kitchen cabinet. Her husband was three states away. Yet she called him to take care of the problem. Phyllis suggested I borrow some peanut butter to set in the trap. As mice and rats are a natural part of rural life, I decided to go buy my own jar.

On the way home from the store I called my sister. She suggested I call the guy, who is paid to set and tend ten traps I have set around the outside of my house and garage. Special trips to my house, I explained are an added fee. I also told her how I mentioned the mouse in my car to several male friends and neighbors. Usually these guys lend a ready hand to help with general maintenance. Not the mouse problem. No one volunteered to set a trap and later get rid of the dead or worst yet, dying captive.

Finally, I resolved that my fear was a learned one. Just as I have overcome my fear of effectively winning the start of a sailboat race, I vowed to stop avoiding the rat trap. Afterall, I am much bigger.

To keep things simple, I set out four sticky pads. One on the floor under the steering wheel, as recommended by Phyllis. One on the floor in the back seat where I found the chewed candy wrapped. And, two, in the truck portion. With my body in a tense state, I took a warm shower, put on clean clothes, scrubbed my hands over and over and over again. 

I put on my jammies and called it a night.

“Oh no!” was my first thought when I awoke after a peaceful 8-hour sleep. “I have to go check the sticky pads.” This was 5 am. This required a structured thoughtful plan. Each step took about 15 minutes to garner the strength to enact. First, I put on a pair of disposable gloves. Then, I changed into clothes I wouldn’t mind throwing out. Lastly I donned a face mask in case the car really smelled bad. 

I walked outside, opened the garage door, then ran into the yard. That annoying voice in my head shouted, “No, No, I can’t do this.” I went in the house and made a cup of coffee. Then the voice scolded me, “You can’t relax with coffee until the work is done.” I wanted to cry but no tears welled up in my eyes. There would be no pity party; rather an invisible kick in the butt got me back outside.

Into the garage I creeped. Somehow I opened the back door of the car. No mouse on a sticky pad. Shining a spotlight in the truck space I peeked on those two sticky pads. No mouse. I swear it took another ten minutes for me to open the front driver’s side door. 

Oh, G____. You’d think I was in a horror movie. The sight was beyond what I think I can describe. As a writer, I will approach this as if I am being paid a million dollars to describe the scene.

There on the sticky pad on the floor beneath the steering wheel where I put my feet when driving with cruise control on, was a mouse. He wasn’t dead. It was worse. His beady eyes were looking at me. His belly was puffed up and breathing. His body was struggling I guess to get off the sticky pad. 

I slammed the door shut and again ran out of the garage. Thankfully, I remembered to breath deeply. I had to get rid of him. “Oh, yea,” I reminded myself to use the Rubbermaid container I placed in the car to put over the top of the mouse and sticky pad. I kind of through the container on top of the mouse. I could still see his belly move up and down. 

Reaching for the pad and container my heart began to race. I wasable to lift it to the height of the seat when suddenly, the pad and the mouse slipped out from the container and onto the floor. Thankfully it landed right side up.  This time I grabbed a bucket. As I ever so slightly lifted the pad, with the mouse on it and the container over it, I was able to slide it into the bucket.

The poor mouse fell into the bucket upside down. How could I suddenly feel sorry for it. I don’t know. Walking with the bucket toward the street I found a nice shaded spot on the far side of the street. Ever so gently I dumped Mr. Mouse – still stuck on his sticky pad – in a perfect place for the crow or vulture or next in the food chain line to take it from there. 

Now, to repeat this for at least one more day until no more mice are caught in my car…Although this afternoon I will do an extra studious clean out of the interior. Please take a moment to pray there are no more critters in my car and I promise, I swear, to never again eat in my car again. 

Natural Stone Arch

It was a 2 mile downhill trek, my least favorite start to a hike in the woods. Why? Because that means the more aerobic part of the hike will be on the way back.  With each downward step I whined. “It’s going to take me forever to go back up.” After an hour and a half of gravity pushing me faster down the hill than I felt safe, I sat on a log and pouted. Actually the downhill was kind of fun. It reminded me of the first rule of alpine skiing. Ski in control.

It was an ah-ha moment as I compared hiking with sailing. During my early years of racing I was petrified of the start sequence.  When I expressed my nervous approach about the start line Susan Korzeniewski, Hobie 16 champion sailor, gave me this sage advice. “Own the starts. Tell yourself where you want to be on the start line. Then, take charge.” For the next twenty years the start sequence became my favorite part of the race.

It was after this time of quiet reflection when I announced, “At 10 am I am going to quit for the day.” This would allow me twice as much time to ascend. My hiking partner, Debbie Gregory agreed. She was about 50 yards ahead of me. A minute or two later I heard water streaming below.

Photo by Hiking Buddy Debbie Gregory

Then, a bellowing “Yea, I found the arch.” It signaled a celebratory reply. “Ya-hoo we found it.” 

Photo by Hiking Buddy Debbie Gregory

It was high atop a steep grade of granite rocks where the top of the arch kissed the sky. Higher, steeper, and rockier than either of us were prepared to climb, we stood on the river rocks below in awe of this natural wonder. Try as we might the distance between the top of the arch and the river below were too steep to capture in the same photo.

Photo my me, the Sassea One

It was later that evening when a little research revealed a U-Tube video taken during someone else’s winter day hike. It is a worthwhile video that gives a glimpse of hiking this trail in the snow. The arch is named Saint Charles Natural Stone Arch, an alcove eroded out of granite. The broken granite falls as the alcove erodes. It forms a cascade of broken granite reminding us of a frozen waterfall. Sitting alongside the river we ate our snacks before the ascending hike back to the trailhead.

It was after watching the u-tube video, after taking a shower, after taking two aspirin, after flopping in my recliner, and after a long sigh of contentment that I made a pledge. Just as I chose to own the start lines in a sailboat race, I vowed to own the uphil climbs. A vow without an action plan (AP) is meaningless. So, here goes my AP:

a) ascend the infamous INCLINE in Colorado Springs every two months

b) complete ten consecutive flights of stairs up to my loft each day,

c) continue the two mile, up/down walk n jog block, every other day (except days I hike)

d) continue to follow daily reminders of anaerobic exercises to do by my online coach, Matt — his program, “Stronger Runner,” has been a Godsend for me.

e) continue to chose healthy foods and habits

It was about three hours ago, before writing this blog entry, that I began my AP in honor of last night’s vow. Yipe, I conquered ten flights of stairs!

REFERENCE:  Dusty Visits Saint Charles Natural Stone Arch – UTube video 

Dad’s Discounts

My dad never said he used a five finger discount and I would never call him a thief. Yet, on occasion my dad  would talk about things he could buy at a good price. He said the items had fallen off the back of a truck. As the meat manager in the A & P supermarket my dad would snicker when reminding us how he took advantage of selecting the best cuts of meat, slicing them to the perfect size to feed his family. He took pride when reminding us we ate better than the other families in our neighborhood. After all, he was the butcher. 

As an adult I came to appreciate the benefit of my dad being a butcher. There were no vegetarians in our house. In particular I remember mom cooking up a porterhouse steak big enough to feed our family of six.  There was usually enough  leftovers for a steak sandwich the next day.  From brisket to pot roast to lamb chops we were definitely a meat and potatoes eating family. 

Each week my dad brought home a grocery bag full of meat. Mom would re-package it for freezing. One evening while I was helping her I noticed a huge ham. The price sticker  indicated it was a chicken. “Mom,” I said, “this is a ham, why does it say chicken?” Rolling her eyes and shaking her head, she snapped, “That’s your father.”  The implication, of course, was that since dad cut and priced the meat at the store, he controlled what the price tag said. 

When I was in high school I wanted a Navy pea coat. My girlfriend, JoAnne, had one. Consider, too that watching the Coast Guard Sailors walking the boardwalk in Atlantic City was a favorite past time of mine. I was convinced that  having a navy pea coat would make me a sailor. You  can imagine how excited I was when my dad arrived home from work one evening. “Hey, look what I brought you,” he exclaimed. I caught the heavy wool coat as he tossed to me. I could barely contain my excitement.  Before I could get one arm in the sleeve, my mother was raging. “Take it back,” she shrieked.” “But mom,” I begged. “It has real brass buttons.” (Maybe the buttons were plastic, what did I know.)  The point was I so wanted this coat. Mom’s ranting told me to give it up. 

Slowly, with pent up anger, I handed the coat back to my dad. The rest of the night my mom orated to no one in particular.  “Now the police are going to come to the house and arrest you. What am I going to tell the neighbors?  Get that stuff out of my house.”  

Throughout mom’s rant my dad kept his sense of humor. Behind her back he mimicked a 10-year-old by placing his thumbs on the sides of  his head while wiggling his fingers. If you were close to him you could hear him whisper,  Na na Na na Na.  Much to my chagrin, the  navy pea coat vanished.  I never got to wear. Not even once.

 Over the years my dad would tell my mom other trucks had lost their cargo. I don’t remember the details of the items. Things like furniture or a washing machine were not uncommon. Regardless her response was always the same. You would have thought he robbed a bank. Maybe my dad’s behavior showed a bit of indiscretion, but he was hardly a criminal. If you ever spent time with my dad, you would know he was just a man taking advantage of what seemed like a reasonable deal.

Pandemic in my World

So, what have I been doing? From December 11 until last Monday I was living on my CSY 33 sailboat at the Vero Beach City Marina. I met a few new people with whom I enjoy socializing with. Of course, since March we have kept our 6 foot social distancing. Then, on Monday I mozied up the coast in our* van to Georgetown, South Carolina. (*I still think of the van as Ron and I’s).

Why Georgetown, SC? Because I was fortunate to be invited to crew on another gal’s boat for it’s sail up to Rhode Island. On Monday the boat will have an engine mechanic do some diagnostics and determine what will make it purrr like a kitten. His assessment, along with Chris Parker’s weather forecasting, will decide if we can set sail this Wednesday.

If we don’t set sail on Wednesday I may drive to North Carolina where I can social distance with a friend. I may even make it to Virginia to corroborate with the trimaran guru, Jim Brown. I volunteered to help him with a project in which we will digitize early multihull magazine articles.

My visits may have to wait if we are lucky to set sail next week. Heading to Rhode Island will be my coldest sailing adventure ever. So, I treated myself to a nice blue and white offshore jacket. I already had the dropseat overalls.

In the meantime, I idled my time these past few days by painting the interior of my van. What a mess it is this evening. Due to the humidity the paint is still tacky. So I’m sitting on the floor of the van in my beach chair. I’ll have to put the mattress on the floor to sleep. Of all the things I can be accused of, it cannot be said I demand creature comforts. In fact, Ron astutely named me the sleeping queen, “She can sleep anywhere, in any position, any time.”

In case you didn’t hear, I was on a live video with the Women’s National Sailing Association. They have a great inspiring program called, She Sailors Sea Stories. They have a facebook page. If you email me I will gladly get you in touch with the group. One lady, Susan Epstien got her first boat in 1942 when she was about 9 years old. Talk about being on the leading age of women’s sailing…Another gal is the captain of a big schooner. Incredible, inspirational, and just plain fun.

Well, cheerio and ta-ta for now, wear your mask, and write letters to loved ones.

It Depends

Working on my dissertation I became overwhelmed by the degree to which operational definitions were demanded. Words like sailing, competing, terrain, preparations, experience and even the word ‘it’ had to have its context defined relative to the theme of the research. Due to my growing anxiety with meeting this criterion I made an appointment with my advisor. “Look at me,” she said. My eyes focused on hers. With a twinge of sarcasm, she gave me hope. “Soon as you get your degree you can answer every question with two words: ‘it depends.’ More than twelve years have passed since that consultation. As recent as a few hours ago, I got a kick out of responding to an interviewer’s questions with those two words, ‘it depends.’

I present this backstory as it relates to a recent meeting with a lady I will refer to as my mermaid. Although she is a real live person, until her and I establish whether she wants to be identified I will give her the fictitious name of Mermaid. We met, via a phone conference. I answered her ad that was posted on the marina bulletin board. Her note said she was looking to boat sit. The idea of having a responsible person live on my boat during my absence was curious. I called her. Instantly, the seeds for a symbiotic relationship were planted.

Writing is Mermaid’s ambition. The theme of her current book is about a gal who takes to the sea. In addition to providing supportive data for her tales, I agreed she could use my nickname, Sassea, as the name of her protangonist. I was flattered, inspired and motivated by our discussion.

The inspiration came from Mermaid’s dedication to writing. She reminded me of the importance to write daily.  Being flattered by using my name reminds me of the unique person I am.  It is these two dimensions, inspiration and flattery, that are motivating me to once again sail beyond where I have sailed before. A passion I recently let slip away. To help me clarify why I am inclined to follow this once forgotten dream, I was compelled to answer Mermaid’s questions.

Mermaid:   What makes you do it (sailing)?

Sassea:     It depends on my emotional, physical and psychological being.

Mermaid:   How far away will you sail?

Sassea:    It depends on my stamina, finances, and gumption.

Mermaid:   What about the crazy terrain?

Sassea:     It depends on what you mean by crazy terrain.

Mermaid:   How do you make extraneous preparations?

Sassea:     It depends on my mood, available resources, and course.

Mermaid:   How do you do the whole sailing experience.

Sassea:     It depends on weather, finances, and my stamina.

Interestingly, after getting an earful of ‘it depends,’ Mermaid suggested we meet again. Through the phone I could hear her sigh, “I didn’t realize there were so many things to depend upon.”

We chatted for a few more minutes. Then, I ended the call by saying I expect we will talk again. She whispered, “It all depends.”

Either Way, I am Alone

Lying in my bunk, with the lights out I sense the sandman is not far away. Tiny waves slurp along the dock after their long fetch across the narrow passage. The wind creates an errie sound. Ever so gently Sass Sea rocks me back and forth. 

It is almost midnight. Teddy, my faithful stuffed bear is snuggled in our home on wheels over in the parking. I know I am the only one on board my little ship. Sensing the arms that once held me keeps lonliness at bay. 

Even without lonliness being alone is daunting. It makes me mindful of where I go, how I go and who I go with. It is a new lifestyle. My once carefree spirit took flight when widowhood arrived. What if I were alone at sea on a night like this? Do I have the stamina to weather a storm? I remember crossing the gulf stream about four years ago. I was on watch while my boyfriend slept soundly in his bunk below. It was a moonless night. Clouds muted an otherwise starry sky. When the wind switched direction a sail change was needed. I could handle the tasks by myself  but hated the raucous that woke my tired crew. Auspicisouly a safety thought crosses my mind. What if I am asleep and my crew falls overboard? A difficult decision comes to mind. Do I sail alone without being responsible for a mate or do I sail with a mate to share the tasks? 

Sharing the adventure has its lure. An argument for doing so presents itself. With or without a mate I will still be alone with my thoughts. And so, I ask the world, “What’s a woman to do?”

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