What I’ve Been Wrestling With

The repaired and refinished mast looks great…but it doesn’t do a lotta good sitting on slings in the boatyard.

In my last post, I mentioned that my boat, Further, was waiting for her mast to get restepped (put back on, for you landlubbers) and that the job was supposed to get done around the end of April. Well, it’s now mid-June and I’m still waiting for the damned job to get done. But what makes that little detail relevant to this, my personal blog (as opposed to Further’s blog, which you can find here) is that the lease for the apartment I rented back in September ended on May 24. Because, you know, eight months is plenty of time to get the standing rigging fixed and reinstalled, right? Apparently not.

So I’ve been homeless since May 24. And that homeless state has added a bit of impetus an ongoing debate that had been going on in my mind for quite a bit of time. Namely: where should I live? The potential answers to that quandary are, to quote the title of this post, what I’ve been wrestling with.

Let’s get one thing out right from the get-go: I like Annapolis and I am happy here. I have a good crew of friends—mainly the guys I skate with and a small circle of friends from the Eastport/sailing side of life here—and there’s plenty going on in the town.

But I miss the ocean. A lot. Not just surfing but the ocean in general. I miss looking at it, breathing it in, feeling it, along with all the fun things I do there: swim, dive, fish, in addition to the surfing and sailing that are obvious. The Chesapeake Bay is nice but it ain’t the ocean. And the water’s pretty nasty, too. You can’t just anchor in a cove and jump overboard for a refreshing swim. Some people do, and a lot of people don’t, given the health concerns of the water. I choose not to, having heard too many stories about lifelong watermen who’ve been plying the waters of the Chesapeake for fifty years and also take jugs of Clorox with them to immediately cleanse any words they might pick up while hauling crab pots and the like.

So that’s the baseline I’m working from when I contemplate making my home elsewhere.

And not surprisingly, I often check the listings for rentals back home in Newburyport, Massachusetts. I realize I’ll never be able to afford a rental on Plum Island and, short of winning the lottery I’ll never be able to live out there again (one of the primary reasons why I remain so angry about the sale of our family home out there; an added irony: if I’d had the job I have now, I could have afforded to buy out my brother and stayed in the house), but I’d be perfectly happy to rent an apartment in town in Newburyport. I did that in 2011 when I returned home and helped my parents who were living in the house on Plum Island at the time, and I was very content.

Post-hockey breakfast with some of the guys

The thing is: rents in Newburyport are even more obscene than they are in a lot of places. On top of that, I’ve traded emails with people who post apartments on Craigslist and the places are gone within hours.

I think about heading up there and pounding the pavement, being local when something comes available so I can move quickly, and I may yet do that, but then I start to think about the pros and cons of living in the place I consider “home.”

My parents are gone. I have a handful of friends there, but no friends that I hang out with on a regular basis. As far as hockey goes, there’s the Friday night skate in Exeter but that’s once a week and I don’t hang out with any of those guys, unlike the skaters here in Annapolis. And while there IS surf in the area, it’s not like there’s a LOT of surf.

So other than some nebulous notion of “home,” what draws me back to Newburyport? I’m not sure that there’s a whole lot there for me. And I’d have to pay rent and for a place for Further if I were to go back there, that’s just a fact. Plus, the sailing season is about four months long, another fact. “Winter stays long this far north,” to paraphrase Bearclaw Chris Lapp.

As a result, I start thinking about relocating to other oceanfront, or ocean-near, places. Norfolk, Virginia, comes to mind. It has some decent marinas that allow liveaboards and a vibrant marine community so I’d have access to parts, companies and such. The open ocean is just outside the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel and the surf of Virginia Beach is about twenty to thirty minutes away by car, with the Outer Banks and all they have to offer just two hours away. There’s a minor-league hockey team in Norfolk so there’s definitely hockey to play and the airport is ten minutes from the marinas so quick escape is possible.

But I know absolutely no one in that area. And I hear sketchy things about Norfolk itself. So it’s a complete unknown.

Other unknowns are Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia, and I’ve heard nice things about both. But again, I know nothing whatsoever about those places.

The final possibility is Florida, and by “Florida” I mean some place on the Atlantic coast. I’ve visited Jacksonville and it’s nice, but marinas there are a long ways from the ocean. I visited friends in Palm Coast and the marina where they lived aboard for a winter was great, but it was an hour-plus through the Intracoastal Waterway to the ocean. There was surf in nearby Flagler Beach but hockey is pretty distant. And I also spent a bunch of time in Cocoa Beach which has decent surf and good kiteboarding, and warm water all year long. There are marinas in Port Canaveral so the ocean is right there, but that’s a pretty industrial port, with cruise ships in and out of there constantly. And there is surprisingly solid beer-league hockey nearby, so that’s a plus.

But all of those ignore the fact that it’s f-ing Florida, for cryin’ out loud, the state where the Nazi politicians in control legislate against uttering the word “gay” and ban math books for teaching critical race theory, whatever the fuck that is. Do I really want that license plate on my car and have people look at me and think, “Is that a Florida man?”

And before you go raising the fact that Florida has no income tax, the fact is that financially, everything kinda comes out in the wash. Maryland actually has the worst tax burden of any place I’m thinking about (yes, even worse than so-called “Taxachusetts”), but I’m not looking to buy a home so real estate taxes aren’t a concern to me at this time. Sales taxes and insurance in Florida are really expensive, and boat insurance in the land of hurricanes is insane.

So there’s a lot goin’ on in my head these days, and that’s often not a good thing. Thanks to the ongoing bullshit with the riggers and Further’s mast, I woke up yesterday morning stressed out about how much money I’ve poured into the boat and how I was now broke and all those dreams of sailing (or flying) away are just pipe dreams and I’m gonna have to work till the day I die and just…aaaagh! I don’t get panic attacks but that’s as close as I’ve ever come, prompted by the thought, for the first time ever, that I wished I hadn’t bought the boat. That I’d be living in a hut on some beach in some paradise right now but for the boat that remains on the hard waiting for a bunch of guys to stop jerking me around.

These are all very first-world problems, I readily admit. I have an easy, blessed life. But it was not a pleasant morning. And that’s what I’m wrestling with.