Great chefs can make wonderful broths out of a multitude of veggies and beef, or maybe chicken. These stock soups are boiled down and refined, so the resulting taste is intensified. What may start in gallons becomes distilled into tablespoons. Such is the truth of the memoir.
This book chronicles six months of my single-handed Great Loop journey of 5,000 miles in 2014 and has been refined to a couple hundred pages, with numerous drafts and edits to intensify and refine the flavor. What is the Great Loop? It is the circumnavigation of the eastern United States by water and those who attempt this voyage are called Loopers. I have done my best to keep it interesting without adding extra spices, but allowing the flavor to speak for itself by leaving out the mundane parts. By no means does this book represent my entire journey. Do you really want to know when I learned to pee standing up into a portable urinal, because I couldn’t leave the helm after my autopilot died?
At Lock 9 on the Erie Canal, the steely, gray gates closed behind us. Using my right hand to hold the rope in place with a half loop around the midship cleat, I used my left hand to control the bow and stern thrusters. I knew the Jacuzzi-like water would come in through the sides of this lock. Suddenly the water started spewing into the lock against Annabelle’s stern; she was thrown sideways and my right arm seared in pain, like it was being ripped from its socket. I released the line and grabbed my throttle. My shirt was drenched in sweat. I wished I were in the lock alone as I tried to avoid colliding with Summerland, two feet off my stern. Now the boat which had started in front of me was dangerously close to my port side. My heart raced like a greyhound. I thrusted the throttle forward, thinking I could grind the bow into the scummy, barnacle-infested lock wall. The smell of burning diesel wafted around my little blue boat. Annabelle was like a small child in grown-up waters. I wanted to scream. Annabelle’s thrusters were no match for the turbulence created by the 1200 cubic feet of murky water pouring in each second and I was terrified, operating in damage-control mode.
Heading under the bridge, I sensed a profound anger reverberating in my bones. I turned up the volume on my VHF radio just in time to hear the captain of a large tow asking other boats about Annabelle. He was furious! We were both heading toward the same bridge, only in opposite directions. I was a few hundred feet from the bridge, and he was just on the other side. SHIT! I spoke into the VHF radio as I steered toward the side of the shipping channel. “This is Annabelle. I’m sorry. I”m going to the side of the bridge.”
“You can take that boat to the edge of the river. I have the right of way going downstream.” He was yelling at me over the VHF, and he had every right to. Every boater within miles could hear us, along with all the lock masters and every tug along the river. I’d pay for this mistake.