November 10, 2022

Season 4 of sv NIRVANA has officially, and very much in earnest, begun! I’m writing from Elizabeth City, NC, where we’ve been since Sunday, awaiting the passing of Tropical Cyclone Nicole. After two days of motoring on the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) from Norfolk, VA on the Great Dismal Swamp canal and Pasquotank River, we were welcomed by Keith of Maritime Ministries, whose local ministry is to support sailors here in Elizabeth City with free dockage, hot showers, and local transportation. With their fleet of boats, they also offer support around the world to those in need via the ocean.

We’re currently holed up with four French Canadian boats whom we first encountered in “the swamp.” So in this most welcome down time, we have time to write a blog and catch up with a whole lot of not much after a whole lot that’s happened since we left RI on October 20, almost three weeks ago. This was after what turned out to be six weeks at Warren River Boatworks upgrading and repairing the boat, which was way more time than we expected, but it meant we got way more done than we expected as well. Despite the late start, we are well on our way south.

*     *     *

To sum up the last period of time, all I can say is it has been an ongoing experience of surrender to the abundance—giving a whole new meaning to the sentiment from any number of perspectives. Let me elaborate.


We were six weeks in Warren, working on boat projects nearly every day, often alongside Paul or Vinny, his helper, or with their guidance. One of our projects was to replace the fixed ports with tempered glass so we could actually see outside. Since they don’t make replacement ports that fit our boat, this involved removing the ports from the boat, removing the glass and cleaning the aluminum frames, then rebedding the new glass into the frames with this super goopy black gasket material, and then replacing the ports into the boat. This was a very time-consuming project—and there were four of them—so we must have spent more than a week from start to finish. Will and I worked side-by-side, for the most part, except when the acetone spaced me out too much and I had to get some air. There were many difficulties along the way, not the least of which was the rain that happened when the ports were out and the covers we put up leaked or fell off so rain was alternatingly dripping and pouring in. This was a low point for me, for sure, but in the end, we are very pleased that we can see out the windows and that we did most of the work ourselves, thereby saving us a boatload of money. And there were plenty of other projects as well…

Surrender to steadfastness and experience abundance!

One of the big projects was removing the mast so we could replace the wires, lights, and halyards, plus install a new electronic wind instrument that tells the wind speed and direction from the display in the cockpit. Paul asked us to give the inside of the mast a wash before he ran the new halyards. I ran a hose through and oddly, the water didn’t seem to drain. Upon further inspection with my camera, we discovered a huge hard yellow dam about 2/3 of the way up the mast! Paul, the expert, had the explanation. Instead of a single carbon fiber mast like later boats, our boat’s mast had two seams, which were held together with epoxy. Apparently, in our case, the epoxy had spilled out in such a way as to reduce the hole inside the mast by more than half! While this is how the mast had always been, Paul suggested that we try to remove it, but how? We got a long steel rod and rammed it repeatedly to try to break apart the epoxy and make a bigger hole. After hours of this over several days, we might have broken off a few small chunks, so it was largely an exercise in futility. When we finally got a date and time to get the mast put back in, a rainstorm was looming, but we pushed to get it in just before it poured. The next day, we learned that the supports holding the travel lift that the boatyard uses to haul boats had collapsed under its weight causing the lift to fall over! Had we waited a day, it could have happened when they were stepping our mast. We feel supremely lucky that our steadfastness paid off once again—and that no one was hurt.

The ongoing transformation of the boat from “work project”—aka, chaotic mess with everything torn apart and spread out all over the place—to “home” was an ongoing challenge for this organized person whose environment is so important to her overall mood. In our steadfastness to use this unique opportunity to get as much done as we could while we had the use of Paul’s shop and expertise, I have been learning to live with chaos for longer periods of time without going (too) crazy, and Will has been learning the benefits of putting things away at the end of the day, even when he’s “in the middle.” This exchange has been abundantly beneficial for us both!


A big part of sailing is responding to what arises in the moment, whether it’s a wave surging from behind, a gust of wind from a new direction, or a dark cloud looming in the distance. This is part of what makes sailing such a great exercise of being in the present, something Will and I wholeheartedly live as much as possible.

Responsiveness also includes meeting “issues” that arise on the boat, ideally with the same kind of equanimity that you meet a wind shift, without judgement, blame, or catastrophizing, which is sometimes easier said than done. Will seems to be a master of the non-emotional response when issues arise; I am still learning the fine art of responsiveness when issues arise, namely, the simple, straightforward ability to respond. With each issue that presents itself—and there have been many—I’m finding my nervous system has calmed considerably. One key is recognizing things for what they are and not holding expectations too tightly. So despite the six weeks of boat work, we realize now that we’ve been on our shakedown cruise!

The first day out from Warren we spent motoring into heavy wind and seas because the wind was too close to sail. Rounding Point Judith, we decided to raise the jib to see if we could at least motor sail in the direction we wanted to go, but no luck. As Will went up on deck to drop the jib, he discovered that the forestay was almost entirely frayed through! This was one of the few things we decided not to upgrade in our major overhaul as it hadn’t caused us any trouble to date. Well, this 34-year-old headstay, whose only function is to hold up the jib and not the mast like on most boats, decided that today was the day to almost break. We ducked into Point Judith, tied up to a dock, and began calling riggers. Among the people we called were old family friends in Noank, round-the-world sailors who indeed knew a rigger. Next afternoon, we were tied up to their Ram Island Yacht Club dock, I hauled Will up the mast in a bosun’s chair to retrieve the stay, and the rigger took it away and came back and hour later with a new one, which Will then installed.

Not only did we solve the issue in very short order, but we had a delightful couple of days exploring the environs with Sandy and Sidney, including an art opening, a tour of a magnificent boat restoration project, and a walk at a land trust that was Sidney’s inspiration over 50 years ago.

After a good day of sailing across Long Island Sound—the first time raising our new sails—we put in to Port Jefferson. Dropping the mainsail, we discovered that three of our six battens were popping out of their boxes at the mast, preventing us from lowering the sail! Eventually, we straightened out the battens and lowered the sail, and immediately got on the phone to our sailmaker to help us find someone to fix the problem. He contacted a sail loft in City Island, which is where we were headed next. Once again, we were able to have the batten boxes replaced the very next day at Doyle Sails, along with adding some other reinforcements that our traditional sailmaker in Boothbay had omitted. The adjacent boatyard let us stay the night on one of their moorings for free, and collected us with our sail and delivered us back to the boat, several times, in their launch. The people at the yard and sail loft couldn’t have been nicer.

And as we waited for the heavy fog to lift so we could make our way through NYC on the East River, we got a personal tour of the City Island Historical Museum, which told of the heyday of boatbuilding and sail making on City Island. Lucky for us, Doyle is the last of a long tradition of sail makers on the island who is still there, although they are about to move to a new location up the coast.

After waiting for the fog to lift, we motored through NYC, hitting over 11 knots at Hell Gate where the tide rips, which was an amazing experience. As we emerged on the other side, we were once again socked in with fog, just as we entered the busy shipping channels by Brooklyn. We have not yet invested in AIS—a new technology and replacement for radar—but we do have an AIS app that shows us boats coming and going, and we have a fog horn and VHF radio, so we nimbly dodged the ship traffic and hailed a couple on the radio and managed to avoid any close encounters. All in all, an exciting day of responding to what comes at you, sometimes fast and furiously on the water.

With northerly winds predicted for a number of days out, our next several days had us sailing along the New Jersey coast, stopping overnight at Barnegat Inlet and Cape May. To gain local knowledge on entering the notoriously hairy inlet at Barnegat where wind and current collide, we called the Coast Guard, who offered to escort us in, once again, surrendering to the abundance that seems to come our way at regular intervals.

Given the forecast for ongoing northerlies, we decided to continue sailing outside Maryland and northern Virginia, rather than taking the much longer route through Delaware and Chesapeake Bay. Twice we planned on a shorter distance and twice we responded to the favorable winds by pushing on to make more miles in a day, sailing nine hours both days and arriving just before dark. Our first stop was Ocean City, MD, where just before we arrived, we lost a shackle that holds the tack of the mainsail to the gooseneck. Since we couldn’t find a replacement, Will improvised a soft shackle to hold the sail in place. Upon leaving, we discovered our top batten had slipped out without our noticing, so we called the manufacturer and had one sent overnight to our next destination. Added to our TO DO list is to sew down the batten pockets.

Our second stop was Wachateague Inlet, VA, which rivaled Barnegat for hairy, but we headed downwind and things settled down for another good day of sailing. That is, until we approached the tip of Virginia’s northern coast when the aluminum fitting on our boom vang, which holds the boom down, sheered off from the mast! It hadn’t been a problem, but we’d been pushing the boat and the fitting was old, so once again we had to respond. Dropping sails, we motored the rest of the way into Norfolk, settling into a calm marina in the shadow of the largest naval base in the world. Thankfully, we were about to enter the ICW where sailing wasn’t on the agenda, so we got on the phone to our guy in RI who is sending us an upgraded fitting, along with a couple of shackles and some replacement lines.

By responding to what arises, we have found abundance, over and over.


One definition of adventure is to enter into something the outcome of which is unknown. This has certainly been the case with our adventure so far! “Issues” aside, I’ve been astounded by the variety in our environment and experience: waking at dawn and sailing until dark in 15-20 kts with 2-4’ seas; motoring past the United Nations and Statue of Liberty; anchoring in the shadow of a ferris wheel; getting a personal tour of the reconstruction of the largest wooden Herreshoff sloop ever built; visiting with old family friends whom I haven’t seen since I was a teenager; passing within hailing distance of dozens of navy ships; passing through the shipping channel into Chesapeake Bay; motoring through the narrow canal that is the Dismal Swamp; “locking in” at the two locks that control the water level of the canal; being welcomed by maritime missionaries; and hanging out with a bunch of French Canadians.

But more than that, it’s the people we’ve met who have made the adventure something truly special. Paul at Warren River Boatworks is a true gem who gives so generously of his time and experience because he simply can’t help himself. Sandy and Sid shared their passion for boats, art, and land preservation. Fred, the City Island boatyard dockmaster, routinely went out of his way to make our lives easier in an unexpectedly low-key way for New York City. Mark, the sail loft owner, responded to our situation by throwing his entire crew at the project to get it done in a day, taking time to explain what they were doing and to chat. The City Island museum director gave us an impassioned, succinct 100-year lookback of the island, which was clearly motivated by her personal connection to the place. Keith not only welcomed us at the dock but after knowing us only an hour, took us to his house for fast internet, as well as to the grocery store. Rene and Kathy from Montreal invited us onto their boat and translated a French song for Will. And dancing to Madonna with a ten-year-old around the firepit was an unexpected joy!

The adventure continues as we surrender to the abundance that surrounds us each and every moment!

5 thoughts on “NIRVANA S4:E1

  1. Hi cruisers,
    Sound’s like a memorable sailing adventure. Thanks for the pics of dismal swamp as we traveled the alternative route (Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal) on our way south. Fair Winds…
    Alan & Susie


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