My Cabin in the Woods

Teresa Carey Words 35 Comments

It had been a long day of working and a relaxing dinner with Benji was overdue. We put away our projects, cleared the small table, and began to unload the icebox to see what ingredients we had for a meal. With the clouds filling the sky blocking any power from being generated by a sunbathing solar panel, I had to turn the refrigerator off. The two bags of ice were melting, filling the icebox so that the lettuce, jar of pickled okra, dark chocolate bar, clementines, and other food items were bobbing up and down in the pool of melted ice.

Benji emptied the icebox and bailed out the water with a small cup. Then, carefully replacing the items in the icebox, he left on the counter those that would make a dinner. Lettuce, tomato, a lemon, garlic, parsley, tahini, honey, an onion, and raw goat cheese. Salad topped with my special homemade dressing.

While Benji was chopping the lettuce, I began pulling in my inflatable kayak. The weatherman predicted a lot of rain tonight and I didn’t want it to fill with water. I could put it in the cockpit of Daphne turned over like the last time it rained, so that the water would drip off the hull. But instead, I deflated the entire kayak, folded it, and stuffed it low into the cockpit, a decision that would ultimately save the kayak.

I glanced to the west. “Here comes the rain,” I said to Benji. He poked his head out of the companionway doors. We watched the rain approach, and as it came closer and closer it began to appear more and more strange. We heard the rain before we felt it. We could see the wall of water streaking across the sky in horizontal sprays creating a perfect squall line like a curtain of weather. We were on one side of the curtain. The safe side. The dry side.

I watched in awe as the squall moved toward us at a quickening pace. Then, in an instant it hit. Wind, water, and wave all at the same time. Daphne heeled over in reverence to the incredible force of nature. “What’s going on?” I shouted to Benji. Nothing made sense. Never has Daphne behaved like that while at anchor. Her gunwale dipped into the ocean scooping water into the cockpit. The bicycle on my cabin top blew from the deck. I thought for a moment it would be blown overboard, but the shrouds stopped its momentum.

I looked off to starboard at the large blue-hulled cutter anchored next to me. We were facing each other. Bow to bow. “Why are our boats sitting opposite like this?” I shouted. Again, nothing made sense. “I have to get to my boat.” Ben yelled. The rain was beating down loudly and I was soaked through and shivering. But my adrenaline, running as high as giraffe’s eye, kept me going without noticing my discomfort.

I helped Ben pull his dinghy closer and hold her steady as he lowered himself in. Through the corner of my eye I saw the blue-hulled boat moving rapidly, like she was underway and heading out to sea. In a matter of seconds, she had turned and drifted over one-hundred yards. Ahead of me, another sailboat, over twice the size of Daphne drifted toward me.

“Cast me off.” Benji yelled. “You are!” I lied. I wanted to see Benji row before I tossed the painter into his dinghy. I needed assurance that he could row in this wind. Flashing in my mind’s eye was Ben and his dinghy, blown far away from shore, lost, cold, and in danger. The story of Howard Blackburn’s bravery while lost at sea in his dory is my favorite tale to tell, but I didn’t want to be telling a similar yarn about Benji. “Cast me off!” He yelled again. “You are,” I shouted back. I could see he was struggling to row, but with almost superhuman effort he began making forward progress. I cast him his line and turned away to tend to Daphne.

I grabbed the keys to my engine and put them in the ignition. Moving quickly, I pulled down the bimini, which was catching to much wind sending Daphne on a crazed chase as she sailed, tacking back and forth on her anchor. Wadding it into a ball I shoved it into the head. A single jerry jug rapidly floated away. After I had checked Daphne’s anchor and made sure she was clear of any drifting boats, at least for the moment, I began preparing for the rest of the evening and more winds to come.

But something wasn’t right. Where was Dory? Like a good sailor in an intense moment my first thought was to secure the boat. “Take care of the boat, and she will take care of the crew” in some way is every good sailor’s motto. But after Daphne was secure, I began to worry about Dory. He likes to sunbath on the cabin top, but there had been no sun. When it rains he hides under the dodger, but before the squall hit there had been no rain. For a brief moment I wondered if the wind had carried him away. Brushing that thought aside, I looked in the head which happens to be his favorite and secure place to hunker down, second only to the aft cabin which was closed tightly. That is where I found him. I slipped the cover over the kitty door and locked the head so that Dory could not get out. Knowing he was secure, and the weather was finally giving quarter, I continued my work of cleaning up the mess and preparing Daphne for the next blow.

If more boats were going to drag, I needed to be prepared to stay warm and dry while working on deck. I envisioned myself weighing the anchor with panic in my eyes as the boat ahead of me dragged closer. With that in mind, I pulled layers of fleece, wool socks, hats, mittens, and a blanket from the aft cabin and stowed them forward. I stripped off my soaked clothes and layered on long underwear and a wool sweater under my foul weather gear. Then went on deck to survey the situation.

I could hear sirens coming from shore. I could see people in their dinghies collecting items that had gone adrift. A catamaran pulled into the anchorage with shredded sails. I noticed the boat ahead of me was firmly aground and the tide was falling. It offered some security that it wouldn’t drag on top of me. Down below dinner was everywhere. I scooped it up from the cabin sole, shoved it into the sink and dialed my friends aboard the blue-hulled boat. “How are you doing?” I sung out. My voice was as turbulent as the weather. “Are you guys ok?” She answered me calmly, “Yea, we’re ashore having dinner with our friends.” I was surprised. I thought they were on their boat. In an instant I recounted the entire story and suggested they get to their boat soon. I had just hung up the phone when I saw their tender en route. Then I hailed Benji on the radio.

The next day we learned that all over the city the winds in those few minutes were recorded at speeds from 60 to 70 mph. If I had been out to sea, surely I would be returning with shredded sails like the catamaran I saw. No one expected the wind would be that strong. We were all taken aback by the sudden blow. NOAA radio predicted as much as 30 knots but it was almost twice that speed. Daphne’s anchor held fast.

I have been challenged many times before. And in my excitement, even in those moments when I am worried for my boat, myself, and my cat, I know that this is exactly what I sought when I gave up my life of comfort and security. While others were in their homes, warm and dry, I was shivering and soaked. A shiver more authentic than one felt when selecting ice cream at the supermarket. A soaking more deep than a splash in a cold bath. But I don’t want a life aboard with only fair winds and calm seas, and I can only pray that the challenges I am given are ones that I am prepared for and that I have my camera on and ready!

Thoreau went into the woods because he “wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if he could not learn what it had to teach.” His cabin in the woods is like my Daphne.

Comments 35

  1. Chad H

    If it was easy, then everyone would be doing it.

    I am a bit jealous, even of you weathering the squall. (I have yet to realize my cruising dreams… yet.)

  2. Alice

    What a beautifully written and inspiring post… I was recommended your blog a while ago as we are preparing to ‘hopefully’ embark on a life on water… not as dramatic as your water world, but on the UK canal system! I think to be challenged is what makes life an adventure and if life is not an adventure, well then I would feel that I was not truly living. Really enjoying your blog.

  3. maggie

    Great post. And such freaky weather. Here too the freaky weather abounds. We live on a boat in Baltimore, and a recent blizzard, turned into a freaky weather situation as it dumped 79 inches of snow on us. Our boat has a lot of deck space. Enough that the snow weighed it down 5″ below the waterline and pushed out a plug out of an unused thru hull. As all bilge pumps engaged, and I ran around looking for “the leak”. You can imagine the adrenaline rush, I’m sure.

  4. Neva Carey

    T, I could read your writings all day long. I am thankful you, Benji and Dory weathered those winds and are safe. I admire you for the life you have chosen and that you are truly following your dreams. Be safe and happy sailing!


  5. FRAN

    Your abilities to share the feeling of what is going on, is truly a gift….I hope you focus on that…………I’m a little worn out after reading this……..challenging oneself and pushing oneself has always been something we encouraged, I am now saying, time to challenge yourself so I can sleep! I love you

  6. Rick Patton

    I guess I’m a couch sailor. You made me feel the wind. Thank you, You have a warrior spirit. I’m not on face book but my wife is and we read your post about the new job. Good luck with that you will do well in whatever you do. Just trading one adventure for another. What better way to do it then 9 months at one 3 months at the other. Proud of you, I know alot of people are…

  7. Merry O'Brien

    Maggie–I live down in Annapolis and the boat opposite me sank for a similiar reason! And the boat to my Port side also had that problem (weighed down with snow, and holes that aren’t usually under the water go under!) but he’s a liveaboard too and we figured out what was happening quickly, thank goodness. Yes, weather does impact us on boats a bit harder, but isn’t it fun? 🙂 I loved reading this post, Teresa!

  8. Fran

    …meant to earlier..but thank you Rick….I’ve enjoyed your comments, and much appreciate the support you are showing for Teresa….it means a lot.

  9. jomamma

    Great post, so why aren’t you making a living with your writing instead of waiting tables and bar tending? Glad you are all safe and sound. My daughter’s boat has been stuck in Bermuda because of near hurricane force winds. Check it out… just google Schooner Amistad.

  10. Mark Hassinger

    Hey, Based on what,i just did read, i rest my case about cruising as a couple on one boat, ITS SAFER!, you guys keep, facing situations where,it seems as a crew of two, you would be better able to respond to unforseen circumstances, and never mind the issue of risking two vessels!.it just seems like less stress!

  11. Post

    Thank you all for enjoying my post so much. I enjoyed writing it. What a great adventure I’m having.

    Mark! The case isn’t closed! Benji and I are both capable sailors and we like sailing solo. We like the challenge. And perhaps we like the stress a wee bit too.

    Mother…get some rest and don’t stress. Today I probably did the most risky thing I’ve done in the past few months….ride in a car!!!

    Daddy…Did you really figure out how to turn the computer on?!?! Yippeee!

  12. Henning

    Let me just say again, your account was superbly written. I hope that everyone one is ok. Please let us know about the blue boat. I am in the preparation stage for a similar adventure and I love reading about the experiences you have. Blogs give you a view that you can’t get from a cruising book.

    We will be coming down the missippi and doing the great loop with an extended time in the bahamas. The destination and duration are somewhat subject to change. Although we don’t depart until summer 2012, I hope to run into you somewhere along the way.

    Flying Free

  13. Bill

    Hi Teresa,
    Glad you made it through the “blow” okay! It was a really well written post. I can’t wait till I am in your shoes; sailing and living simply.

  14. Fran

    I thank you jomamma and Mark…I’m always looking for back up as my words tend to go in and out quickly, with nothing being relevant….and always a discussion that leaves me exhausted……and Teresa, you are too funny…”don’t stress”……and I have heard that argument before…………but why would you enjoy stress??? Challenges, adventures, living on a boat….but…….sorry, you are not going to convince me……..I LOVE LONG ISLAND!

  15. Nomad

    Despite Marks comments above, I don’t really see that travelling together on a single boat would be any safer than what you are doing now.It would seem that you have your boat set up pretty well for single handing.
    The only real difference I could see is that you guys could do watch about, if you were on the same boat. In this instance it would appear that was not necessary.

  16. Post

    Perhaps you are right. A good observation about my boat. Having Benji aboard in many cases would only make it easier, not safer. It would mean I could relax a bit, play with my cat more, go potty at the instant I needed to, cook fancier meals in rough weather, stay dry on rainy days, etc.

    I have not yet had a storm, passage, etc where my safety was compromised because I’m sailing solo. I would not recomend that every sailor can be a solo sailor, regardless of how sound their boat is. However, there will be a time when having a mate WILL make it safer. Those times are when I need to sleep, when I’m injured or sick, when my boat breaks, or in very extreme weather cases.

    Mother….TRUST ME! I want to be safe too! Lets be realistic here. You would be nervous if I walked on an icy sidewalk. I’m not ignoring you, sometimes your worries are just a wee bit overwhelming. You are Grandpa’s daughter. And you thought HE was a worry wart….

  17. Rick Patton

    Just curious! If you accept the new job would you sail to that destination and have your home or would you put her on the hard?

  18. Post

    Ah! There are too many wonderful comments to reply to. I’ll do my best to answer your questions.

    Rick, If I accept the job then I will put her on the hard for the winter months. It will be “boat project time!” She needs a haul-out and bottom paint anyway. Besides, I’ll be a boarding school teacher and will be living in the dorms as a houseparent!

    To all those who can’t wait to be sailing like me….I am VERY excited for you. Please keep me posted of your journey. I must warn though that it isn’t as glamourous as I imagined. Certainly NOT as simple, and there are expenses that I never budgeted for. Knowing what I know now I might do things a bit differently, but I would never trade this experience.

    Thank you all for the encouragement in my story-telling skills. The best thing you can do for me in return is to share this blog with someone else. Please pass it along.


  19. Douglas and Lang

    Ahoy Teresa, yes, I enjoyed your writing of this experience too.

    Since both you and Ben are Lyle Hess boat owners, I imediately wanted to share your writing of this story on the BCC Forum, under the “Sea Stories” heading.

    Would you object to a copy and paste, to the BCC Forum, under that Sea Story, heading ? ,,,,, Or ,,,, would you consider, coping it to the forum, yourself ?

    Stories like this give us all “food for thought” , and help us pre-plan, for situations like this.

    I really think it is great of you to share this experience with us .

  20. Rick

    I have a request. There are those of us that for one of a multitude of reasons do not tie into the popular “social networks” websites. So when you reference posts you have made there, we are in the dark. Would you be kind enough to perhaps summarize the key points or maybe copy and paste the posts here so we readers can be in the loop also? I have no idea what “job” is being congratulated on? I know it is extra work but would sure appreciate it. Thanks whatever you decide and please keep posting here on this blog!

  21. Gennaro D'Urso

    Hi Teresa,

    This is Gennaro from the other night with George and Donna. My phone took a bath the other while sailing and I lost your contact details, pls email me at,

    Thanks, see you soon!


  22. Post

    Hmmmm…I don’t think I’ll post here as often as I do on my Facebook or Twitter.I post on both frequently, as in a micro-blogging format. My posts are only one or two sentences, nothing like the effort I put into this blog.

    A week ago I mentioned on Facebook that I was applying for a teaching job. I haven’t yet posted it, but I was offered the job and Rosie is a friend that knows this.

    If you do decide to join a social network, I recommend Facebook. Since I started my personal Facebook account, I have reconnected with many friends that I otherwise would have lost touch with. Its fantastic. My “SailingSimplicity” Facebook page is very interactive. There are 220 people subscribed to it and they comment frequently.

    Thanks for the congrats, Rosie!


  23. Jim

    I am really looking forward to following you and you adventures. As most folks have pointed out, you are a gifted writer. Hope to see you out there one day.

  24. Mark

    It is so cool that you and Benji help each other while managing separate boats. Surely, these experiences make you strong and a more capable sailor, albeit sometimes a bit scary. Interesting that Dory gives a “heads up” by retreating to the head; sort of like a personal weatherman. I would have been most concerned that those drifting boats might come crashing into my boat (if I were you), but all’s well that ends we’ll. The thing that I wonder most about is health insurance, which I am guessing you and Benji don’t have, and something happens to either one of you. You might want to consider, if not already done, to put a trustworthy relative on the registration in the event care is needed resulting in mounting bills — listen to me — I sound like a frightened school kid (Dory is braver than me). Still, your stories are very interesting and my imagination vividly plays back in details the moments you describe; like watching a movie! I appreciate your pursuit of a simpler lifestyle — I will get there soon enough. I am currently dreaming about a 41′ Hans Christian to livaboard. A simpler lifestyle sounds so appealing to me.

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