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  • Writer's pictureSarah Gibbs Underhill

No Blood

Updated: Mar 11, 2023

[This chapter of my life took place in the fall of 1979. I had been crewing on the environmental educational sailboat “Clearwater”, living on board, sailing on the Hudson and in New York Harbor. I was dating a handsome tugboatman from Long Island named Chris. I had no set plans for the next month or season, let alone for the next year, so my options were open. I had no money and no home, and while this provoked anxiety, it was my normal mode at the end of the sailing season. I was twenty years old.]

November 19. On board as the sloop, drifting north to Poughkeepsie. The final days, or daze, of the sailing season. We did the last public sail out of Beacon yesterday, after helping with the sloop “Woody Guthrie’s” shed in the morning, and sailed north last night. I got to drive the boat by myself for a couple of hours last night, tacking around Danskammer Point in the dark in light airs; avoiding the tug “Viking” and paranoid of running aground. I've

been getting strange vibrations recently from Captain Peter [Willcox.] He is in a bad mood, getting a lot of flak from the Board of Directors. His friend the executive director is getting fired today.

My brother Joe and his friend Mike showed up yesterday. I’m glad to have them here but didn’t give Peter much notice that they were coming. He also seemed surprised that I wanted to work on the boat for maintenance this winter. I don’t blame him, actually. He sees how low my energy level has been of late. It's been hard to get myself enthused. It’s not really fair to fall back on “Clearwater” just because there’s nothing better to do yet. But will anything better come up? I have this sudden urge to go to Ireland. Or I could go hang out on the good ship “Unicorn” but that sounds pretty silly, volunteering. My friendship with Chris might lead to some adventures somewhere along the way, but it’s not safe to count on it. I am of course in the first stages of yet another pregnancy paranoia. Too ridiculous. My own silly fault. Learning the hard way. We’ll get to Poughkeepsie today, and in all probability leave for the winter berth in Saugerties tonight or tomorrow morning.

A yawl boat load of crew is attempting to catch up with us after a little side trip to the winery. Bosun Louise, her long black braids swinging behind her, is whipping people into action, organizing the stuff that we’re going to offload. There are red and yellow ribbons woven into her braids. Peter is taciturnly driving, coffee mug in hand.

And I just barely feel motivated enough to brush my hair. New moon today; it will be full by December 3rd. Who knows where I’ll be by then. Outside of this boat, and this brackish buffer zone of water, the world is going crazy, I have this sinking feeling, as far as I can tell from the occasional glance I take at it. I feel safer here.

Nov. 21. We left Poughkeepsie at a reasonable hour yesterday morning, and at first drifted and then sailed, with a fair wind, the twenty-three miles to Saugerties. It was a lovely, graceful, easy cruise. Just as we got to the mouth of Esopus creek the wind picked up and we did a powerful jibe and then made the turn, sheeting in, and charged up the creek under full sail. The wind conveniently died in there and we glided into the peaceful still place, dropped all the sails simultaneously in under a minute, and cruised in to the dock. Saugerties again.

We’ve been working on the boatshed, just sorting all the pieces out and repairing it, but haven’t done any derigging yet, since we’re going to go out for a celebratory sail tomorrow- Thanksgiving- weather permitting. Already we’re making plans for baking and brewing, so I have been fasting today and yesterday.

Yesterday Peter asked me if I’d like to do a boat delivery with him from Morehead City to Miami starting Dec. 2nd or 3rd with the racing yacht “J & B”. Yes, I immediately replied- and I hope it materializes. Called Chris last night. He should be arriving tomorrow morning, bearing oysters.

Nov. 22. Today was the sweetest Thanksgiving. Kind of gray and rainy but not cold. First thing in the morning we were all cooking away. Chris, roguish, dark and dashing with his mustache and five o'clock shadow, arrived with his shellfish. Roger the Jester arrived in his usual colorful array, along with the the voluptuous Elizabeth -Tayloresque former ship's cook Ms. B. Boomer. Captain Peter's current love interest, the blonde pixie Andra Sramek, who singlehandedly runs the "Clearwater" office was on hand, as was our flamboyant on-board educator Dennis O’Leary, plus us crew. All the old cronies- and my brother- together one last time.

We went out for a sail around noon. There was a nice southerly breeze and we tacked against the tide for hours, drinking cognac, towing the yawlboat, eating steamed mussels; then ran back downwind with Peter and Roger riding the gaff for jibes. Sailed up the creek, then turned around and sailed out and back in for the fun of it, docking sans engine. Then we tidied up and immediately feasted on innumerable gluttonous dishes, with plenty of alcohol flowing and a little reefer, and Roger juggled for us and Carol Fordonski showed up with a projector and her dog and showed us movies. Pampered bunch of river rats we were tonight. Chris had to leave to go back to work. He’ll call me probably Sunday. I might get to deliver a 30’ boat with him from Huntington to Norfolk. We’ll see.

Nov. 23. Today we derigged the entire boat and put half of the shed’s framework up. Got a lot done, but there’s a lot yet to do. I feel very insecure these days. I’m not too adept at any of the carpentry things; not working as hard as Trix and Weezer [aka Patrick and Louise]; shying away from “leadership roles” and even from learning unaccustomed things. Stupid attitude. I should grow up.

It means a lot to me to have my brother here. He fits in really well, is well liked, works like a champion. Allan Aunapu, Clearwater’s first captain, who is on board as relief captain, talks a lot to him, which I think is great. I truly wonder if I’ll be home for Christmas or if I’ll spacily flit off somewhere. I want to maintain links with my family. I want to drag them with me, actually. But I know I can’t. Are they happy? Could they ever be happy with me? My inability to get close to people- to my own brother- frustrates me. In many ways, just doing stuff with him is enough, is very good.

I’m not quite happy with myself here. How to force myself to get excited about learning something useful? I am utterly lazy, at loose ends here, wandering around avoiding using power tools. Should I go to school? Same old conundrum. My handwriting is deteriorating. I am realizing I can no longer draw, or write poetry; that my creativity has coagulated with all this real worldly nonacademic stuff I’ve been engaged with the past few years. I feel the loss, especially surrounded by such creatrixes here on this boat. I see myself as a dull and sullen creature. Bitch, bitch, bitch, piss and moan. If I’m pregnant I’m going to be in heap big trouble.

Nov. 25. End of the season today. Last back pay days figured up, nobody working much. Last night we all went out for an extravagant feast at the Dragon Inn, all drunk and rowdy; and then this morning ditto to the Barclay Heights Diner for breakfast en masse. Today is grungy and gray and damp. About five copies of the Sunday paper are royally strewn all over the main cabin. The beer, wine and whiskey bottles have been hastily cleared away and a distinct feeling of limbo prevails. Me, I am waiting for a phone call, as Allan so flawlessly, teasingly, observes. It’s gray and crowded down here, and people are sprawled in bunks or hunched up at the table in various attitudes of vegetation. The various futures of all these people here? Dorinna, sitting half in a sleeping bag and calculatedly leafing through “Wooden Boat” magazine. She has to go to school, much as she would like to go sailing away. I’m sure she could. She is a halfway decent bullshit artist with striking good looks, Puerto Rican, a strong woman, smart. But still she lives in New Jersey and cannot get away. Peter Webb sits next to her, scheming with the bosun’s log, looking ahead to his month alone, or virtually alone here with this demanding wooden lover, the boat, in the ice. Occasionally answering Dorinna’s questions as she marvels at the boats in the magazine. Peter has been enjoying like a small furry animal the love and affection of various of us generous boat women in spite of his blonde and buxom Martha, who is hiding out in a tipi in North Carolina. David [Hval], in his bright synthetic sleeping bag, snoozes oblivious, his languid Connecticut Yankee eyes half closed, aloof, lank blond hair scattered across his forehead. Late at night it is amusing to hear Maggie and he talking for hours in the bunk next to mine, I can’t resist eavesdropping. He speaks articulately in his deep, aristocratic voice with the preppie southern New England accent that I always perplexed people with myself.

Captain Allan, super guru and pirate, ever engaged in pitched battle with his own ego, massive brass cotter pin on the lapel of his old blue coat, ponders portions of the Sunday paper, his huge brow beetled. Captain Peter sits next to him, only one of his red and green suspenders doing him any good. Short strong fingers tapping, talking to himself and figuring up the book with his calendars and calculator, trying to be totally fair with us and succeeding, I’m sure. Turkey soup, now three days old, is flavoring the atmosphere in here; Cook Maggie, the ever giving great goddess of the boat cuts up a green pepper, then lolling in a bunk flashes her smile and her Roger the Jester rainbow socks. Peter reminds me chidingly of the consequences of obsessive love, referring to my hasty exit from my winter maintenance stint here last year to go chasing up to Martha’s Vineyard after Tim. The good old days. When I could still entice and drive unstable men wild because I had big tits and was still a teenager. Hah!

A year ago I was also pissing and moaning and scribbling in this book. And now on the brink again. I must be as wary as possible, which for me amounts to nothing and is quite laughable. Chris might as well have caught me in a Havahart trap baited with peanut butter. Curious young giddy creature that I am. Ridiculous. My Mama would not like Chris, I don’t think. Maybe I’m being too hard on him, giving him the evil eye. But I doubt it. He doubts it too. But he said he would spoil me. As in pamper. And take me to Tortola. Importing a little sunshiny “Spaceshot of Sunnybrook” into his world of money and long wet distances and drugs and landfalls. The question arises will I be able to handle it- will I want to? Will I be able to escape to British Columbia in the spring, where I have been offered a crewing job on a schooner? Will I want to? I hope I want to, at this point; I hope it will be the obvious choice at the time,

I should be studying navigation or at least finding out where Tortola IS. But there’s always the chance that this Christopher inspired mania may frizzle out to nothing. Unpredictable nautical types.

Meanwhile Grateful Dead bluegrass assaults us from the decrepit tape deck along with the smell of bakery bread and miso soup, clouds of fragrant steam, pastries.

[later] Out of sheer boredom went to see an AWFUL movie today, too pathetic to even think about. The crowd on the boat has “thinned down” to nine now. Seven by tomorrow. Chris has not called yet and like it or not my ears are pricked up, fine tuned for the clatter of the pay phone ringing. It might be for Maggie if it does ring. I’m beginning to feel a little trapped here, and realize that these Chris schemes are the only obvious option at the moment. My own fault, letting things deteriorate to such a point that I’m hanging on a phone call, my dinner ready to lurch up into my throat if I hear the ring. My other choice is to go moxying around after reefer with our little local sycophant, Jim, with money borrowed from the donation barrel. Teetering on the brink again, between one home and a new one. A new one where?

And still, in the most inevitable, nonchalant , horrifying way, no blood spills out of the cornucopia of my healthy, possibly cancerous, vitamin enriched young body. No blood spills. I can’t launch into a full fledged panic for another thirty five days. It would only be justice.

Only justice. Still I can halfway dare to be optimistic about it, if only out of long practice at this tragicomic gamble. Knocked up. Harboring a growing secret. Something that only happens to friends and sisters. Oh God!

The suspense, obviously, is killing me, or at least making me internally ansty. I’m ready to leave the boat; that’s one known. No desire to live here cold and grubby, carting water and sanding away at things. Haven’t really seriously considered what else to do though. Hang out at home, or go visit one of my girlfriends. I could pursue the brigantine “Unicorn” some more, but it hardly seems fair to the people who are still with her, lasting through her hard times. What else is there in life? Other men. The southern boys Chuck and Ed, who I called my Georgia Peaches neither of them easy to find. But I don’t want to find them.

It’s perfectly clear in my mind what I’m hoping for the most. It boils down to the essence of anticipation, waiting for that call, waiting for a man to change my life again. If he doesn’t come for a couple of days I’d damn well better buy some dope to while away the hours with. Actually if I give myself a few swift kicks in the rear there are a couple of things around here I could actually justify my existence with by doing. One year ago I was waiting, waiting waiting like this also, but in a much sadder state – waiting for Tim to come back with the bad news that he was leaving me. I should count my blessings I guess.

Sparky the lady engineer is playing the guitar, with clear notes sounding as sentimental and melancholy as imaginable. Outside, the cloying darkness of the creek, the damp, the ducks, Carol's drowned Irish setter who ran giddily off the dock on Thanksgiving, and the substantial bone touching cold inside those old brick buildings. Standing on the deck, now so ghostly and austere with the beautiful plastic cathedral above it, remembering all the many different places the deck has carried us all and the many feet that have planted themselves however briefly on it.

Still no phone ringing. About time to go to sleep. No success yet in the mind altering department, even after a guided tour of Saugerties. It's a depressed little town. Young people in doorways all asked us for cigarettes. My guide Jim, an effeminate young misfit in tight jeans who has befriended us, as we were passing by a house said, “Oh shit, I could have got some dope in there but he’ll be in bed by now.” “But it’s only nine o’clock.” “His mother makes him go to bed at nine.”

Boredom is setting in. I need a trashy novel to bury myself in. I need to stop watching the clock.

Nov. 26. The muck murkens. Still no call. Peter and I are due to leave from Norfolk in about exactly a week. When we get to Florida we will stop in at Ft. Lauderdale to see this 65’ ketch, the "Mondcivitano" that will be doing an antinuclear blockade of a Georgian nuclear submarine and a Soviet one in Cuba? And they want Peter for a captain, so I could maybe be a sidekick?

Nov. 27. Another day hanging out on the creek. The rain has finally stopped and it is crystalline, only the creek still high and churned up to a chocolate brown. Chris called last night. He sounded hurried, very busy, expecting a call from work any minute. Didn’t venture to say anything about Tortola but apparently the cruise to Norfolk is on. We’ll be leaving allegedly either tomorrow or the next day. Hopefully tomorrow. Expecting the WORST in terms of weather. It’ll be me, him, the owner (apparently a less than reliable creature) and two buddies of Chris’s. I am vaguely terrified at the prospect of all this. I mean, I’m supposed to know what I’m doing! Panic sets in prematurely. ”If ya can’t dazzle them with brilliance, buffalo them with bullshit”, as the sages spake. Supposedly it’ll only take two days to get to Norfolk and I will demurely hang out there in a boat or a hotel until Monday when I will meet Peter and the “Brigadoon” or “Troubadier” or whatever the other vessel’s name is. And go to Florida, and it should take one week. Then our interview with the "Mondcivitano" people, then? Back up here I think, back to rendezvous with Chris, to love my family for Christmas. Who knows what will actually occur. Yep. Terrified. Anticipating seasickness to the max.

In the main cabin as usual. Sparky , Peter Webb, and Allan are crunching on granola. Allan gives us his teachings, David fingers a plastic beetle. “It’s nutsy-crazy as soon as you start dealing with money.” Louise and Patrick are gone now, spirited away by her mother in torrential rain yesterday.

Still no blood.

[Continued Jan. 26, 1980]

Allan and I left the “Clearwater”; Peter dropped us off at the train station and we rode the train together as far as Cold Spring where Allan stopped to “do laundry” (he’s still there today, having been taken under the wing of the woman with the washing machine). I journeyed on to NYC where I spent a couple of nights with friends, tediously negotiating on the phone with Chris, who was trying to track down a crew: everything constantly metamorphosing, juggling details and conditions, changing weather reports. Finally I took the train out to Long Island. Chris met me at the station and we scampered around town in his van, buying stuff for the trip, visiting the boat, visiting his buddies in the oyster business. He ended up getting a motel room for us but didn’t stay there that night; he had to work until the wee hours and didn’t want to disturb me. So I half slept in the dismal motel room with the television noise and the howling wind and drunks hammering on the door at three in the morning, my own mind racing, scared of the upcoming trip, the cold, my own inexperience. No blood.

Next day we collected groceries, tried to fix a truck, and dragged Chris’s friend Roger bodily away from wife, family, and oyster business. Roger was a colossal Little John of a man, black hair and beard, strong, handsome, funny, and knew the east coast without charts. A fine guy to have along.

That afternoon we motored away from Huntington Harbor, or wherever the heck we were, and in the chill and sunset began our journey in the 30’ fiberglass yacht “Lady J.” Stopped for dinner at City Island to wait for the tide to turn at Hell Gate, and then set off again. It was cold, but clear and windless. Watches started. We each stood two hours on and four hours off; the person driving had total charge of driving and navigating.

Off we went. Alternating between steering for stars, dressed in everything I had on, singing, frantically checking the charts, keeping half an eye on the digital readout depth finder. Next person would come on watch and observing nautical etiquette I’d get the alcohol stove going and feed them something hot.

Hours of darkness and crashing water. When the wind picked up the seas and sails were raised. Freezing black water heaving its shoulders under us. Terror and exhaltation, exhaustion, nausea, the abandon of sleep, the exquisitely sweet pleasure of a sunrise or full moon as we raced along. No time for anything but keeping the boat going, hugging the shoreline, crossing the mouths of the two great bays.

Full moon as we felt our way gingerly, chartless, into Norfolk harbor, 54 hours after starting the trip. Coincidentally we passed Chris's old tugboat, the “Swift”- she was leaving as we arrived- and talked on the radio to the Jamaican cook, the one who would always greet me with, "Sit on a happy face, my dear!". Docked the boat groggily and ate a big dinner at a restaurant, then crashed out asleep. Chris and Roger were on the run early the next morning. We cleaned up the boat and they flew away. Chris gave me $100. and kissed me and told me to call him when I got back north.

I lived at the marina for a couple of days, either on the “Lady J” or the “Privateer” ( which Chris and Roger had exclaimed over when they saw her: “Man! That’s a real racing machine!”) Waiting for Willcox and company to show up so we could get ourselves to warmer climes.

The “Privateer” is a 42’ aluminum hull Sparkman and Stevens racing sloop, with winches to stumble over at every turn and fifteen sails, or is it twenty. I explored it as best I could and rested up, waiting for the gang to arrive, which they did in due course. Captain Peter Willcox, the beautiful Andra, journalist Diving Dave O’Reilly (who got his nickname after falling off of CLearwater's bownet and being swept under the hull years ago) and – surprise- David Hval.

Next day we set out through the ominous Naval yard, full of death machines, motoring in the rain, the boat well supplied with groceries and liquor. Several days of motoring; seeing at last the fabled Intracoastal Waterway in all its legendary dreariness. But it was fun- very good company, all of us anticipating the sailing. No blood.

But ye olde internal combustion engine decided to go on the fritz. Deep in the inland swamps of North Carolina, hidden behind Cape Hatteras, we limped and fumed into Belhaven. Ate plenty shrimp and crabs; Mort – Peter’s “Owner”- arrived to survey the damage: a blown head gasket, water in the oil, a big mess. And calmly and silently I mosied to the town hospital, to the clinic, and told myself to get a pregnancy test and did. Sitting in the waiting room smiling at the other ladies- “You’re not from around here, are you?” “No.”

The test was positive. I got up to leave, asking the nurses where I could get an abortion. They told me. “Thank you,” and I walked away unable to cry, back to the boat where I told no one. Arranged for an abortion but wasn’t sure I’d be able to make the appointment. By then we might be out in the Atlantic somewhere.

More delays; more engine trouble; we sailed from Belhaven to near Washington, N.C., and were towed the last bit of the way to a desolate public pier where we were bouncing off the bottom half the time. We were all beginning to get restless and edgy because of all the delays. I was broody. But we did a pretty admirable job of battling cabin fever. Cooked meals, read aloud, subjected our mascot, a stuffed toy Kermit the Frog, to benign bizarre treatment. Finally it was determined that we would indeed be delayed there long enough for me to make my way to Jacksonville, NC, to have the abortion. So I announced the facts of life to my shipmates, who were sympathetic and sweet. Andra cried and hugged me and said she had just had to have TWO abortions recently. It sort of gave everybody something to do, to figure out how to get a car for me, and help me out and everything.

The next day, in a borrowed car, early in the morning we set out. Andra, the two Daves, Kermit, and me. It was an hour and a half drive through the misty, small town morning; past shacks and farms and I did not let myself panic, I did not let myself be otherwise than calm. David had loaned me more than half of the money I needed. Cash, you had to pay cash at this place.

We got kind of turned around finding the place and I was afraid I was going to be late. Finally we found the clinic and I was admitted to the inner sanctum, leaving my friends, the door shutting behind me. Inside many women hurried among the small rooms and corridors. There were about a dozen women who had come for the same reason I had, to have their babies taken out of their bodies. We all sat in a room together and filled out forms, then filed obediently amongst the nurses to have our fingers pricked, our pee examined, our motives questioned, our money collected. The black woman who paid before me counted out the $250. in small bills. I watched the other women. We spoke, sitting in a room together while a young nurse told us everything that was going to happen to us. When she left us we all talked a little. Some were scared, all determined. Some had children already and there was no mood of sadness in the room- fear and anticipation but no sorrow. For many this seemed a welcome relief, a triumph almost, even an act of defiance. Fierce young women we all seemed, yet so pitiful, wide eyed as we realized what was about to be done to our bodies. A plump young brunette, tired-eyed and nervous, was so scared and morning sick that she ran to the bathroom to vomit. She already had two young children, had just split up with her husband and was taking a bus to St. Petersburg the next day. The others remarked disapprovingly at her overwroughtness. “If she can give birth to two babies, she can do this.” A beautiful, feline black woman who looked 22 but turned out to be 33 regaled us all with stories of the strange things she wanted to eat while pregnant, spurring a flood of similar stories from everyone else. The circle of the dozen of us was thinning out as names were being called; girls trickled out of the room and the rest of us prayed and deplored the thought that our names would be next. A fat, motherly young black woman next to me talked to me. We shared apprehensions and encouragement. She already had a little daughter who was deaf, and she was going to school herself to learn language of the deaf communication skills, paying for school herself by working, caring for her daughter. “There’s no way I can have this baby- just no way.” She shook her head. My name was called.

Out I went. Dressed myself in stiff, sanitary ceremonial robes of spotless white paper, around my neck the small turquoise heart locket that I have had since before I can remember, silently, hurriedly saying goodbye to the whisper of a being I had harbored for such a short time.

Attendants ushered me down a corridor to another room. On the way one of them thrust something green at me. Saying something about “your friends.” “Kermit!” I exclaimed, clutching the stuffed animal. Into the room. “Sit down on the table, dear. The doctor ‘ll be right in.”

In came the doctor, who pretended not to see Kermit. He and a nurse had me lie down and proceeded with their wizardry.

“Hey, Kermit, get a load of this!” I whispered to the frog, in incredulity, as they inserted a speculum, swabbed my vagina out with betadine, gave four big shots of numbing drugs into my cervix, pried open the opening of my womb with a small crowbar, and turned on a big, thirsty sounding machine.

Biting my finger at the cramps and muttering a final goodbye. They vacuumed out my womb swiftly, then the thirsty machine was silent.

“Sit up now, honey.” The doctor was already washing his hands and leaving. And there, finally, was the blood- my own and someone else’s sweet red blood in a jar which the nurse quickly whisked out of my sight. “Thank you,”, I said to her and the doctor as they left the room.

Slowly got up, slowly dressed, my poor bewildered body saying to itself, “What the HELL?!?”

So it was over. I wasn’t pregnant anymore. And I walked away into the arms of kind friends and the quiet of the still disabled boat.

And by and by the engine was actually fixed. I was beyond the point of caring whether we continued the journey or not, but game to stick with it unless it meant missing Christmas at home. So off we went. It seemed incongruous to be traveling again. Diving Dave clambered up on a swing bridge in the middle of the night to wake the bridge operator. We motored along for a day or two, going all night, impatient. Peter trusted me to stand a watch, which made me feel good. For all its complications, the other people on the trip made it good. Peter of course. Andra bright and sweet and feminine, doing the dishes and scolding me not to overexert. O’Reilly fabulously moody, and funny, and cooking us all our meals. And David, so golden and untouchable, sleek and streamlined and witty and funny, doing all the difficult and glorious things like fixing the clogged up head or scampering to the top of the mast.

And soon the sailing began in earnest and we were busy keeping the boat going through the deep, cold water. Motoring out of Morehead City at night, escorted by joyful glowing porpoises speeding incredibly fast, gracefully playing with the clunky, noisy boat until they got bored with it. Next day we caught a beautiful, shiny tuna whose liquid, living iridescence faded in our hands. We ate his dark meat, and then the wind came. The seas demurely swelled and grew. The boat became a relentless projectile needing our constant attention; we became helpless atoms needing the boat’s constant protection. Most of us got sick. I certainly did. Only below decks, though. We’d take turns steering til we got too tired. It seemed always to be night when I was up. The air was warmer, the seas big, with foaming white crests like swimming ghosts of horses. Steering was a battle. Eventually I couldn’t sing anymore; had to concentrate on the steering, cursing and shrieking in frustration and alarm as the elements calmly ignored me. Below decks was a damp, dark, roller coaster ride. Oranges, onions and potatoes flew across the cabin with the greatest of ease, hiding in great numbers under Peter and Andra’s mattress. I accidentally jibed the main once, enough to make me feel like a total idiot, but no harm was done. Poor Andra jibed it after we had taken the headsail down: such a crash and a jolt, and the whole boat bucking amongst the waves. But eventually we were homing in on lights and by and by were in to a harbor and anchored and could all sleep.

Florida was dismal- chilly, windy rainy, gray. We motored the last little stretch together drinking champagne and eating eggs and home fries, ready to leave for Christmas, pondering the great ride we had just had. Up early the next morning in the dark, taxi to the Jacksonville airport where we dealt with the harassed ticket agents and played pinball and said goodbyes. Next thing I knew I was on an airplane, trapped with advertising executives.

Soon enough I was home in Rochester in the gray, shabby city and the warm, familiar house, immersed in wrapping paper and cousins. I called Chris and left a message for him to call me. He did. Talked about his plans- no imminent jaunts to Tortola, just business as usual. Suave and friendly and sweet, politely asking what I’d been doing. And I did not tell him about the baby he didn’t have, not then, and I did not tell my family.

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