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And They Lived Happily Ever After

Eleanor Q: For Sail or For Sale? – That was the original title of this post when I started it.

First, let me note that this blog has been written in stages over the last 4+ years. Yup… one blog post has taken that long. I used to just crastinate, but then I turned “pro.” What motivated me to wrap this up, at long last, was the desire to do a printed book version of the blog just for our own library… one that we could flip through at our leisure and use to reminisce in our declining years. I’m not planning for the declining years to start any time soon, but you can never be too prepared! As I got ready to print, I recognized that the story never had that nice, logical conclusion to it, and it really needed one. So here is the last chapter of the tale of Eleanor Q.

Part 1 – It was the summer of ‘18

The story of this summer has several stages.

You might remember, from lo those many months ago, that after lots of soul searching and agonizing, we put Eleanor Q up for sale. We decided it was time for something a little smaller and a little faster (meaning without sails) since we determined that our days of long distance cruising were behind us. And Eleanor Q wants to RUN!  She wants to travel! She’s ready for new adventures!

So we put her on the market last October. By June (after only one looker) we decided that we were tired of tip-toeing around her like a model home that isn’t allowed to be mussed. Well balderdash. We’re going to use her and love her and just not sweat it. When someone is ready to look at her, they will see a loved and used boat. We loaded bags of stuff back onto her that we had removed in April. So we changed our thinking back to,“Eleanor Q FOR SAIL!”

We finally found ourselves a few beautiful, early June days and set off to Oxford, MD on the eastern shore of Maryland… our favorite anchorage. The added motivation was because our anniversary was coming up in a few weeks and this is where we anchored up and got married seven years ago. We figured we’d start the anniversary celebration early. 

Here’s what I wrote about that trip back in June 2018 … it’s been sitting in a file ever since waiting to be finished…

The trip over was a motor-sail day… not enough wind to get us there without some assistance, but still, a VERY lovely day on the water. 

We love to take our traditional walk up “The Strand” in Oxford on our way to the Robert Morris Inn… where we dined on the evening of our nuptials. We’re traditionalists… what can we say. And although they may have excellent desserts after the excellent dinner, we wouldn’t be able to vouch for that first hand, because, you know, there’s a Scottish Creamery around the corner with MIGHTY fine ice cream. Then a walk around the docks, a nice chat with some fellow boaters and then the dinghy ride back to our quiet anchorage where we sit alone!

We spent the perfect (for us) and typical evening on the boat … sit in the cockpit to watch the sunset, then go down below to turn on some great music, sip some whiskey and play gin rummy. (Could we sip gin and play whiskey rummy? Hmmm…) Too exciting, I know. Might sound dull to the average human, but it is heaven to us and something that we don’t do at home (the cards part, that is…) There is another important element that is usually part of this tradition, too, except I messed up. I forgot to pack the M&Ms. Whiskey without M&Ms. What is this world coming to. We endured.

Frank is always the first to retire while my night owl instincts kick in. Let me try to describe some of my feelings about being out here. It is a spectacularly calm, clear night. It is quiet. The boat is just barely rocking. I walked back up top after getting everything settled below and lights off for the night. I can hear Frank sleeping (identified by the not quite snoring/heavier breathing sounds). I tip toe back up to the cockpit and stick my head off the edge of the boat to see more stars than I have seen in a very long time – since the last time we were cruising last summer, as a matter of fact. I don’t even know how I ever slept when we were cruising… it makes my heart beat faster just looking all around at the peace and the dark and the stars and the distant lights on the water. It’s challenging for me to make myself go back down below…

I distinctly remember how hard it was for me to go to sleep that night. Maybe something deep in my gut knew it would be one of the last nights we would spend on Eleanor Q. Schedules got busy, weather got crappy and before we knew it, it was August and we had barely used her. And then we got the call that someone was flying in from Michigan to take a look at our girl. And look they did. And they fell in love, just like we had. You could see it in their eyes.

And so, just a little over a week ago, we said goodbye to Eleanor Q as she left our dock with her new owners. (Note: that section was written in September 2018.)

Part 2 – Is there life after Eleanor Q?

Well of course there is! A few years have passed and the wounds of separation from Eleanor Q are now just barely visible scars. We have not replaced her with another non-sailboat like we had talked about; that may still happen. But what we did do was procure our own smallish sailboat to race in the Annapolis area which is famous for its racing. After crewing on some other boats for a couple of years, we decided to purchase a Harbor 20 sailboat. Being a 20 footer means that it only needs a crew of two. She had been an instructional boat in the Boston area for a while and we got her for a fair price. After some thought as to what to name her, it was Frank who suggested the name we settled on: Dolly.

Hello Dolly! My mother, Dolly, was about to turn 95, and as a surprise for her birthday, we named the boat after her. The original Dolly is spunky and intrepid, so we thought it was a good fit. Plus Dolly the woman is pretty darn cool.

So all the while that we were on Eleanor Q, Frank kept saying that I would TRULY understand sailing more completely when I got to spend time on a smaller boat. Yeah, I kind of learned bass-ackwards. Now I understand what he meant.  And now we’ve switched our focus from cruising to racing. Annapolis has so may great sailing traditions, and Wednesday night racing is one of the greatest. All summer long, weather permitting, hundreds of boats of various sizes and classes take to the Annapolis harbor to compete. I could write several posts just about our racing experiences, but I will spare you the details. We are in a wonderful fleet of Harbor 20s with the most amazing sailors. They are competitive, but in the best of ways. They are also helpful, gracious, welcoming and will do anything they can to help you sail your best, too. In our early races, our goal was just to not be DFL. You know… DFL. (Dead flippin’ last – that’s the PG version.) Last year our goal shifted up to being in the middle of the pack. We have good days and bad days and Frank is constantly tweaking the boat, the sails, the rigging, etc. I like to think that I have learned to be pretty good crew, but my love for the sport is not as deep as his. I still cringe when we are within a few inches of other boats or, God forbid, make contact in a tight turn. Hey, I didn’t like bumper cars when I was a kid, either. But I’ve come a long way. Truthfully though, I’m still more of a cruiser at heart. We will figure out how we will get back to exploring some of the special anchorages and towns up and down the Chesapeake while we’re still of sound mind and body…. well, of sound body, anyway! For now, our travels on the water remain close to home on Dolly and on our 17’ skiff that can take us into town for ice cream. Did you think I’d leave out the ice cream? 

So thanks for reading along about our adventures on Eleanor Q. It was a good run for which we are extremely grateful. And though life does not always read like a fairytale, I feel okay saying that, in fact, we are living happily ever after.

P.S. – My mom, Dolly, passed on to start her next excellent adventure in May 2021, but S/V Dolly carries on in her name.