6. Canals, Kin, and Cash

Delancey is back home!  Back in 2006 we found her, on the hard, in an Annapolis boat yard.  The previous owner had abruptly given up sailing for skiing and moved out west.  After a winter of work, including major surgery to replace a failed fuel tank, we sailed her up from Annapolis to NYC.  She has just completed the return trip.

Delancey’s crew, however, is not on board.  We have spent the past week visiting with Pete’s folks Peter and Jera in Alexandria, Virginia.  We’ve been taken to dinner, curled up for movie night, enjoyed daily showers, employed their well-appointed kitchen, refereed pet interactions, spent quiet evenings by the fire, and eaten extremely well.  It’s been lovely.

But let’s back up a bit.  We left Cape May on a sunny morning much warmer than the trip down from Atlantic Highlands.  Our first task was to thread the Cape May Canal.  Taking the canal rather than sailing around Cape May would shave about eight hours off our day and allow us to get farther across the Delaware Bay.  But the canal has restrictions:  There are two bridges with 55-foot clearance at high tide.  The gear at the top of Delancey’s mast is about 56 feet high, so we wanted to pass under the bridges at low tide.  However, the canal shoals such that parts of the channel are only 4 ½ feet deep at low tide.  Delancey’s keel draws 5 feet.  We did the math about six times each and decided that we should leave about one hour after low tide.  This would get us past the bridges at nearly low tide and after that we’d have the rising tide on our side should we touch bottom.  We were wary, but confident.  We’ve made this trip before.  Still, the stomach muscles stayed pretty tight while passing under those bridges.

 Made it through with entire inches to spare.

Made it through with entire inches to spare.

After an uneventful motor up the Delaware Bay, we turned into the far more commodious Chesapeake & Delaware Canal, stopping for the night at a very quiet mid-canal marina before pressing on to Annapolis.

The next morning found fog on the canal and another windward motor.  We tooled down the Chesapeake and under the bay bridges, arriving in the town mooring field just in time to enjoy the sunset.

 Everybody loves a sunset.

Everybody loves a sunset.

The next day Dad drove to Annapolis to pick us up.  Rather than drop the dink, we took advantage of the local water taxi to take us ashore.  This turned out to be a fateful decision.  After a relaxing weekend with the folks, I drove back to Annapolis on Monday to check on the boat only to find that the water taxi had stopped daily service.  They wouldn’t be running again until Friday, earliest.  We were planning to head south on Wednesday, but oh well.  We’d just have to spend a few more days in the comfortable hospitality of Mom and Dad.

 I won't miss winter, but I will miss evenings like this.

I won't miss winter, but I will miss evenings like this.

While in Alexandria, we were faced with a money wrinkle that could shorten our sojourn.  For context, here’s a short story:  Back in the early 2000s, our marina shut down one winter and we were forced to relocate to a marina much less convenient for the daily commute into Manhattan.  We took it as a sign that we should maybe put an end to this life afloat and live like proper adults on land.  With our savings, augmented by parental contributions, we bought an apartment in the Lower East Side and put the boat out on a mooring in Oyster Bay.  It was fun.  We rediscovered our neighborhood.  Deb went to the Union Square farmer’s market.  I biked to work.  On Fridays, we’d load up the pets and drive out to Long Island to spend the weekend on Delancey. So far so good.

So far so unsustainable.  While living aboard, every cost related to the boat is easily justified; it is, after all, our home.  After a couple years in the apartment, we came to realize that when you’re not living aboard, a boat is a very very expensive toy.  We loved our apartment and imagined ourselves happily growing old there, but we could not afford to maintain this lifestyle, so we made the rational choice to sublet the apartment and move back on the boat.

Our apartment building is a cooperative, or co-op, a form of ownership to be found only in Manhattan and parts of Jupiter.  Co-ops tend to have more rules and fees than condominiums.  Because our co-op wants to encourage owners to live in the building, they impose a pretty significant monthly fee for the privilege of subletting.  That, combined with the regular maintenance and mortgage, meant that we were never able to charge rent that would cover expenses.  In addition to whatever other factors kept us from casting off, having to make a monthly payment without any income was a big one.

That changed last year, when we got a new tenant and discovered that the market had risen such that the monthly rent would finally cover our expenses.  We were less than $20 in the black, but hey, we weren’t losing money.  One more planetary alignment that allowed us to go on this cruise.

Then this week, we received the annual budget memo from the co-op and discovered that they’d doubled the sublet fees for the coming year.  All told, it will eat up about 10% of our cruising kitty.  After an evening of much hand-wringing and little sleep, we decided to just be frugal and enjoy 2016 as best we can.  The fee increases in the following years, but we’ll deal with that when it comes.  It’s this new thing I’m trying out:  not worrying about stuff so much.

Rice and beans, anyone?