The Voyage Has Begun

Chesapeake Bay: Rockhold Creek to Chester River


Last Tuesday, June 8, 2020 we cast off lines at Town Point Marina in Deale, Maryland, and headed out into the Chesapeake Bay for what we hope is a 3-year voyage around the world. Dear friends began arriving around 8 am and we said a few words, read a poem of blessing, and sprinkled some champaign on Maggie May’s bow. The surge of emotion that accompanied all of this, caught me off guard. There are just some times in life when you have worked so hard on something, given everything you possibly have to make a dream become a reality (or stave off some catastrophe), when past, present and future well up together for a moment. All this to say, I barely got my words out, they were choked and garbled with raw relief, joy, apprehension and possibility. I think my friends understood. Here is the poem in full:

blessing the boats
by Lucille Clifton

may the tide

that is entering even now

the lip of our understanding

carry you out

beyond the face of fear

may you kiss

the wind then turn from it

certain that it will 

love your back may you

open your eyes to water

water waving forever

and may you in your innocence

sail through this to that

Several friends sent this poem to me over the past few months, knowing our departure was imminent. It is so perfect in so many ways. 


I looked back for a long time at my friends Margaret, Valerie, Dave and Anne waving goodbye from the dock where we spent so much time preparing Maggie May, and at our friends Tom and Emily who had brought their canoe to see us beyond the jetty. I looked back as long as I could, to remember that moment forever, to feel that love and the waves of gratitude for the life we have lived up to now. When I turned finally towards the bay, I turned to the great unknown I have longed for for all these many years, through so much grief, anxiety and inner turmoil. I turned toward fear and wonder and adventure and a life scoured to its barest elements.

The first leg of this voyage will be northerly so we headed the boat up the Bay towards the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. The wind was light, 5-7 knots, but we managed to sail most of the way up to the bridge. I’d never passed under this immense span before. I’m not one to find awe in infrastructure, given all the damage it does ecologically, but passing under the Bay Bridge was something to remember, in part because of its mammoth imposition on the entire viewscape, and also because it was further than I had ever taken Maggie May to the north.


Beyond the bridge we made straight for the Chester River, where we planned to anchor for the night. This river, the longest navigable waterway on the eastern side of the Chesapeake Bay, is home to the Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge, where we hoped to spend most of our time for the next days. But the wind was not favorable for an anchorage near the refuge, and the wind decides and we abide, so we headed deeper into the river to a little cove near the Comegys Bight. It was a good thing we did, because the weather grew nasty over the next few days. 


Before the storm we had a few trips out in the dinghy to explore the nearby wetlands, beach and forest, finding many surprises, including the largest concentration of brown water snakes I have ever seen. Bill, terrified of snakes, vowed he would never set foot in this water after we made this discovery. We poled the dinghy into a shallow stream through thick wetlands and on the way out I noticed a little snake face staring out at us from the reeds. And then another and another and then, when we reached the mouth of the stream, a snake swam in right front of the dinghy with a fat, pale yellow fish with bewildered eyes, clamped in the snakes satisfied but anxious maw. The fish was easily three times the size of the snake’s head. I didn’t know they hunted for fish, and it was incredible to see this in action. 

Bill did not experience the same delight over this discovery as I did. 

As we got back to the Maggie May Bill was trying to secure the dinghy (Minnie May) and he wrenched his back painfully. His back had been bothering him for weeks, but I think the terror over the snakes and the jolting movement of the boat pushed him over an edge. And he probably had not been allowing his body to rest over the past weeks leading up to launch. Now his back has said, you will stay put for a while. So we have stayed anchored in this same Chester River spot for many days longer than we would have. Storms rolled over us and rolled on. Weekend boaters tubed in circles around us, their wakes tossing Maggie May about. Sun set and rose, casting its light and darkness upon the world. (c)Krista_Schlyer_-05688

I am content, wherever we are. I’ve spent the past 5 days learning how to live this life. I have learned many things, some important and some not so much. Here are 5:

  • Clothes are a nuisance, I shan’t be deploying them very often.
  • Peeing over the side of the boat (with the assistance of a she-wee, a tinkle-belle or other device) is liberating. Women of the wild, you must get one of these if you have not already.
  • Flies are obnoxious on land, intolerable on a boat.
  • Beer tastes delicious on land, on a boat the trumpets sound and the angels sing.
  • Being able to produce all of one’s own energy without dirty fossil fuels or industrial scale renewable energy is one of the best feelings I’ve ever had. (I’ll do a blog on our systems one of these days.) We have met or exceeded our energy needs for the past 5 days with our solar panels and wind generator. 


28 Comments on “The Voyage Has Begun

  1. Love this beginning. You’ve not even been gone a week, and already have great stories to tell. And pictures to capture.

  2. It’s clear to me that your spirit is better fed than it has been for a long time. I can already feel some of the healing. You are in full form, Dear One—the beauty of your writing, the tranquillity of your awesome late sunset photo, the tears and smiles that come to my face in response to your account of launch day and your unique, somehow never quite predictable sense of humor that just cracks me up every time. I love your account of things you’ve learned. Some of the items might even be useful for me, self-barricaded here in my home for maybe a couple of years. (I’ll have to look into that pee-wee if I decide to run for the hills in my RV.
    You cannot imagine how comforting it is to me that you share your adventure so generously. I watch that little dot twice a day, a.m. and p.m. I saw the storms surrounding the Maggie May, but I also saw the little pocket of shelter where she had taken you. I’ll be able to let go a little better each day, because I want nothing more for you than what I see happening—same for Bill.
    For now, I’m watching you. 👀
    With you in spirit and love,
    Your Ma

    • Corrections to the above!

      Sorry—Bill’s back—feel better, Bill. Maybe you can kick back a bit. You must be finding new muscles, and the effects of using them all, each and every day. Take care. ❤️Maureen

      Also—big mistake above Krista. It’s a she-wee, not pee-wee!! The other one I relate to is lack of necessity for clothing. …could be up to 106 this week.

      • I’ll tell Bill. He’s staring to come out of it. Down to two Advil at a time today!

  3. The wind decides and we abide. Amen.
    I’m with Bill regarding snakes.
    Clothes are a nuisance. Duh.
    I’m partial to the Lady J.
    Ditto what Maureen said about sharing your adventure so generously.
    And down with dirty fossil fuels! Show us the way!

  4. Enjoying your blog. Will be watching for new ones. Love that you and Bill have a wonderful adventure for your future. Enjoy . Toby.

  5. What a amazing journey you will partake in. I can’t wait to read more. And as a tent campers, there’s nothing better than a she-pee. So convenient.

  6. What a voyage this will be…enjoyed the writing so much…I feel I am right there with you…thank you, and your insights are spot on…say hi to Bill and tell him the waters will heal him as never before…for now deep relaxation is in order. Love to you both,

  7. I loved reading this, Krista! Thank you for sharing. Wishing you a safe but amazing adventure full of wonderful surprises about yourself and the world. ⛵️❤️

  8. Krista,
    You are such a wonderful storyteller I can imagine myself alongside as you traverse your adventure. I can feel the new sense of freedom and deeper breaths filling your spirit. I’m looking forward to being a virtual traveler along for the journey and know I will treasure your posts. Please give Bill my love and I hope his back feels better soon.

    • Thank you so much Patty. And I’ll pass along your wishes to Bill.

  9. What a joy to read, Krista! Cant wait to hear more! All the best to you both!

  10. What a way to start your journey! Love your writing!

  11. Hi K and B! I just finished reading all of your blogs. I had no idea I was missing so much! Thanks for sharing so generously.

    I hope Bill’s back is on the mend and you’re able to sail on soon.

    All is good here, recently took a camping trip near Dolly Sods and was reminiscing about great backcountry trips with OMM and Cody.


    • Thanks Jeff, Bill and I were just talking about the Maggie-Cody days. Such good memories. xoxo

  12. So happy for you, beautiful friend! I’m picturing you free, inquisitive, hopeful, content. Love to you and Bill. May you shed all those barnacles.

  13. Want pictures of the snakes! Hope Bill’s back is on the mend. Stay safe.

    Johanna (& Jason, Andre, Isaac & Roxy)

    • Ha! Me too, I wish I’d had my camera! Thanks Jo, give our love to the family

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