Fate Turns on a Squirrel’s Teeth

On the morning of July 9 my journal entry began, Setting off again this morning at high tide. We’ll see what transgresses. Headed to Maine.

It was to be our second attempt at a launch, but it followed the fifth or sixth major named storm in the life of our circumnavigation dreams. Still, we were both hopeful. We had no beautiful friends to wave goodbye to on the docks, and no champagne to sprinkle on the bow, but the day was calm as we pulled out of our slip and made our way to the mouth of Swan Creek and into the Chesapeake Bay. I’m not going to relay what happened next, it was the scariest moment I’ve ever had on a boat, but it’s a long, and in the end, humorous story that will wait for a book’s telling one day. This blog focuses on what happened afterward, which was not so humorous, despite the lead photo in this blog.

About an hour after we entered the bay, we still had no wind and were motoring along, which often makes me sleepy. So I laid my head down on Bill’s lap and looked up at the mast towering into the cloud-tufted blue sky. After a while, I asked Bill, “Can you still see the Bay Bridge?”. 

“Just barely,” he replied. 

So I sat up and scanned the horizon to the hazy south. I couldn’t see the bridge until Bill pointed. It was barely visible in the thick summer air, and I marked it in my mind, the Bay Bridge is behind us. 

Just then the wind started to pick up and Bill got excited to raise the main sail. We had only sailed once in the month since we left our home port in Deale. So I took over the wheel and Bill went forward to prep and raise the halyard. As the sail was going up, suddenly Bill stopped and his face fell. All he said was “No. No.”

I saw a cascade of white feathers, or something light like that, scatter onto the deck and float back along the starboard side of the boat. I thought a bird had nested in the sail, or been killed by a predator and left in the sail. But then I saw Bill sink to the deck on all fours, so I knew it was something much worse. I steadied the boat and went up to the mast. There was a gaping hole in the sail, which, as it gently flapped in the mild breeze rained a shower of feather-light dacron onto the deck. Two feet of sail had been chewed away. Our brand new sail. 

We had waited years to get that sail, wanting to spare ourselves the huge expense of it until we were ready to head out on the trip. It was ruined. It took a moment to make sense of it, but suddenly I remembered earlier that day I had seen squirrel footprints on our hatch and heard soft footfalls on the deck. Knowing how important a nest is to a creature, I went to scan the sail bag and sure enough, there was a terrified squirrel crouching at the back of the boom.

Bill and I were silent for a long time. Then a period ensued that I cannot recount here except to say that Bill turned the boat around, back toward the marina at Haven Harbour, and when I coaxed him into unfurling the only in-tact sail we had left, it was because I believed it would be the last sail we ever had and I wanted to remember it. 

Two days later, we ushered the squirrel from the boat and have had the sail repaired as best as it can be. It will never be fully strong again, but it may last a while. We have decided that we can no longer believe in the circumnavigation dream. We can’t even expect we will get to Maine at this point. Or out of the Chesapeake Bay. But we have provisions for several months on the boat, and many, many books we want to read and some songs we want to learn and sunsets to see and squirrels to forgive. 

We hope to head out again in a day or two with the only intention being to follow where the wind leads us, take what challenges arise, care for the boat as best we can, and love each other better than we ever have. 

Thank you all for following along on this journey, wherever it may lead.

31 Comments on “Fate Turns on a Squirrel’s Teeth

  1. Oh my. I don’t know what else to say except that your adventure so far seems to mirror the absurdity of Life As We Know It in 2020. We make plans. God/the universe/whatever is bigger than we are laughs. I think there’s a lot of wisdom in your decision to love each other, enjoy the sunsets, and go where the wind or current takes you. What else can you do? It totally sucks that so many things have happened to screw up the pursuit of your dream. But you’re still going to have an adventure. I’m suddenly reminded of a horrible storm we had many years ago. Lightning hit our house, and after the explosion (lightning blowing a hole in our roof), my husband and I found ourselves standing in the front yard in the pouring rain, staring slack-jawed at the house. All I could think to say was, “This’ll make a great story.” Must be a writer thing. (I was working as a journalist at the time.) To conclude, I can think of only two things to say: 1. I hope things get better. 2. Take notes.

  2. Krista and Bill,
    Know that you are loved and are so sorry your adventure has been compromised. We have been vicariously enjoying even the idea you were attempting to make such a brave and adventurous trip.We know you will make good decisions going foreword.

      • I’ll bet Kathy has a recipe for Squirrel Pie. (Okay, I’m just kidding but you know Kathy is an adventurous cook!)

  3. As you love each other better than you ever have, remember that there are a great many people who love you both. I don’t know why things happen the way they do in this world, and I’m so sorry for these latest travails. But I do know that the world is a better, richer, more vibrant place with you both in it. And that’s certainly true for my world.
    We are sending you both love and light. ❤️⛵️

  4. I’m sitting here in Tucson with tears in my eyes. I just can’t imagine how you two are feeling. There must be an important message somewhere in all of this for the two of you. Keep looking forward👍 ….sheila

  5. This is NOT a disaster, it’s a blip. Ok—a big blip, but a blip nonetheless. You’re not dismantled, capsized, or otherwise disabled. You have a marvelous adventure ahead of you. The patch will be fine. All your friends will shove enough positive energy your way to compensate. You’re so far ahead of the game that you’ll be able to look back at this with wry amusement. GO HAVE FUN!!!!

    • Thanks Jim, great to hear from you and thanks for the encouragement.

  6. Thanks Alonzo Davis, for pointing to your squirrel entry.
    Look, my wife and I were in Marion, Mass, trying to get South to Annapolis, MD. Problems kept piling up, including bad weather, mechanical failures, algae in the diesel tank, a ripped main and countless other goodies. Eventually, we finally leave and head south, late in the season (October).The rest of the trip went extra well (yes, with a problem a day), and I can’t shake the feeling that these delays were a blessing in disguise. Hang on tight, you’re almost there.

    • Thank you Francis, good to hear you got to the other side of it.

  7. We are too devastated for you to say much. I did want to mention however that your intention to “love each other better than you ever have”, moved me deeply. For after all is said and done, that is all we have, isn’t it? We love you. Beth Elizabeth Knox 3117 Vermont Route 11 Peru, VT 05152


  8. Krista – The term, “best laid plans….” surely applies to this tale. But no matter what the next few months bring, it will be an adventure and, in your always eloquent prose, you will bring us along on that journey. Be safe and hug often.

  9. Oh Krista – In the midst of all the craziness, awfulness, uncertainty, pain, hope, and protest, for this to happen to you on top of it all… I can hardly find words.

    My mantra this year is “radical acceptance,” and I hear echoes in this post. Sometimes all we can hope for is to embrace our lack of control, to accept what the wind blows our way, and to find joy in what’s freely offered – those sunsets, those songs. I’m grateful for the time you’ve had on the boat, and in other beautiful places – for that Carolina wren, and the waters of Ohiopyle (where John and I vacationed last year, in what feels like another world).

    I’m holding you and Bill in my heart. Of all the people I know, you’re probably the two best suited to weather this storm. Know that you are loved.

    • Thank you dear Cat. Yes, these are times for radical acceptance all around. Love you

  10. Sometimes life derails us, pushing us into unexpected territory. I look forward to reading more about your adventures, however big or small they may be. ❤

  11. OMG…started crying while reading this blog…naming both of you “Angels on the Water”…who else gets tested this way…we are all going to follow you and your positive outlook…keep the love light shining. P.S. Tell the Universe–STOP– you have enough material for your book. Sending love always, Carol

    • Thanks Carol, I so appreciate your thoughts and blessings.

  12. I am so sad for you, my dear Krista and Bill, and I can strongly relate to the idea of squirrels messing with our best intentions. While things look bleak, you have the spirit to keep going and make it an amazing journey whatever comes your way. Taking a step back for a moment, you dreamed of an adventure in nature, when you’d be at the whims of the Earth’s forces to get you from place to place. This is a setback, or is it? It seems you’ve already figured out a way to make the best of it for the moment. All the best, Rachel

  13. Dear Krista – being an optimist by nature I want to believe that these unbelievably frustrating and crappy things that have happened to you and Bill, and your boat, have, I hope, protected you from unknown challenges that would have been worse. It’s also likely that is shallow comfort at this point. On the other hand, there is more than the boat portion of the adventure you were seeking. There was a spirit of exploration, the up-close seasonal range from calm to dramatic character and rhythmic nature of the ocean. I imagine the essence of this journey can be found in multiple ways if you put your minds to it, which I have full confidence in your abilities to do. I am sending you both my love as a light coverlet to the most special one you share with one another. Be well, be healthy, find your selves in each other and the worlds you explore.

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