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Part 5: Helping Hands – By Mitch Traphagen

Mitch has been kind enough to let us republish a recent series of articles he wrote that are at the Observer News. I have included a link back to the original article on the Observer News website at the bottom of the article here.

Helping Hands

By MITCH TRAPHAGEN

The circus has moved down the road. All along the way, I’ve heard stories of the southbound cruising fleet crowding bridges and marinas along the Intracoastal Waterway bound for Florida, the Bahamas and Caribbean; but by the time I arrived the marinas were empty. It’s spooky being the only one aboard in a marina, but it turns out there are a few people even crazier than me still in the Chesapeake. I feel sorry for them — and I feel a certain joy in knowing that I am out of that beautiful, but boisterous, body of water.

On my first full day in the ICW, I had the waterway to myself for hours. It was calm and stunningly beautiful with late fall colors still lingering in the trees that thickly lined the shore. By late morning a trawler slowly passed, followed by a larger and faster sailboat. I’m not pushing Shadow Marie too hard. She has been seriously neglected for the past 10 years and I’m not anxious to find her breaking point in the Middle of Nowhere, North Carolina.

I was tied to an 800-foot long dock that ran along the ICW in an outpost named Coinjock. There were two boats sharing the dock with Shadow Marie, but neither had anyone aboard and it appeared they represented dreams either interrupted or shattered. Captain Mark Goodbrand was working at the Midway Marina. He said that just a month ago boats were tied to the dock like jigsaw puzzle pieces. I looked […]

Part 4: Coming in from the cold – By Mitch Traphagen

Mitch has been kind enough to let us republish a recent series of articles he wrote that are at the Observer News. I have included a link back to the original article on the Observer News website at the bottom of the article here.

Coming in from the cold

Part four of an Observer News feature series

By MITCH TRAPHAGEN This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

I had never been so cold in my life — and that is saying something coming from a former Minnesotan. The wind blasting across Norfolk harbor shook my spine and instilled fear deep into my heart — not a life-threatening fear so much as a will-I-ever-get-out-of-this fear. I wanted it to end.  I wanted a 737 to take me back home.  For the first time in days, I didn’t miss my wife.  I wouldn’t want her to endure the cold and choppy waves blasting spray over the deck.

One of the mightiest ships on the sea viewed from one of the smallest: a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier in Norfolk harbor. MITCH TRAPHAGEN PHOTOS

Then slowly, almost imperceptibly, the icy cold hand clutching my heart began to release its grip. By the time I sailed into downtown Norfolk, conditions were almost pleasant — at least as pleasant as things could be with a temperature in the 40s. But as the waves subsided and the sun warmed my skin (what little was exposed) and I remembered why I was doing this, my outlook brightened with the rising temperature.

If you have a bad day or reach a point in your life where you wonder if there is any good left in this world, I can assure you there is. Let me introduce you to Captain David […]

Part 3: Sailing in through the out door – By Mitch Traphagen

Mitch has been kind enough to let us republish a recent series of articles he wrote that are at the Observer News. I have included a link back to the original article on the Observer News website at the bottom of the article here.

Sailing in through the out door

By MITCH TRAPHAGEN

Reedville, Virginia, is a quiet community on a creek just off the Chesapeake Bay. MITCH TRAPHAGEN photos

The quiet in the cabin echoes. All of the activity and the excitement of preparing the boat with Michelle are now recent memories. I can still feel the energy but I am alone. In the time it will take Michelle to drive a thousand miles back to Tampa Bay, I can, at best, make 100 miles under sail. This is not a journey for the impatient. I am struggling to learn patience. But first, I must overcome the quiet echoes in the cabin.

Gale warnings for the Chesapeake Bay delayed my departure for the beginning of the protected waters of the Intracoastal Waterway in Norfolk, Virginia. The bay doesn’t relinquish her grip easily — especially for fools who tempt her by leaving late in the season.

Since the day I bought this boat I have been sailing in through the out door. In other words, I have been moving in the opposite direction of the normal cruising flow. Each year hundreds of people sail their boats north for the summer and south for the winter in a never-ending quest for 75 degrees in temperature. When the days grow short and cool in the north, the cruising fleet, made up of everyone from retired couples on immaculate yachts to young drop-outs on small boats experiencing adventure before becoming tied to mortgages, point their bows south for Florida, the Bahamas and […]