Sea Legs

Hello from North Haven!

It became evident pretty quickly to readers, after my last post, that despite living on an island for almost twelve years, I know next to nothing about life on the sea. Two eagle-eyed salts pointed out, in kind comments, that a knot is a unit of speed, not of distance (that’s a nautical mile). I made the correction, but wanted to come clean about my general land-lubberiness.

I was born in Oklahoma, a landlocked state, and moved to Central Maine before I could form any permanent memories about my time in the Midwest other than a preferred ambient temperature of 75 degrees and a tendency to use the word y’all for lack of a better English plural pronoun. I spent quite a bit of my childhood in a canoe or inflatable dinghy, drifting around the middle of a large pond, reading, but my only saltwater boat experience was taking the Blue Nose ferry, at eight years old, from Portland to Nova Scotia. I made the dire error of watching the ferry slip go past as we left and spent the next six hours trying to stave off seasickness lying on a bench on the deck.

Despite spending my seven-year self-imposed exile from Maine in port cities – Providence and Boston – I remained ignorant about sea life outside of the New Bedford Whaling Museum and Boston Aquarium. And even once I became an islander (as much as anyone can become an islander; it’s really considered a generational birthright), I stayed in the dark. I spend my infrequent ferry trips napping, rather than educating myself on the finer points of marine navigation.

Last year, ahead of my husband starting his new job teaching on that other Fox Island, we got a boat. I mean, we had two kayaks and a stand-up paddleboard, and we occasionally put them in the ocean and tootled around, but this was a 13′ whaler.

When you get a boat, if you are not a person whose livelihood is on the water, it’s like suddenly growing wings. Formerly inaccessible lands are now wide open to you. You can to go Vinalhaven any ol’ time. You can go to an uninhabited island and have a picnic, like rusticators of old (and present). Such were my imaginings as we towed the whaler home from the boatyard in January.

People warned us, having a boat, like having a horse or other pastorally idyllic form of transportation, could be more like having a pit and throwing money down it. And in fact, the boat turned out to need more repairs than originally reckoned and spent the summer in a handy friend’s yard. It was in the water by the time my husband started work, but my fantasies of a summer in a boat were for naught. The Kraken, as we’ve renamed it, has had a few subsequent adventures, escaping its mooring twice to become encased in ice and slightly bashed on the rocks, and is back in dry dock at this very moment.

Maybe this spring and summer will be the time when I learn how to drive the boat, master the art of pulling up to a dock, and finally get my sea legs. After over a decade in the ocean, it’s probably time.

Courtney Naliboff

About Courtney Naliboff

In addition to this blog, I'm a contributing writer to, a Jewish parenting site, a blogger and book reviewer for, and the author of Salt Water Cure, a column in Working Waterfront. I report news from North Haven for Working Waterfront and Island Journal, and was a speaker at the Maine Conference for Jewish Life in 2015. Follow Frozen Chosen on facebook or visit my Web site for more writing and free music to download!