In July, my family rolled four wheelbarrows filled with bedding, frozen meals, and enough clothing to last two and a half weeks, down the docks of Harbor East Marina in Baltimore, Md. When my dad started planning this trip, my first thought was “no thanks.” I was starting college next fall and wanted to spend the summer working and seeing my friends. As the summer dragged on and my plans quickly crumbled, I realized a change of scenery was exactly what I needed. It didn’t hurt that my family recently purchased Sababa, a 59-foot Prestige 560 with a hotel-room-sized cabin, fly bridge and a swim platform with a dinghy.
Sababa, would be our home as we traveled up the coast from Baltimore, arriving at Constitution Marina in Boston, Mass., to visit my sister at camp. I had a few years of sailing experience under my belt, as my dad’s enthusiasm for everything boats and water led to the purchase of a sailboat when I was eight. As my siblings and I grew up, my parents traded in the sailboat for a powerboat, and we embarked on week-long excursions on the Chesapeake Bay or to the Hyatt River Marsh Marina in Cambridge, Md. This was the most ambitious trip we’d ever taken.
We left Baltimore for Cape May, N.J., a six-hour boat ride through the Chesapeake & Delaware (C&D) Canal. I spent time on the fly bridge, reading and watching the waves. I forgot how much I missed the feeling of the wind in my hair. I thought about the days ahead of us and was looking forward to taking sunset photos each night.
While my dad docked at Canyon Club Resort Marina in Cape May, N.J., I helped my mom and my 15-year-old brother Benny, prepare the fenders and throw the bow line to a dock hand. We ate dinner on land at La Doña Mexican Restaurant, passed fudge shops on the boardwalk and watched couples slow dance to the Cape May String Band. At sunset, we hopped on the trolley and walked over a bridge back to the marina, watching the strawberry moon swell above the trees.
We left the peace of Cape May for the bustle and flashiness of urban life. Dolphins greeted us as we entered the Golden Nugget Atlantic City Marina in Atlantic City, N.J. While my dad played poker at the Borgata, my mom, Benny and I took a jitney to the boardwalk, where Benny and I shared Polish water ice and decided it was too hot to play mini-golf.
We took Sababa north from the entertainment capital of the Jersey Shore, to the city that never sleeps — New York. We docked at MarineMax at Chelsea Piers with an itch to explore the city. We shopped in Times Square, ate vegan comfort food at by CHLOE., and saw School of Rock on Broadway. We all agreed there was something incredible about watching a group of 10 year-olds more talented than we’d ever be.
We left New York a day early to avoid thunderstorms and headed to Norwalk Cove Marina in Norwalk, Conn. By now we were a seasoned crew. Every morning, we repacked our suitcases and secured the toiletries in the bathroom since we were cruising at a speed of up to 24 knots. We docked with all the lines and fenders on the starboard side. After fueling up, I grimaced and slid on plastic gloves to pump out the waste holding tanks. We showered, having to close our eyes because the water had bleach in it, and drank from our two-gallon cooler, which we had to refill at every stop. On land days, my dad and I went for a run before exploring the new town. At every port, we struck up conversations with shop owners, gallery keepers and waiters about our latest adventure. We stayed out until 9 most nights. By day five, I hadn’t taken a single photo of a sunset.
Half an hour into our departure from Norwalk, my dad burst into the cabin and exclaimed that our chart plotter had no data. He navigated with his phone to Mystic, Conn., where we docked at Fort Rachel Marina, ate at the famous Mystic Pizza, paddle boarded up to town and spent four and a half hours touring historic boats and replicas of Old Mystic. Departing Mystic, Conn., our radar was still not working properly so we used dad’s phone as our main source of navigation to Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. A heavy fog had decreased our visibly to less than quarter of a mile. We slowed to seven knots, blasting the horn every minute. I looked out for crab pots as we exchanged a few rounds of honking with a fishing boat, which materialized from the fog like a ghost ship and disappeared just as quickly. Some people were less adept at handling the pressure. Over the radio, we heard someone say, “Go faster, you moron.” As we started laughing, my dad reminded us that everything that goes wrong on a boat is “the end of the world.” You can’t take anything somebody yells at you personally. After docking at Oak Bluffs Marina, we escaped the mask of fog covering the waters of Martha’s Vineyard and explored the town of Oak Bluffs. We toured the cluster of fairy-like wooden houses, known as “Gingerbread Houses,” visited The Flying Horse Carousel, the oldest operating carousel in the United States, and then took a bus to the nearby town of Edgartown.
Leaving Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., we headed to Nantucket, Mass., and secured a mooring ball at Nantucket Moorings. We took the dinghy to town for a bike tour, visiting the lighthouse on Brant Point, (officially named Brand Point Light and the second-oldest lighthouse in America) and passing by Tommy Hilfiger’s former home. The next day, we walked along the beaches of the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge as seagulls and seals waded in and out of the water. A stop for vegan strawberry-Oreo ice cream at The Juice Bar cost me another sunset picture. I was starting to doubt I would ever get one.
After traveling two hours to Falmouth, Mass., we docked at the Kingman Yacht Center in Cataumet, Mass. That night, the sun turned red and the clouds gold and orange. I took pictures until the sky went dark. At our second-to-last stop in Providence, R.I., my dad finally bought a chip with the missing chart data. We visited with my aunt and uncle, took my little cousin for a dinghy ride and celebrated my brother’s birthday with Indian food at Rasoi in Pawtucket, R.I.
Finally, we tied up at Constitution Marina in Boston and spent the day at the Faneuil Hall Marketplace, sipping bubble tea while the Boston Piano Kid played Billy Joel. The day before my flight home, we rented a car and drove to New Hampshire to visit my sister, Tamara.
She was freckled and had a sore throat, but she gushed about her activities at camp with a huge smile. I walked around camp speechless, seeing the path I used to run and the lake where I avoided free swim. Before I knew it, I was hugging my sister goodbye and driving back to Sababa to pack. It poured the next morning. My dad walked me to the Lyft car so I could get to the airport to begin the journey back home to Baltimore. Once I returned home, I had to deal with a dead car battery and then had to drive an hour to teach Zumba, while my family got caught in a storm and had to take shelter in a cove. Although lucky to be home, I missed the most eventful part of the trip and realized it was the first of many family moments I will miss in college. I recalled my childhood memories of the sailboat picking up speed, how my brother, sister and I put our legs against the table to avoid tumbling to the other side as the boat heeled over. I’m grateful for the new memories I made with them before I leave home.
Elana Rubin is a freshman at Johns Hopkins University, where she will major in writing seminars. Her first book, Culture Shock, is available on Amazon.