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Following the wind/Teresa Carey

Erin Crowell - December 21st, 2009
Follow the Wind
Teresa Carey has a simple plan: sail south through the winter
“I think I romanticized living on a boat, too… perhaps too much.
Sailors are romantics and romantics are fools, so I must be a fool.”

–From Teresa Carey’s Blog ‘Sailing, Simplicity,
and the Pursuit of Happiness’. Dec. 7, 2008

By Erin Crowell

The cold winds return to New England, changing the leaves to gold and brown as Teresa Carey pulls anchor. It’s October, and the Kalkaska native is setting sail for warmer waters aboard “Daphne,” a 27-foot sailboat.
Last year, the 31-year-old school teacher decided she wanted to sail the East Coast. So, she quit her job, sold her processions and bought the Nor’Sea sailing sloop.
“Once my boat was ready, it was just as easy as pulling up the anchor and going,” she says.
Carey has no itinerary and no crew – just a boat, a cat and a free spirit for exploration.

The Northern Express recently caught up with Carey by phone as she was navigating Florida’s Intercoastal Waterway. It’s December, just over a year into her aquatic journey.
“It’s warm, really beautiful today,” she says, “just a little foggy.”
She’s explored “bits and pieces” of the ICW, making her way South to live and work for the winter.
Knowing she wouldn’t have the means to work on the water, Carey started her journey by saving up while working as a waitress, sailmaker as a and charter boat captain for the Schooner Valora at Martha’s Vineyard in the summer; meanwhile, she spent the winter aboard her docked boat. Not wanting to deal with another winter, and knowing it was time to move on, Carey decided to head south to find work. Waiting tables would suffice, considering the amount of wealth in the coastal region; but working as a charter captain would be ideal, she says.
“Being a female, it’s hard to find captain jobs,” she says. “I don’t look tough enough to be a sailor. It’s deceiving because I look really young with my small arms and spindly legs. I go to apply for jobs and they just pass over me.”

Generally, the roles of women aboard are limited to that of passengers. Think Popeye, with forearms the size of footballs – his girlfriend Olive Oil, a clumsy damsel.
Then there are the sailors of history: Magellan, Columbus, Raleigh—not that they were big and gruff. It’s just that they were all men.
“Maybe it’s the social construction on boats. Many believe women can’t do certain things,” says Carey. “For example, I met a woman who was sailing with her boyfriend and he told her what to do and what she couldn’t do. He said she couldn’t lift the anchor.
“I told them it would be much easier (lifting anchor) with two people. They were both surprised when I said that I lifted my own every morning.
“Sometimes a man will use his strength (in sailing) whereas women have to be a little more creative; but, I haven’t run across anything I couldn’t handle just because I wasn’t a man.”

The wind built stronger and stronger and for the rest of the day I scampered about the deck changing sails… shortening the sails, resetting the monitor wind-vane, trimming the sheets, untangling lines, coiling, lashing, stowing, so that by the end of the day my hands were scraped, my back hurt, and the kiwi was still waiting to be eaten. It rested quietly on the cabin sole where it had fallen. Without even picking it up, I grabbed the lines I needed to secure myself to the mooring in the harbor.

--From Teresa Carey’s Blog ‘Sailing, Simplicity, and the Pursuit of Happiness’. Oct. 13, 2009

The only male (and passenger for that matter) aboard Carey’s boat is her two-year-old cat Dory – a long-haired orange navigator who is, at times, a better weather predictor than most forecasts.
“You know how they say farmers can predict when a storm is coming because the animals are acting weird? That’s how he is,” says Carey. “He’s more sensitive to weather than I am.”
Dory was named after the midwife character—Dora Rare—in the 2006 novel, The Birth House, a book Carey picked up on the Atlantic Coast town of Nova Scotia, Canada.
While she owns very few possessions, Carey always makes room for a few books. Because she does not maintain a permanent residence, other than on Daphne, obtaining library books is impossible.
So Carey trades books with other sailors – a whole community of people she’s met along the way.

On this particular December day, Daphne is the only visible boat on the water, but that doesn’t mean she’s alone in the fog.
“I’m not really by myself – I’m sailing my boat by myself – but I’ve met some friends along the way,” says Carey. “I’ll see everyone some days, sometimes every day. There are a lot of retired couples doing this. I’ve never met another single woman traveling alone, but I’ll be excited when I do.”
One of those sailing friends includes Ben, her boyfriend whom she met while searching for Daphne.
“I met him while I was looking for my boat. I called and asked him questions. We both have an interest in boats designed by the same guy – Lyle Hess,” she says.
Ben, who hails from Massachusetts, is sailing “Elizabeth,” a 28-foot Bristol Channel Cutter, and is heading south with Carey.
“I can’t see him right now, but I know he’s out there.”
This is one of those mornings when Carey is alone on the water. You can picture her sitting aboard Daphne, looking off into the foggy distance at an invisible horizon.
The radio crackles in the background. Another sailing friend, perhaps?
“Sometimes he’s ten miles behind, sometimes less,” Carey continues. “Sometimes we don’t see each other for days.”

Carey has had a special place in her heart for sailing ever since she was young.
“I was eight when my dad bought our boat. We would sail out of Elk Rapids, go out for the whole day.”
After awhile, Carey’s two older sisters grew tired of sailing, but the appeal of the open water stuck with Carey.
“When I got older—like junior high, high school—my dad and I would go out sailing.”
On the boat, I spent my time dipping my feet in the waves, coloring, or playing with my doll. But with age came an interest in the deeper workings of a sailing vessel. Of wind and sail. Of wave and hull. Of the history, lore, and allure of the ocean.
–From “First Winds” by Teresa Carey, the first of an open-ended series which appeared in Kalkaska’s The Leader in Nov. 2009.
Since she was 18, Carey has been working as a sailor.
“I spent two years working for Traverse Area Community Sailing on the Boardman. Kids would come and sail their dinghy’s around the lake.”
After graduating Kalkaska High School in 1997, Carey taught sailing in Chicago.
She has since had other adventures, including a stint with the National Outdoor Leadership School and Outward Bound program where she developed a love for rock climbing.
Even with a bachelors in biology and environmental studies through Hope College and the University of Michigan, Carey decided to pursue her masters in theatre design – teaching at the North Country School in Lake Placid, New York.
“I’m a jack of all trades and a master of none,” she laughs.

“I spend money on only the necessities because I don’t know where I’ll find work or how much they’ll pay me,” she says. “Fuel, food, books—they keep me company. I’ve gone out to eat maybe twice.”
All repairs on Daphne, Carey does herself.
“Labor is expensive, so that saves a lot of money,” she says.
One major setback, Carey said, was losing her folding bike, something she’d use onshore for travel and to pick up groceries.
“It fell in. The powerboat Ben and I were in tipped over from a huge wave. We hired two scuba divers. One showed up drunk, so we hired another one,” she recalls.
They never found the bike.

If making money comes down to working as a waitress, Carey says she dreads it.
“There will be a lot of people. A lot of lights. It’s just too much,” she says.
Carey has found the solitary of the water fitting to her current lifestyle – one where objects hold less significance than one’s experience. It’s called simplistic living, or, voluntary simplicity.
“A man named Duane Elgin wrote about it in the early ‘70s,” says Carey. “I’m learning there’s a whole movement on it. Living on a boat I was able to shed a lot of excess stuff. To me, it just feels like an authentic way of life.”
Teresa Carey’s mother, Fran Carey, believes one of the catalysts for Teresa’s simplistic lifestyle started with a family fire that occurred on Christmas Eve in 2004.
“While Teresa was always Conscience of the environment, material things, spending too much money on something,” says Fran Carey, “…I do believe that because of the huge amount of loss of books, photos, personal items and just things, that all of us, including Teresa, became more aware in her young life how things should not control us.”
For now, Teresa Carey sticks to the coastline, but someday she would like to take Daphne out on the ocean, the playground she was built for.
“I don’t know if the goal is to cross the ocean, but to get to it. I want to wander the planet on my boat.”
She started her journey in Massachusetts, making her way down the East Coast. Last week it was Cape Canaveral Florida. Next week? Who knows.
“I plan by ‘where am I going to anchor tomorrow?’ It’s hard to plan further than that on a sailing trip; and the prediction of the weather is always changing,” she says.
Is there a specific destination that Carey would like to reach?
“Um, well, I don’t know,” she laughs. “This seems pretty far south so we might be slowing down.”
And so the journey continues.

You can follow Teresa Carey and her journey by sailboat on her blog ‘Sailing, Simplicity and the Pursuit of Happiness’ at, which is currently nominated by Blogger’s Choice Awards.

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