Megan Mayhew Bergman is an award-winning journalist, author, and new owner of a Ranger Tug R-23. She’s excited to share her lifelong dream of boat ownership, along with the new adventures and challenges aboard the Night Heron. Find out more about Megan and her writings on her website, http://www.mayhewbergman.com/.
“Storms Never Last” by Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter lodges itself in my head often, particularly this line: “and the clouds brewing now won’t be the last.”
My first week aboard my R-23 Night Heron, I weathered a strong southern storm with wind gusts of up to 60 miles per hour. As the winds rose, I checked my dock lines and bumper placement obsessively, and I did what I’ve learned is the best solution to most problems - I asked for help. From boaters nearby and online, and from a friend who was once in the Navy.
The next morning another boater came over to check on me. “Welcome to boating,” he said, a gleam in his eye.
Experienced boaters have said this to me several times now. It reminds me of the years when I was a young mother. Other mothers would glance at me with the same look and tone, implying that the undertaking of child-rearing was somehow brutal, maddening, and completely worth it.
Boating so far has been both maddening and completely worth it. I share this only because there may be other aspiring boaters - particularly women - who might hear stories or look at possible challenges and be dissuaded from making the leap to boat ownership.
My first week aboard, I was having coffee with an experienced captain. “It’s not if you’re going to run aground on a sandbar here,” he said. “It’s when.” Somehow, his admission made me feel better. If experienced boaters were still running into sandbars and clipping the dock, could I take the pressure off of myself? I realized not only could I lower my expectations - I’d have to.
Several storms have already come forth in my boating life. Some are small, like shallow water alarms screaming into the middle of the night, docking awkwardly with people watching, cleaning pollen out of crevices, patching scars on the boat’s hull, and trailering the boat on a highway in New Jersey.
Some storms have been more substantial. On our first long trip - from Beaufort, North Carolina to Oriental, North Carolina - our engine started beeping and wouldn’t stop. We were several hours away from our home marina with children on board. (Also, who wants to be the boat cruising around in the quiet harbor with the loud, incessant beep?) Luckily we got someone at Ranger Tugs on the phone within minutes and figured out the root cause - a simple reminder for an oil change. (Thanks, guys.)
I’ve come around to the fact that I’m going to lack skill and polish for a while in my boating life. Establishing my writing life was similar. The radio host Ira Glass talks about the enormous gulf between where we want to be as artists, and where we actually are. Mastery takes time and repetition, and I’m trying to allow for that in my boating life. This is an artful way of telling you: I am still afraid of docking.
A lot of aspiring writers I know wait for the perfect time to write a book. The trick is that there is no “right time.” For me, learning a boat is the same way. I have to make the time - and from what I’ve experienced, time and repetition yield the best results. Furthermore, the problems have been insignificant compared with the joys: realizing an old dream, working on a book in a quiet harbor, being out on the water during the golden hour, and spending time with my family in a meaningful new way.
When I was first dealing with long book tours or critical responses to my first book, I told myself - these are the problems you always wanted to have. I am repeating that now about my boat, and can admit that, like writing, there is joy and pride in being able to face them.