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Chicken Tacos and Compact Spaces

Laughing Goat galley, looking aft.

 

I'm excited that I've been invited to the American Yacht Club in Rye, New York, to talk about Holding Fast on May 19th. While searching for photographs to accompany the talk, I found a picture of Laughing Goat's galley, above, looking aft, to the rear of the boat. On the left, the companionway stairs leads up to the cockpit and in the middle, you can see a bit of the aft cabin where John and I slept. We had just bought the boat so there are no personal touches in the galley yet like the big plastic container of Milk Bones for Elmo, our Portuguese water dog, or coffee mugs on the shelf above the sink.

 

I remember making chicken tacos when we were in Isla Mujeres with fresh roasted chicken and tortillas from a little shop in town while delectable smells filled the boat, and my excitement to have a real closet (the hanging locker in the aft cabin), not realizing that in addition to our clothes, we'd also store the giant sump pump and hose. I remember John and Kate laughing in the cockpit while I was cooking, and I'd pop my head out the door to see why, while watching plates slide on the counter in the waves, but not fall off because the fiddle at the edge held them in place.

 

Everything on the boat had a reason for being, and often, multiple uses. The boat only felt small when rain trapped us inside too long and we got "cabin fever." Laughing Goat's  compact, glowing space expanded my world so much.

 

New York and Connecticut friends, if you belong to the American Yacht Club, or know someone who does, I'd love to see you there on May 19th at 6:30pm!

 

Coming up in June, I'll be interviewed on Between the Covers TV Show. Taping is on June 13th, and the show will be aired beginning on June 22nd.

 

Read more about the boat in my memoir Holding Fast which outlines the sailing journey I took with my husband and daughter.
Holding Fast: A Memoir of Sailing, Love, and Loss

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Sailing Marriage, with all the Highs and Lows of Pitching Seas

John and Susan's marriage aboard Phaedrus, Stamford Harbor, Connecticut, 1978

 

 

John and I got married in 1978 on Phaedrus, a 50-ton Norwegian sailboat that was almost too heavy to sail, in the harbor at Stamford, Connecticut, where we lived aboard at the time. The boat had a nine-foot draft and on our wedding day, we ran aground on the edge of the channel. John hurried below, changed into his Speedo, and dove overboard to see if he could figure a way to get us off, but we were stuck hard aground. 

 

We held the ceremony there. It was a great harbinger of the years to come: follow our hearts, and when things don't go our way, deal with it the best way we can.

 

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I'm thrilled to share a terrific review from Julia Jones of Yachting Monthly that came out today:

 

A sailing marriage, with all the highs and lows of pitching seas.

 

This is the record of a marriage more than an account of a cruise; yet sailing couples will understand how the two become intertwined.

Susan met her husband John in 1969 when they were both working in a creative, hippy-ish company in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Their backgrounds were quite different: John having sailed since the age of four and having spent significant periods of his life in Africa.

Susan from a landlocked Jewish immigrant family in Ohio. Both were then married to other people.

Susan tells the story of their first 15 years as liveaboards in Long Island Sound, rowing ashore in the mornings to change into business clothes in the bushes.

Anyone who has grappled with the dying years of ancient wooden boats will know from the day their transom fell off on their first outing, that weeks, months, years of joint hard work is only postponing the inevitable.

Their first home – a 1903 former ferry boat – sunk and they lost everything... Read more

 

I hope that you're all enjoying gorgeous spring weather, as we are today in New Orleans!

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Freezing on Chesapeake Bay

John, Kate, and Elmo freezing on Chesapeake Bay on the way from Connecticut to Florida.

 

 

We moved aboard Laughing Goat in Annapolis after John, Cliff (a hired captain), and my nephew sailed Laughing Goat down from Connecticut, where we lived. Though John had wanted me to come, I had never sailed overnight, much less in the pitch-black Atlantic Ocean, and was terrified; neither had John, and I liked the idea of John experiencing the terror first, so he could show me the way. John believed that a little experience was all we needed to conquer our fears. I stayed home in Connecticut to pack.

 

In Annapolis, we spent a month preparing the boat for the voyage in increasingly cold weather. Kate had become so bored that she began pointing out houses we could buy and schools she could attend. I invented landside tasks I absolutely had to finish before leaving; though I hadn't succeeded in clinging to my home and garden in Connecticut, I did my best to hang onto a port and town I liked. When we finally bit the bullet, a phrase John used often, and left the dock, it felt like the real start to the voyage. Bundled up on a crisp winter day, we set out in high spirits, and took in the wondrous charms of Chesapeake Bay.

 

I can do this, I thought.

 

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I'm excited that excerpts from Laughing Goat will be published in Blue Water Sailing and reach a wide sailing audience. I sent all the photos in on deadline last week, and will keep you posted on publication dates.

 

I'm very pleased to have been invited to the American Yacht Club in Rye, New York, to participate in their Speaker Series. I will be there on May 19th for a talk and book-signing. The yacht club is located near the harbor where John and I first lived aboard XL, an old, sinking ferryboat. 

 

In June, I will be taping Between the Covers TV Show  to air on June 22nd. It's an author interview in which the audience can ask questions. I'll post when I have more details.

 

Please take a moment to review Holding Fast on Amazon, if you haven't yet:

 

Amazon

 

Happy spring!

 

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St. Anne Parade and Red Velvet Cake

St. Anne Parade, Mardi Gras, New Orleans, March 1, 2022

I didn't realize until I moved to New Orleans that Mardi Gras isn't over in just one day. Parades, balls, king cakes, and snarled traffic take over New Orleans for two weeks. Many of the parades are breathtaking with gorgeous floats, a kaleidoscope of colors and smoke and fabulously dressed riders,  like Smoking Mary, an iridescent float train about six cars long in the Orpheus Parade. 

 

St. Anne is the people's parade on Fat Tuesday, the last day of Mardi Gras season. Anyone can join, unlike the more elaborate parades where you have to be a member of a sponsoring krewe. Some people work all year sewing costumes, but others just throw something together. Family and friend groups come up with themes--snarkily decorated boxes over their heads exemplifying quarantine, or a family dressed as roller derby skaters, the Nola Rollas. The red-velvet-cake couple in the photo above were behind a woman covered in soda cans and beside a couple dressed as sunflowers. After days of fancier, pre-planned parades, it's a joy to mingle together on the street. It also has an interesting history.

 

There was an especially mellow spirit in the air this year with people thankful to be able to celebrate after the unthinkable occurred in 2021 and Mardi Gras was cancelled. Mardi Gras has a new story every time you go out and St. Anne Parade is really special.

 

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I had a great time last week as the guest author at a memoir class at Simon Fraser University Writers Studio in Vancouver, British Columbia. The students asked great questions like how much I wrote during the sailing voyage, and what my revision process was like. It was also lovely to hear their work.

 

I'm excited to announce that excerpts of Holding Fast will appear in the next four issues of Blue Water Sailing along with photos, some of which have not previously been published. I'll keep you posted when it comes out!

 

If you've read the book, please review it on Amazon. It's easy to do–click the link below and scroll down the page until you see "write a customer review" and click on it. It doesn't have to be brilliant, a couple of phrases are fine!

 

Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Reluctant Spouses and Sailing Regrets

Southern Yacht Club, New Orleans

I really enjoyed talking about Holding Fast to an interested audience of sailors the other night at the Southern Yacht Club, including couples who were hoping to take off cruising themselves one day, and women who sailed and raced their own boats. They had great questions, such as whether, as the spouse of a lifelong sailor who agreed reluctantly to the voyage, I regretted going. 

 

When John and I first lived on an old, leaky Fire Island ferryboat in our twenties and I told people that I'd never been on the water before I met John, they were surprised and puzzled as to why I would agree to live in a chilly New England harbor with only a Franklin stove for heat and few amenities. Surely, part of it was the power of new love, but it was also the adventure, taking a leap to something so different and romantic. When we sailed off on Laughing Goat, I hated leaving my secure life in Connecticut and was terrified of sailing out of sight of land. I was excited, though, to set out into the unknown with two people whom I loved; and for John to live out his dream.

 

I would regret if I hadn't said yes. 

 

I was thrilled to meet women in the audience who were sailing and racing on their own, part of an active group of women sailors in New Orleans. When we were on our voyage, it took my breath away whenever I met a woman sailing single-handed, making her way solo around the world. I didn't have the fortitude or sailing skills for that, but I'm glad that I took the leap I did. 

 

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Holding Fast Goes International

Holding Fast arrives at Between the Lines bookstore in Merida.

I met David in a Dunkin' Donuts parking lot on Veterans Highway in Metairie, about twenty minutes from my home in New Orleans. He had been kind and game enough to answer my plea in an expat Facebook group for someone willing to take a few books between New Orleans and Merida, Mexico. As trucks whizzed by on the highway, I slipped him a ziploc package of books while looking over my shoulder, imagining a narcotics squad about to nab us.

 

This all started when a Merida friend said she wanted to buy my book but couldn't bring herself to purchase it from Amazon. John and I lived in Merida during what turned out to be his last year. She suggested Between the Lines, a wonderful bookstore in Merida. Shipping costs to Mexico are prohibitive, and I'd already had the experience there of Christmas cards arriving in April and packages held in obscure customs offices for months.

 

Thank you, David, all the others who offered to take the book, and Between the Lines, where it will now be available! During the process of putting Holding Fast out into the world, I've been continually amazed by your generosity, and hope to pay it forward.

 

Please keep the reviews coming on Amazon!

 

Amazon

 

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Wishing y'all a splendid day!

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In With the New, Not Quite Out With the Old

The wall next to my writing desk, New Orleans

I finished writing Holding Fast a year ago. It's hard to believe how much has happened since, from publication in October to book-signings in favorite bookstores to a feature in the Times-Picayune, the New Orleans newspaper; not to mention connecting with so many readers, which has been awesome. While I was writing, post-it notes covered the wall next to my writing desk: ideas for scenes, inspirational quotes, themes. As I begin work on my next book, two notes from Holding Fast remain.

 

It took some  years, and many writing workshops, before I understood that a main theme of the book was leaving conventional life behind. Once I put that note up, it never came down. If whatever I wrote didn't pertain to it, it couldn't be in the book.

 

Jerry Saltz, in How to Be an Artist, says "Find your own voice. Then exaggerate it."(p. 49). When I asked a writer friend for feedback on the initial draft of Holding Fast, she said, "I want to see more of you in there." At the time, John, Kate, and I were living in Florida. We had enrolled Kate in a regular school, and Kate and I would have the "normal" lives we craved after three years on the water. We had a pretty house in a suburban community with a vibrant downtown and a gorgeous white sand beach on the Atlantic Ocean.

 

Yet I was miserable. I was away from family and friends (John didn't want to return to the Northeast). I had little in common with the neighbors and hated the locked gates of our development clicking behind me each time I drove in. I cried each night. While writing, I imagined myself on a rosy version of Laughing Goat sailing in ever-sunny seas. I wasn't sure what my friend meant about putting more of myself in.

 

I gained more insight as time passed and eventually, I was able to reflect back, to find my own voice. I love Saltz' notion of exaggerating it: for those of us who come late to expressing ourselves, what seems like exaggeration is most likely simply an acknowledgement of truths already there. It was hard work but has opened up my life up in ways I could not have imagined, for which I'm grateful. 

 

Finally, if you've read the book and haven't left a review, please do so. It helps with Amazon's algorithms. Simply click below, and scroll down the page to "write a customer review." One sentence or a couple phrases are fine!

 

Amazon

 

I also wanted to let you know about a wonderful new website, Shepherd, which Ben Fox started and as he says, is like wandering around your favorite bookstore but reimagined for the online world... along with notes from authors pointing out their favorite books. Here is a link to my page, where you can also buy my book!

 
Shepherd

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On We Go

Coffee Cup 2019, created by Betsy Lody

 

 

The blue cup above is a treasured Christmas gift from a potter friend. John, my husband, passed away in 2016, and I moved to New Orleans soon after that. When I got home from a Christmas lunch in 2018 and opened my friend's gift, I was stunned. I had shared sailing stories with the group over the years, including John's mantra, "On we go!" as we sailed through squalls, made our way through reefs, and pressed on even when it got rough and we were miserable. Seeing the cup, I gasped, sobbed, and smiled. It was perfect, reminding me of love and tenacity. 

 

Holiday gifts used to fill me with dread. My mother once gave me a Chanukah card with an article folded inside about children who didn't visit their parents enough. On my 25th birthday, after I had started a new life with John, madly in love and living on a ferry boat, she sent an old gray bathroom rug with a ragged hole cut in the center, and suggested I wear it as a poncho.

 

I'm so grateful for the love and support of the people in my life now, and for the outpouring of support from readers. This year, I got a new grandson and the book I had worked on for so long was published. Years ago, I could never have imagined that my life would take these wonderful turns.

 

This year, I'm spending the holidays with my daughter in Vancouver, Washington, and delighting in my eleven-month-old grandson. All of his grandparents will be here (John's here in spirit) and he will be awash in love, as it should be. 

 

Holidays can be difficult, especially after loss, but they also bring the opportunity to acknowledge the wonders in your life. I wish you all a serene, loving, joyful holiday. On we go!

 

 

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Celebrating Unicorns, Friendship and Surprising Yourself

Celebration in the Oaks, City Park, New Orleans, December, 2021

During the holiday season, New Orleans' City Park lights up with unicorns, Santas, peacocks, fleur-de-lis, and other festive decorations like the steamboat above, a replica of one that plies the Mississippi River. I'm heading to the Pacific Northwest next week to visit my daughter Kate and her family for Christmas and enjoying a few Christmas traditions here before leaving. 

 

One tradition I love is going out with a group of close friends for a holiday lunch. We met shortly after I arrived in New Orleans five years ago and sometime after that, a few of us formed the Anarchist Book Club. Our friendship grew and we took road trips to Montgomery, Alabama, to see the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, and to the beach. One of us passed away this year from cancer. On the way to visit her in a hospital in Houston, we stopped for gas at a truck stop and bought her a glowing doll that that eerily transformed from Jesus into Mary and whose eyes seemed to follow you; it was just right for our spiritual, irreverent friend. I've never particularly seen myself as a badass, but with this group of women, I have surprised myself.

 

Writing my book has led me to surprise myself in other ways, too. Managing my time and working towards a goal have not been areas in which I've excelled in the past. Nearly three years ago, I urgently desired to finish this book that I had been working on for so long. My husband John had passed away a couple of years earlier. One night out at dinner with Kate and my son-in-law Alex, I expressed my frustrations. Alex is an entrepreneur, the CEO of a company of engineers, a terrific manager, and he offered to be my accountability person. We've worked together on it now for almost three years, making goal after goal, though I certainly have a ways to go. We have become personally closer, too, which means a lot to me. As he said the other night, "Not many mothers-and-sons-in-law could do this successfully!"

 

The holiday season brings out other feelings, too, like how much I miss John. I'm coming to accept that the sadness I often feel at this time of year is simply a part of the season for me.

 

Before signing off, a couple of bits of business:

 

If you have not yet reviewed Holding Fast on Amazon, please review it! It helps tremendously with Amazon's algorithms. It's easy to do by clicking below, and scrolling down the page to the customer review section:

 

Amazon

 

A number of people have mentioned that they are giving Holding Fast as Christmas presents. If you are doing that, or would like to, I would love to send you a thank-you postcard. Please email me a copy of the receipt and your mailing address to my email address, susan@susan-cole.com.

 

I'm very grateful this year for all of you, and wish you a holiday and a year full of joy, peace and good health. I'd love to hear from you in the comments below if there's anything you want to share about this time of year.

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The Curious Incident of the Foot in the Night

Susan at Garden District Books November 17th

I had a great time at Garden District Books the other night reading from Holding Fast. The Q & A was really fun, with questions like: how did I handle not having a fixed address given my need for stability? what was my most frightening moment? what did Kate think of the voyage then and now? My favorite part of the book being published is connecting with readers.

 

The day Holding Fast was published, October 19th, I floated home from the launch party. I had accomplished something that I had wanted very much. In my early life, after my father passed away, I stopped dreaming for myself; it was too painful, reminding me of how much he had loved and encouraged me. When I got together with John in my twenties, he dreamed of sailing away. He kept following that dream, and eventually, in our late forties, we sailed off on Laughing Goat with Kate. John's tenacity made a dream happen and his example showed me the way.

 

I woke up during the night after the launch party and my left foot was throbbing and sore. The sensation reminded me of cartoons where a character's heart throbs outside the body, ba-boom, ba-boom. For the next couple of weeks, I couldn't put my full weight on that foot and I stepped gingerly. The sensation continued until the day after the reading at Garden District when I got a massage. The masseuse had studied Eastern techniques and told me that the aching spot was linked to the heart. 

 

My heart is with John on Laughing Goat, on our last boat, Smooch, on all the earlier boats. Our wild adventures were filled with hope and possibility. I'm grateful that I've had the opportunity to share the experience in Holding Fast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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