Selling My Sailboat
About a month ago, I was absolutely sure that I was about to move back to Austria. This time, not as a student or as a teacher, but as a worker. My recent dive back into the world web development had led to me accepting a job offer for a full-stack developer position at a real estate finance startup in Vienna. The pay was good, the work seemed interesting, and most important of all, they were willing to sponsor a work visa that would allow me to move back to the only city in the world that I‘ve ever really connected with. I was ready to lay aside more than a year of near-aimless rambling and adventure and once again don the yoke of social and financial stability. After accepting the job offer and beginning to negotiate an official start date, I turned my attention to the most pressing pre-departure issue: what to do with my sailboat?
The boat—and I’m sorry, but I’m going to refer to her with feminine pronouns in this post—which was winterized and floating in her Maryland slip on the Chesapeake Bay, eagerly awaited my springtime return. As far she knew, my plans to give her a new coat of bottom paint, install solar panels over the cockpit, and replace her torn and worn-out mainsail were all still active and valid. How was I going to break it to her that not only would she not be receiving these much-needed updates, but that I would likely need to part ways with her as the realignment of my inclinations and interests brought me back to land-locked Central Europe, thousands of miles away?
In the weeks that followed, I weighed my options. Perhaps I could keep the boat, as a kind of floating summer cottage for when I visit. Perhaps I could get a friend to take care of her. Should I make the improvements, sail her around for one more season, and then sell her when I move to Austria in the fall? Or should I simply sell the boat as-is, at a slight loss, and spend the spring and summer a free and untethered man?
And then, once again, Austrian bureaucracy shattered my trust. Right as I had come to the decision to sell the boat, about two weeks after accepting this job, I received an email from the team member who had extended me the offer, informing me that they unfortunately needed to withdraw it. Along with a recent round of funding came an advisory board, and my qualifications and (I suspect) my non-EU-citizenship status had apparently run afoul of their newly-heightened expectations. I was disappointed, of course, and even though I quickly applied to several other jobs in Vienna in an vain attempt to maintain a grasp on my plans, something about the whole situation left a sour taste in my mouth. I kept returning to the thought that perhaps my nascent desire for some kind of stability would not best be nurtured in a country so seemingly dead-set on not having me back.
In any event, I was back to being a free agent, but the desire to sell the boat remained. It was a decision that, once made, solidified in my mind and became irreversible. After the Austria plan collapsed, I wasn‘t sure what I was going to do in the long term, but whatever that would turn out to be, it didn‘t seem like a sailboat on the western shore of Maryland would fit into the picture.
And so, immediately after arriving in Ohio to stay with my father and brother for a couple of days, I set to work selling the boat. I made an extensive listing on both Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace, offering the boat at an attractive price so that I would be sure to sell it quickly. Within 24 hours of listing the vessel, my inbox was overflowing with offers and inquiries. I spent a good deal of the following week sorting through these, talking on the phone, negotiating. I received every kind of offer you can imagine. One man even offered to pay double the asking price if I drove the 8 hours out to Maryland myself and demonstrated that the motor was in working condition. I was suspicious, but after speaking with him on the phone several times and ascertaining that the reason for his generous offer was an emotional connection to exactly this model of boat, which he had grown up racing as a child, I decided to take the risk and drive out to the marina. In either case, it would give me an opportunity to say goodbye to the boat in person.
In the end, of course, the offer turned out to be „too good to be true,“ and the man walked away without purchasing the boat. Luckily I was able to sell it shortly afterwards—at normal asking price—to a couple from Pennsylvania. It made me happy to see their smiles after we signed the documents and I was simultaneously embarrassed and tickled to be reminded of that oft-quoted chestnut of boat ownership and its highlights.
The Bierfeldt Boys
One of the real joys of the last few weeks has been living in my father‘s suburban apartment with him, myself, and William, my almost-fourteen-year-old brother. Three generations of Bierfeldt boys, all enjoying our bachelorhood together.
Weekday mornings, my father would leave the house around 5:00 a.m. to go to work. William would wake up shortly after and get on the bus to go to school. I would sit at home and work on my computer until around 2:30 p.m., when both of them would return home. We‘d eat lunch, talk about plans or errands, and then split off into our respective evening activities. William would have some kind of sports practice, my father would go to a shuffleboard tournament, and I would go to the local recreation center to run a few miles around the track and lift weights. Afterwards, we‘d cook something together, watch Jeopardy!, and then I would subject both of them to some slow-moving, subtitled specimens of European cinema. My father may have succeeded with his second son where he failed with me, in raising him to be a sports-aficionado, but that‘s not going to stop me from bringing some Alice Rohrwacher into his life as a cultural counter-balance.
Although superficially lacking the excitement and glamour of many of my recent travels, this week with my family was just what I needed. Being able to live together again under the same roof, even for a short time, was a real treat. Sure, I slept on the couch a few nights, but I was able to work, run errands, eat clean, visit with other family and friends in the area, really push my running pace, and begin to prepare for an exciting next few months of travel and exploration. All while engaging in a continuous, fertile cultural exchange with my brother, who taught me that you are supposed to like all TikTok videos you see, regardless of whether or not you actually like them. „It‘s just what you do.“ Who knew?
Bahamas or Bust
As I am writing this post, I‘m sitting on a Greyhound bus bound for Cincinatti, Ohio. If you know me at all, I‘ve probably spoken to you at great length of my love of bus travel in the U.S. Seriously, there is just nothing like it. It has taken me almost the entire five hours to write this short blog post because I cannot help but eavesdrop on all of the wild conversations happening around me. Reflecting on it now, I think that part of my inspiration to learn different languages comes from how much time I‘ve spent on busses, wishing I could understand what people around me are saying. (Being able to understand some Pennsylvania Dutch is highly-recommended if you‘ll be traveling by bus in America‘s interior.) I know this sounds unbelievably trite to write at this point, but there‘s just something refreshing and inspiring about putting people of insanely different backgrounds together on a bus and watching everyone find some kind of common ground together, even if that is just complaining about having to watch the bus safety video anew every single time a new group of passengers boards. Sure, nobody wants to sit next to each other at first, but once the bus fills up, almost everyone is engaged in some kind of pleasant conversation with their neighbors. Mine is currently sleeping and I‘m hoping to finish this before he wakes up and we continue our discourse on the various merits and demerits of different bus companies.
In Cincinatti, I‘m meeting up with Jacob, and the two of us will fly together to Georgetown in The Bahamas, where our good friend Chris will be waiting for us, cocktail in hand. Long time readers of this blog will remember Chris as my marina neighbor who, along with teaching me so much about sailing and sailboat maintenance, has also bore witness to almost every stupid thing that Jacob or I have done anywhere near a sailboat. He and his family sailed their 44-foot Mason down to The Bahamas last winter, homeschooling their kids and exploring along the way. Now, it‘s time to return the boat to its slip in Maryland, and Chris has called on me and Jacob to help him sail back north.
Jacob has been feverishly preparing and packing for this trip for weeks. He found the absolute limit of how many 3-oz tubes of 70+SPF sunscreen he can fit into a carry-on bag, alongside the gear necessary to survive an arctic blizzard as well as something called a „sun hoodie.“ I‘m relying more on the fact that a family of four has lived full-time on this boat for almost a year and that everything we might need is probably already there. I did pick up a pair of Crocs on the recommendation of my friend Bobchris, who was recently sailing in the Bahamas, and after seeing how absolutely chimba they looked on my friend Alen after reading his newsletter.
We arrive on Wednesday of this week and should hopefully, weather-permitting, be back in Maryland by the beginning of May. Jacob and I both have to return to work around then, so if we don‘t make it all the way to Maryland, we might have to jump ship at some other port city along the coast.
If you want to follow our progress, you can do so via this link!