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Lots of boats come to Oriental, some tie up at the Town Dock for a night or two, others drop anchor in the harbor for a while. If you've spent any time on the water you know that every boat has a story. The Shipping News on TownDock.net brings you the stories of the boats that have visited recently.

Solo Cruiser Emily Greenberg
Life aboard SV Søhund
August 17, 2020

mily Greenberg says she wants to make people see that sailing should be affordable for all. She calls her approach “bare-bones budget coastal cruising” and fights against what she calls the “marine industrial complex.” She bought her 1978 Great Dane 28 Søhund for $4,000. Built in Denmark, the name means Seadog.

“Nothing is more complex than keeping it simple,” she says, often.

A blond woman with dreadlocks and wearing glasses stands on the deck of her sailboat
Emily and Søhund in Oriental’s harbor.

The 30 year-old Emily arrived in Oriental with Sean D’Epagnier in February. Not long into their stay, Sean bought a new boat – a trimaran called Senior Moment – and Søhund was once again a one person vessel.

Emily wears her activism openly. You might have spotted her – she wears dread-locks, five years in the making. In Oriental’s harbor, where she lived for several months, her boat displayed a Black Lives Matter sign – perhaps, at the time, the only one posted in town.

A Black Lives Matter sign on the stern of a blue boat called Søhund. Emily smiles and waves from the companionway.
Activism in the harbor.

“I admire people who cross oceans, but I don’t have a boat that can. What interests me is being closest possible to the wilderness. Anxiety has a place out there.”

She doesn’t claim to be an expert sailor, but says she is learning and the Pamlico Sound is the perfect place for practice.

Two plants are planted in a plastic box. The box sits on the deck of the boat next to Emily's feet.
Emily doesn’t keep many plants aboard; they require too much water.

“I’m not out in the ocean doing solo trips YET,” Emily said, “but that is my goal.” She was in the harbor strengthening her boat to solo-sail along the Intracoastal Waterway to the Potomac, finish working on her boat during hurricane season, and write.

She survives from her blog and writing for sailing magazines.

“I only buy boat parts, food and herbs,” she said, but had to give away her own plants because she couldn’t waste water stored on-board for them. When she’s not repairing her boat, she writes songs for her ukulele and makes vegan herbal remedies for skin care and general wellness.

“This past winter I stuck close to shore, sailing through the Dismal Swamp canal, visiting Elizabeth City, Ocracoke, Little Washington, and Oriental where I stayed for 2 months. All the time waiting for good weather to keep working on the boat, and sailing a partner and an engineless boat,” she said. Her on-and-off love interest and partner is Sean D’Epagnier who also anchored in the harbor and is known for circumnavigating on an engineless boat.

“Oriental is part of a dying breed of free places to park and dinghy and anchor. There are very few places left on the East Coast where you can anchor out and come ashore for free.”

Emily sits in the companionway, cradling a ukulele.Three jars and a blue notebook are on a bench. Inside the jars are herbs soaking in liquid.Inside the cabin, Emily kneels on yoga mats are laid out on top of the berth. Netting hangs from the ceiling, holding fresh produce.
Emily at home on Søhund

Born on Long Island, she has a degree in journalism and has held several jobs, including waiting tables, making wine in New Zealand and volunteering for Greenpeace. At age 23, she was living with a community of fishermen and sailers. She was offered the chance to crew the Tasman Sea, crossing Tonga to New Zealand.

“I’ve been trying to get back there [to the open ocean], ever since.”

At 26, she bought her first boat and moved into a boatyard on Lake Champlain, on a Bristol 24’ with a “bicycle, a dinghy and a hammer.”

Emily kneels on the deck, one hand on the turnbuckle, the other on the chain plate where the rigging attaches
Emily has made several repairs to Søhund, including replacing some of the chain plates.

Then she sold the Bristol for a Pearson Ariel 26’ named Vanupied, or, “Vanu” for short.

“Whomever tells you fiberglass can’t rot is wrong,” she said. “It was rotten.” She bought it from a friend who didn’t realize it was rotten, fixed it up and sailed down the Hudson River into the Atlantic, along the NJ coast, Chesapeake/Delaware Canal to the Intracoastal Waterway and Florida Keys.

“I felt totally free and happy — closest yet to the passage in Tongas.”

But it was short-lived, she says, as soon as she realized the limitations of the boat. It had a sinking mast, needed new rigging, bulk-heads rotted and no safety equipment. Emily sold Vanu because it needed too much work to become open-sea-worthy—the ultimate goal.

Emily chops up wood with a rusty hatchet.
March nights were cool. Emily harvested and chopped fuel for her wood-burning stove.

“I learn as I go, fix the obvious stuff, read the internet, and learned to take everyone’s advice with a grain of salt. You can basically learn everything from the internet and the boatyard.”

But she has grown weary of talking to people. The only time being a woman has been a problem, she says, is when dealing with men on boats who “want to help” but, instead, try to take advantage of her.

“I’m like a dog guarding my space, I’ve become a loner,” she said. “There are select few people I trust on my boat.”

Emily leans over the stern of her sailboat and looks at her dinghy. The word Loner is painted on the stern.
Loner is Emily’s hand-built dinghy.

In fact, Loner is the name of her one-person dinghy she built by hand.

“All of this, it’s like trying to rebuild a house, but it can sink.”

Using a tall-ship method, she redid rigging using galvanized wire. She painted it three times, and used tar, twine and tape.

A picture of rigging line made of galvanized wire that has been painted, wrapped in twine and tarred.
Emily redid the rigging on Søhund using galvanized wire, paint, twine, and tar.

She replaced several chain plates with bronze as DIY (with the help of Sean), completely rebuilt cockpit coamings using fiberglass and plywood, refit and refinished the cockpit to be water tight, added a small two HP outboard engine for canals and a mount. She also refinished the v-berth, made new cushions, and installed solar power and lithium battery made from electric bicycle battery cells.

Then, there is the navigation system and the automatic identification system (AIS) – a VHF radio antennae used to pick up the position of all commercial ships. “Which is not only free to use but free for people to edit and it’s not-for-profit. Plus the electronic gear you have to buy for it, the small raspberry pi computer and screen, is way cheaper than the traditional navigation software and electronics the industry tries to sell you,” she said.

A man and woman - Sean and Emily - are on a blue and white boat, sailing in the river.
Departing Oriental – bound for the Chesapeake.

In the next couple years, she said she would like to make it to Cuba or Mexico. “That is the dream.”

But for now, she says she fights people who tell her “you’re not going anywhere,” proving she can do it.

In June, she left the harbor with Sean, who sailed with her to Elizabeth City, NC, and biked back to his boat in Oriental while she continued to the Chesapeake solo.

“When I’m old, I hope I’m a salty sea-hag telling the young kids how to do it right.”

Story & photos by Andrea Bruce

Posted Monday August 17, 2020 by Allison DeWeese

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