Nineteen years ago in the Harbor of Refuge (located in the Chesapeake and Delaware canal), my father rushed my seven-month-pregnant mother ashore from a sailboat so that I could be born.

But I made them wait.

They were able to return to Maine for two months so I could be born in the Pine Tree State. Tomorrow I will head out for that very same harbor where I almost entered the world as a tiny, helpless sailor. But this time I will return to it as an independent sailor on my very own boat.

This past week I celebrated Halloween in New York City, watched the marathon, visited with old friends, had my wisdom teeth removed, turned 19, and was finally reunited with my first mate Elli. It was a full couple of days. The wisdom teeth were the only unpleasant part of my visit and with so much going on I hardly even notice the leftover soreness.

My mother came to New York for my birthday and to bring Elli back. Together we sailed down the entire New Jersey shoreline in about 20 hours in one long, windy, cold, yet satisfying haul. Mom has returned to work now, and left me alone with my dog.

Elli the three-legged pooch is adapting remarkable well. She can climb down into the boat, but not back out onto the deck. She can run fast and still likes to explore, but has trouble with tight maneuvering and balancing.

I feel a little guilty making her rehabilitation harder by keeping her on a boat, a small space in constant motion. My parents often tell the story of how I first learned to walk on the rocking boat, and how I was baffled by the stillness and solidity of the ground when I walked on the earth. It reminds me of Elli’s challenge. Although I know its easier for her on land, we are both much happier in each other’s company so I feel I am doing the right thing. Her return was, by far, my favorite birthday present.

During the past couple of weeks I have met a number of young sailors setting out just like I am. There is something about meeting a person with your same passion, something that I have trouble describing: perhaps a feeling of validation or comfort? Whatever it is, I count myself lucky to meet people like this.

I met Caroline and Rob, a couple who met, fell in love, bought a project boat, and are preparing to sail it around the world. I met Kevin, a fellow solo sailor who finally quit his job and is pursuing his dream of life on the deep blue sea.

These driven, inspiring, interesting people give me confidence in myself and show me that you can live a somewhat normal-ish life on a sailboat. We gather in groups and talk of our love of the sea and wonder how others can live so far from the powerful pull of the salt water. We call those living in the warm comfort of their homes silly, and say we’re on the right track as we shiver at night and live in damp salty clothes, always victim to the whims of nature.