Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Courage to Head to Sea

62 days and counting 'til we cast off the dock lines... Thought I would share what I consider to be one of the most powerful poems ever written in the English language. It was penned in 1904 by British poet Robert William Service. I have returned to it again and again over the years when I've needed inspiration and encouragement to get out there and live -- or in this case, when I an fostering the courage to head to sea.

The Call of the Wild

Have you gazed on naked grandeur where there's nothing else to gaze on,
Set pieces and drop-curtain scenes galore,
Big mountains heaved to heaven, which the blinding sunsets blaze on,
Black canyons where the rapids rip and roar?
Have you swept the visioned valley with the green stream streaking through it,
Searched the Vastness for a something you have lost?
Have you strung your soul to silence? Then for God's sake go and do it;
Hear the challenge, learn the lesson, pay the cost.

Have you wandered in the wilderness, the sagebrush desolation,
The bunch-grass levels where the cattle graze?
Have you whistled bits of rag-time at the end of all creation,
And learned to know the desert's little ways?
Have you camped upon the foothills, have you galloped o'er the ranges,
Have you roamed the arid sun-lands through and through?
Have you chummed up with the mesa? Do you know it's moods and changes?
Then listen to the Wild -- it's calling you.

Have you known the Great White Silence, not a snow-gemmed twig aquiver?
(Eternal truths that shame our soothing lies.)
Have you broken trail on snowshoes? Mushed your huskies up the river,
Dared the unknown, led the way, and clutched the prize?
Have you marked the map's void spaces, mingled with the mongrel races,
Felt the savage strength of brute in every thew?
And though grim as hell the worst is, can you round it off with curses?
Then hearken to the Wild -- it's wanting you.

Have you suffered, starved and triumphed, groveled down, yet grasped at glory,
Grown bigger in the bigness of the whole?
"Done things" just for the doing, letting babblers tell the story,
Seeing through the nice veneer the naked soul?
Have you seen God in His splendors, heart the text that nature renders?
(You'll never hear it in the family pew.)
The simple things, the true things, the silent men who do things --
Then listen to the Wild -- It's calling you.

They have cradled you in custom, they have primed you with their preaching,
They have soaked you in convention through and through;
They have put you in a showcase; you're a credit to their teaching --
But can't you hear the Wild? -- It's calling you.
Let us probe the silent places, let us seek what luck betides us;
Let us journey to a lonely land I know.
There's a whisper on the night-wind, there's a star agleam to guide us,
And the Wild is calling, calling...let us go.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Through a Glass, Darkly...

Recently we sailed to Catalina Island for the weekend with several of my husband's family members. Relaxing after a meal, I was discussing our upcoming Central American and South Pacific voyage plans with my brother-in-law Michael. After a few minutes of conversation, Michael turned to me and said:

 "You know, you don't seem very excited about this trip."

I laughed. I knew exactly what he meant. The question is, what is the proper attitude one should have as the departure date looms larger and larger for a 2 1/2 year sailing trip? Excitement? Yes. Anticipation of the potential problems? I would hope so. Gratitude? Of course. Concern for all of the unknowns, including homesickness, weather at sea, will our money last? Yep. Over-the-top childlike giddiness at the thought that My God, we are actually going to DO this thing? Oh yeah. Wondering if we aree truly prepared, are we up to the task...I mean really, who do we think we ARE to even attempt such a voyage? Check.

Of course my emotions are all over the map as 11/1/11 looms closer and closer. I have no illusions that it will be nothing but days and days of lounging in the sun reading dog-eared paperbacks gleaned from the cruisers book exchange at whatever corner of paradise we find ourselves. We will have these days, yes...but I don't spend time thinking about them. I spend my time pondering, well, everything else. We can talk to other sailors, read books and cruising guides, but the bottom line is we won't know what it is like until we experience it. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13: "We see through a glass, darkly..." This says it all for me. We can't know what it is like until we push through the envelope. 

That afternoon in Avalon, I took a deep sigh, thought for a moment, then explained to Michael that while of course when I let myself ponder afternoons climbing cool mossy mountain trails in Tahiti in search of hidden waterfalls leading to crystalline pools filled with warm water in which to swim -- YES, the excitement and anticipation threatens to overwhelm. 

But I stop myself before indulging much in such daydreaming. Because for Chris and I to have that Tahiti waterfall experience, we must first sail there. In a word, we must EARN that experience. We must work for it. And work it will take. Work, smarts, sacrifice, patience, teamwork, and not a little bit of good old fashioned luck. 

I explained to Michael that in my mind this is so much more than a trip or a vacation, or even a sail. It is a sojourn. A passage. It is an oddysey. It is that big. 

So there is no single word to describe my jumble of emotions as we count down the days  (63!). Well, maybe there is:


Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Best Blogger in the World

As we prepare for our big sailing adventure, keeping in some form of intermittent contact with the 'real world' will certainly be a priority -- which leads me to who is in my humble opinion "The Best Blogger in the World." 

This "Best Blogger in the World" of whom I speak is the one blogger on the planet whom I would take if I were ever trapped on that ubiquitous desert island -- and of course, in my case this scenario actually is in the realm of possibility. Trapped on a remote atoll, WiFi would certainly be limited and intermittent at best (OK, OK, there would be no WiFi, but let's suspend our disbelief, shall we?), so you wouldn't waste your precious time flitting around on Gawker or The Smoking Gun, as much as I enjoy these guiltiest of guilty pleasures. On those rare instances when you would actually have bars, and before the sad moment when the battery finally goes dead for good, the importance of the choice of where to spend your very limited and precious internet time would come into crystal clear focus.

So, after years of web surfing, my choice for "The Best Blogger in the World" goes to Scott Adams and his website.

Scott blogs every day without fail on literally every interesting or provocative question, topic or problem of the day. His intellect is simply monstrous. The man is scary-smart. The words come tumbling out of him in a torrent, as if they had been bottled up inside his brain for weeks and weeks, which you know isn't true because the last brilliant torrent was a mere 24 hours previous. He's philosophical. He's honest without being mean. He has the uncanny ability to communicate complex ideas in a concise and clear way. And, as we all know from his Dilbert cartoons, he's one of the funniest men on the planet.

Recent blog titles include: "My Bias Against Uncertainty," "Today's Life and Death Question," "Folksy Economic Wisdom," "The Benefits of Boredom" and "Uncommunication Devices," to name a few.

From a recent post: "President Obama's job approval rating is under 40%. Congress has a job approval rating of 13%. Our economy is circling the drain and all we have is a plan to make a plan - one that we know in advance will either be ridiculous or, if sensible, rejected by Congress." And another: "I read someplace that the brain needs some boredom during the day to process thoughts and generate creativity. That sounds right. My best ideas always bubble up when I'm bored. And my period of greatest creative output was during my corporate years when every meeting felt like a play date for coma patients."

Do yourself a favor and add Scott's website to your favorites list. I'm hoping at least a few shavings of his intellect and insight will rub off on me as I take advantage of the opportunity to take a peek into his very original mind.



Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Fear of flailing (technically speaking)

This week a new boat is moored in our marina. Small, simple, efficient and world-weary -- she has clearly traveled the world. We brought two Tootsie Pops as gifts and introduced ourselves.

 Faith and Cindy have been sailing the world for 12 years. They live very simply -- little or no meat, no alcohol, no marinas, rare restaurants. No beauty shops -- they cut each other's hair.  I was deeply inspired and overwhelmed with questions. What are your favorite sailing grounds? Turkey, Moorea (Tahiti), Italy and Australia.(noted!) What is your favorite cruising food? Couscous. (check!)  How do you do watches? Six hour shifts.(Wow -- not three or four? Actually, that sounds fantastic! We'll try it!)

We talked excitedly into the night, four kindred spirits sharing our hopes, dreams, experiences and cautionary tales.

Then the hubster asked about their computer system, modem and single side band.

Suddenly my eyes glazed over and my synapses ceased firing.

Here is where I must confess that I'm a technophobe of the worst kind. While I enjoy all of the benefits that my laptop, cell phone, Kindle and DVR bring me, if I lived alone I would probably end up happily residing in a single room apartment with a land line and a small TV with rabbit ears.

What frustrates me about modern technology is that no sooner have I invested hours and hours into learning how a software/hardware system functions, it either breaks down or becomes obsolete, rendering my hours of mental investment moot.

My nightmare can be expressed in four words: increasingly complex technical systems. This is feedback-loop hell to me.

So, back to Faith and Cindy, who recommended we buy a new back-up laptop for the trip -- preferrably an IBM compatible, as opposed to the Apple we currently use (YIKES! Cough, hack, where's my inhaler...). This also triggers my second major fear: financial issues. Then the hubster implies that we might be using both laptops at once during our travels.

That's it. My breaking point. I freak out. While the three of them continue their modern, rational, technical discussion of boat communication systems, in my panicked mind I have now jumped to this fictional nightmare scenario, in which we have spent every penny of our kitty before we've even left the dock, and where the hubster has maniacally built a gigantic super-computer communications center at our nav station worthy of the QE II, groaning so large it tilts our little boat gently to starboard, and rendering our solar panels woefully inadequate to charge them.

Sigh. I know I'm not alone in my fear. I realize that the answer is to understand that technology is a tool that can enrich our lives.  It is not the enemy. So, in this as in all things, I seek the middle way. We need just the right amount of technology to enrich our lives -- but no more.   Finding that sweet spot is the challenge.

The hubster, thankfully, is proficient in this area. He enjoys the challenge and certainly has the intellect and constitution to manage and maintain such a system. I trust him implicitly. Fortunately, he also has the patience when my anxiety hits to roll his eyes and smile, gently encourage me, and explain (again!) how it works and what I can do to help.

The challenge for me is to let him build it, and as with a diesel motor, I need to go outside of my comfort zone and learn how it works and how to use it, albeit at a lower level of proficiency as he.

As we bid a fond "Fair winds and following seas" to our new friends Faith and Cindy as they pull away from the millionth dock for the millionth time, I will keep these brave ladies in my heart and mind as inspiration. If Faith and Cindy can do it, then so can I? I mean, so can I!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Becoming a liveaboard

Our journey which led us to this place began 15 years ago, when Chris and I started sailing on a beat-up Hobie Cat. For our first sail, he took me for a spin in Newport Harbor where we promptly capsized and needed to be towed ashore. I was hooked! (LOL) We then bought our first boat, a Catalina 25 called "Tiger II" and sailed her close to shore along the Southern California Coast. We also began crewing on raceboats out of Newport Harbor. If you are interested in learning to sail but have no idea where to begin, go to your nearest yacht club and look for race boats which need crew.

Racing brought us offshore, to and around Catalina and the Channel Islands, as well as to Mexico in the Newport-Ensenada race. We then bought our next boat, a Catalina 30 named "Free Spirit." With her we sailed to Catalina alone for the first time. Chris later raced to Cabo San Lucas with Chuck Brewer aboard "Heartbeat." A racing teammate enlisted Chris and I to help deliver his brand new Amel 53 Super Maramu sailboat from Portugal to the Caribbean. We only made it to the Cape Verde Islands, 800 miles off the west coast of Africa. But that's another story. A few years later our friend bought another new Amel, and this time Chris helped him sail it from Portugal across the Atlantic to Guadeloupe in the Caribbean.

Finally, we upgraded to our current boat, our Newport 41 "Espiritu." The next step was to make the decision to sell our condo in Huntington Beach and move aboard. In the light of the economy, it was clear to us that this was not only the right decision for us, it was the only decision. We took the leap of faith, sold the condo and moved aboard Espiritu in San Pedro. That was a year and a half ago.

One never knows how one will adapt to such an extreme lifestyle change. The only way to find out is to take the leap. I'm happy to report that we love living aboard. Our marriage has become stronger. We laugh more. We sleep like babies in our cozy v-berth.

We love everything about living aboard. We love the simplicity of it. And secrets between us are simply not an option. There is no private room or space in which to indulge in private lives. Everything we do is within 30 feet of the other. As I see it, moving aboard a small sailboat will either bring imminent despair and divorce, or it will bring you together in such a way that you have no choice but to become a seamless, happy unit. We are, thankfully, the latter. :-)

I strongly recommend moving aboard. Every day is an adventure. :-)