The stars suggest patience may be enough
to forget the gravity of want
to hear you speak again of high seas
and weather without fancy
holding your gaze steady
on the horizon
against my softened outline.
knowing more than the stars
of distance and time,
made of mortal light,
cast my own shadow
heavy on the water
craving to tell you now
of all my desires.
I must have wished all this in another life to wake up with the dream of it in this. I must have lit a candle with all my intentions and set it afloat on a paper boat to sea so that it may find this other me.
How else can I explain the design unfolding itself with every step?
Eleven years ago, on a whim I bought sailing lessons as a birthday gift for my husband. B. and I enjoyed four weekends of instruction on the Hudson River and received our basic keel boat certification. Before that, I had only been on a sailboat twice—a couple of sunset sails off the coasts of Maine and Hawaii as any diligent tourist is apt to do. For months after our class, B. scoured the classifieds looking to buy a small boat that we could trailer and take out for day sails. I wasn’t on board and couldn’t see sailing in our life chalking up his interest as another fleeting hobby that would add more clutter and complexity to an already fully loaded life we were struggling to manage. I bought him a canoe for his next birthday as consolation instead.
I didn’t sail again until six years ago and many turns in life later. As an adventure vacation I chartered a sailboat and a captain/instructor in the Virgin Islands with Allison. For a week we spent our days island hopping and enjoying the beautiful scenery, warm weather, and clear waters and our evenings anchored in charming little bays taking the dinghy ashore for dinner or a night cap with locals and cruisers. I returned with more certifications and an imagination, enamored with the bliss of easy living on the water and the grace of full sails in the sunshine.
Back to work and carrying on with the busyness of life, thoughts of sailing would drift in and out only in passing. Even with masts in the marina and sailboats on the bay as my landscape, most days they served as no more than just a beautiful backdrop to my life. Every now and then, I would get a burger and sit for hours watching the boats come and go and in the calm of it all sort out my troubles and thoughts. In all that time, the dream must have been building silently and without much ado because I remember a day four years ago when naturally and without any predetermination I spoke of it aloud—amidst turmoil at work declaring to my boss that at the next career decision point I was likely to leave it all and go sailing. I’m certain he dismissed it as another one of my bursts of hyperbole. For me, it served as a promise made, as an alternative vision to the seemingly endless pursuit of making a living that felt like more of the same no matter how you sliced it.
Last year this time, the fork in the road appeared as did renewed thoughts of a life at sea. I was tired, tapped out, and restless looking for a change of pace. With nothing biting after a few months of putting in a good faith effort (albeit half hearted) to either find a new job or resettle carrying on with things as they were, I figured this may be the time to call my own bluff. Cancelling a trip to New Orleans, I sequestered myself for two weeks drawing out the vision, researching, plotting. Ultimately emerging with a plan for change of lifestyle complete with the requisite goals, lists and spreadsheets, financial plans, phases, milestones, activities, modeled into scenarios A through D, the dream was articulated, designed and made tangible. I was convinced and committed and the leap of faith simplified to a state of mind.
Today, I am sitting on my beautiful blue water cruising boat, Onyx, exactly six months after my last day of work and the beginning of this new venture. Having just completed an amazing 900-mile maiden voyage from Seattle to San Francisco, I am flush with confidence, feeling validated, empowered, and blessed. Incredulously, I ponder what I have accomplished, learned, and experienced in this short time and how it unfolded as if part of a fully elaborated design that my grandest imagination or plans could have only made out as a fading outline on the horizon. Mostly, I am amazed and truly humbled by the good fortune of having arrived here without much resistance and how the world having heard of my wishes and intentions has been with me, accommodating and affirming every step along the way.
The next six to nine months will be busy with preparations for getting underway for long term cruising and the full realization of the dream of living a life at sea. Between here and there, it is mostly logistics, more learning, and more doing without much extraordinary intervention needed. Good news is I am committed, have a craving and aptitude for learning, and excel at logistics. Break it down, figure it out, line it up, and get it done.
What may not be as straight forward is keeping the anticipation of the dream and the expectations from surging into anxious energy or spiraling into inertia. I catch myself in the restlessness and waiting between one step and next when my mind wanders. I wonder and sometimes worry. A thousand questions, each a thousand presumed outcomes, distracting my focus and eroding my resolve. I am learning this too—to trust a reality made only of my wishes.
How much simpler it would be instead to count and recount blessings and confluences like sheep before sleeping. So that I may always remember the dream upon waking. So that I may know the world is mine and with me. So that I may be at peace in anticipation of the dreams realized.
Stan, the Captain, the man, the legend“The ocean is the same everywhere beyond sight of land,” I heard from Captain Stan who is also rumored to be Neptune himself trying out this mortal life disguised as a sailor. I haven’t seen enough of her yet to know that or maybe the ocean has a face she keeps reserved only for the gods. Either way, I will believe it and will try to remember it any time I feel unsettled at sea. It must be comforting with a sense of inherent omniscience to find yourself without bearings, to be somewhere, nowhere, and everywhere. More practically comforting, I find knowing even the gods must bear witness to the ocean’s mighty moods without argument and are powerless but to weather their fortunes as sailors every day. Sometimes, you can even catch them cursing the tangled lines under their breath.
Beautiful day for a sailWe had an amazing voyage to Monterey Bay and back over a course of seven days and over 200 miles. It felt like we averaged 5 to 6 knots though I am sure we sailed for more than 40 hours total. We covered long tracks with marathon sails anywhere between 9 to 20 hours, rotating watch every couple of hours, grazing and recharging as best we could while underway. I had every intention of keeping a detailed log of the passage in my brand new notebook but I became distracted Foggy dawn at Half Moon Bayand too engrossed. As a novice, I was still finding my way about and not collected enough to assume any habit. So many practices and techniques to discover, discipline to muster, and skills to build. The habits will form in their own time.
Under the ever-watchful eye of Stan and his master instruction, we carried on beating, beaming, reaching, and running but mostly close-hauled, in high winds, low winds, and no winds at all. Always adjusting sails or cleaning up the lines, tacking to stay the course. Always on, trying to keep pace with the wind and moving in the groove.
So dramatic it's comicalWe practiced navigation skills with regular fixes and learned to use charts and plot courses. We tested our balance and wits cooking fajitas at a 25 degree heel.We learned the science of sails, their trim, and how to find and move the centers of resistance. We tried out our sense for steering in the dark with only the stars and feel for the wind. We challenged our notions of loneliness and perceptions of space caught for hours without a horizon in fog thick as cotton balls. We rode in calm waters, in the chop, into 6′ swells, and finally home under the Golden Gate bridge with the soothing nudge of the following seas.
Somehow, we passed all of the tests.
Every day was a different life time I could have never imagined and every moment a magical affirmation of the course I have chosen.
I feel an addiction coming on.
Things to add to my learning agenda…
It’s all doable and a matter of a calculated risk
Insomnia comes in handy
Reintroduction to land is harder than I expected..it took more than a day to shake the daze and emerge from under the spell of the sea
Deli meat sandwiches never tasted so good
There is no silence at sea, not even at anchor or dock
As undesirable as it may be, sometimes you just need to make way with the motor on
Rainbows in the spray
Passage making is exhausting
Memorize the chart symbols
Always remember your bearings and how to get back to your dock
Build upper body strength
Use all your senses in the fog
Patent biodegradable cigarette filters
Make weather your religion
Find that practical balance between patience, dexterity, level of effort, precision, inherent margin of error, and educated guesswork when taking fixes and plotting courses
Credit: Klaus Thymann / Project Pressure
“Project Pressure is a not-for-profit organisation documenting the world’s vanishing glaciers in order to highlight the impact of climate change, inspiring action and participation. The project will result in the world’s first comprehensive crowdsourced glacier atlas…”
Blue Lake in New Zealand sitting above the tree line fed by melting glaciers through Constance Lake and filtered by rocks has the clarity of 100% pure water and up to 260 feet. Photographed for the first time ever from below the surface as part of Project Pressure.
Such amazing colors and reflections…I can understand why the Maori people consider this a sacred site.
What a grand plan…the Blue Planet Odyssey. A 3-year rally to do good by the planet while cruising around the world. With the right planning and some good fortune, I could possibly join the rally somewhere, somehow…could I really? I would need at least a 40′ boat and ~23k registration and taking Jake would be non-negotiable. It would possibly mean changing my current plans which put me in the Mediterranean in March 2014 and with a cruising kitty for maybe one year. Would need to rethink my route, timing, and financials…
slow original plans for year, build the kitty, join the west coast start in late ’14 -will it be worth the wait?
keep original plans, wander around Europe for a few months, join the start there in summer ’14 -can I live at sea for 4 years?
get clever with planning and lucky with fortunes… -time to model new scenarios
If I am to move with the water, I must learn to feel the wind.
Just as children we would stand still as stone in the rushing river for fear of being carried away for knowing even stones are moved by the water.