in anticipation of a dream realized

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?

I hope to find myself some day in Thailand during the Loi Krathong festival of lights so that I may give thanks and cast a wish for the life after this.
“Each one with this krathong,
As we push away we pray,
We can see a better day.”

I hope to find myself some day in Thailand during the Loi Krathong festival of lights so that I may give thanks and cast a wish for the life after this.

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.

S/V Onyx, a Tayana 37 and the dream boat I found to take me across the seven seas
S/V Onyx, a Tayana 37 and the dream boat that found me and will take me across the seven seas

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 maiden voyage home
Onyx’s maiden voyage from Seattle to San Francisco…
see photos and videos of the preparations and the journey home

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.


      Only the Ocean – Jack Johnson - Jack Johnson

the courage to purge

I have always fancied myself a minimalist, declaring it proudly and liberally any chance I get. After all, I have occupied less than 400 square feet for years and much of that without living room furniture. Half of my kitchen cabinets are unused and the closet is still manageable. I consume less than the average bear and I only own one set of…yadi, yadi, yada. Yes, I am capable of living light and blessed enough to still always have what I need and even a little more.

Now, there is a new level of minimal to master and a test to prove myself worthy of such proclamations and fortunes. It’s time to purge my belongings.

Logically, I am convinced why. Practically, I understand. Emotionally, I know I need to trend toward ambivalence. But however confident I may be, the task is still daunting. This is no ordinary purge like when moving, or inspired by the change in the season, or a particularly productive bout of insomnia. The scale demands its own attention.

purging books
icebreaker #4: 25 books or one shelf’s worth of space, whichever is greater.
let’s start with that and see what it looks like.

Mentally, I am working up to the how. I have already started with donation piles, sticky notes of what to gift to whom, a tier system for contents of drawers…all knowing full well these are just ice breakers more for my amusement than much substance. The warm up exercises to test the tactics have been fun, but this will ultimately need to be object, mathematical, exponential. Limited room for play.

To get this done, I have to picture the goal. I have to imagine purging everything by half, half again, another half, and again, and as many halves as it takes to get to 150 cubic feet, maybe even much less. That’s the factor of this game, volume the absolute constraint. All else is left to my judgment and remembering that the space is finite and must fit everything. Every thing. Every thing that I will need and, if cleverly arranged, a few of the things I want.

I can only claim mastery if I can do this without storage space for the remainder.



      The Bare Necessities - Louis Armstrong

letting random in

During a particularly crazed phase of work and the subsequent happy hours of drinking my cares away, I remember a good friend telling me to “let random in.” It sounded amusing but I was too busy and focused for all that at the time.

Meetings already planned, conversations plotted, presentations packaged, decisions to influence, events to set in motion. There was work to be done. Get things moving and if you could manage it, preferably, in a straight line. If you were really on it, you could keep it headed towards an objective. All that energy directed to create and shape momentum into productivity and exponentially more into progress had it’s own magnetism.

Mind map, beta version
Byproduct of a leadership seminar trying to make sense of my strengths and weaknesses.
Being a nerd and fascinated with information design, the second evolution of this was more sophisticated, a multidimensional star layering problem solving along phases and processes. I am sad I can’t find a copy.

Efficiency was my game, control my poison, deliberative my super strength, and people, well, they were just themselves. Random was disruptive and an antithesis, but still calculated and expected.

I was addicted to work and all its puzzles. I can say that now without reserve. I would say it then too though smirking, half yielding, half doubtful. Eventually and thankfully, the game slowed and I finally called it. Being stubborn and loyal, it took nearly a year to accept this was the balance of this work, give or take a few accomplishments or unexplored dimensions. I could not move the system to any more progress without it taking all of me and to a side darker than necessary. Once I could feel the curves of the wall, it was easy to let it all go. It was the logical and only play left. Exerting influence had become counterproductive.

I am too human to cope with all random, all the time and too wanting to allow all things to come and go as chance may fancy. I am a dreamer of ecosystems, balanced, correlated, at equilibrium to an end. An optimizer. I know this. I have practiced it. This time, I am designing the dream, the balance of it simply a vision floating at sea but where I must abdicate control over the space between.

Let random in. Let this be my evolution.


songsStill is Still Moving to Me – Willie Nelson

rolling through life with a plan


I pour a coating of salt on the table
and make a circle in it with my finger.
This is the cycle of life
I say to no one.
This is the wheel of fortune,
the Arctic Circle.
This is the ring of Kerry
and the white rose of Tralee
I say to the ghosts of my family,
the dead fathers,
the aunt who drowned,
my unborn brothers and sisters,
my unborn children.
This is the sun with its glittering spokes
and the bitter moon.
This is the absolute circle of geometry
I say to the crack in the wall,
to the birds who cross the window.
This is the wheel I just invented
to roll through the rest of my life
I say
touching my finger to my tongue.


—Billy Collins
from Sailing Alone Around the Room
      The Plan--Outside


being sailors

“All men will be sailors then Until the sea shall free them…”—Leonard Cohen

Stan, the man 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 sail 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 Bay 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 comical So dramatic it's comical We 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 discovered… 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 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
  • Smile more
  • Reef early
  • 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

songsSuzanne — Leonard Cohen

watching the weather

The Super Moon escaped me last night behind the fog. I would have been disappointed were it not caused by another rare natural occurrence—the atmospheric river that is headed to the northern California coastline. What a concept to marvel…streams of moisture-rich air simply flowing through the atmosphere and with such timely arrival for my Offshore Heavy Weather class.

Atmospheric River, Northeast Pacific, June 2013
time lapse moisture reading of rare summer occurrence of an atmospheric river crossing the Pacific to Northern California coastline

Weather has always held my fascination. As a kid…it was the sheer power and clamor of storms and the endless dimensions of clouds that inspired awe and the basic science of building a wind vane or making rain with the lid of a pot that fulfilled my curiosity. In college…bored with the absence of dramatic weather in Southern California, it was the confluence of variables, the dynamics, and the apparent patterns that never  repeat exactly becoming mathematical, abstractions of chaos theory and loaded with all the fodder of philosophical connotations. In New Orleans…there were the almost daily summer thunderstorms where you could feel the air collapse under its own weight and turn into water right before your eyes. I stayed for Katrina partly because I believed whatever were to happen would happen and it would be alright but also to experience the scale of a hurricane. I doubt I will ever again breathe air as fresh as I did the morning after she passed through the city. Here in the San Francisco area…I miss the drama of storms but catching the mood of the bay and the rolling fog every day commuting across the Golden Gate Bridge has had its own magic and charm.

Despite all this I have never developed the habit or interest to checkout weather forecasts as part of my daily routines. It surprises me even to realize I have looked up weather forecasts no more than a handful of times so far this year. As a passing observation I generally figure some sort of weather every morning as I get dressed. Is it warmer or colder? Is it raining or not? Does it look like it might rain?  That has been the extent of what I needed to know to get through the day.

Now…I have a reason to nerd out on weather. It’s fundamental to sailing—to know the wind, where is it coming from, how strong, how long, to anticipate the storms building and moving across the oceans, the long range forecasts, the patterns, the anomalies…and add to it the rhythmic variables of the currents and tides. The scale and the systems just became exponential.

MARINE ZONE FORECAST: Waters from Pt. Arena to Pt. Piedras Blancas, CA
June 24, 2013


Mon: S winds 5 to 15 kt. Wind waves 1 to 3 ft…becoming 3 to 5 ft in the afternoon. W swell 3 to 5 ft at 8 seconds. Rain.
Mon Night: S winds 10 to 20 kt. Wind waves 2 to 4 ft. W swell 3 to 5 ft at 8 seconds. Rain.
Tue: S winds 5 to 15 kt. Wind waves 1 to 3 ft. W swell 3 to 5 ft at 8 seconds. Showers likely in the morning…then chance of showers in the afternoon.
Tue Night: S winds 5 to 15 kt. Wind waves 1 to 3 ft. W swell 3 to 5 ft at 8 seconds. Chance of showers in the evening…then slight chance of showers after midnight.
Wed: W winds 10 kt. Wind waves 2 ft or less. W swell 5 to 7 ft and S 3 ft.
Thu: NW winds 15 to 25 kt. Wind waves 3 to 5 ft. NW swell 5 to 7 ft and S 3 ft. Patchy fog.
Fri: NW winds 15 to 25 kt. Wind waves 3 to 6 ft. NW swell 5 to 7 ft…increasing to 7 to 8 ft. S swell 3 ft. Patchy fog.


the clearest lake on earth

 The Clearest Lake on Earth

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.

More at LiveScience

in pursuit of a cruising life