- Everything is breaking down on this boat.
- Everything is going to hell. Considering the number of things that could break down, the attrition is actually quite normal, but now there isn't the time or tools to make major repairs, and the costs of boatyard labor and overhead are out of sight. So now every part failure - a pump that won't work, a loose propeller shaft, a windlass that sticks - looms up as a catastrophe, and during the long hours at the helm while the problem remains unfixed, it grows larger and larger in the mind.
- Money is running short.
- Most of the big supermarkets are too far from the boat to walk to.
- Marine stores seem to overcharge on everything.
- Money is always running short, but now that fact, which was once a challenge, is a source of despair. A serious cruising person always seems to find the money one way or another, usually by taking short-term waterfront jobs, and taking them without much resentment. His boat gives him something to work for. But now the boat itself is resented and there is nothing to work for.
- The people are unfriendlier here than back home. Back home people seemed friendlier, but now cruising depression has put a scowl and a worried look on the sailor's face that makes people keep their distance.
Entries in philosophy (15)
My friend Cody is nice enough to let me use his garage gym while I'm here in San Diego so a big thanks to him for that. Drop mats, bumper plates, olympic bars, rings, battle ropes, a plyo-box, a jump rope, and kettlebells make this better than 90% of the "gyms" in the world.
We've been staying with friends while back in San Diego. One of those friends mentioned to me last night:
The problem with being an adventurer is that you'll never again belong in any one place.
I'm no Ernest Shackleton but I can already feel that vibe a bit. I feel like an outsider in circles that I used to feel a oneness with. I've got a little bit in common with a lot of people but it gets harder and harder to find people that I can fully relate to.
On the flip side I've met way more people over the last year than any other year of my life. Not only have I made new friends, but some of them are terribly interesting. Taking it a step further, our friendship began and continued on the sea and although that sounds corny it really does mean something.
Regardless of all that, we're here in San Diego to do a few things but equipment for the South Pacific is high on the agenda. A watermaker, a windvane, a life raft, and various other big ticket items are on the shopping list as well as spare parts and a refresh of tropical consumeables.
And of course I'm trying to be in the office every day. And since it's now midnight, I'll say goodnight so I can not be catatonic in the morning.
Disclaimer: this has nothing to do with La Cruz de Huanacaxtle. It's a beautiful and friendly town that we could probably live in happily ever after.
We were supposed to leave tomorrow morning to head north and then cross the Sea of Cortez. However, a series of events have transpired against us not the least of which is my job. I hate to say it and it sounds corny, but I have a really important meeting that my satellite phone just won't do a good enough job with. It's one of those meetings where tone matters as much as content. It's also something I've been personally managing for a few weeks now so to toss it into a colleague's lap and head out to sea would be a really lame move.
Would I rather not have the responsibilities of my job? Of course. But do I like having money to feed my family? Yeah, that's cool too.
My step dad always used to say that "a job worth doing is worth doing right." My coworkers are not some distant band of corporate automatons. They are real people and they depend on me as I depend on them. To drop the ball with them or in any way knowingly do a substandard job is not spitting in the eye of Corporate America, it's spitting in the eye of two dozen people with first names who I'm charged with trying my hardest to lead. There is another adage that you cannot lead from behind so the unfortunate part about working with smart people (and this may indeed be the only unfortunate part) is that you need to hustle to stay ahead.
As normal, there is much to do to get the boat out of "marina mode" and back to "seaworthy mode". All those little items that have been lazily placed on horizontal surfaces need to find homes before they fly across the cabin and take someone out. So no more complaining, it was time for sleep an hour ago, and no matter what I want to happen in roughly six hours my daughter is going to wake up and want to hang out with me.
In the aggregate, life is pretty good these days.
Stealing from Stephen Pressfield again, it's easy to identify the things we should do: they are the things that we avoid the most.
Our minds prize sanity and comfort so we stick with what we know. Change is dangerous and generally uncomfortable. So we naturally avoid it. You've seen it in your relationships when you want to introduce something new or break an old tradition. You've seen it in your workplace when someone has a new idea. And you've seen it in yourself when you want to change something completely in your control.
But that resistance is like a compass. The more transformative a change will be, the more resistance we will encounter along the way.
So think about the thing you least want to do. The thing that's been gnawing in the back of your mind like a splinter wedged deep, deep down.
The junk in your head keeping you from doing what you need to do is of your own creation. They are your apprehensions. Your fears. You created them. Now it's up to you to line them up against a wall mow them down with a machine gun.
I'm writing this after having a great conversation with my friend and fellow captain Lance Botthof, who, for the record, is a much better captain than I am.
I heard a saying once that the ocean has no friends or enemies, just consequences. Normally being on (or under) the water is a calm, placid, and often down right boring affair. But when the consequences show up you are staring down the barrel of a very serious gun. A gun that, like the saying goes, has no favorites and makes no quarter. It's far stronger than you, you have no ability to influence it, and it will be here long after you are gone.
Most of us that have been around the water remember that first moment of panic, and probably there are several memories. The time when water flooded into your boat. The time when you smashed up topsides in a docking disaster. A friend of mine remembers taking a nap, coming back on deck and finding his long time sailing partner gone, the autopilot chugging away in an empty cockpit. A half finished soda still sat in a drink holder.
My friend yesterday told me of scuba diving two weeks ago, working to clear a friend's malfunction, and now he himself was running low on air and started having equipment failures of his own. The primal fear of drowning under the ocean is something few of us forget.
That gut tightening fear blocks out every other thought from your mind, focuses your attention like a laser, and leaves you feeling powerless as it renders your cognitive skills useless. With a brain still wired to crank adrenaline and run from an attacking bear, our natural stress response is somewhat lacking in this fantastic modern age.
But that fear, that thing that hobbles our efforts and hamstrings our initiative, is also the thing that binds us together. We might disguise our fear and I suppose some people truly can convince themselves that it isn't there anymore. But rest assured fellow scaredy-cats: we and the over confident ones are of the same DNA. Fear is as much a part of our lives as love and friendship, although sadly for many it's too large a share.
But acknowledging that fear, being honest about it, and treating it as a part of life that we must work through is part of the puzzle. It connects us to one another and, fittingly enough, makes us all a little less afraid.
Thanks for being a standup skipper to know, Lance.
Our planned departure date is October 20, 2012. Although no one is going to shoot us if we don't leave then, there are paperwork reasons for leaving on a specific date. More importantly though is something I learned in corporate America: what gets measured gets done. If you're doing something more complicated than making a ham sandwich, you better put a date on it or you'll never get it done.
Being that this is my blog, I figure I get free reign to throw out my feelings so in no specific order, these are the things that I've been dealing with so far:
Who would have thought sailing a boat around the world would be so expensive?
There are people sailing the world's oceans on the cheap but if you look at even a meager vessel (I'd put us in that category), it costs a lot of money. Just routine engine work and rigging, nothing fancy and not repairing anything that was necessarily broken, will top out around $10,000. Bottom paint, thru hulls, seacocks, basic electronics, and some used sails bring the refit costs up around $20,000 - $30,000. That's a lot of money. Granted, we saved up for this trip for years, but it's pretty impressive watching that much cash slip through your fingers. Even more impressive is knowing that you could hit a rock and sink the whole damn boat, making it a really fancy artificial reef. Money is relative of course. To one person $10,000 is pocket change, to someone else it's a life-altering sum of money.
I'm really glad we're doing this.
Believe me, there have been some challenges, and in a lot of ways our biggest challenges have yet to show up. Even with that, it just feels right. We spend more time together as a family than ever before. Cora grows up around adults doing things right in front of her. Ask anyone with children and they'll tell you how fast time goes. I heard an expression that in parenting the days never end and the years fly by. It's true and although I'm not an old man (yet) I'm in my mid 30's and time is zipping by faster than ever. There will be a point in our lives, hopefully not for a very long time, where we simply won't be physically able to sail a boat around the world.
I really had no idea what the heck I was getting us into.
Any event in life that's so big that it is truly transformative simply cannot be fully prepared for. No one is ready to have children, no one is ready to be married, no one is ready for a loved one to die. You can think about them a bit, run some thoughts through your head, and then you go back your normal thinking. A transformative event is one that's so different and consuming that it forces you to change the very nature of your cognition and the way you perceive the world. Anything you can wrap your head around in advance, by definition, is not transformative.
Your life isn't as delicate as you think.
The really bad stuff in life that can ruin you is outside your control. Asteroids, revolution, global pandemics, horrible car accidents, death of loved ones, etc: you can't control those. People think they have way more control over their lives than they really do. If you play it close to your chest your whole life, you'll never really know what you can accomplish. This wouldn't be so much of a problem if it wasn't for the fact that you're going to be dead. Sooner than you'd like to think. Don't spend your life managing to over extend yourself as little as possible.
Work, in and of itself, has value.
Taking pride in something can only happen, or should only happen, if you've done something good enough to warrant it. Because you're not really taking pride in the object, you're taking pride in your work. When you see someone working hard on something, you're drawn to it. You want to help people who are busting their ass: we respect hard work and the people who do it. People who work hard motivate us and help to clear mental obstacles.
Never (or rarely) back up and look at the whole thing.
Years ago I walked into my then-boss' office and had a minor meltdown, freaking out about all the work I had to do. He sort of laughed at me and said, "What a second, you actually looked at everything you need to do? Don't ever do that man, it will blow your mind!" It might sound weird, but it's true. You want to check out the big picture every now and then to make sure that what you're doing lines up with it, but the only way things get done is by breaking them into small pieces. Not only do you need to make huge projects manageable, but often there's enough complexity in the small individual steps that they will require your total focus and you can't really spend a lot of time thinking about everything else.
On the one hand it's Mexico, on the other it's only 1000 miles away.
One place we're going to, Turtle Bay, is 140 miles of dirt road away from the first paved road, which is still in the middle of nowhere. It's a dying fishing village where the stores are actually the living room of people's homes. So there's remoteness in that regard and some genuine BFE stuff happening. But in Puerto Vallarta there is an airport right in town with 4 hour flights back to San Diego for $388. So yeah, we're leaving the country, but the world is much smaller now. Even in that bumpkin-ville of Turtle Bay there is a little Internet cafe where you know Charlotte and I will be uploading photos.
Lately I've become a cynical mariner. There's an idea that excitement about a topic is inversely related to one's knowledge of that topic. It happens frequently on the water, and goes something like this:
Boy meets boat, boy falls in love. Boy sails boat and realizes the boat, the sea, or both, suck. Boy is left wondering where his sailing dreams went to and slinks away discouraged.
Many things about living on the water can be correctly put onto a piece of paper that has "Pains In My Ass" written on top of it. Jimmy Buffet never sings about replacing head plumbing or walking all over a third world town looking for a bolt.
Hopefully I'll be an ASA instructor this summer, taking my training course in the spring. To that end I found myself auditing a 101 class this past Saturday. With four students in the cockpit of a Hunter 28, I was in the amazing position of either helping them along on their maritime journey or screwing them up by being a crappy (assistant) instructor. Needing to ditch the cynicism and fill my mind with unabashed enthusiasm, I thought back to a night on a 32 Ericson heading south east from the Channel Islands, maybe forty miles offshore.
The night was clear, the swell virtually non existent, and I was on watch alone while my friends slept below. The new moon cast no light and I held the drifter sheet directly in my hand, no winches or blocks to get in the way.
Bioluminescent algae left a trail of sparkles in the water behind us as the few knots of wind pulled our light displacement hull across the black water.
That night, and others like it, are what make sailing so special to me. Most of our world is water. It's where our ancestors came from, and for every American their not-too-distant relatives crossed an ocean, probably by sail, to be here. Much of our language, the most powerful of storms, countless traditions, and the very substance that allows us to live on this planet is water.
And in that raw and simple world of water on a spinning planet, wind is generated by the unequal heating and cooling from the sun. Sailboats go beyond a mechanism of travel and leisure. They are quite simply a device that connects us with the purest and most raw origins of our world. It is no wonder that sailing vessels inspire art ranging from haikus to towering sculptures that dominate a skyline.
I suppose I'm still pretty jaded about a lot of things on the water, but I've seen and continue to see too many wonderful things and meet great people. I suppose when all that stops I will to.
With some surface rot that allowed me to sink a screwdiver six inches into my rigging, I finally removed the bowsprit on our Hans Christian. Weighing in around two hundred pounds and being about fourteen feet long it was a bit of a pain in the ass. Oh, and then there's the whole thing about how the fittings that keep the mast from flying backwards are all secured to the now non-existent bowsprit.
This was a job I've been putting off for some time for various reasons and was recently re-motivated to do it based in large part on reading Steven Pressfield's book Do the Work. Author of Gates of Fire and Tides of War, Pressfield talks about Resistance. It's the thing that causes us to procrastinate, to make excuses, to dodge work, and to put things off. Rather than looking at it as an ememy we can look at Resistance as a compass of sorts, pointing us towards that which will have the most transformative impact on our soul. Mystical? Sure. Did it motivate me to get my bowsprit off? Fuck yeah it did.
Next up on the hit list is stripping off the paint and goo and seeing what lurks beneath. There's some rot, but according to my friend Stan (who just so happens to own Pendleton Yacht Yard, is an accomplished shipwright, and was my study-buddy through my 100 ton class) the rot might not be so bad and can be repaired, as opposed to shaping a new piece of wood.
So I've got a date with a heatgun and a scraper, starting tonight. I could put it off but I'm on a roll and this shit isn't going to get any closer to done by me blogging about it.
So to Mr. Pressfield: thanks. I like your style, I like your books, and coupled with a great batch of weather this time of year it was just what I needed to get back in the saddle and do the work.
Charlotte and I have been talking about it over the last few days and we realized that this summer coming up is our last summer here in San Diego. To add some poignancy to that, it's going to be our last summer of sailing before we cross the Pacific, our last summer to work on any projects, and our last summer to enjoy this beautiful city (for a while, anyway).
It's been hard living in both worlds. I went back and looked at a blog post from March 2007, when the 2013 schedule was first figured out. Our financial track hasn't gone as well as we'd like, but considering what the financial and unemployment markets have been like, I'm pretty happy. And most importantly, we have our little girl Cora. To say that's worth the financial hit is incorrect as that implies that there is anyway to put a price tag on the amount of joy that she's brought into our world.
When we started this plan roughly five years ago it was very nose-to-the-grindstone. Charlotte would joke that every conversation was "boat, boat, boat." In the last few years, before Cora but definitely since then as well, I wised up to the fact that I needed to enjoy my life and that being stressed out and hustling for five years to then get a chance to enjoy myself wasn't a smart idea.
I read someone saying something online to the effect of "If you can't figure out a way to be happy every day living onshore with all the amenities and comforts of modern living, you're going to be hating every minute of your life at sea. It's physically harder, less comfortable, and psychologically demanding in ways that you will not have adjusted to."
So a couple of years ago I decided that it was okay to spend those years saving a little less but enjoying our life a little more. Having a nice (but not ridiculous) wedding. Having our daughter in nice clothes (but not costly baby "outfits"). Going on vacations. Going snowboarding with my friends. I'm very happy that I decided to have fun. You can always work more and make more money, but no matter how much you work you can't get the years or time back.
But the matter at hand is our departure date, and it's getting nothing but closer. I won't list off all the things that need to happen as any mariner can imagine their own list and land folks can probably just about accurately guess the same.
This doesn't mean that we go back to ignoring our land lives, because sixteen months is almost a year and a half of working, two snowboard seasons, two Christmases, and so many milestones for our little girl. I've got some weight to squat, a half marathon next year I'd like to set a personal best in, not to mention a career that although I don't talk about a lot I'm in fact pretty proud of.
I guess this simply means that the little orange light in the corner of our eyes just started blinking, letting us know that if we would like to avoid hustling at the last minute, if we'd like to avoid wishing we had gotten some things done in advance, if we'd like to ensure that as much prep work is done as possible, the clock that has always been ticking has become much more audible as of late.
* The above pictures were taken while skippering a charter for a group of people. The vessel was a Fountaine Pajot Tobago 35.
This blog post will entertain very few; let me just get that out of the way right now. There are things worth blogging about, and things not worth blogging about, and I've been doing a lot of the latter recently. But I have been doing things none the less, so perhaps you're a friend or associate of mine and wondering "where the hell has Eric been?" lately. Well, here's my update.
I have twelve hours of class a week, in addition to my forty hour a week job, so if you haven't seen me around it's probably because of that. Want to hang out some evening? Sorry, can't make it. How about go have lunch? Sorry, need to do homework.
The upside is that I'm finally getting some things out of the way that I've wanted to for a long time and I'm learning a lot. One of my instructors is a merchant marine (heavy shipping) so he approaches everything from a big-ship prospective. Another instructor is primarily a pleasure boat operator (charters and the such) and has spent a lot of time sailing, so he has a typical sailing vessel view of the world. In my class there are commercial fishermen, sport fisher crew, life guards, diving instructors, and then a few pleasure boat sailors like myself. One guy even pushes gondolas around.
San Diego Winters
This is where I get a chuckle from everyone about how we don't have real winters. Well okay buckaroo, let's go ahead and strap you into a sail boat in 40+ knot winds with horizontal rain and send you out into the winters we don't have here. It might not look like your typical snow scene from some Christmas movie but we get powerful storms from the north and south that dump rain on us for days accompanied by driving winds. And these storms have been known to arrive in pairs, triples, and even quadruples, slamming into the coast line just as the tail end of the last one vanishes.
Couple that with 50 degree water, not so much daylight, crummy fishing, fog, and nights loaded with dew that might as well be rain and you have yourself a San Diego winter. Until the Pacific High regains its strength and formidable nature, here we sit taking southwesters up our ass and artic storms on our nose, for months.
I was lucky enough to start reading some of Mark Rippetoe's books, namely Starting Strength and Practical Programming. I have learned a lot about strength training and by following the Bill Star 5x5 model I've been making some ridiculous improvement. Focusing on the compound barbell lifts and avoiding almost all the garbage out there. Focusing on squats, press, and now power cleans I've gained just over ten pounds of muscle (correcting for body fat and water) in a six month period. More importantly I've become much more flexible, have almost no injuries to speak of, and have gotten much stronger.
As of writing this however I am struggling with my power cleans. This might sound trivial to a lot of people out there but for me it's really been a thorn in my side. For over one month now I've been beating my head against the wall, video taping myself over and over again trying to get my form right for this movement that so many renown athletes and trainers say is critical to strength.
Being A Husband And Dad
In a lot of ways all the things listed above are part of being a husband and dad. You're not very good at either one of those if you become a lazy slob, so keeping your mind and body in as top form as possible is the forerunner to anything else. Trying to teach your kid to shoot for their dreams while you play XBOX and smoke pot probably isn't going to do the trick. I'm not trying to ride too high on my horse, but even before Cora arrived I keyed in on the notion that your child will basically adopt many of your attributes more so than whatever you want to teach them. So I thought long and hard about the type of daughter I want to raise, and try as hard as I can in my life to reflect those qualities.
However, there are brass tacks issues you need to take care of as well. Waking up in the middle of the night (which Charlotte does much more often than I do, I might add) to change a diaper or just hold Cora for a moment, scheduling your life around available babysitters, trying to ensure that Charlotte and I have time together as often as possible sans daughter so we can remember that we are two adults who like being with each other: these are some of the new responsibilities you get to handle. Making sure I read to my daughter rather than surf the Internet or play Global Agenda.
Cora has gotten to be much more enjoyable as late. I'm not a baby person. To be perfectly honest, I don't really care about anyone's baby other than mine. I certainly don't wish them harm in anyway, but I just don't really care. I don't find them cute or charming and I'd like them to be kept away and out of earshot from me. I managed to enjoy Cora as a small baby probably because of some physical hardwiring that causes parents to love and adore their children no matter what.
But lately, really right around six months, there are more and more periods (and we're talking about periods that grow by maybe a second a day so let's not get carried away here) where I actually really enjoy hanging out with her. She's getting to be more fun to play with, and just this morning I think she actually got the concept of walking a little bit with me holding her arms up, swinging her legs one in front of the other.
On the husband front, I'm reminded of a pre-marital course we went through were they said that many couples after having children focus on their jobs and parenting and the relationship suffers. To some extent the first few weeks and maybe first few months make that guaranteed. We're getting to the point now, slowly but surely, were our time commitments are opening back up again and Charlotte and I can start going on dates and doing stuff again. It's a nice change of pace and six months of baby plus six months of a rough pregnancy before that make it a year ago that we could really be somewhat carefree and enjoying the sunshine in the park.
As I said in the beginning of this, I've been doing a lot of things that are not worth blogging about. No one is making movies about people studying, working, saving, getting strong, or trying to be a good husband and dad. In my day job, there are days of closure where you can actually check something off your list and feel good about yourself. And then there are the weeks and sometimes months (and sometimes years) of work that goes towards that one day, where you often feel like you're in a coal mine just pursuing a path that you hope leads you to where you want to be one day.
The greater the things you're trying to accomplish, the longer you might end up having to keep your head down and nose to the grindstone.