Considering a sailing adventure to Mexico? Just look at how engrossed that guy is in the book! Grab a copy of the Unauthorized Guide to Sailing in Mexico, and you too can find yourself sitting on a Mexican dock with an oversized (but very attractive) hat.

Unauthorized Guide to Sailing in Mexico

test

You can also find me on G+ and twitter, and most of my photos get uploaded to radpin.imgur.com

Entries in philosophy (15)

Friday
Nov012013

cruising blues - by robert pirsig

In my wildest dreams I will be half the writer that Robert Pirsig is, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. In addition to writing what is often considered one of the greatest modern American stories, Robert Pirsig is also a sailor and spent a lot of time sailing about and crossing the Atlantic. This is from an article in the May 1977 edition of Esquire magazine that he penned.

Their case was typical. After four years of hard labor their ocean-size trimaran was launched in Minneapolis at the head of Mississippi navigation. Six and one half months later they had brought it down the river and across the gulf to Florida to finish up final details. Then at last they were off to sail the Bahamas, the Lesser Antilles and South America. Only it didn't work out that way. Within six weeks they were through. The boat was back in Florida up for sale. 


"Our feelings were mixed," they wrote their hometown paper. "Each of us had a favorite dream unfulfilled, a place he or she wanted to visit, a thing to do. And most of us felt sheepish that our 'year's escape' shrunk to eight months. Stated that way, it doesn't sound as if we got our money's worth for our four years' labor." 


"But most of us had had just about all the escape we could stand; we're overdosed on vacation. Maybe we aren't quite as free spirits as we believed; each new island to visit had just a bit less than its predecessor." 


"And thoughts were turning to home." 


Change the point of origin to Sacramento or Cincinnati or any of thousands of places where the hope of sailing the world fills landlocked, job-locked dreamers; add thousands of couples who have saved for years to extend their weekends on the water to a retirement at sea, then sell their boats after six months; change the style and size of the boat, or the ages and backgrounds of the participants, and you have a story that is heard over and over again in cruising areas - romantic dreams of a lifetime destroyed by a psychological affliction that has probably ended the careers of more cruising sailors than all other causes together: cruising depression. 


"I don't know what it was we thought we were looking for," one wife said in a St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, harbor after she and her husband had decided to put their boat up for sale and go home. "But whatever it was, we certainly haven't discovered it in sailing. It seemed that it was going to be such a dream life, but now, looking back on it, it just seems . . . oh, there have been beautiful times, of course, but mostly it's just been hard work and misery. More than we would have had if we had stayed home." 
A husband said, "We find ourselves getting on each other's nerves, being cooped up like this with each other day after day. We never realized that in order to enjoy being with someone you have to have periods of separation from that person too. We sailed on weekends and short vacations for years. But living aboard isn't the same." 


Statements symptomatic of cruising depression vary from person to person, but common to most are long periods of silence in a person who is normally talkative, followed by a feeling of overwhelming sadness that at first seems to have no specific cause, then, on reflection, seems to have many causes, such as: 
  • 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. 
All this is just running away from reality. You never realize how good that friendly old nine-to-five office job can be. Just little things - like everyone saying hello each morning or the supervisor stopping by to get your opinion because he really needs it. And seeing old friends and familiar neighbors and streets you've lived near all your life. Who wants to escape all that? Perhaps what cruising teaches more than anything else is an appreciation of the real world you might otherwise think of as oppressive.


This last symptom - the desire to "get back to reality" - is one I've found in almost every case of cruising depression and may be the key to the whole affliction. If one bears down on this point a little it begins to open up and reveal deeper sources of trouble.


One first has to ask where those who are depressed got the idea that cruise sailing was an escape from reality. Who ever taught them that? What exactly do they mean? Scientists and philosophers spend their entire working lives puzzling over the nature of reality, but now the depressed ones use the term freely, as though everyone should know and agree with what they mean by it.


As best I can make out, reality for them is the mode of daily living they followed before taking to the water; unlike cruise sailing, it is the one shared by the majority of the members of our culture. It usually means gainful employment in a stable economic network of some sort without too much variance from what are considered the norms and mores of society. In other words, back to the common herd. 


The illogic is not hard to find. The house-car-job complex with its nine-to-five office routine is common only to a very small percentage of the earth's population and has only been common to this percentage for the last hundred years or so. If this is reality, have the millions of years that preceded our current century all been unreal? 


An alternative - and better - definition of reality can be found by naming some of its components ...air...sunlight...wind...water...the motion of waves...the patterns of clouds before a coming storm. These elements, unlike twentieth-century office routines, have been here since before life appeared on this planet and they will continue long after office routines are gone. They are understood by everyone, not just a small segment of a highly advanced society. When considered on purely logical grounds, they are more real than the extremely transitory life-styles of the modern civilization the depressed ones want to return to. 


If this is so, then it follows that those who see sailing as an escape from reality have got their understanding of both sailing and reality completely backwards. Sailing is not an escape but a return to and a confrontation of a reality from which modern civilization is itself an escape. For centuries, man suffered from the reality of an earth that was too dark or too hot or too cold for his comfort, and to escape this he invented complex systems of lighting, heating and air conditioning. Sailing rejects these and returns to the old realities of dark and heat and cold. Modern civilization has found radio, TV, movies, nightclubs and a huge variety of mechanized entertainment to titillate our senses and help us escape from the apparent boredom of the earth and the sun and wind and stars. Sailing returns to these ancient realities. 


For many of the depressed ones, the real underlying source of cruising depression is that they have thought of sailing as one more civilized form of stimulation, just like movies or spectator sports, and somehow felt their boat had an obligation to keep them thrilled and entertained. But no boat can be an endless source of entertainment and should not be expected to be one. 


A lot of their expectation may have come from weekend sailing, whose pleasures differ greatly from live-aboard cruising. In weekend sailing, depression seldom shows up, because the sailing is usually a relief from a monotonous workweek. The weekender gets just as depressed as the live-aboard cruiser, but he does it at home or on the job and thinks of these as the cause of the depression. When he retires to the life of cruising, he continues the mistake by thinking, Now life will be just like all those summer weekends strung end to end. And of course he is wrong. 


There is no way to escape the mechanism of depression. It results from lack of a pleasant stimulus and is inevitable because the more pleasant stimuli you receive the less effective they become. If, for example, you receive an unexpected gift of money on Monday, you are elated. If the same gift is repeated on Tuesday, you are elated again but a little less so because it is a repetition of Monday's experience. On Wednesday he elation drops a little lower and on Thursday and Friday a little lower still. By Saturday you are rather accustomed to the daily gift and take it for granted. Sunday, if there is no gift, you are suddenly depressed. Your level of expectation has adjusted upward during the week and now must adjust downward. 


The same is true of cruising. You can see just so any beautiful sunsets strung end on end, just so any coconut palms waving in the ocean breeze, just so many exotic moonlit tropical nights scented with oleander and frangipani, and you become adjusted. They no longer elate. The pleasant external stimulus has worn out its response and cruising depression takes over. This is the point at which boats get sold and cruising dreams are shattered forever. One can extend the high for a while by searching for new and more exciting pursuits, but sooner or later the depression mechanism must catch up with you and the longer it has been evaded the harder it hits. 


It follows that the best way to defeat cruising depression is never to run from it. You must face into it, enter it when it comes, just be gloomy and enjoy the gloominess while it lasts. You can be sure that the same mechanism that makes depression unavoidable also makes future elation unavoidable. Each hour or day you remain depressed you become more and more adjusted to it until in time there is no possible way to avoid an upturn in feelings. The days you put in depressed are like money in the bank. They make the elated days possible by their contrast. You cannot have mountains without valleys and you cannot have elation without depression. Without their combined upswings and downswings, existence would be just one long tedious plateau. 


When depression is seen as an unavoidable part of one's life, it becomes possible to study it with less aversion and discover that within it are all sorts of overlooked possibilities. 


To begin with, depression makes you far more aware of subtleties of your surroundings. Out on a remote anchorage, the call of a wild duck during an elated period is just the call of a wild duck. But if you are depressed and your mind is empty from the down-scaling of depression, then that strange lonely sound can suddenly bring down a whole wave of awareness of empty spaces and water and sky. It sounds strange, but some of my happiest memories are of days when I was very depressed. Slow monotonous grey days at the helm, beating into a wet freezing wind. Or a three-day dead calm that left me in agonies of heat and boredom and frustration. Days when nothing seemed to go right. Nights when impending disaster was all I could think of. I think of those as "virtuous days," a strange term for them that has a meaning all its own. 


Virtue here comes from childhood reading about the old days of sailing ships when young men were sent to sea to learn manliness and virtue. I remember being skeptical about this. "How could a monotonous passage across a pile of water produce virtue?" I wondered. I figured that maybe a few bad storms would scare hell out of the young men and this would make them humble and manly and virtuous and appreciative of life ever afterward, but it seemed like a dubious curriculum. There were cheaper and quicker ways to scare people than that. 


Now, however, with a boat of my own and some time at sea, I begin to see the learning of virtue another way. It has something to do with the way the sea and sun and wind and sky go on and on day after day, week after week, and the boat and you have to go on with it. You must take the helm and change the sails and take sights of the stars and work out their reductions and sleep and cook and eat and repair things as they break and do most of these things in stormy weather as well as fair, depressed as well as elated, because there's no choice.


You get used to it; it becomes habit-forming and produces a certain change in values. Old gear that has been through a storm or two without failure becomes more precious than it was when you bought it because you know you can trust it. The same becomes true of fellow crewmen and ultimately becomes true of things about yourself. Good first appearances count for less than they ever did, and real virtue - which comes from an ability to separate what merely looks good from what lasts and the acquisition of those characteristics in one's self - is strengthened. 


But beyond this there seems to be an even deeper teaching of virtue that rises out of a slow process of self-discovery after one has gone through a number of waves of danger and depression and is no longer overwhelmingly concerned about them. 


Self-discovery is as much a philosopher's imponderable as reality, but when one takes away the external stimuli of civilization during long ocean hours at the helm far from any land, and particularly on overcast nights, every cruising sailor knows that what occurs is not an evening of complete blankness. Instead comes a flow of thought drawn forth by the emptiness of the night.


Occurrences of the previous day, meager as they may have been, rise and are thought about for a while, and then die away to return again later, a little less compelling, and perhaps another time even weaker, until they die away completely and are not thought of again. Then older memories appear, of a week past, a month past, of years past, and these are thought about and sometimes interrelated with new insights. A problem that has been baffling in the past is now understood quickly. New ideas for things seem to pop up from nowhere because the rigid patterns of thought that inhibited them are now weakened by emptiness and depression. Then in time these new thoughts wear town too, and the empty night dredges deeper into the subconscious to tug at, loosen and dislodge old forgotten thoughts that were repressed years ago. Old injustices that one has had to absorb, old faces now gone, ancient feelings of personal doubt, remorse, hatred and fear, are suddenly loose and at you. You must face them again and again until they die away like the thoughts preceding them.


This self that one discovers is in many ways a person one would not like one's friends to know about; a person one may have been avoiding for years, full of vanity, cowardice, boredom, self-pity, laziness, blamingness, weak when he should be strong, aggressive when he should be gentle, a person who will do anything not to know these things about himself - the very same fellow who has been having problems with cruising depression all this time. I think it's in the day-after-day, week-after-week confrontation of this person that the most valuable learning of virtue takes place. 


But if one will allow it time enough, the ocean itself can be one's greatest ally in dealing with this person. As one lives on the surface of the empty ocean day after day after day after day and sees it sometimes huge and dangerous, sometimes relaxed and dull, but always, in each day and week, endless in every direction, a certain understanding of one's self begins slowly to break through, reflected from the sea, or perhaps derived from it. 


This is the understanding that whether you are bored or excited, depressed or elated, successful or unsuccessful, even whether you are alive or dead, all this is of absolutely no consequence whatsoever. The sea keeps telling you this with every sweep of every wave. And when you accept this understanding of yourself and agree with it and continue on anyway, then a real fullness of virtue and self-understanding arrives. And sometimes the moment of arrival is accompanied by hilarious laughter. The old reality of the sea has put cruising depression in its proper perspective at last. 
Tuesday
Jun182013

the problem, it seems, with adventuring

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. 

Saturday
Apr132013

can we please get the f out of here

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.

Sunday
Oct212012

the art of getting shit done

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.

Monday
Oct152012

well at least we all have fear in common

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.

Thursday
Oct042012

sixteen days until we leave the country

What, you don't keep 7 shaft zincs around?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.

Monday
Jan092012

yeah, sailing really is pretty cool

Starboard tack into the sunrise. Click to enlarge.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. 


Bioluminescent algae in a boat's wake. Click to enlarge.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.

Wednesday
Dec282011

finally got the bowsprit off

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.

Monday
Dec122011

sixteen months until departure

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. 

 

Wednesday
Feb232011

the winter of 2011 marches on

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.

Who Doesn't Want To Be A Tug Captain?Maritime Training

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.

Typical Pacific StormSan 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.

Strength Training

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.

In Summary

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.