Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Dreams of white canvas, singing winds and fear of the unknown.

It's difficult defining when this love of the sea and the ships who sail her began. I have been a water lover all my life. I swim, SCUBA, Waterski, snorkel and if there is a pool, well, I am in it. But the real story starts when I walked into an Attorneys office and there, on the wall, was this noble vessel just crying to me. I inquired about the ship and he said it was his, but he had sold her. For some unknown reason, my heart sank. In that scanty moment, I could almost smell the sea spray, salty and sharp yet so comforting, and then it was gone.

I don't know what design she was, that was easily 15 years ago and my knowledge was not developed. Maybe she was a Sloop, or a Ketch, maybe a noble Schooner. I didn't know what any of that meant anyway and if you don't, well, feel at ease, I'll be catching you up on sailor jargon soon. Sailing has its very own unique language. For instance, If I say Sheet, in the context of sailing, you probably think of the sail. However, in sailing, a sheet is a line used to control the movable corner(s) or clews of a sail, yes it is confusing. I remember my friend Allen talking about Sailing, he used to sail when he was a kid, and a good friend Sam who sails and had magnificent stories to tell about floating around the Caribbean. But I was so naive and the language they used intimidated me so I just swallowed stories and never really took action towards learning more. 

Basic Styles of Sailboats
Over the years, sailing has intrigued me, When I see a sailing vessel I pause and wonder what her crew has seen, the raging seas they have endured, the perils they have endured. Sailing, I knew, was a risky sport and knowing that the people who devote their lives to sailing and the sea love every moment of that time on the sea. I knew I would sail, I just didn't know when. Even my favorite songs were sailing songs. 

Southern Cross - Crosby Stills and Nash
Got out of town on a boat goin' to Southern islands
Sailing a reach before a followin' sea
She was makin' for the trades on the outside
And the downhill run to Papeete

Off the wind on this heading lie the Marquesas
We got eighty feet of the waterline nicely making way
In a noisy bar in Avalon I tried to call you
But on a midnight watch I realized why twice you ran away

This song has inspired so many people to challenge themselves and has probably inspired many to look up words and phrases like "sailing a reach", Papeete and "before a followin' sea". Well, they are authentic sailing terms and create a sense of romance and mystery. This is likely another key principle that drove me to love sailing. 

Now I have a desire and I also have a problem, in England, I think they call this a sticky wicket, a metaphor used to describe a difficult circumstance and seemingly arose from cricket. I am intimidated by the mystery of sailing and I aspire to sail. Example: I am sitting on the beach in the Mexican Riviera;  enjoying the company of good friends on a perfect gleaming white beach and there are these sailboats sitting there all alone. Now these are Cat Boats or even Dingey sailboats and easy to capsize.

This intimidation left me hunkered down in the chair being a landlubber and not pursuing my passion. And for the next few years I would dream but not achieve. But before we get into how I achieved that first sail, Let's look at the basics of the language of sailing and parts of a boat in the next article. But for now...

May the winds always fill your sails and the sun and moon light your passage.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A maiden voyage, a dream and an escape

This is the maiden voyage of my blog, a recitation of a crossing. The format will be simple and yet sometimes a nomadic wanderlust of ideas, it will always come back to the principle, saying goodbye to that suburban rut of a life and sailing off into the warm mist of the unknown, the sea, the future. Here we will cover topics of the past as I reminisce of old times, “misty watercolor memories”, to steal a phrase from Barbara Streisand, and define who I am, how I got here and hallucinate about where I might end up. Often times I’ll say “I” when I mean “we” because this is a “we”, my wonderful and beautiful wife Karla who is my co-Captain, maybe even Admiral on this journey. But never lose sight of the fact that this is, even when evoking the past, a tale of the journey in the now, not the destination of someday. So let the story begin, or should I say, continue?

For almost 10 years, I’ve dreamed of slowing things down, taking life a little less serious and if that means streamlining then so be it. Sailing is something, like Scuba, that always was in the back of my mind as ambitions I want to accomplish and being the person I am, if I do anything, I’ve really got to do it with fervor. Jumping off the bridge and into the water was a caprice thought in June of 2014 to screw society and the norms and buy a sailboat. It came after a crushing blow when I found out the company I had spent 20 years building decided they were better off without me and went up for sale. I was told quite coldly that my services, sale or not, would no longer be required. Some of my closest friends and 20-year companions simply turned their backs and walked away. So my mental state was one of I want to simplify, how simple can I get? The thought occurred to me in Miami, sitting in a friend’s backyard smoking a cigar, and looking at sailboats sitting in the Biscayne Bay. I thought, there is an escape, a place to slow life down and fulfill a dream. My wife Karla thought I was nuts, I thought it was pure genius! Insanity works that way. It took her almost 6 months to come around, as it did with her now favorite pastime Scuba, to my way of thinking, but she did and she tolerant the idea of living aboard and taking on a cruiser lifestyle.

So, I am going through my Midlife Adventure aka crisis! I really feel good about it, but there is this damned voice in the back of my head saying, "Don't be irrational, find a good job and keep building that retirement". You see, in many ways, I screwed up. I have a marginally decent nest egg that seems to shrink daily thanks to the economy, but it is due to the sale of my old company that I have anything, had it been my own doing, I'd be screwed. All my money was in real estate and when the market crashed in 2008, I was toasted. I have my Roatan home, but it is almost impossible to sell, besides, that is a nice escape and a great sail destination.

There are many phases in this insane plot and I liken it to cutting your way through a bramble bush with a plastic comb. Have you ever bought a sailboat? That’s another post. First we need to shed the weight of the world and that means clean house. Our home will be converted to a rental until the market value recovers enough that I can sell and make enough to pay it off. Things I own will go into storage or be sold, most will be sold. I’ll keep things like my guitars, Amps, Maybe the pool table and we have some really cool wood stuff like a single slab 4’x9’ acacia (Non-Hawaiian Koa) table from Tahiti that was given to some guy as a wedding gift for marrying the Chiefs daughter. It will be interesting seeing what I can actually sell or throw out, we do become attached to stuff in such odd ways. And as the Buddha said, “life is suffering” and that suffering comes from our attachments we create, the weight we place upon our own shoulders like Atlas carrying the world. 

Living on a sailboat and working will be interesting but I can’t imagine a better office than the bridge of a boat. I’ll contract IT and programming services, hopefully to the company I am contracting with now. As long as I have the internet, I can do what I do.

One crazy thought I’ve had for many years ever since my creative writing class at Salt Lake Community College is to write a book. I have many friends that have done so and I can pick their brains. One old school friend or associate is a freelance writer for People, Readers Digest and several newspapers. I remember her being on the School paper back in high school and I hope she will let me pick her brain. Another friend I met online, Frederick, has also written a book so that’s another resource. Several friends I have, started out similar simple lives by blogging and I thought I could blog my journey of becoming a Salty Sea Dog and use the blog posts as the basis and outline for the book.  Oh look, here we are! Chapter one.

One thing I’ve never been is boring and as afraid as I am, the same levels of excitement are there. Although, and I’ve sad it many times, it is all about the journey but the ultimate climax to the adventure could be the “Coconut Milk Run” or the “Pacific Puddle Jump”. This would entail sailing from Florida, through the Caribbean to the Panama Canal, then on to Galapagos Islands, Marquesas, Tahiti, Cook Islands, maybe Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu and on to New Zealand or even Australia. That is if I don't stop someplace along the way and drop a permanent anchor in Some Particular Harbor, Thanks, Jimmy Buffett.

So what do I want to accomplish? Good question, Glad I asked. It is my hope that someone, maybe you, reads this journal and either finds a map for their own lives or maybe they/you see something never thought possible. What is possible? Living your dreams!!

May the winds always fill your sails and the sun and moon light your passage.

Let the journey begin.