Friday, May 31, 2019

A Texas surprise

Another week of training but a different kind of training, this time in Dallas. For the first time in nearly 4 decades I got instruction on instructing. Though it started out with me thinking that this was going to be four days of my life I was never going to get back, it turned out to be time well spent. It wasn’t so much new info as it was formalizing things learned long ago and practiced for years. What was new was learning to be not just a fight instructor, but a representative for an international organization. Different rules apply when the student is also the customer and the customer is always right.

There were 8 in the class from 4 different Training centers. Five of the eight were straight up flight instructors, including one who teaches on one of the world’s most sophisticated helicopters. She had spent a good part of her career flying off oil platforms all over the world, did a stint with the Maryland State police, and is now joining FSI. She had some pretty good stories and was an absolute joy to work with. 

Another in the class teaches maintenance techs, one dispatchers, and the eighth ocean crossing procedures. On day one the class instructor had us count; there was roughly 235 years of flight experience in the room: airline, military, corporate, crop dusting, acrobatics, chopper, glider, up high, down low, going fast, going slow…everything but balloons and astronauts. I am still blown away by the depth of field employed by the company.  But it wasn’t all good.

Word has it ours was the third to the last group who will benefit from this class. The training we received is being replaced by something more cost effective but will certainly be of less quality. I say that for two reasons. The first is that our instructor was a uniquely qualified person with decades of experience instructing flight instructors. The second is that he is going to be replaced, to a large degree, by e-learning. For some reason the human family has decided that actually interacting with other human beings is of no intrinsic value. It is claimed that listening to a recording of a voice, or the disembodied voice of a person standing in a room hundreds of miles away, is nearly as good as being in a classroom. And, in today’s world, nearly as good is good enough, particularly if it allows those who already have a pocket full of coins to pocket a few more.

And yes, I realize that observation is being made by someone who prefers that interactions with his fellow human be taken in small doses. A classroom with 8 or 10 or a Sim / GFS with 2 is perfect, and likely one of the reasons I am enjoying this job as much as I am.

I was awarded another surprise on this visit, the making of a new friend. Mark is a hard core Texican, born and bred. He lives on 25 acres of hallowed Texas soil, owns enough weapons to arm his own little militia, and usually has more than one either on his body or within close reach. In fact I pretty sure there were at least 3 in the car with us, but he is so comfortable with the whole idea that he didn’t make an issue of, or boast about, his guns. Which made me somewhat comfortable with the whole idea as well. He listens to right-wing radio and loves him some Donald Trump and a pickup truck, though we did ride around in his Japanese 4 door. 

He sat next to me in class and, nearly instantly, we recognized a kindred spirit. We enjoyed two dinners together and spent most of the break time exchanging rogue smiles and skeptical glances over some of the things being said in the class. In spite of that connection I think, at first, he was also puzzled by and curious about someone who, though aware of what is going on in the world around, doesn’t really pay much attention. The fact that I can both; a) know something is vitally important but, b) dismiss it anyway because I know I can’t do anything about it, seemed kind of new to him. But I think he likes the idea. Anyway, I don’t make new friends that often, and have to admit to being a bit surprised that this trip to Texas offered me a chance to do just that. 

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Throwback Thursday - The Rule of Three

This is one of our most shared posts ever. It's a good rule to live by on a boat, or in life in general.

The Rule of Three

The little blue and white Cessna lifts off gently into the air, rising toward the little puffs of clouds. It's a beautiful day with just a bit of wind and it's my first cross country solo flight. On my lap sits my knee board, charts marked with my route and notes about radio channels to use at the airports I have to stop at clamped in its jaws. My hands, although sweaty from nerves, hold the wheel lightly but firmly, remembering my flight instructor's warning about feeling the plane's responses instead of man-handling it. I'm heading to Ohio from a small town south of Pittsburgh and I'm a bundle of mixed emotions - excited that I made it this far, worried that I might fail this test and let my instructor (who also happens to be my husband) down, and flat out scared to death of being this far away from familiar territory. I fall into a rhythm, though, checking my waypoints and listening to the thrum of the engine, wary of any hiccups. After half an hour or so, I glance down at the chart for my next waypoint, glance up, and there right in front of me is a large set of interconnected radio antennas that extend to a height above my flight path. I'm headed right for the support wires. Wanting to panic, wanting look at the chart and see where I went wrong, wanting to figure out where the hell I was, I instead look for traffic in all directions and turn the plane smoothly to avoid the antennas, hearing in my head my instructor's voice, "Always fly the plane first. If you get into trouble remember that - fly the plane first." I turned off to a section of empty fields, stabilized my flight and then studied the chart. Under the Rule of Three, this would be number one.

So what does this have to do with a sailing blog? There are a lot of similarities between flying and sailing, and I'm not referring to the oft-cited bit about the sail being like an airplane wing. I'm referring to crew and cockpit management. I'm referring to inexperience, and I'm referring to fear. In the Facebook group Women Who Sail that I belong to, I hear the stories over and over again, those of some nightmarish docking attempt, or a passage gone bad. While flying speeds leave you less time to deal with issues that come up, sailing emergencies require the same type of response. You must be trained to respond automatically, to quickly assess the issues at hand and to choose the appropriate response to yield the result of safety. Since many sailors are relatively new, like I was in the cross country trip described above, they are frequently lacking those response skills. Fear abounds. The trick, whether flying or sailing, is to follow the Rule of Three.

Major problems almost always begin as a progression of small events that, coupled together, begin the downward spiral of loss of control. Stop the progression, and you most likely will stop the event. Any irregularity that makes you uncomfortable, that makes you stop and take notice, should be considered one of the three. On past flights, we've had an instrument go out. No big deal as there are usually backups, but we still chalk it up as an event. Not too long after the instrument failure there might be some unexpected weather showing. Second event. Shortly after that you might develop a headache. Event three. At this point we always find a place to land. Three strikes you're out. On a slow-moving sailboat, there might not be any place to "land" nearby, but you can find an open piece of water and heave-to. Or if the event in question happens while trying to dock, you can leave the harbor and anchor for a bit, or heave-to, giving yourself time to take a break and regroup. If you're leaving for a long passage and the three happen early in the trip, you have the option of turning around and going back, waiting for another weather window.

The success of the Rule of Three depends very heavily on you being situationally aware, and in addition to inattention, it can be hijacked by pride and, more often, by a pressing adherence to a schedule. It can be very humbling to abort a docking maneuver with a dock lined with fellow sailors. You can also be pressured into doing something you're not comfortable with because the daughter you haven't seen for a year is waiting at the airport for you to pick her up. You must make a commitment at the onset to follow the Rule of Three. All crew members must agree to it, and no one may challenge a crew's assessment of an event as being one of the three. If anyone is unhappy, it affects the whole crew.

Clearly there are some catastrophic events that happen that are completely out of our control. Take the anchored sailboat that was slammed into at Elliot Key in Biscayne Bay a few years ago - drunk boater in a very fast-moving boat and zero chance of avoiding the accident. In those cases, just as in a flying emergency, remember to always sail the boat first. There's a tendency to freeze, to panic, but get control of the boat first before you stop to assess the situation. Those catastrophic events are clearly another level of discomfort, but committing to follow the Rule of Three is a sure-fire way to maximize your safety and comfort.

I did safely return to my home airport that day. My instructor was pleased, and I had chalked up a learning experience that would also help me in my sailing adventures. The Rule of Three is an easy piece of safety equipment to add to your boat. So the next time you hear in your thoughts...

Stop. Regroup. And arrive happily and safely.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Throwback Thursday - Far From Home

Tim wrote this post while he was in Pittsburgh helping his siblings with the transfer of his parents from their home to a nursing home. It was a very difficult time for all involved. He was there alone; I was working on the boat in Miami for that six weeks. The observations are very applicable to anyone looking to cruise.

Far from home

I am back in the "normal" world for a while; suburbia, cars, traffic jams, sirens, guns, noise, and news. I have put more miles in driving the last 4 days than I had in the last 7 months, and I'm having trouble remembering why I used to enjoy it as much as I did. On the other hand there is ice cream in the fridge, cold milk, (that doesn't cost $12 / gal) and pretty good and consistent Internet access. Not sure the balance comes out in favor of "normal," but it isn't all bad.

Being 1000 miles away from Deb and the ocean? That is pretty much all bad.

Being away is also giving me a chance to take a look at our new life from a little different perspective, an opportunity to think about where we were, where we are, and how it looks like we are doing.

One thing that stands out is that full time living aboard and cruising is a far, far different endeavor than sailing, chartering, or living on a boat as an alternate to having a house or an apartment. It is its own, completely unique, thing. Even more, it is different for every person who is "out there" doing it.

As much as I loved sailing on Carlyle and appreciate the things we did learn about handling and living on a boat there, it really wasn't much preparation for what we are doing now. Having a boat as our one and only home is a far cry from visiting the lake on weekends. Mostly those years allowed us to get a lot of work done on our soon-to-be ocean going house, and make some life long friends.

I'm not sure chartering is much like living aboard either. We did take three week-plus training / cruising trips that might be counted as charters. Truth to tell they were not much of a hint as to what living aboard full time is like. Provisioning, watering, finding pump outs, 24 / 7, 365-days-a-year weather watch, these are our constant companions now. For many of us full time cruising means going "all in." There is no alternative, no plan B, no place to fall back to if it all goes bad. Virtually everything we own floats with Kintala. Every weather decision, every day under way, every harbor entered or Current Cut attempted, is an all or nothing deal. Flub it badly and we are homeless . . . at best.

As valuable as those trips were for us choosing a boat, the fact is both Deb and I are pretty sure the Tartan 42 wasn't the best choice. It is too much the racing boat and not enough the living-on boat. Romping across the Gulf Stream was great. The total time required to go both ways was less than two full days of sailing. (Biscayne Bay to West End + Bimini to Biscayne Bay.)

Living on a Tartan 42 is often a trial, and we do that all the time. For us, a boat just has to be as stable as possible riding to its anchor or a mooring, has to have sufficient storage, and has to have a cockpit comfortable for near full-time occupancy. An island bed would be nice and, contrary to what I had been told, would not be a problem on a passage. Neither of us sleeps in a bed on passage; short handed crews don't often get that far apart.

Once upon a time I claimed a center cockpit boat was a better idea than an aft cockpit, low free board boat because, "I didn't want the ocean that close to my ass." Now I would take an open transom boat without a second thought, so long as the cockpit was big, roomy, and comfortable. It would also make getting on and off the boat from a dink a lot easier. Yet a center cockpit ketch rig would be an excellent basic platform for a live-a-board cruiser. Not because the ocean isn't that close to my ass, but because the sail plan is easy to manage, the aft cabin can be a great place to live, two heads are pretty standard, engine access is likely acceptable, and storage is better.

The cruising community is not much like America. These are people with different motivations, different ideas of what it means to be responsible, with a close and personal relationship with the natural world. Many are from Canada and Europe and are not nearly as impressed with Americans as Americans tend to be with themselves. Most know well their turn will come to need a little help, and so they offer the same with little hesitation.

It isn't that religion and politics are left on the beach, but even among American cruisers no one wears them on their sleeve. There are a few gun nuts, some religious fundamentalists, but none have been offensive or overbearing. Not once have I been told I am going to hell and no one has waved a gun around. Individual political leanings deemed important on land haven't disappeared. But they don't mean as much as they once did. Maybe it's because the ocean will drown Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Tea-partiers, Socialists, people who like their universal health care, and even Texans, with equal enthusiasm. Being capable on the water is the measure that matters once any nation and its politics fall below the horizon.

Even for us Americans who have only accomplished a single "ocean crossing" to the Islands and have managed to live there for just a couple of months, the world appears bigger and the center of the map isn't - automatically - the US-of-A. There are whole other societies doing things in a whole other way, with a history completely different from this country. There is a whole planet where people screw things up in new and unique ways, not just American ways. (The Democratic and Republican ways of screwing things up are getting repetitive. We need to come up with some new material.) Being arrogant about "being an American" works inside these borders, where boasting counts more than doing. Outside these borders it makes you look like a wanker.

As much work as living on the water might be, no matter that a different boat might make that life a lot easier, being back for a visit has made it clear that I really don't want to be living anything but a cruising life. Most mornings on Kintala I take a cup of coffee out to the cockpit, sit back, and start my day slow and easy. I actually look up to see if it looks like the forecasts are reasonable. The sky and the sea fill my senses. Sometimes we are in the middle of a city, sometimes surrounded by other boats . . . and sometimes not. Any way I look at it, it is a good way to start a day. Most days end in pretty much the same way except the drink is cold and has a bit more horsepower.

My new world feels far, far, away at the moment, and I long to be home.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Throwback Thursday - The True Cost of Cruising

We get a lot of questions about how much it costs to cruise. For specific answers to that question, we keep a list of blogs in the right sidebar that post their cruising costs, ours included - although I'm way behind in updating it, I confess. This post, though, is about a different kind of cost you pay when cruising - that of missing family and friends. If you're in the planning stages of cruising, this is definitely a cost that needs to be considered.

The True Cost of Cruising

The five grandkids are now eleven...
Daughters and five grand kids . . . today was the day we said the rest of the hard good-byes. I was doing okay right through the day, playing, reading books, explaining to the two oldest girls why we were staying at a marina they had never visited and then explaining about travel lifts and trucks. But at the end of the day, just when it looked like I might hold it together the youngest, with no clue what he was about to do to my heart, crawled to my feet, held his arms up to be lifted, then tucked his face into my shoulder . . . 

There is no explanation for the wanderer's soul. There is no cure for wanderlust. I have been unhappy being in one place since (so I am told anyway) my first day of first grade. Less than an hour of being penned in one room and I had had enough. The twelve years that followed, all in the same school district, were pure misery. It showed in my grades, in my list of detentions, in the fights and the brushes with police. I was that kid none of the other kids were allowed to hang out with. Quite literally, they let me out after my Senior year because no one wanted to see me there again.

The two years of technical school were a slight improvement; partly because I was the kid right out of high school in a class mostly made up of people recently out of the jungles of 'Nam. They were a tough lot, several more than a little crazy, many of whom took a liking to the combative kid who (I now suspect) reminded them of themselves before someone started shooting at them. It also helped that only half our day was spent in a classroom; the other half we spent out in the shop. Still penned in, but better than a desk. To this day, no one knows how often I dreamed of just walking away from that place and how close I came to doing it . . . the future I hoped to share with Deb being the only thing that kept me going back.

They let us "graduate" a few weeks early to fill jobs rebuilding B-52s. Deb and I headed west and never looked back. We spent 4 years in one place, 14 in another, 2 in a third, then landed in St. Louis. But we wandered constantly: me as a pilot, both of us as bikers. And no place ever felt like a "home," just a town with a job.

Now, finally, we are on the verge of heading off again; this time for a wanderer's dream come true. No place is home, but anywhere can be our front yard. The challenge of new skills to learn, the lure of new places to see, experiencing life in a way unsuspected just six years ago, and no one can tell us we have to "stay here and do this." But the dream has a price just shy of being too high . . . a price no one but a wanderer would even think about paying.

We like to say that there is no choice, that the wanderer wouldn't be the person he or she is if they could stop. Perhaps that is true. We are going, after all. But I like to think that the price will be a fair one. That in the end the people we love who don't wander with us love us anyway; that they share our adventures and find a larger view of the world. That, in the end, the stories of our lives will be full, even if the main characters in our hearts are not written into every page.

For that is the true cost of cruising.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Throwback Thursday - Little Bits of Magic

When I think back on all of the things that happened to us during our years on Kintala, this is still one that ranks in the top five. It will forever be the definition of cruising magic.

Little bits of magic

Kintala is on a mooring ball in Marathon for a couple of days. This is a very well spoken of and popular place among the cruising tribe that frequents these parts. It took a beating from Irma, has recovered some, but it will be a while (if ever) before all of the scars are gone. For all of its charms, it has never ranked that high on Deb’s or my list of places we love to be. Though there are far fewer boats than we are used to seeing, it is still a crowded place. The mooring balls are closely spaced. Pulling up to one is like taking a room in a hotel, or pitching a tent in the middle of a parking lot. Still, it is about the only place to stop on the way around the Keys, and this is our fourth time here.

The anchorage at Shark River with a sunset muted by the
haze from the fires burning in Florida
It stands in stark contrast to the anchorage in Little Shark River, which was exactly the kind of place we have come to enjoy. There were only two boats sharing the space with us. It was quiet and dark. Really, really dark. The kind of dark that lets the night sky overwhelm one’s sense of space, size, and time. “The sea is so big, and my boat is so small,” is a common thought for those who take to big water. In Shark River at night the universe becomes the ocean, and the whole of Mother Earth our -  shared - little boat. Indeed, comparing the size of the ocean to a boat, vs the size of the universe to a single planet, our common boat is tiny beyond comprehension.

I like being in places where it seems some wise old spirit lives, offering up nuggets of insight just to see what you dare do with them.

The sail from Marco to Shark River was a pretty good sail all of its own. Kintala touched 7 knots on several occasions, flying every bit of sail available close against a 10 to 20 knot wind for a good part of the day. But, as good as the sailing was, it was a different bit of magic that marked the day. Flitting all around were these tiny little birds. I have no idea if it is migration time for the little fluff balls, or if a week of stiff winds out of the East had blown a bunch of them out over the water. In any case, there were enough of them around to make it impossible not to notice.

Early in the afternoon Kintala was some 20 miles off shore, groups of the little birds occasionally making low passes over the boat. Eventually one landed. In fact he flew aboard and touched down on my leg as I sat in the cockpit. After sizing me up for a minute or two he flew around a bit as if checking the place out, then scooted off over the water once again. A few minutes after that he was back with a friend. They both fluttered hither and yon, hanging off of lines, checking out the inside of the dodger, poking around the piles of sheets scattered here and there.

Then there were four, then six, and ultimately eight, all hitching a ride back closer to shore.

They put on quite a show, landing on feet and arms, heads and legs. They chased bugs, and even brought down several dragon flies that were not all that much smaller than the birds themselves. They drank water out of a cup, fought over bug parts, fluttered around, sat and preened, hopped up on our fingers, and even let us pet them. There were so many of them that we had to move about slowly, looking where we were about to step or sit, for fear of squashing one of our little guests.

Nether of us had ever seen such a thing before.

Eventually they started to flutter off, the last one riding along in the cockpit for a half hour or so all alone, as if glad to have a bit of space for a while. I have no clue what they were up to, or where they were going, but it was a treat to have them stop by and keep us company for a while. I wonder what kind of stories they might share about us, whenever it is that they get where they are going.

The next day we stayed closer to shore, running off the wind in the lee of the land, which kept the swell down to something comfortable. It was another good day of sailing, but just one little bird dropped by, sitting on the deck for a while, then flashing away in a burst of colored frenzy.

So, after five days of sailing spread out over a little more than a week, Kintala is out of the Gulf of Mexico and back in sight of the Atlantic Ocean.

And that feels a bit magical as well.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Settling in...again

The carriage house companionway
with a view into the cockpit
The move is mostly done. It will be a few weeks yet before everything finds its place, though the grand kids have settled right in. So long as only our screen door is closed they know they are welcome, and walk right in. If the main door is closed they knock, then walk right in.

There is a regular parade of kids including, once in a while, friends of grand kids. It has taken away much of the sting of having had to leave the cruising life for more mundane waters, though there is still many things to get used to. We have two rooms now. That is one less than the boat’s v-berth, salon, and aft cabin, though Kintala’s rooms were cabins of course, and much smaller. So it all still feels too big, and a bit clunky. In fact all of land living feels a bit clunky. Traffic surges and stops. Houses and buildings are mostly squared off blocks arranged in bigger (and rightly named) blocks, which are bordered by squared off streets. Sometimes it reminds me of old video games filled with squared off people riding in squared off cars and walking their squared off dogs.

One good part having our own squared off front room is that it has been filled up with all of the instruments, plus one, that we had stored away all over the boat. Two “bucket drums,” various percussion instruments, a kind of Lute, a flute, my Uke, and a guitar Deb has been learning to play, (the “plus one.”) As soon as some bonus money lands in our account we hope to add two more, a somewhat smaller guitar for Deb, and a somewhat larger Uke for me. One of the reasons grand kids drop by is to practice on the drums. Daughter Middle’s house has a piano, guitars, and a whole collection of Ukuleles, including one of ancient solid wood that makes the most mellow tone you have ever heard…so long as it stays in tune. Something that it isn’t prone to do with its older style pegs. But Grampy T is the drummer of the family and kids like drums.

I like that the house is often full of music, even if its one of the kids trying to learn LLLL RRRR LLRR LLRR LRLR LRLR LRLL RLRR, or my still more than modest attempts at finding a song hiding in the strings of the Uke. It reminds me of the boat where, even without our contribution, nature often filled the day with music of her own. There was the water slapping against the hull, the winds whispering through the rigging, the thump and splash of jumping rays and the puffs of broaching dolphins. (Who would have thought that one could miss the sound of dolphins this much?) Somehow the sounds of cars, ‘choppers, jets, trucks, and garage door openers just doesn’t come across as music. (Well, maybe… if one thinks really bad, out of tune music.)

And let's not forget barking dogs. Being surrounded by dolphins broaching and puffing is magic. Being surrounded by dogs yapping and barking and scratching is just down-right annoying.

At the shop I have finally cleared the initial qualification hurdles and start working with client crews next week; GFS and Simulator only. Classroom qualification is several weeks (at least) away yet, and awaits a week long trip to Dallas for additional training. Clearly the clunk who coined the phrase, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” never taught people to fly jets. Getting type rated in the Legacy was the easiest part of learning this new job. To fly the jet takes “X” amount of knowledge and skill. To teach others to fly the jet takes X times 10. It’s no wonder than when people go looking for an airplane driver they often raid the training centers. Which is the reason we get a bonus for staying, and that will let me buy another Uke.

The Boat Hammock still getting used with lots of laughter
Some beauty from the local park. Anyone know what this tree is?
And yes, still some water fun thanks to their other grandparents' farm pond

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Throwback Thursday - Understanding

I've been thinking a lot about the difference between land life and the cruising life since we're here living on land for a while. Tim wrote this post early on, but it's still as applicable as the day he wrote it. If you're considering a life afloat, this will help you understand.


It has been a bit surprising, the reactions people have when they find out they are talking with someone who lives full time on a sailboat. About half exclaim that they could never do such a thing, and then go on about how cool it must be. The other half go on about how cool it must be, and then get a bit whimsical about doing it themselves. If the situation allows, it will take a while to get away as each will want to hear all about storms and pirates on the one hand, beaches and resorts on the other.

Which usually leads to them being a tiny bit disappointed. Cruisers are pretty good at avoiding storms and pirates, don't have as much time for beaches as non-cruisers imagine, and don't often care much about visiting resorts. Somehow people who live in houses with a thousand square feet of living space imagine that a 42-foot sailboat is large, that life on the ocean is easy, filled with cold drinks, fantastic food, and beautiful people. All-day excursions to go shopping, humping water on and trash off, munching soggy crackers to fend off motion sickness on a bumpy night passage, and all the other joys of this life that cruisers know so well, come as a huge surprise to those who live in big boxes with yards. Yet almost all still think it is cool when the conversation ends.

Another near-universal question is what our plans are, where are we going next? Trying to give an honest answer goes something like this;

"Well, for the rest of the summer it looks like South Carolina will be home base for some boat work. Come fall, Biscayne Bay until the New Year, then probably over to the Islands again. The Abacos are fantastic, but friends have talked up the Exumas and it sounds like they shouldn't be missed. The goal come next Spring will be heading to the Northern Chesapeake to park the boat for a while; overland to St. Louis to try and sell the condo in June. By the end of 2015 Kintala could be back in southern FL looking forward to a third winter in the Islands. Spring 2016 she might be heading farther south, instead of north, to hide from hurricanes. Maybe we will make Central America for the summer of 2016; live in another country for a while. After that, who knows?"

To a cruiser's ear this is a perfectly normal sounding response. But to those living the American Dream it sounds like the ravings of the demented. "Looks like," "should," "could," South Carolina, Biscayne Bay, Exumas, Abaco, Chesapeake, 2015, 2016, Central America . . . The stark difference between the old life on land and the new one on the water is plain as their eyes glaze over and the wheels turn trying to figure out where some of those places are. "Planning" years into the future to be in locations we have never seen, while not really knowing where we will be in a week or a month?

This is a very odd way to live, and I have about given up on the idea of getting those who haven't done it to understand. Not a big surprise. After 7 years of preparing, shedding nearly everything we knew, and now having almost a year and 2000 nm in our log, I am just beginning to understand it myself.

This is also a very tenuous way to live. The ocean environment is what it is with complete disregard to anything else. We see it as beautiful, challenging, compelling; as well as uncaring, uncomfortable, and quite easily deadly. But that is only land-living unmasked. For example, I have two grand kids now living on a sailboat. Many have commented on how dangerous that is. Really? In a society of cars, guns, and gangs just how dangerous is the ocean by comparison? And those cars, guns, and gangs are nearly as hazardous to adults as they are to children. Living on the ocean means admitting life is fleeting and capricious instead of living on land and pretending life is permanent and predictable.

For many of us, getting here means dumping most of the material things that make up American life. Houses, cars, furniture, yards, gardens, swimming pools, monster grills that fill the patio, the patio itself . . . none of that stuff fits on the common cruising boat. We cut the ties to stuff, and many of us are surprised to discover the idealism of our youth was more righteous then we thought. We should have stuck with it from the very beginning. Sadly, we missed the chance to teach this old / new idea to our kids. They are already buried under mountains of student loans and struggling to survive the class warfare of corporate America. But we have grand kids . . . 

From the back yards of suburbia and through the eye of the TV tube, America is a big place and the world is kind of small. From the deck of a sailboat and through the eyes that nature gave us, the world is a big place and America is kind of small. And I mean "small" in more ways than just geography. Once upon a time a collection of Americans brought out the best in each. Now, collectively, we are mean spirited and narrow minded. Dreams of greatness have been replaced by delusions of grandeur. Once we had hope. Now we just hope for the best.

Literally yards off shore that starts to fade. People keep an eye out for trouble, step in and help when they can. There are lots of smiles, waves, and greetings. Complete strangers-soon-to-be-friends will stop by in a dink to ask about the boat or comment on the home port listed on the stern.  Stories of places far away will be shared, and the idea of visiting them will be encouraged.  Before we left, a lot of people said we shouldn't go, that we weren't ready.  Once we did go, the cruiser community encouraged us to keep going.  This is a life of bold people doing a different thing.

There is a sometimes cruiser custom that I love.  As the sun touches the horizon in the west, conch horns sound to herald the close of another day . . . "We are with the tribe, riding safe to anchor or mooring, thankful for the challenges of the day, and content with the peace that comes with the night."

Hard to explain to those who haven't been here.