Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Chi cerca trova

Every now and then someone will ask us what we have found. They are keying off of "Cerca Trova” as in he-who-seeks-will-find.   And at the moment we are wrapping up another cruising season, a strange and rewarding and difficult one.  We have had the most wonderful times and the worst times of our cruising experiences, all without wandering further than the north coast of Cuba.  So, as we sit in Green Turtle Cay waiting out a week of really nasty weather, I am turning reflective ..

There is no time like the present.

I think this is the number one understanding that cruising has driven home. We sold the house, left jobs and friends, threw ourselves off the edge of our known universe, realizing that if we didn't go now we might never. But more than in just the major moves like that, this life principle extends to every decision we make now. If we can get it done now, we do. If we can speed up the boat safely, we do. If we can go explore, we do. If there is a need to get home, we go. Time is not your friend and is utterly irreplaceable.

The sea isn't “angry”, it's utterly indifferent.

There are so many romantic stories about the angry sea, the peaceful sea, the welcoming sea, etc etc etc. Not really. The sea just is. It is entirely up to you do deal or not, to enjoy or not. There is no point in worrying, the sea is not scheming nor prescient. But it is extremely powerful, difficult to predict, and occasionally dangerous. And the gear to deal with it is equally powerful and dangerous. So this way of life requires a 24/7 presence of mind that is unmatched in nearly any other lifestyle. Which is much of the attraction, and the source of much stress.

Plans must be allowed to be just plans.

Things change out here in milliseconds, or in hours. What you were expecting is not what you find.  You make bad decisions and have to recover.  It is said that the most dangerous piece of equipment on a boat is the calendar. But even without putting dates to goals, simply setting goals that you are unwilling to change can cause real problems and certainly will cause lots of stress. This season we have tried to go with the flow a lot more. We did achieve some things we had always wanted to (protracted stay waay down south in the Jumentos, get ourselves to Cuba, learn to effectively spearfish, anchor where-ever not just at known anchorages, …) but we didn't force it and are winding up the season feeling a lot more accomplished than worn out.

People are way more important then anything else

It was the Cuban people we enjoyed. It is our family we miss so much. It is our fellow cruisers who makes ports the most memorable. It is the good-byes that are the hardest.  When we reach out for help, we have never been disappointed and sometimes overwhelmed.  it's the individuals we will remember long after the sunsets have faded; the chatty Cuban taxi driver who was a Russian-trained aerospace engineer, the matriarch of Duncan Town,  the odd and kind guy running the simple docks where we are tied up now through the thunderstorms, the people from literally miles around who responded to our call for help when our mainsail headcar was breaking down and we were days of travel from any civilization.

We can do a lot more than we think we can.

I have annoyed our kids for years with often hitting them with the Henry Ford quote “think you can or think you can't, either way you are probably right”. And so you might think that I 'get it'. I still don't really trust my ability to get us out of trouble. We sweat a lot about staying out of trouble and thereby make our stress and limit our own adventures.  We fixed that failing headcar by building our own "car loader" based on an idea from two neighbor boats and multiple hours with me hanging in the bosons chair while Jennifer handed me itty-bitty ball bearings to force back into the car races.  I can fix nearly anything now for which I have good documentation and the right parts. And some skills I just will never develop – we had our refrigeration system repaired while on the hard at Fort Lauderdale Marin Center last month and the guy who did the work was an absolute magician who used very limited instrumentation and lots of experience to get our itty-bitty system (by his standards) running better than it ever has, and I don't really know how he did it.

When it's time to stop we will know, and we will stop

We went into this knowing it wasn't going to be for the rest of our lives. This year has been slow enough that there has been lots of time to feel time passing in between the mechanical failures and personal-bests. Our family is moving on and we aren't there as they do so. I am close to being ready to stop. It has been really painful at times this year and had me at the point of looking for jobs and rental houses, and so have to come to grips with that future when we will indeed stop. But not quite yet...

Tuesday, January 10, 2017


So, What Do We Do All Day?

Here's a typical day in the life on anchor:
0600 – get up, start coffee
0615 – download weather data, review vs yesterday's plans
0630 – tune in Marine Weather Center on SSB and listen to forecast and passaging recommendations
0715 – prep, eat, clean-up breakfast
0800 – local cruisers' net on VHF
0830 – start generator, monitor the batteries charging, run water heater, run watermaker, and start clothes washer if needed.
Plan the rest of the day and any small fix-it / cleaning projects
0930 – Finish up email, FB, blogging,
1030 – start main tasks of the day: move the boat; snorkeling/lobstering; big repairs or maintenance; inventory on provisions or supplies; cleaning; trip to town for food, parts, or fuel (a grocery run can take 3 hours!); professional work tasks; hide from horrible weather in our bunk and read; planning our next route segments; etc.
1200 – lunch
1230 – continue the day's tasks
1500 – check in on progress of solar charging and status of batteries
1630 – happy hour
1730 – start dinner
1900 – wrap dinner
1930 – movie or book
2100 – shower and abed
0100 – up to check anchor and get any radio traffic, eg sailmail and weather faxes

This all varies with location, plans, and weather. Like in the last five days we have been boat-bound by a fierce cold front which had us extremely busy looking after the boat as the front came in and bashed us around in the anchorage, and now it's really cold and blowing hard so we are doing small inside projects like replacing broken window screens and cleaning detail things like hatch trim and all those computer wires that seem to sprawl when you aren't paying attention.

Underway, it's very different. We stand 4-hour watches, generally, so a 24 hour day has 3 watches each. We are more relaxed about day watches and we tend to blur who is running the boat vs who is doing support stuff like meal prep. We generally will make breakfast just after dawn. Dinner is the big meal of the at-sea day, we will both take the time to sit for 15 minutes of gracious living as my family would say (the boat can run itself for that time with no attention). Nights are generally (hopefully!) quiet with the off-watch person asleep and an extra reef pulled in to ease the boat's motion and speed. Heavy conditions are different in that the boat takes much more attention and the work is much harder., gracious living gets replaced with just looking after ourselves and the boat.

Not a lot of sitting around in the sun. “It's not a vacation, it's a lifestyle.”