Stompin' on the Terra

"And he said, 'Stomp upon the Terra.'" – Lord Buckley (via Hunter Thompson)

My Photo
Location: Plum Island, Massachusetts

06 August 2013

Getting in Shape is Easy!

It doesn't look like it but I was actually in shape in
this photo taken during the 20008 Fireweed 200 in
Alaska. I made it, finishing in 11 hours, 35 minutes.
That was then, this is now...
It's been a half-assed effort, but I am slowly getting my whole ass -- and the rest of my bloated form -- back into shape. The good news is that the workouts are easy. It's getting to the workouts that's hard.

Take today for instance…

I rode my bicycle off Plum Island and into Newburyport for the Tuesday evening group ride. I got there about 10 minutes ahead of the ride's scheduled departure and grabbed a spot on the little wall outside the bike shop that hosts the ride. I removed my helmet, pulled off my gloves and reached into the pocket on the back of my shirt for my iPhone.

Only it wasn't there. It was gone, along with my driver's license (ID in case I get smooshed by a truck) and a $20 bill (for emergency rations). @#$#! The only thing I could think of was that it had jumped out of the pocket when I hit a bump. And since I didn't want to lose a second phone in a matter of a couple of months, let alone my driver's license, I hopped on my bike and started back to the island, keeping my eyes peeled on the far side of the road for a small, black rectangle.

As I rode, it occurred to me that the likelihood of me not noticing the phone jumping out of my pocket was pretty slim, and that's when the hopeful thought that I might have left the phone at home crawled into my head. And after a 10-minute ride, there was my phone: right on the stairs by the driveway where I'd left it. Whew!

But hey! It's only 6:01 and that group ride NEVER starts on time, right? Let's go for it…maybe you can cut them off at the town green, about a mile or so into the ride. You can make it, right?

So I hopped back onto the bike and made my third trip in 30 minutes over the causeway linking the island and the mainland, this time really pouring the coals on (for me), hoping to link up with the group. I made it to the town green, pulled out my still-there iPhone and checked the time. 6:11. Hmm, not likely but maybe…

After waiting a few minutes, it was clear I'd missed the group. So I took off on a shorter solo ride. And truth be told: I probably got a better workout than I'd have gotten with the group. For starters, there was no one for me to draft. I had to do all the work. And as those of you who know me are aware, I'm too hardheaded NOT to pedal full-tilt -- especially with no bike computer to tell me my speed -- rather than be smart and pace myself for the long haul. I just go till I fade, cruise for a bit, then go some more. For an enchanting finish, I had a nice seabreeze for a headwind on the return trip home, when I was already pretty tired (oh, and it was snow-covered and uphill both ways, too).

In any case, the half-assed effort continues. When I got home, I installed the bike computer I'd bought a few weeks ago when I last did the group ride so now I can pace myself, right? At least on those days I get to the workout, that is.

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11 July 2013

Calling Gumby

Some of the other participants in this morning's
yoga class.
I could have stayed in Happy Baby pose the rest of the class. Fortunately, there were only a couple more hip openers to go before my favorite part of any yoga session: Savasana, or Corpse pose.

In Happy Baby, I lay on my back with my legs off the floor above me, knees bent, while my hands grabbed the outside of my feet. I also rolled around a bit on the base of my spine, which felt wonderful after the contortions in which I'd spent the previous 50 or so minutes. Like I said: I could have stayed there for a long time but in short order the instructor had us grab a belt and extend our legs (one at a time) out to the side then over to the other side. That felt good too, and the Savasana that immediately followed was very peaceful. But most of the session had been a torture-fest, a struggle to bend and twist this 47-year-old frame into rejuvenating positions. I did it, but it wasn't easy.

Which is a bummer because I was good at yoga a while back. I did it quite frequently and I have no doubt it was yoga that enabled me to play full-check hockey well into my 40s.

I took up yoga in the fall of 1992. I'd returned home to Park City, Utah, after my first trip to Alaska. On that trip I had several revelations, and they all conspired to get me back into proper form. I went vegetarian and gave up alcohol for almost a year, I started working out in the gym and doing cardio work regularly, and I took up yoga.

Yoga made sense because of a book I'd read by Ram Dass, in which the guru of the '60s pointed out that if you were an active person, seated meditation was going against your nature. Better to try active meditation: whirling, tai chi or yoga, things like that.

My first teacher was an ex-Army guy who taught in the gym in Park City. He was super nice and super laid-back, and he was very helpful to a rank beginner like me. In later years I worked with some pretty high-profile teachers, including one who studied with B.K.S. Iyengar, THE yoga dude in the world. But C.J. remains my favorite, largely because of his cheerful, happy-go-lucky approach to the practice.

And the practice paid off right away. I felt healthier and more capable on the slopes, on the ice, everywhere. Several years later, while playing for the Sun Valley Suns, I'd get shit from younger teammates as I'd go through my 10-minute pre-game routine. The funny thing was: they were the ones getting hurt, not this old-fart yogi. That was what clinched the value of yoga to me: that health and strength and suppleness that practicing yoga gave me.

But as with every healthy discipline in my life, I've wandered off the path in recent years. I haven't vegged since I started eating meat again in '93, and heaven knows I don't lead a teetotaling life. In recent months I at least kept up a gym practice (abandoned since May) and a regular yoga practice? Well, that's been years. So this morning's class -- a slow-flow class, no less -- was humbling.

There weren't any of the Gumby-like rubber-band practitioners in this morning's class, but there were plenty of people -- male and female alike, older and younger than me -- who made me feel like the out-of-shape blob I've become. Poses that were once easy for me are now challenging -- some so challenging I can't do them other than at the complete beginner level. I came out of the class feeling it in every muscle of my body. Which, I suppose, is the point, right?

"Seek freedom and become captive of your desires, seek discipline and find your liberty," wrote Frank Herbert in Dune. I've let that discipline go over the past months and years, but I'm confident that a slow-flow yoga class this morning represents the first step on the road back to where I was not so long ago. "Begin again and again and again and…" was the mantra of an old trainer of mine years ago. Sound wisdom. Maybe I can even get back to Gumby status someday.

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05 July 2013

Live and Learn

The perks of learning to fly fish: king salmon in Alaska.
I learned to fly fish in the summer of my 16th year. My father taught me while we were in Utah for my older brother's wedding. We used a private, stocked pond that had no trees or anything else to interfere with my neophyte casts, and I was spoiled by catching huge, western trout well before I had any right to believe I had even the slightest inkling of what I was doing.

My father taught me as well as he was able given that it had been a good 20 years or more since he'd last been fly fishing. Prior to the invasion into his life of three kids in three years starting just prior to his 42nd birthday, my father had fished all over the world, according to stories I heard in my youth. He'd even turned down a PR gig with a fishing company that would have enabled him to get paid to enjoy the best fishing on Earth. "Don't let your avocation be your vocation," was the reason he gave for staying in newspaper journalism. That truism became ingrained in me as a result, and now that I'm older I find myself disagreeing with the sentiment.

In any case, I got a couple of hours of tuition in fly casting that August in Utah and returned home to figure out the rest of the art on the small New England trout found in the tree-lined ponds on my prep school campus.

So while there was none of that "In my family there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing" sentiment that opens Norman Maclean's classic A River Runs Through It, there was at least a lineage that was handed down from one generation to the next. In later years, my father would join me on a couple of fishing trips on the Green River in northeastern Utah, one of America's premier fly fishing waters. The trips were my attempt in adult life to find a common ground on which we could exist as individuals and yet share a deeply rooted experience between father and son. Because beyond fly fishing all we really ever had in common was hockey, and once I was no longer in the running for a life in that sport my father and I drifted ever farther apart.

Which is why I found it so poignant reading the writings of Dana Lamb, an outdoors writer from the mid-20th century. A friend shared a book of Lamb's with me recently and I was transfixed by some of the short columns I read. The theme of finding continuity in the face of changing times ran through all the pieces, and Lamb's evocation of the universality of a river despite irrestible outside forces was both comforting and upsetting at the same time. Lamb's writing provided living examples of the philosophy from Heraclitus that no one steps into the same river twice.

Particularly strong among Lamb's stories were those highlighting that changing of hands between generations that John Mellencamp called "so sad and glorious." It was while getting choked up reading those stories of multiple generations encountering the same river -- in name at least -- that I realized that other than location and DNA, my father and I might as well be from different planets. Which is ironic since we attended the same college, we worked in the same profession and we fanatically played the same sport. But in reality, my father and I share almost nothing.

Maybe if I'd had a family of my own my father and I would have that most elemental of experiences over which to bond. But that didn't happen and it didn't happen in large part because I didn't want to continue that disconnected and impersonal family life in which my father raised his kids. And now he and I find ourselves where we are now: sharing a house while living a million miles apart and having essentially zero contact.

As I read Lamb's collection, I was jealous of fathers and sons fishing together, of guides passing on their knowledge to their sons who became guides themselves. And that made me jealous of those friends of mine who have strong family bonds and powerful relationships with their fathers.

Ironically, the book was given to me by a friend whose father died when my friend was just a boy. Mike joined my father and me on one of those Green River trips, and the two of them really connected over their common experience in newspapering. At the time I felt blessed that I'd had my father beyond my 12th or 13th year, and was honored that I could give my friend a taste of the kind of father-son fishing trip that Lamb wrote about. But today, looking at the father-son relationships that some friends of mine are now passing on to their boys, I realize that my upbringing was more like Mike's, I just didn't realize it. And though I tried with those fishing trips in the '90s, and again in the past year or so as my father has been infirm, no connection was ever really possible.

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12 June 2013

My One Vanity

The glory days: August 1982
And so, on the eve of my 25th college reunion, I make this confession: I'm not too bothered by the whole aging process (which is a good thing since there's not much one can do about it). I don't mind that I'm not as fit as I once was. I'm not bothered that I once could party like a rock star and still wake up for an early morning class/ski/surf, but now it just takes a couple of drinks to make me feel like I got hit by a train. And it doesn't really bother me that all the lovelies that parade before my media-saturated eyes are young enough to be my daughters.

But there is one fact of aging that I struggle with. One fact that stares me in the face each and every day and reminds me that time is marching on and we are, in fact, born to die, as Billy Shakespeare pointed out: my thinning hair.

I got a haircut yesterday and as I waited my turn, a young mother was trying to get her two-and-a-half-year-old son into the chair. He was having none of it and this kid was an unholy terror. He screamed. He clawed. He headbutted -- yes, headbutted -- his mother. All to avoid getting his mop top trimmed a bit. The mom finally gave up and followed as her kid ran out the barber shop door. I didn't strike out at anyone, but know that on the inside I was screaming just as loudly as that little kid as I got into the chair, but for a different reason. In my case, it was because there wasn't much hair left to cut.

Still full but getting darker:
At college in 1984-85
When I was younger, I would shake my head in the shower after shampooing and it wasn't until my hair was long enough to make loud slaps on the front of my face that I knew it was time for a haircut. Now, if there's even the slightest waver as I shake my head, I head for the barber.

Hair thins. It happens, I get it. Hell, many of my friends are way more folically challenged than I am. But what gets my goat is that I had a righteous mop of curly blond locks when I was a kid. My hair went darker -- it's now more of a light brown than a blond -- in my 20s and began disappearing (from the top and back first) in my 30s. It was in my mid-40s when I was sitting on a bench in my sister's foyer, bent over tying my shoes, that my seven-year-old niece strode over and with her index finger poked me on the scalp saying, "Uncle Luke! You're losing your hair!" I've never been closer to parricide (who knew that was the word for "killing a close relative"?!). That's when I knew I was on the downslide.

In recent years, whenever I would whine as loudly as that little kid in the barber shop about my thinning hair, my mother would remind me that I was taller than most people -- and pretty much all women -- so no one could tell how thin my hair was really getting. That didn't seem to deter my diminutive niece, though, dammit!

And now: June 2013. It's all
downhill from here.
My older brother is 10.5 years older than me and still has a full head of curly blond hair. My father is 42 years older than me and though he's always worn his hair in a thin buzz-cut, his hair remains thick as the bristles on a brush. Me, I'm hearing from friends that I should consider treatments like rogaine or some such silliness. Maybe I'm just being stubborn, but that's not my style. I'm going through and out of this life the way I came in: using the tools I was born with.

Some female friends have even suggested that when (not if) the time comes, I should consider shaving my hair off and going bald, that bald men are HOT. Besides the psychological trauma of seeing myself bald, I'm concerned about the damage, both physical and psychological, I'd do to other people who witnessed my gigantic melon (hat size 7-3/4…no fooling) glistening in the sun.

I guess, to coin a cliche I abhor, that it is what it is. My hair is going and I'm going with it. Eventually. That fact is the one and only thing that reminds me I will shuffle off this mortal coil someday. My thinning hair is my one vanity, the one unalterable fact that makes my knees buckle and makes me growl at mirrors and barbers, much like the little boy I still feel myself in every other way to be.

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11 June 2013

Shame On Me

Remember back in 2008 when some of the wingnuts in our country (and there were/are a lot of 'em) were touting Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama as a "Manchurian candidate." Their teabag-inspired fears were that Obama was a plant, a mole who was going to destroy America from the inside, all to benefit some nefarious entity: Al Queda, China, evil Communism.

Imagine my surprise when, five years later, we find out that those wingnuts were right: Obama WAS a Manchurian candidate. For the Republican Party.

Think about it: what Obama has done are all Republican wet dreams. He's continued our military adventures (and spending), he's expanded surveillance of our own citizens, he's ramped up Wall Street's dominance, he's done nothing about the gun violence within our borders. And he's done it in the same name that his predecessor used: national security.

Even the one thing that has Republicans really up in arms -- Obamacare -- is really just a benefit for Corporate America at the expense of the general population: he's created a whole new market of customers for the insurance companies rather than, you know, doing something that would improve Americans' lives and make health-care affordable for most people.

Before my liberal friends start slamming me, remember that I voted for Obama twice -- and would again given the alternatives in both elections (and for that, my conservative friends will now start slamming me). But think about it: how many of those "I'm not Bush" campaign promises Obama made have not only been ignored they've actually been completely overturned and Bush's policies not only continued but expanded?

Guantanamo Bay? Still open. Banks too big to fail? Wall Street still calls the shots and not one person has ever been indicted for any of the wrongdoing that caused worldwide economic turmoil. We still have troops on the ground in Afghanistan and how long will it be until we have troops in Syria? Suspension of habeus corpus? Ask those in Guantanamo or those who've been killed by drone strikes with zero chance to address the charges against them.

And then there's the current hubbub about phone-tapping and data-mining being done by the National Security Agency (NSA), a continuation of a Patriot Act-started and Obama-continued practice ostensibly used to keep Americans safe. This week we got to hear Obama rationalize this domestic spying by saying, "I think it's important to recognize you can't have 100 percent security and also 100 percent privacy, and also zero inconvenience. We're going to have to make some choices as a society." That stands in stark contrast to the oft-cited Ben Franklin quote that says, "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." As I wrote on Facebook: I'll take Ben's side on this topic -- or any other debate with Barack Obama.

To which many of my friends replied: well, Ben didn't live in this day and age. He couldn't know what we're facing now. And that's true. But I'm also reminded of reading the news in the '90s about some Muslim whacko named Osama bin Laden who declared that he was going to make sure Americans lived in fear on a daily basis as his people did. And here we are in 2013, more than a decade removed from the events of 9/11, and guess what? Bin Laden won. Every time you take your shoes off at the airport, he wins. Every time you allow SWAT troops to storm your house without a warrant because they're looking for one 19-year-old kid accused of setting of a bomb in Boston, Bin Laden wins. And when we allow the government to tap our phones and monitor our online activity, Bin Laden wins.

"Well, if you're not doing anything wrong you have nothing to be afraid of," is the counter -- which sounds a lot like something Joseph Goebbels would have spouted. And I'm sorry, but I don't want to go through life fearing every potential boogeyman that the military-industrial complex foists upon us. Does giving away your freedom -- freedoms that our forefathers fought and died for more than 200 years ago for this exact (if differently implemented) reason -- actually make you feel safer? Are you THAT afraid of everyone and everything that doesn't look/think/act like you do?

And how should an honest American who feels the government is violating the Constitution and breaking the law react? Edward Snowden continued a long line of honored whistleblowers this week by outing the NSA program and was swiftly labeled a traitor by so many in power. How did Obama respond? He hasn't said yet, but remember when candidate Obama in 2008 said that whistleblowers' "acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled"? In 2013, the Justice Department is quickly drawing up charges against Edward Snowden so they can seek extradition from wherever he's hiding out right now, a not-so-subtle shift in half a decade.

What's entertaining in all of this is watching Obama's apologists fall all over themselves to justify the program -- when just a few years ago they were screaming for Bush's head for the exact same activity. I'm sorry, but criminal activity is criminal activity, no matter which party is initiating it.

Obama came to power promising hope and change. And in 2008, for the first time in my adult life, I was actually optimistic that we could solve some of the grave challenges facing our country and world via the political process. In his first term, he squandered the bully pulpit he'd been granted by trying to make nice with an opposition party that had zero intention of doing anything that might remotely be perceived as having positive consequences. And now, in his second term, we're realizing that Obama is really just the continuation of the eight years we had under George W. Bush. The policies are the same. The rationale is the same. Are we really so surprised that the outcome is the same?

"Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me." Consider me shamed, Barack Obama. That you make Bush and Nixon seem legitimate, and that you've destroyed any hope so many of us had, is your greatest failure.

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26 May 2013

The St. Maarten-to-Bermuda Run 2013

The crew [from left]: David, me, Boogie, Jill, and Marlies with Kelly in front
It's a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Bermuda. After overnight showers and a cloudy, drizzly morning, the sun has broken through and it's simply gorgeous out. We're tied up at the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club in Hamilton, where we arrived yesterday around lunchtime. And I'm sitting in the cabin of Pure, the 70-foot yacht on which I crewed to arrive on this beautiful island, about to do a recap of the journey north from St. Maarten.

And a wonderful journey it was, in a lot of ways. We left Simpson Bay around 10:30am on Sunday. Aboard Pure were my Dutch friends, Boogie and Marlies, skipper and co-skipper of the yacht, along with three other crew and me. The other members of the crew were a Brit named David and two Yanks: Kelly, from Florida, and Jill, a racer from Chicago. We were paired up into three watches: Boogie and David, Marlies and Kelly, and Jill and me. Pretty much everyone was on deck all day long on Sunday, with Jill and I taking the dinner watch at 6pm: we'd cook the evening meal for everyone and then do a three-hour watch from 6-9pm.

As is par for the course for me, spending time in the galley after having not been to sea for a long time, I wound up puking over the rail. And that second 12-hour period, from evening until the next morning, was not especially pleasant, including our second watch from 3-6am on Tuesday. But by lunch on that second day, I was back and settling into the rhythm of being at sea that I so love.

And despite feeling queasy, those overnight watches were sublime and set the tone for the trip. A waxing gibbous moon set right before our morning watch, giving us a dark sky for a bit before the sun appeared. Several shooting stars appeared, and Sagittarius, the Southern Cross and Scorpio made a magnificent march above the southern horizon. But what really stood out was the Milky Way, which arched across the sky in a shimmering ribbon of soft white glow. Being so far from the artificial glow of modern society, we were able to experience the night sky as our ancestors did, and it's no wonder why they were able to conjure up such magnificent tales to explain what they were seeing. It's a truly humbling experience to see a night sky like that.

What also made the first couple of days so nice was the actual sailing we were doing. Seas were a wee bit lumpy but we had winds in the high teens from the starboard beam, so we cruised right along at eight, nine and sometimes 10 knots. It was a joyful ride with a reef in the main and the headsail rolled away about halfway. Such a treat.

During the day the bright, hot sun baked skin and deck alike, but it cooled noticeably with each passing 24-hour period. By the time Wednesday rolled around, the air temperature was perfect 70s with a cooling breeze and the deck was cool on unshod feet.

A breeze it was, however, not a wind, and starting Tuesday we ran the engine to keep up the apparent wind and our speed en route. We could have sailed more but this was a delivery so concessions were made. It was a bit of a drag to motor, and also to have the generator running 24/7, but the resulting air conditioning, flush toilets and hot showers were a nice perk. Still, it's not what I consider sailing and not what I seek when I go to sea.

But those night watches made up for it. Monday-Tuesday night, Jill and I were on the 12midnight-3am watch and the ever-waxing moon obscured many of the fainter stars and the Milky Way, but once the moon set that river of light reappeared quickly.

The sunset watch on Wednesday, after we'd cooked and served chili con carne, Jill and I were treated to an amazing show in the western sky. Just after sunset, amid a stunning gradiant of red to orange to yellow to blue to purple to black, three bright pinpricks of light appeared just above the sea's surface. Jupiter, up highest, shone brightly while below and to its right Venus was as bright as Hollywood klieg light. And just below Venus and a bit more to the right, tiny Mercury emerged from the nuclear-red sky, an apparition that not many humans ever really see. The show wasn't limited to the west, however. High in the east, the nearly-full moon smiled on the ocean alongside Saturn.

All of which made for a smorgasbord of celestial objects for this would-be astronavigator to measure with his sextant. That's right: I pulled out an ancient instrument with which to measure the height of sky objects in order to determine my position on the Earth. I "shot" the sun each day, both at noon and at other times, and also took a shot of the Moon and Saturday and nearby star Arcturus on Wednesday. I'll run the math when I get home and I don't expect to be all that accurate, but to have the actual act of shooting the stars finally fall into place mentally and physically for me, well, that was a treat.

So the star geek in me was thrilled with the passage. And the pure sailing (no pun intended) portion of the trip was wonderful too. But it's a long journey (888 miles) and I knew Boogie would run the motor rather than slow down too much. So I settled into the watches looking for what excited me -- in this case, the night sky.

Jill, on the other hand, combined new-to-this-crew inexperience with her racer's tendency to continually trim the sails and further refine the settings on the boat. The problem on Pure is that almost all the winches were hydraulic, meaning they were quite loud when operated. So during one daytime watch she started trimming the mainsail a bit, hoping to glean one more fraction of a knot of speed out of the boat, only to have a groggy-eyed Boogie emerge from the cabin asking what was going on and remarking about how he'd been in a "deep, deep sleep." Chastened, Jill's tinkering eased after that.

Fortunately, the good times didn't end with our Thursday midday arrival in Bermuda. After a sporty tying-up effort -- stern-to in a fierce headwind and choppy seas -- we cleared customs, did a quick clean-up on board, and took in the small town of St. George's. And after a more extensive cleaning on Friday, we walked about a half-mile north of the harbor to a small beach at Tobacco Bay. What made the little indent in the coast so fun, in addition to the on-beach food stand/bar, was that it was Bermuda Day, a national holiday, so everyone on the beach was a local out celebrating the start of the summer season. Little kids stumbled around covered in sand, teens climbed up the rock at the head of the bay and jumped into the clear water, and two people who'd never met before started chatting and soon realized that they shared a great-grandmother.

Everyone was having a great time on a great day, and it culminated for me in a bit of snorkeling, something I haven't done in eons. The afternoon water was a bit murky but the parrot fish were as colorful as I remembered from my teen years, and the sea cucumbers were like funky blobs of goo on the ocean floor. An irridescently colored angel fish hid out beneath a waving sea fan and an assortment of colorful fish provided ever-changing eye candy. Another simple treat to be cherished on this adventure.

But our final destination was the city of Hamilton so we left St. George's Saturday morning and motored here in a couple of hours. Yesterday's focus for me was the Champions League football (soccer) match from Wembley, which we found in a sports bar on the waterfront. The place was packed for the match and true to form, I provided a lot of the off-screen excitement. As the action heated up in the second half, this Bayern Munchen fan got edgier and edgier, until the Bavarians broke through in the 60th minute. I exploded out of my chair in a shout (along with a lot of other fans, to be sure), but as I sat back down I missed my chair and went ass-over-teakettle, hitting the table, breaking my glass and spilling my Guinness all over the place. The booth behind me broke into uproarious laughter (after making sure I was OK) and I began cleaning up. As my buddy Dave McCusker says after every inevitable Luke-spilling incident: "It's a party." I'm sorry he wasn't there to see it; it was THAT catastrophic a mess.

Bayern won so I was happy and our crew (sans Kelly who flew back to Florida Saturday afternoon) went out for a bit of dinner. We enjoyed some really good pizza, only to relearn one lesson about Bermuda: it's REALLY expensive. After that, it was back to the boat and call it a night.

This morning was a laid-back affair. David and I wanted to stretch our legs a bit so we wandered around town, exploring Fort Hamilton which overlooks the harbor on one side with the Atlantic in view on the other. Boogie, Marlies and Jill took a bus to some naval shipyard park/museum. And then I settled in here to write this gibberish.

But now it's a stunning, sunny afternoon. Where things were sleepy this morning -- everyone was in church apparently -- the harbor and docks and streets are now bustling. And I'd like to do something bustling as well so I'm off to see what I can find. More on Bermuda to come…

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24 May 2013

Sailing in Another World

It's late morning on Thursday and we're about 18 miles out from Bermuda. We left Simpson Bay on St. Maarten in the Caribbean four days and a few minutes ago, and we should be into port by early afternoon. It's been a wonderful trip with beautiful weather, some great sailing and fabulous nighttime skies. But one thing it hasn't been is a sailing trip.

A sailing trip is one wherein the journey is the destination. The trip we're on is a delivery, wherein the destination is the destination. It's like being in another world from the one in which I reside: it's a world where money is no object.

For starters, the speed with which we've made the journey is due in no small part to the 600-horsepower diesel engine down below, and the gigantic fuel tanks this yacht carries. We sailed for the first two days of the trip, to be sure, with solid winds and a nice following current carrying us northward into the Atlantic proper. But once conditions got to the point where the wind wasn't lining up perfectly and we couldn't keep our course exactly where we wanted it, on came the engine to manufacture a more appropriate apparent wind and keep us rolling at more than nine knots (and oftentimes more than 10). And when the wind faded last night, the engine kept our speed up quite well, thank you very much.

In some ways, it's nice to have that option. In fact, it's nice in two ways. First, because if you are focused entirely on your destination it's nice to be able to get there as quickly as possible. But that's not why I sail, why I go to sea. For me, the journey is very much part and parcel of the destination. Being at the whim of wind and wave is one of the joys of heading out on a trip over the ocean. If I wanted to just get to a new place I'd hop on a plane. No, I couldn't carry all my toys with me and I wouldn't have a bed waiting for me when I got there -- which is apparently all the owners of this vessel, not here on the journey, want in a boat -- but I'd still BE in the new place. I suppose it makes sense, in that world that is foreign to me.

The other way it's nice to have that internal-combustion option isn't related to sailing: it's that if you can afford such a luxury, well, life in general would be a hell of a lot easier.

But it's not sailing. And it's why I've come to realize that this is likely my last such trip. I've enjoyed my time (more on that in a later post) and I've learned some new things (as I do every trip with my friends, Boogie and Marlies), but it's not why I go to sea. Yes, it's a (relatively) cheap way to see some new places, learn some new skills and build some time at sea, but it's still too expensive in terms of time and money, and skills and experience not gained, to be worthwhile. It's a shame to realize this because I've had some good times on these trips, but I do believe this is my final delivery (unless a point comes where someone is paying me to do one, but that's a long ways off).

I had a glimpse of this other world in Antigua in February. And this additional view has made it clear that I'm happy in my plain, old, money-is-an-object world, and I look forward to embracing life there. That's not to say I wouldn't mind winning the lottery…

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