Sunday, October 28, 2012

Finding My Groove in the North Pacific Ocean

If this trip were a pregnancy, I just got through the first trimester.

Just like when I learned I was pregnant with our first child, this journey began with elation and a feeling of being invincible. At the beginning, the days took on an unreal quality, "pinch me,is this really happening?" as we sailed through and played in the rugged, quiet, pure Alaskan and Canadian wilderness where we saw countless magical creatures and natural phenomena. We visited remote villages and met new friends. The dream was living up to expectations.

This feeling of wonder lasted for the first few months. So did occasional seasickness. And a whole bunch of fear. During pregnancy when I really contemplated the fact that I was creating a human being, I thought to myself, "what am I doing?!?!". Here, too, I have wondered what we are doing, quitting work and school, running away from responsibilities to travel the seas.

As we slowly made our way down the West coast of the lower 48, a sort of whining irritability became my story. I started to feel bogged down by the day to day. The kids still bickered, rolled their eyes and slammed doors, just like they did at home. The long days and nights getting to the next port lost some of their charm. Chores needed to be done.

In the cruising world, this slog down the west coast of the U.S. is known as being the place where many cruising families lose their way. They arrive in San Diego beat up and exhausted and turn around for home before stepping foot on tropical beaches. It can be the make or break portion of the trip.

By last week (and coincidentally with three months under my belt), I hit a wall. At 8:00pm at the start of my night watch, I told Bruce I wanted to go home, I was tired of struggling with my children, I wondered why I was out here. I wanted to be WARM in a bikini and was still wearing long underwear at night. I felt like 3,000 miles had passed under our hull and we had gotten nowhere.

Once at the dock in Santa Barbara, I dragged Bruce out for a marguerita at a local watering hole and dumped on him. Talked about fears and hopes and dreams. Worried about our moody daughter, our sensitive boy. We looked each other in the eyes and told the truth. My truth was this: these fears and worries were the same ones I carried around with me on land, and they had nothing to do with this trip. I listened to myself repeating the same old anxieties, and decided I would try once and for all to purge them during this year at sea. Throw them overboard, set them free in the open sea.

The next morning I woke up changed, worry-free, happy. The first trimester was over. The nausea and fear were gone and in their place, a sense of belonging and of cherishing this time.

Now, I feel lighter. And full of anticipation. Ready to grow and nurture this journey, to live every good bad and ugly moment as if it were the last moment.

This is sounding like some sort of manifesto, I know, but the truth is I feel that charged up about it! I am finding my groove in my dream, something I didn't think I would have to do. I am growing a family with love and compassion. We are falling down and getting back up, wiping the dirt from our pants and moving forward.

We are creating something. We don't know what. It will grow and evolve and change every day. And one day, perhaps something magnificent will be born.

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Monday, October 22, 2012

Cockpit Watch at 5:00am

Gently rolling ocean 
       vast, soft as velvet
            lifts and lowers effortlessly
Sea and ship move together
       as one 
            like baby in her womb
Crew belowdecks dreams
Night's last hour
reveals black sky
Venus boldly declares herself 
       in the East 
Before Sun takes her watch
Ursa Major, Alaska's muse, stands
       impossibly end on end, 
            handle pointing down
Stars shoot trailing light
       boldly declaring their demise
            like dad did

My soul man at the helm,
Barely awake after overnight watch
Venus with her power steers us 
       into each other before
           he retires belowdecks
And I make coffee
To begin my day

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Shifting Gears - Wardrobe, Expectations, and Activities

Clipping along at 8+ knots under full sail with following winds and seas, we are heading to Moss Landing, CA today, a community of 207 residents according to Wikipedia.   I am looking forward to what I hope will be a Seldovia-like experience, a small fishing village and quiet harbor devoid of the hustle and bustle of a city and surrounded by natural beauty.  Perhaps Northern Passage, with her chipped paint, dirty decks, brightwork on its way to going grey, and rails decorated with gear (paddle board, kayak, sailboard, bikes) will fit in a little better than at the mega-yacht docks in Sausalito, where we saw more divers and boat cleaners than boat owners.   And my how those boats glistened in the sun!

I have to admit, I miss Alaskan marinas and small towns.  Functional and low-key with breathtaking natural beauty in every direction.  In AK, boat owners don Carharts, hoodies and Xtra tuffs.  Docks are generally made of railroad ties, with dock cleats few and far between.   They are slippery with rain and sometimes tinged with moss due to the ever-present moisture in the air.   Eagles perch atop pilings and sea otters lazily drift among finger piers.     On those rickety, well-used docks I feel at home.

During most of the three months and about 3,000 miles we've been at sea, the climate and attitude has been much the same as at home.   About a week ago, when we reached northern California, it started changing.   Gone was the persistent cool bite in the air, the dense green forest and the Xtra tuffs.  We have entered a different world.

Our on-shore experiences so far have included hiking and paddling in empty coves in the wilderness, tiny island getaways run by  eclectic couples, big city tourist adventures, renting a fire tower to sleep in overnight, one day of skimboarding, and visiting natural parks. Bike rides and sunset beach walks, discovering sea creatures and going to museums top it off.  

In the next few days we will be entering southern California, leaving the chilly evening air behind, cracking open the sunblock and christening our water toys - snorkel gear, skim board, paddle board, kayaks.  Our onshore activities will move to the water. 

I find it hard to believe that most of our recreational activity will happen in the water from this point forward!  If you have never lived in Northern Lattitudes, you may not understand how hard it is to comprehend 80 degrees day in and day out.  I almost don't know how to get ready for it.   Can I really send my Xtra tuffs and wool sweaters back home?   Will I actually wear a bathing suit everyday?   Will the jeans and Carharts go to the bottom of the closet and shorts and skirts come to the top?  Really?!?!

Three months getting to a place is a really long time!   When we departed, we knew it would take this long, but it felt longer.  A lot longer.  For years talking about this trip, I dreamed about speaking Spanish and swimming every day.   I just didn't visualize the time spent getting there.     Today I am wearing my polypropylene thinnest long underwear shirt and Carharts, as we departed in the chill of northern CA early morning.   But I have shed my hoodie and am getting ready to shift to tank top and shorts.

We are all ready for this change.   It will be interesting to see how we adjust.   Will we crave coolness, miss the warmth of a wood stove in a winter cabin?   Time will tell.    I have a feeling the Alaskan-born aboard will have a harder time than the transplants.    

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