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"We must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it - 
but we must sail,
and not drift, nor lie at anchor."   

- Oliver Wendell Holmes


1) Why did we do it? 

2) How Do You Recognize a Princess? 

3) Titanic History Lessons 


People often ask me why we are leaving our successful careers, beautiful house, friends, and family to float around the Pacific Ocean for several years and do a lot of SCUBA diving.  I like to think that offering a five year honeymoon of sailing and diving was the only way that Melané would agree to marry me, but she says that she would have anyway.  I think the real answer is better described by Herb Payson in his new book, Advice to the Sealorn.  After all, he and his wife Nancy have been doing this for 24 years! 

"Looking back, I've come to believe that it takes more courage of a certain kind to stay in suburbia and do the expected thing than it does to sell out and sail off.  I came to a point where I realized that my talent was modest, that I would never become a star in the galaxy of fame, that if I didn't change I would, for the rest of my life, do my best , pay my debts, and finally die the mediocre middleclassman that I really was.  And if that sounds a little strong, I intend it to, because those are some of the feelings that allowed me to quit quixotically.  And for those feelings I shall be eternally grateful. 

Money is not the only thing one has to spend; the other thing is a life.  The difference is that you never know how much is in the bank, or what your balance is. Your life is your inheritance.  As soon as you realize this, you start trying to spend your life wisely. 

Nice, round, imposing thoughts.  But what do they mean?  They meant, to me, make changes.  Radical changes.  And Nancy and I made the changes blindly, having no idea what we'd discover about ourselves in the process. 

I've said this before, but I'm going to repeat it in case you, too, suffer from the same thing I did.  Middle-class malaise is more than discontent.  It's being worried and unhappy without being able to pinpoint the cause.  It's anxiety. 

I suddenly realized that I haven't used the word anxiety more than a dozen times since we went cruising.  Because anxiety to me has a special meaning: It's a general angst.  Some of it stems from my upbringing, which said that if you make regular trips to the doctor for a checkup and keep up with your insurance premiums and make yourself enough money to keep you in beef and gin and attend church, at least on holy days, you'll be safe.  So you do those things, but the Truth, which lives within all of us no matter how badly we treat it, says it's a lie.  You aren't safe, you've just managed to bury any and all recognition of what the threats are. 

So I worried about cancer, and monetary debt, and why my palms would run with sweat whenever I drove in rush-hour traffic, and the sins I was piling up, and all the other stand-ins we invent for Death.  "You'll never get out of this life alive" is the barstool wisdom.  And as soon as you admit that there's going to be an end to your life, you begin to be concerned with what, to my mind, is the only existential concern: What do I do with what I have left? 

And, of course, the answer to that is different for everyone, and this is a good thing, as there's too many of us out here already.  The waters are crowded, and all the neat, secret places are being filled up.  But that's okay.  Doing something is one thing.  What's important is how you do it, and knowing why you're doing it.  When a man sails his Columbia 45 to waypoint #352, drops his anchor in a lonely lagoon of glass-clear water, and looks around at whispering palm trees and beaches of golden sand and asks, "What's all the fuss about?" you know that, GPS or not, that man is lost. 

For Nancy and me the decision to cut loose and go cruising was radical and wrenching, and I'm grateful for that, too.  It was a time of changes, many of which were painful.  And after all the pain and problems I was damn well going to discover something important, whether it was out there or not. 

And it wasn't out there, ever; it was inside me.  Out there was merely the environment that allowed me to see it.  Because in the cruising life cause and effect are tangible and intangible.  For someone who is always going to worry no matter what, cruising is the greatest possible medium.  There are so many real things to worry about on a voyage, and real things to do about them, who in his right mind would need to create more? 

None of this came to me in a Eurekaflash.  It came in bits and pieces.  One piece: We were delivering a leaky boat from Tahiti to California that would surely take on water beyond our ability to pump it out if we ran into an enduring storm.  I was worrying, as usual, about every little thing.  Tired of my fretting, Nancy finally brought me out of it. 

"Come on, Herb, what's the worst thing that could happen?" 

"We could die," I said. 

"Exactly," she said, and went back to her book. 

How Do You Recognize a Princess?

The September 15, 1997 issue of Newsweek dedicates the first 69 pages and 17 articles to Princess Diana.  She dedicated her life to charity work, but is certainly more popular for breaking away from the antiquated Royal traditions and dragging the Royal Family into the later half of this Millennium.  Ironically she battled most against the hounding press who caused her early death.  Diana's death caused such world-wide grief that even President Clinton awoke in the middle of the night to watch her funeral. 

A few days after Diana died, Mother Teresa died.  Mother Teresa also dedicated her life to charity work (specifically for the "unwanted, unloved, and uncared for"), broke away from the reigning traditions (leaving her order to help the sick and poor required several requests of the Pope), and avoided the media.  President Clinton even interrupted a golf game on Martha's Vineyard to comment on the world's loss. 

Mother Teresa did much more though:  She left an order of almost 5000 sisters across 126 countries to carry on her work.  She received the Nobel Prize for Peace, the Jewel of India, and the Congressional Gold Medal.  Pope Paul VI gave her a white Lincoln Continental limousine, which she sold (without ever stepping inside) to fund a leper colony.  Her real legacy was not these awards, it was living every day in service of the poorest of the poor, doing what most of us couldn't stomach, or aren't brave enough to face. 

And for this incredible life, this gift to those in the world with nothing else, President Clinton paused his golf game, and the same issue of Newsweek followed Diana's 17 articles with one four page story on Mother Teresa. 

I think Herb Payson is right, our society is more concerned with doctors, money, and the Royal Family waistlines and affairs, than what we do each day, and for whom we are doing it.  Maybe that is why there are more princesses than saints. 

Titanic History Lessons

Last night Melane' and I went to see the movie Titanic.  It was truly a enormous film at almost 3 and 1/2 hours long.  The acting, sets, costumes, and drama were all larger than life, a fitting tribute to the ill-fated ship.  We learned several critical lessons from the film: 

1) Watch huge films in huge chairs.  3 and 1/2 hours is far too long to spend in theater seats which follow the airlines' philosophy that more customers in the limited space is better than happy customers.  I'll be sending them my chiropractic bill. 

2) Night vision scopes are critical to your survival.  Of course, I have been trying to convince Melane' of this for quite some time, and think I still have a way to go. 

3) Underwater sonar is critical to your survival.  More gear to play with, more gear that will fail, and I still have the problem noted in 2) above. 

4) If you can't tell left from right, you will be sunk by an iceberg.  We were impressed by the technical accuracy of the diving scenes and the ship's construction, right down to painting the red and green on proper sides of the binnacle.  Unfortunately, when the deadly iceberg was finally sighted (too late, due to the lack of night vision and sonar technology noted above), the watch captain ordered "HARD STARBOARD!!" and the helmsman turned port. 

5) As soon as you believe that you or your vessel are unsinkable, unseen forces have already insured otherwise. 

Next: Preparation in San Francisco

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