This Is Only A Test

This is a test posting. If it had been an actual posting, there would be something here worth reading.

BeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeP!!!!!

The Tonga/New Zealand Problem

We’ve been having a lot of fun out here, but there is one problem nagging us (me) since we reached the Marquesas. What are we doing for Cyclone season? When we left San Diego, we had grand plans in mind. We wanted to sail from San Diego => Cabo San Lucas => Galapagos Islands => Marquesas => Society Islands => Cook Islands => Tonga => Fiji => Vanuatu => New Caledonia => New Zealand. At the time we made this plan, we were still headlong in jobs that allowed us (at best) two weeks of vacation per year. With that reality in mind, having only two weeks in each of these island groups seemed fantastic. A two week vacation over and over again? That would have to be satisfying. But, there were several realities about sailing we hadn’t wrapped our heads around: (1) there is a lot of boat administration that must be done in order to survive out here like acquiring diesel, parts for repairs, etc. (2) everything takes (much) longer than you anticipate; and (3) passage making takes a bit of recovery time. By the time we reached the Marquesas, we were passage weary. We had spent 53 days of 90 at sea. The idea of leaving the Marquesas in a short two weeks was painful, especially after spending five full days on just Hiva Oa alone. We either could not or did not want to try to move through entire countries at a two week pace for the rest of this season. We also learned about the beautiful Tuamotus (remember Manihi and Fakarava?) and realized we had to add them to our list of destinations. So, we started trying to figure out how to reshuffle Fiji, Vanuatu, and New Caledonia into next season. As fate would have it, we ran into some cruisers who knew some other cruisers who wanted to offload a cyclone rated mooring in Tonga. They had reserved their mooring months prior, but then after making the crossing to the Marquesas they realized they did not like open ocean sailing. They hired a captain to take their boat back to Mexico for them, leaving their Tonga mooring open for the picking. Could this be a good solution for us? The deposit was only $140.00 and there was no cancellation penalty, so that seemed like a low price to pay to have options. We could see several benefits to mooring in Tonga. It would give us a better jumping off point for the next season to sail through Fiji, New Caledonia and Vanuatu all the way North to Thailand by the end of the 2017 season. We would fly to New Zealand and Australia to travel by land while we wait out this Cyclone season. This way, we can still see all the places we want to see;, we would just shuffle the timing around a bit. In addition, we would not have to sail South to New Zealand, which is known as one of the stormier bits of sea in this part of the world. If you sail to New Zealand, you are guaranteed to hit at least one storm on the way there and on the way back when you sail North the next season. We know Sonrisa could handle the path (she’s done it twice before), but it just sounds unpleasant. So, Tonga sounds great, right? There is one large drawback to Tonga: it gets hit by at least one cyclone most years. Some years, it gets hit by multiple cyclones. Reading all the cruising guides, Va’avu Tonga is a “known hurricane shelter”. Shaped like a snail-shell, it is supposed to be a protected area where boats can ride out all manner of horrible weather. There are a number of reports written by other cruisers indicating they had a good experience leaving their boat in Tonga, either on moorings or on land. We had talked to an old sailing-codger in Galapagos islands a while back who could not understand why we were moving so fast. His position was that many boats ride out cyclones/hurricanes in all parts of the world without problems: Florida, Mexico, etc. etc., and therefore, there is no reason why we have to push to get to New Zealand by the end of this season. Just store her properly and you will be fine. His experienced opinion (after doing two circumnavigations) was that the South Pacific deserved at least two sailing seasons of exploration. This made some bit of sense to us at the time. So, we tentatively reserved the mooring ball, and sailed on. As time went on, I felt a bit of homesickness. It is rare to get this much time away from work. I am getting to explore the world, and it is amazing, but I am also a half a world away from my family and friends. The only thing that would make this year more perfect would be if I could spent a bit of time with family and friends, too. “Hey!” I think, “what if we spent half of November and all of December at home?” Then, I could cap off this perfect year seeing people I love, return Jan/Feb. to explore Australia, fly March/April to mountain bike New Zealand, then return to Sonrisa and sail her from Tonga to Fiji, Vanuatu and New Caledonia at

Source: The Tonga/New Zealand Problem

Rarotonga

Like French Polynesia is the place for people from France to get away to somewhere tropical, Rarotonga offers a getaway for the likes of the Duke and Duchess of York and their growing brood.  Day after day we are asked:  “Are you here on holiday?”   “Yes, sort of; only I must climb a tire every morning.” Rarotonga has some tantalizing “holiday” options: kite surfing camp, scuba diving, snorkel tours, bicycle tours.  Stand up paddle boards (SUP) seem to be all the rage.  Your options range from a simple SUP rental to SUP Yoga.  (Sure, you can paddle while standing up, but can you paddle while lighting your throat chakra in triangle pose?)  You can even rent a Night-SUP with cocktail service complete with disco lights installed in the bottom side, to light the lagoon beneath you.   I wish we could give you the full tour of these exotic options, but we did our six month budget assessment and found we are running approximately $200 over each month.  So, no Disco-SUP-Cocktail night for us.  (More on the budget in a boring follow-up post for those of you who care.)  We enjoyed the cross island trail that took us from one side of the island, to the top of the “needle”, through a jungle with giant ferns, ending at a waterfall pool with crisp cold water and a hive of mosquitos. We met the Trail-Rooster, who is apparently always there, and I named him Ned. I hope it sticks.  We circled the island many times on our scooter with its rear tire continuously leaking air.  Where we found baby pigs, beautiful scenery, and the Prison Craft Shop.  No “holiday” would be complete without stopping in at the Prison Craft Shop. We enjoyed art galleries, the company of strangely colored lady bugs, and strangely shaped coins one of which has Queen Elizabeth on one side and a Tiki with a penis on the other. Every other day or so, we would find ourselves with our toes in the sand and a ginger beer in hand enjoying beautiful snorkeling, warm sun or a beautiful sunset. We joined the locals at the Fisherman’s Club to watch the All Blacks New Zealand Rugby Team clobber the Austrians.  By this time, Phil and Laura had departed for a new location, leaving us to try to understand rugby all on our own.  Try as we might, we just couldn’t figure out the purpose of the “Scrum.” Every now and then two groups of thirteen men pile together, some with their heads squeezed between their buddies thighs, to engage in what seemed like a group version of “bulldozer.”  Eventually, the ball pops out from the middle of this pack, and everyone carries on trying to score their “try”.   At half time, Andrew sidled up at a table next to some folks cheering voraciously for New Zealand: “Do you know anything about rugby?”  The man and woman turned to Andrew, mouths agape, as though he had just insulted their mothers.  Indignant, they gasped, “Uhg, Yes!” “Well, I’m American…” and before Andrew can say another word, I hear our new friends say “Ohhhhh!” suddenly understanding Andrew needed help. Our friends start with the basics, explaining it is called a “try” when a team scores points.  They explain the Scrum is a sort of penalty situation.  (Yeah, I would feel penalized having to put my face between my teammates sweaty thighs.) They explain how turnovers happen, and why they kick away sometimes, but not others. They explain why the man who is squashed under a vicious tackle (wearing no manner of padding at all) struggles to stick his arm out with the ball out for the picking until his teammate grabs a hold and runs away.  Etcetera. The All Blacks were fierce Rugby endurance machines and outlasted their opponents through the end.  I like watching Rugby, but my favorite part was watching the All Blacks scare the pants off the Austrians with their Haka (the Maiori war cry/dance) at the beginning of the match.  Rugby players shouting, stomping, throat slashing, and sticking their tongues out in unison, just like the Islanders who threatened Captain Cook and his merry band of sailors hundreds of years ago.  Fierce.  And scary. Instead, we saved our budget for the fun that sets Rarotonga apart: the food.  Now, I don’t want to complain, French Polynesia was beautiful, but for being related to a country that is so serious about it’s food, French Polynesia is like the red-headed food step child. In French Polynesia, the menu always includes the following options:  Steak and Frites (with thin, undercooked, chewy steak), Chow Mein, Chicken breast with vanilla sauce, Fish with vanilla sauce, a baguette filled with Chicken Chow Mein or if you prefer, ham and cheese. Their pizzas are always made with baguette dough, making them a bit mushy, and their hamburgers were also made with baguette dough, making them so chewy that the hamburger would spit out the backside.  I’m sure at the fancy resorts you could get a sala

Source: Rarotonga

Starbucks, You Failed Me — Odd Godfrey

Cafes are all the rage, here.  Each cafe boasts that they have Rarotonga’s best “this” and world famous “that”.  It all seems easy enough, until you step up to order.  Exploring town, we sauntered into one of only three remaining original buildings on the Island.  A cement, one story structure with arched windows and doorways, it housed a high priced souvenir shop, TAV clothing (the island style preferred by Duchess Kate) and a cafe. The cafe had an open air rooftop, a record player spinning 50’s American Jazz, and a man and a woman working an impressive looking espresso machine (not to be confused with “expresso”).  A newspaper article about the cafe and its owners hung on the wall, interviewing the very man and woman who hustled around the little galley, grabbing white cups and filling them with all manner of dark, bitter liquid.   As I approach the countertop, I panic a little bit because I see no menu for coffee.  Muffins, cakes and cookies look tempting on a bookshelf behind the counter, and a food menu tantalizes customers with options like egg and ham “toastie” with chutney sauce or a smoked salmon on cream cheese bagel with capers and purple onion.  But, I wasn’t in the market for food, just a coffee.  No matter, I’m a purist at heart, so I order a black coffee.   “Black coffee?”  The man behind the counter asks me, looking puzzled.  He stared back at me as though I had just landed from Mars and asked for a moon-cake.  “Yes, just black coffee.” I respond.  He doesn’t move, instead looks at me as though I am daft. “Well, what kind of coffee do you have?”  I ask.   “Just espresso.”  He says.  Now, I look around at the handful of customers sipping from their cups around the cafe.  Some of them are the traditional, miniature espresso cups I am familiar with, but others are normal coffee sized coffee cups.  I am confused as to why he is confused, and vice versa, I’m sure.  So, to end both our suffering, I say: “Well, great!  An espresso then.”  Andrew makes it two espressos, and we duck away from the countertop.   We sit at a table, receive two tiny mugs of rich, strong coffee.  We sip, read a newspaper all about Rarotonga dining, and then scurry off still puzzling over our coffee options. When we see them next, Phil and Laura asked us what we had been up to that afternoon.  When we tell them we stopped in at a Cafe, they chittered on about having found “Flat Whites” after spending so long in tropical places that do not offer such coffee delicacies.  I don’t know what a “Flat White” is, so I ask. When they describe it to me, it sounds exactly like a latte: coffee with foamed milk.  I say as much, and they both vigorously shake their heads. “No no, it’s different.”  Something about proportions. We had better luck at Jireh’s “Home of Rarotonga’s world famous custard squares.”  They at least had a menu of coffee options, and what do you know:  A Flat White is available.  So, we order two Flat Whites and a world famous custard square and give them a test.    Since this is my first custard square, I cannot speak as to the quality of the custard square.  But does world fame necessarily mean that it is the best custard square?  I don’t know.  The white-flour crust is thin but dense.  It did not crumble in your mouth, but instead provided a chewy juxtaposition to the thick vanilla custard sandwiched between top and bottom crust.  The square was only mildly sweetened, allowing the cream, toasty flour and vanilla to be the focus of the taste.  It was pretty good.   The custard square was mostly gone when our “Flat Whites” arrived.  I looked down at my coffee, and it looked just like a latte.  (But don’t tell Laura and Phil.) The barista at our final cafe excursion provided our enlightenment.  Within walking distance of Sonrisa, there is a “famed” waffle cart.  The five tables seated in the morning shade are filled with groups of locals, all cajoling one another from one table to the next, reading newspapers, and/or weaving a flower crown.  One remaining table was available for us.  The waffle cart had a fancy espresso maker, too, but they provided a coffee menu.  “Ah-hah!”  I say, and then scowl. Espresso Long Black Short Black Flat White Americana Starbucks did not prepare me for this.  Seeing my grimace, the woman inside the cart says “Are you American?”   “Yes, why?”   “Ah, you will want an Americana.”  She responds.   “Wait, wait, wait.  Why?  Can you explain these coffees to me?” She laughs and explains that an Americana is the only “filtered coffee” they have, and Americans are used to filtered coffee.  I make her take me through the rest of the coffees, and I learn that all of the other coffees are made with espresso (coffee made by using high pressure steam to push water through extremely fine ground coffee beans), th

Source: Starbucks, You Failed Me — Odd Godfrey

I’m Leaning, uh, is it Left?

Looking into Death Valley from Zabriskie Point Photo by Steve Fey
Looking into Death Valley from Zabriskie Point
Photo by Steve Fey

I really don’t know, it could be right? Down? Up? Well, I confess, this isn’t a political post. Sorry if you thought it was. Check the tags next time.

I’m starting to lean more toward going Indie. Half of the best selling books right now are Indie. But, consider the overall costs:

Not just money, but time and effort. But, first, money. I’m a lousy graphic designer. I could show you some stuff, but, no, I’m not going to. It sucks worse than the stuff I wrote when I was 20, and that was so bad that it no longer exists. So first off, somebody else is going to have to come up with a winning cover design. So I have to pay them, right? Indeed, that is right.

Then the editing. Everybody needs an editor. Hell, JK Rowling needed an editor on a couple of those Harry Potter books, and no mistake. (Of course, who is going to tell her that? Me? Right.) Guess I have to pay an editor too, huh?

And marketing? I know some things about marketing, but not how to mount a campaign to sell books! I see that even Barnes & Noble is carrying indie stuff now, but how do I get them to carry mine? Elifino! (Say it out loud.) So I’m paying out more money right there.

And all of that has to be paid before the thing can even be formatted for publication!

Speaking of which,

Have you ever formatted a book? I have. I was once a typesetter/keyliner, so I actually do know something about making the book look like it should. (But, is there going to be any artwork in it? — More money.) There are programs that make it easier to format books, but the process isn’t instantaneous. There is quite a bit of time and attention required, in fact.

And there is time and effort at every other phase of the process as well.

But . . .

A traditional publisher might give you a total of about 10% of the sales revenue for the book, if they are extremely generous. Indie, you could clear at least five times that much, probably more. That could be a lot of money!

But . . .

There is no guarantee whatsoever that anyone will ever want to read the damned thing once it’s published, in spite of all the money and effort expended before it even comes out!

So, I’m thinking. I’m thinking. (Do I sound like Jack Benny there?)

Rarotonga Harbor, By Sonrisa — Odd Godfrey

We didn’t see any whales.  I’m always glad we didn’t hit a whale, but I would like to pass one by and just say “hi” from a distance.  Maybe we will see one on our way to Tonga.  As we neared Rarotonga, the waves and the wind shifted directly behind me.  While this would usually be great, I could also see the harbor directly in front of me.  So, the waves were pushing me along, passing me by, then bouncing into the tall cement wall or “quay” where we were about to park.  Leslie takes the helm and guides me toward the small opening in the reef.  This will be my crew’s second “med-moore” parking job, but the first one where other boats are parked first.  The marina area is small, so we circle around and lay down my anchor.   Leslie puts me in reverse to back into our slot along the quay.  I try to swing my stern to starboard, but I just can’t.  I have two left feet when backing up.  Leslie puts me in forward, and turns my bow to the left.  This straightens me up a bit.  We go back in reverse, and although I lean a bit to port, with a little speed, I straighten up nicely and edge my way backwards.  I slide in next to Lufi and hover near the quay, my anchor holding my stern away from the dangerous looking cement and tires.  Leslie throws two stern lines to friends waiting on the quay, and they tie me up.  Success in one shot!   Usually, at this point I could rest, but this is not a quiet anchorage or steady marina. We all slosh around together, in a line, hoping no one sloshes the wrong way.  Luckily, I have some nice springy lines that keep me (mostly) in place.  Andrew and Leslie unfold Grin and put him together. They tie one end of him to me and the other end to shore, making him into a bit of a “plank”.  He bounces and swerves in the waves; sometimes we knock into each other.  I don’t know about this; I think someone is going to fall in. Andrew and Leslie head off to start exploring the island.   Leslie is standing on the dock, having successfully traversed the Grin-Plank/Tire-Ladder for the first time when from the corner of her eye she sees a small child waving out the driver’s side window of a van.  The little girl’s dark brown eyes squinted as she giggled.  The van began rolling, slowly at first then it picked up speed.  “Someone needs to save that child!”  Leslie took a step or two in the direction of the van before realizing the steering wheel manned by an adult driver is safely on the right side of the car (rather than the left), and the child is only an unbuckled passenger.   What is wrong with this picture? Relieved, Andrew and Leslie head over to the Fish and Chips stand just across the street boasting the “Best fish and chips in Rarotonga.”  They stand at the edge of the road for what seems like fifteen minutes:   Andrew: “Now which way are the cars going to come from?”   Leslie: “Well, let’s just look both ways.”   Andrew:  “Yes, but ok, we are safe.”   Leslie: “No!  Look, the cars are coming from that way!”   Andrew:  “Right….wait a minute….”   Leslie:  “Ok, now!”   Andrew: “No, wait!”      Eventually they did make it safely to the Fish and Chips spot.   Shortly thereafter, Andrew acquired a scooter for $14/day.  Andrew arrives at the marina after surviving his first clockwise roundabout experience, and picks up Leslie.  Wobbling off, I see Leslie pointing vigorously to the left indicating “that is the left side! No, that is the left side!”  They survey town and get a lay of the land, and soon they return to get gussied up for sundowners at Trader Jacks.   Dressed in their cocktail attire, they attempt to negotiate the obstacle course to shore.  Andrew climbs over my stern rail, feet planted on my toe rail.  He times his step down into Grin at a moment where Grin and I match cadence on the waves.  Letting go of me, he transfers his weight into Grin, crab-crawls across Grin’s benches, then grabs the industrial sized tire hanging from the cement quay.  He scrambles up the tire, using his long monkey legs to stretch from the bottom of the tire to the top.  Success. Leslie follows suit, but things first go awry when she grabs the rope holding Grin in place.  The rope tightens, and Grin immediately starts to scoot away.  Holding the rope at chest level, Leslie’s feet slide out from under her in Grin, leaving her upper body dangling over the water.  “Whoa, whoa, whoa!”   “Grin!”  I call out, willing him to scuttle beneath Leslie and keep her dry.  But, his momentum was already going the other way.  First, Leslie’s ponytail hit. Holding out in hopes of keeping her cocktail attire dry, Leslie clings to the rope stretched taught from tire to Grin to me.  But, now, the waves are pushing me back into the quay which results in Leslie drooping further into the water.  Now, Leslie is laying in the water with her feet stretched out in Grin.  Her whol

Source: Rarotonga Harbor, By Sonrisa — Odd Godfrey

Where Do You Go For Support?

Zion National Park 2015 Photo by Steve Fey
Zion National Park 2015
Photo by Steve Fey

Writing is a lonesome job. Even if you’re writing with a partner, you’re not both sitting there writing at the same time, in most cases. That might actually be a good idea, but I’ll save that for another day. My point is that you might, from time to time, like to talk with someone about what you’re doing, or learn something about how to write, or edit, or publish, or . . . you get the idea, I think. So I’m going to put up a short list of ideas for in-person and online collaboration, support, and skill building. Remember, though, that I’ve done everything with fiction except make money at it. You’ve been warned.

In person, there are two obvious ways to go, and many say that you should do both. They are not mutually exclusive, either, far from it.

Actually In Person Help

First, you might find a critique group. I know people who swear that they owe their success as an author to a supportive group that they joined when they were still figuring it all out. I’ve been in critique groups, but I’m not right now, and I do think that regular critique can be a wonderful thing. But, how to find/start one? Well, see point the second.

Second, join a writers’ group. I’m a tad biased because I am the organizer of one, but you can learn some excellent and specific craft secrets as well as business procedures that will help immensely in your work. Often these groups have subgroups that meet to critique each others’ work, and/or a coordinator of critique groups who can help you to join, or even to start your own, critique group.

Online Help

  • Writer’s Blogs! If you’ll scroll down the sidebar (to the left on a mainstream computer browser) you’ll see a list of writer’s blogs to which I subscribe. They can be inspirational, instructive, or at the least, entertaining. (And you’ll want to start one of your own, too.)
  • Online Instruction. And I don’t mean a virtual MFA program or anything like that. But, you can check out Fiction University, which is the name of a blog by Janice Hardy. (The link is to one post, but from there you can navigate the entire site, of course.) You can get writing related news at The Passive Voice, which digests stories that will interest writers.
  • Use Google (or Bing if that’s your thing) to search out “writers’ blogs,” or “blogs by writers,” or “how to write good,” even. You’ll find a bunch of stuff on your own. (Or, start by clicking some of the links on my sidebar if you wish.)

I could ramble on, but you’re not me, and you don’t need to know everything that I like. Go out and find your own sites! Seriously! And, also, join a writers’ group. You’ll be glad you did!

The Las Vegas Writers Group meets every 3rd Thursday of the month at the Tap House on West Charleston. Cost is $5. This month our speaker is Mercedes M Yardley, a successful alumna of the group, who will be letting us know the right way to query and submit manuscripts.

Passage to Rarotonga, Cook Islands

We capped off our stay in Maupiti by circumnavigating the island in Grin.  Jonas, Andrew and I loaded up to explore the coral gardens.  For the novelty of it, we walked from the island to a motu via a shallow sandbar that crosses the lagoon.     We snorkeled, and once again found new, and strange animals, coral or maybe plants.  I’m not always sure what these things are.   Then it was time to get serious.  After going up the mast to check our rig (and fix the wind chicken, who recently had started to dangle in a less than secure manner), Andrew helped Jonas inspect Alma.   By the next morning, (August 28) we were ready to depart.  Exactly six months ago from the day, we left San Diego.  Remember six months ago? I was grinding my teeth over every wave that rocked Sonrisa to and fro.  I was bundled up in every layer of foul weather gear I had just to keep warm as we sailed along the California coast.  Just the thought of having to go forward on deck while under way produced the terror-shakes.  The weight of my harness and tether pulled on my shoulders and gave me headaches.  How are we doing now? A half hour before we pulled up anchor in Maupiti, Andrew and I took a shot of sea sickness meds.  We systematically go through our checklist of passage preparation items: load up Grin, prepare lunch, clean up the cockpit, stow anything that might impale our skulls, review all running rigging to make sure it is aligned properly and not tangled.  We are ready to go.   We slip on our harness and tether, familiar as yesterday’s socks.  I warm up Sonrisa’s engine, and Andrew takes his place on the bow.  He slips our mooring rope and off we go.  With the tight Maupiti pass, we are a little more on edge than normal.  We have been listening to the radio as several other boats made their escape this morning.  Now it’s our turn.  Andrew keeps watch to guide me around coral heads.  As we near the narrow spot in the pass, we can see the large breaking waves on either side, and only slightly smaller standing waves in the middle.  Sonrisa bucks and heaves, she gives a bull-snort or two as the waves toss us around.  The current is in our favor this time, so we pop out on the other side into open ocean safely free of the coral jaws. Now, we settle in.  We set a triple reefed main, the jib and half of the genoa to balance Sonrisa perfectly in 18 knots of wind “on the beam” meaning 90 degrees to Sonrisa’s side.  We know the sail configuration Sonrisa and Windy the Wind Vane like best.  Sonrisa sails along smoothly at 6 knots.  I take a nap, Andrew keeps watch.  We have dinner;  then I take my watch from 7 p.m. – 2 a.m.  At first, it is moonless and filled with stars, but soon black clouds blanket any bit of light the stars are producing and douse me with rain.  I go down below, watch the AIS and Radar screen, and pop my head up for a 360 degree view every 15 minutes.   I listen to music on my iPod to pass the time.  I shuffle with a short attention span through multiple artists and albums.  I can’t seem to settle on the right mood.  The first night of the passage is always irritating, and I make little deals with myself about staying awake.  I check the clock the first time at 8:30 p.m.  It’s only been an hour and half?  Oh, this is going to be a long watch.  I check again.  9:00 p.m.  I count the number of hours between 9 and 2 on my fingers just to confirm:  yes, it’s five hours.  I make a deal with myself that I cannot check the clock until I have listed to at least two full music albums.  Nine Inch Nails and Nirvana.   I check, and now it’s 10:30 p.m.  I’m not feeling drowsy anymore.   The rain has stopped for bit, so I go back on deck out of the stuffy cabin below.  Suddenly, it’s 11:30.  That hour went quickly.   I am still completing my 360 degree horizon scan every 15 minutes.  In the pitch black, I strain to see what is out there.  Boat lights are one thing, but we are now in the stretch of ocean that houses giant sea life.  Huge whales are migrating between French Polynesia and Tonga.  Sometimes, they sleep on the surface.  Boats hit them every now and then, and whales can be responsible for sinking fiberglass boats.  I am banking on two things:  (1) Sonrisa is noisier through the water than her lighter, fin keeled counterparts so I am hoping she will wake the whales up in time to get them to move out of her way; and (2) Valiant Sailboat legend has it that one of Sonrisa’s sister ships survived a repeated attack by a whale who became angry or otherwise had some desire to smash into its hull over and over again.  With these two hopes in the back of my mind, I relax into my steady hum of nerves.  There’s nothing else I can do anyway.  There is no way I could ever hope to see a whale in the water ahead and divert course.  It’s just too dark. It rains on me again at midnight.

Source: Passage to Rarotonga, Cook Islands

Within 400 Square Feet of You

August 26, 2016 marked our first ten years of marriage.  We celebrated in exotic Maupiti.  It started as another blustery day, so we spent the morning just hanging out in Sonrisa.  Tasty french toast, bacon and coffee for breakfast.  For lunch, Andrew made cheese burgers with roquefort cheese, bitter greens and spicy pickles stashed away from Ecuador.  We enjoyed a bottle of wine we have been saving for a special occasion.  We looked at some of our wedding pictures, and re-read our ceremony/vows.  We talked about warm memories we made together this decade. As we reviewed the vows we made ten years ago, I was happy to see we are tracking with those promises more than ever.  But, our marriage is subject to high expectations. The first line of our vows states that the partnership “will be a haven where the highest potential of [each spouse’s] existence will be sought, encouraged and deeply respected.”  The vows hit on our specific promises to travel and explore, marvel at life, seek health and wisdom, celebrate successes and push through challenges, rest and love together.  After this re-read, I noticed the one thing our vows never say is we will “be together forever no matter what.”  Instead, “forever” is posed as a question inside a portion of one of our favorite poems. “Comrado, I give you my hand! I give you my love more precious than money. I give you myself before preaching or law. Will you give me yourself? Will you come travel with me? Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?” — Song of the Open Road, By Walt Whitman Was that by design?  I can’t remember.  I think I like it, though.  It is another reminder wrapped into our marital code that we cannot rest on our laurels or take this partnership for granted. I remember talking with Andrew on an evening walk shortly after he asked me to marry him.  What is marriage?  What is the point?  Our reason boiled down to idea that life is intensified when it is shared.  We can achieve a closer version of our best lives together than we could if we were going it alone.  Our vows were an attempt at specifying for the other what we expect/view as our best life.  We both know that if we fell short on too many of these promises, a deep unhappiness would settle in. We are each “devoted to creating the small elements of a life in which [the other] can flourish.”   When people say marriage is “work” and it is a “challenge”, I think what they really mean is that it takes attention.  Sometimes the attention is in the form of dinner together and a bottle of beautiful wine, a mountain bike ride, a camping trip or a tropical island paradise.  More often it is a twelve hour day at work, planning a budget, sweating for an hour at the gym, fixing the car, doing laundry or grocery shopping.  Either way, when these things are done in the spirit of building something good to share, our marriage feels strong.  When attention is given in the spirit of “trudging through,” “getting by,” “working for the man,” “keeping up with the credit card bills,” “making do,” or “because we should have a date night” marriage suffers.  The human spirit can sniff out purposelessness faster than a drug sniffing dog can find a cocaine-stuffed bacon donut.  The difference between purposelessness and fulfillment is really the intention behind your time and effort.  A soul rarely cares about “getting by”.   That afternoon, we headed to the party ashore and watched Polynesian feats of island competence: another coconut shucking contest, a coconut peeling contest (a feat I was cajoled into attempting and failing), and the hoisting of enormous boulders, the heaviest being 147 kilos or about 300 pounds.  We watched another fantastic set of Tahitian dancers, and once again I was invited to join the fun.  Move those hips, Ladies!!!  The sparkle in Andrew’s eyes shows me that all the work we invested in getting here was a wise investment. I am grateful to him for all the days he attended to our marriage by grinding out fiberglass or untangling a rats nest of electrical wires. I am hopeful about our next ten years together.  While our vows do not chain us to each other for eternity no matter what, I am optimistic we will choose to stay together. The last ten years have developed a habit of building toward something we both want.  What else is marriage about?

Source: Within 400 Square Feet of You