Phone Booth in Luxumbourg Photo by Tami Cowden
Phone Booth in Luxumbourg Photo by Tami Cowden

Ever miss one? I just did. Almost. Deadlines are crucial for several reasons. For one thing, if you don’t set a time limit on your efforts, you can’t possibly succeed. But more importantly, they force you to move quickly and not think about what you’re producing, rather just concentrate on producing it. And that’s the best way to do anything creative, at least in the first draft.

I’ve had the same experience with photography. Years ago I taught photography and did black and white processing as a hobby. Some people go out and study a scent for hours, days even, before they ever click a shutter. They want everything to be perfect, and as a result, they miss a lot of damned good photographs. The perfect drives out the good, as the saying goes.

It’s the same with writing. If you try to make it all come out perfectly on your first pass, you’ll never produce anything, or if something does get past your self-censorship, it will seem contrived, cute maybe, technically correct, but not great. With a photograph you fix things in the lab, be it a digital editing suite, or for the traditional, a darkroom. (Don’t knock film — it can capture some nuance that the best digital camera will miss.) In writing you fix stuff during your revision. And your second revision, your third revision, and so on. It may never be perfect, but in the end it will be damned good, and that’s what people like to read.

So, maybe you should impose some deadlines upon yourself for production. It will help you to think less and create more, and that can’t be bad!

No Cranberries Were Wasted In The Making of this Voyage

Last February, when we were cleaning out our house, we dug through our freezer and found not one, not two, but five Costco bags of frozen cranberries.  We couldn’t waste them, so what else could we do?  We shoved five bags into various gaps of space inside the car and drove them all the way to San Diego.  Against all odds, these well traveled cranberries made it all the way to Tonga.  The Galapagos 15 person inspection crew let them be, French Polynesia had no care whatsoever, the Rarotongan organic produce guards were not as strict as we suspected, and the Tongan “quarantine inspector” welcomed them in. Now as I try to settle Sonrisa in for her rest in the boat yard, the await their fate.  Obviously, they cannot stay over the Cyclone season. With Sonrisa out of the water and propped up on jack stands, we immediately started ticking away at tasks.  It was Friday, and we had exactly one week to get everything done.  It felt good to get busy on the work we knew we had to accomplish.  Andrew set off on all the technical maintenance projects like changing oil, fuel filters, clearing the engine of all salt water, repairing broken parts, measuring the engine room for a possible scuba compressor, etc.  I took over the grunt labor of cleaning.  Starting from the bow, moving toward the stern I removed everything from every cabinet and locker, wiped the locker and its contents down with vinegar, vinegar/tea tree oil solution, pine sol or Clorox depending on the material I was wiping.  I reorganize giant piles of clothing, tools, spare parts, nicknacks, camera equipment and other detritus that gathers in the far recesses of Sonrisa’s bowels into categories to put back, throw away or relocate.  n the interim, a growing giant pile of crap floats from one location to another trying to find its permeant home. There are so many things I regret bringing – Did you really need a cast iron pan?  No.  Did we really need 4 pairs of jeans?  No.  No one wants to wear jeans in the tropics. A guitar in a giant case that neither Andrew nor I actually know how to play? No.  Did we really need 5 bags of frozen cranberries? … We have the fans running, but besides that, there is very little breeze in the yard.  This is good, as we want a place protected from any Cyclone winds, but nonetheless, it makes for a very hot layup experience.  Sweat trickles into my eyes and soaks my t-shirt when I climb into Sonrisa’s deep lockers to clean.  Any time we need to use the restroom or wash dishes, we have to climb down a very tall ladder, approximately twelve or fifteen feet off the ground to get where we need to go.  If we need the water hose, to wash clothes or rags, or other land-based tasks, down the ladder we go. By the end of the evening, my legs are tired from climbing the ladder, my back weary from carrying, positioning and re-positioning sails, heavy ropes, and other gear.   Around 5 p.m., the yard quiets down and all the workers go home.  Around 6:30 or 7:00 Fredie the night guard and his dog Toot’ie arrives. His trademark frizzy hairdo gave him away immediately. He greets us with a smile and we quickly make a new friend. He asks us all sorts of questions about our trip, Sonrisa, and home.  After each answer he laughs and says “Io, Io” which means “Yes, yes” in Tongan.  But the sound changes depending on the context.  Just like there are many ways to say “Yeah” in English, his intonation changes.  “Eeeiiiioh; or Eooooohhhh; or short and punctuated “Eioh, Eioh.”  If you want to call Toot’ie, he will only recognize his name if you pause like a hiccup between “Toot” and “ee”.  Tongan is a hard language for me to replicate in my mouth, but intonation matters.  Freddie nestles into a little guard shack for the night, and we head back to Sonrisa to cook dinner. We open a bottle of wine and sit in Sonrisa’s cockpit high and dry.  The Disease-Dragons a.k.a. mosquitos love the smell of our sweat and begin to swarm in droves, singing their high pitched buzz in my ear.  We douse ourselves in Off and light mosquito coils.  We resort to sleeping under a mosquito net.  The fans are on, but it is still so hot.  The salon benches are covered with messes, so there is no where else to sleep.  Andrew and I sleep on the far edges of the bed trying to stay as far away from each other as possible.  “Don’t touch me!”  I gripe.  Even from across the way, I can feel the heat radiating off his skin and the clamminess of his sweat.  Even though I am tired, my brain whirs along thinking of where best to store this or that or planning tomorrow’s reasonably edible meal from he dregs of Sonrisa’s dwindling food stores. I fret:  are we going to be able to get all this done?  Are we going to have to throw away all these cranberries?   Two or three times per night, we have to change out of our pajamas, climb down the l

Source: No Cranberries Were Wasted In The Making of this Voyage

Nerves, By Sonrisa

We spent one last lovely week anchored in Port Maurelle.  Andrew and Leslie hung up the hammock, read, swam at leisure.  Grin took them on excursions to explore caves, the beach and a nearby village.  Andrew chased crabs, who took refuge in Leslie’s skirt, hunted bats, and made friends with a little fish who was helping him clean my bottom.  The weather was beautiful, they saw a giant red sea slug as big as your forearm, and Leslie yelped at least once a day when a gang of little cleaner fish insisted on trying to clean her.  As often happens to me, they would swim up and take a nip or two.  If you turn to look at them, they stop and wait for you to begin swimming again, then — nip nip!  As the week wore on, we became the farewell crew for a second wave of boats sailing off to New Zealand.  Was I feeling left out?  I can’t decide; I have mixed feelings.  I’ve been to New Zealand twice already, and both times it was an amazing place for a sailboat to visit.  But the last time I was there, it ended kind of sadly.  John and Sylvia were my best friends.  They took such good care of me.  They built up a whole swath of systems to keep me running smoothly and help me sail very far.  They installed a water maker, re-powered my engine, installed roller furling on both of my headsails…the list is quite long.  Everything they bought for me was of the best quality; Andrew and Leslie are still using most of this equipment today.  We had all sorts of amazing adventures together.  They took me to Mexico several times, where everyone always loves my name…Sonrrrrrrrisa!  I love how the people of Mexico lengthen and trill my “r”.  Eventually, we set off across the Pacific to sail to far off places, and I was ecstatic. It is my raison d’être! We reached New Zealand just as the cyclone season started, but then we learned Sylvia was sick.  I was heartbroken and so worried.  Would she be okay?  The next thing I know, my mast is being brought down and I am tucked into a shipping container to be shipped back all those miles we had just crossed.  It was hot in there, dark and lonely.  I stewed in my own worry and sorrow all the way back.    The story has a happy ending; Sylvia recovered.  Leslie tells me she even reads the blog from time to time.  (Hi Sylvia!  I still love you!)  That was such a relief.  But not too long after that, they decided they needed to sell me.  So, I waited for a few years in San Diego for Andrew and Leslie.   Now, every time I think about waiting out this 2016 cyclone season, I get worried about Andrew and Leslie.  What if they get sick? Or hurt?  What if they can’t come back, or what if they decide they don’t like me anymore?  Their frustrated and worried words from the Galapagos passage still echo in my mind.  I really would rather keep them here with me.  The reality is, though, that the Pacific Ocean is far too big to sail across in one season and still see all the beautiful places along the way.  In order for us to safely keep sailing this season, we would have had to run north really quickly – at least above 8 degrees South – to escape the cyclone zone.  This would mean we would have to skip Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caldonia, and Andrew and Leslie wouldn’t get to see New Zealand.  So, I understand why we have to wait out a cyclone season somewhere along this stretch.   I wouldn’t want to keep sailing in the cyclone zone, and I suppose I don’t want to make Andrew and Leslie live in the boat yard with me in Tonga.  It’s too hot, too rainy and too many mosquitos.  They should go enjoy themselves in New Zealand via (gulp) a bit of land travel.  So, Tonga it is and out I go.  Andrew and Leslie say I will like the yard, at least as much as a sailboat can like being on land.  But even at that, the nerves are creeping up on all of us. We have a long list of projects to make me ready and I can tell Leslie is nervous because she is unsure how long all those projects will take.  Is a week enough? It’s been so long since I have waited out a season on the hard, I can’t remember how long it takes. The mood was somber as Andrew and Leslie began stripping all my sails.  Then, what do you know, our old friend Scoots arrived from Samoa!  We haven’t seen them since Tahuata in the Marquesas.   We were all excited to have some friendly distraction. A few hours later, Scoots radioed for help.  She was pinned to the dock by contrary winds and they needed a few extra hands to help push off.  Andrew and Leslie loaded up Grin and headed off. Next thing I know, I see Leslie riding across the anchorage on Scoots, Andrew is in someone else’s dinghy, and Leslie’s flipflop has gone missing.  No Grin.  No Kitty. “What happened?”  I ask Andrew as he hustles around in my cabinets collecting carburetor cleaner, WD-40, and a pile of tools. Andrew sighs.  “Grin was trying to pull Sc

Source: Nerves, By Sonrisa

Class? You Got It!

The House in which I Grew Up. Photo by me.
The House in which I Grew Up.
Photo by me.

Yes, that technically is a vacation picture. Took it myself last August while visiting the old home town.

Over the weekend I attended a one-day session for writers that covered topics such as building your platform, self-versus-traditional publishing, queries, and other essentials for running a writing business. This was not my first conference.

In fact, in 2013, Writers of Southern Nevada, a group of which I am on the board, held a conference in Las Vegas. We had speakers from many areas of the business, craft and actual business, and we also had a group of agents and editors on hand to whom one could pitch. That’s how you do a writers’ conference, after all. Putting on the one-day conference took us a year and a half to set up, and left us feeling, well, let’s just say that we’re all still friends, but that it is highly unlikely that any of us will ever be involved in such a thing again. It’s difficult to put on a good conference, and that’s a fact.

I’ve enjoyed attending SCBWI in Los Angeles; been there three times. And the past couple of years I’ve attended RWA, first in New York, then in San Diego. If you’re anywhere near Colorado Springs, or have any desire to see that area, you should check out the Pike’s Peak Writer’s Conference, next dates of which are April 28-30, 2017. There are many others, and many writers’ groups out there. Heck there are a bunch of writers’ groups in Las Vegas, and this town isn’t noted for highbrow culture.

Whether you go to a simple one-day learning session, or a multi-day conference where you might even meet a favorite author, you have nothing to lose and a great deal to gain by exposing yourself to a hotel full of your peers. It was at SCBWI that I figured out how to show, not tell. It was at Pike’s Peak that I learned about structure and timing. And to RWA I owe what I know about characters and how to make them sweat, er, appeal to the reader. Heh Heh

So, take this as me urging you to seek out a writers’ group and/or learning session, and/or big ol’ conference that you’ll be able to attend. I’m pretty sure that you’ll be glad that you did!

The National Socialists

The Torchbearer sculpture at Vogelsang, Nationalpark Eifel, Germany
The Torchbearer sculpture at Vogelsang, Nationalpark Eifel, Germany

The sculpture shown in this picture is titled “The Torchbearer.” The inscription has been defaced, but originally read as follows:

“You are the torch-bearers of the nation. You carry the light of the spirit forward in the battle for Adolph Hitler.”

It is located at Ordensburg Vogelsang, where it has always been. The Ordensburgen were three (of four originally planned) private schools for the children of National Socialist party elite. Credit where it is due, the sculpture was created by Willy Meller, who also created other monumental works in support of the Third Reich. You can start reading more about this place on this Wikipedia site.

Besides being the son of a high-ranking official, admission required perfect health, Aryan countenance, and a willingness to sacrifice for Hitler. They got a lot of applicants. So, I am dedicating an entire post to the National Socialist movement, if only because it was a part of a wider phenomenon that actually did profoundly change the world, but not in the way the National Socialists intended.

National Socialism was allied with the Fascist movement in Italy, Spain and elsewhere. The mood of the time was one of withdrawal into familiar territory, and reclaiming former glory through propaganda and, when necessary, conquest. Looking back, those attempting these things were certainly doomed to failure before they began, but they inflicted a great deal of damage in their failures. The United States was late to the game of opposing them, and in fact there were sympathizers in this country, some of them rather prominent. (They did have sense enough to shut up after Pearl Harbor, of course.) The National Socialists led Germany on a path of ethnic purity, genocide, and, ultimately, what amounted to cultural suicide. Along the way they managed to kill about 12 million people whose crime was being Jewish, Homosexual, Roma, Communist, and sometimes even just not up to cultural snuff. In the United States the impulse was limited to interning people of Japanese ancestry. Relatively speaking, a better choice, I suppose, although I wonder why anyone thought that to be necessary.

Entrance to Ordensburg Vogelsang in Nationalpark Eifel, Germany Photo by Steve Fey



The school at Vogelsang (that means “bird song”) taught scientific racism, military skills, and stressed athleticism.  The Aryan race was genetically superior, went the teaching, and therefore entitled to do whatever it wished with the rest of the world. Unfortunately, the rest of the world was, and is, a lot larger than the mythical “Aryan race” and once everybody else managed to get organized, it took a relatively short time to bring down the entire notion of National Socialism, and indeed, of Fascism in general. Unfortunate for the National Socialists, I mean, but fortunate for everybody else. The true believers in the movement, though, still believed that the war could be won, and the race could prevail, almost until the Allied armies overran Berlin. To even contemplate success in an effort of that type is to yield to a type of insanity, but they did it. All I can say about the movement in general is, “What the Hell were they thinking?”

Possibly their thinking was influenced by the economic bad times that resulted from poor economic policies coupled with terrible decisions by the Allies at the end of The Great War. Perhaps it was a personal longing for something better, a place where one could breathe easily without having to consider all those other people crowding into  you every day. Poverty tends to make a person generate poor decisions. A prolonged economic downturn is, frankly, poverty of an entire society. Maybe that explains it. Or not. What am I, God? I don’t know. But I do know that they never had a chance to succeed, as anyone knows who studies the broad sweep of history. No such movement has ever succeeded, except for a while.

Food for thought, isn’t it?


 A slim and strong Tongan man with fuzzy black hair grown long enough to just barely pull back in a ponytail sits on the edge of Riki’s dive boat.  One foot is propped up on the edge of the boat, the other rests firmly on the bench inside.  His arm rests on top of his bent knee, and he takes long slow drags from a glowing cigarette.  “Where are you from?”  He asks us. “The U.S.”  We reply. He nods, and takes another drag from his cigarette.  He shakes his head. “I moved to America for a little while with my Aunt.  I didn’t like it; just too fast paced.” We ask if he is going to dive with us today.  He laughs.  “No way!  Too cold for me.”  He explains, complaining that it is still only Spring.  We laugh, knowing how quickly we have acclimated to tropic air and water temperatures that swing at most five degrees. This particular Tongan friend has joined us on Riki’s Dive Boat for the day.  He is going to watch over the boat while we are underwater to make sure it doesn’t float away or otherwise go missing.  He is also helping us with the dive gear, tanks, etc.  We dive the wreck again at 100 feet.  As we descend, the water wraps me in a pleasant pressure. I slow my breathing, concentrating on taking quick sips of air, then blowing the air out in a measured pace.  Wait three seconds.  Take another sip. I concentrate on relaxing my whole body.  I float weightlessly, only “thinking” the direction I want to go. I move only when strictly necessary to achieve the location of my choice.  Time slows down.  We sink below the stern to inspect one blade of the propeller so enormous that the one blade is bigger than Riki.  We are only down for forty minutes, but it feels much longer.   I see more when I am calm.  And there is so much to see on this wreck that we could spend the entire week diving here and not get bored.  Now that I’m not thrashing about with fear and anxiety I get to notice things and point them out to fellow divers.  I am able to see tiny fish, perfectly camouflaged into their home.  I see tiny translucent shrimp, no bigger than your pinky fingernail, their body looks like a sun sparkle on the water.  After the dive, we meet other divers for lunches or dinners and swap photographs.  We end up sitting around restaurants talking to Pelangi Locals, other travelers, other sailors, Peace Corp volunteers. As compared to French Polynesia, Tonga is thick with Ex-Pat Americans.  One topic starts to repeat itself: work/business.  Stories are told of businesses being started, succeeding and growing rapidly, then being shut down by fees or licensing or other troubles.  The Ex-Pat explanation:  “the business was competing too well against its competitor.”  The Pelangis groan with frustration.  They complain about the slow pace of business, make jokes about Tongans working at all.  “They just don’t want to make their businesses grow.  They are satisfied, they never look ahead to the future.”  The Ex-Pats sneer.   “Oh and don’t ever raise your voice at a Tongan,” one Ex-Pat complains. “They will show you their capacity for infinite patience.” After being here for more than a month now, we have heard these stories told and retold.  The irony is not lost on me.  Andrew and I quit working to sail off and putter around on transportation that moves more slowly than just walking.  Somewhere in the center of our hearts we value something in common with these Tongans who can sit on the top of a crumbling cement pillar and watch the world go by for hours.  They need so little to be content, and it is true.  Their patience knows no bounds.  Their smiles are so bright, their demeanor calm.   But, Andrew and I are still Americans.  The seed of our souls are born from a people who look around them and see potential.  Our natures are driven to make more from less.  Even though I am out here enjoying, I can’t shake the nervous energy inside me that wants to harness this stage of my life into something larger, more meaningful, and/or more profitable. Build on what you have!  Grow!  As Americans, wherever we are, whatever we are doing, whoever we are being is never enough.  Maybe I am overgeneralizing, but I don’t think so.  For me, this concept is the “American Spirit.” It is our cultural power, but it seems it can be our cultural weakness.  How would our families, environment, and lives benefit if we could increase our potential for infinite patience and easy contentment?  What if we could combine the two seemingly opposed manners, harnessing patience and contentment when appropriate and the desire to build and grow when appropriate? I am very curious to see how we fit into the American Puzzle over our visit in November/December.  We can count on our fingers the number of stop lights we have encountered since February.  I am fairly certain there are more people milling about in one Las

Source: Acclimating

Not About Sailing

I was here. Hoping for some talent to rub off. This is in Trinity Church in Stratford-Upon-Avon.  Photo by your author.
I was here. Hoping for some talent to rub off. This is in Trinity Church in Stratford-Upon-Avon.
Photo by your author.

Nope. Nothing here about the South Pacific, or any other ocean. No dinghy’s, no cocktails while watching a sunset. You’ve visited on my weekly writing blog day, so you get to put up with my stuff today.

If you’ve been following the posts I’ve been reposting from Odd Godfrey, you know what I’m talking about. If not, if I were you, I’d check them out. I swear, and I’ve told Leslie Godfrey this, there is a book in that journal she’s keeping. And how could there not be?

This is a post about where to get your ideas. (You knew I’d get to the point eventually, right?) A couple of friends are sailing around the world. They may never write a book about it, even though they should. But, look at the ideas here:

A couple start out on a voyage around the world, only to get caught up in an international scheme to recover treasure from deeply sunken ships (you know, ones down 3000 meters or more) and it turns out that getting involved was a deadly mistake!

A malfunctioning air tank on a scuba outfit delivers a dose of a secret, CIA-developed gas that turns the person breathing it into a true clairvoyant.

She went to the South Pacific to escape her heartbroken past, only to discover a new beginning in the form of a French tax collector.

See? Heck, anything can be the source of an idea. All you have to do is remember the basic story setup: Ordinary person wants something but can’t have it. Ordinary person tries to get it anyway, but keeps getting blocked. Ordinary person tries for so long that ordinary person’s very life in hanging in the balance. Does OP win out in the end? (Probably not.) But does OP end up with something even better? (Probably.) Feel free to run with any of those plot kernels. I have more, trust me!

A Week Aboard S/V Sonrisa Part Four

Internet is a problem again, sorry for the text only post. I promise I will fill in pictures when I have internet access once more. …. For our second day of diving, we are going to dive the Clam Mac Wreck. My first wreck dive! Riki arrives with our regular dive crew – Jo and Mosh, and Makke the Tongan dive assistant. Riki explains the history of the wreck as we gear up at the site. The Clam Mack was a freighter traveling the Pacific in 1927. It was scheduled to collect and carry copra (the coconut meat used for extracting coconut oil) from the islands. They failed to add false floors to keep the coconut meat in nice layers, so as they piled up more and more copra, the weight of the coconut on top started pressing down on the bottom layers. Coconut oil began to weep into the bilges and eventually, the coal fired engine lit the coconut oil on fire. The Clam Mack was in transit from Fiji when the fire started. They shut all the hatches and smothered the flames. This worked until they reached Nieafu, but after they had anchored in the harbor and brought the ship along side Nieafu’s wooden wharf, they opened the hatches and the smoldering hot oil burst into flames again. The crew all abandoned ship leaving the captain and the engineer aboard to fend for themselves. Nieafu’s Port Captain gave them clear orders to get the ship away from the wharf before it burns down the entire village. So, the Captain attempted to drive the ship into the middle of the harbor and anchor it on a shallow coral ledge safely in the middle until they could contain the fire. Unfortunately, the huge anchor and chain caught on something and wouldn’t come up. Tongan lore has it that the captain and the engineer could be heard fighting with each other as the Clam Mac went down. They are still down there, fighting to this day. Sometimes you can see the bubbles rising from their watery graves. Everyone gears up and we drop down toward the wreck. It’s about 90 feet down, so you can’t see it from the surface. As we descend, the wreck appears like an apparition gaining strength. By the time we reach the deck, the water clarity is perfect. We can see from the stern all the way to the center of the 400 foot ship. The deck is decorated with all sorts of soft corals, tiny fish, and translucent shrimp. An eagle ray flies by in the distance. We make our way from stern to midship, breathing with a steady rhythm and beating a flipper only when necessary to create a steady movement. Coffee and Brian are doing great, each flanking Riki. We see a school of five giant travali being cleaned by cleaner fish. A huge sea snake rests at the bottom of a ladder. I look down the tunnel of a covered side deck and a school of about fifty fish the size of a yellow and black dinner plate weave toward me swimming right, then left, then right again through the narrow hallway. When we are almost nose to nose, they all turn in formation and squeeze through the rusting metal bars just like ghosts filtering through a wall. We float over the engine room, and we can see bubbles slowly rising out of metal rubble that has been under water just shy of 100 years. Where would that air be coming from? That must be the Captain yelling at the engineer. We circle back to the stern, then ascend. By the time we reach the surface everyone is completely jazzed by the dive. We are all chittering with excitement and reliving this or that thing we saw. Riki pulls out an old wine bottle he found on the wreck. Still corked, you could smell the sweetness of wine inside. “Whaaaaaaooooowwwww!” We all exclaim. What an amazing dive! Andrew and I immediately schedule another day to do it again. We want to go deeper and see the giant propeller. After basking in the sun on the dock, drinking tea and reloading our tanks, we head out to sea to dive another dive with crystal clear water, colorful fish and a number of tight swim throughs. At this point, C&B are feeling quite comfortable and everyone is having a great time. We all get together for a group shot. It’s not awkward to try to float all together, now is it? With the healthy coral, awesome underwater variety, and $45US per dive, Tonga is being added to my list of favorite diving destinations. But then again, there doesn’t seem to be any bad diving spots in the South Pacific. Back at Sonrisa, we clean up and head back to Neiafu. C&B have only one more day left in town before they fly out. We need to get back so they can shop for trinkets. C&B’s last day is “cruise ship day” in Neiafu – the perfect shopping day. All the Tongans have built their little tents and arrived with their wares to sell to the cruise ship patrons. We join the mix with its jovial brass band, chicken roasting on a rotisserie made out of an old truck bed, and trinkets everywhere! Coffee settles o

Source: A Week Aboard S/V Sonrisa Part Four

A Week Aboard S/V Sonrisa Part Three

Internet is a problem again, sorry for the text only post. I promise I will fill in pictures when I have internet access once more. …. I think it was circa 2011, but I can’t be sure. Andrew and I had been racing aboard Heeling Art with Captain Shane since 2007, but our regular crew mates were dwindling due to a variety of odd circumstances. Bobby was out of commission with his back injury, a crew mate who recently realized sailboat motors were equipped with a propeller rather than a jet had mysteriously disappeared, Benedict Alan decided to race on a competitors’ boat and the motley selection of randoms were not sufficiently reliable to man the boat on heavy wind days. So, Captain Shane reached out to two new sailors he met during the Nevada Yacht Club Sail Training Weekend. C&B arrived at the dock with cheerful smiles and ready attitudes. They climbed aboard and were promptly assigned to be rail meat. The cycle of sailing life starts again. Coffee’s spot-on impersonation of Monty Python and the Holy Grail won her immediate permeant crew status. They learned fast and were a cheerful addition to the boat. Soon, we were meeting them for dinners or cocktails away from Lake Mead, receiving invitations for random weekend projects like racing go carts or going camping, and bringing them along to listen to Henderson Symphony Concerts. New friends swiftly became old friends. When Sonrisa came into our lives, C&B volunteered not just to come visit her San Diego but to put in hours and hours of slave labor. They helped us reinstall new chain plates, re-bed various areas of Sonrisa’s deck hardware, and take her out sailing. Having them aboard for this tour of Tonga is our pleasure. After the Bacon Odyssey, our next project is to relocate to anchorages close enough that the scuba boat can pick us up. We have a couple days time to reach the close anchorages, so we have plenty of time to stop at a beach perfect for shelling, swing around in the hammock, snorkel the most colorful reef in Tonga, and stop by Swallows Cave for a tour. Both the reef and swallows cave are a bit awkward to access. They are far away from any safe anchorage for Sonrisa and Grin is nervous about taking all four of us at once across the great expanse. So, instead we take shifts. We reach our destination, everyone piles out in Grin, while I hove-to in deep water. (Hoving-to is a storm/lunch break tactic in which I backwind the front sail, leave the main sail as is, and balance Sonrisa’s rudder in the spot in which she wants to turn both right and left according to her opposite sails. This stops Sonrisa and allows her to scuttle very slowly sideways while we wait for the crew to finish their tour.) When the crew returns, we swap places, and I go explore while Andrew and Sonrisa wait. This worked great at the reef where Grin escorted everyone closer to shore. But, at swallow’s cave, we were so close we figured we could easily swim from Sonrisa to the cave. One by one, Andrew jumps in, Brian jumps in, and then Coffee jumps in. Suddenly, Coffee lets out a sharp screams/wail indicating both fear and pain. “What’s the matter?!” I call back. I begin to untwist my sail plan and use the motor to circle back. “Are you okay?” She is shaking her head “no, no, no”, but she is still swimming away from Sonrisa toward the cave. Andrew and Brian turn back and reach her. The three of them head to the cave and they huddle where the cave meets the coral reef. As I watch them, I wonder what could be wrong. Did she cut her foot on something as she jumped? Did something in the water bite her? Jellyfish? We haven’t seen a single shark while we have been in Tonga, so I doubt it was anything like that. I circle, but Andrew waves me off. So, Sonrisa and I shrug and circle away again. When they emerge out of the cave again, we circle toward them. I instruct them to swim together in the mouth of a cave and I will take a picture. Instead, I get a resounding chorus of “NOs!” What the heck is going on? As they climb aboard Sonrisa, they explain that Coffee did not appreciate the deep, deep blue of 200+ feet below her when she jumped in. I guess I have to come back to cave to get pictures later. We anchor at Port Maurelle and we enjoy beers and olives on the silky soft white sand beach. Pork chops, freshly made refried beans, mole and peppers for dinner. Riki and the Tin Can picked us up bright and early the next morning for our first round of scuba diving. Coffee got her Open Water Certification to be ready to dive in Tonga, so this is going to be her first dive somewhere exotic. Remembering my nerves the first time I dove out here (Link to Manihi Dive), I volunteered to be her buddy and hold her hand. Everyone gets dressed up in their gear, over the side we go. Suddenly, her regulator

Source: A Week Aboard S/V Sonrisa Part Three

Europe and Me: A Travelogue

The Flag of the European Union
The Flag of France
The Flag of Belgium
The Flag of Luxembourg
The Flag of the Netherlands (Holland)
The Flag of Germany

This is my first post about a recent trip Tami and I took to Germany, France,

Luxembourg, Germany again, Holland, Germany again, Belgium, Germany with a side trip to Belgium, and finally just Germany. This post is about similarities and differences between the USA and those countries. There are some, but not so many as you might imagine.

For an instance of sameness, McDonalds. We ate at one that was next to our hotel in Luxembourg City. It was just a McDonalds. And there are also a lot of KFCs there, with Burger King being the third most numerous fast food place that we saw. This is pretty much the same ratio as here at home, but without all the other choices thrown in. Although, come to think of it, there were enough Pizza Huts to be interesting. Also, crossing a border is just like crossing a state line. If you don’t watch the signs, you’ll never know.

Something different? Consider, have you ever, in the USA, tried to exit a shop by pushing on the door, only to discover that the door must be pulled? Me neither. But that happens in Europe! And, apparently, it is so ingrained in my American consciousness that I don’t try to pull, even after having experienced the need a bunch of times.

Thing is, in the USA and Canada too, if you need to leave a store in a hurry, and you run headlong into the door, said door will open. That’s a safety requirement. I think that new stores in Europe must meet that same requirement, but if so, darned if they’re requiring any retrofits!

So, is the European Union better or worse than the United States? Well, they are different, and the same, so the answer is yes and no. Frankly, our highways are better. Frankly, their food is better. So, whattya wanna do? Eat or drive?

Okay, not that simple. I’ll be posting more in the future. And now I have a brand spanking new bunch of photographs to post at the head of my Wednesday writing blog! Life is good!