Needing Less Doing More

Author: renchapman (Page 1 of 5)

Team Chapman

“We men and women are all in the same boat, upon a stormy sea. We owe to each other a terrible and tragic loyalty.”

G.K. Chesterton

I take every opportunity possible to make the “bring it in” call. You’ve brought it in before. It’s the moment right after a pep talk when the coach says, “Bring it in!” Everyone puts one hand in the circle and the whole team says something really encouraging like, “Kill the other team,” or something like that, preferably at volume 10 simultaneously throwing the pile of heavy hands into the air. Ren and I have raised our children on a steady diet of “bring it ins” and chants-but those are for another story.

Because of our relentless devotion to everything team oriented Ani and Cape are actually growing up with a healthy concept of team work, unity and interdependence. In a world where independence is heralded as the paramount characteristic trait we could not be more proud that our children are learning to rely on each other. Ren was especially excited when we inadvertently showed our children first hand how fruitful the harvest can be with a little interdependent determination.

The opportunity for the lesson presented itself while we were sailing the cayes of Belize. Just before sunset, in route to our anchorage du nuit, Jade, our sailing trimaran, lumbered over yet another world class coral reef. We had already been diving and exploring that day but just one more seemed in order. Ren was inclined to bring his Hawaiian sling along, just in case the option to feed the family fish or lobster presented itself.

As per our regular routine either Ren or myself pulled the dinghy along by her painter as the other reconciled themselves to become Cape’s personal diving platform. We’ve tried it all; boogie boards, pool noodles, etc. He prefers the freedom of swimming alongside us as opposed to the confines of a water float. He swims along until needing a break when he retreats to the back of the unencumbered parent. It is actually a good system. Ani is pretty independent in the water these days and swims along side, very much a functioning part of the crew these days.

Being seasoned freedivers, instructors, and most importantly role models to our budding freedivers we take safety seriously. That means one up, one down. Ren takes his turn diving and hunting while I man the dinghy and carry Cape on my back. He returns, recovers, and we switch. Ani joins us every other dive. And Cape wears extra protection, in the form of a life vest, when we’re in hunting mode. This way we can completely disengage and have Ani watch him and the dinghy if safety measures progress past supervision. We’re ALL in wetsuits, if even just a top.

When Ren spotted the sizely hogfish my first reaction, which is my default reaction when hunting, was, “Please miss him. Please miss him.” I guess his spear heard me because he fouled the shot. The injured fish retreated into a collection of coral. At this point our intuitive team dynamic kicked in. I immediately swam over to Ren, relieving him of his sling and burdening him with the dinghy and children. I dove to get a visual on the fish but didn’t. Upon my return we continued the ritual pass off. Ren dove. We probably dove a total of two dives each before finally locating the fish again. I sighted the poor fella through a small hole in the rock. My only option, to try for another shot and put the poor guy out of his misery. I hit him but the spear did not stick.

At this point I feel the need to explain that, as it were, our spear was neither sharp nor tuned. Our faulty equipment, due to our own negligence, complicated the hunt but simultaneously provided us with a life lesson opportunity. for those of you out there rolling your eyes in condescension at our whiffs, well, at least I’m being honest. Plus, in this instance, I’m grateful for our irresponsibility.

After my miss Ren and I completed another pass off and Ren dove, finishing the job. I swam to him, dinghy and kids in tow in order to relieve him of his sling and spear so he could dispatch the fish. The knife used for such a task was being dutifully guarded by Ani as she wears it on a rubber belt around her waist. So, in fact, the hunt really was a true act of teamwork perpetuated by three members of the Chapman family but celebrated by four with a healthy dose of “bring it in” and later a prayer of thanks and a hogfish supper.

Although homeschooling is exciting at times, infuriating at others but nonetheless an adventure what’s even better are the moments that are unplanned, unscripted lessons. The kind you don’t learn completely in the traditional classroom or even in the homeschool experience. These, most critical life lessons are ones of survival, passed down to us in our very human nature. Our children learned from us not just a lesson in team work but a life realization that interdependence feeds the family. That two are better than one and that we all work together for the family. I’m excited for the days when Ani and Cape are very much full fledged participants on the playing field. Their contributions are, right now, small but ever important. It will be life giving, empowering to them to grow up feeling genuinely needed as part of Team Chapman.

The Tipsy Taxi and Other Dinghy Misadventures


This picture is completely unrelated to the post but features Ani asleep at the wheel.

It took one season, and not even a whole season, for our first dinghy to die.  The dingy was an afterthought anyway.  It had been folded up and stored away in some random warehouse for an undetermined amount of time.  It’s sedentary lifestyle did not deter us, in fact we were looking forward to breathing life back into the crappy ‘ol PVC raft.  Plus we were just grateful to have been given a tender at no cost to us.  It was probably this cavalier attitude and our endless demands that killed the girl.  The dinghy didn’t appreciate being ripped out of retirement just to be put back to work.

In the first months of our maiden voyage, a slow leak started in the dinghy, planned by her I’m sure.  Being the clever (vindictive) girl she was, our tender waited until we were deep in the Bahamas (no dinghy life support), two miles from our sailboat (no first responders), and full to the brim with freediving gear to start sinking without the slightest shred of integrity!  You may think I’m being dramatic but you were not there!  You didn’t have to scramble to find a line long enough to sloppily tie the bow and sides up, connecting the boat together at the stern with 1” of free board between you and the water.   And you didn’t have to limp home her lifeless corpse with your tail between your legs.

And each time, Jackie looked on from the upper deck of the Breeze with a smile.  Sometimes smiling at our obvious success, sometimes with a smirk at the thought of us actually hitting the drink.  One of these days…


Another unrelated picture but come on! You’ve gotta be impressed with Ani’s apple eating style! Is it obvious that the author is her Mom?

You would think that the previous encounter would be enough to teach us a lesson.  Prevent us from being cheap…ahem…as resourceful when a tender is concerned.  You are thinking, surely they saved their pennies and sprang for something reliable.  You’re thinking of the wrong couple!  Do not get into the habit of overestimating the author and her husband.  Our next hand me down, dug out of retirement dinghy, was the infamous Tipsy Taxi.  Because of her crappy…ahem…unique design, the Tipsy Taxi earned an actual name.  The name was coined by a friend of ours and one of the proprietors of the cruiser friendly, Long Island Breeze.  Being a Louisiana girl, Jackie Higgins has a quick wit although the Tipsy Taxi was low hanging fruit for her!  She watched us get in and out of the ever rolling 7’, round bottom, fiberglass junker each time managing to board our not-so-trusty steed, clutching our hearts in utter disbelief that once again, we had eluded the inevitable roll and plunge.  And each time, Jackie looked on from the upper deck of the Breeze with a smile.  Sometimes smiling at our obvious success, sometimes with a smirk at the thought of us actually hitting the drink.  One of these days…

The Tipsy Taxi managed to bowl through the Bahamas to Jamaica, Honduras, Belize and the Florida Keys.  It’s crowning moment was undoubtedly proclaimed when she found herself floating (barely) our 210 lb. buddy Bruce, his 6’6” brother Logan, an obliviously fidgety Ren and a very pregnant me, perched atop the Taxi, an unlikely bow maiden.  We were rowing to shore, and why were we rowing?  To add insult to an already humiliating situation our small outboard motor decided to sprout legs and leave us in Honduras.  I hope that if the engine was that unhappy with us it found a better, more dignified post with another family.  Engine, if you are reading this, we are sorry and trust your new family needed you more than we did.

After our return to the US it occurred to us that the Tipsy Taxi never once threw us.  We never once suffered a wet fate at her hands.  So we gave her the most fitting retirement we could imagine.  We placed her, upside down of course (she wouldn’t have wanted to be a mosquito breeding ground) on the banks of the Cape Fear River, at the bottom of the hill where Ren’s mom lives.  There were hopes of her someday becoming a flower planter or bench.  I have no idea where she is now.  She disappeared one day and my hopes for her are that she’s scaring the crud out of some other poor souls every time they step over her gunnel.


Ren’s Bird Obsession…Sometimes Pays Off


Ren loves birds and wants us all to. It’s easy to understand why when you see the bald eagle in flight.

If you don’t jump, you’ll get “the look”.  The, “I seriously doubt your connection to the natural world” look.

A few years before Ani was born in a time we now refer to as W.W.H.T.A. (When We Had Time Alone), Ren and I embarked on our first trip through the Caribbean.  When we hit the Bahamas one of the first things we noticed as distinctly Caribbean besides the clear water, the coral reefs, the sudden upending of our role as the white majority was the call of the smooth billed ani.

Ren’s Dad is a trained ornithologist.  Because of this Ren grew up with a healthy obsession of birds.  He knows all the birds and wants you to as well.  He probably doesn’t know all the birds but he sure knows more than I do (and probably you).  Ren has no hesitations pointing out a bird and having you rush out of whatever precarious situation you might be in to check it out.  He definitely expects you to shake it off, pants around your ankles, toilet paper in hand just to catch a glimpse of the 1,000th bald eagle of the day.  If you don’t jump, you’ll get “the look”.  The, “I seriously doubt your connection to the natural world” look.  You’ll get this look despite over 20,000 miles of sailing, 8 years freediving and spearfishing together, and over 11 years of everything else.  One mis-step, just one time ignoring his frantic emergency calls, deciding to wipe before pouncing up the companionway stairs and you blew it!  All evidence that you don’t actually HATE bald eagles is out the door.  You’re back to square one with the guy and just exposed your flag (although unknowingly) as a maniacal bald eagle murderer just waiting for your chance to pick them off one by one with the gun you don’t even own.

When the bald eagle lost his luster the new fixation became the white pelican. They're huge, by the way.

When the bald eagle lost his luster the new fixation became the white pelican. They’re huge, by the way.

Now I need to address all of you who are in solidarity with Ren, the Nature Boy.  You know who you are because you are probably harassing your own family somewhere over a sea gull or two.  Bald eagles are not that rare.  And guess what else?  They’ve had white heads and white tails EVERY time I’ve been commanded to look at them.  I say, unless the eagle lands on Jade and starts reciting poetry, just let me regard him at my own pace.  But I digress…

Because of Ren’s relentless bird education fetish the unique call of the smooth billed ani was immediately apparent to me.  I, for once, pointed the bird out to Ren (who had already discovered and researched the bird during a previous trip to the Bahamas I was not there for).  When he told me the name of the new bird it was exciting.  Since the ani is not found back home the modest black bird’s song was a symbol that we had arrived!   Years of planning were over and our liberation had begun.  Ani, we decided, would be an awesome name for a kid if we ever decided to have one.  Turns out, it’s the best!

Our favorite bird! The Ani bird relaxing in her hammock.

Our favorite bird! The Ani bird relaxing in her hammock.


Mom’s Fear of the Ocean


Flying the kite, headed towards the unknown.

I’ve come to realize that the fear of the unknown is better than what you already know can kill you.

Sometimes my Mom finds it necessary to remind me that we’re in the middle of nowhere.  This sentiment is usually expressed after our decision to leave the safe confines of the Intercoastal Waterway (ICWW) for the dangers of the ocean.  She tells us this in response to her fear for us on the big blue.  The thought of her little family sailing on the ocean conjures images of a plywood heap, barely floating with her half starved crew dodging pirates, sex trade minions and the temper of King Neptune himself.  It’s a miracle we survive!

Ani's job as the Comandorable is to be on constant lookout for pirates. So far, so good.

Ani’s job as the Comandorable is to be on constant lookout for pirates. So far, so good.

What she doesn’t understand or get to see is that the Waterway is exhausting.  Sure a few hours or even days on an especially beautiful stretch of the waterway such as the Low Country of South Carolina or even northern Florida can leave you rejuvenated, grateful for the chance to observe creation.  But we all know intrinsically what lies just south of rejuvenation…exhaustion.  Like the first piece of pie, the proverbial icing on the cake, those first few days on the ICWW leave you feeling satisfied without being too full.  However, splurge on a second or third piece and you’ll never be as satisfied as if you would have stopped at one.  You’re now left feeling heavy, unmotivated and in a sugar coma.  Ah, the Waterway after day four.  The monotonous hum of the engine (like nails on a chalkboard to a sailor), the physical demands on the captain to stay on the stick hours upon hours and days upon days without the  option to “set it and forget” in the vastness of the ocean, and of course trying to occupy a tenacious three year old with extremely limited physical outlets stretching your imagination to the brink of it’s shelf life.  It’s enough to suck the life out of anyone.  Especially me.

Fatigue can set in when you're constantly on watch in the ICWW. The Captain and the Comandorable take turns keeping watch for dolphin.

Fatigue can set in when you’re constantly on watch in the ICWW. The Captain and the Comandorable take turns keeping watch for dolphin.

Despite the hardships associated with the ICWW (first world problems, I know) another much more critical reason to reach for the high seas comes to mind.  Just turn on the news….get it?  King Neptune’s wrath does not hold a candle to to psychosis we get to dodge at sea.  The motion of the ocean can illicit fear at our most basic level, survival.  The discomfort and fear felt at sea is the kind that heightens the senses and makes one feel more alive and connected to both the natural world and God at the same time.  I welcome this emotion.  The fear and discomfort illicited by Dylan Roof, John Wayne Gacy or Charles Carl Roberts IV is unnatural, terrifying and unconscionable.  Sea monsters are no match for the real monsters that prowl the Ft. Lauderdale airport or even sleep next door.  The abuse and disregard for human life is enough to keep me at sea forever.  I understand that this is a selfish state of mind at best.  Why do I reserve the right to run and hide, sheltering my family from the inhumanity?  The short answer is that I don’t.  Life is best lived in the trenches.  But sometimes we’re offered an opportunity for a break.  A chance to refuel before jumping back in the mud with everyone else, with the unthinkable.  I’ve come to realize that the fear of the unknown is better than what you already know can kill you.


Gourmet Galley “Nutty Monkey”

In this video blog Ashley and Ani demonstrate how to make a “Nutty Monkey” smoothy aboard Jade using the NutraBullet. A healthy an delicious treat on a sailboat.




2-tbls Natural unsweetened Peanut Butter

2- tbls 100% Cocao

2- Cups non sweetened, non diary milk. (Ashley likes almond and Ren likes Cashew)

Blend and enjoy!


A Love Letter


Ren and Ashley walking the beach at Deans’ Blue Hole during the Vertical Blue competition in 2012.

You  know, I had a blog entry all written up for this week.  It’s in my little black Moleskin book just waiting for me to type it up, add a picture and send it out to the world.  I opened up the computer to transcribe the already written entry when I realized two things:

1.I want my entries to be relevant.  This means Valentine’s Day related blogs when Valentine’s Day is upon us.

2.Ren is my Valentine and the whole world should know it. 

My husband, Ren, spends a ton of time on Facebook.  One reason is because he is a super social person and really enjoys the communication.  The other reason is that it is his duty to keep up with our Evolve Freediving Facebook page.  He spends hours taking pictures, filtering through them all, editing some, and posting others for your enjoyment.  He spends a ton of time exalting me and my achievements.  He selflessly posts post after post about “Ashley dove this” and “Ashley dove that”.  We don’t get to see a ton of pictures of him because he is always behind the camera.


Ren asked Ashley to marry him in 2010 at 45′ during PFI’s Deja Blue competition in the Cayman Islands.


Ren and Ashley on the beach after Ren’s surprise baptism at Dean’s Blue Hole.

I want the world to know that Ren is the most selfless husband anyone could have.  Sure, he has his moments, so do I.  But when it comes to 100% unadulterated pride, he has it…for me.  You all should know that Ren has innumerable talents and is one of the most sensitive people I have ever met.  He cries easily about the smallest things and his feeling get hurt easily.  You may not have known this about him unless you are a close friend.  It is one of the most beautiful things about him.

Ren, I love you.  I want you to know this.  I want you never to forget-through all of your efforts to uplift me, Evolve Freediving, and everyone else you spend time taking pictures of, teaching in one of our courses, or taking the time after a ten hour day (two of which are spent doubling up on the Ruckus traveling 50 miles) to talk to other cruisers for forty minutes at at time, patiently answering all of their questions…happily answering them-that you are special.  That you touch lives and leave impressions worth making.  I am happy to call you MY Valentine and I’m happy to share these sentiments with the world.


Oyster Season

Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce.

Then he will fill your barns with grain, and your vats will overflow with good wine

-Proverbs 3:9-10

Oysters!  Oysters were what Ren and I had on our minds as we waited to board our plane from Deadman’s Cay to Florida.  We were both in need of some good old, slimy, snotty, NC oysters, which are a staple of the cold weather holiday season back home.  In NC the measure of Winter is not made by the thermometer alone but by the opening of oyster season.  When the water in NC gets cold, well, by our thin skin standards, the march smells a certain way.  The smell goes from a nice healthy rotten egg, sulfur odor that permeates the air during warmer weather to a green, fresh smell.  The air and water are both crisp with a chill.  The water becomes super clear as the last mud settles from the summer boating season and the algae stops growing.  This is oyster season.  This is the season for locals only as all the tourists have left, heading back to their inland homes in Raleigh and Charlotte.  This is the season where the local folk get into their single motor boats…or john boats even, slowly putting along to each bank of every shallow, unnamed creek in the marsh for sharp, pointy, projections clustered together and sticking up out of the mud.

Once an oyster bed or accumulation of these bivalves has been spotted the Carolinian slowly lowers his hook (anchor) into the water and steps out into the quicksand mud in white, calf-high rubber boots.  These boots are affectionately called Sneads Ferry Sneakers, after a small fishing town just north of Wilmington.  If you ever find yourself lost in coastal NC and you spot a big burly man with chest waders and these tell tale white rubber boots, do not be afraid to approach.  Although he may have a distinct and intimidating Duck Dynasty look, you have found a friend, this man is one of our people.

The oyster harvester steps cautiously through the muck leaving big symmetrical, horizontal lines in the sand with each footprint.  He is careful not to disturb anything other than his target catch.  The not-so-wily oyster. Once he spots a cluster of these tasty little animals, he uses a big long screwdriver or a piece of available scrap metal to carefully pry or knock off undersized oysters from the cluster.  Alas, the oyster man is left with the ever coveted “single”.  Bring a bushel of these “singles” over to a buddy’s house for an oyster roast and people will be serving you up oyster shooters all night.  The “single” oyster is a sure sign that the harvester has taken good care of the animal during the harvest.  The oyster was further respected through the act of knocking off the undersized oysters from the cluster.  In this way the population can be conserved.  Only the regulation 3” oyster makes it to the table.

Oh and what a table it will make!  Oysters are best enjoyed with a crowd of folk.  Wear warm clothes, invite your friends and family and gather around a burn barrel until the oysters are ready to eat.  Add a couple of beers, oyster shooters, a pot of chili, cornbread and a few chocolate chip cookies (because they are my favorite) and you have got yourself a good time.  You have got yourself a bon-a-fide south eastern oyster roast. 

Summers are special.  The weather is warm and we humans come out of our Winter hibernations with pale skin and extra fluff around the mid section.  We look forward to enjoying the outdoors and moving again, being active.  Winter, if played properly, can be just as inviting as warm Summer.  Get outside, but stay next to the fire.  Enjoy a mosquito free evening with friends.  Of course, this is being said from the warm embrace of the Caribbean aboard Nila Girl.  It is easy to look back fondly on Winter when it does not have it’s cold fingers wrapped around your throat. 

For pictures from an oyster harvest and oyster roast this past December visit Ren’s Facebook album.  Don’t forget to “Like” Evolve Freediving on Facebook.

Check out video instructions on how to harvest oysters on Ren’s YouTube channel.


The Chapman’s friend, Dave Benson, collecting oysters in the marsh near the Scotts Hill area in NC.

Perfect Cornbread

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2 cups ground yellow cornmeal

3/4 cup self rising flour*

1/2 cup fresh chopped jalapenos**

2 cans sweet cream style corn

2 tblsp. vegetable oil 

Milk to taste and to consistency

Place vegetable oil in the bottom of a 12”x9”x2” pyrex baking dish.  Put oiled pan into oven.  Meanwhile mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Chop the jalapenos in small cubes and de-seed as needed.  Add the sweet corn and jalapenos  to the dry mix.  Don’t be scared of the jalapenos…they are what is going to make the cornbread gooood!  MIx ingredients together and slowly add milk to consistency.  Not to dry but not watery either.  Once oven is preheated and oil and pan are scalding hot, pour batter into pan.  If more than 1/4” of oil pools in the corners of the pan us a baster to decant some it off.  Put the pan in the oven and bake for 30 min.


*Use 1tsp. of baking powder if not using self rising flour.

**De-seed to taste.  We like things spicy so we use 5 jalapenos and only de-seed two of the five.

When done, eat warm!  The oil will add a fried element to the bottom of the bread making it perfect. 


Oyster Shooters

An oyster roast favorite.  Imbibe with caution!

1/2 pint bloody mary mix

1/2 pint vodka

1/2 cup freshly grated horseradish root

10 shakes of hot sauce

4 shakes of worcestershire sauce

Mix all ingredients above and shake vigorously in a screw-top container.  Pour into shot glass, add hot steamed oyster and…Cheers!





Ashley on their new ride, the ruckus! Check out the retrofitted blue seat in the back welded by Ren. And don’t forget the trailer in the back.

In a previous blog post I made it clear that hitchhiking was the preferred method of travel here in the Bahamas.  Well, that was before we got the Ruckus.  Before the scooter came along I looked forward to who I was going to meet along the road and the slow journey from Salt Pond to the Blue Hole.  Now, I can’t wait to crawl onto the little blue retro-fitted seat Ren welded to the back of our 2009 Honda Ruckus.  Not only is the Ruckus a blast to ride on but it’s cool too.  Google it!  There’s a whole sub-culture of people out there dedicated to pimping their modest Ruckus rides.

Because maintaining a schedule is more important this season due to having people come onto the island and meet up with us for training and such, Ren traded his Miller Syncrowave 250 TIG welder for the little Ruckus.  This way we could rest assured knowing that we could take the reigns on our schedule destiny.  Of course, traveling on a moped that tops out at 40 mph (and trust me, that’s screaming) with two grown people and pulling a trailer, you are not going anywhere fast.  In fact, it takes us just about as long now to get down to the Blue Hole as it did when we were hitching.  But now we do not have to carry loads of stuff back and forth.  If Ren has to get some of his power tools “up” South (yes, that’s the Long Island way to indicate that you are traveling South.  They also go “down” North.) to help our friends Atil and April out with some home improvement projects he has only to load the tools onto the trailer we pull behind the Ruckus, strap them down with some bungee cords and kick it, hoping he does not spew tools over the side of the trailer as we bump down the Queens Hwy.

The trailer we use is worth mentioning.  As a last rendezvous with the Syncrowave, Ren spent a few days riffling through his pile of scrap aluminum and designing and welding the cutest… ahem… I mean sturdiest little pull behind trailer you have ever seen.   The trailer attaches to a black metal plate that hangs down from the rear of the Ruckus.  the plate’s purpose is to suspend a red reflector down low by the rear tire and fender.  Now it’s job description has been expanded to include being an attachment point for the trailer tongue.  We all keep double duty around here.

The trailer flys along the rough road making contact with the Queens Hwy through two old bicycle tires salvaged off a couple of different bikes around Ren’s grandfather, Gaga’s, shed.  We strap a black Rubbermaid box to the trailer with bungee cords and fill it with food, clothes, water, whatever we will need that day.  Since we spend our days so far from Nila Girl we pack heavy, ready for internet access if we can find it, last minute supper plans, or the emergency grease job Ren tends to find himself caught up in. 

The real magic of the Ruckus does not lie in it’s convenience.  This factor is only a bonus.  We are used to an inconvenient life on the boat where a trip to land includes a tippy dingy ride to shore, sometimes through winds and sea spray.  Where your meals are dictated by what’s available locally, not by what you want for supper.  Where calling a business for service includes no less than five disconnected numbers, two hang ups and one answer that leaves you more confused than before you asked.  So convenience is secondary.  The real magic is the freedom we have to explore land.  Exploration by sea, check!  We have Nila Girl for that.  Exploration by land has always been limited by lack of transportation.  Not anymore.  Two days ago we drove to the end of a long dirt road just because we could.  At the end of the road was a beach,  not just a spit of sand with some salt water lapping against it.  I mean a beautiful cove with rocky cliffs and pink sand.  The kind of place that invites you to take your clothes off and hop in.  No one’s looking.  They weren’t either.  There was not a sign of anyone anywhere.

We rode past the brach up a hill made of red dirt and gravel.  Flanked on both sides by dense vegetation, including the scarring poisonwood.  I have three scar streaks on my left thigh from the stuff.  On the Ruckus we are fearless.  We bob down the road hopping from side to side to avoid big holes in the ground.  The Ruckus crashes through vegetation on both sides of the road when Ren pushes the handlebars a bit too far in one direction, unaware of the poisonwood.

Ren’s circular saw clanks around on the trailer behind us, along for the ride just like the rest of us.  We push just a bit further to the top of the hill, stopping just before the path narrows a bit too much and starts it’s decent.  On our left is miles of stinky mud covered with sporadic green plants and egrets.  Although the mud smells, the place seems healthy.  An inland estuary and probably a relic salt pond where historically salt was harvested after sea water evaporated.  To our right, miles upon miles of ocean.  Three sets of waves, almost organized enough to ride, crash against the reef leaving only foam to continue on the journey to the pink sand.  A huge rocky cliff is just to the left of the wave set.  The cliff protrudes from the ocean abruptly, reminding us that we are standing on ground just like it.  We are standing on an ancient coral reef, abandoned by the ocean as sea levels fell.  Here it is hard to decide wether or not to stay and enjoy the privacy or leave.   Somehow, slightly feeling that we shouldn’t be there.  That we had stumbled upon an untouched, unmarked place.  A place that our human hands could only destroy with a little time.

YouTube video of a pimped out 2009 Honda Ruckus:


4 Months Out

There is nothing better than to know that you don’t know.

-Lao Tzu (Tao Te Ching)


NIla Girl through the trees.

As Ren and I drive down US 17 South in a rented 10’ Budget moving truck I realize that I am not sure what our plans are.  Yeah, I know where we are headed and when we have to be at Port Everglades to ship out cargo over to the Bahamas but what about our plans?  We do not even really know what we are doing or where we will be in four months from now.  Part of me is terrified by this fact.  The other part is ecstatic at the prospect of change and adventure.  There is a third part of me also.  the third part is saying, “Yeah, yeah, no plans…great.  Yeah, yeah, excitement…whatever.  But how will you make it happen?”  Everyone would be living like we do if they could answer that question with 100% certainty.

Although we do not know what lies ahead of us four months from now what we do know is that we are about 1/4 of the way into a two year plan.  The two year plan includes traveling on Nila Girl and focusing solely on freedive training and competition.  For two years we will suck up all of our financial hardships, missing our friends and family and coping with out other non-conformities in order to pursue these goals.  This brings me to a valid point and one worth making.  How are we doing what we are doing?  How are we maintaing our relationship along the way.  The short answer and the most relevant one is that we make goals and we stick to them.  If I want to jump ship in a year and abandon sailing it is not an option.  We are committed to two years.  If I get tired of training and competing, too bad, two years.  “Stick to the plan” is a mantra developed by Ren, myself and our buddy, Nick Mevoli.  When faced with a fork in the road traveling through the Caribbean we always fell back on this mantra to help make our decisions.  When I want to jump ahead deeper and deeper in my freedive training, Ren and I rely on this mantra to keep the focus and keep us from getting injured or burnt out.  The simple act of setting common goals together is productive.  It assures both of us that our concerns and needs are being considered.  That our hopes for the future will not be washed up on a Bahamian shore one day where we reach down to pick it up, not even recognizing our hope for what it was.

Setting and sticking to the plan shines a light at the end of the tunnel.  If we get tired, bored or craving stability there is always an exit strategy.  I encourage everyone to grab life by the horns, live for the moment, carpe diem, blah, blah, blah but please and especially if you have a significant other to consider, do not be afraid to commit to a change of plan or at least the option for one even if it is a temporary solution.  It’s ok to make plans and it’s ok to stick by them.  It doesn’t mean you have lost your thrill for life, your edge…it means you care about something or someone other than just yourself.  We are in this together and by having goals and discussing them openly, both partners actually feel like this is true.  Like they are part of something bigger, a team.  The work of a team is a beautiful thing.  I am no lifestyle or marriage counselor.  You’ll smirk to hear that I have been married less than two years.  The advice of goal setting is timeless and transcends my limited life experience. 

Whether you are attacking credit card debt, planning to start a a family or working towards the trip of a lifetime, break the unmanageable , daunting parts of your life into smaller bits.  $40,000 of debt sounds like a lot more than a transitional plan would.  A plan where you never look at the $40,000 but look at the debt in terms of  monthly and yearly goals.  If paying off the debt isn’t a real goal, you will never make it happen.  Sit down with your partner and discuss goals in terms of 6, 12. 2 or 5 year plans.  If is was not for this organized approach to managing our lifestyle two people with mediocre paying jobs like ours could not have ever made this happen.  The finances of this trip must be discussed often, sometimes daily (or every time the talk needs to happen).  Sure the conversation isn’t always pleasant.  Sure the tone becomes accusatory and mocking sometimes but we get through it together and keep each other’s attitudes in check.  Besides, a hostile tone can even be productive.    It let’s people know you care.  Nothing wrong with righteous anger.  We live with the same standards working towards the same goals..sometime grudgingly.  However, this team approach to life makes it a lot easier to assess when one of us looses track of the plan.

I know this little equation sounds a bit cheesy but it’s true:

goals+communication+compromise=anything you want!


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