Needing Less Doing More

Category: Thoughts (Page 2 of 2)

Focus

“With the past, I have nothing to do; nor with the future.  I live now.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

At this point, most of you know, or have an idea, that Ren and I are avid freedivers.  I have filled our blog posts with accounts of our spearfishing excursions.  Ren has taken countless pictures and video of the underwater world.  We have shared most of this media with you, right down to how the fish, lobster or crab was transformed into a remarkable meal, by our standards (the description of the meal not without pictures).  However, I have failed, up until this point, to really describe what freediving is and what it has come to mean to us.  I have taken for granted that you all understand, on the same level as we do, the healing and transformative characteristics of the deep blue.  I have assumed that you already know that I am a competitive freediver and there is physical pain associated with our sport.  By virtue of the fact that our blog page resides on our website, which is used to conduct our freediving instruction business, you must have noticed that we are pretty serious about holding our breath.  But why?  What’s the appeal?  I will attempt to describe, using words, the sensation of freediving which, if you have never tried, will be a lot like trying to explain the colors red and blue to a blind person.  I will do my best.

All day, we, as people, struggle to balance our thoughts.  Lists of duties, groceries, bills are constantly circling in our heads.  As we sit in traffic, seething over the jerk who has his music too loud, breathing as shallowly as possible to reduce the inhalation of exhaust, we form a headache.  Then we get pissed at our spouse for requiring that we stop by the grocery store, for what again?  Oh yeah, some veggies for supper…and beer, yes, beer!  There we sit, in traffic, with that headache, red-faced with anger and still one more stop to make.  LIfe sucks sometimes!  Very little about this every day scenario connects to us on the inside.  We forget about the moment we are in because we want only to escape it.  We want to be transformed to a time in the future, vacation, supper time, whatever, or a time in the past, breakfast this morning, five minutes ago before turning on to the interstate.  But there is something missing.  There’s is something liberating about focusing only on the moment, nothing else.  We are missing the liberation, daily. 

This is not to say that you will begin to enjoy every moment you are stuck in traffic just because you are trying to live in the now.  But what if being stuck in traffic wasn’t such a big deal anymore because you habitually engage in an activity that is so focusing and freeing that it actually makes you a happier, healthier person?  What if, by practicing this new sport, you become stronger and learn to breathe deeper so that you stop developing headaches?  What if the sport requires you to eat in a way that minimizes colds and any kind of sinus and chest congestion you battle with?  What if every time you practice the sport you are rewarded with a very powerful new sense of self-confidence, having performed better and pushed your body further than the time before?  Through freediving, I have found focus and liberation from life.

There are four distinct elements of freediving that allow the metamorphosis to occur.  This is, there are parts of freediving that transform you from a sickly, stressed-out, shell of a person to a full-feeling, strong, confident person.  The most essential element is the only tangible element of the group, water.  Although you may not freedive, you have probably experienced the calming nature of water at some point, unless you are already dead.  You have watched the sun flash green on the red horizon with your mouth gaping open (do it again, please!).  You have spent time with your camera and dog at the beach in an attempt to immortalize the serenity you’re feeling through art.  You have sat in the bow of your boat, rocking gently down the river, hook and line bobbing in the water.  Who cares if you catch a fish?  The only sounds are the movement of the water and the crack of your can as you pop open the first beer of the day.

Water.  We spend nine months in the womb where we are immersed in fluid.  Water constitutes 60-70% of our bodies (as adults).  Our blood has a base of both salt and water, like the sea.  It makes complete sense that there is an innate feeling of calm when affronted by water.  We feel weightless in water, a polar difference from the constant assault by gravity, and our daily routines, that weighs us down.  When we enter the water, our bodies undergo physiological changes allowing us to “become water”.  Whether you swim in the ocean every day or haven’t been in liquid since the womb makes little difference to your physiology.  We are water mammals and our bodies know it.  When in water, our heart rates decrease dramatically.  A blood shift occurs, focusing the body’s blood volume into our cores where our hearts are.  Just these two physical changes make us feel at home in the liquid environment. 

Another element of freediving that helps to complete our transformation is the silence of the sport.  Once we plunge into the deep, we can no longer communicate with our clumsy, complicated language.  A language we use to relay misinformation to each other, causing misunderstandings.  There is only one way to interpret the gaping mouth of the shark or the watchful eye of the barracuda.  In the blue, there is no talking, none that we can understand anyway.  We are our animal selves, relaying information to the surrounding fish, not with our tongues but with our core.  Our surroundings sense our intentions (through electrical impulses) and we are either welcomed or shunned in their world.  Through silence, we can communicate much more naturally and wholly than we are able to at any other time.  This revelation reminds me of a time when Ren and I were once watching a homing pigeon.  Ren narrated every move the bird was about to make and in perfect synchronicity the bird circled above us (to get his bearings) and in less than a minute plotted a course homeward.  “Wow!” I exclaimed.  “Too bad we don’t have that power, huh Ren?”  “Actually we do, we just don’t use in anymore.”  In the same way, if we “listen”, we are still able to communicate to our underwater cousins through perfect silence.

Transformative element number three is most apparent to me while competitively diving.  Finding your focus is the only way to “fly” while down there.  Freedom comes as your day washes away in the water and your thoughts and energy are focused entirely on the moment.  Eli Manning could not be his best, could not throw a Superbowl winning touchdown if his mind wandered to the past or future.  He gets sacked if he finds himself wondering about the TV interview he has to do later or the Netflix movie he forgot to mail back.  He thinks only of the ball in his hand and relies on  his training.  He “becomes” football and nothing else.  In a sport where you are willingly plunging to the deepest depths you can achieve, walking the tightrope between consciousness and unconsciousness, and reserving just enough to bring yourself back up on one breath, the liberation of intense concentration is found.  Each part of the dive is broken down into its smallest parts so that focus is maintained through each smaller part of the dive.  You’ve felt it before while driving too fast on a motorcycle, up at bat during a baseball game, shooting a free throw, you’ve felt it.  Here, in the deep, you can be completely alone.  With practice, you may even learn to enjoy the exercise in meditation. 

The last element of the sport that facilitates and completes the metamorphosis is the physical pain.  Along with the intense psychological pleasures associated with freediving comes pain.  How can you have white without black?  Part of the pleasure comes from defeating the pain.  If you have ever hiccuped with your mouth closed, you have experienced a contraction, a self preservation mechanism your body has evolved to ensure that you continue breathing.  While holding your breath for long enough the respiratory muscles team up against you.  They push and pull with increasing force to get air into the lungs.  The pain is not physically intolerable but takes a lot of mental fortitude (or stupidity as some people may call it) to ignore.  In a freedive, you are denying the body one of its most primal needs, to breathe, and the body will fight you to get the oxygen is strongly desires.  It is a powerful feeling to be able to overcome pain with mental endurance.  Learning to find a connection between the mind and body in order to push further and harder into the depths.  The mind overcomes the physical pain the body feels.  Now, you are water.

Next post, back to fun stuff about our trip (more pictures too) 😉

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Passing The Time

“Behind every man’s busy-ness there should be a level of undisturbed serenity and industry, as within the reef encircling a coral isle there is always an expanse of still water…”

-Thoreau

Beyond all the incredible experiences, adventures of a lifetime, new friends etc. you may be able to imagine that there is a healthy chunk of down time on a sailboat when en route to the next destination.  In fact, our adventures are punctuated with long, extensive periods of nothing but staring deeply into each other’s eyes.  Loving eyes wandering to all the imperfections of the face and body exacerbated by time in the sun, on a  boat, in the salt air.  Eyes averting, not so loving after seeing crud from breakfast lodged in Ren’s beard.  The beard which our friend Ryan said, “…looks like something growing on the jetty rocks.”  But Ren is a pirate now so he MUST have a beard. 

Other than exhausting already exhausted conversation, Ren, Oreo and I engage in other various activities to keep sane and actually improve our mental status.  Nila Girl offers us a unique opportunity to engage in activities and other devices of mental improvement not available on land working 9-5.  Things like learning to speak Spanish, playing guitar, writing, etc.  Below is a top 10 list of some of the things we do when there’s nothing to do (without the top because they are listed in no particular order).

1.Spanish.  Sometimes we play the “Learn to Speak Spanish” CDs my father in law gave to us.  They’re great for the first 15 minutes then the sounds of Spanish vocabulary begins to lull us asleep.  However, Entiendo Espanol!

2.Guitar.  Ren is learning to play “Blackbird” and has been for several weeks now…

3.Read.  I have inhaled several books on this trip including (in no particular order), Wuthering Heights (again), The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (very gripping. not a literary work of art but super entertaining), The Jungle Books (Rudyard Kipling is the man), Love’s Executioner (from my psychologist friend, stories of psychotherapy…yeah), The Help (need I say more?), Lies Your Teacher Told You (I highly recommend this non-fiction), and of course, The Manual of Freediving (reference only).  Ren is a little bookworm on Nila Girl too.  Not sure about his list though.

4.Write.  I blog about our trip, not enough though, and have tossed around some ideas about an Oreo story.  This trip is about the dog, you know that by now right?

5.Sleep.  When you’re not on watch, it’s a great time to take a little nap right there in the cockpit with Oreo.  Snuggle up to the little guy and let the sounds of the waves slapping the boat and Ren cussing at the imperfect sail configuration drift you off to sleep.

6.Clean.  Wipe the floors down in the cabin.  Keep the cockpit clean.  Yawn.

7.Repair.  Despite popular  opinion (tongue in cheek), boats are an endless supply of repair projects.  They are a hole you throw money into.  If You have a bunch of $100 bills you can do one of two things with them, wipe your butt or spend them on your boat.  Nila Girl is always moving towards a state of chaos.  We use $$ and lots of Ren’s time to bring her back to a state of stasis.

8.Jump!  If the wind is down and the boat is moving slowly, we take turns getting buck naked and jumping off the bow of the boat, drifting to the stern and catching the ladder for another climb and jump.  We have pictures of this but….our families might be reading 🙂

9.Eat.  I cook a lot on the boat.  There is nothing but time for preparation, cooking to perfection and cleaning up.  The only time we do not eat like kings is when the weather is rough and we’re underway.  The hardest place on the boat to fight that, punch-in-the-gut-swallowing-bits-of-vomit-all-day feeling is the cabin.  As soon as you go below in snotty weather, your ears tell your body you’re moving but everything looks like it’s sitting still.  Add on top of this the odor of cooking food and you’ve got yourself a recipe for green bile overboard.  On these days, trips downstairs are limited to fetching small items needed for sailing or general comfort and working up snacks.  Snack preparation is not to exceed 5 minutes in these conditions.

10.Oreo.  When we are bored of everything else, we simply pet Oreo.  He makes out like a bandit on NIla Girl.  The hair on his head is oily with pets.  Oh yeah, kisses too.

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Jacksonville, FL

“A work of art is the unique result of a unique temperament.”

-Oscar Wilde

Our first landfall was made, well, a while ago now in Jacksonville, FL.  We have family friends there, the Burnetts, who we planned on visiting.  Mr. Dick and Mrs. Joan Burnett are high school sweethearts.  My father-in-law, Mr. Frank, has known the two since high school.   To put this into perspective, Mr. Frank is 73 years old now.  It’s not everyday that two people married out of high school stay together for that long.  It’s not everyday that people maintain high school friendships into their 70’s either.  So yes, the Burnetts are family friends that I was fortunate enough to inherit through marriage.

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Mr. Dick is a real artist. He has carvings just like this all over his house.

The morning we turned into the inlet in Jacksonville, FL from a 3.5 day offshore passage, we were exhausted.  Having to navigate in the wee hours of the morning so close to shore, and a busy port of call, left us with little more to wish for than a shower and some sleep.  Daylight broke while entering the inlet.  We curved around the St. Johns River, finding a suitable anchoring situation so we could catch some Z’s.  Ren pulled Nila Girl into a small cut in the river where other boats had been anchored for the night.  Nila Girl came to a halt, the anchor went down, and it was now shower time. 

Our showers on the boat (since we have removed all elements of the head including the toilet, shower, sink, etc.) have been bucket showers.  We run a bucket full of hot water, soak some soap and our loofahs in a separate pot with hot water in it and proceed to crouch down in the cockpit “showering” ourselves out of the bucket.  Yes, you can feel completely clean after a shower like this.  It’s just that you really start to miss out on the wasteful running of hot water down your head…mmmm….feels good just thinking about it!

After the showers we passed out on our respective settee cushions.  Since the v-berth was still loaded up with stuff for passage making we were sleeping on the settee cushions, held in with lee-cloths.  Nap time was glorious.  Starving after having woke up from a 5 hour nap we phoned  our good ol buds and made arrangements to be picked up from a marina and brought to their house.  Waiting for us at the house were bowls of the most delicious fare you’ve ever seen.   Having been just a few days after Thanksgiving, Mrs. Joan had all kinds of leftovers ready to fatten us up with.  Let me preface our meal by saying that Mrs. Joan is an excellent and gifted chef.  One glance at the walls in her kitchen and you see proof of her cooking skills through prominently displayed newspaper articles and pictures  highlighting her knack for cooking, especially wild  game.  So yes, after a few  days on the water we were bellied up to the Burnett’s table eating roasted venison in gravy, dressing, cranberries, mashed potatoes, and other fare which I can hardly remember since I barely looked down to see what I was eating.  It was just scarf, scarf, scarf, seconds, scarf some more.

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The man in action.

Eating well wasn’t the only thing we managed to do while visiting our friends.  Their son, Tommy came by and drank beers with us.  We ran errands for the boat, we did laundry, we checked the internet!!  It was a much needed two-day relaxation extravaganza for the Chapmans.  Little Oreo passed out on the living room floor and didn’t budge for hours, even when the neighbors came by to visit.  Three strange people coming over into a strange house and our exhausted little watch dog failed to announce their presence.  Oreo, falling asleep on the job, literally.

Another thing I really want to mention about the Burnetts is Mr. Dick’s insane artistic abilities.  He paints, he carves and he is a collector of artifacts.  Stepping into their home is taking a stroll back in time.  The Native American image is represented in all forms.  Mr. Dick has been painting Natives for years.  Looking up from the foyer area is a chandelier made of antlers.  Looking left from the foyer area is a skull of the extinct stag deer from the British Isles.  Man has since wiped the animal out of existence.  The Burnetts are lucky enough to have a HUGE piece of history hanging up right in their living room.  If the artifacts and paintings do not impress you the carvings will.  Mr. Dick has been carving wood for, well, ever.  He carves walking sticks, wooden plaques, everything.  It is an artform that is becoming lost but is ever impressive.  Check out the pictures to the left of a few pieces of his work.

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Mr. Dick’s collection of various fossils to include an impressive display of megladon teeth.

Long two-day story short, we stayed at the Burnett’s.  They fed us, the watched football with us, they gave us a huge, soft bed to sleep in and we love them.  Can’t wait to see you guys again!!

Injuries

“Cease to gnaw that crust.  There is ripe fruit over your head.”

-Thoreau

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Ouch! Now we know that a mangrove island does not have actual dry land.

Some of you may already understand how much hard work actually goes into sailing.  In the beginning I dreamed of sailing in its most fantastical sense.  Diving off the boat in clear blue waters, the slow rock of the boat lulling me to sleep, a cabana boy bringing me cool drinks with plenty of ice on a hot day.  Not the way it works.  Even when you are just sitting there, actually  doing nothing, your muscles are constantly contracting, trying to keep your body upright.  In a tossey, turney environment like this someone is bound to suffer an injury.
The first injury occurred while docked in Dania Beach, FL at our buds’ Kaitlyn, Patrick and Joe’s house.  They rent a place right on a canal but their dock access is blocked by another boat.  An old boat that never moves and belongs to someone who lives far away.  Naturally, we decided to shorten the width of the channel by half by tying up to the old boat already docked in front of their house.  Yes, we double parked.

For the six or so days we stayed there our routine included giong out the backdoor, opening the gate, jumping over the rail of the old boat, over the other rail of the old boat, then jumping onto our boat, over the life line, then ducking under the bimini top to enter our boat and retrieve the item we forgot to get after our last feat getting on and off our boat (likely a pair of undies, or a toothbrush).  I will admit, I started to get cocky with my little jumps and ducks.  I mean, after doing this 100 times, who needs to look at their feet and make sure the feet are planted before leaping…not me…whoops….BAM!  I jumped (without looking) from behind our lifeline to over the top of the old boat’s rail.  Missing two key steps in the safe crossing between boats.  I pushed my face away from the old boat’s ladder just in time to prevent serious dental problems.  By doing this, I dragged my right leg over the railing of the old boat, scrapping the entire backside into road rash from hell (right behing the knee…come on!).  The worst part was that I landed slam on my coccyx bone (my poor little tailbone).  If you have not yet injured this ultra-sensitive bone I do not recommend it.  It has been two weeks since that injury and I still have to sit in just one position.  It’s a real pain in the ass.

The second injury was sustained by both Ren and me.  We had a nice little day sail from Coconut Grove down to Rodriguez Key which at the Tavernier side of Key Largo.  We were sailing with our buds Ella, Tony and their babby, Mellia  who are aboard Ohana.  Check out their blog while you’re at it.  See what kind of company we’ve been keeping.  Anxious to stretch our legs after the sail and impress our friends by bringing home the proverbial bacon, we decided to hastily jump in the water once securing an anchorage between Key Largo and Rodriguez Key.  Thinking we were going to find a spit of land for Oreo to enjoy while we picked up a few lobsters, we threw on fins without booties and jumped in.  We were only going to be in a little while right?  Wrong!  We put Oreo on a surfboard since our dinghy was temporarily out of commission (the damn transom fell off, but has since been successfully repaired by the captain), and Ren pushed him over to the “beach”.  Thing is, Rodriguez Key is a mangrove island, meaning, there is no beach.  Just a series of mangrove trees rooted through the water to the ocean floor.  So, naturally, we pushed Oreo further around the island, hoping for land (don’t worry people, we’ve learned our lesson about mangrove islands since then).  And pushed, and pushed.  We pushed all the way around the damn island in fact.  It had to have been at least 2 miles (maybe more like 3) around the thing.  Someone measure it on GoogleEarth and get back to me on the distance would you?


We kicked and kicked and kicked.  Meanwhile the sun was going down, the sun went down, and poor little Oreo was shivering like a dog pooping thumb tacks, as Ren would say.  It got so dark as we were still paddling, trying to make our way around the endless island.  A little panicked, I kept my head out of the dark water searching for Nila Girl, any sign of the boat.  Ren kept claiming to see a dark spot in the series of lights over on Key Largo.  Since it was his idea to keep swimming, and keep swimming I couldn’t hear him anymore.  I couldn’t hear him because I didn’t want to listen to another thing he was saying!  We caught sight of Nila Girl and limped back to her.  Oreo was elated at being back on the boat.  I peeled off my wetsuit and assessed the damage.  As you can imagine, after hours of constant kicking with no booties on the rubber of my footpockets, the rubber managed to erase several layers of skin from the back of my ankles.  Looking at my ankles right now, yep, they’re still weeping.  Gross little injuries, they are.  Ren has a couple of rubbed spots too n his foot.  it sure does make diving harder.

Next post, the biggest injury yet!

Any Last Words?

“But what shall I do with my furniture?”  My gay butterfly is tangled in a spider’s web then.  Even those who seem for a long while not to have any, if you inquire more narrowly you will find have some stored in somebody’s barn.”

-Thoreau

We cast off the dock around 11:00pm on Wednesday, November 23.  Already exhausted from three days of all work, no sleep (it’s more work than you may think to get your affairs in order, get a boat in order, and provision a boat for a seven month tour!) we had to take advantage of the weather window.  Down the dark northeast Cape Fear we went, on our way to downtown Wilmington.  It was cold as ice and a bit windy, what can you do?  We put on more clothes and tried to get excited about our adventure.  The moment I was hoping for, the elation after leaving the dock, was pretty understated.  It turns out I wouldn’t feel that ‘moment’ for another three days. 

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Ren taking the opportunity for a little nap.

I tried not to let doubt creep in as I patiently waited for something to happen.  Anything really.  Anything sign to justify our decision to quit our jobs, sell our stuff (all of our stuff), move on a boat, and leave our families behind.  I waited, not so patiently, for a white dove to land on our bimini top, a shooting star to spell out my name in the sky, Oreo to get up and start dancing a jig, or even Ren to just tell me everything is going to be alright.  In his exhausted state, he was not in a position to offer support to a needy wife.  I shouldn’t have been in the position to feel so needy.  I mean come on, how many people take a chance like we were taking?  How lucky are we to not be paralyzed by fear.  Fear stopping us from our dreams!  But I was paralyzed, not literally of course, but with fear.  That too would pass, but it is still taking time.

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Ashley keeping warm in nice sailing conditions.

As we approached downtown Wilmington I called my brother, at 3;00am, half hoping he would still be out and about ready to meet us for a beer.  I knew that even if he answered we wouldn’t be stopping for that beer.  It’s kind of like taking off a band-aid.  You gotta rip it off, you can’t slowly pull, one arm hair at a time, until the thing  is off.  We had to keep on going.  We had already said our goodbyes.

We left the Cape Fear river behind us around 7:00 am on Thanksgiving Day.  Our first ocean passage was narrowing in on us.  Once you leap from the precipice, there is no turning back.  The leap off our edge was painless, we landed in water.  The sailing on the first day was good.  The wind was up, and we were able to sail at a nice beam reach. 

Let me digress.  Ren has worked extremely hard to learn all systems on the boat.  Since we do not have the option of throwing and endless supply of money every one of Nila Girl’s whims one of us had to learn to be resourceful so that most every repair could be made by us.  Two words, “Not it!”.  Because of Ren’s capabilities as primary captain, engineer, mechanic, husband, etc. he decided to engineer a wheel adapter for our self steering wind vane.  A manufactured wheel adapter, $500.00.  Ren’s wheel adapter, $50.00.  Knowing ahead of time when to buy the real thing, Priceless.  As we were getting ready to settle in, on the same side of the cockpit of course, and let our trusty Windpilot take over for us for a while, we learned that the wheel adapter Ren created just wouldn’t work quite right.  Damn!  I guess that’s what you get when you are rushing the boat for a weather window, not to mention, you quit your job and have to dodge town ASAP in order to stop spending money out of your newly fixed income.

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The lee cloth keeping Ren snuggled up on the starboard side of Nila Girl.

Back to sailing down a nice beam reach.  So we were steering down a nice beam reach and decided that hand steering all night just wouldn’t do.  Ren taught me something valuable at that moment.  Something to store in the vault of Sailing Information in my brain.  Not to be   immediately discarded with other sailing lectures from him such as, “trim this sail like this blah, blah blah”, “…then release the switch, then push this button here, blah, blah, blah”, or “winch this here and tie the so and so knot to cinch blah, blah blah”.  No, this advice was something I could immediately start practicing.  You can actually let the boat sail itself, if you’re not downwind, and you set the sails perfect and lock the wheel in place.  Holy crap!  You would’ve thought I won the lottery.  I was going to be able to read, in 15 minute intervals, while on watch.  This was going to be A-Ok.

The wind blew all day and into the night.  We kept watch in 3 hour intervals, which worked great.  Ren sewed us a couple of lee cloths (I told you he was sickeningly resourceful…lucky me!) which I couldn’t imagine spending a night in the ocean without.  They turned our downtime between watches from fitfully tossing around on a settee cushion that’s already a bit too small into a decent little nap.  I actually became so fond of the lee cloths that when we later anchored in the ICWW I preferred to sleep on the settee cushion that still had the lee cloth up.  Sleeping next to one is like being cradled in your mother’s arms.  I may have just been homesick.

We survived our first day and night at sea.  We didn’t kill ourselves or each other.  Oreo faired well too.  At first, all three of us felt a bout of sea sickness.  No chunks, just nausea.  Ren and I ate Gin Gins, in part because they are supposed to ease the nausea of motion sickness, in part because they are freaking delicious.  Oreo tried one but didn’t like it so he fought the sickness by panting a lot.

Moving In

“All endeavor calls for the ability to tramp the last mile, shape the last plan, endure the last hours toil.  The fight to the finish spirit  it the one…characteristic we must posses if we are to face the future as finishers.”

-Thoreau

We’re going to jump ahead for a minute now in order to inform you of our current status.  We have successfully moved onto Nila Girl!!  Our official move in date was July 1, 2011.  If you’ve never tried it before, I DARE you to pack up years of your life in a house, make that two lives in a house, and move onto a 35’ boat.  It is harder than it sounds (tongue in cheek). 

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A view of the port side of Nila Girl’s salon.

Our landlubbing home was full of years of belongings that had to go somewhere.  We either had to move our stuff onto the boat, move our stuff to our parents’ houses or sell up.  We decided to do all three, oh yeah, and keep a bunch of our stuff in limbo, on a trailer at Ren’s Grandmother’s house.  The transitioning of our stuff was/is a huge pain in the neck.   I’m getting a little tinge of anxiety right now just thinking about it. 

Breathe, breathe, breathe…ok, I can continue. 

A couple of days before “the move” my parents came into town to pick up some of our “precious” items.  The things we cannot replace.  I learned that we have more precious items than I originally thought,  or we were completely unable to get rid of everything right away.  They took a lot of stuff off of our hands.  We also ditched a lot of things with Ren’s parents too.  Believe it or not, family is great for taking the things you just can’t stand to sell to a stranger.  Man, family is wonderful!!

I stayed those first few nights before “the move” on the boat alone since Ren was out of town for work.  This gave me a chance or organize the boat and put my plan into action. 

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The bow pulpit.

Plan= Writing a list of items on a copy of the boat’s blueprint.  I use the blueprint to locate items on the boat.  Thanks for the organizing tips from Jeanette Pucella on Puff!  I can’t wait to see the inside of her boat someday…and realize how unorganized mine is I’m sure. 

When I had reasonably organized the boat Ren was already on his way back into town.  The day after he returned, it was Go(h) time (We miss you Goh and Laura!).  We spent the day, with help from our wonderful, beautiful, caring, giving, selfless families moving.  I Hate moving!  Let me say that again, I Hate moving!  And yes, I used the “H” word.  The thought of moving gives me the same sensation as falling asleep at the wheel when you still have 80 miles to drive.  For the academics:

satan:evil::moving:torture

I’m probably being a little dramatic here but I find relief in the thought that if we ever move back on land, we will not have anything to move except a 35’ boat full of stuff. 

We spent the day moving and we got it all done.  Of course, moving onto a boat and getting her into ship-shape for a November departure is dynamic.  We have a list tacked onto a cork board that we see every day.  The list includes all of the things we still have to do to the boat.  Ren is doing a great job of pecking away at the list.  As of day 1 on the boat there were 28 things on the list.  As of today, just a few days over one month, there are 13 things crossed off of the list.  This may not seem like a lot of crossing off to some of you but bear in mind, we still have full time jobs right now, and are teaching a full summer of dive classes.  28 is my new favorite number!!  The boat is looking better every day and even resembles a home.  We have throw pillows and Oreo even has his own little private sleeping nook. 

Making The Decision-By Ren And Ash

“Do not worry if you have built your castles in the air.  They are where they should be.  Now put the foundations under them.”

-Thoreau

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We can’t thank Eric enough for all of the help he gave us getting things moving.

For two weeks after the first inspection of Nila Girl we combed the web for information on buying a sailboat.  What should we look for?  We asked questions and asked more questions.  We spoke with everyone that we knew that either owned a sailboat or had previously owned a sailboat.  And then we had to find the money to buy the thing.  Big problem!  We thought of everything.  We had a good idea the banks wouldn’t loan us any money and we were right, so we had to get creative.  We had a yard sale and sold my 1982 Toyota pickup, which I didn’t drive anymore.  I sold my half restored 1964 Simmon’s Sea Skiff, a really neat wooden fishing boat built by a Southeastern North Carolinian and craftsman.  I had a little money in the bank to make up the difference. 

After negotiating for several weeks with the broker, I drove back down to Merritt Island, FL in November of 2010 and took ownership of a 1968 Pearson 35.  Polonez was now registered in Ashley’s name and from day one the work began for me.  When we purchased her, the engine was not running.  It worked out that the day after I got to Florida our friend Eric.

An extremely talented diesel mechanic, was headed to the Keys to visit his parents and stopped in to lend a hand.  Within an hour we had the engine running and I was one happy camper!  I stayed on the boat another night and left Her in Merritt Island with the intentions of returning with Ash the following weekend to bring her the first leg of the journey back to North Carolina.

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A sweet little card from our first sailing buddies.

Merrit Island is about an eight hour drive from Wilmington so our goal was to finish the delivery in a few weeks doing 200 mile legs each visit south, shortening our road trips by at least 3 hours each time.  We left the weekend before Thanksgiving for our first leg.  The plan was to leave our car in Merritt Island, make it up to Jacksonville, FL with the boat and then rent a car in order to drive south and retrieve our car.  Sounds logical enough!  So after several days of prepping the boat for departure, which included the laying back of the mast, we left Merritt Island.  Why would we lay the mast back you ask?  Well, the only way out of the Banana River was either under a 35 foot bridge or a 42 foot bridge.  The problem with this is our mast is 44 feet from the waterline.  So we spent a day deriving the plan and it all worked out. 

I will interject here!  It wasn’t until we actually showed up at the dock that we realized we were “trapped” in the Banana River by a bridge that happened to be shorter than our mast.  We had two things going for us upon assessing our condition;

1. Ms. Maria had successfully sailed Polonez over the course of 15 years, and we knew she went further than the Banana River. 

2. Ren happens to be one of the most resourceful people on the planet.  Nicknamed, MacGyver in high school, the man can build a 747 out of tin foil and rubber bands (not really just tin foil and rubber bands, he would require a paper clip too).  So, armed with this information we did what any anxious new boat owning couple would do…we scampered back to Ms. Maria and asked for advice.

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Polonez…but not for long.

We spent several hours catching up with the Ciechanskis.  They told us stories, offered us some Polish cookies and went to explaining how we would accomplish getting Polonez through the bridge.  As Mr. Alexander drew diagrams for Ren, explaining the feat all the while in broken English, Mrs. Maria also explained, at the same time as Mr. Alexander, over his shoulder, in better English.  Confusing…yes.  It became obvious that we would need to lean the mast back as opposed to de-masting the boat.  The Chiechanskis, innovative immigrants as they are, constructed a special tool to aid in the process.  The tool is made of two 2x2x12 pieces of pine formed like a “V” with a metal plate at either end of the “V”.  The metal plates connected to either site of the boat at the chainplates.  The main sheet and vang is connected to the bottom of the forestay and the top of the “V” of the tool, to the bottom of the main sheet.  Using the main sheet, we slowly laid back the mast and forestay.  

As Ren and our temporary neighbors, Mike and Dana (we talk more about them in a minute), worked on the project, my job was to document the process through pictures and film.  The laying back of the mast was a success! 

Oh, before I forget, we met some really terrific people at the Banana River Marina.  Dana and Ricky and Mike.  They were big help to us with preparing the boat and just filling us with the confidence to pursue our goals.  Thanks a bunch guys.  And Mike, thank you for the care package! 

Again, I feel it is necessary to make proper mention of our new friends.  Dana and Ricky are a couple who have spent most of their married lives together living on the water.  The managed to raise two little girls traveling and sailing all the while.  While they live on a powerboat now, an old Hatteras, they talk of finding a sailboat to take them wherever the winds might blow once again.  One of their daughters actually grew up to live on a boat too with her husband, a few boats down the dock from Dana and Ricky.  During their sailing years they’ve lived all over in the Caribbean including Jamaica.  It was only until their daughters reached their teenage years that they flirted with the idea of moving to land.  They lived this way, topside I mean, for ten years before the ocean called them back home.

While preparing our boat for travel, Ren and I frequently became agitated with each other.  As  we are usually team mates, partners, contemporaries in every aspect of our relationship I soon was faced with the realization that Nila Girl needed Ren MUCH more than she needed me.  My feelings of uselessness were frustrating and causing me to lash out at Ren, who took no issue shouting orders at me.  He thinks, I need a screwdriver.   I’m curled up in the engine room like a pretzel right now and Ashley is just sitting there.  I’ll ask her for a screwdriver.  He says, “Ash, get me a screwdriver!”  I think, I’m right in the middle of something right now.  Get your own screwdriver.  I don’t want to negotiate the companionway for the tenth time in the last 5 minutes.  I say, “Ugh, fine!  Here!”  And so it begins….

Ricky provided me with a little woman to woman advise.  “First rate, first mate.”  Meaning, my jobs are just as necessary as his jobs, even if his jobs determine wether or not we’re leaving the dock.  The work wouldn’t get done if a first rate, first mate wasn’t there to hand over screwdrivers, provide lunch, and steer the boat while the captain is down below, cussing at stuff.  This is how I reassured myself anyway.

Mike was our “next door neighbor” while docked at Banana River.  Mike, a long time surf friend of Dana’s from their formative years, spends his weekends aboard Tater.  Yes, his dinghy’s name is Tater’s Tot!  The three of them just sit back on the water, playing some guitar, drinking some beers and talk.  The good life!  Mike was nice enough to leave Ren and I a little care package on our “doorstep” while we were out provisioning for the upcoming haul.  Who knew velcro sticky pads could be so useful!  We now have them everywhere.    

back to the story later….

The Beginning- By Ren

Untitled 93Five years ago Ashley and I pulled out a dry erase board that had been behind a door in my office and decided that we would start writing on it.  Both of my parents preached about setting goals and I recall my father always having these inspirational posters around the house.  One in particular that I remember had a picture of a freshly released arrow flying towards a bullseye.  The poster read “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it”.  So it was time for Ashley and I to take aim.  We listed several goals, I don’t recall them all but one I do remember was the acquisition of at least a 32 foot sailboat. 

I had always browsed around but never really felt it was time to pounce until the recent recession.  Why not spend a few grand during a recession?  Probably not a great financial decision but I was still looking none the less.  Each night I would scan various websites in search of a deal.  Maybe someone’s lost dream or maybe a boat that had already fulfilled someone’s dream and it was ready to take on ours.  Sites like Sailboat Listings, craigslist, Ebay, Boat Trader and every other site I could find.  Most used boat sale sites have detailed search criteria so I narrowed my criteria down by price and size of boat.  Anything less then $10,000 and anything between 30 and 40 feet.  After many nights of searching She finally appeared.  Yachtworld.com had pointed us to her.

It all seemed to be coming together.  She was in Merritt Island, Florida, a thin sliver of land running parallel to Coco Beach between the Indian and Banana Rivers.  Fortunately it worked out that 3 weeks after finding her we were headed down to south Florida to work a freediving course.  We made time to cruise by the Space Coast to do the first site inspection.  After finding that Her broker was in Jamaica for a week we decided to check Her out without his assistance.  We checked all the usuals.  Is the deck solid?  Is the bilge clean?  Does the electrical equipment operate?  Check, check and check.  The boat was loaded down with equipment for doing what Ashley and I wanted and everything on it worked.   We wanted to know more.   What is the story of this boat?  We began looking through paper work and found a phone number for the owner.  Hmmm, the broker is going to be pissed if we call the owner, but then again, if we are going to buy the boat we are going to have know more about it.  We decided the broker would only be able to tell us a fraction of what the owner who sailed her could. 

So we called Maria Ciechanski.  Actually we went over to her house where we spent about an hour and a half talking about sailing and the boat.  Maria Chiechanski is a Polish immigrant and former orchestra conductor in her late sixties.  She conducted under her maiden name of Maria Tunicka.  Her and her husband Alexander, a former cellist for the St Louis symphony, had owned Polonez since 1995 and had to part with her due to Alexander’s deteriorating health.  According to Maria if it wasn’t for taking care of him, she “would be out cruising now”.  Maria was the captain of Polonez and would single hand her over to the Bahamas, a 70 mile ocean passage.  Alexander would fly over and meet her after his performances.  Maria is a kind lady and it made us that much more comfortable with the prospect of possibly taking over ownership.  We left Merritt Island for South Florida excited about what we had seen. 

To be continued…..

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