Friday, September 13, 2013


"Just before 9 a.m., we headed downwind out of the anchorage flying the main and jib side by side in my favorite point of sail, wing on wing. Cara Mia, our Island Packet 380, glided over placid turquoise water. Then we rounded Sandy Cay, and things went south."


[Low bandwidth pdf here]

Sailing's learning curve is a steep one, and we tumbled off it many times. Our first year we were clambering to develop processes and protocols, learning how to work together instead of at odds, but oh so often, we got it wrong. Fortunately, our most experienced crew member was on hand to show us the way.

For the real-time back story on this, here are the links to my blog posts:
OH SHEET, that windy day
REWARD FOR A JOB DONE, the details of sewing the sail, actually more interesting than the rending.

NOTE TO CARA MIA's NEW OWNERS: That rending incident was not actually a rip in the sail but in the sacrificial cloth, which has subsequently been replaced. :-)

FOOTNOTE FOR WORD PEOPLE: Seakindly is, in fact, a word. It is a nautical term for a boat with gentle motion -- as opposed to a tender one that rolls around in an unkind way. Seakindliness is the noun form, and used here for all its entendres (which, with an 's,' is not a word). Seakindly and seakindliness should probably be hyphenated, so I'll throw a few in here -----

Thursday, September 12, 2013


Annapolis, MD

Congratulations, you are embarking on a voyage that will have many adjectives attached to it: exhilarating, energizing, terrifying, confusing, exhausting, challenging, exquisite, joyful. Come back here a year from now and add a few more of your own.

As part of the Monkey's Fist topic "Advice for the Freshman Cruiser," you will get some great tips about anchoring, navigating, passages and marine heads, all valuable. So, instead of piling onto the teetering mound of things you think you should know, I thought I'd take a different tack.

  1. Trust yourself. You have great instincts. They've just been buried under a heavy coating of civilization. Listen to your body, that small voice in the back of your head, that intangible feeling in your gut. Nobody, no matter how long they've been sailing, is wiser than your own instinct. If it doesn't seem right, don't do it. Period. Just smile and wave as everyone else leaves the anchorage, pour yourself a big cup of coffee and enjoy the day.

  2. Listen respectfully. You will get tons of advice, most of it welcome and all of it well-meaning. Take it all in, then go below, just the two of you, and make your own decisions. Learning to be a good listener will serve you well in all aspects of cruising -- and life.

  3. Pay attention. Retrospect will always tell you there were signals. Be particularly on guard when you say, 'that's strange,' like when the engine makes an unusual noise, or when the boat ahead of you going out the inlet is being tossed around like a child's toy. Pay attention, process the info, act on it. Don't hesitate to hesitate. Slow down, stop, turn around, question, regroup.

  4. Be open. You are going to meet hundreds of kindred spirits and many of them will turn into lifelong friends. Engage. Ask people about their lives, their families, their boats, their stories. (See #2.) Be prepared to tell your own story over and over and over. (You'll be SO HAPPY next time you see an old friend who already knows your story.)

  5. Slow down. This was one of my hardest lessons in breaking away from land. I was all goal-oriented and get there, get there! Then I realized I was already there, and I wasn't enjoying it. Cruising has taught me to enjoy now, to stay where I am until it's not fun any more, then meander to the next spot, sometimes only five miles away. Read #3 again.

  6. Go alone. With 1 through 5 in mind, go it alone. It's important to make your own decisions, and learn your own lessons. Don't let other people's plans or decisions interfere with your experience. (This is SO difficult your first year.) Every boat and crew has its own strengths, limitations and comfort zone. Meet up with friends at the next stop or the next. Keep in touch. Have a blast. Just make your own decisions and movements.

  7. Embrace everything. This isn't going to be fun all the time. That pristine anchorage in turquoise water off a deserted island comes with a price. You'll have moments when you hate the boat, the ocean, the wind, the waves, your spouse, yourself and sometimes all at once. It's okay. It will pass -- and it will make a great story. 

  8. Savor it. You'll never have another first year of cruising, where everything is crackling with newness, where you learn something every waking moment (damn it!), where nature electrifies you with its beauty and its power, where you are over-prepared, over-stimulated, overwhelmed and overjoyed. You have done an amazing thing. You had a dream, and you made it happen. You are the elite -- when you leave the dock the first day, when you sail into your first foreign port, when you raise that brand new Q flag and even when you're yakking over the rail into the Gulf Stream. You are awesome. Enjoy every single second of it.




who are these people? me | chip | cara mia | our very long timeline

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


Annapolis, MD

A few weeks ago, I sat in a ballroom at the Hilton in Alexandria, Virginia, and was inspired. Having sat through many dry presentations in hotel ballrooms, I did not expect 'inspiration' to be on the schedule. But then again, I'd never seen a hotel ballroom used for its intended purpose.

A friend from New York was there to participate in a ballroom dancing competition, and we were there to watch. The competition itself was dazzling as increasingly talented dancers whisked by. But the inspiration came from watching our friend compete, not because he's a dancer, but rather because he's not. This isn't one of those rise-from-the-ashes stories about a wounded soldier making a comeback. This is just a normal business man, who is neither graceful nor light footed. He is not a performer or a stage person of any sort. He is just someone who decided to bust out of his own boundaries and do something entirely new. And there he went, out on the grand wooden dance floor with dozens of other couples whirling and whooshing by -- as the audience watched and judges evaluated every step.

See, our friend is the CEO of one of the country's top 500 privately owned companies. By choice, he left the boardroom for the ballroom, count-stepping himself into, what was for him, a strange and awkward world -- and on public display. It was a remarkable act of courage and, I'd have to say, humility. From this even-more-amateur perspective, he did great. He didn't stumble, fall down or trip his partner. Win.

Later that same week, we had lunch with a couple we met here in Annapolis. In their late 30s, they and their two daughters, 8 and 13, have lived in the same Eastport neighborhood since the girls were born.

These parents want their girls to know there is a bigger world out there beyond their comfy bedroom, their private school and beyond this peninsula. Far beyond. They plan to move the family to Paris for a year, put their daughters in public school to learn French, a foreign perspective and lessons they will never forget.

I find these two stories equally inspiring, because these people are stepping outside their own 'ordinary,' putting themselves out there just for the experience of it, to breathe different air, to nudge the body and the mind. They are casting off the comfortable everyday, becoming extraordinary -- right now.

How often, we plan and save for far off days, instead of being extraordinary right now, because now is what we've got.

It is easy to ignore those who scream that the sky is falling, but today of all days, we should remember that sometimes it does.

“All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake up in the day to find it was vanity, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.”
― T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph