Song of Tropicbird

I hear some crazy shit on this boat.

Swishing & gurgling of 12,000 foot deep ocean currents against the ship’s wooden hull (a mere 1.5 inches thick), my body laid only 6 inches on the dry side of it. water all around me whispering in strange tongues, long slippery multi-syllabic serpentine words, swelling up and under me in deep blue scales, melting away like ice cubes in a whirlpool.

I hear music, all kinds of music. if there’s no Jambox on, it’s not coming from a speaker.. (which it almost never is).

The auto-pilot motor is a perky tireless laughing gasping leprechaun, hee hee, hahahahaha.. heee, heee, ooh ah hahahahaha. aaaah! it’s creepy, and strangely comforting.

The wind rushes and wails, but sometimes it calms down, causing the giant 40-foot headsails to billow.. sounds like thunder, or a really big Thumper.

Is Sea Foam a color? yes. Does it make a sound? indeed: fizzy – like a really big carbonated drink.

Drawers slamming open and closed are straight-up poltergeists. BOOm!

General banging around inside the boat could probably be best imitated by Animal from the Muppets on his drum-kit.

The rigging and electrical wires run up the two aluminum masts, slapping down some flagpole percussion as they clatter inside like a runaway dog that’s still on-leash, racing along a resonant floor.

Voices, voices, voices. Voices of girls, of men, of tortured demons through a portal to hell. Evil voices, groaning and throat-singing throughout the night. why does the gate open only after dark?

There are three things out here: the water, the sky, and this boat. Who’d think there could be such a varied, imaginitive (its not me – it’s the musicians), multi-dimensional and thunderous soundtrack?

[ insert Lady-leprechaun GaGa-haha Remix here ]

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How to win all the time

23-may, 4:21am

Be Here Now. Almost on land, altho I hardly ever think of it that way, or succumb to the countdown. in fact, I’m the voice of opposition on-board regarding this, asserting politely that I’d rather not know any countdown-related statistics. (It’s really an opposition to Time, a principally oppressive concept.) I’m very particular about this, as my crew-mates would tell you, although to me it’s perfectly acceptable to celebrate our progress. “10 days down!” or “1500 miles behind us!” are to me quite positive statements compared wih “20 days to go” or “1500 miles to go”, as the latter sound like glass half-empty statements to me. To call attention to how much we haven’t accomplished yet has a tendency to make time drag its heels, and isn’t constructive or feel-good at all.

I’m similarly snappy about calculating end-results. like when we’re playing cards, I’m abhorred by those keeping constant tallies of who’s in the lead, or when asked how many cards I’ve got left. count your own cards. to me it’s invasive when people are so concerned with what I’m doing.. worry about yourself.

both of my peculiarities are borne out of an attempted practice of being Present, living for this moment and not for the future. In the present, a continuous satisfaction can be achieved, instead of living for an uncertain payoff later, a momentary peak or spike in an otherwise uneasy air of anticipation.

Winning. (This is a bit of a rant, and a tangent, but it’s related.) I’m not saying it’s right, but in being consistent with the Be Here Now outlook, it’s natural for me to play games with the intention of exercising skill and to have fun in the moment, preferably so that’s mutually satisfying with my opponent; not to prevent them from scoring. A good analogy might be made with Sex — can you imagine how terrible it would be if you were only aiming to please yourself, or even worse just to have an orgasm? (Okay, analogy ends here.) In cards and in sports, I play more offensively than defensively, because it doesn’t hurt me if my opponent smiles and enjoys the game too – it’s better actually. to me it’s just more fun to flex some skill and make some goals, without being preoccupied about the outcome; and there’s an abundance of opportunity within a game for plenty of this to go around. and regarding the outcome, I don’t care if I lose, as long as I’ve played to the best of my ability, and everyone had a good time. it’s playing for the moment, not to Win. one thing I don’t like about competitive sport, whether it’s playing cards, ping-pong, or verbal debate, is that if there’s a Winner there’s also a Loser. it’s ironic to me that you’re often competing with friends. in my opinion, among friends, if there’s one Loser, then everybody loses. I see winning as an ego-driven satisfaction at the expense of another, dominance of the strong over the weaker player. this is why competitive sport among friends can be counter-productive, and why intention matters so much. It’s all energy exchange; make it pretty, keep it positive.

I realize I’m up against the very fabric of our society, as we’re bred to compete, dominate, kill or be killed. It’s a bit Buddhist of me (and aligns with my veganism too) that many of my actions are guided by the intention to alleviate suffering in the world. When we live in the future, it’s either at the expense of the present moment, or can cause us suffering when it doesn’t turn out how we had planned. So forget about it!

Leg 2.9 (almost there)

23-May 2012, 00:43
Leg 2 to Marquesas, Day 21

Almost there! By the end of my watch tonight we’ll be in the 300’s on our countdown trip odometer, three days. I said it aloud multiple times today, so I’ll say it again now: I’m so glad to have done the long leg of this trip, and not because it’s almost over, but because it only gets better.

With each passing day and in every realm, I feel (in no particular order): my head gets clearer; my well-being is more easily sustained; my culinary artistry is elevated (food tastier, style more efficient and intuitive, and it’s more fulfilling to serve); the sunrises and sunsets are more unmissable; the heavenly bodies grow more familiar, like neighborhood friends; my company more pleasant, and our camaraderie more sincere (random acts of kindness abound); my body gets stronger and my balance feels more like a super-power; and I enjoy music and literature like never before, nourishing myself with the fruits of so much creative spirit. (I’ve read all my books, except the Gita, and re-read all my Hess.)

My inner-world has grown from a crowded room into a vast warehouse (that I wander through in dreams). In thought and in heart, all the strings of my relationships feel strong, tangible, as vital and regularly called-on as the ligaments and tendons of my own corpus. I wonder if these strings tug back on the souls from which they’re strung… and do the objects of my affections have any idea that, independent of the time whence we last communed, that they are still regularly accessed? In my meditations and dreams, twenty years ago might as well be twenty mites ago, the time is so brief and unimportant. It means that everyone and everything counts. Yet another reason to fill your present world with only things that add value to your life, and cut loose the crap! Because if you permit it in your conscious world, it may very well exist in (and toxify) your subconscious world forever. I revisit both sides, and am working to reconcile the negative feelings I’ve endured and which are still a part of me.

Going forward, I feel like spending time at sea is a wonderful stage on which to nurture what you’ve already got, and tap into the inner truth that may often be obscured or smothered when we’re busy, and distracted by the noise of our lives.

Listen, do you hear that? That’s your mind. What does it sound like?

I hope it’s beautiful.

Lights: above and below the horizon

22-May 2012, 02:17
Leg 2 to Marquesas, Day 20

Forgive me for writing incessantly about this same theme since my first night aboard the boat in Panama, but it’s always new to me!

For the last two and a half hours (on night watch of course) I’ve been having a most wonderful light-gazing. I first noticed the sky. This time I can confidently say with a superlative that I’ve never seen the stars more bright or clear in all my life. The milky way looks like a tremendous Lite-Brite, a million points of white beaming down with laser-like intensity. Moonlight has been absent from the nighttime sky for a week, but the nights are bright with star light. My hand against the sky, the boat before me, the water below the horizon – these things appear black. The sky itself is deep purple, lighting up the night without the moon or light pollution.

As usual on particularly starry nights, I’ve lounge on a bench in front of the cockpit, identifying stars and constellations using my Starwalk app ’till my head hurts. Usually I need to use some imagination to make out the forms completely, but not tonight… when everything is crystal clear! Interesting how much of this is only visible in the southern hemisphere… crazy, there are effectively 2 skies! I’ve noticed, traveling steadily west all this time and just below the equator, that I’m always star-gazing off the port beam (south) instead of north… I guess they’re just more brilliant from this location (makes sense). Now I can readily point out the constellations Scorpius, Virgo, Corbus, Centaurus and the Southern Cross, the Northern and Southern Crowns, Ursa Major, Leo, Gemini, and the Serpens (head & tail). Easiest to spot are Venus, Saturn, Mars, Sirius (brightest star) and Canopus (2nd), as they’re so close and bright. Limited only by the amount of time I feel like looking up and the Earth’s rotation, which spins the view so quickly, I feel like I can learn much in little time. We’ve got some Celestial Navigation books on board too, but that would be too practical! Playing Where’s Waldo in the sky, or more accurately “What’s that? and checking out on my live key map is way more fun.

I can now easily imagine the early astronomers naming these heavenly bodies, a majority of them 1500-2000 years ago. It’s hard to imagine that these clusters “stay together”, made up of stars and galaxies with such tremendously varying distances from us (from, could you believe, 125 to over 6000 light years away!) Considering that their distance is measured in time, (a “light year” being a distance unit that light travels in a year, or approx. 6 trillion miles), it makes sense that any relative movement would take thousands of years to perceive.

Then, while peeing off the beam, I noticed the bio-plankton are especially vivid here. The phenomenon varies significantly everywhere I’ve seen it; here, they’re really big and bright, flaring-up for only a moment but with great intensity. The deep blue sea is alive and illuminated with these sparkles, twinkling on and off like christmas lights. The boat itself makes neon waves and an accompanying soundtrack, droning faintly like the surf breaking on shore, by the force of 23 tons plowing through the undulating surface. As I gaze out I can see bright disturbances down below, like green traffic signals flashing, indicating fish scurrying and disappearing in their own clouds of light.

So similar actually, between the heavens above and the phosphorescent plankton below, the world is contiguously luminescent.

So freakin’ in love with my life

20-May 2012, 23:14
Leg 2 to Marquesas, Day 18

(This was to be a private entry, because I felt like gushing and thought it would be fun to write it out for myself. At the risk of sounding too self-aware, too self-absorbed, too happy on my flying unicorn, I decided to heck with it.. think what you want: I’m Happy.)

Euphoria sets-in. I had one nagging issue on this trip, resolved 5 days ago, and ever since I’m full of giddy bliss. Sounds silly but I found, out on a boat in the middle of the ocean, that my life is perfect.

I thought my company was going to be a bummer… but it’s just the opposite. In reality they don’t matter much. Applying my general outlook regarding people in my life: they’re not the source of my happiness or unhappiness.. they just are, and so am I; my happiness is not dependent on anyone but myself, and I alone am complete… it’s all within me, everything I need to be stable and happy. Perhaps I previously let perceived virtues or shortcomings of my crew-mates color my disposition on the boat. Since I found my voice, and made it clear what I’m here for, and what I’m willing to contribute, everything is hunky-dory. Now I see that we don’t need anything from each other, only to contribute what we want to, and viola! we are balanced.

I spend so much time thinking about how grateful I am for everything. I say prayers and thank-you’s throughout the day and night, when I close my eyes before bed, or before I take a bite of food. Meditations, work-outs, and Love-Reiki sessions each include an invocation of the Universe. I’ve come to see many of my actions throughout the day as iterations of various cycles, ones that I am practicing and perfecting. It’s not so much calculating and repetition as it is an acknowledgement, stating an intention, so that my actions are clear, with purpose, and dynamic. Life is not a rehearsal. The results are that everything I do becomes a prayer, a motion of intended perfection, beauty, grace and elevation.

I woke from a quick nap this afternoon and jotted down my dream: I was with a good friend from home, whom I’ve shared many an adventure and much of the same company over the years. Simple-as, we were reminiscing, waxing lyrical about how great our lives have been, so many good people and experiences on our paths, and how fortunate so much of it has come to pass together. We’ve bathed in each other’s radiance for so long. Thank You, Sandra! Namaste.

Things that have been filling my head lately:

  • I care deeply about so many people. From all spheres of my life, in all times, spaces, and dimensions, everyone lives in me. Fresh, right now, eternally in my rich blood. I’d like to go and revisit each and every one of you unrepeatable and magnificent spirits, so that I may indulge in your unique, unforgettable essence again… this stockpile of beautiful souls, alone, might be the greatest fortune in my life.
  • I’m so excited to keep going on this path, although I have no ideawhere it will lead. Only thing I feel for sure is that the Unknown cradles me securely in her loving arms, and I need never worry.
  • This vantage point is one of the purest, most direct links to the universe I have known. good-bye World of Man, hello World of Gods! Elemental basics: being carried across the skin of our planet by the wind and water, under a fire in the sky… beholding everlasting morphing giants of the land, sea, sky and superstrata… and by night the always dramatic uncloaking of the Infinite cosmos above, the true key to our place in the universe! Is there Nothing out here, or Everything? Not sure if I’ve simplified or overwhelmed my inputs!
  • I need to Create. Not so I have something to show for these mental exercises, but because I want to connect. We can do this together. Again, no idea what or how – and not stressing it. Can start with my every actionbearing the intention of Creation.
  • Life is too good. and if I died tomorrow, I would have no regrets. I have seen and felt so much, and it keeps coming at a rate I can scarcely process. i’m so thankful and aware of the abundance in this life, grateful to have the thinking mind be conscious of it, and I’m immutably humbled for this opportunity to live.

3,000 miles from land

16-May 2012, 23:33
Leg 2 to Marquesas, Day 14

.. from Panama actually, our origin; 2100 miles from the Galapagos Islands, last land we’ve seen; only 900 miles to the Marquesas Islands, our next landfall; and then another 900 miles to Tahiti (the first real airport and chance to jump ship, should that be the case.) For now, though, I’m right here and happily so.

But you may wonder, what the bejeezus have I been doing at sea all this time? I ask myself this question every day. I ask myself a lot of questions. Especially when I wake up in the morning and ponder what I’ll do… hmm well I can read, write some, eat, exercise, stare out at the sea, and continue my tanning regime. My schedule is roughly planned around the watch schedule, or alone time (especially in the dark hours.)

My schedule tonight: I’ll type on this a bit, take a sponge bath, finish my David Sedaris book (last story, and savoring it), and then I’ll sit in my new favorite spot, close my eyes, and feel the great black sea. Later I’ll open my eyes (looking out on the dark horizon, upside-down), and identify stars on my iPhone.

As I was coming into this I had some ideas of things I’d do. Top of my list was to learn all I can about the boat and this way of transport, and admittedly, at a certain point, I felt a frustration that I wasn’t learning enough. As I mentioned earlier, Julian can and basically does sail this boat himself, not that I’m not at least somewhat familiar with the rig and how to go about working it. Learning the philosophy and craft behind maximizing efficiency and practicing optimal safety is ongoing… and like many other sciences, especially given the multitude of variables, the science is bullshit, and I feel like intuition and my own common sense renders calculations of little use.. it’s the language of the world I’m thinking in, and it complements (if not completely undermines) Julian’s 57 years of experience. Makes me smile (in private). The steady weather conditions of riding the trail-winds along the equator make it fairly easy-going regarding the actual sailing.. although the sea is much “lumpier” than we expected (borrowing one of Julian’s many funny English phrases). Conditions range from being inside a washing machine to riding a camel, but the pitchi-ness doesn’t affect the sailing so much.. sails are set, wind is constant, and the waves make it interesting. By the way, no motion sickness!

Hmm, seems less interesting to read about than it is in person (and it’s not that interesting ;) What’s infinitely more fun is all this personal time to play with… letting my tightly-wound brain loosen. I enjoyed the hyper-activity in my head so much over the past months, being extremely switched-on since traveling with Natalia, as well as with the Poles, and now the surprise blessing is that Ican now process all of that. The conversation amongst us three is pretty minimal – not that we’re sick of each other, rather we’re all happily settling into ourselves and the sea. This is where the real trip is.

About half way through this leg (when I started writing this, 4 days ago) I was feeling rather lumpy myself, with the lack-of-sailing issue manifesting in restlessness. (Update: I raised the issue and more efforts are being made to employ my help :) The what am I doing [if not commanding this rig]? feeling would last a short while, usually in the morning, being unclear of my higher purpose here.. until I’d find myself happily occupied with many other things. Then I kicked-up the exercising, personal writing, reading, and meditation. All the other stuff: crew-politics, cooking, duties, have been demoted to bare essentials… it’s beautiful. (Ok, I still kick-ass in the kitchen – can’t help it!)

[ food.. sexy bread? ]

While before, the purgatory of endlessly being in the washing machine might hijack my mood (and sleep), now I’m feeling invincible, almost super-high on I-don’t-know-what.. I suppose the therapy of writing this plus voicing my concerns (and feeling quite resolved about them) has me back to 100% [attitude]. It’s all in the attitude… the attitude of gratitude! I’m sleeping much better too, with eye mask and earplugs-in, splayed-out in ‘spider monkey’ pose, I have to flip my pillow three times a night to stay out of my own drool. (This is a good thing.)

And my body is stronger. I haven’t been into exercising for a while… like years. Now it’s a regime that gives me discipline which helps everything else flow. Hard to explain, but it somehow makes everything else I do better. I look forward to it all day, saving it for the late afternoon. Using water jugs, or mostly just playing with the forces of our boat’s movement against the weight of my own limbs, I focus on parts, leveraging and creating tension, and work it till I’m tired. I end up with a fountain of energy that won’t quit until I’m in bed (like tonight… I got up again to type.) It’s not about upgrading my self-image.. it’s a vehicle to do more.

Yoga is hard, and I kind of gave up on everything beyond sun salutations, to keep my stretchiness. Meditation is actually really hard too, but I’m committed and making progress. I feel like a big buddha smile is my biggest breakthrough.. and cheating a little, by resting my back on the main mast, blind-folding myself, and getting naked.. somehow I can almost forget my balancing, gyrating body long enough to zoom around for a while away from it.

All my books are awesome (thanks Natalia, who brought me seven to Costa Rica when we last met-up), and I treat each one like a bar of fine chocolate, savoring just one chunk or short story at a time, then putting it down to enjoy in my head until the next occasion. The short stories by Herman Hess, David Sedaris and Kurt Vonnegut are my favorite. In contrast to Spencer, who’s reading a different book on his Kindle (voted on-board as the m.v.p. of travel companion-tech) each day, mainly of the How-to, Getting rich, Law-of-attraction, or Sailing variety, I’m nibbling on beautiful nuggets of literary genius. I read one long-head book about decipherment of Mayan hieroglyphics, awesome indeed, and started the Bhagavad-Gita, but after re-reading the Tao of Pooh I’m more inclined towards the simple, emotional, and light.

It’s a small thing, but I’m finding a universe in my music collection. Maybe because my time is not cut-up between where I’m going or what I’m doing, that I can listen to everything with a patience I never had before. My FF button has never felt so lonely. One night I listened to the Smashing Pumpkins for three hours, learned the lyrics to Gish (their first album) for the first time, and didn’t skip through any of the live or rare tracks that I haven’t listened to in years. 347 tracks and it felt all-new again. It’s like that with everything. Amazing.

I’ve made sketches, nearly filled my journal with dreams, scribbled a few sentimental notes, and cast out a million messages of love into the sky — I hope ya’ll got ’em. Good night!

Can we come out to play?

12-May 2012, 15:30
Leg 2 to Marquesas, Day 10

Ten days even, and an odd one at that. It’s a gorgeous sunny day, and yet as I sit here in the cockpit I’m marveling at how we just supposedly cleared a 600-mile area of “irregular weather patterns”, but only now has it gotten truly crazy! I only hope the subsequent order to stay inside until further notice isn’t regular too.

Whereas for the last 2800 miles we’ve had free reign of the boat and all its spaces, facilities, and activities, now the waves and wind are such that the boat rocks side to side with ferocious velocity (to borrow a phrase from my new favorite song Stockholm Sydrome by The Catskills, so fitting in this moment!) We’re King Neptune’s rag-dolls, no doubt providing him a fantastic bloopers reel as if being flung into walls suddenly and forcibly wasn’t the act of a specter!

[ pic: bruises ]

Our cautious captain will have no men overboard under his command, hence our house arrest. Can you imagine how the space was limited to begin with, and now that it’s halved without the deck above what that might do!

What, who’s there? Was it that old devil Cabin fever whispering in my ear?

Tired bodies without a place to exercise, fish-hungry men who cannot cast out their lines (not me), bum-tanners forced to gaze upon the gorgeous, equatorial sun-shiny afternoon upright? If I wasn’t on watch (only eight hours a day) I’d be slumbering more, pathetic woeful man that I am, my butt regressing into pasty white oblivion either way!

Of course with this weather comes a positive change: the waves. Now the swells are massive, much greater than previously – about 15 feet, which is what I came out here to see! The feeling of riding these huge swells is exhilarating. Approaching fast and with crests above our heads, the wave quickly scoops us up, pushing us high in the sky as the horizon drops suddenly, and down we sink on the other end, usually minus a few heartbeats (are they all necessary?) as on an amusement park ride. Sometimes we surge forward at an overground speed of 10 knots, sometimes we tip nearly on our side, and sometimes we spin around as if in a gyroscope, always miraculously keeping up up and down down, time and time again.

Someday soon we should expect forty foot waves at 200 feet apart, which would be lovely, more gentle in theory, and even more thrilling to contemplate. With nothing constant except changing weather out here I can only cross my fingers for more excitement and horizon-shifting to come.

(Update: Thank goodness, we only had to endure one day of cabin fever. It never felt so good to reclaim the deck & get back to normal!)