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 ]

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!)

Another one bites the dust

12-Apr 2012
Leg 1 to Galapagos
Day 22, day 9 at sea
15:06

Via many a mouth and pen have come the same warning regarding doing a long passage at sea: Choose your company wisely. Despite this, I, holding the self-image of one who is quite easy to get along with, didn’t heed this warning with much gravity (although admittedly I had a bit of cold feet in the final moments, based on some weird transmissions.) Ultimately I chose not to over-think it, trusting events to run their course and play out as they may.

As I wrote earlier, after a trial-period on the boat before we left Panama, Hubert decided to amicably part ways, deciding he’s be better-suited joining his countrymen on a French boat that’s heading the same way. Maybe it’s too much info to share here, but for his reasons he cited: Safety (lack of a life boat, which is law in France); Language barrier (although I adore his cute Frenglish); Itinerary (he wishes to spend more time on the islands than our swift Pacific-crossing schedule); Crew dynamic (already an experienced sailor, this “boot-camp” style of learning aboard Tropicbird contrasts with his true purpose: leisure), and Personal differences (he and the Captain butt-heads). Now that we’re well on our way, and I can see how much indeed any and all issues need be addressed and solved for a successful rapport to be established. It’s all for the best that he found that which best suits him.

Which takes me to our current state of affairs. We’ve had our share of both harmonious and difficult moments, when an air of cooperation and jolliness fills the vessel and spills overboard, and others have been a bit tense, when we need space, get a touch of the cabin fever, or aren’t so receptive to alignments and criticisms from the captain. Some issues are inwardly personal, and others inter-personal. We all have our moments, and together we share mostly all of them! (although mostly good ones :) At times, however, there are clashes, and while I can say the crew are all pretty mild-mannered, or at least inoffensive, our captain is a tough cookie at times, and taking orders or being sensitive to his command is not always easy.

Jacek has announced today that he will be permanently departing our ship upon reaching the Galapagos, in approximately four days. I’m bummed because he’s smart and knowledgable, we get along really well, and our frequent philosophical exchanges keep things interesting. His history on the boat goes back a bit further than mine, as he joined Tropicbird almost two months before we set sail, having arrived early with much enthusiasm to help make preparations, which by and by wore thin as our departure date got set back repeatedly. As our most experienced crew member (apart from our captain), he’s much like a “first mate”, and has certainly paid the most to be here (as our daily rate to be on board included each and every day we were anchored in Panama – a major point of contention among all of us actually, but most severely applicable in his case.) Although I’d rank personal issues with the captain as the primary reason for his need to move-on, the fact that he burned deep holes in his pocket to stay aboard before we left will actually prevent him from having sufficient funds to make the passage without stopping to work, which I think sucks. But following his heart on this, I believe he’ll find a way which is ultimately best for him. (He’s even thinking of going to South America in pursuit of shamanic answers to his life questions instead of crossing the Pacific — major re-route!)

We’ve all had our tough moments, and I’m sure I can speak for us all in saying that we’ve each contemplated re-routing at some point. I’m only ten days out to sea, and while it’s had its share of beautiful moments (like the sunset in the doldrums tonight: absolutely top notch!) as well as skills expansion and consciousness development, at times I just want to be off doing other things. It’s rather exciting to daydream about divergent paths from the plan, as embracing change and unknown direction is of superior adventurous caliber than sticking to a long-plan. My biggest question at this point is whether the journey itself or attaining the goal of sailing experience is more important to me in this case. Another variable is whether my company are part of the adventure or simply a means to an end. I usually say that I’m not destination-oriented, rather the journey is the true path, but I can’t help but to often look forward to distant, unexplored lands and peoples. So says the explorer who finds himself uncharacteristically confined to routine!

With that I’m off to make bake bread and prepare hummus! (We eat good out here, thanks to the resident vegan gourmet who’s’ always got to change it up!)

Xo

AprilCalPinup_10134
this was to be April in our "Boys of Tropicbird" pin-up calendar. (L: Kuba, R: Jacek)


ADDENDUM — AND ANOTHER ONE GONE and another one gone… (14-Apr)

The other Pole of our group, Kuba, has announced earlier today his eminent leave at Galapagos, due to personal reasons. I won’t get into it right here and now (but upon request I can send you the link to my private post on this). I don’t want to step on any toes this early in the journey with my brand of honest speculative journalism!

I will say that in the wake of Jacek’s announcement, and now Kuba’s, Julian seems to have chilled-out a LOT — in fact he’s downright pleasant. Maybe he’s trying to preserve the crew he still has, or maybe this is a pattern in his life on which he wants to improve, heeding the reminders. Here I find myself caught in the middle, on half the team we started as two weeks ago, wondering if this situation’s satisfactory for me, and if this relative time of peace is temporary or sustainable.

I could write more about my intentions going forward, but I’d rather for now see how it goes, as my own personal matters are considerably milder than with the others, and I’m on the fence. The expedition has already suffered enough blows that perhaps all involved will make a substantial ongoing efforts to stay civil and keep the dream afloat.

Sea Bites

OpenWater 17083

8-Apr 2012
Leg 1 to Galapagos
Day 18, day 5 at sea
17:24

I’ve been dreaming up a storm these days, and thankfully I’ve been able to remember them long enough to scribble them in my notebook. Keeping a dream diary is a practice that takes some discipline and planning, and I have been doing whatever I can to make it happen, from saying as I close my eyes that I will remember them, and keeping the pen and paper just beside me, ready to go.

I had one about a week ago, two nights before we set sail out of Panama, a nightmare actually. It all started out well enough: the Smashing Pumpkins (original lineup incl. Darcy & James!) were at my inn and were to play a small acoustic show nearby… after they played (a new song!) the inn-keeper (not myself) brought us all out some food.. I chose a bite from the colorful dish of what resembled a tiny tail, and although it was quite tasty, I then noticed the familiar designs of Axl’s shell filling the plate! I ran off crying.

While I hate to repeat this subconscious episode into the universe, I could see it clearly as a message from my heart, commenting on my upcoming dilemma which I was soon to face: to eat fish or not to eat fish during this journey across the sea. I’ve batted the idea around with an open mind for the previous months, and decided to let my heart decide when the time comes.

The horror of my dream reminded me quite obviously how I feel about this, and set me straight. I came here to learn to sail, not to become hunter and killer of sea life. I’ve for a long time considered myself illuminated enough to live my life exactly as I wish to, given the enormous gift of Free Will that I am blessed with. We have provisioned well, and I have more than enough food to eat, so by all means I don’t need anything more to survive, nor do I want it.

Yesterday, I woke with the question on my mind: which wild encounter will grace us today? I had a moment of pity for my fellow seamen, who have been trying for three days to catch some fish to eat, three lines out at all hours, to no avail. I silently put my mind to helping them out, visualizing a bite for them. I kid you not, within 15 minutes one of the reels spun wildly out of control, and getting tangled on itself the line seized-up, and that was the end of that. I must admit, for the moment I too was quite excited at this break in the monotony on this front, but I sighed relief when the poor fish got away.

Being a bit rascally, I imagined more fish nibbling on the lines of my comrades, and within moments Spencer called from the front that a big fish had just jumped in front of the boat! A good omen for my crew-mates. A bit selfishly perhaps, I told Jacek that I had been helping the cause through my intentions of visualization and manifestation for their benefit, and in light of my well-known vegan status on the boat, he questioned “but aren’t you opposed to our fishing?” I told him I felt bad for them, and wanted to help give them confidence, although truly I was rooting for the fish of course.

Our conversation turned me around through, when I realized I have to be responsible for my actions, and use any powers that I may have for Good. So I restrained my imaginings further, and since then (two days ago) we’ve had no signs of any fish. Smile.

OpenWater 10115

Night Watch

OpenWater 10177 blog

9-Apr 2012
Leg 1 to Galapagos
Day 19, day 6 at sea
10:40

Just a quick note to say how much I love these seas right here. Last night on my night watch (in which I also had the helm all to myself until 3am), I felt the bliss of the high seas.

It’s not all milk and cookies, peace and smooth sailing out here. We’ve had our share of tumultuous waters, endlessly rocking and rolling, trying to prepare food in a wildly gyrating galley (kitchen) with special metal rods to keep the pots in place, downpours and lightning storms that rage for hours, soaking everything, and the general noises of the boat, her engines and masts, which grunt, whine and bellow all night.

Tonight she was peaceful, and with the full moon high in the sky and cloud cover just enough to form shapes on the horizon on which to meditate and identify their morphing forms, it was a night to write home about.

Our lookout shifts are 3.5 hours “on” and 10.5 hours “off”, which in the course of a perfectly repeating week gives us all equal shares of days, nights, and afternoons, to while away at our discretion, and the time off is always enough to catch a full night’s sleep, unless of course we are summonsed by a call for “all hands on deck” or my favorite “thar she blows!” The night watch is special because only then are most sailors sleeping to the gentle rocking, while at the helm it’s all mine: the shimmering water, 360 degrees of sky and undulating swells, undisturbed views of the constellations, and the thoughts in my head. While one should never step away from the navigation table for more than a few minutes, there’s time to walk the deck and inspect the horizon for lights or new weather systems, and breathe deeply as one perfect speck in the largest pond I’ve come to know. It’s my time to let it all go. As thoughts float by over a timeless infinity of open water, so does my spirit, set adrift in the night breeze.

OpenWater 17080 blog
OpenWater 10219 blog

ADDENDUM (20-Apr)

These recent entries come to you post-dated, from the Galapagos Islands, where we’ve arrived safely after 13 days at sea. Instead of writing about that however, I wanted to share another great Night Watch episode right here in the appropriate, yet-unpublished entry.

In the pre-dawn hours of the eminent conclusion of Leg 1 and our arrival here scheduled for later that morning, I was on watch from 1:30 to 5am, anxiously watching the twinkle of a few lights on the horizon draw nearer.  Everyone else was asleep.  I was watching the luminescent bio-plankton sparkling in the water all around me, which as we approached this magical place was brighter than it’s ever been, marking the movement of any fish and of our waves in the black, moonless night.  Would you believe me if I told you that the whole ocean between Panama and Galapagos glows in the dark?  Well, it does!

Suddenly I noticed what looked like a 30-foot, neon-green dragon snaking its way underwater, perpendicular towards the boat, so when it passed under I ran to the other side to get a better look. But it wasn’t there.  Peering all around (and half expecting it to plunge up and snatch me away to a watery grave) I saw much electric splashing at the front of the boat.  I found five glow-beasts swimming in front of the boat, as they have before, with the whole rest of the pod arriving from all sides to come and play.

It was awesome.  I ran and woke-up Spencer, and we freaked-out as they jumped out of the water, their glistening neon bioluminescent forms offering the most psychedelic natural experience I’ve ever seen.  I flashed my head-torch into the water to make sure they were dolphins, and moments later one came rushing from the depths and jumped right out of the water in front of us, eliciting our chorus of WHOA! and HOLY SHIT! at the spectacle.  Next thing you know, everyone on the boat is up (we alarmed them, oops!) and watching the show (or yelling at us not to scare them like that!)

After 30 minutes everyone was asleep again, and I had their company all to myself till the end of my shift, as they guided us nearly to port.  Definitely cooler in the dark.  (Kind of like Burning Man.)

OpenWater 10190 blog

Catching up

Perhaps it’s a bit too late to be “current” with my communications, but I’m prepared to today to start sharing some of what I have been writing lately. I am keeping a good Log, and I have been writing in it regularly, written for myself, unpolished. Today, in my final hours before we really set off, I am going to post a few that are appropriate (enough) for public viewing, while I keep others to myself. It’s better than nothing, aye!

I’m on board my boat, Tropicbird, sailing off today (3-April 2012) towards the Galapagos Islands, then to French Polynesia (the Marquesas, Tahiti), Samoa, and beyond, hopefully all the way to Asia (aiming with this current boat towards Thailand). I don’t know if I’ll make it all the way, as anything can happen, and travel plans are prone to change. But today I am beginning the real journey.

I have been defunct on my blogging for the last half year, due in part to being in the US for some months and I got lax, feeling as if I wasn’t at the time on “this trip”, but now I can say that that detour was a good one, and while I didn’t deem the events ‘blog worthy’, the adventures I had made some serious impact on my life.

Funny how, at the verge of my next big adventure, I finally and all of a sudden feel moved to process the previous ones, and share. This is often the case, like when I’m aboard a plane and setting off into the unknown, a sudden outpour comes like a torrent through my pen.

I don’t have time right now to do this, but perhaps, tonight, I can record some of my thoughts on the recent chapters of my life. Most recently, I spent three months backpacking through Central America, beginning in December in Mexico, visiting many Mayan temple sites on the Yucatan Peninsula, and then progressing through Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. I shared a good portion of this traveling with a lovely and magical friend, Natalia, whom I met back in November in New York.

I can say that Evolution (of self, humanity and the universe) is the main theme on my mind lately, and I’m joyful in finding all the pieces I seek as if laid out by the divine hand. My “work” in this realm is ongoing, daily, and with the company I keep I feel the process of our evolution is symbiotic. So much to learn and grow from.

With that I’ll get to copy/pasting some of my recent log entries.. they’re not so much dissertations as in previous writing, more just day-to-day of starting the adventure on this boat. It’s part good, part bad, and part ugly. I’ll omit some of the uglier bits, in respect for my crew. But much more reporting and hopefully discovery I promise.

Crew Log to follow!