Cartagena Take 3

This wasn't what we expected as we approached Cartagena.  It was so modern!
This wasn’t what we expected as we approached Cartagena. It was so modern!
This huge tanker underway gave us no wake, luckily
This huge tanker underway gave us no wake, luckily

Bill and I had stayed in a hotel in the old city of Cartagena twice before, one night each on our way to and from the airport at Christmas-time. So sailing to Cartagena should’ve been very familiar, right? Wrong! My impression of this city had been that of a very old, low to the ground, walled city. Upon entering from the sea, it looked like New York City with huge, modern sky scrapers. I was completely disappointed. But I got over it. I love this city!

Fisherman
Fisherman

We entered the harbor as if in a parade. 25 sailboats, single file, maneuvered around cargo ships in transit, small fishing boats with long fishing lines out every which way, speeding motorboats with far too many passengers aboard, and even a submarine under way! Our rally organizer, Suzanne, had arranged with the Colombian Navy to be escorted to an anchorage right beside the old city. When we had visited before, this anchorage was empty; all cruising boats were anchored further south in a crowded area.

We were instructed to call the Cartagena Port Authority to gain permission to enter the nine mile long channel, so the VHF radio traffic was a steady stream of rally folks chatting in several languages. The Port Authority called each of us back again to give us exact latitude/longitude positions to drop our anchor. This created quite a comedy scene as we all entered the tight area, dropped anchors and backed down with 100 feet of chain. Alembic’s designated waypoint to drop the anchor was right under a catamaran’s boat, because they had dropped in their position and backed down 100 feet to our position! This boat had a young boy aboard, so I asked him to watch out as I dropped a huge anchor on his feet. He was entertained, not worried, as we splashed our anchor right beside him. It all worked out. We settled like ships on a battleship board, each of us lining up with the wind and spaced about 100 feet apart. I’d like an aerial photo of our formation. Luckily, the wind has continued to blow, keeping us lined up facing the breeze. If this wind stops, and we drift about our anchors in random circles, there will likely be collisions!

Alembic is in her new anchorage, just to the right of the big red buoy in this photo
Alembic is in her new anchorage, just to the right of the big red buoy in this photo

As soon as everyone settled in their assigned spots, we launched our dinghies and headed to shore for a welcome party at Club de Pesca. This yacht club rivals any fancy club in New England. Elegant drinks, exquisite hors d’oeuvres, and beautifully dressed people filled the tiled outdoor establishment. Bill and I are not yacht club people; we have found them to be stuffy and unwelcoming to the “underdressed” or “simple” people. But this was breaking all of my negative images of hoity-toity clubs. They welcomed all of us warmly and made it clear that they would do anything to make our week long stay in their city enjoyable.

Festivities began the next morning with the club’s first Regatta of the year, where all of the captains of the sailboats welcomed any rally sailors to hop aboard. Many of our group took this offer, and experienced this race, with screaming Spanish captains, blaring latin music, a myriad of shots of tequila, many close calls, and even a collision at the start. Most of the rally guests had no idea what was being screamed to the crew, and were entertained by the back and forth shouting followed by plenty of jolly cheering. After the race, we all sat at tables with our boat crews and enjoyed free beer, margaritas, delicious latin food, and hilarious recounts of the day’s race.

We were instructed by a crew member to go to Club de Havana that night for live Cuban music and salsa dancing. Following orders, we headed out at 11 pm. Music started closer to midnight, but we were glad to have arrived early to find a space in the crowded club. True to his word, this was an authentic experience with a bona fide eight member Cuban band. Surrounding us, were Colombians, aged 21 to 71, dancing to the lively beat. Bill, John, and I danced along with them, but I’m afraid it was obvious that we were gringos who wished they could salsa!

The Cathedral where we attended mass was gorgeous
The Cathedral where we attended mass was gorgeous

The next day, Sunday, was scorching hot at the outset. Hoping to experience a Catholic mass at the old Cathedral, we opted to take a taxi, rather than walk, so we wouldn’t be dripping with sweat upon arrival. The service was serene, with a priest speaking Spanish so quietly, that I could barely hear him from our pew near the back. Throughout the cathedral, fans blew wildly, whipping my hair around, further hindering my hearing, but keeping us cool throughout the mass.

A vagrant, whom we have seen every day in Cartagena, sat in the pew right in front of us, leaving and returning throughout the mass. This particular man can be seen walking in and out of many establishments throughout town, begging for money. Colombians show no signs of frustration when nonpaying guests come in to their restaurants, stores, museums and churches. Most of these wanderers have something to sell, and will approach each customer to ask for money. Many people play music, dance, or try to sell jewelry, flowers, cigars, or handmade art. We have given many people money for their unsolicited performances, but rarely pay for any items. Teenage rap singers, a 12 year old opera singer, a family dressed up as gold statues, a group of street funk dancers, and a violin player were among our favorites. This bum in the church, unfortunately, had nothing to sell, and was clearly seriously mentally disabled. I am curious about the social programs offered for the homeless. Santa Marta and Cartagena seem to have few seriously disturbed homeless people wandering the streets, at least less per capita than I have seen in Portland Maine.

San Felipe Fortress
San Felipe Fortress

On Monday, we walked to the fort and learned about how many battles the people of Cartagena have endured. This gave me even more reasons to love the people here. The views from the top were amazing.

Hilarious metal art portrays the famous Coppertone commercial where the dog tugs on the shorts off a child
Hilarious metal art portrays the famous Coppertone commercial where the dog tugs on the shorts of a child
Another metal work where a person is pushing away the offerings of booze.  Teenagers: take note!
Another metal work where a person is pushing away the offerings of booze. Teenagers: take note!
Another metal work where both the man and his dog are using the pole to relieve themselves
Another metal work where both the man and his dog are using the pole to relieve themselves
More exercise
Leg lifts
Working those arms
Working those arms
Too hot to really work out
Too hot to really work out
I didn't see the point of this one.  Range of motion?
I didn’t see the point of this one. Range of motion?
Flowers on the streets
Flowers on the streets
We exchange Pesos for US dollars right on the street
We exchange Pesos for US dollars right on the street
The Palace of Inquisition
The Palace of Inquisition
The locals take good care of the street animals
The locals take good care of the street animals

Tuesday and Wednesday were spent traveling around the city on foot, trying to find many boat parts. We needed a piece of cable, a new cap for our diesel jug, rechargeable batteries, and a few other things. What is a simple task in the US is a full day task here, and we often come up empty handed. That’s okay, though, as we have learned to improvise with everything we do. And the experience of going to a ferreteria (hardware store), drawing pictures, using our Spanish dictionary, and lots of hand signals is fun. Each ferreteria is unique and only carries a few categories of items. They usually have a counter a few feet from the sidewalk, and employees go to the shelves behind to fetch what you are interested in buying. When we do find what we want, we are always shocked by the low price, like the mini batteries for 30 cents a piece.

Jennifer shares her fruit and knowledge
Jennifer shares her fruit and knowledge
Bill and I prefer Jennifer's fruit to the endless offerings of sweets!
Bill and I prefer Jennifer’s fruit to the endless offerings of sweets!

Today, Jennifer, a local woman who speaks fluent English and French, came to Club de Pesca, to show us the many fruits in season here in Colombia. We tasted all of them while learning about the culinary and medicinal benefits of each. Now we are all better prepared to select offerings from the San Blas folks who paddle around in dugout canoes, trading their produce for items we have on board. Locals in the San Blas don’t need money, but are always interested in our fresh water, canned vegetables to stretch their locally grown choices, and other items for fishing, art or learning.

Costumed Salsa dancers came to teach us to dance with these Salsa musicians
Costumed Salsa dancers came to teach us to dance with these Salsa musicians

We will be sad to leave this vibrant city, and plan to return someday soon. We have plans to leave tomorrow, and sail toward the San Blas Islands. But first, we are heading off now to a farewell dinner, put on by the wonderful Club de Pesca. More latin food and drinks and lessons in Salsa!

Leaving Santa Marta After a Five Week Stay

While we loved Santa Marta, we were eager to untie the lines and sail again. We left at first light on Friday, and entered the harbor with 24 other sailboats. Two swimmers grabbed a navigation buoy and held on, hoping to avoid being run over by the parade. We often saw these swimmers in the early morning, getting in a long workout. The times we tried to do this, my mouth filled with gasoline-tasting water, and Bill got tangled in plastic bags! We were not brave enough to try again.

The harbor was soon filled with catamarans and monohulls traveling in zigzags, as we headed into the wind to raise sails, and heading off the wind to get on course. Once underway and on our course, we lost much of this great wind, and started engines to keep up the pace. We all wanted to get to the anchorage in Porto Valero, 55 miles ahead.

We are approaching the line where the Barranquilla River outflow meets the clear Caribbean Sea
We are approaching the line where the Barranquilla River outflow meets the clear Caribbean Sea
Now we are in the river outflow.  It even smells like a river!
Now we are in the river outflow. It even smells like a river!

Approaching the Barranquilla River, was bizarre. The water had a clear line marking the fresh river water flowing on top of the Caribbean Sea salt water. I would like to do a study to see why this water doesn’t mix more, giving a gradual color change. We were almost three miles out to sea from the mouth of this river, and there seemed to be no mixing. Bill caught a tuna as we approached this line, as did several other sailors nearby. Apparently, this water causes a wall of sorts, where the tuna swim with the current, hit the wall, and turn around. In their confusion, they bite on lures more frequently than they tend to during the more steady water patterns.

As the water changed from a clear turquoise to a milky cafe au lait, the wind also changed from a docile breeze to a spirited ride. We moved along briskly at this point, and witnessed too much wind as we turned the corner to head into the anchorage. No matter, the sea state was calm, and the boats settled nicely at anchors.

As the sun sets, Bill finds the sail has pulled out another luff tack
As the sun sets, Bill finds the sail has pulled out another luff tack
Here is the broken slider.  Luckily I have spares
Here is the broken slider. Luckily I have spares

Luckily, Bill noticed, even in the dim light, that we had blown out another luff tack. This mainsail is only a few months old and we’ve already blown out three. We have sliders that run up the mast with webbing to attach the sliders to the mainsail. The webbing doesn’t tear, but it becomes unstitched. I just stitch them back in place, hoping my stitching will last longer than the original. This time, however, the slider actually broke, allowing the webbing to slip right out. As the sun went down, I stitched the webbing back on to a new slider and ran it up the track. Fingers crossed that this fix will hold.

Funny GPS plotter shot.  X just marks center of page, boat image marks our position, triangles mark other boats in our group.  collision symbol marks where it thinks we will collide, white marks navigable water, blue is shallow, and yellow is land. Hmm.. the land is not right!
Funny GPS plotter shot. X just marks center of page, boat image marks our position, triangles mark other boats in our group. collision symbol marks where it thinks we will collide, white marks navigable water, blue is shallow, and yellow is land. Hmm.. the land is not right!

The Colombian authorities came around to each boat to check us in. The officers must have been new to this job, because they caused damage to the first boat they visited. They tied their small vessel to a cleat on Bayzano, and with a rolling swell in the anchorage, the boats lurched, yanking on the cleat, loosening it. Luckily, they just did drive by’s for the rest of us, taking pictures of the boat and calling it good.

PortoValero
Bill is ready with our ship’s papers. Luckily, the port authority officers don’t tie up, they just pass by taking pictures.

Knowing we would be rising well before dawn to complete our passage to Cartagena the next day, we all turned out lights, except the mast heads, and went to sleep. I would have liked to have gone to shore to explore this new place, but there was no time.

Rising at 4 am, we found the air completely calm. After a quick bowl of oatmeal and a cup of tea, we raised anchor, and set out into the dark. Raising the mainsail was a waste of time, and we soon dropped it back down again, resigned to a day of motoring. Slight breezes came and went throughout the day, and you could see all of us raising sails, only to find them mostly drooping lazily. This confused me. We had worried about the coast of Colombia since the start of the trip in Maine. We had been warned that the coast had stormy weather with huge seas all the time, and to prepare for this accordingly. Well, we have sailed along this coast on three separate days so far, and each day has been so mellow and barely enough wind to fill sails.

This journey has been all about surprises. Nothing is as we expected. The books and charts are guidelines, but each day brings new weather patterns and conditions to deal with. So far, we have found that Alembic has outperformed all of our expectations. Bill and I have found many surprises with our relationship as well. After being together for 34 years, we thought we knew everything about each other. I am happy to report that all of our new findings have just brought us closer, and stronger. We are looking forward to seeing all of our loved ones, and our favorite home, Maine, but we also have learned that we want to keep sailing. We are now making plans to revisit some of the places we have seen, and explore new ports as well.

Hopefully, some of you will come along for parts of our journey. Kenny and Jenna just booked tickets this week to be with us in Belize, Cay and George will also be joining us for another week in Belize, and Ben and Pat are trying to arrange a time that works for them as well. We are a moving target, so booking flights can be challenging, but we are always hopeful to share this amazing experience with others. Alembic is ten feet longer than our last cruising boat, Wings, a Westsail 32, giving us space for more on board. Come help us fill this space!

Santa Marta Take 2

Repping for YOPP.  Friends from York Maine are building wood skis here in Bethel
Repping for YOPP. Friends from York Maine are building wood skis here in Bethel
We cut a tree right in our backyard
We cut a tree right in our backyard
This is how we dress in Maine!  Very different from the attire in Colombia!
This is how we dress in Maine! Very different from the attire in Colombia!
Dining out at Mulata.  Fine dining for 2 for about $25 which includes cocktails
Dining out at Mulata. Fine dining for 2 for about $25 which includes cocktails
Lights, music, food, and warm nights.  Come join us!
Lights, music, food, and warm nights. Come join us!
Horse driven carriages can be seen all over the city
Horse driven carriages can be seen all over the city
Seven days ago, we returned to Santa Marta after a full three weeks away. Now my mind is in a bit of a jumble trying to switch gears from the Maine way of life, to that of Colombia. In addition to formidable efforts to speak Spanish and stay cool in this sweltering heat, we are adjusting to sailing in the company of 24 other boats. Well, we haven’t sailed yet, but this is the plan, starting on Thursday. A few days ago, Bill said “It feels like we are freshmen in college all over again”. Yes, it does. We are trying to remember names of people, names of boats (dorms?), and who is paired with whom (remember how important this knowledge was in college?!)

Back in August, we joined an OCC (Ocean Cruising Club) Rally which was to begin in Curacao Jan 2 and end in Belize May 1. Knowing we would be in Maine at the time of the introductions and first sailing legs from Curacao to Aruba and on to Santa Marta, Colombia, we decided to sail to Santa Marta early (arrived December 10), fly home to Maine, and be back in the marina when they arrived.

First to arrive was Shamal, with John and Georgina on board. They, like us, sailed directly from the Bahamas, and were eager to meet the rest of the Rally goers. Having a full day to get to know our new friends was wonderful, and easy. The next day, four more boats arrived, and I managed to learn each of their names and on which boats each person resided. I was thrilled to learn that Michel and Brigette, from France, were eager to converse with me in French. Then came the remaining boats and everything went blurry. Names, countries, boats, and languages, were all in a big pot of confusion. Luckily, someone had organized a cheat sheet with all of the boat names, people names, hailing ports, and boat types. They even had photos of the people! The Swedes’ photos were swapped, and a few pieces of information were missing, but receiving this by email was much appreciated. Editing the document as I learned more about each person, I used this chart like flash cards, where you memorized your new vocabulary words in school.

Shopping in downtown Santa Marta.  There is a store for everything.  This store sells just fans.  The next one sells just blender parts.  The next one sells only ribbons.
Shopping in downtown Santa Marta. There is a store for everything. This store sells just fans. The next one sells just blender parts. The next one sells only ribbons.

I believe I have most of the names down now, but which boats they are on is still somewhat of a mystery. We have already had a few Rally meetings, two pot luck dinners, and a jam session up at the marina headquarters area and many of us have gone to town and beyond together on foot, taxi, or small bus. Bill and I are having a grand time traveling beyond Santa Marta in small groups. It’s a toss up to decide which is more fun, amusements with the Rally folks or adventuring inland.

On Sunday, eight of us hired two taxis to take us to Minca, a small town up in the mountains. From there we set off on foot, up a dusty road, to a coffee plantation.

A quick stop on our dusty hike up
A quick stop on our dusty hike up
Confusing to have lush mountains soaked in mist while our road is as dry and dusty as a desert
Confusing to have lush mountains soaked in mist while our road is as dry and dusty as a desert
Coffee plants in neat rows throughout the rolling hillsides
Coffee plants in neat rows throughout the rolling hillsides
Too bad I don’t drink coffee; the others told me that it was excellent. We gave ourselves our own guided tour of the coffee factory because we couldn’t wait the twenty minutes for a tour guide. As a result of El Nino, it has been exceptionally dry lately and we noticed that the water wheel was not running. There was a small electric motor running the huge drive shaft which is normally run by hydropower. Up here in the mountains, the power is scarce, so using it for processing the coffee beans meant that the espresso machine upstairs couldn’t be used.
Delicious lunch was served above the coffee factory
Delicious lunch was served above the coffee factory
Coffee factory is usually run on hydropower
Coffee factory is usually run on hydropower

After a delicious lunch at the coffee plantation, we headed back up the forest trail and down the dusty road back to Minca. The sweet little town, which seemed more of a crossroad than a village, was packed with locals celebrating their last night of the Three Kings holiday week. Buses, taxis, and motorcycles with far too many passengers on each, crowded the tiny intersection. As we threaded through the throngs of vacationers, we wondered how we would get down the mountain. No one in their right mind should travel up that winding road unless they were sure of a customer willing to pay to get down. A clever old man spotted us, calculating the fare he would collect if he could manage to cram us all in his jalopy. Christian, the best at speaking Spanish, got the front seat, four of us squeezed into the back seat, which was built for two, and two contortionists, Nigel and Bill, folded into the back, the space meant to carry a few bags of groceries. As soon as the tinny doors were closed and secured by rope (!), we began plummeting down the mountain. In our broken Spanish, we tried to tell our ancient driver that we were not in any hurry, but he insisted on playing slalom with every vehicle on the road. Many times, oncoming trucks had to slam on their brakes to avoid a head on collision with us, as our intrepid driver wove through the continuous line of cars heading down. The winding road, with switchbacks almost dangling over the cliffs, would be scary even at slow speeds and with no other vehicles.
See the rope that holds this car together?!!
See the rope that holds this car together?!!
Bill is squished in the back
Bill is squished in the back

Maybe it was the prayers, maybe it was gravity, but we made it down to the bottom of the mountain. I wondered if our driver was as relieved as we were to have arrived unharmed. I also wondered if he could take passengers up the hill, or if the old clunker had to go back up empty.
We celebrated making it safely to the bottom of the mountain!
We celebrated making it safely to the bottom of the mountain!

The following morning, we again assembled at the marina office, this time with 11 different people. We headed off to Tayrona National Park to hike and swim in several beach areas.
Yummy fruit on the side of the road
Yummy fruit on the side of the road
The stop at the fruit stand was beautiful, and tasty. The selection was much better than any of the grocery stores we had visited. Lucky for us, the line to get into the park was ridiculously long, and we stood a chance to be told that the park reached max capacity for the day. Our tour guide, Andres, came up with a new plan, which proved to be much more fun.
Weird stuff hanging from the trees
Weird stuff hanging from the trees
Swimming in the waterfall was so refreshing
Swimming in the waterfall was so refreshing

First, we hiked into a waterfall where we swam in a crystal clear pool while watching the water plummet from the sky and also continue to fall well below us to many more pools and the river. After another short jaunt in the bus, we began another hike, this time into an indigenous village and toward a river where we jumped into tubes and floated for over an hour while watching howler monkeys and birdlife in the branches hanging above us.
Indigenous family home site
Indigenous family home site
I learned that a banana plant has a beautiful flower and that it only grows one bunch.  When the bunch is harvested, the plant is chopped to the ground allowing the next shoot to grow
I learned that a banana plant has a beautiful flower and that it only grows one bunch. When the bunch is harvested, the plant is chopped to the ground allowing the next shoot to grow

hiking down to the river
hiking down to the river
fires are lit in the huts to keep the spirits away
fires are lit in the huts to keep the spirits away
beautiful pottery
beautiful pottery

Weird spiky bark
Weird spiky bark
The river carried us to the mouth, where it dumped into the Caribbean Sea. Here, we were advised not to swim because the waves were rough; our legs were getting sand blasted while just wading.
Lazy way to hike!
Lazy way to hike!
Howler monkeys in Colombia are red.  How many can you count here?
Howler monkeys in Colombia are red. How many can you count here?

This bird is taking a nap on the horse!
This bird is taking a nap on the horse!
Rally goers enjoying a gourmet lunch in the rainforest
Rally goers enjoying a gourmet lunch in the rainforest
The river meets the sea
The river meets the sea

My Ceviche was excellent
My Ceviche was excellent
Shallow draft boats took us back up the river to where we had begun. Here we enjoyed a five star lunch. I really wanted to snooze in the nearby hammocks after the filling meal, but we were escorted back to the boats to the “bus stop”.
This was our bus stop!
This was our bus stop!

Back home to the marina, we showered off the dust and prepared for the jam session. This group knows how to have fun! We had several guitars and shakers, and Jeff’s masterful skill on his enormous keyboard kept us on tempo. Finally, the day’s events caught up with us and we began dropping with exhaustion.

Claire is doing boat chores up her mast while James hauls her up there
Claire is doing boat chores up her mast while James hauls her up there

Another day of boat chores and trips to town to provision our galley and our mechanical spares, we are ready to head off. But first another BBQ! The marina provided us with music and DJ’s who sang and we provided the food. Now I can say that I know everyone’s names and will be looking forward to leaving tomorrow to sail on to new places.

Family and Fitting It All In

How lucky I am. We had a parade of warm welcomes from so many dear people on our quick jaunt north for Christmas. In order of occurrence, not in order of importance, because how can you really put these huge bundles of love in any kind of order? The list looks something like this:
Jolie and Dan left the lights on, so that we could tiptoe up to Chloe’s room to sleep when we arrived at midnight.
Jolie set up a perfect first breakfast and a bit of time with her when she really should have been meeting clients.
Time alone with Mom, which is always a rare event that I can never get enough of, so a few hours was a treat!
Then time to chat with Dad even though he was exhausted from four hours with lively Elizabeth.
Kenny and Jenna welcomed us at their new home where their skills of craftsmanship and interior design are blossoming.
Christine, Christian, Cathy and Matt prepared our favorite foods, and arranged a great visit and a cosy room for the night.

The Winn Dixies!  The best group of friends imaginable
The Winn Dixies! The best group of friends imaginable
Winn Dixie time for me and guy time for Bill to fill our hearts with companionship extraordinaire.
A quick visit with Steph and Teo to make me really miss CBHS and all of its meaningful connections.
Erica stepping off a plane from Colorado with a face so lit up it could warm any planet.
Camp. Nuff said.
Back to Kenny and Jenna’s for Lindsay’s arrival and a day where the girls finished Christmas prep and the boys finished (almost) the deck.
Up at the top on foot.  Not quite enough snow for skiing
Up at the top on foot. Not quite enough snow for skiing

Crazy bunch on a hike to Onset
Crazy bunch on a hike to Onset
Smooch at the top chair
Smooch at the top chair
Camp time hiking and family gatherings.
Bill and I tried our best to keep up with Marathoners cousin Ben and Lindsay on a chilly hike up to Goose Eye
Bill and I tried our best to keep up with Marathoners cousin Ben and Lindsay on a chilly hike up to Goose Eye
Tundra conditions near the top at Goose Eye
Tundra conditions near the top at Goose Eye

Back to Connecticut for Christmas Eve at Ann and Al’s with most of the Swanson Gang.
Christmas celebrations and overindulging in delicious foods with the Weigels, Kwokas, Woolstons, and Wills.
Loose Boots Lounge beside our ski camp was back in full swing!  We danced all night to a live band with our kids and the rest of the Mt Abram family!
Loose Boots Lounge beside our ski camp was back in full swing! We danced all night to a live band with our kids and the rest of the Mt Abram family!
Dancing at Loose Boots, catching up with our Mt Abram Village family, and lounging.
Dining in Boston with Conor’s parents who were more lovely than I imagined.
One final night at Lindsay’s awesome home in Boston.

Little things meant the most. The hugs, the laughs, the sharing of new ideas and challenges, the plans and hopes that were expressed, the brilliant wisdom and recollections from the hearts of those we care about. I was so topped off by the time we had to say goodbye, that I knew that this journey to Maine was well worth the time and expense. I dissolved into tears saying good bye to Sue Luthe, because she said she would take care of our children in our absence. This is the hardest part of our cruise; leaving behind our children and all of the people we love. Thank you, Mama Sue, for always being there for the Mt Abram family. And thank you to all of my siblings who cheerfully lend a hand every time a family member is in need.

Seeing Alembic again gave us a huge sigh of relief for many diverse reasons. First, she was safe and unharmed by the storms that had charged through during our absence. Second, Colombian officials hadn’t taken her into custody as a result of our expired documentation. Third, we were home in our cosy, efficient space. And fourth, we could again focus on each other, and our upcoming adventures. The sigh of relief was balanced by the melancholy feelings of already missing our loved ones. My challenge today, and in the days to come, is to fully engage in the adventure at hand. Whether I am deep in conversation with a loved one, battling enormous seas, sailing in light air, coming ashore in a foreign land, swimming with new species of marine life, or planning our next voyage, I hope to be able to be wholly present.

The Real World From the Perspective of an Airplane

Dip your hand into the waves.  We are sailing swiftly in a beautiful Caribbean Sea.  Pretty Real.
Dip your hand into the waves. We are sailing swiftly in a beautiful Caribbean Sea. Pretty Real.
My sweet home in the Real World
My sweet home in the Real World
I have launched into another world. I’m currently flying miles above the earth on a Jet Blue airplane from Cartagena Colombia to New York City. Bill and I are on our way home to Maine to spend Christmas with family. After living aboard Alembic and traveling on the ocean where I could simply reach over the side and dip my hand into the seawater, this flying vessel interrupts my sense of connectedness to the earth. My world for the past three months has become more and more simplified as I sail, swim, and walk on or near the ocean.

Most of my time has been aboard or very near our compact sailboat, Alembic. We swim close to the boat, and venture a bit further away by dinghy to reach areas too shallow for our five foot draft. Sometimes we roam on foot on nearby shores to meet people, exercise, or shop for food and boat parts. Other times we paddle our SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard) around an anchorage for exercise, exploration, visiting people, or as a visible buoy traveling beside a swimmer (Bill or me), so the swimmer doesn’t get run over by passing boats.

The number of hours I have been apart from the boat has been minimal. In the past three months, I can count the number of times that I have traveled by means other than by boat, on foot, or swimming. Here’s the count: we took a taxi in New York City, rode bikes in Cape May and in Oriental NC, rode in the cars of Jim and Anne, Rick, and Bruce a few times in Annapolis to pick up boat parts, took a taxi to bring Lindsay to and from the airport in George Town, took one bus ride to Cartagena, and one taxi ride to the airport to catch this plane. That’s it! This adds up to about ten hours of travel other than by foot, swimming, riding the dinghy, or sailing.

Some people ask me “When are you coming back to the Real World?” I think I am living in the Real World when I sail by the wind, catch rainwater from the sky, eat fish from the sea, charge batteries by solar and wind power, walk barefoot on the ground, and stay continuously mindful of the weather. Each day, I rise with the sun, sit in the cockpit with my tea, and contemplate my day’s adventures. Each night, I watch the sun set, and consider when the moon will rise. This feels very real to me.

I don’t want to be judgmental; after all, this trip is about finding peace and perspective while opening up my lens for a more broad view of the world. I won’t interpret the term Real World because it is different for everyone, and each of us has to define it from our own unique experience. I am grateful every day for this opportunity to explore the meaning of Real World for me.

All I can say for certain, is that I feel confused right now, up here in this plane. I have missed my children, parents, other family members and friends terribly while I sail, and look forward to seeing most of them on the other end of this flight. This flight is linking my separate worlds in time, but not helping me figure out how to link them in my heart. I suppose I must learn to navigate my discreet Real Worlds. And perhaps they are more connected than they appear.