Saturday, November 28, 2020

Back Home on Land

I left Intermezzo in Hilton Head SC on Monday morning and flew back to my land home on The Ranch near Penngrove CA. I enjoyed a limited, socially distanced family gathering on Thanksgiving and am now easing into the transition from life at sea to life on land. It seems easier this time for me than in the past. My personal life is less complicated now and perhaps I'm getting better at negotiating my way through change.

Lisa is taking care of Intermezzo for a week or so longer until she heads back home to Arizona for the holidays and ski season (she's a private ski instructor). She'll do the final buttoning up of the boat based on a checklist I left with her and guidance/verification via FaceTime. Hopefully, all our mold/mildew abatement and prevention measures will be effective and it won't be much work to "unpickle" the boat when I return in January. 

I've spent some time reflecting on the cruise from Montauk NY to Hilton Head that began on October 21. No big revelations, no strong feelings arise. It was mostly a pleasant trip at a steady pace, not too fast, not too slow. There was little actual drama, though I did my best to create suspense every time we passed under a bridge and for every adverse weather system we experienced. I enjoyed all the places we dropped anchor and all the marinas we stayed in, except for the first one we stayed at in Charleston. Intermezzo performed well, the vibration from the propellers went away, I improved my upwind sailing performance, but water pump failures continue to be an annoyance. Despite her bouts with seasickness and nautical narcolepsy, Lisa was a good crew member and companion who treated me and Intermezzo very well. I will particularly miss the decidedly unhealthy but decidedly delicious egg sandwiches she made me for "elevenses".

So, nothing big to share philosophically about this trip, but a few discoveries seem worth reporting.

I prefer the "outside". Once we made the passage from Montauk to Norfolk VA, most of our trip was along "inside" along the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). I'm glad to have experienced boating and life along the ICW and there are many aspects I enjoyed, especially the vast marshlands and birds. The miles of motoring along narrow canals and creeks can get tedious though, punctuated by the frequent unpleasantness of passing powerboats with big wakes. Sometimes it felt like I was driving slowly on an interstate highway through the flatland of the midwest. The ICW also felt like a very American thing to experience, positive in terms of its efficiency and hospitality, negative for me as having very suburban "sliced whitebread" characteristics. Ocean passages remove you from all that, just you, your boat, your crew, the ocean, the weather. Plus you sail 24 hours per day, rather than eight which puts more miles under the keel and allows for more time for R&R in port. In future trips, I'll opt for waiting for weather windows to do outside hops between inlets and enjoy downtime and exploring local waters in between.

I enjoy single handing.  Since we were only sailing eight hours a day on the ICW and Lisa got seasick on the two ocean passages we made, I ended up doing most of the sailing on my own. I enjoyed the planning, focus and discipline single-handing requires and this trip gave me opportunities to hone my skills. There were a couple times when I'm not sure what I would have done without Lisa, like when our anchor dragged in a storm and when docking with strong wind and/or currents, but the rest of the time I felt competent and comfortable, although it tired me out more quickly compared to double-handing.

Meditation makes sailing better. I've practiced meditation for over four years now, guided and influenced by the teachings of Sam Harris through his Waking Up app. One of the most important lessons Sam teaches is to pause throughout the day to step back and observe, become fully aware of what is happening, what you are doing, what you are thinking, how you are feeling. These brief pauses provide opportunities for more clarity, opportunities for you to respond differently than your conditioning causes you to react. During this trip I took many such pauses to be fully aware and I saw more beauty, felt less stress and enjoyed the present moments while sailing. I was far less distracted by my thoughts, which often compromise my happiness and enjoyment of sailing. My journal is filled with descriptions of the sea, sky, animals, weather, light, smells, sounds, small moments of beauty that normally would pass by me without notice or remark. I trimmed my sails better, navigated better, made better decisions which made me feel good and happy. 

I'm a Pacific Coast sailor. I enjoyed sailing along the Atlantic Coast and, frankly, the winds are much better for sailing there and the water better for swimming. But the weather is too variable and often too cool to my liking. I like the predictability of Pacific Coast weather, its warmer climate and less frequent hurricanes. I thought I might like to keep Intermezzo on the east coast for another season, but I've decided to ship the boat back to La Paz, which will be our home port for a while in the Sea of Cortez. I hope to enjoy sailing again on the Atlantic and other waters as crew on OPBs (Other Peoples' Boats), but my "home" is on the Pacific.

So, what's next for Intermezzo and me?

In January I'll return to Hilton Head and continue heading south. I'm planning on cruising The Bahamas and, if time permits, the Florida Keys. I figure on mostly single-handing, but, who knows? I'll be making arrangements for putting Intermezzo on a ship to Mexico in March. I'll probably get some major projects done while in Florida, including replacing the standing rigging and upgrading the engine charging system in addition to dozens of smaller projects on the list.

I'll keep on blogging about it all.