Next Big Thing?

We closed on the sale of No Regrets today. They say, only somewhat in jest, it is the second happiest day of a boat owner’s life, and indeed I am very happy to be out from under the burden of owning a boat that I am no longer sailing. But it certainly comes with sadness, too. No Regrets has been a good home, and a great chariot carrying me across the seas with speed, relative comfort, safety and style. Kudos to Chris White, the designer, and to John Lombardi, the builder.

My transition to home life was eased a bit by being invited to help Norm deliver his new Tahawus II, a 47′ Catana catamaran (!), from Florida to Virginia. What a treat to join him aboard his beautiful new boat, and head back out to sea for three days of fast sailing in the Gulf Stream. We made good 284 miles in our first 24 hours! And we averaged about 250 miles per day. The boat sails very nicely. It is bigger than No Regrets, and had an easier motion in the 30+ knots and 4+ meter waves. But I found I longed for our forward-facing cockpit, instead of always looking astern. Of course, at the dock Tahawus II takes the prize for spaciousness and comfort.

Upon arrival in Hampton, VA, we docked near the original Tahawus, said hello to Klaudia and the boys, and then all hands turned to moving Everything from their old home to their new. Ugh! Suddenly 47′ didn’t seem so big, as the boxes and bags covered the cockpit and the salon and most of the floor space…

Next day I was on an airplane back home, but it turns out I’m not done with sailing. I received another invitation to crew for a few days in New England, starting today. I like it — keep the invitations coming!

Meanwhile, Jesse earned his mechanical engineering degree. Hallie and I attended his graduation and, even better, got to see his prototype of a rig to generate electricity from ocean waves. He demonstrated the system in the university’s wave tank. If you know of job opportunities for a new mechanical engineer with a keen interest in renewable energy systems, please let us know.

Of course I am also facing the questions of what’s next for me. Several people have urged me to write a book. But I feel that the blog tells the story, and I haven’t much more to add, so I don’t feel drawn to the book idea. There is my ongoing boatbuilding project, begun 25 years ago (!). I would like to complete that. The issue is where can I find a satisfactory space. I have a generous offer of a barn, but…it’s full of stuff…no electricity…no heat…not a flat floor…I have concerns about how it would work out. But I will look into it further.

There is my desire to make use of solar energy, and to create a community solar farm nearby. This project also hinges on having viable space. A neighbor has expressed interest in selling land for this purpose, but whether it would make sense financially remains to be seen. Again, I will look into it further.

There is the nagging recollection of the solar powered desalination system in Komodo, Indonesia. The one that wasn’t working, and as far as I can tell is still not working. Okay, I get it that the system was “inappropriate technology” — too high tech to be maintained by the local community. Which has me thinking about what more “appropriate” system could provide drinking water for such communities. Could a solar still be designed with sufficient capacity, and yet be cheap and low tech? Again, when life settles down a bit I want to look into it further.

A friend recently commented that it was apparent from my blog how much I love to be in motion. This got me thinking about what it is that I find so alluring about sailing. There is the warmth of the tropics, the beauty of the tranquil ocean and the magnificence when it turns wild. Alluring yes, but that only scratches the surface.

It has been wonderful to see so much of the world, and I’m grateful to my partners and to Jimmy Cornell for leading me into so many ports — places I probably would not have visited on my own. The people were so welcoming, their cultures a constant lesson that there are many ways to live and be content in this world. But I rarely wanted to stay anywhere for more than a few days, and my heart would soar each time we put back to sea. Yes, I like to be in motion, but there is more that makes sailing special.

Sailing sparked my imagination when I was a teenager trying to figure out who I was. I read about Chichester and Slocum and Robin Lee Graham and Donald Crowhurst and Webb Chiles (whom I met in Durban) and many others. I hated studying history, but I was intrigued about Magellan and Columbus and Cook — not as we judge their actions by today’s values, but what was it like to captain a tiny ship across uncharted oceans with uncertain crew. Sailing for me was freedom; a way to get outdoors, away from the confines of society, communing with the eternal. Freedom plus beauty and warmth and learning and motion…all good…but still there is more to it.

I notice at home now I feel pulled in many directions. Many competing tugs…tasks to be done…calls to return…sharing the car…managing finances…responding to the disparate schedules and priorities and expectations of other people…even deciding when to get out of bed in the morning. People think that life is simpler on a boat, but that is rarely true. What was special was not that life was simple, but that all the tasks, and all the crew, were aligned…were contributing to the same goal: the safe and comfortable and fun passage to the next destination. There was a single measure for prioritizing all our actions, and all our actions were steps in a single dance. The dancing was special; it fed my spirit, nourished my soul.

For me the dance has been a circumnavigation, but the dance is not limited to sailing. You could find the dance anywhere. I think it comes when one commits to something big. When you are clear about your commitment to a Big Thing, then the cacophony of distractions begins to subside and the dance music remains. Life doesn’t get simple, your choices do. You choose the steps that gets you closer to the Big Thing. The endless internal voice that my friends call “monkey chatter” is no longer front and center, because you make your choices easily, confidently. And I believe our choices are the deepest expression of Self…of who we are.

I’ll wrap this up. When I’m crossing an ocean I am expressing myself. I know who I am, I know my purpose, my self-expression is joyous and the dance steps are satisfying. Now my voyage is done, and the clarity of purpose is fading. Perhaps I will identify another Big Thing that I will commit to, and find a similar joy in that dance. It doesn’t have to be sailing. In fact, I would love to find a project that more directly contributes to others. If you have an opportunity that you think might spark my imagination, tell me about it! And if you are in motion toward your own Big Thing, or are about to take that first step, may you thoroughly enjoy the dance!

Tahawus II
Formerly Tonga Time. Note the escape hatch on the inside of the hull. One opened on its own while we were sailing, and we were alerted only by the bilge pump alarm. Luckily it was not the hatch over my berth; it was in Norm’s head/shower. Ironically, we then discovered that the manual bilge pump didn’t work. Ah, the joys of a new boat…
Windy and fast.
284 miles noon to noon. But always looking astern…
…unless you sit in the helmsman’ seat, exposed to the elements.

Moving in.

5 thoughts on “Next Big Thing?”

  1. Have so enjoyed traveling with you on your adventure. The short answer for all of us sailors is our love for being on a boat at sea.
    Susie Mendenhall, Botany Place


  2. Tom’s and my Big Thing was the treasured 12 years on our organic farm in Bristol. Many of the attributes you embraced during the circumnavigation and it’s dance were similar to ours setting up and running the farm. It was far from simple, but it was profoundly satisfying in that it not only provided us and others with food, we were husbanding this precious earth, keeping our footprint small. The planning and the tasks were all focused on planting and harvesting, then the processing and/or distribution of the food. Specific vegetables did not have to be planted on any particular day — however, they needed to be planted within a timeframe, or there would be no flowering or fruit later. While all tasks were focused on this goal, there was a rhythm to each week, to each month, to each season. There was an honesty about that work that filled my heart and soul.

    Because health issues meant we had to sell our beloved place 12 years ago and moved to a town, and since Tom’s passing, my Big Thing(s) are far smaller. Yet the lessons learned both physically and emotionally, as well as spiritually, stay with me (for the most part… ). I still deeply wish I could be back on the farm, even as I have found acceptance in my current reality.

    As the Buddha so wisely observed hundreds of years ago, nothing is permanent — even those things that bring us joy. That said I have every belief that during this time of transition you will discover your next Big Thing, your next dance.


  3. Wow, Zeke and Robin – i loved these ponderings about Life and how we humans can make it meaningful or not. Both your words resonate with me as I have followed this path for sometime and yes Beth, it is never permanent and we have to let go, release – with gratitude – the chapter before, harvest the lessons and transmute it into wisdom… and go on with an open and curious heart. Finding myself now on Maui at a new beginning place, I am exploring new options, as you alluded to also Zeke, for being of service to the Great Turning on Mother Earth that is taking place. For myself (Soul), my daughter Tasha and hopefully one day her kids/my descendants. 7 Generations is a long time to think ahead but we must, while still being in the NOW Moment. The Big Paradox of my Life! Happy to have Ram Das’s influence here on Maui as I walk the unknown journey. And the poet David Whyte and many others, including the like-minded people here who loved to listen and follow your adventures Zeke! Mahalo for all of it!!


  4. Zeke, I’m going to miss reading your blog. What I think you enjoyed most was being on night watch, alone, to commune with the stars and the endless ocean. What a beautiful meditation! Please keep in touch!


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