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.

The End!?

Sold the boat! (Pending a survey.)

Yikes! I’m not ready to leave her. I’m not ready to say goodbye to standing watch alone in the middle of the starry night. I’m not ready to let go of my wonderful home. No Regrets does not mean no sadness; I feel deliriously happy and achingly sad at the same time.

Of course it is what I wanted. And I’ll be ready just as soon as I say I am, and let go. And…very important…her new owners Tom and Jane are wonderful people who plan to do a ton of work bringing her back to near-new condition.

John Lombardi (builder) has been tremendously helpful, and the boat is in the right hands for the upcoming refit. Chris Lombardi has been great as the broker.

And what to say about Hallie, who insisted that she come here to work with me on the boat, and without whom I could not have completed the work. She has toiled nonstop for three very long days. But that’s only one star in the Milky Way of her contribution to this voyage. She has supported me every nautical mile, whether in spirit, or handling my financial affairs back home, or flying to join me in Tahiti and Australia and Brazil and the Caribbean and Wanchese. Always there with the love and support. A partner on so many planes! (Get it?)

And…there is a sweet little trimaran parked right next to No Regrets. I wonder if she might be for sale………..

Is this the end of the blog? Time will tell, but I think not. Regardless, this would be a great time for all you readers who haven’t commented (as well as those who have) to post a comment with your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you!

A good start on offloading the “boat stuff” to a storage unit.
Leaving things neat and clean aboard.
You never know what you might find hidden behind the gear under a cockpit seat!
John (builder) talks with Tom (buyer) about what can be done to make the boat like-new.
Everybody happy — Zeke, Jane, John, Chris and Tom. Goodbye, No Regrets!
The pretty little trimaran parked right next door, that caught my eye…
Dreaming of more…

Wanchese, NC

We chose to come to Wanchese (near the Outer Banks of North Carolina) because John Lombardi works here. John built No Regrets eighteen years ago. We thought he would be the perfect person to do the work needed on the boat. Might be fun for him, too, to see one of his creations many years later.

After making a plan to meet John in Wanchese, I was contacted by his brother Chris, who is a yacht broker, saying he had a client interested in an Atlantic 42. After some more arranging, his client is flying in at the end of this week. We’re going to see how much work John can get done in those few days, and how much I can make the boat presentable!

But first we had to get here. In Southport we had a fun dinner with Pip, who had sailed aboard Ransom in the BPO to French Polynesia. Then up the Intracoastal Waterway to Wrightsville, where we anchored for two nights to let some stormy weather pass over. Lots of reading for two days. Then on up the ICW to Swansboro. We anchored there, but dragged in the shifting current, so we tied at the town dock. That worked out well for getting groceries and for doing some cleaning of the side of the hull alongside the dock.

Then on to Beaufort, NC, where we stayed in the fancy/expensive marina right in the historic heart of town. And where my distant cousin Emily, whom I had never met, came to visit, along with husband Bob, my sister Nancy and her husband Frank. They all treated the crew to a superb dinner — much appreciated! I could easily have stayed a while in Beaufort, and taken Bob up on his offers to show us more by land or sea. But we were on a mission, so off we went in the morning, on up the ICW to Pamlico Sound. We had the current with us through the narrow channel, and the wind with us once we got into the open water, so we made great time.

In the afternoon the wind nearly died, and then came up with a vengeance (29 knots) as we approached our chosen anchorage. Made for some exciting sailing beating into the shallow creek. It was a spot that simply looked protected on the chart; I had no idea what the area would be like. In fact it turned out to be remote…almost desolate…just a few lights in the far distance at night. Beautiful.

Next day we had another great sail up the sound, and we selected another nook on the chart for anchoring. Again, completely empty. I had no idea that Pamlico Sound had such wilderness.

In the morning we were off one last time, again with a good breeze, to Wanchese. So…if things go well, this may be the end of the line! Done. Our mission now (which Bob, Joe and I got a start on over the past several days) is to clean everything and remove three years (and more) accumulation of “stuff” from the boat. Monday the boat will be hauled, so work can begin on the bottom and the saildrives. Then Bob and Joe will depart, and Hallie will arrive to spend the week working with me. Then we show the boat, and head home. Maybe I will be back in a month to sail the boat to New England. Or maybe the boat will no longer be ours. It’s all journey…

Dinner with Pip in Southport.
Waiting for the nasty weather to pass, in Wrightsville.

Beaufort Docks
Dinner with cousin Emily and sister Nancy in Beaufort

Bridges are an interesting aspect of the ICW, especially when one has 64′ clearance instead of the usual 65, and the heavy rains have raised the water level…
I thought our radio antenna might scrape on this one, but it didn’t.

Lots of fancy houses with private docks on the waterway
Pamlico Sound anchorage #1

Pamlico Sound anchorage #2
Maybe Joe is watching the spinnaker, but I think he’s dozing off…
Meanwhile Bob is foraging
No surprise that the crew is tired and hungry; they’ve been working hard polishing the stainless steel, and other cleaning to try to get the boat ready to show to potential buyers.

She cleans up pretty well!
Approaching Roanoke Island
OBX Marina, Wanchese. One other sailboat in the neighborhood; hundreds of sport fishing boats.
The happy Bahamas to NC crew.
Getting into position to haul the boat
Up, up…
…and away!