Sunday, August 31, 2008

Conjuring Dramanauts

"...question your self with a guileless heart again and again... and the truth will unfold that knowledge to you... and you will cross the ocean of ignorance on a raft of knowledge."
the Bhagavad Gita

I have been contemplating of the gypsy life, the nomadic life, the life of wandering, exploring, discovering. The function of journey is mythic in both the personal realm and in the collective. Yet taking a journey differs from the nomadic lifestyle. The first may be seen as a rite of passage, through which one passes and returns, often changed. It embodies transition. The other journey, as lifestyle, is another matter altogether. It is a path. A Way. We orient our existence differently; the transit through this world becomes more of a spiral than an orbit. Everything is new, and although we come round to what appears to be the same, we are now in a very different space and our perspective has changed dramatically. We see what was once familiar, anew; and the new is welcomed as an old friend into our lives.

I don't want to be a foreigner anywhere. I wish to be more like a bird or a whale without boundaries -- at home beneath any sky, in any water-- for in truth it is one big sky and one big water. Of course, I recognize the reality of nations and their corresponding laws, still I wish to learn to embody the essence of living without these boundaries. And I am trying to actualize this.

Enter Nomadness, boundary defiant and sea worthy. On a sailboat every bridge looks like a disaster, but we continue on with faith, gliding forward into the future. We come to recognize that what appeared to be an obstacle was but an illusion manufactured from our limited perspective. Every sailor knows this feeling, we have the facts, yes we can go forth, and yet we tremble slightly each and every time before what appears impossible.

My partner, Steve Roberts, who is expert at actualizing the impossible, has written about his "epic bike trip" in Computing Across America. He saw the journey as an opportunity to merge all his passions into one lifestyle. What a great idea! We should all do it, right? Easier said than done for sure. The first step in this direction is the presence of mind and sincerity of heart to honestly ask and the answer the question: What are my passions?

In contemplation of this, I realize I have only a few. I love travel, sharing information (learning and teaching), experiencing nature, and art and beauty (especially the performing arts). So how can these possibly work into a cohesive lifestyle? After brainstorming with Steve one blissful winter eve, we came up with this: We'll travel about on boats, learning about the places and people we meet, sharing stories, information, skills and technologies while gathering like minded individuals into a flotilla. A strong element in the new vision is the idea that we can create an intentional community on the water. Steve recently wrote of:

"... a self-sufficient technomadic community that has reached a critical mass of skills and tools, and is thus able to respond to changing world situations (or pure whim) by relocating on a global scale."

I would only add to this the vital need for expression. I want to invite and inspire creative artistic expression. I want to "make something" of the experiences we share. What this "something" becomes, will be determined entirely by the individuals who people this community. This doesn't mean one has to have an artist's resume to contribute; we are all creative whether we have honored and acted on it in the past or not. What is important is the willingness to express oneself, to bare the truth, and to bear witness. To take the impressions of a nomadic life and excrete something potent, beautiful and inspiring.

I envision a gypsy-spirited flotilla of information junkies, sailors, songsters, survivalists, geeks and goofballs putting our heads together to make something new. I want a community that travels and creates together, pooling skills and moving toward self sufficiency and the seasteading lifestyle. We have an opportunity to create something that both expresses and demonstrates the freedom of nomadism. We can do more than write or perform about freedom and adventure; we can live it. We can experience it. With experience comes knowledge and understanding, the raft upon which we will cross oceans of ignorance and fear both within ourselves and in our world.

So... while this year is our "shakedown" cruise, time to learn the boat and how to get along on it, next year we can start making the connections to the folks who will fill out our Technomadic Flotilla of Dramanauts.
Need some more inspiration? Here are some other folks who found a way to merge art and boating in one way or another. I am sure there are many more too!

Miss Rockaway Armada a crazy bunch artists with a similar dream who floated down the Mississippi creating art and theatre along the way.

Caravan Stage large scale theatrical production from an amazing vessel.

1000 Days at Sea
this project isn't exactly a community, but a couple merging, life, art, sailing and spirit. Some inspired blogging too!

And my favorite, a group that sprang from the hearts and minds of the most wonderful, Poppa Neutrino and Captain Betsy. The Floating Neutrinos.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Transformation and Home

Transitions. Or is it transformation? Can changing one's life circumstances change one's very Being? Or vice versa? I do know that the information I have acquired about sailing over the past few years is crystallizing into understanding that only experience brings. And is that not transformation?

(Cloud over Camano Island)

At one time, for a period between 1991 ad 1998, I actually felt I lived somewhere. I had a relationship to a tiny square of land, a structure (house), and its many contents. My relationship to the world was grounded in my relationship to a house, a garden and, of course, a lover. I believed in "home." When that ended, I began shuffling places, people, interests, lovers and jobs, reinventing myself with every new arrangement of my many "selves." Always chasing some ethereal notion of "home."

I started out life in the desert, on an Indian reservation, where everybody knows exactly where home is, and most don't fall too far from the tree. Yet I have always fantasized the gypsy life. I wanted to wander, travel, see places, meet strangers, and learn for myself the size of this huge small world. I now live with a man who identifies as a nomad; a man who has lived significant portions of his life as wanderer and is preparing for another nomadic adventure. Having uprooted and moved from my job, my friends and my family several times, this round is nothing new. And yet everything is new!

While Steve figures out what he needs to keep, what to sell, what to give away, what to store, what to recycle, and what to do with the remainder of his mountains of stuff, I am able to support his efforts without having my own entanglements to ensnare and slow us down. While he makes his transitions, I am anchorless. Drifting. And perhaps even approaching that deep, beautiful place in the heart where one is unattached yet fully engaged. For Steve it is an attractive feature. For me, it is something that I have worked years preparing for... that fateful moment in which opportunity breezes up, and I bravely let go and step aboard my future. Transforming indeed.

How does it feel? No job security?
No safety net? Am I afraid? Yes, I am afraid, but perhaps that is why I am doing it. I always sail straight toward my fears and right on through them to the freedom on the other side. Isn't that what freedom is? Not living our lives reacting to fear, but instead responding to love?

Perhaps the old cliche is true about home and heart. You know the one.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Help! House Angel Wanted

No, no we are not in trouble, but we do need some help. Our wonderful friend, house angel, and blog queen dearie, Polydora, must return to her Arkansas life at the end of the month. We had another friend lined up to stay at the house for September, but that arrangement has fallen through. So we are seeking somebody to look after the homestead for a few (3-5) weeks, feed Java the Cat, collect mail, and watch the forest grow. Lots of perks. Dates are flexible. If you are interested or know of somebody, please comment and leave your email. I will not publish the comment, so it will be private. Thanks for keeping us afloat.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Poem for Port Hadlock

last night the masts danced for the moon
tried holding her for a moment
then let her go to the wind
but she always came round
to tickle nomadness again

this morning mist woke the bay
with a soft wet kiss
teasing the little boats
who bob between light and night
she held back the sun
with her thick foggy tongue
and licked the sleep from our eyes

(Port Hadlock)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Otter play

Found this playful young otter on the docks at Port Ludlow. He is well known there by the staff who clean up after him at least once a day and have tagged him with an appropriate nickname.

Two summers ago at Port Hadlock I had the good fortune of seeing sixteen sea otters. A very rare sight. The sea otter was hunted to extinction in Washington nearly a hundred years ago for their fur which was "all the rage," as they say. Later,
in the 1970’s, conservationists reintroduced sea otters from Alaskan populations. They have reclaimed these shorelines and are surely thankful for the clean water here.

This little fellow is more likely the common river otter which seem to enjoy the salt water shallows.

I haven't really mastered the video thing yet, but thought I'd give it a go. I hope to do more video work as we travel about, but there is quite a learning curve to overcome.

Leaving Port Ludlow

We had a great stay in Port Ludlow in spite of having holes drilled into both the hull and deck and a huge compartment cut into the V-berth stowage (all for the great freedom of pooing aboard). Though we cringed as Bob of First Mate Marine broke bits while drilling, we enjoyed seeing the thickness of the steel. Wow! This baby is stout!

Here are some of the local folks we met:

Cragin and Gary of Estacada, Oregon aboard La Cragin are a delightful couple, who grow Christmas trees on 500 acres, and more like sailors than power boaters, so we got along just fine. Gary talked about their 4 foot draft and 7 knot cruising speed. "What's the hurry, anyway. You might as well enjoy the ride, right?" he asked with a grin. Now that's my kind of power boating!

Judy and Eugene sailed into Port Ludlow from Portland,
Oregon aboard Cloud Dancer, fourteen years ago and just stayed. Judy asked "How many times have you been up there?" as she pointed to the top of the mast. I admitted that I had not yet ventured the sixty feet up due to fear of heights. "I'm trying to overcome it though," I said squinting up at the antenna on top. Then she told me tales of chartering boats, cutting down sails in gales, and the calm of dawn on in the middle of the Pacific. They both assured me, "Nomadness will take you anywhere you want to go." They seemed to enjoy sharing with a newcomer and seeing the gleam in my eye when I spoke of world cruising. It is so inspirational to meet older couples who are fit and strong and still learning every day.

(Click to enlarge any photo)

Cindy and John, both physical therapists
, offered helpful tips for dealing with Steve's chronic back pain, but left for Princess Louisa with their lovely daughter, Journey, aboard Namaste before we could snap a picture.

Believe it or not, the most fun was had with a couple of landlubbers. Ray is a ham who has been following Steve's adventures since the bicycle days. He and his wife Nancy came down to the marina to meet Steve and see Nomadness. A couple of nights later we went into Port Townsend to see a fantastic sitar concert in a United Methodist church. "Music of Benares" featured Pandit Shivnath Mishra and his son Deobrat Mishra both on sitar. It was a real treat. I think I needed a healing experience to balance all the disruption of the previous week.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Self Observation and The Yachting Life

“Your husband gave us a tour of your boat last night; she’s beautiful and appears very capable. And I love your bathtub,” the redhead said eyeing their custom figurehead and swinging gently from the forestay.

“I know. It is just wonderful. We put in a new water heater recently. I need a lot of hot water. We have a washer/dryer too, you know,” replied the woman on the dock, as she sipped at her Scotch.

“Really? We have a washer/dryer too!” she responded, remembering not to mention that they had not yet tried it out. Her mini skirt fluttered in the breeze. The woman below raised her cocktail in solidarity.

This was one of those moments. The instant in which I do not relate to myself as my self, but rather objectively, as though watching a character in a movie. The “she” in the story was, in fact, me. I have made efforts to observe myself objectively for years, attempting to consciously create moments such as this one. I have struggled, usually without success, to be non-identified, to study my thoughts and behaviors in an analytical way. Detached yet present. In the aforementioned moment, I achieved this. So blatantly absurd in relation to the rest of my life was this moment, that the possibility of not “seeing” myself vanished. Who was this 44 year old woman aboard a 44’ sailboat, chatting it up and comparing amenities with another yachtie? Certainly nobody I recognized or identified as “me.” This particular I (one of many) is one I never dreamed I would become. And the rest of my I's seem to like her. She’s odd. Unexpected. Entertaining. The culmination of events that led me here could never have been predicted by a past incarnation of "me" much less be guessed by any outside observer. My path through the obstacle course of life has been erratic and roundabout, punctuated with adventures and misadventures, broken bones and broken hearts, and a few short periods of calm in which very little occurred at all.

I once heard of a society which views their orientation to time as backwards from ours; they face the past and move into the future without seeing where they are going. They know where they have been, but what lies ahead is always a mystery. I think this may be correct. I never could have seen this life, this person, coming! And yet, somehow I am inevitably exactly who I have always been, as unreal as it may seem sometimes.

In reality, we are ripping the forepeak of the boat apart for installation of a new holding tank while docked in Port Ludlow, a beautiful harbor with a friendly marina. Herons abound, the water is clean, clear, and filled with thousands of little fishies. We spend the evenings watching boats come and go from the anchorage, and the marina regulars are charming and helpful.

The first photo is of Enchantress, a 49’ Liberty sloop owned by Myndi Morgan and Steve Cross. The heron, who is owned by no one, is the self-assigned sentinel of the kayak dock.

PS: If anybody knows of the culture I refer to (which escapes me at the moment) please respond. I’d love to refresh my information bank. That tidbit came from a musty old catalog card from the farback of my memory.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Travel Update

We've been moving around a lot this week, so what follows is a general update of our journey.

After several days in Boston Harbor, we left Wednesday morning for a bit of South Sound exploring . It was warm and calm, so we wound up motoring up to Jarrell's Cove on the northern end of Hartstene Island. The State Marine Park lines one shore and a private marina the other. We snagged one of the many buoys and avoided the power boaters on the two park floats. We intended to kayak the long clear fingers of the inlet, but a very low (-3) tide left the ends dry, so we took the dinghy for a row and spent the rest of the night enjoying the still, still quiet.

Thursday evening we joined my library mates for a BBQ at Patty's waterfront house. Late that night Raina drove us back to the marina. Though it was raining and rather cold (damn will summer ever settle in?!) Raina braved the dinghy ride to come aboard for drink and some philosophizing.

Friday morning we took off with Boston Harbor as our destination where we needed to pick up a couple gauges
that had been shipped in for the fuel filters. Much to our surprise we hit some 20 -25 knot winds in Case Inlet and our first real taste of sailing! Steve delighted me by letting me have a go at handling Nomadness under some gusty conditions. I loved it! She sails like a dream, heels gently and remains steady at 7 knots. The winds were a bit squirrelly requiring close attention, but the water was amazingly smooth, no chop at all. Even with my novice clumsiness, she held nearly 4 knots through tacks and kicked up her heels right away.

We decided to furl in the sails upon entering the narrow and busier Dana Passage because we wanted to practice pulling them in under some load. The jib furled in easily just like it is supposed to. Before bringing in the main, Steve decided to start the motor in case we needed some power to keep her pointed up wind and went below to do so. I held the helm waiting... nothing. "Steve, is everything ok?" No response. I saw him opening the engine compartment--never a good sign. Then he popped up to say, "There's nothing. Nothing. Not even a click." Very quickly I assessed our position to the lee shore, the wind direction, our speed, the depth. I determined I could tack and keep us sailing under the main for quite awhile if need be. "We're ok," I called. "No, we're not. The engine won't start," he replied. I assured him all was well outside, and he had time to figure out the problem.

Steve fiddled with the fuel solenoid which has stuck in the off position before, but that wasn't the problem. He checked connectors, batteries and whatever else he could think of that might inhibit power. No luck. He threw all the breakers and tried again. Vrooom! She started. Probably just a coincidence, but at least she was running. We brought in the main and motored the last mile or so back to Boston Harbor. After circling a couple times, Steve docked without incident.

The Marina was hosting a BBQ so we joined the locals for a bite and beer as the winds died out and the sun set behind the Olympic Mountains. It had been a great day. "We survived another one," Steve proclaimed is his usual dramanautical way. Another party
ensued with Scotty, Chuck, Suzanne, Raina (who came back for more), Kelly, and young Rebecca aboard. Tales were told and spirits consumed.

Saturday we headed out early with tide under sunny skies and cruised through the Tacoma Narrows at 9 knots. We arrived in Eagle Harbor early evening and grabbed the linear buoy again.

Steve met up with his geek comrades, Dave Warman and Charlie Faddis, while I went to the Lynnwood Theatre and saw "Roman De Gare" a french thriller by director, Claude Lelouch
. 'Twas exactly what I needed, thanks TJ! Since I do intend to actually write screenplays, I better get out to the cinema once in awhile.

Sunday we sailed in light winds around Elliott Bay dodging ferries in slowmo and generally having a great day sailing up to 7 knots in light wind!

Steve did some nice maneuvering to get us docked and proved that this big girl will back up if you give her enough thrust. (Like any ole stubborn gal, I guess!) Currently, we are in Shilshole Marina. Sean, our cheerful and capable mechanic from Hatton Marine has just arrived to put the injectors back in. Woo hoo! We'll be back on the water in no time, and without that embarrassing smokey exhaust problem.

Monday, August 4, 2008


Although very common, there is nothing ordinary about these magnificent dark birds. They are excellent fishers and highly adaptable. They are said to have a penchant for vomiting when threatened. (I have considered using this method myself, but luckily, it has been a long time since I have felt threatened!) People blame cormorants for declining fish populations; these long necked black birds are the bane of fish farms everywhere.

I found this elegant bunch lounging about in the trees around Eagle Harbor.

What interests me is that here, in America, fishermen and aquaculturists shoot cormorants or employ other lethal methods of taking out the competition they sometimes refer to as "the black plague." Meanwhile conservationists boast the increase in populations of a species previously on the brink of extinction.
They are the topic of much controversy in Europe as well, and each nation seems to have their own attitude about the bird. A good article has been published by the Science Daily about the varying approaches to these birds.

In China, however there is a traditional method of fishing that claims one good cormorant can feed an entire family. At night, fishermen shine lights over the water to attract fish to the surface, then use a cormorant tethered by a ring around its neck to catch the fish. Because of the ring, the bird cannot swallow and thus spits up the fish whole. After enough fish have been caught for the night, the fishermen release the noose and let the birds eat. It must be quite a sight to see these men navigating their bamboo boats at night across the water, with the great black birds perched on their boats awaiting the signal to dive!

And as for fish farming, it seems, like many profitable endeavors, a good idea has turned into a disaster. I am currently reading "Bottomfeeder: How to Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood" by Taras Grescoe. Eye opening! He addresses health, ecological, social, and ethical issues surrounding the food we eat and how it gets to our tables. In one example, he sites a case where a single piece of salmon traveled over 22,000 miles before making it to a dinner plate! If you love seafood and want to make informed choices, I highly recommend this book.