Quote of the Month

"Not all those who wander are lost." J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, 1954.

“We must change our attitudes toward the ocean. We must regard it as no longer a mystery, a menace, something so vast and invulnerable that we need not concern ourselves with it … Instead we want to explore the themes of the ocean’s existence—how it moves and breathes, how it experiences dramas and seasons, how it nourishes its hosts of living things, how it harmonizes the physical and biological rhythms of the whole earth, what hurts it and what feeds it—not least of all, what are its stories.” Jacques Yves Cousteau, 1910-1997.

"It's the glory of the sea that has turned my head." Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island, 1894.

"It is with you as with the sea: the most varied names are given to what is in the end only salt water." Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Maxims and Reflections, 1833.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sunday Shakedown Sail

Andariego's new inexpensive air conditioner


Mike Wagner
On Sunday, September 22, 2013, the autumnal equinox, I went for a little shakedown sail with two marina friends, Mike and Willy. They both have sailboats moored at Isleta Marina. Mike is a live-aboard with a dog named Pebbles, and works on construction for a living. Willy has a sailboat and a place on land where he sews canvas works for sailboats and furniture upholstery. They’ve both done work in Andariego.
Mike had helped me install a small air conditioner in the main cabin hatch. We attached rope handles to move it to the dock finger using a winch. I don’t want to sail with a bulky ac over the hatch. It had not been tested. I cannot lift an ac by myself but I can move it using winches. Willy had made the ac’s canvas cover, which can be left on when the ac is on or off protecting the digital elements from direct sunlight and rain, but with screen canvas on the back to allow air flow without taking the canvas off. It works beautifully.
Willy Angleró
We sailed from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. around the bay, wherever the wind blew, without a port in mind, just sailing. The t-shirt I wore said it all: Are we there yet? Who cares? All worked well, except we found a small rip at the head of the mainsail. Willy said he could fix it. I had used sail tape previously, but obviously that is not a permanent or reliable solution.
Mike took the helm for a while as we headed toward Palomino with a gentle ESE wind. It wasn’t windy enough for his taste, but enough for me preferring cruising to racing. Willy sailed toward Icacos, as we made a big loop to head back to port. As I sailed back in, all was handled smoothly, including the re-installation of the ac using the winch. The temperature outside was in the upper 90’s but the heat index indicated 103 degrees Fahrenheit. We celebrated a well-spent afternoon with a few cold beers. It was nice to have the ac cooling the main cabin again.
Eva's t-shirt


Stars as Teachers


The Egyptian Goddess Isis is often depicted as veiled, as noted in the picture of Auguste Puttemans (1866-1927), Statue of Isis, located at Herbert Hoover National Historic Site in Iowa (Wikimedia Commons). Isis is by no means the first or the last manifestation of the Mother Goddess. Her story, with Osiris and Horus, marks the passage of the sun, moon, and planets in the backdrop of stars. As most mythical stories, theirs evolved with humans’ first encounters with stars.
Primal myths are the stuff of primal astronomy – the extended metaphors our ancestors used to describe the cyclic movement of the celestial bodies; their infinity (consistency), births (appearances), deaths (disappearances), rebirths (re-appearances). When humans first looked at the stars in earnest and unveiled the adage, as above so below, they had no words to describe what they saw. Expressions of awe became syllables, and then metaphoric stories helping us to understand the lessons from our star teachers guiding us from dark (gu) to light (ru). They taught us how to connect stars to the cycle of the seasons, animal migrations, plant sprouting, climate, and spacetime. It is the story in the syllabic ancient Sanskrit mantra, sa-ta-na-ma (infinity, birth, death, rebirth). The story behind each syllable describes the passage of the Moon, Venus, the Sun, the Constellations, as well as the passage of Life on Earth.
The largest constellation, later known as Virgo, became the Great Mother (wisdom, Sophia), upholding the law (Libra), justice (Scorpio), sustenance (the Milky Way); this being only a small section of the observable ecliptic trajectory of 12 constellations, innumerable stars and the stuff of stars (planets, satellites, asteroids, life, dark matter).
            When we stopped looking at the sky for guidance to understand Mother Earth, these metaphors degenerated into religions and history (or twistory, as The Little Prince called it), blinding ourselves from what is hidden in plain sight in nature, trading harmony for disharmony. When was the last time you saw the stars? When was the last time you laid down on the ground (or a sailboat deck away from city lights) to see the passage of stars from east to west, as we move in rapid stillness from west to east? Only when we are ready to continue the natural evolution of our ancestors, from paupers to corporate giants, will we again begin to unveil Isis.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Missing You

I have been kept so busy at work lately--writing, writing, writing-- that I've missed logging in. I have sailed but missed writing my lately metaphysical 'Captain's Log' here. It is 6:00 a.m. As I prepare to go to Andariego, I am minded to write and commit to sharing sailing stories. May there be more entries in the coming months. Right now, I am also testing posting logs through my iPhone.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Ho, Ho, Ho

     To all sailing spirits who love the raw nature of the sea, the radiant light of the sun, a canopy of stars, and sharing with kindred souls.
      May the new year bring new shores to explore, gentle winds, and following seas.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Through My Looking Glass: The V-Berth Hatch


Jupiter (Institute of Technical Science, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR)

November 4, 2012, midnight hour, Isleta Marina.  Pleasantly exhausted after a day sail, I went to sleep early, around 9:00 p.m., in Andariego’s forward cabin. Sometime around midnight, the light of a star peeking through the V-berth hatch woke me up. I checked the Distant Suns and Star Walk apps in my iPhone. It was Jupiter. Overcast skies, only a few selected stars peeked through the veil of clouds at a time. The hatch is small so my selection was even more delimited—but rich.
Cancer Constellation (Wiki-The Stars in Cancer)
The first constellation I identified was Cancer, the Crab. The moon (waning gibbous, 66.7%) was astronomically in the Cancer Constellation. With intuitive imagination, I was able to see its pincers and form. This fascinated me, to the point of awe, because before going to sleep I had been reading a book (The Quest for the Zodiac: The Cosmic Code Beyond Astrology (1999) by John Lash) about the difference between the astronomy or sidereal ecliptic and the tropical astrology ecliptic, the stuff of popular horoscopes in newspapers. They don’t match.
Technically, you have to move one constellation back to get the actual constellation in the sky (not the horoscope sign) where the sun was on your birth date. Astronomically, mine would have been Cancer, a water element, rather than Leo, a fire element in the popular horoscope. Coincidence?
After cloud curtain calls in the hatch theater stage, I recognized Gemini, the Twins. Outside the ecliptic, I identified the little dog, Canis Minor. Then there was Orion, the Hunter, with his three shiny stars for a belt. As I dozed off, after Jupiter’s wake-up call in the midnight hours, I saw Aldebaran, the brightest star in Taurus, the bull’s eye. Sixty-eight light years away, Aldebaran, the red star, is a reminder of my life’s passage, and that looking at stars is to look into our past, individual and evolutionary. As one looks into the deepest depth of the universe (the self) even through the hatch of a small sailboat on a cloudy night, the book’s question invokes mental shivers: “How is humanity living through me?” (Lash 99).
The ‘writing-in-the-sky’ was not clear to me but at some deeper level, seeing the moon in Cancer after reading about it made me understand something I cannot express with words—a most difficult confession for a PhD linguist. In semiotic terms (a branch of linguistics that studies the meaning of signs), this is something that I want to pursue in my sailing adventures. Perhaps I can call it, astro-semiotics
I’ll finish this entry with a quote from Empedocles, a pre-Socratic philosopher: “A wanderer exiled from the great origins, in former times I was already a boy and a girl, a bush and a bird, a mute fish in the sea.” (Lash 89). I am a wanderer rediscovering the language of the stars. 

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Night Sail


    
On Friday, April 6, 2012, there was a full moon rising. It was the tail-end of a small craft advisory. The wind was still a little fresh with remnants of the north swells that had played some havoc the day before. It was perfect for a night sail. I checked the moon rise time in my AyeTides iPhone application; 6:42 p.m. AST. Sue, Mike, and I sat in Bona Roba (Sue's sailboat), and on a whim decided we had one hour to get Andariego ready for a night sail. We walked from dock A to dock B, and set to the task.
We left the dock at Isleta Marina sometime after sunset, which was at 6:37 p.m. The sun set behind dark clouds. It was dark, and indigo hues with silvery sparks engulfed us as we raised the mainsail and unfurled the jib. We left Isleta Marina to our starboard, as we headed to the lights at Cayo Lobos. The moon made her grand entrance between these two points; big, round, aflamed in yellow-orange tones midst indigo blues.
A balm for our sorrows, deceptions, as well as a toast to life, happiness, and all that is divine in us all. Impossible to capture this in a photo, Sue nonetheless made an attempt to photograph it, as we sailed so fast, bobbed up and down with occasional cockpit splashes, and danced with the waves and the wind.
There is something very special about sailing at night. The Fajardo Lighthouse becomes a guiding star, juxtaposed to the moon's mesmerizing lighthouse-like beam reflected on the water. Andariego's red and green tenuous headlights and orange glowing compass light were bearing witness to the three souls on board. A moment in time, a wakening call, the light in the darkness of our being.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Vive la Différence!

There is a difference between sailing with men and sailing with women. My attempt is not to state that one is better than the other, but that they're different and enjoyable in their own way.

Nelson, Bob, and Fred

Sunday, February 25, 2012.  Sailing with Men. There was a small craft advisory warning, ENE winds 15-18 knots with higher gusts, and the seas were 3-4 feet with north swells.  Sunny, threatening storms. The crew: Eva, Betty, Nelson (savvy sailor), Bob (former owner of an Island Packet 35), and Fred (twice winner of best sailor of the year award). The plan was to go to Palomino.


Normally, I wouldn't sail with a warning, but the men were keen. They were sea knowledgeable; the only kind of men with whom to sail, especially with a warning. We left the dock at 10:00 a.m. and returned at 1:00 p.m. It was very gusty, so we tried sailing with just the mainsail. The men displayed their best sailing rhetoric, argued about the best rigging for the weather, raised voices, cajoled, and insisted that in sailing, where quick, sharp decisions require fast reflexes, yelling is a must. And they yelled, and laughed, and boasted sailing strategies, and took in all the weather could muster. The weather obliged, sending high swells, gusts, and menacing clouds in the horizon.

Betty's body rebelled with all the tossing and turning; sea sickness engulfed her from beginning to end. A trooper nonetheless, she was a good sport, in spite of her mal de mer. The men were like athletes in extreme weather sports. Me, I learned a few strategies for rough weather sailing, which are always welcome. I enjoyed seeing how much weather Andariego could take with full sails and with the mainsail alone. For a brief moment, Andariego was heeling a good 30 degrees and we were washing boards. Though I did not enjoy the feeling (I certainly didn't want to see my keel while sailing that morning), I observed what he could take, before I requested to roll the jib, which the men did immediately. We never made Palomino.

Fred wrote in Andariego's log, "What a treat! ... Such a clean well cared for boat. Well equipped. Very impressed."  Nelson added, "Fantastico! ... It was a windy vigorous sail, and we got all we could handle without a reef. Beautiful boat too." Betty wrote, "... You were also so understanding and forgiving of these guys who yell! Thanks for the day and for your friendship." There was nothing to forgive; they were sailors having fun. I was also a sailor having fun. But then I saw a dark set of clouds in the distant horizon. I requested to return and call it a day. A great crew, they went through all the motions to head back. Nelson checked his radar connection and verified that indeed it was a strong weather front. He added in the log, "You're a good weather forecaster." As we docked, Fred missed grabbing the aft lines (the break) with the hook and I tapped the dock box with the pulpit. No damage done, but not a smooth docking. The rain started so we had our lunch in the main cabin. We hosed the boat and left Andariego immediately to catch the ferry back home.

Punta Águila, Palomino
Friday, March 2, 2012. Sailing with Women. There was an 'exercise caution' advisory but no major warnings, ENE winds 14-17 knots, and the seas were 3-5 feet.  Sunny with scattered clouds. The crew: Eva, Betty, Margarita, Sue, and María. The plan was to go to Palomino.

We sailed out at 11:15 a.m. and returned at 5:15 p.m. Everyone was assigned a task as we were docking out: bow lines, starboard spring lines, port side, aft lines. I had to go in reverse making sure not to hit any of the concrete fingers and columns on the way. The crew was ready to fend off from their post. It was done smoothly.

As we headed out, the food (enough for a weekend sail) was put away, waters served and the conversations started. As we passed our first green marker, we got ready to raise the main. It was jammed halfway up. In a Socratic mode of problem solving, we asked questions, checked, asked questions again, until we realized the main halyard was jammed by the lazy jacks. Sue sorted it out and Maria raised the main without a problem. Sue was behind the helm most of the way. We sailed with the main for a while, until the wind subsided. We unfurled the jib, and with two tacks, we sailed straight to Palomino. All sails down without a hitch, we caught a mooring on our first try, celebrated our sail and had a regal lunch. Margarita brought homemade hommus and grapes. Betty made her famous Gazpacho soup. There was tarragon dip and Maria's dip with pimentos. Wheat roll-ups, marzipan, pan sobao, Margarita's mojito with yerbabuena, and wines.

Betty and Eva
Then we went for a swim. We talked and listened to jazz. While I was in the water floating about and enjoying the day, I looked at my watch, thinking it was shortly after noon. It was nearly 4:00 p.m. We put away leftover goodies and sailed into the sunset with the wind on our backs. A smooth sunset sail, we docked quietly, without any glitches. Betty was never seasick and remarked in the log, "Best captain, best crew, and absolutely my best ever day of sailing. I'll never forget it ..."

We packed and cleaned up. Some had to go; most stayed. Then we sat down in the cockpit area as it darkened, sharing thoughts of the day and about sails to come. Someone looked up the mast and noticed the moon just above it, as someone else softly remarked that Andariego had an awesome anchor light.
and the rainbow welcomed us back

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Puppy Rottweiler, Geese, Dead Batteries, New and Dear Friends


Cielito, Ceiba with Palomino in the distance

Friday, February 3. I met with dear friends and fellow sailors (Sue, Margarita, Betty and me) in Cielito, Ceiba to celebrate life. From Sue’s beautiful home, one can see Palomino, the island that, little did I know, I would sail to in the morning. After an 8-hour lunch and joyful day, I spent the night in Andariego.
Four sailing women on land
Saturday, February 4. The plan was to sail with Ángel and his young family early on Saturday morning to Luis Peña. There were five souls in Andariego. The engine would not start in the morning. After much problem-solving, that which true sailors do best, it was deduced that the batteries were faulty. Neill, in San Juan, helped us conclude that the lead oxide in the old batteries had been converted to lead sulfate, short-circuiting against its next-door serial neighbor. We took both batteries to West Marine, where their meter declared them dead batteries and adviced, “Replace Batteries.” New batteries later, the engine started without a problem. Our late afternoon start made us reconsider our destination. We sailed to Palomino instead.
As we left Isleta Marina, I saw a black small head in the water. At first I thought it was a turtle, then a seal (but the last Caribbean Monk Seal spotted in these waters was in 1952, now extinct), finally realizing it was a small dog. The puppy Rottweiler was swimming toward Andariego, seeing us as his only salvation. Had we not passed by, he would have swam himself to exhaustion; there was no shore nearby. I went in reverse, as Ángel grabbed the net on a long pole from down below. The puppy was rescued in the net, brought aboard, and wrapped in a towel. We went back to the dock and gave the puppy to Kurk, from Andariego’s next-dock sailboat. I live with two rescued dogs at home, Desie and Falcor, but I never thought I’d rescue a dog at sea. We felt very proud, happy, and celebrated the successful rescue quite a ways into Palomino.
We grabbed a mooring on Palomino’s north side, near the interesting rock formations, protected by the hill from east winds. Ángel, a geologist, explained how the rocks that look like stacked blocks were natural formations, shaped mainly by the rain. After a swim and an early night, scattered clouds played peek-a-boo with the moon, and played misty on me, until I secured the hatches.
Palomino sunrise
Sunday, February 5. The sea gremlins were not done with their mischief after rendering the old batteries useless. The engine started beautifully in the morning, but the gas stove died soon after starting it. The meter read that there was propane gas left; it was lying. The Cobb barbecue came to the rescue. Ángel managed to almost boil water in the Cobb, enough to make coffee. He made scrambled eggs with cheese for all on a flat pan on the coals. For lunch, you guessed it, a barbecue grill. Midst barbecue extravaganzas, we saw a flock of geese flying northwest in perfect V-formation. South to north, north to south, without a stop in the tropics. What a treat to see these beautiful birds flying so high in their ancient migratory display.
We docked in the afternoon, and my new friends helped to clean Andariego after our short adventure, making him look shiny and new, ready for the next new adventures.
Andariego's new caring friends

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Happy Christmas Sailing




Qué el lucero de la Navidad nos guíe a un rumbo de pax in terra,
Qué en el silencio del mar oigamos la música cósmica de las esferas,
 y nos deleitemos en la creación del universo.
Somos estrellas, peces, y naves,
árboles, piedras, arena, y plancton,
viento, agua, tierra, y fuego – infinito
Qué no olvidemos nunca ser y estar maravillados en este mundo encantado.


May the Christmas evening star guide us towards pax in terra,
In the silence of the sea, may we listen to the cosmic music of the spheres,
and delight in the creation of the universe.
We are stars, fish, and sailing vessels,
trees, stones, sand, and plankton,
wind, water, earth, and fire – infinity
May we never forget our sense of wonder in this enchanted world.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Irene, Leda and the Swan


Andariego after Tropical Storm Irene

            Tropical Storm Irene became Hurricane Irene, Category 1, as it crossed the island of Puerto Rico. It is not about what category a hurricane is. It is about the things that come alive around you as the hurricane passes. The water nymph that enlivened the wind infused life on a distant zinc plank. Its new grown wings sent the plank directly to Andariego’s jib. It locked itself around the rope that was keeping the jib taut in its stay during the storm. Like the white skirt of a Turk dancing dervish, it twirled round and round the forestay, cutting and unwrapping its prize, searching for its beloved in the sublimity of nature. The gusty Naiad that forced the plank unto Andariego’s wings went on to other mischief. And the zinc’s lifeless form dropped to the deck, bouncing to Davy Jones’ locker. Andariego was the swan that dropped Leda from its beak, to a final resting place.
            Twelve lines kept Andariego from hitting concrete docks and nearby boats. Hull intact, cabins dry, Irene went on to cause chaos on Andariego’s friends, near and far. In our marina, two boats sank and many sustained major and minor damages. All one can do is be thankful and better prepared for the next one, for the next one cometh.
Leda and the Swan

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Sound of Sailing

Sailing past Cabeza de Perro

Friday, July 29 to Sunday, July 31, 2011. Friday afternoon Marisol, Fabián and I prepared Andariego for a weekend sail to Punta Arenas, Vieques (19 nautical miles). Clean linen, food, water, music, solar chargers, general check-ups and cleaning. We had an early night, to get up early at 6:00 a.m., have a leisure morning and set sail at 8:30 a.m. Sue, the captain of Bona Roba, a beautiful Hans Christian classic, joined us for our sail Saturday morning—three women and a young man.
Marisol on the lookout
We set sail at 9:30 a.m., blue skies with distant thunderheads, east winds from 12 to 16 knots, and a pleasant beamy sail averaging 4 to 5 knots, had us there in 3-odd hours. The wind blew through the fishing rod stainless steel holder and made a gentle whistling sound. The wind was whispering sweet nothings through Andariego. The sound of the wind on the sails, the rush of the water against the hull, and aft foamy crescendos rivaled Mozart’s Jupiter in that allegro vivace first movement.
 As we approached Punta Arenas, we found a faulty mooring and opted to anchor nearby on a sandy spot, facing Monte Pirata. A police boat went by twice, perhaps wondering where the men were … ha! On our last sail, we moored on the first try, and later on we watched a sailboat with a French name and 4 men give up mooring after 3 tries. After we anchored, our 13-year-old young man was hungry, and the barbecue was started. Fabián checked the anchor 3 times; any excuse to snorkel further than the 3 feet distance from the sailboat required. Sue made a super salad with mango dressing, and Marisol made barbecued spare ribs. Lots of water, some spirits and Kenny Chesney’s key lime pie song, Jimmy Buffet’s 5-o’clock somewhere, and Martinique’s Compagnie Creole’s k-dance rhythms reminded us of friends not present—Neill, Bob, Brenda, Margarita, Michael, Silvia, Ramón, Tessie, Francisco, … We toasted to us and those unable to share the sunset from Punta Arenas. Dark clouds covered El Yunque rainforest, yonder in the rainy Puerto Rico mainland.
Sue at the helm
As the night drew near, Fabián signed-off early to his cabin (all that anchor watching), and we three females laid down at the bow’s deck to look at the stars; we played Chopin’s Nocturne in B flat minor. A moonless night, we saw infinite numbers of stars and the Milky Way. Sue was at the starboard side, Marisol at the port side, and I was in the middle. Feet towards the pulpit, a choir of crickets joined Chopin, along with the music of the spheres. I was recently reading a book, Song of the Spine: Sound healing and vibrational therapy (2004) by Dr. June Leslie Wieder, in which she states that: “Astronomers have recently discovered that a black hole in the Perseus star cluster emits a B-flat sound wave 57 octaves below the middle B-flat on a piano.” Chopin must have known something. In that primordial B-flat, we were connected to the sound of the universe.
           Sunday morning was Mozart’s Jupiter symphony, energizing us to welcome a glorious sunrise. I prepared coffee and we joined the morning in the cockpit, along with distant neighbors, a catamaran, a sloop and a couple of even more distant motorboats. The weather announced yet more distant rumors of a possible hurricane Emily forming, 2-3 days away. We opted to leave at 11:00 a.m. after swimming and tidying up. Marisol brought up the anchor (so proud of her), and everyone took turns behind the helm. A superb sailing team! On the sail back, we were threatened by 4 squall-like fronts, which we luckily avoided swiftly. As we approached our bay entrance, the wind died down, and we were running at 1.8 knots. A sailboat named Adagio passed us. Adagio is a slow musical piece, appropriate for our finale. No hurry, but for that looming black cloud I wished away as we approached the dock. Molto allegro, Jupiter’s fourth and last movement, very happy, sums up the sound of sailing.
Bliss at 13 - Fabián

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Sailing in the New Planet


Capturing Sunset from Palomino Island--Fabian and Brenda

            July 18-20, 2011. The planet is changing. To some, it has already changed, and we must adapt. In Bill McKibben’s book, Eaarth: Making a life on a tough new planet, we are reminded that, “it suddenly rains harder and faster than it has ever rained before … global warming is no longer a philosophical threat, no longer a future threat, no longer a threat at all. It’s our reality.” In Puerto Rico, it has been raining since spring, unheard of before, and as I write this, there’s a thunderstorm outside.
Testing the Cobb BBQ
Monday afternoon, Marisol, Fabián and I went to Andariego at Isleta Marina to get ready to sail early next morning. We drove in the rain. We aired the sailboat as we prepared cabins, galley, and checked the engine, rigging, hull, and so on down the checklist. As the evening approached fast, we started the Cobb BBQ, finding a niche for it on the helmsperson’s seat, under the bimini. I’ve used the Cobb before for sailing, but this was the first time in Andariego. I bought this grill in a West Marine in Connecticut many years ago. They don’t sell them anymore, but they are available directly from the South Africa/Florida website. They’re very good on a boat, because they don’t get hot in the bottom or sides, and they use very little charcoal. We used local vegetable charcoal from Adjuntas. Marisol was the chef on this trip, which she performed exquisitely. We barbecued three times in our overnight sail to Palomino.
Selkies--Marisol and Brenda. Palomino's hill
            Early next morning, Brenda joined us. There were overcast skies, but it was clearing up in the east, and we set sail at around 8:30 a.m. It was a bit blustery and choppy, so we reefed the main. Three women and a child (well, a 13-year-old young man), we zigzagged into the wind to Palomino. Fabián was a little seasick, but by the time we moored, at about 10:00 a.m., his cheeks were rosy again. We grabbed a mooring, first try, right behind Palomino’s mountain for protection. We had ALL the Palomino moorings to choose from; one of the advantages of sailing on a weekday. Fabián spied, using binoculars, a big pelican in a nest high up on the hill. S/he was magnificent on her perch. We saw turtles and their favorite treat, jellyfish. There were seagulls, brown boobies, plus the chickens and roosters on the hill. A large fish remained under Andariego for the length of our stay. We threw breadcrumbs overboard and fish came by, but not in the profusion they came when I was younger, when it was actually scary to be surrounded by such a large ball of fish. The planet has changed: “We need now to understand the world we’ve created and consider—urgently—how to live in it.” McKibben’s message may sound depressing at first, but as we understand and embrace the reality, we just might learn to live with and not against nature. He further states: “Maturity is not the opposite of hope; it’s what makes hope possible.” I see hope in Fabián’s eyes. He was another sea creature in the water. We joined him in the fun. We basked on Andariego as seals on rocky mounds. Selkies rising from the sea to assume women forms on land.
            Andariego uses a solar panel to charge and start the engine. We use small solar lamps after dark, and charge our cell phones with solar and wind chargers. Somewhat un-tethered from land oil-based energy sources, weaning from oil seems difficult but not impossible. I say somewhat, because Grendel, the engine, still uses oil and diesel. There are hardy sailors out there who have rid themselves of the engine on board, living aboard and sailing on wind and solar power.
            Tuesday night it rained, but just past midnight, the moon peeked in through the hatches, as if telling us that there is still beauty in the tough new planet. We must also become tough, but with a gentle heart.
            Wednesday morning we sailed back unto the darkened, cloud covered Yunque rain forest. At 9:30 a.m. we were back at Isleta. Brenda had a land appointment. She made a comment on how smoothly and quietly we docked. Everyone had an assigned task—bow lines, aft portside lines, starboard spring lines, with me behind the helm. Calm under pressure is a call for the new planet. McKibben notes: “This is the current inventory: more thunder, more lightning, less ice.” It is important to learn about this new reality from books, but it is equally, if not more important, to witness it and live it directly with nature.
Last barbie bites

Sunday, July 17, 2011

An Unexpected Sail



Fabián's First Sail
Friday, July 15, 2011. It’s been raining so much, with lightning, thunder and heavy winds that it has been hard to squeeze in a good day’s sail. I decided to take some engine parts and equipment to the sailboat anyway, under the rain. I asked Marisol and her 13-year old son Fabián to help me with the stuff. When we got on board, at about 2:00 p.m., the plan was to turn around and get back home before 8:00 p.m. The sun peeked out and beckoned. And then I thought, why not shake the sails out, go for a little spin, and the wind beckoned.
Fabián had never been sailing. Polito was near the dock. He joined us, why not? Andariego beckoned. We went out, just to go out, shake the sails, and come back. We passed green can #3, raised the sails, rainwater oozed out of the canvas covers. There was very little wind. We laughed as we close-hauled at 1.5 knots. Fabián went up to the pulpit and played Titanic lover boy with arms spread. We laughed at his excitement. He explored Andariego, touched this, asked that, and I loved seeing a 13 year-old’s first sailing experience.
When it comes to sailing, there are those who love it and those who hate it, and no in-betweens. Fabián loved it. We couldn’t just turn around, so we sailed to Icacos Island. We anchored. He used my snorkeling equipment and discovered the keel, checked the anchor, and checked out the fish as he swam around Andariego I don’t know how many times. The water beckoned.
On a beam and a broad reach, we sailed back. I showed Fabián how to fix on a land point, the compass, the wind marker, the tell-tales, how to focus and yet look around. I let him have a feel for the helm, thinking he’d give it back in no time. He not only took us back to the bay’s entrance, but he sailed like a natural. I was amazed at the depth of concentration of a 13-year old boy on his first sail ever. Pure magic. We made it back home close to midnight. Sailing beckoned.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Grendel and Grendel's Mother


Uruguay and assistant

Grendel and Grendel’s mother were misunderstood monsters in the Anglo-Saxon epic poem, Beowulf, considered among the oldest literary pieces in the English language (Old English). Those misunderstood, mysterious creatures that delve in caves, dark and underground, surfacing only when they cause problems, most often provoked by humans, which can lead to danger or even death. I think of Andariego’s propeller shaft as Grendel, and the engine as Grendel’s mother, both intertwined as Grendel.
Andariego hauled out at Isleta Marina
Tuesday, June 28. Andariego was making a strange bumping noise when accelerated gently in reverse or forward. It was hauled out for a check. The bushing and PSS (packless sealing system) in the propeller shaft, Grendel, were replaced, and the problem solved. The propeller shaft starts, as an umbilical cord at the end of the engine’s dark cave in the sailboat’s gut and travels deep underwater as the monster’s long arm, ending in the propeller. While hauled out, Andariego was in Salomón’s care, as he said, “…con amor y cariño” (with love and care). Andariego’s bottom was cleaned, and the sides shined. It’s pending a super deck wash, due to little water pressure in the marina. In the epic poem, Beowulf cut off Grendel’s arm, provoking the wrath of Grendel’s mother. No need for such drastic measures.
Broken transmission dipstick
and filthy filter
Saturday, June 25. Grendel’s mother, the engine, so attached to her child, had her periodic maintenance. No need to wait for her to attack. The pre-emptive measures were: oil and diesel filter changes, gaskets, oil change, impeller, and replacement of a broken transmission dipstick. Two hours later, the engine mechanic, a very savvy old timer, Uruguay (nicknamed after his country of origin), asked me to start the engine. He stood there listening, as I stood behind the helm watching him and wondering why he was taking so long. He was listening. After a pregnant moment he said, “Suena bien.” (She sounds well.). How sweet the sound! If I could only learn to hear Grendel’s subtle sounds, like Uruguay! He is truly an engine guru.
          A little TLC (tender loving care) may appease the monsters for sometime. We’ll visit their dark realms again some 300 engine miles from now, or in a year, whichever one comes first. Or then again, before, if they decide to attack.
Grendel appeased

Friday, May 13, 2011

Sailing with Friends

Brenda and Eva
My friend and work colleague, Brenda, joined Marisol, Polito and me for a Sunday sail to Icacos. We were lucky to find a mooring, just as another boat was leaving it. It was one of those lazy Sundays where we mucked about in the sailboat, splashed in the water, talked and enjoyed the silence of contemplation.

We left Isleta Marina at 11:30 a.m. and returned at around 5:30 p.m. (4/23/11). A wind from the east, 10-15 knots, and seas 4-5 feet, made for a pleasant Caribbean blue seascape. Andariego blended with the wind and the sea, and we merged in the aqua-blue rendering. The Tao of Sailing (1990) by Ray Grigg, describes the silent power of the sailboat. “The sailboat itself is an image of this special way of being. It is resourceful, adaptive, silent. From the silence of its weight and shape comes a power that is peaceful and strong, serene and exciting, a belonging that does not trespass or counter the breathing wind and sea. So the ship moves in accord with the energy that is attendant, affirming itself and its harmony with the Great Mother.”  We belonged.
Andariego at Isleta Marina