Cruising to slow down the clock

drone islands sailboats

This is all going too fast.

Events that impressed deeply on our memories, still fresh, have tallied months distance despite feeling like they just happened: Sailing west again, towards Bonaire (three months). Remotely watching landfall for hurricane Irma (six months). Sailing away the USA for a while again (12 months). Saying goodbye to Utopia when we left South Africa (25 months). Setting out to cross the Indian Ocean (three years already?).

Looking ahead, milestones rush towards us and compress time again. On Friday March 9th, Totem will enter the Panama Canal to begin our two-day transit to the Pacific. This incredible event brings the coming milestones into sharper focus.

In about four weeks—just four weeks!—we expect to cross Totem’s outbound track in Zihuatenejo, Mexico, and technically complete our circumnavigation. Wow.

In about six weeks, Jamie and I will fly to Annapolis and deliver seminars as part of Cruisers University. When we signed on for it, the trip back to the USA seemed so far way. Only six weeks away?

In about four months, our family will be back on the home turf of Bainbridge island for the first time in nearly 10 years. That’s going to be here so soon! It’s going to be so good to see our friends and family after so many years. How did they years fly so fast?

I’ve wished so many times that life had a PAUSE button: the ability to freeze ourselves in some of the stunning, otherworldly destinations we’ve been lucky to visit. Like the year we crossed the South Pacific: in eight months we went from Mexico to Australia; many of our stops were only long enough to wait for a weather window to make the three- to five-day passage to the next island group ahead. That year was exceptional, but the year we crossed the Indian Ocean wasn’t terribly different, and we sailed even more miles in 2016 between South Africa and the USA… over 9,000 nautical miles. Fast. So many exceptional places.

Even when it’s felt like time is flying by, it’s the good fortune of experiencing exactly these stunning, otherworldly destinations that helps. There’s a theory that adding to retrievable memories creates the feeling of time slowing. That the more of this positive disruption you fit in, the better; they are speed bumps that extend the perception of time in our rear view mirror. This reminiscence effect makes sense at a gut level. Think about it this way: when everyday life has less differentiation that it blends together, and feels more like time is flying by… disrupt that with less predictable, more unique experiences to stretch it out. Not quite a pause button. But this is why we went cruising: to slow down time, and spend it together as a family. It didn’t occur to me there were theories and all that.

Kids in 2008, and this past year

Pictures like the above, taken during our first months of cruising (sailing under San Francisco’s Golden Gate bridge!) and taken in the last year of our growing-up-too-fast teens, warm my heart. It still feels like they flew by. But I’m grateful for the packed year of memories we’ve had, whether it can be bundled in psychology theory or not.

Of course, you can speed things up if you want. The World ARC fleet that we encountered in the Santa Marta marina gets around the globe in 15 months. It’s not our choice, but it’s still a great one for a year of incredible memories! But as one of those sailors we met there pointed out – this isn’t cruising, really. This is circumnavigating. There’s a different purpose for those crews, to accomplish a specific and remarkable achievement by sailing around the world.  Like when families go cruising for a sabbatical year, and choose to spend that a remarkable year in a small geographical region, exploring trails and language and culture and the mysteries of a starry night. Whether you lap the globe or hang out locally, there are so many ways to hit PAUSE and stretch out the time spent together with loved ones. IT’S ALL GOOD.

Care to follow Totem’s canal transit?

The Panama Canal authority actually has live cameras taking stills of the locks at several points! Here’s where to look. The master page of live cams is here: http://www.pancanal.com/eng/photo/camera-java.html Note: non-flash versions of the cams are working better for me… and some cams are simply not working at all.

On Friday, March 9, we’ll transit from the Caribbean side to Lake Gatun between 3:00 and 5:00, US Eastern Standard time. After anchoring overnight in Lake Gatun, we’ll transit the balance of locks to the Pacific side on Saturday – timing TBD. I’ll post updates on Facebook and Twitter, though.

The website shows cam locations. Here’s the Totems-eye-view of them. Isn’t it strange that to go to the Pacific, we travel… EAST more than west? And how about that collection of AIS targets near Totem’s current location? IT’S BUSY, FOLKS.

I’m equal parts excited and nervous about the next two days!

Once we get through the canal we have a challenges to face between Panama and the “safe” ground of Zihuatenejo. Two in particular: their names are Papagayo and Tehuano. You know it’s time to pay very close attention when weather effects get a vanity name! Take a look at the angrier colors on the map below and you’ll see what I mean… I’m sure we’ll have plenty to say about them soon enough.

Interested in Cruisers University?

Jamie and I are thrilled to both present at the Annapolis Boat Show’s Cruisers University this spring! We’re planning a pizzeria dinner with coaching clients as well, and can’t wait to catch up with friends. Sign up for two, three, or four day access depending on which sessions you’re interested in – and let us know if you’ll be there!

Healthcare in Paradise (Behan)
Cruising on a Budget – Gold, Silver & Bronze (Behan)
Cruising Docs – You Can’t Go Paperless (Behan)
Countdown to Cruising (Behan)
Top Newbie Cruising Mistakes (Behan)
Offshore Rigging & Sails (Jamie)
Crisis Management while Cruising (Jamie + Behan)

In addition, I’ll co-lead an intensive Cruising Women seminar. This is two full days of practical information and uncensored conversations, about skills, and tips about what it’s REALLY like to go cruising. Grateful, and honored, that my partner is the (irrepressible, enthusiastic, so fun to be around, and I’ll say it–iconic) Pam Wall. We both feel keenly about empowering women and want everyone to have a really good time in the process! Join us – or, get in touch with me if you want more information about the content, or any the sessions, really.

More haps!

Friends from the USA recently spent a week and a half aboard. The Waters family and their two teens helped create a pile of excellent memories (and brought a big pile of Stuff From The States, like – MAPLE SYRUP, which was dangerously low, our stash had a mere two tablespoons left!). Nica’s written about a day in the life aboard Totem on her blog, It’s an informed view, which you’d expect, because she and Jeremy went cruising before kids, again for a sabbatical with kids, and we are now scheming how to share anchorages in the South Pacific in another year or two… when they fledge the kids. Nica also has a food blog: on this weeks’ edition of Tasty Thursday, I teach her how to make one of my favorite cruising recipes. It’s a memory from the Maldives, it’s “exotic” but easy, and you can make it pretty much anywhere. Curious? Watch the episode and learn about Mashuni!

Also live today: our debut on a NON SAILING PODCAST. The guys at Verbal Shenanigans have a comedy program and did an excellent job of teasing stories about the cruising life out of me and Jamie, while getting us all to laugh. Possibly there was rum involved! Find it here: Totem interview starting around 12 min mark – the whys, the hows, some exceptional experiences, and a dose of everyday cruising life.

Looking for the Pause button

Life slows down when we fill it with exceptional memories. But meanwhile, we have no pause button for the days that fly by in Shelter Bay Marina on the Caribbean side of the Panama Canal. Totem has been here just over a week. My head is swimming with stories to tell about the last weeks in South America, but they’ll have to wait for now!

kids hats sunglasses boat

Totem kids, first year cruising

 

The power of the tribe

boat show Setup Carolyn and Lin

It’s barely 24 hours since I returned to Totem, rocking at anchor in Grenada. For nearly two weeks I was stateside, away from Jamie and the kids for what’s popularly known as “the Annapolis Boat Show.” The US Sailboat Show draws boaters from all over, and owns a reputation as THE show in north America. Two main roles filled my time at the event: for the first four days of the show, supporting legendary circumnavigator Lin Pardey in her booth, promoting the books she’s published (including Voyaging With Kids). Then, for four days I gave seminars at Cruisers U, working to inspire and educate gonna-go cruisers at the Naval Academy’s elegant Officers Club. Tucked between: a seminar and panel for Cruising World magazine.

Cruising World panel: Dave Gillespie, Wally Moran, Brittany Meyers, Diana Emmanuelli, and moi

Cruising World panel: Dave Gillespie, Wally Moran, Brittany Meyers, Diana Emmanuelli, and moi

Not gonna lie: this was series of long days without a break, a schedule that takes momentum to carry through. By necessity, my personal energy switch was flipped to “on” for the duration, from morning starts through evening events after the show closed for the day. On my feet most of the time, whether it was in the booth or in front of a classroom, there are a host of reasons this should have been exhausting. I dialed back on evening fun in the interest of self-preservation so I could hit the next day running: I worried about being able to get through on a high note.

As it turned out, there was a positive feedback loop at the show that kept me running. It feels so good to be among the tribe of people who “get it” – the fellow sailors who are, have, or aspire to take off and explore the world afloat. In fact, there was SO MUCH positive energy in this event that the only thing physically exhausted in its wake are my cheeks, which ache from so much smiling. Sharing my enthusiasm for cruising, passing that to others, feeds my soul.

Smiles and hugs booth

Lin’s booth was an all-star team of mostly-estrogen-powered fun. The open smile from past/future cruiser Nica Waters, my very good friend (and fellow admin at Women Who Sail), and open arms of The Boat Galley’s awesome Carolyn Shearlock got us dubbed the “smiles and hugs” booth thanks to the warm reception to visitors stopping by. We simply could not resist! All cruising questions answered, to the best of our breadth and depth.

Lin, Nica, me and Carolyn

Lin, Nica, me and Carolyn

Local sailor Craig was our rock, the guy who ducked back after hours to protect books when rain threatened (and knew exactly which pub to go for dinner nearby, and where to find Real Coffee). Together we made an indefatigable team.

Craig and Behan

What a joy to see the reactions and expressions people who have read Lin’s tales of her multi-circumnavigations over the years finally meet their hero. Meeting up with readers of the Sailing Totem blog and families who have been inspired by Voyaging With Kids gave me tremendous pleasure as well. It’s invigorating to share my enthusiasm for what we’ve done with people who may feel that their path towards cruising is ponderous or distant…to revive their conviction that all the planning, all the anticipation, are worth the time and effort…or those who just need a nudge of positive reinforcement.

And then there were the awesome humans like the Flora family, who came by with their three kids to talk about bluewater plans – and seeing how busy things were, came back to hand us lunch. Laurie & Alex, you are the  reason we ate on Friday afternoon, thank you!

Laurie and Alex Flora

Over the top were the Sailing Totem readers who showed up flying the colors: wearing our crew t-shirts at the show! I cannot tell you how very happy it made me to see them popping up around the show (one wearer, John from SV Last Chance, laughed with me saying “people keep asking me if I’m Jamie!”).

tshirt page

(These shirts are awesomely soft, comfy organic cotton—order them online here and send us a pic!)

Connecting with the show’s importance

In the stretch leading up to this journey I wasn’t the best partner or parent. Glued to my laptop preparing or refining presentations, making sure I was ready for the various seminars and panels where I’d speak, I didn’t have a lot of time for my family. In the middle of this stretch of work, one of our coaching clients wanted to know: is it worthwhile to attend the show? I couched my response in terms of the pros/cons: outlay to attend, vs value derived – a cold look at the tradeoffs, as we try to offer a balanced view with all coaching questions. Possibly due to the weight of prep, I was less positive than I might have been. That was wrong (sorry Jason, sorry Terry!).

John Mahowald - SV Last Chance

In the wake of a stimulating trip comes fresh appreciation for the true value of the show, for two reasons. First, it is communing with the cruising tribe. I AM ACCUSTOMED to the company of cruisers. Of course, right? But I remember all too well how the years leading up to our departure were most challenging when we felt disconnected from this particular band of humans. Staying in touch with the mutual love we have blended from wanderlust and water affinity that prompts us to set sail. It’s important to nurture, when you have a wait until you can cast off. In Annapolis, you are surrounded by your people, and at the US Sailboat show, the energy of this tribe boosts dreams into plans and realities.

With the unstoppable Pam Wall: my partner in the two-day Cruising Women seminar

With the unstoppable Pam Wall: my partner in the two-day Cruising Women seminar

Second, the opportunity to access tremendous expertise. Friend and longtime maritime world denizen, Bill Parlatore, asked recently (paraphrasing): why are people willing to ask important questions online, and then accept bad advice in responses from total strangers? (This, by the way, is a major reason why we offer coaching services to help people go cruising!). The Annapolis boat show, and seminar series in particular, is an excellent place to learn from people with real, relevant experience. People who have been there / done that and aren’t just hiding behind a screen, feeding a psychological need to be heard instead of actually being useful. They include subject matter experts, and range from legends like Jimmy Cornell and Nigel Calder to champions of the voyaging future like 59 North’s Andy & Mia. (Pinch me, I still can’t believe I’m on that roster?!).

Yes, it’s costly to go when you’re not local and have to book flights and accommodations on top of entry fees, and that has to be weighed. But the quality of information to be gleaned must be counted in addition to the intangible value in connecting with the tribe of fellow boaters WHO GET IT is tremendous.

THIS is why the trip did not flatten me: the cruising community’s cultural bias towards mutual support. The positivity in this knowledge sharing to promote a lifestyle that I believe—in my heart of hearts—makes the world a better place, well…it’s uplifting, and a boost instead of a drain.

Catching up with friends

On the edge of the show schedule were many happy reunions. The crews of FIVE boats–and even some of the boats!–that we knew mainly from Southeast Asia were in Annapolis: the happy chance to reconnect some years after we last shared an anchorage (besos to Rutea, Solstice, Kite, Camomile, and Hokule’a!). A memorable evening with one of our readers-turned-friends-turned-found family (John, I am so grateful to have you in our lives.). Catching up on life over the best pork ribs ever with local sailors we met last year. In what has become an annual event, my dear friend Cindy and her family—cruisers and long time Annapolis liveaboards—hosted an evening at their marina, feeding and watering and sharing friendship among this yearly circle of sailors. Another two-years-running-let’s-call-it-annual pizza night with couples and families Jamie and I work with as cruising coaches, put real humans to the Skype/Facetime relationships.

It is a great feeling helping people make their cruising dreams a reality!

It is a great feeling helping people make their cruising dreams a reality!

The admin team for Women Who Sail is TIGHT. We back each other up and mind-meld while moderating a group of about 13,000 women boaters. Having three of us together in one place? Priceless. Meeting dozens of other WWS members on the roof of Pussers? Unforgettable and heck yeah we’ll keep doing that every year!

With fellow admins Anne and Nica - I love these women! - and a host of WWS members

With fellow admins Anne and Nica – I love these women! – and a host of WWS members

Yes, I've been waiting a long time to meet awesome captain / ASA instructor Angie Wilson.

Yes, I’ve been waiting a long time to meet awesome captain / ASA instructor Angie Wilson.

Some of the old friends were actually first time in-person meets. Michael Robertson, one of my two co-authors for Voyaging With Kids, who I met for the very first time (I still need to meet Sara!). That’s right– I HAD NEVER MET MY CO-AUTHORS. We wrote that book entirely though email and Dropbox! And then– despite years of contact, and connection as fellow boat mamas, the show was the first time meeting Brittany Meyers (Windtraveler). We had an “almost meet” in Thailand a few years ago with Tasha Hacker (Chase the Story), who like Brittany was just so good to put hands on, and look in the eyes, and… shriek and laugh and generally revel in finally meeting up!

Behan- Brittany- Gretchen- Tasha annapolis 2017

It’s the sum of so much kindness of friends old and new. Booth delivery of the obligatory Painkiller (Mary Marie, would you believe that’s the only one I had the whole time?!) and gifts to bring back for our kids (you know who you are – xoxo!), and… well, ….this. Jamie posted to our Facebook page that he’d purchased a new top-loading washing machine in my absence (in shiny white, replacing the deteriorating blue model)…these fantastic readers couldn’t resist showing up at the booth with an improved plunger, designed specifically for agitating bucket laundry. Cracked me right up! The kids thank you!

boat show plunger - with inset- jen brett

Homeward bound

I gave myself a break on the way home. There was probably a faster way, but sleeping in and spending a gentle morning with the very special “found family” I have on SV Majestic… then flying to Florida for another night with two girlfriends in Miami… well. This was the restorative, high-JdS+Cover+Smallenergy-optional respite I needed to come down from the high of the show. As much as I thrive on sharing my enthusiasm, the break to relax in the company of friends who let me be my sometimes messy self was the necessary balm.

Casualty of an overfull mind, I left my Kindle behind in Miami. I thought I’d save this book (kindly inscribed by the author at the show) until back aboard Totem. Instead, Jean-du-Sud and the Magick Byrd, Yves Gelinas’ page turner—a memoir in the vein of Moitessier —carried me over the Caribbean sea, lost in the story of his southern ocean travails while he completed a solo circumnavigation. (Finally available in English, it’s just been published by 59 North: find it on their website, or get a Kindle edition from Amazon)

I read on the plane, watching the familiar shapes of Bahamian islands drift below, letting the many positive experiences of the trip sink in. For all the reasons above, and for many other little joys in the everyday that come from shifting our scenery and rhythm. Like the awesome Lyft driver, Edmund, who made such good company the first day I finagled to book him the rest of my stay. The maternal West Indian woman who fed me vegetables from her in-flight meal (mine didn’t look nutritious enough) will telling stories of her scattered family. The unexpected meet with future cruisers in what were otherwise cold over-chilled empty spaces in the airport lounge.

At some point I wondered if we’d be making it back to future shows but with fresh hindsight, I can’t imagine missing now. Jamie and I are already working out where we’ll be and which airport to fly from and can’t wait to be back next year.

In Miami with Kerry (ThumbsUp International) and Patty (Voyage into Healing)

In Miami with Kerry (ThumbsUp International) and Patty (Voyage into Healing)

You know you're with your tribe when they pick you up in a dinghy

You know you’re with your tribe when they pick you up in a dinghy

Two oceans of friendship, and counting

Two oceans of friendship, and counting

zach liz stineSailing Women rock- Galway pub

"As seen" at the boat show

“As seen” at the boat show