Sunday, January 1, 2017

Time to "ukubutha izinto sami"

1 Jan 2017
I picked up the new issue of O magazine – with Oprah herself splayed against the grandeur of a cotton candy-hued Grand Canyon, declaring 2017 “the year of your greatest adventures.
This clearly spoke to me. For years, wanderlust has been my opium, adventure my muse. I have lived nomadically, traveled globally, and made friends around the world.
But my gypsy lifestyle has resulted in a lack of routine and rigor I have found …. unbecoming. Just as my ‘stuff’ is spread all over the planet, I too have spread out a bit. Eep! “The year of your greatest adventures,” I’ve decided, doesn’t jibe with my life right now. I need some time to regroup.
So 2017 will be my year of getting my sh*t together. (I tried to find a cleverer way of saying this: in French it might be, “Bouge mon cul” … “Ukubutha izinto zami” in Zulu … or Maori: “Whiwhi whakaritea toku ora.” Much more civilized.)
A year of getting settled – not as in ‘settling for’ a compromise or consolation – but in allowing some roots to grow. Letting myself get grounded, and comfortable. Gathering and unearthing my stuff, taking treasures of out storage, exhuming paperwork, revisiting finances, getting organized. Taking classes/studies/workouts/whatever it takes, to get back to the foundation of who I am. ‘Including the good habits that will fuel the next 30 years.
And I can only do this thanks to Barry.

I enter 2017 with an unprecedented sense of affection, security, and excitement. Barry is generous in every way, an embracing partner who has offered me the warmth of his love and coziness of his lifestyle. And while the call of the wild has dominated my life for many years, I am looking forward to our lives - and escapades – together. My greatest adventure, indeed.

Sunday, November 8, 2015


The last week has been a blur – ARC seminars, boat chores, provisioning all day; parties and events every night. It will be good to get back to sea, if only to get more rest and dry out! But it’s been AMAZINGLY FUN with new friends, and new perspectives on old friends. I’m so pleased that twists of fate brought me not to Bermuda for the AC45s, nor to Panama (although I am standing by for more fun with Pamela & Paul there, when the time comes) but instead to Gran Canaria.
A long time ago, a cloud hung over my happy life – being that I could not have children, and seemed stymied in all attempts to start a family any way possible. And then one day: boom! I was a Mom! Unlike most people, who have nine months of ‘dawn’ to prepare for a child, I didn’t. I went from barren, to parenthood. It simply went from dark, to light. Glorious light.
So over the past few years – again, despite a very happy life – things have not been 100% what I’ve desired; and yet I’ve held tight to that hope, and that knowledge, that this was just the night, and that one day the sun would burst over the horizon. I think it has.

We set off today for Sao Vicente, Cabo Verde. I don’t’ expect to be online, but you can track EL GATO at  Keep us in your prayers for a safe passage please!


Sunday, November 1, 2015

The swiftness of night

30 OCT 2015 – 0615hrs

First light hung over the African coast as we approached Las Palmas, Gran Canaria.

We had seen the moon rise over Africa the night before: a deep ochre egg, streaked with clouds. It was not quite full, as if something had glanced over it and shaved off a bit. But it was still huge, and potent; illuminating the deck like a giant spotlight.

The next morning I was up for dawn patrol, and watched the peachy pink of first light paint the eastern sky like a rainbow: bands of pink, pale yellow, goldenrod, cornflower blue, blending into the raven night sky ... blotting out Venus, which just moments before had been so bright; and defining the silhouette of Isla Fuerteventura, now far astern.

Still a dozen miles out of Gran Canaria, the luminous blur we had seen all night came into focus, as thousands of pinpricks of light materialized on our bow.

In truth, I approached Las Palmas facing aft (east), entranced with the promise of the new day.

It took a whole hour for the sun to appear – from its first pale awakening, to a crescent of neon light that blushed the underbellies of the clouds, and painted the sea milky white. You could see the sun had already risen to the east, as the distant sky turned bluebonnet: their day had begun.

And finally, at last, a shard of light burst over the horizon, announcing our new day.

Sunrise takes so long, and yet sunset always seems so quick, so sudden.

One minute it is day, the next – night.

So it is in life.

I am still grieving the loss of my dear friend Sue, who passed away so suddenly. One moment her light still glimmered; the next – gone.

I am reminded of two things: firstly, we are spiritual beings, having a human experience. Her light still burns, but not in a concrete way. I need to keep my eyes open, to the unseen.

Secondly, a favorite essay, from Eduardo Galeano:

A man from the town of Negua, on the coast of Columbia, could climb into the sky.
On his return, he described his trip. He told how he had contemplated human life from on high. He said we are a sea of tiny flames.
“The world,” he revealed, “is a heap of people, a sea of tiny flames.”
Each person shines with his or her own light. No two flames are alike. There are big flames and little flames, flames of every color. Some people’s flames are so still they don’t even flicker in the wind, while others have wild flames that fill the air with sparks. Some foolish flames neither burn nor shed light, but others blaze with life so fiercely that you can’t look at them without blinking and if you approach, you shine in fire.”                       — from Eduardo Galeano’s “Book of Embraces”


Monday, October 26, 2015

Racing to Lanzarote

25 October

82 miles to go to Lanzarote and we need to slow down, so we don’t arrive in the dark.
But in truth, there are there other sailboats within sight, as we all converge on the Canaries, and Annie is on the helm. Annie: Olympian; champion; America’s Cup contender. So it’s a race. We put up the big white Code Zero – “Beluga” and pull a mile ahead of Hakuna Matata II to our stern; and start to reel in the Mystery Boat on the bow (they have no AIS beacon), ignoring Archipelago to starboard, as they are motoring.
The wind shifts: Beluga down, Stella up. Wind too far forward. Stella down, Beluga up.
Annie is timing us on the sail changes. TIMING US. Even though our current VMG will get us to the anchorage near midnight. All the while they are comparing notes on sail performance and polars, best wind angles and speeds for each sail, getting to know them.
The wind lightens up. Reluctantly – after hand steering the boat about four hours – she surrenders the helm to Otto (autohelm) and we douse the headsails, and crank on the iron genny. Game over, Annie heads off to the shower and a nap.
It is some of our only ‘excitement’ for the day, but that’s just fine. All systems are running smoothly, everyone is feeling good, and we’re in great spirits. Eric has been busy replacing the lifelines with hand-spliced “dynema” lines. While Annie raced the unsuspecting competitors, I cooked the remainder of the dorado - making fish tacos with the mish mash of stows onboard. It’s my creative outlet: making meals that get ‘oohs and ahhs’  - particularly as we try to eat first the foods that are about to ‘go off.’ It’s sort of like my own version of Iron Chef ;-/

When pigs fly

23 Oct 0100


A sail change kills an hour, most welcome at 1am.

EL GATO has some new sail inventory, so we experiment with our debutants, to determine the optimal conditions, angles and speed. “Stella” (every sail has a name, and this one – a sunflower yellow asymmetrical kite with a white star in the middle) has been floundering as the breeze has gone right, forcing us to head further west than desired. Annie and I get her down – this involves locating and running all the proper lines, in the pitch dark, making sure nothing’s foul, all while clipped onto jacklines that run across the boat aft, and up to the bow. Annie goes up to the bow, I alternately watch the sail, and the glow of her red headlamp, to make sure she’s still onboard. We snuff Stella, ease her down onto the deck, and jibe the main – all very measured and controlled; then determine we can unfurl “Gordo” (the fat Genoa) on this board, and commence that process.

Unlike racing, where everything is rushed (and you have a larger crew) every action is measured and cautious. Then we assess vmg, and settle in.

It’s odd what you can do in the middle of the night. Annie’s not sleepy yet, so she reads a book – ADRIFT – taking a break from the various manuals and tutorials. I clean up the dinner dishes, popping out on deck every 10 minutes to check the sails and traffic. One lone container ship passes astern 3nm; there’s a great deal more traffic going in and out of Casablanca, but we’re well outside of the shipping lanes so that’s moot.


23 Oct 645pm

Finally I slept a sweet peaceful slumber, not the fitful sleep of crazy boat dreams. I snuggled up across my bunk, leaned on my mountain of pillows and read, then closed my eyes, listening to gentle music. The motion of the boat was so calm, it felt like we were at the dock. The sky dull, making my otherwise bright cabin dark enough - I took a long lazy nap, until 530, when I roused to get ready for watch.

The sky is whitewashed gray, the water flat. It is sprinkling. Annie is making oatmeal cookies. I’m on deck til 9, but will find time to make some dinner in that time.

We have been following a pretty simple watch of three hours on, six hours off. With just three of us, it works well – no-one get stuck with the same watch. When Lewie joins us in the Canaries, we’ll mix it up.

I’ve done several watch schedules – 2 on at night, 3 at dusk and dawn, 4 during the day. 2 at night, 6 during the day. Or a straight 2 on, 2 off. And so on. Even so, we have tried to coordinate meals so we have at least one common (hot) meal ... today we decided to try to make lunch our ‘big’ meal of the day, and we did: we had curried chicken with rice and veggies. But then we had happy hour snacks ... and made pizzas for our dinner ... and Annie made cookies ... FAIL! We have all eaten tons of food – it seems a common theme on boats – which is good, I suppose. It means the sh*t isn’t hitting the fan. Sometimes you just need to eat, and sleep, in preparation for those times when eating (urp!) and sleeping (chaos) is impossible. But so far, that’s not our issue. We are just pigs!