First Reflections

After all the emotions of the packing up and all the saying goodbye, it's hard to believe that we're actually living on Endless Summer now. A space that is a little larger than your average living room, we now work on calling home. It still feels strange, this “mobile home”. Mobile in the sense that it almost constantly moves! Sometimes gently, sometimes not so gently (holding a warrior or triangle yoga pose for 5 full breaths was invented on land, let me tell you that). And mobile in the sense that we constantly move it places, meeting new people and finding new adventures every time (with everything that needs to be moved already neatly into place, what a relief!).

Sailing seems to be turning out to be about “going there”, “getting there”, and then moving on to the next “going there” (this does kind of mean that you're always doing what you want to be doing, although maybe not always at that precise moment.) It's a constant balancing, a ying-yang thing. There is the thrill of sailing and the rush of adrenaline when you have to dock or drop the anchor, which makes you feel very alive. Then comes the deserved rest and some peace of mind and a break of hard work hopefully. However, after a while, however beautiful it is, or however comfortable, this sense of needing to move on again surfaces. Luckily, so far we've been all 4 pretty much in sync with the timing for those moments.

Cruising around in a boat is continuous work. Yes, there are many moments of beauty, and gorgeous moments of peace and quiet, but generally there is always something that needs attention. It really isn't a vacation, most of the time. I guess that even though I did know that intellectually, it still wasn't easy to get used to. In a sense it is harder than life in a house in a neighborhood. The boat is a little city in itself, with plumbing, electricity, power (gas and diesel) ... contained in a small space, and you are the only one who's readily available to fix anything that goes wrong. This is the case in a more technical sense, and in an emotional and social sense. We all miss having friends around to share feelings and thoughts with. Even though we do call some of them every now and then, the sense of a support group is missing. I've heard in sailing circles that one establishes something similar to this along the way, that meeting people in similar situation automatically creates a common bond. We hope that's true.

People have been unfailingly friendly here. I'm especially thankful for the friendship and support that Trevor had given us. His presence has made the first month of preparing to leave a lot more bearable and infinitely more pleasant. I'm grateful for his friendship with Scott, which gave Scott someone trustworthily to bounce ideas off and to learn from. Because of his experience with building boats and living on them, Trevor gave us a lot of ideas and suggestions as to how to deal with that kind of lifestyle. I also thank Thea and Luke (his family) for welcoming us into their lives and home. It made us feel so much less lonely. Geoff Mercer also has shown to be a true friend, through many calls, several visits and small gifts, and giving us great adventures on Great Keppel Island (I do wish Dianna could have been here).

While I'm on the topic of talking about people ... I would like to express how impressed I am with Scott's enormous amount of knowledge, his genius ability for problem-solving, and his willingness to tackle boat-related problems. I've told him that I'm glad that the sailing part of this adventure was in a sense initially his dream, because compared to how the roles and distribution of labor where when we were at home, he's doing a lot of work. I'm not really used to that. In comparison with him, I get a lot more free time here, which I AM enjoying and not feeling too guilty about. I guess that, as the captain, he now really IS the head of the group, the “head of the household”, in a real practical way.

On the other hand, being on a boat means multiple roles for me to play, more than at home. I need to be housewife, cook, mother, teacher, wife, lover, first-mate, counselor etc. Each of these take turns suffering through not getting its full share of attention. Luckily, Nikki is a big help in the household and cooking department. Scott also takes more than his share of the cooking duties and the “major shopping before we leave on a week or more of no stores in the neighborhood” trips. I guess what takes most of my energy is the keeping it all together, maintaining an emotional stability on board and within myself. I find that when we sail, ES is a sailboat. I'm first-mate first, and try to be mother and teacher somewhat also, but the wife and lover part is almost totally absent and the “housewife” part is non-existent. Very little clean-up happens, and generally things turn rather messy rather soon. The amazing and rather nice part of this all is that I don't care at all! However, as soon as we anchor or get into a port, the housewife part takes over immediately. I'm not happy until ES has had a wash-down (even though a salt-water wash-down at anchor doesn't do that much), the windows have been wiped, the floor has been cleaned, the table-cloth is back on the table ... in other words: I'm not content until ES is a cozy house once again. When I'm off first-mate duty, I can relax again, and pull things together. I find time to spend some quiet time in bed in the morning to read and/or to meditate. I make time to do yoga, to just hang out and do some writing. That's also when the kids get their teacher back (probably somewhat to their dismay).

The kids have been a model to me of how to be unconcerned, how to trust ES, how to have fun instead of being anxious. They love to be up front when we're crashing through the waves, trying to get that weightlessness feeling, and jumping higher and higher while the boat slides down a wave. Tristan has picked up a lot from Scott along the way. He helps out with more technical stuff. He's also a leader in the “kids exploration” department, encouraging Nikki to come along and have fun. They show me the importance of exploring a new place as soon as you get there (instead of cleaning like a maniac first). I'm in a constant state of wonder at their ability to enjoy and entertain themselves. I love seeing them so independent. Just jumping off the boat and going snorkeling, giving us adults some quiet time (other times when we need a break from them we give them some money, send them on the surfboard to the island and tell them to get a treat and hang out there for a while)... Love seeing them grow up, and marvel at their ability to pick up new things and learn from them. I often wonder out loud “how do you know how to do this?”. Ah, to be a kid again! To automatically still know how to live life to the fullest in the present moment. I try to instill in them a sense of awareness of that feeling. I try to have them look at the ME in their experiences in what is a truly unique life-experience for them (even though they might just think of this life as “that's what our life is”). The kids are also learning to move out of their selfish little way of thinking, and are getting a little better at reading the situation and us. When things are a little tense because of some sailing related event (reefing the sail, docking etc), they are learning how not to bother us. We just can't deal with them at that time, and they need to back off until things have settled again. They're learning in these close quarters that cooperation and consideration for others, thinking of how their actions affect the others, makes for a much more pleasant environment. It also makes for a much more relaxed and, consequently, pleasant mother.

Being a sailboat, we need the wind to sail, and it is most pleasant to sail if this wind comes from another direction than straight ahead from where we want to go, and if it doesn't blow to hard, mostly because that creates bigger waves. For some anchorages and for sailing into some harbors we are dependent upon the tide level. All these elements vary constantly and are beyond our control, so we wait, and learn how to be patient and realize we don't have that much influence over what will happen next. The kids are slowly learning not to ask what we will be doing tomorrow or the day after ... the answer is always: ”We'll have to wait and see, you know we can't give you an answer right now”. You have to let go off needing to be in control of what life will be like from the one moment to the next, in a very real sense. You're so much more at the mercy of the elements than life on land prepares you for. On a deep level, some sense of reverence for life on our planet and for our planet itself starts to develop. It's impossible to feel safely on top of the food chain, it is no longer possible to feel competitive, one can only start to feel more at one with all the other creatures on earth. All this illusion of feeling in control, of feeling strong with all this external power, evaporates.

This is beautiful lesson to learn, in my opinion, and one of my reasons for wanting to go on this adventure. “Personality doesn't serve the accumulation of external power.” Our Western way of living has forgotten too much of this. Reverence for life and humility in living are hopefully the result of remembering this expression. The past few weeks have given me plenty of opportunity to practice this. First of all, I've had to let go of the image of the perfect boat. With all the technical problems and finding some practical design issues we'd change the next time around, I lost some of the feeling of trust and confidence in this adventure. However, in a very profound way, going through all that was actually exactly what needed to happen, because we, and especially Scott on a technical level, now know the boat much more intimately and will be able to fix problems along the way more confidently. I also had to let go of the idea of being equally competent and strong in this sailing business as Scott is. While we were getting ready to go, I still had my busy daily life happening as always, while Scott had more time to do a lot of reading and researching and he jumped way ahead of me in his knowledge of everything related to sailing ES. I am not feeling that I need to have equal knowledge anymore. I'm trusting I'll develop what I need to know along the way, and I do have (and always had) a very intuitive feel for sailing, which is my strong point. I've also had to learn to accept that I don't always have to be composed and show confidence. This new way of life has brought new insecurities and that's OK. I try to talk about how I feel, why I react the way I do to certain situations. This life is such a profound change from the secure life I'd been living before. I wrote in an email to a dear friend: “There is a lot of beauty in this kind of life, but you need nerves of steel.” A never-ending supply of courage is truly necessary. The courage to conquer fear or impatience in our situation first has to do with being prepared and keeping a cool head, but then it becomes all about “going with the flow” and surrendering control. When I get a little anxious, I remember that bad times are always followed by better times. I once read: “One can meet the Universe and all its irrational pain and anxieties -which really means meeting oneself- with fear or hatred or despair ... or one can choose to meet it with love, and the Universe could love back.” And to love is to love all: pain and joy, loss and reunion, life and death, light and dark, good and bad, anxiety and exhilaration ... all these things are really only one thing. Life encompasses opposites, non can exists without the other.

Which brings me to the following observation: the one thing about this sailing adventure that I thought would scare me most, turned out to be one of the things that I enjoy most: sailing at night. Sailing through the night gives me a powerful sense of being connected to the boat and to the Universe. It'sb just me and Endless Summer (and Otto, the automatic pilot), the stars, the moon, the water, and Eternity. No distractions, nobody to ask for my attention. The full force of the immensity of the Universe shows itself. In moments like this I can fully get in touch again with my intention to help bring Peace somehow, in whatever way I can make a contribution (synchronicity: at this very moment while I'm typing I'm listening to the following words on a CD by a Dutch singer: “dona nobis pacem” (Latin for “give us peace”) ... “If God exists is he then deaf to the prayers who beg since the Garden of Eden “give us peace”.) Throughout the boat hang Prayer Flags with sayings on them. The two in the main cabin say: “Wisdom: Knowledge, Intuition and Experience combine to guide us in thought and deed” and “ Courage: Not the absence of fear or despair but the strength to conquer them”. One of the three in our cabin: “Peace: To bring peace to the earth strive to make your own life peaceful”. For me, peace can only come about when one starts to develop wisdom, courage and a strong sense of compassion for all living beings. That includes, actually even starts with, oneself (I have more musings regarding this issue of “making your own life peaceful” which might be the topic of later writing).

When we sail, I still am slightly nauseous as soon as the wind gets above 15 knots, and the waves reach 1 meter or higher. Somehow, this doesn't happen at night. It must have something to do with how the kids and Scott are asleep, and I don't have as many concerns regarding safety and “everyone feeling good about this experience”, and I don't have to worry about showing anxiety. Consequently I have an easier time conquering it. I can just focus on myself and on the boat. I can do a full Energetic/meditative set-up which makes for a very spiritual few hours. In other words: I experience peace around me. Another great part of this sailing through the night is that, because the kids are asleep, this is a time for Scott and me to connect and spend some time together. It feels great to be able to work situations out together. One of us is “on watch” but we occasionally have to wake the other up for a tack or jibe or to just assess the situation when we seem to head straight for a big container ship or see a light blinking that isn't identified on the map. I also found that when (anxiety related) nausea hits, taking over the helm from Otto and sailing ES myself is a great way to cure it. I love to sail her, I love to feel her change when the wind changes, I love to feel her reaction when a wave hits. Otto is great, and necessary, but I feel much more connected when I sail ES myself. I feel more connected with ES and with the whole experience, and ... with myself. There is nothing like sailing on the open ocean to give you enormous amounts of time to reflect and just to be with yourself, staring into space (those of you who know Scott well, will understand right away now where the attraction for sailing comes from for him). Staring at Peace?

Well, so far this journey has shown me that it is very much about cherishing life, one step at a time. We focus on living today, on enjoying today/this very moment. I'm learning how to relinquish control (and not even secretly coveting it). I'm relaxing into going with the flow. Relaxing into having a less hectic life. Finding peace in what I do and where I am. I don't know the final destination of our journey, but I do know that I can choose what direction to take on this path to self-actualization and peace. It will be the direction toward working on developing all-encompassing compassion and practicing a healthy respect and reverence for life, embracing the Buddhist idea of unity of existence, because of the current which blows the jellies past the boat, because of kids confidently motoring the dingy to a place to go diving to find sand dollars, because of the finches who, sitting on the life-lines, sing us a song in the morning, because of the whale and its calf jumping out of the water, because of the wind who creates motion and sound, because of the waves playing percussion with the boat, because of the beautiful cycle of day and night, sun and moon and stars, because of friendships along the way, ... being aware and enjoying it all!