Friday, December 22, 2017

Christmas, Post-Cruising -- Just Aint the Same

Kudos to brilliantly witty cruising cartoonist Sarah Steenland for cannily capturing what tropical cruisers do for the holidays versus "the rest of us."  Check Sarah Steenland's FB page to tickle your funny bone some more.
What do the holidays mean to you?

Last year we celebrated Christmas day getting an all-over tan on one of Sydney's sunny beaches.  The prior four years we joined fellow cruisers in festivities, whether it was a get-together at a local restaurant or a potluck on the beaches of New Zealand.

This year's celebrations start after I close the evening tills at West Marineexiting into freezing temperatures. At least we close an hour earlier that night.  "Gift cards, anyone?"  

Wayne works Christmas night, his usual graveyard shift at Horizon Air.

Christmas afternoon, thanks to prompting from a good friend, we'll resume our US "Jewish Christmas" tradition of the movies and Chinese food out.

After 5 years, it was nice to light my menorah for Hannukah -- one of the few items we kept in our minimal storage whilst cruising. For the first time in my life, I had to jog my memory for some of the Hebrew blessing over the candles.  That was a shocker.  It came back quickly -- whew!

As live-aboards, Wayne viewed my little nordic pine, our lone concession to Christmas decor as "one more thing on the counter." Clutter is the enemy in small spaces.  I found it a better home.  

The ability to catch up with my scattered family for the holidays over US phone systems -- if not in person -- was nice. Part of our return here was prompted by a desire to spend time with family. Bit by bit we're making the rounds.

Crossing the Sauvie Island bridge, we caught the tail-end of Portland's fabulous Christmas ship parade on the way to a colleague's marina. There we joined the congenial crowd, toasting to the ship's passing and swapped cruising tales in the marina's aptly named and unapologetically ramshackle "Man Cave."  

Cruising taught us it is presence, not presents that make our most cherished holiday memories.  We have no idea where we'll be in a year.

Wherever you are, whatever you're doing, whoever you're with in spirit or in real life -- we wish you a Happy Holiday and an Awesome New Year.  Especially, Steve and Patty of Armagh, who our best Christmas gift would be finding out you've arrived safely in Hawaii after you long passage from Samoa.

Location Location
We're hunkered in Portland Oregon (N45.47.449 W122.47.189), living aboard the good ship Serendipity, where we still embrace a relatively simple lifestyle, thanks to the generosity of our friends Larry and Nancy.

Up Next
Please pardon the light posts.  There really truly are still some catch-up posts and still some adventures ahead.  Meanwhile, when not working or doing some freelance writing gigs, my writing time is getting gobbled to complete my first e-book -- about cruising!  The goal is to finish it in time to be orderable for Seattle's Boat Show in late January.  Just started it about a week ago - so it will be a push.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving Cruising: Sweet Memories

Thanksgiving... Thankfulness at its best requires fond reflection.  Given my hiatus from blogging and cruising of late, the time seems right for a nostalgic blast from the past, as well as an breif update.  Indeed, we have much to be grateful for -- this is but a teeny tiny piece of it.  

We trust that if you are reading this post now, you too are blessed with internet access you are by its very nature connected and also probably not starving.

What is cruising like on Thanksgiving, celebrated in places far from family?  
Here's a quick recap on our last 5 years spent somewhere other than home, although in many ways, wherever we were at the moment, aboard the good ship Journey, was home for us.

2016:  Our Most Untraditional -- Fraser Island, Australia
Chris and Chris of Scintilla, a few days before Thanksgiving at Fraser Island's resort bar,
where I was finally able to repay them for picking up our drinks in Vanuatu.
Fellow "Yanks" (the nicer term Ozzies use for those of us hailing from the USA) Chris and Chris of Scintilla, who call themselves "C2" eagerly organized hosted Thanksgiving dinner with us and another Statesider, Eve of Auntie.  

It was kinda different to be in a UNESCO world heritage site for Thanksgiving last year, "stuck" there a bit longer than anticipated do to challenging sailing conditions.  Our larders were pathetic and grocery shopping in this remote natural treasure was not an option.  No turkey, no cranberry anything, no sweet potatoes, no stuffing, and no pumpkin pie.  Even if we hadn't been on Fraser Island, turkey was not common in Australia or New Zealand.  The only meat we had left was about a half-dozen frozen chicken drumsticks and one chicken breast. While none of us had the traditional trimmings, we had each other, and the right spirit.  And it was good -- right down to seeing real, live pink dolphins (which did not eat!).  

Thank you Chris and Chris and Eve.  Chris and Chris's boat is still in Australia, though they may temporarily be in Hanoi now.  Eve we believe is either still in Australia, or Indonesia-bound.  We hope to see C2 either in the Pacific Northwest or Mexico, though we're not sure when.

2015:  Kiwi Welcome -- A Kinda Sorta Thanksgiving in Opua, "Bay of Islands" New Zealand
Friends Steve and Patty of Armagh, a recent photo of them in Samoa, pilfered from Pam Selix of Pied de Mer's Facebook.
Out of the of the 30 countries we cruised, New Zealand earns our top vote  we most wanted to call home.  No surprise then the incredibly welcoming Kiwis from the local yacht club put on a Thanksgiving dinner at Opua Bay of Islands Marina's restaurant.  

Despite a lack of family-style servings -- Thanksgiving is a bit about gluttony, seconds and thirds -- the restaurant got it mostly right, even if the stuffing was coiled inside a turkey roll.  We appreciated one of the hosts, a local Bursco manager (the "West Marine" of New Zealand) earnestly asking for feedback on what they got right and should improve for future Thanksgivings. 

Mostly, we were stoked to celebrate the holiday with friends Steve and Patty of Armagh.  We met them originally in the Galapagos and cruised with them for many thousands of miles. We last saw them in New Caledonia.  They and Pam and Eric of Pied de Mer left a few days ago to spend the next month sailing from Samoa to Hawaii.  Guessing they will celebrate Thanksgiving when they finally arrive in Hawaii.  Please join us in wishing them a safe passage.  We hope to see them cruising in the Pacific Northwest or Mexico.

2013 / 2014:  Stateside Marina Potluck -- Jacksonville Florida's 
Best-Ever Marina -- Ortega Landing

Bill and Kate, the incredible behind-the-scenes hosts of Ortega Landing (image pilfered from Kate's Facebook). 
Kate is usually behind, rather in in front of the camera.
Jacksonville Florida surprised us -- we didn't expect to like it so much, but we did.  We picked it as a hurricane hole for between cruising seasons, a place to work while not cruising.  From practically our first day there, Allen and Michelle took us in as fellow Pearson owners.  We still feel touched by their incredible kindness and generosity, and miss them.  We are sad to hear Allen has his Pearson, Incommunicado, for sale, though whoever buys it will be getting a much loved and exceedingly well maintained boat.  Maybe they can even persuade Allen and Michelle to join them -- they'd be hard pressed for more enjoyable company.
Image pilfered from Ortega Landing Marina's Facebook page for Thanksgiving this year.
By the time you read this it is too late -- for this year.
Thanksgiving at Ortega Landing Marina was just one more reason that marina set the Active Captain (and our own) bar for excellence - kudos especially for that go to Kate and Bill.  The marina charged very little for an ample serving of excellent food, supplemented handily with a dazzling array of goodies brought from us cruisers, and more importantly, all-around good cheer.  

We especially miss Dee and Ron, Patty, and Don and MaryAnn and their adorable cat Kai, who we are long overdue to catch up with and Ann of Krazy Lady who we haven't seen since the Bahamas, but still keep up with frequently.  We have no idea where or when we will meet again, and look forward to the day.  Patty, sadly, we narrowly missed when she was in the Portland area on her 5th wheeler due to traffic and our picking up Serendipity (our current watery home).  I have faith we too shall meet again, though when and where is a mystery.

2012:  Ambassadors in Antigua

Lili and Tomaz, we thank you for one of our all-time favorite Thanksgivings.  Nothing pleased us more than the opportunity to share one of the very best USA traditions with you.  Who know how lucky it was for the two of us to be the only folks scrappy enough to live aboard our boats in the yard in the blistering tropic heat of St. Lucia?

Not only were we pleasantly surprised we were able to serve darned close to what we'd consider a "proper" Thanksgiving -- turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, a salad, mashed potatoes with gravy and pie, for dessert, you taught us our most important lesson about celebrating Thanksgiving abroad. 

What we realize most about Thanksgiving.... what's most important of all is sharing it with someone.  In that, we are very blessed; for those here to share it with and those we're sharing it with in our hearts.  Thank you, all.

Lili and Tomas, I hope somehow we meet in Slovenia, I would love to see you and the stunning Slovenian countryside and love all the incredible underwater photos you share in your blog.  Looking forward to belatedly celebrating our Thanksgiving connection over Skype in the mean time.

And Now?  First Family Thanksgiving for Years -- Portland Oregon
Ron, Wayne, Tricia, Gunnel and Phil at Panama Canal's Gatun Locks, before we crossed it together in s/v Journey.

In a bit we head over to the lovely culprits who got my husband, then me, hooked on cruising, Wayne's Dad, and his wife Gunnel.  I feel particularly blessed for such incredible in-laws.  Phil and Gunnel are the only stateside folks who joined us in 5 years of cruising, other than friends Ron and Trish, who we are grateful for being their house-sitters as well as humbled to be among their friends, who joined us cruising (crossing the Panama Canal).  

We'll go with the traditional trimming, mostly. Turkey, my home-made cranberry relish, stuffing (trying out Trader Joe's gluten-free stuffing mix this year), traditional-for-me savory Southwestern sweet potato pie tweaked to sit inside a gluten-free gingersnap crust, and this year trying out Marilyn Michael of NW Women's Boating's Yam Curry Thanksgiving Surprise.

This year we miss celebrating Thanksgiving in unlikely tropical places, eating who-knows-what among our cruising friends and many international hosts.  Wherever you are, we are with you in spirit and wish you the very best.

For the rest of the family.... Mom and Dad, while we're not with you on Thanksgiving this year, I am so glad to finally be able to see you again.  Mary and Patty and Jason and Ryan and Lauren, Jack and Pat, Don and Deana and Elizabeth Brianna and Adam ... we hope to see you in the not to distant future and hold you closer to our hearts than our geography implies.

Dad and Adrianne, still sweet at 93 years old.
Mom and Richard, my two favorite lovebirds in Florida. June 2017.

What Next?

Larry and Nancy of Jacari Maru - still cruising.  May we do right by you on your former boat, now our Serendipity.
We do not know if 2018 will find us celebrating Thanksgiving in Portland or not.  For now, we are grateful daily to friends Larry and Nancy to entrusting us with Serendipity, our waterfront home.  We are employed, Wayne back Horizon Air, me, grateful for the support of my boss, colleagues and customers at Portland's West Marine flagship store (and to the folks in Jacksonville' Florida's flagship store for giving me my first and second seasonal jobs with West Marine there).

While it has been difficult to muster up the energy for posts of late, there are still stories  (and posts) to tell of adventures past, present and future.  Some of them will also be shared at the upcoming Seattle Boat Show in late January, where I will be presenting as part of NW Women's Boating's panel as well as a few of my own presentations.

More than anything, we are overwhelmed by the many who have showered us with boat karma, both from the boating community and the many places we've visited.  Wow!  We made it halfway around the world (our plan) on a small sailboat, relatively unscathed with more than a lifetime of unparalleled experiences in those five years.  We would love to spend the rest of our life paying it forward and back.  

Future adventures await.  We can hardly wait!  Cool pictures of cool places?  You betcha.  Don't forget it is those you love the most that make it all worthwhile.

Happy Thanksgiving, wherever you are!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Pacific Puddle Jump: Yes or No?

Prospective cruisers mulling crossing the Pacific  -- Is the Pacific Puddle Jump -- also known as the PPJ -- worth joining?

Every year about 200 boats loosely join up together to cross the Pacific Ocean as part of the "Pacific Puddle Jump," from the Americas to "Oceania" organized by the sailing magazine folks from Latitude 38. Most cruisers converge in French Polynesia, to celebrate their journey.  The video touches on celebrations in Tahiti and Moorea (with a little liberty taken by including 2 cruiser events in Tonga, though also attended by PPJers).

In our experience... there's no good reason not to join if you're committed to go.  Besides; it's free.

Here's what we got out of it
  1. A sense of community -- PPJers get a list of who all is crossing that vast stretch of ocean (the closest stopping point to the Galapagos is a minimum of 3,000+ miles!) more or less at the same time as you are.
  2. Lots of great information tips
  3. Streamlined country check-in to French Polynesia including the waiving of the normal bond (additional entry fee) via a paid third party
  4. Cruising info session and celebration in Tahiti, French Polynesia regarding French Polynesia and Tonga.  By chance there was also an enhanced sense of place from the local Marquesan leaders, who just happened to have been in town then.
  5. Celebration in Moorea,  French Polynesia, our grand introduction to French Polynesian culture -- food, dance, traditional competitions and even comical lessons on how to wrap a pareu (pronounced pa-ray-oh). 
  6. Improved safety - when Nirvana Now was sinking, boats quickly queued up to successfully rescue them.  Randy and Dawn, formerly of Nirvana Now, have since resumed cruising, on another boat.
Additionally, here's a couple PPJ bonuses we did not take advantage of, even though they are worthwhile
  1. Get-togethers (info seminars, parties and swag) in Mexico and Panama 
  2. Regular communication before, during and after the crossing via SSB (aka ham radio) network (only because, regrettably, we did not have a working SSB)
Admittedly, we do wish we spent more time in the Tuamotus, which we cut short in order to make the planned events in Tahiti and Moorea.

We are still in touch with many fellow PPJers.  Some are still cruising.  Others, like us, are currently not cruising, though most of as are dreaming or planning of when and how we can, still lured by the ocean's sweet song.

Location Location
This post is a retrospective primarily from June 18, 2015, when we arrived in Tahiti (S17.32.380 W149.34.210) at the newly re-opened town marina, and Moorea, June 20, 2015 (S17.30.229 W149.49.217).

Currently, we are living aboard another boat in Portland, Oregon (N45.47.449 W122.47.189), a sweet, homey live-aboard Puget Trawler aptly named Serendipity in gratitude for the incredible generosity of the friends who entrusted her to us.

Up Next
Work and family matters called, slowing posts.  There are still stories to be told of our long sail, relatively current watery and other explorations here in the States and eventually, new adventures, when and where are still TBD.  

Friday, October 6, 2017

Rescue: Damsel in Distress

Agathe, who traveled with us via overnight passage from Lamen Bay, Epi, Vanuatu to Port Vila, Efate, Vanuatu felt a bit embarrassed about how much of her stuff she brought aboard with her.  Considering it was intended to carry her through to Indonesia,
it didn't seem out of line to me.
Vanuatu (retrospective).  Not long after I introduced myself via kayak to other cruisers in our Lamen Bay anchorage on Epi, curiously, one of them hopped on her kayak and swiftly paddled to catch up with me.  Her name was Agathe; a 20s-something French gal crewing aboard a neighboring boat from New Caledonia with a hunky-looking French captain.  Agathe's English was far better than her captain's (and my) French, so she did most of the talking when I dropped by their boat.

"Are you looking for crew?" she asked.  From our earlier conversation Agathe knew we were headed back to Port Vila Vanuatu.

"No," I replied, explaining Journey was a small boat, we were the crew.  She shared that she was looking at taking the island's supply boat to Port Vila Vanuatu but it wasn't leaving until the morning... if she could get on.  Then it dawned on me -- she really wanted to get off "her" boat, ASAP!    I asked if that was the case and she agreed, emphatically.  Sensing her urgency, and relatively confident in my husband's penchant for chivalry, I promised to check in with my captain right away about giving her a ride to Port Vila Vanuatu, noting I was pretty sure Wayne would be okay with it.  While we didn't doubt her competence, we'd happily bring her her aboard as a guest rather than crew, as long as she was ok with our tight quarters.

True to form, Wayne agreed we'd rescue Agathe, including Wayne's picking her up at "her" boat and ferrying her over with all her possessions. 

"Can you be ready within the hour?" we asked. That's when we planned to leave on our overnight passage to Port Vila, carefully timed to travel through reefy areas in good daylight, sailing through the safer open ocean through the darkness.  Agathe agreed she would be; though it meant quickly gathering everything she brought aboard for her intended multi-month passage to and through Indonesia.   Her "stuff" it turns out, was considerable, yet all together by the time we needed to set sail.
Nothing like a hasty transfer of one's worldly possessions to make them look even bulkier than they are.  It was refreshing
to have someone's stuff besides mine taking up space (as Wayne is far more minimalist than me).
I once desperately bailed early as a sailing crew member myself, and was reasonably sure that was one more reason Wayne would want to help out Agathe, too.  In my case, the captain I crewed went into a depression as deep as the stock market crash that afflicted him during my cruise with him.  My escape  from the wilds of British Columbia took the form of a very long bus ride, followed by a ferry, then a hitched ride  to Bellingham, where Wayne took off work early from Everett to drive the hundred or so miles to get me.  I still remember how relieved I was to leave, and for Wayne's help in making it happen.

As when I "escaped" my crew captain, Agathe's relief at her escape was palpable.  She slept most of the passage, despite our getting slammed repeatedly in 25 knot winds.  

When she was awake, she filled us in on why she'd wanted off that boat.  She and the captain had been friends, and she agreed to crew only under the condition she was crew, not "friends with fringe benefits." As their trip progressed, and the captain came to understand she hadn't changed her mind about the nature of their relationship, he became overly controlling; repeatedly trying to convince her everything she did aboard was wrong.    His behavior shut her down to the degree she retreated to her cabin, only coming out when absolutely necessary (or - in the case of Lamen Bay - to find a way off the boat).  

On a brighter note, Agathe entertained us with her adventures in New Caledonia, where she'd lived most recently, as well as her time traveling and working with competition show horses in Australia.  Her sunny disposition blossomed by the minute.
Agathe on Galley Wench Tales' kayak in Vanuatu, headed off to see which if her friends would her her a temporary spot for herself and her stuff.
Fortunately Agathe's cruising friend in Port Vila had a good sized skiff ferry here and her stuff.
Shortly after anchoring in Port Vila Vanuatu, Agathe took off on my kayak to check with her legions of friends there.  Within two hours of her arrival, one of Agathe's friends returned with her to transport her stuff while she decided what to do next.  She had multiple offers among her cruising friends there to take her in, bring her back to New Caledonia or join others on passage to Indonesia.... 

Eventually we met Agathe again when she returned to New Caledonia, where she remains today, about a year later.

There's no doubt in our minds that Agathe has what it takes to beat the odds on any challenges she encounters.  

We are grateful Agathe gave us a chance to pay forward a little of the incredible boat karma we've received from so many other cruisers, current and past, as well as many locals and expats.

I hope you too you get the chance to rescue or at least assist another cruiser in some way shape or form, supporting the caring and vibrant community of those of us who cross oceans great and small.  It is the foreshortening of distance between our hearts rather than the nautical miles we cross that make up the moments we will treasure the longest and most dearly.

Ironically, the whole reason I introduced myself via kayak to our fellow cruisers in Lamen Bay was because I felt incredibly dissed when the three other boats in our prior anchorage socialized away for days without inviting us.  I vowed to not do the same to other nearby cruisers in our future anchorages.  You just never know what happens when you choose to put yourself out there, with a smile and an offer of friendship and assistance.
What next for us?  Who knows?  While this tile stayed aboard s/v Journey when we bought and sold her,
we know our journeys are far from done.
Location Location
This post is a retrospective of our September 5-6 2016 stop in Lamen Bay, Epi, Vanuatu (S14.44.750 E168.18.729),  aboard  s/v Journey, our now former Pearson 365 sailboat.  This is one of many stories left still to tell of our cruising halfway around the world, which ended in February 2017, and was followed by months of navigating Australia by Land Cruiser.  

Now back in the US, we are currently living aboard another boat in Portland, Oregon, aboard a lovely Puget Trawler, Serendipity (N45.47.449 W122.47.189). 
Our current live-aboard life is not without its challenges.  This sign's been up for the "better" part of the last few weeks in our marina.
Here we still are experiencing culture shock greater than we did in the 30 countries we traveled through cruising (part of the reason posts slowed, along with working full time and the effort that it takes to re-establish when you come back without even a knife, fork or spoon).  Perhaps what makes the US and Portland so strange is we expected life abroad to be different than "home."  However we have changed greatly in the 7 years since we left Portland, and we are not alone in observing Portland has changed even more than we have.  

Up Next
For now, my intent is to continue to fill in some gaps of our grand cruising travels in this blog, interspersed with a bit of what's happening now and answers to questions we're most often asked.  We enjoyed getting out on Serendipity this summer in the Pacific Northwest (more posts in store on that).  We anticipate more cruising and travel in our future, but exactly when, how and where are TBD.  In another week I'll be flying out to Florida to help my Dad and his wife transition into a memory care facility; a reminder of the importance of finding ways to be there for family and the preciousness of life.

Thursday, September 7, 2017


Columbia River water, September 5th, 2017, morning after the Eagle Creek fire began.  Jantzen Bay, Portland, Oregon.
A tangerine moon shone eerily through the hazy night sky.  Riding my bicycle home from West Marine Monday eve I was puzzled by debris hitting my eyes.  Yes, I'd heard about the Eagle Creek fire which started earlier that day, was still raging, but it was over 30 miles away.

Water surface, morning after Eagle Creek fire, in an adjacent slip to ours in Jantzen Bay Marina.
Ash on one of the other docks on Hayden Island from the Eagle Creek Fire.
Then again, when Mt. St. Helens blew its volcanic top in 1980, I recall hearing one of my colleagues -- who was in Astoria, over 100 miles away from the explosion --  comment, incredulously, "The ash-filled Columbia River flowed as sluggishly as the Ganges."

Mt. St. Helens forest area; 1980s explosion compared to the same spot in 2013.  Image pilfered from this CBS news story.
While Mt. St. Helen's, the United States most devastating volcanic explosion, will never be the same, visible recovery began before a year was out.  Still in recovery, today the Mt. St. Helens area is teaming with life.  It is different life, yet it is also thriving with biodiversity.

The Columbia Gorge Natural Scenic area is an incredible treasure that drew me to relocate from California to the great Pacific Northwest.  Like so many other Gorge visitors, past and present, this amazing wonder of mighty rivers, bubbling streams, soaring peaks and verdant valleys, stately forests, vigorous ferns and winsome wildflowers holds a place near and dear to my heart. 

Ash highlight the spiderwebs.  The spiders, continuing in their spidery ways, appeared undaunted by the event.
While I grieve the fire and its devastation, it cannot erase my memories.

Reports this morning say the fire is at last beginning to be contained, though over 30,000 acres thus far are affected.

It is bad.   Surely, much of the wildlife was unable to outrun the fire.  Not only are many ancient trees forever gone, we do not yet know how much of the Gorge's scenic beauty is lost.   

There are also many far-reaching effects, including for the first time in its 30 year history, Cycle Oregon was canceled.  What a contrast so shortly after the tourist high brought on by the "Path of Totality" solar eclipse.

Ashes dust the blossoms of the Jim Canton Rose Garden at our marina.
Yet Lt. Damon Simmons, a spokesman for the Oregon State Fire Marshal, explained "The gorge still looks like the gorge.  It's not a wasteland. It's not a blackened, destroyed no-man's land. There are trees everywhere and they look good. That's not to say there isn't damage to some of those trees," he said. "But it's still a beautiful drive through there and it still looks good."

Ash on a boat in our marina.  Due to our covered slip, we were spared some of the Eagle Creek Fire ash.
Is there still a snow of ash falling?  There was yesterday....

One of my marina neighbors in his dust mask.  My throat burned
from the fire.  Others complained of headaches and stomach aches.
Admittedly, I write this from a mountain retreat in Estacada, to get a brief respite from the ash and some of the smoke.  

Later today, I will return home.  When the ash stops falling, I will do a proper clean-up.

Before long, I will return to the Gorge, to those areas that allow it.  The Gorge will need our loving support more than ever.  More than ever, I regret not making it further up to my beloved Gorge sooner, since returning to the area.  Several times we'd planned it, turning around just before Multnomah Falls.

A diligent neighbor washing ash off his trawler.   I will follow his suit when the ash stops falling.
Consider this a reminder that change is the only constant we can count on.  Do not put off seeing the natural wonders at your doorstep, and beyond.  Capture those images and experiences in your hearts and with your cameras and your words.  You never know what it will look like tomorrow.

At the same time, I am hoping some good will come of this disaster.  That controlled burns become more actively used to prevent fires like the Eagle Creek fire from reaching the proportions it has.  That together we can join the efforts assisting with recovery (note:  an update will be posted linking to donation-accepting organizations most effective and efficient in that regard).

More than anything, I hope that new life will blossom, that otherwise would not have.

Even this iPhone image reveals how terrible Portland's air quality's become as a result if the Eagle Creek fire.  Jantzen Bay Marina.

Location Location
We are currently docked in Portland, Oregon (N45.47.449 W122.47.189), living aboard a new-to-us Puget Trawler we call Serendipity.

Up Next
While there are still many GalleyWenchTales to tell of our journeys, we're still settling into our new home.  New adventures await, too. Meanwhile, sometimes the here-and-now is dramatic enough -- like the Eagle Creek Fire and Total Solar Eclipse -- those stories take precedence over our sailing sagas.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Lunar Shadow: Into the Path of Totality

From among the best total solar eclipse images.  This solar eclipse series pilfered from photographer Jeffrey Johnson on Instagram.
"Path of Totality"?!? Would seeing the total August 21, 2017 solar eclipse "in the right spot"* live up to the drama of its name?

*Only those in a specific 70-mile swath would see 100% of the sun occluded by the moon -- the darkness of a full solar eclipse.

First, let's take a brief step back in time....

Try to imagine an era back before mankind understood what caused this strange, natural but relatively infrequent phenomenon. How truly frightening watching the sun get blotted out must've felt!  Were the Gods angry? How could humans save themselves from the darkness?  In light of modern astronomy, these fearful notions strike most of us as quaintly amusing.

Farmer's Almanac gives a great round-up of solar superstitions from the days of yore.
For us today, solar eclipses are a predictable event, viewed with great anticipation and excitement, treasured for their rarity.  Carly Simon some years back musically elevated eclipse-chasing into her cynical "You're So Vain" lyrics

..."you flew your Lear jet up to Nova Scotia
To see the total eclipse of the sun
Well, you're where you should be all the time..."

Here in Portland Oregon --  just a stone's throw from "The Path of Totality"(full solar eclipse) -- I didn't have to head very far to see the total eclipse.   But by the time the 30th or so West Marine customer asked if we had any eclipse glasses (we didn't -- and the question came up easily 100 times) I was totally over the eclipse well before its arrival.  Little else filled NPR's airwaves for a whole week prior (admittedly a refreshing break the controversial and tragically violent Charlottesville protests over the removal of General Lee's statue).  

"Oregon is planning on and influx of one million visitors to the state to watch the eclipse -- get to your viewpoint early!" warned the news media for those concerned about not wanting to get mired in traffic and finding their special place.  One million visitors -- the planning estimate from Oregon's Office of Emergency Management -- would equate to a 25% bump in the state's total population.  A place where everyday traffic is already terrible.

One of the many solar eclipse souvenirs available.
Add to that the off-putting dynamics of opportunism (besides the much-sought-after eclipse glasses -- which came "free" with a $50 bottle of Mont Gay Eclipse rum from the local liquor store).

Madras, Oregon, capitalizing on its ideal location for the total solar eclipse.
The high desert of Madras, in central Oregon, one of the state's more typically sunny spots and one of the places deemed to be an ideal eclipse-watching spot, reports were that a 4-day campsite would set you back $1000.  Mashable's eclipse post reported that for a site that normally books for $20, campers were paying $300/person, if they shared it with 6 people.  Hotel rooms and even AirBnB of course cost even more still, with $1,000/night rooms in the zone not unheard of.

And yet...

The eve before the eclipse, Gunnel, my mother-in-law, her eyes alight, fondly reminisced "There was something really special about when I saw the total eclipse as a child.  I'll never forget it."  Wayne and I were at her place for dinner, joining her daughter, who chose the eclipse as a good excuse to visit from Southern California.  

Gunnel wanted the full eclipse experience.  No 90-something percent for her.  Besides, she theorized, if most folks already arrived at their spot, we were within only one to two hours drive if "totality" from Portland.

Given I had the next day off from work, and Gunnel, the former travel agent, consummate planner and possessor of a spare pair of eclipse glasses (hers came from Fred Meyers for $1.99), I asked if I could join them.  They welcomed me, and we set the time for a 6 am departure; four hours and twenty minutes from the two-minute wonder's occurrence.

On the blissfully sunny morning of August 21st, 2017, we headed South to Silverton, Oregon.  Thankfully, the traffic was slightly lighter than normal commute traffic.  

All the "get there early" solar-eclipse traffic warnings ultimately led to a relatively light commute -- to the eclipse zone.
We arrived in two hours.  Silverton, aware of its celestial appeal, was rife with totality t-shirts, totali-tea and other commemorative brick-a-brack.  The towns coffespots hummed with happy humans, and the line outside the town's sole open breakfast joint, Gather, bespoke its name with a line trailing outside its entrance.

"Did you come from very far to see the eclipse?" asked a silver-haired gent also awaiting his cuppa.  "Just a little bit, from Portland," I replied.  "You?"  He smiled.  "From London.  We'd planned to come to America... sometime.  Seemed like a good time to do it."  

Solar eclipse watchers settle into the park in Silverton, Oregon.
We wandered about town, past the park where better prepared celebrants brought chairs, blankets and sleeping bags.  Eventually we chose a clear-view spot against some storefronts, with a small table and two vacant chairs, and a narrow brick window-front ledge that offered a partial seat for the rest of us. And waited. 

Gunnel, Phil and Inger gaze at the total solar eclipse in Silverton, Oregon, properly protected in their solar glasses.
As the light waned, even before the moment of totality, we felt the temperature drop.  Inger, Gunnel's daughter and I both noticed the chill, wondering aloud if it was our imagination.  Was it simply the lack of sun reflecting on the window behind us? Or something more … ethereal?  News reports later said the temperature dropped about 12 degrees F.

Then, though it was a little after 10 am on a bright, clear morning, the dimness-triggered store spotlights above us lit, followed by the streetlights.

“Two minutes” came a countdown shout from across the street.

A dusky dim, not-quite-dark, descended.

Traffic stopped. Breaths were held.  There was silence. 

In unison, eclipse glasses properly in place, we gazed skyward, at the spectacle unfolding before our eyes.  The last glowing orb of the sun disappeared, only slightly flaring behind the roundness of the moon.  It was not dark enough for stars to be visible, but there was a chilling sense of other worldliness, a reminder of our tenuous existence, our reliance upon the sun, that fiery life-sustaining force nearly 150 million miles away.

The full eclipse lasted less than two minutes.

In the semi-darkness, the silence was broken as cheers erupted all around even before the sun re-appeared as nature's dimmer switch began its reversal.

Crooked Finger, our intentional long-cut when we attempted to outsmart the crowds exiting the Silverton area after the solar eclipse.
While the PacMan like occlusion of the sun would continue for another hour, we foolishly decided to beat feet before everyone else blew town.  Unfortunately, that philosophy was shared by far too many others!  No matter what back roads path we chose every thoroughfare we hit landed us back in stop-and-go traffic.  An unintentional long-cut through Crooked Finger didn't help, though it did yield some lovely views.  Even if we wanted to use a smart phone traffic app to navigate, despite cell phone providers stepping up capacity coverage, all our phones were jammed.

Finally, at 4:20 pm we were home.

An 8 hour drive; 10 hours set aside for 2 minutes dusk-like darkness.  Was it worth it?


It was worth it not only for two-minute astronomical wonder, but for the shared experience, for those that were with us watching, in Silverton, and across the continent.  For those whose plans prevented them from seeing the eclipse there was the need to share this all-too-brief bit of history, what it felt like, what it was, what it wasn't.

On a metaphorical level, for me, it was a lesson in perspective.  

For the many of us struggling to find our way in the world, we often see ourselves as isolated and alone.  Yet we are not.  We are amidst a sea of humanity.  If or how we choose to engage is up to us. 

In the midst of darkness, it is not the sun that's gone away, but our focus on the darkness in front of us at the moment.  The darkness does not last forever.  Instead, how we view our lives is as much a matter of perspective, whether we choose to focus on ourselves, or upon "the light at the end if the tunnel" and the greater universe around us.

This moonwalk across the sun was the last I will see in Oregon in my lifetime, as the next is over a century out.  There are of course other eclipses coming up sooner elsewhere in the world.  I will not chase them, though who knows if they will happen to occur near where I am anyway.  Life is full of surprises.

For those of you hoping this post would be full of killer total solar eclipse images, check out this. Or this.  Or this.  I chose to leave the photography to others, and focus more on simply being there, and absorbing the moment rather than capturing it on film.  For those whose photo timing, equipment and skills filled the gap for the rest of us, thank you.

Location Location
We observed the eclipse in Silverton, Oregon (N45.0.24 W122.46.57), though our journey there and back was out of Portland, Oregon (N45.47.449 W122.47.189), where  the new-to-us Puget Trawler Serendipity docked there is home.

Up Next
While there are still many GalleyWenchTales to tell of our journeys, we're still settling into our new home.  Meanwhile, this post is a good reminder that adventures happen everywhere for those of us open to embracing them.