MAGIC MOMENTS, RESOURCEFUL BROTHER, REALITIES

Current Time: 1:26 AM

Current Position: North 26 degrees, 55 minutes West 60 degrees, 21 minutes

About 1000 miles from the Beavertail Lighthouse, Jamestown, RI

Hi, Everyone.

Last night was beautiful. I wrote this then:

It’s currently Thursday AM – wee hours – I just sent out last night’s update. I will send this tomorrow. I just wanted you to know that there are times, in sailing as in life, when it’s magical.

Imagine a very pleasant breeze, just enough to keep the boat gliding along at about 6 – 7 knots. The water gurgles happily past the hulls, a gurgling you can hear inside when the boat starts to kick up her heels. The waves are relatively small. The motion is smooth. The moon is getting fuller, is fairly high in the night sky, and is shining brightly over the water. The moon’s glitter path is wide, almost as wide as the boat is long, and comes right from the horizon to the boat. There are very few clouds. Only the stars – that the moon isn’t overwhelming with its bright light – appear in the sky. The planets, as usual, shine quite brightly. The horizon is quite distinct due to the brightness of the moonlight.

The moonlight is part of what makes the night magical. You can see everything on the boat almost as well as if the sun were out, but it’s a soft light, bathing all in a creamy luminescence.

The transoms swishing through the swells make a noise similar to waves gently breaking on a beach. It’s rhythmical, and soothing.

You just stand in the cockpit for some time, soaking it all in. You want to remember this moment, this feeling, this soft brightness and the gentle breeze.

There are realities, of course. The reefing line in the mainsail is so tight it creaks with each sail movement, amplified by the hollow boom, as the inner core of the line stretches over the outer core of the line. Long term, there may be a solution for this. I know we will discuss it with the boat designer when we take him sailing on Horizon.

But the reality doesn’t detract from the magic.

Perhaps that’s the secret of a happy life.

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It’s Friday morning now, wee hours again, and the wind has picked up slightly after a very light wind day. We ghosted along all day at about 2 – 3 knots all day. When she’s going 8 knots, we do 180 miles a day. When it’s this light, we will probably end up doing about 75 – 100 miles. Still making progress, though, in the right direction.

One of the nice things about this boat is how pleasant it is when the wind drops to almost nothing. It’s like being at anchor. You can open all the overhead hatches, and get some breeze flowing through the hulls. The motion is smooth, not like a monohull, which can end up swinging back and forth like a pendulum in the swell, the mast and the keel (the heavy “ballast” sticking out underneath the boat) setting up a see-sawing action. When that happens, everything slats around. It is not comfortable. None of that on Horizon.

Even though there was hardly any wind, we still made about 3 knots of progress “over the ground,” helped by the swell and the boat’s natural momentum.

We have full sail up now, both main and jib. We considered putting up the big jib, the infamous Code Zero sail, but it isn’t really effective until the wind is blowing at least 4 knots. Otherwise, the wind from the motion of the boat actually collapses the sail – pushes on it from the front – and the sail sweeps into the boat, across the deck, over and over, then out again as it fills slightly. Not good for the sail to be sweeping over the non-skid (rough) deck surface and the lifelines repeatedly, and not really effective sailing, either. (Lifelines are the “railing” all around the boat, consisting of upright stainless steel poles called “stanchions” and the lifelines, which are stainless steel wire.).

There is a low pressure system near Bermuda; so the high wispy clouds were filling in all day, and now there is a lower overcast that the moon is illuminating. So you can see everything, as last night, but it’s just not as bright.

Temperatures are slowly dropping. It feels positively chilly, partly because we’ve been in bathing suit kind of clothing for more than a month, and partly because I’m so acclimated to the heat that 85 feels nippy to me now.

This afternoon I found some Kassler chops – kind of a cross between ham and pork chops – during a freezer expedition, and more bananas that I had frozen. So we had one of Philip’s favorite dinners. I coated the chops with dark brown sugar, Ina Paarman’s Potato Spice, and Chinese 5 Spices, which gave them a nice glaze with a little kick. I cooked the bananas separately with some soaked raisins, brown sugar, Chinese 5 Spices, cinnamon and nutmeg. I usually add white sauce to this mixture to thicken it up, but just squirted some on top when serving this time. It was good. I don’t know if Kassler chops are sold in the States; I discovered them in Cape Town. Maybe I just never noticed them before. I’ll find out when we get home. Of all things Internet, I miss Google the most. At least once a day – usually more like four or five times, when I’m writing – I want to look something up.

Speaking of looking things up, I have to say that my brother Chris did an amazing job when our sat phone went down. What a smart guy he is! He’s a great writer, too, so if you don’t mind me indulging in some sisterly pride, here’s what he wrote to “Mr. Hixon.” There’s a little more to this story after this note, but golly, Philip and I both thought Chris did exactly the right thing.

Dear Mr. Hixon —

I’m writing you on behalf of my sister, Kristin Zhivago, who is sailing with her husband Philip from South Africa to Rhode Island on their new catamaran. They are all alone out there in the middle of the Atlantic and their sat phone is their only way of communicating with the outside world.* Every evening, I receive a sat phone-sent email from her about their journey that I send to their distribution list and post to their blog: http://www.sailingonthehorizon.com.

I didn’t receive an email from her last night nor this morning, however, so I was concerned. I tried sending an IM to them through Iridium to check up on them and got an error message back saying their account number was invalid. A call to Iridium technical support led me to Stratos who told me that you had ordered a suspension of their account yesterday.

I am assuming this might be because of a very high bill. If you go to the May 23 entry from Kristin’s blog and scroll down to the second to the last paragraph, you’ll see the explanation for the big bill. I’ll copy it here for you:

“Really blew it with the sat phone. Thought that, when I was connected to the network, I was only charged for data transmitted, not minutes. So I often left it connected while writing emails and doing web work I checked in with them earlier this month, and everything was fine so far…until I really started using the phone for email and web work. The bill is so high the gal at the sat phone company asked me, in sympathy, if I wanted her to turn it off. I said no, I need it – but I can tell you I have changed the way I’m using it. I send and receive, then turn it off. So thank all of you for sending short messages – especially not including any previous message history – but in the end, I was the one who found a way to rack up an amazing bill. No web work at all for the rest of this trip. When it takes 20 minutes for a page to download, and you’re paying by the minute, your usage method has to change.”

Kristin has enough money to pay your bill, and if you haven’t received payment from her yet it may be because of an online bill-paying glitch, not because she is unable or unwilling to pay. She is extremely responsible.

PLEASE re-instate service long enough to call her yourself and find out what is going on. You are now our only lifeline to her, Mr. Hixon. Her sat phone number is [number].

Thank you very much in advance. Looking forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,
Chris Norden

*I should note that we do have other ways of communicating, but for the purposes of this note – and regarding sending the Updates – close enough.

Chris sent this email after leaving a message on Mr. Hixon’s voicemail. He got Hixon’s email by Googling his phone number. Clever. When he still didn’t get a response to his email, he researched Hixon’s name further and found someone named Barbara Hixon working in the same office. Can anyone say mom and pop – pop outside, mom inside? He copied her on the email, and Barbara forwarded it to All Road Communications in San Diego. Chris then started working with All Road, and convinced them to reinstate the service just long enough for me to talk to them and give them another credit card to use – or pay the bill, or whatever. That was exactly the right thing to do.

Without the Internet, I can’t pay my bills right now, so he’s partially right about the “bill paying glitch.” In addition to paying off all the credit cards, I did pay extra on all vendors before we left, to cover the month that we’d be at sea and tide us over (so to speak) until I had an Internet connection again and could do all the necessary transactions online.

It’s not just my delight with my brother’s resourcefulness that is causing me to put this in an Update. It’s for all you “escape pod” wanna-be’s who feel like selling everything and going sailing, as Jackie from South Africa said.

Just so you know, the world follows you.

Granted, this is an unusually long sea voyage – two months versus the usual two to three weeks. And, we haven’t sold everything, and probably won’t. So there are property taxes, and mortgages (I made an arrangement with a nice lady at the bank, who is extracting the right amount from our bank account while we’re at sea, when the mortgage is due), and credit cards, and phone bills, and utility bills, and and and and … it really takes a lot of hard work and very careful planning to avoid an “oh darn” moment, and yet, as you see, it’s still possible to have an “oh darn” moment, when one of your lower-credit-limit cards maxes out because you didn’t make absolutely sure how you were being charged for sat phone data usage.

In other words, the realities of our financial lives means that you can’t just disappear from the grid. In many ways, doing something like this is actually more work than just staying home.

Which brings us right back to the theme of tonight’s Update – those Magic Moments. They are worth pursuing, in spite of the realities. And, they add their own realities – new responsibilities – to your life. It’s (a little) like having kids. Those magic moments just fill your heart to bursting. But there’s a lot of serious work involved.

We brought a few DVDs on this trip, and watch them on the computer. They really help wake you up again, if you’re getting sleepy on your watch, which says something about the amount of brain power required to watch a movie. 🙂 Anyway, if you ever want to see Jamestown and parts of Newport, RI, just watch Dan in Real Life, which is one of my favorite movies of all time. It was filmed in a house in Jamestown which overlooks Dutch Harbor, where we often anchored our monohull, Moonlight. It’s about 2 miles south of our house. Our house is even in the movie for a nanosecond, as they drive over the Jamestown Bridge at the beginning of the movie. There’s a tiny lighthouse just to the left of the bridge, and just beyond that is the island. You’d have to be a slo-mo expert to stop the film in time, but our house is the red one all by itself about a third of the way up the island, to the left of the bridge.

Anyway, the reason I’m bringing up the movie now is that magic moment at the end of the movie, when Dan’s youngest daughter tells him to “Go…Now,” and he hugs her in appreciation. If you watch the movie, you’ll see what I mean. It’s just one of those times when all the love and the hard work and the bond between you and another human being just comes together and sweeps over you. That’s kinda how I felt when I read Chris’ note.

We’re not all alone in the Atlantic. The responsibilities follow you, but so does the love.

Much love. Yep.
Philip and Kristin