Thursday, December 8, 2016


...guajira Guantanamera.

If you know the lyrics you can hear them as you read them from your screen.

Is there a more swinging melody out there?

The more hip among you will also grasp the connection to José Marti, Cuban hero.

So, this is clearly a lead-in to something...

We have tried to concentrate on the beauty of straight lines, but we have failed.

Particularly when it became clear that the land ahead of us, Colombia, was a land of marinas where visiting yachts were concerned.

I'd love to spend some time in Colombia. But if we're going to have to stay in a marina anyway, and this is our one-and-only (please, god) visit to the Caribbean, then maybe we should go stay in a marina in Cuba instead.

So! I overcame my severe allergy to authority long enough to ask the US Coast Guard, "Mother, may we?" in my sweetest voice. And today we got the answer (above).

So as soon as I finish off these damn research proposals (may they go forth and be fruitful) and finish a few pressing boat jobs (some things never change), we're gonna catch the first thing smokin'.

And we're going north, not west.

Guantanamera, guajira Guantanamera...

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Out Of Touch

Yachts to the left of us... 
...and yachts to the right of us.
So, we're here in Bonaire, one of a long line of yachts moored off the main (only?) town.

The land is - just there - right over our bow. Close enough that I can easily hear the excellent live music being played on the weekends.

Elias and mate, off for a snorkel
But even though we are only 150 meters or so from land, it's now more than a week since I set foot in the dirt. And that last foray was just a quick dash to illicitly stuff a bag of our trash into a dumpster.

My last real land experience, a classic sailor's afternoon of cruising various shops for things that might be persuaded to work as boat parts, was ten days or so ago.

I find that I'm liking this all-aquatic existence.

Bonaire is a perfect place to get your exercise in the water. Every day I swim, usually for an hour or so, down the row of yachts and back.

The boys take recess from school every morning by jumping off the boat into the water about a hundred times in a row. I take a break from my research grant proposal writing and join them.

We pretty regularly take Galactic to one of the dive moorings around the island for a session of family snorkeling.

Elias is learning to scuba dive. Eric has suddenly gone from being a very poor, very reluctant swimmer to being one of those half-fish/half-boy creatures that you see growing up on traveling sailboats. And today Elias and his 8-year-old mate from Jadean took our inflatable, Smooches, and went off on an adult-free snorkeling safari.

True, it came to a premature end because Elias cannot always get the outboard started. But I love to see him and other kids off doing stuff on their own.

So for now, as I toil away at the science salt mines, and we occasionally grumble about the Caribbean, and how it's nothing like our beloved Pacific, we look up and realize that we've got about the best thing going that we could wish for.

An evening swim. Eric is still light enough to bodily throw off the boat. 

Why do they make kids' drawstrings so long, anyway?

Monday, December 5, 2016

As Fast As the World Possibly Can

The world is giving every indication of not being satisfied with a slow boil.

More and more we worry that a full boil is in the cards.

And we wonder what storm of steam will wait us on land.

Stupidity trumpets its own virtue. Three Orwells would be kept busy overtime.

In my professional life, I have a more than casual acquaintance with the empirical view. I, who stare at data for a living, have been a bit more than at a loss with data describing the Arctic this winter.

The world changes, every bit as fast as the world possibly can.

We have had the great good fortune to fall in with a sailing family from South Africa who are mad keen divers. The dad is a PADI instructor and was just getting their 8-year-old daughter into the introductory class, and getting her a dive partner would be convenient. Which has been in turn terribly convenient for Elias. Thanks so much, guys.

Meanwhile, dangerous children appear to have locked themselves in the conductor's compartment.

Why, given how rapidly we are changing the world out from under our feet, would anyone in any position of power pay attention to science? Of course, given who we are as human beings, you would only expect that someone in a position to act for the greater good would decide that publicly putting his head up his own ass would be the appropriate and cautionary thing to do.

(I thought, briefly, about looking for a less indelicate metaphor there. But if Flaubert couldn't make the stars cry and had to settle for beating out rhythms on a cracked pot, well then. Who am I?)

Thanksgiving on Galactic. Tom there has a lot in common with us. He's retired from the marine biology world. He's also a dual Ameri-Aussie. And he once supervised one of my PhD supervisors! We last saw Tom in Cape Town, and then he rocked up in Bonaire in time for the sailors' classic - a brief but fun hangout.
So, really, I should be reading some Orwell. This is clearly the time for the consolations of literature. But I find myself embarked on a long biography of Thelonious Monk just now, and so have had to make do with some fragments of Auden for any literary perspective.

Auden from the 1930s. Not the thing to lighten your mood.

But Auden does give us Dance, dance, for the figure is easy, / The tune is catching and will not stop. Which is as close to a motivating philosophy as we have come on Galactic.

So lately the idea of some grand gesture has been gaining currency among the Galactics. We consider voyaging distances and timelines of season that are clearly in combination not productive of practicable ideas.

But still. Does this feel like the time for practicality? We do yearn for that grand gesture. We aspire to be Gallic.

Because, really. There are a few true things that I have found to do in my life, and a few true things that Alisa and I have found together and those things happened mostly in Alaska where the scope and beauty of the world can be, for weeks at a time, all that you need to account for. And we've found something like that at sea as well, with our family.

Though finding your way through the mundane weeds of shore can be tiring work for your average carthorse, at sea the verities are all there is. They scream at you with every green flash sunset. They toss you back and forth with every passing wave.

So now, though we're sitting at Bonaire, where I can get my science work done, we are dreaming with our eyes wide open.

And we're dreaming of the sea.