Claudia and I headed down to Fort Lauderdale for the boat show—one of the biggest in the country. I have actually never been to a boat show, so this was kind of jumping into the deep end—the show was HUGE; you had to take a bus from one area to another. We went from booth to booth talking to people about our project and trying to find support—we still desperately need a watermaker; we have an atmospheric watermaker donated from Generative Planet that draws drinking water from the air, but although it makes just enough for drinking, we need a reverse osmosis watermaker to have the capacity for washing, cooking, cleaning clinical supplies and getting salt off equipment.
The variety of products and vendors was amazing—I saw a lot of gear we really needed, but I also saw a lot of gear I really WANTED. I know the difference, but just the boats alone that were on display gave me some pretty serious boat envy (“Now this magnificent vessel comes equipped with a docking minisub and helipad…”). Captain J was working at the show, representing a series of beautiful coastal cruisers, and one of my favorite companies, US Submarines (they make luxury yacht submarines…think 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea meets 21st Century technologies), had one of their original submarines on display. I can dream, ok?
One thing that was strange was that we only came across one single booth focused on medical issues at sea—there was a lot of safety equipment as part of other booths’ products, but only John Alibrandi and First Responder Educational Services were entirely devoted to dealing with medical emergencies offshore. FRES sells AWESOME offshore medical kits, and they donated one of their Res-Q-Kits to us, as well as extra IV fluids, a HeartSine automatic external defibrillator, adrenaline injectors and saline injections. John also put us in contact with On Call International, a remote medicine and rescue service—and they are going to let us call them to access physician advice from our clinics, bringing more expert medical advice to our remote locations, and are giving us a special deal on their remote rescue service. If any of us get badly hurt, they can coordinate our rescue and repatriation.
August 5, 2009. Los Angeles, California
Leaving on a Jet Plane
Sky and I are at the airport in L.A., waiting for our flight back to Palm coast and the crew…we are shell-shocked after a whirwind visit home. We got in at midnight 4 days ago, and from early the following morning till now was a non-stop chedule of meetings, interviews, fundraising, meeting with members of our Advisory Board, and trying to squeeze in some time for our folks. Tonight, we came to the airport straight from the premiere of a play in Hollywood that was being generously put on to raise funds for our voyage, and we were interviewed by FOX News-exciting! It was amazing to be home in L.A. and feel the support of our home turf under us.
I think for both myself and Sky, the highlight of our trip home was our visit to the Wishtoyo Foundation’s Chumash Villiage, a working Native American villiage on a four-acre historical site at Nicholas Canyon Country Beach in Malibu. Founder Mati Waiya is a Chumash ceremonial leader who has re-built a village of aps (Chumash word for the dome-shaped dwellings in the village) and a Sacred Fire. He is also a powerful, powerful speaker.
Sky and I went with our mom and dad, and we had no idea what to expect. One of our supporters had told Mati about us, and Mati had invited us to come to the Wishtoyo to visit the village and to have a blessing said upon our voyage. The Chumash were a maritime people who thrived on the sea, plying the waters between the California Mainland and the Channel Islands in their long canoes (or tomols); in fact I once came across and arrowhead on Santa Cruz Island that was made of a type of stone not found on the island, or anywhere on the nearest part of the mainland either. Since we were born, Sky and I grew walking in the Santa Monica Mountains and plying the waters off Southern California. Everyday, we lived and breather the sage and dry grasses of the Santa Monica Mountains and smelled the salt of the deep swells rolling in across the great waters of the Pacific. Whenever we sat on the mountaintops of by the streams of our young mountain range (still growing!), or kayaked along with the gray whales making their annual migrations along the coast, we never felt that the experiences we were having we new–rather we felt like we were playing a role in a long continuum of people stretching back over 8,000 years of continuous human occupation of our land. I missed the smell of the chapparral every day of my seven years in Ireland, and I miss it every day I have been away from it in Florida. Sky and I are deepy tied to our homeland and sea.
In particular, the Chumas hold sacred the dolphin, A’LUL’QUOY. The Chumas believe that their ancestors came to the mainland over a rainbow bridge from Santa Cruz Island, but that they were told by the Grandmother Goddess Hutash not to look down as they crossed. Halfway accross the bridge, some of the Chumash looked down and became frightened and dizzy and fell toward the sea. Hutash, not wanting her people to be harmed, transformed them into dolphins as they hit the water.
July 2, 2009. Palm Coast, Florida.SHARKS IN THE CANAL!!
You know, the story here keeps changing…when we got here, Sky and I took one look at the green, zero-visibility canal teeming with life and thought immediately, ‘Wow, what a bullsharky-looking place! And wow—the only shade anywhere around the canal for a big alligator to rest on the bottom during the heat of the day is under our boat and under our dock!’ However, everyone around here told us that sharks don’t come in here, and they have only seen an alligator once every few years during big storms. So last week, we saw a big 7-foot alligator idling around in the canal before it disappeared in the twilight, and today we saw a 5-foot shark (a bull or a blacktip) swim casually past the boat. It makes me a lot less happy about going back under the boat to clean the propellers! If I didn’t know better I’d think the neighbors were trying to encourage my demise, except that they have all been so nice to us—one of our neighbors, David, sent me a photo of the Southern Wind graphically altered against a nebula shot from the Hubble space telescope called ‘The Cosmic Voyager.’ Hopefully we’ll never be that far off course! Zero cross-track error is our goal!
A supporter of ours named Jonathan, an ER Nurse in L.A. (who is also an experienced transit captain, having spent years sailing the breadth of the Pacific) gave me great ‘rule-of-thumb’ advice about swimming in unknown waters. You never know if the seemingly calm, placid water you are about to dive into to survive the blistering heat has had 10 huge tiger sharks show up every afternoon at 5 PM for the last thousand years, so always seek local knowledge—but if none is available, never go in the water if you can’t see the bottom clearly from the deck of your boat! The dark, tannic waters of this canal looked sharky from the moment we saw it!
But that is the consequence of having a canal teeming with life. Now that we are living in Dennis and Jeannette’s old house (they moved across town and are letting us stay in their house where the boat is docked), we have taken to fishing off the boat in the evenings—after 6 PM, we are DONE working on the boat and we often take a break before dinner to fish, since a lot of the crew are just learning and we will have to provide a lot of our protein this way during our journey! Tonight we caught a stingray, which we let go right away—she was gravid (pregnant); you can see the large bulge in the middle of her body from the base of the tail forward—and I caught my first ever tarpon; which we also let go. Fascinating and Beautiful, respectively, but so far we have caught a lot of fish but none that are much good as food! We SEE them in the water, big red drums, but so far they seem to be mocking us!
June 30, 2009. Palm Coast, Florida
A day that began with a storm and ended with a beautiful sunset that turned the evening sky into flames!
Lightning and thunder crashed all around the house at 6 AM, rattling the windows and making the power flicker. Afterward, we managed to continue work as usual on the boat. It is so exciting that we are doing finishing work now—carpeting, paneling, running water lines and plumbing, painting, etc; we can really see the boat coming together!
We finished putting up the carpeting in the Scorpion Cabin—that’s what we call the twin cabin on the port side of the aft cabins; when we were hustling medical supplies onboard during the floods here, we stored many of them temporarily in this cabin, and a day or so later we came upon a scorpion that must have taken refuge from the floods in one of the boxes and got carried aboard. For the next few weeks, that dark, warm cabin piled floor to ceiling with boxes looked like the ultimate scorpion apartment complex and made us a bit cagey about going in there and rummaging around. We never saw another one, but forever after we refer to that cabin as The Scorpion Cabin. Hopefully it will never live up to its name again!
The heat and humidity combine into what is called a ‘Killing Heat.’ A couple of years ago, when I was in Ireland, a rare heat wave drove temperatures in London above 100 degrees, and hundreds of people died—mostly elderly people without air conditioning (not a common household appliance then in England), as they (and infants) are much more vulnerable to overheating. The heat here is even stronger—high humidity, and when we are working on deck, and especially down below decks without the fans turned on, sweat pours from every pore on our bodies. Clothes are soaked in moments, paint trays have a rain of salty water into them…it is BRUTAL. We drink 5-10 liters per day and it flows right out of us.
June 28, 2009. Palm Coast, Florida
Ah, Sunday again! Not a moment too soon—we had a long, brutal week of work! Noah spent some time hanging over the side in harness touching up the port side hull; I think we made him paranoid about alligators coming up underneath him but he survived unscathed—this time!
We kept our normal Sunday ritual today; sleep in a little, then clean up the boat for the next week’s work—in only a couple of hours when we start work , chaos reigns aboard and it becomes very hard to find tools or navigate over piles of lumber, coils of wire, trays of paint and other boat-building debris so even though we constantly clean as we go and tidy up at the end of every day, half a day on Sunday going over the whole boat from stem to stern saves us hours of work otherwise lost tool-hunting during the following week.
Normally we would try and muster the energy to go to the beach for a couple of hours and lie in the sand, but for the last few evenings we have been working on a side project—Sean found a film contest sponsored by Converse and Target where the theme is about turning dreams into reality, and we have entered.
It is the first film project that we have all worked on together, and everyone pitched in like we do on everything else—Jon drew the titles, Jamie drew over 700 frames, I did the voice over, Ryan and Jamie recorded the sound effects…and all in the evenings after putting on our usual 10-14 hours on the boat! The film was due to be submitted online at 1 AM tonight so Sunday was not quite the day of rest it usually is, especially for poor Sean—by the time editing was done (at 12:55 AM!) he was practically falling apart at the seams!
Tonight, I decided to try out a newly available form of relaxation—there is a Jacuzzi bath tub in Dennis and Jeannette’s house and it turns out that a few bubble go a long way in a Jacuzzi tub…I nearly fell asleep, but I could feel the soreness of the last two months easing as I luxuriated. Sky reminded me to enjoy it while it lasts…tomorrow we go back to the boat with a vengeance!
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