Weather Helmed

an adventure in renewing the spirit and living the dream…on a sailboat

Weather Helmed

update on the boat & Jon & flooding in Brisbane

January 11th, 2011 · Uncategorized

* over at Deliciously Ambiguous

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quick update :)

December 13th, 2010 · Uncategorized

so, we are now back in the U.S. and my new blog has finally been updated! check it out to see the two sweetest reasons why I’m glad to be home! 🙂

and lots of you have asked about the boat and what’s happening with it…  the boat is still in Brisbane with Jon and he is planning to sit out the cyclone season before sailing to southeast asia next summer.  Sometime late 2011, he will be SELLING SYZYGY.  SO, if you or anyone you know is interested in acquiring a hardcore seaworthy kickass boat please contact Jon on the blog at www.syzygysailing.com

and i hope that you’ll all keep following our silly adventures at Deliciously Ambiguous because, truly, we really don’t know exactly what’s going to happen next!

karen

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And that’s the way it is.

December 1st, 2010 · Famous Firsts, First Mates, The End

We sailed over 13,000 miles.
We visited seven countries.
We dropped anchor off of more than 25 islands/atolls.

We crossed:

– the Tropic of Cancer

-the Tropic of Capricorn

– the International Date Line; and

– the Equator.

We sailed across the Pacific Ocean.

It was mind-messingly difficult at times and also utterly amazing.

It was stressful and a lot of work, but also breathtakingly peaceful and awe inspiring.

It was one of the most soul-searching years of my life.

I want to again say THANK YOU to all of you who stuck with me through the ups and downs, celebrated our successes and empathized with our struggles, and continued to offer support, encouragement and praise through to the end.  Thank you for joining us on this adventure.

It took us, to the day, exactly nine months to complete this journey.

And, now,

it is time to go home.

and start a new blog 🙂

(it’s coming soon!)

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Who wants a Roo? (aka our trip to the Lone Pine Sanctuary)

November 29th, 2010 · Australia, Famous Firsts, First Mates, Fun Stuff, shoe-cruising, Shore Excursions, The End

Last week, we took a trip to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary just outside of Brisbane. Along with Koalas, the LPS has a variety of other animals, reptiles and birds that are native to Australia. I was super excited to go because their website promised 1) you could hold a koala; 2) you could feed the kangaroos; and 3) there would be dingo puppies! Well, they didn’t exactly deliver on #3, because the puppies were a bit older and lazier and not so cute by the time we showed up, but everything else was pretty great 🙂

Now, I have never been at a zoo or any other public animal venue with Matt before. And, while I know that he loves animals and nature, it is an entirely more interesting thing to watch him interact with them. When we talked about going to the LPS, I did not anticipate that so much of my enjoyment of the day would come from watching MATT and not just the LPS residents themselves…

Although the LPS is mostly about the koalas, our day was mostly about Matt and the birds!  At our first stop, Matt carried on a garbled conversation with a quirky cockatoo.

Next we checked out some bats and a platypus (which was MUCH smaller than I’d thought it would be!) and as we left the platypus building, a peacock crossed our path.  It saw me and though, “hey, she’s HOT!” and then saw Matt and realized there was competition and within seconds, BOOM, out came the brilliance.  I looked at Matt, looked at the peacock, looked at Matt, watched the peacock turn slowly around in all its glory, and then remembered the ring on my finger.  *sigh*

After we left the peacock, we were wandering around looking at some other birds and this Australian bush hen took one look at Matt and started shrieking!!

But, this cool dude wasn’t very impressed…

And then, of course, there were the stars of the show – the koalas!  Later we asked a cruiser kid what he thought of the koalas and he said, “I mean, they’re cute, but they don’t really do anything.  They’re kind of boring.”  And, that pretty much sums them up! 🙂    They are ridiculously cute, but they move maybe once an hour unless it’s feeding time and then they’ll spontaneously jump from branch to branch or crawl across the branches to get to that one special Eucalyptus leaf and that’s a big day.  They spend something like 80% of their lives sleeping or “resting” and when they do those things, they literally shove their butts into the “v” of a branch and then just lean forward and sprawl on the branch – legs sticking out, arms over their heads, however they end up, they’ll stay that way, unmoving, for hours.  More so than cute, I found them endearing.

Apparently the emu is also native to Australia and while Matt was brave enough to poke at it, make fun of it, and attempt to challenge it, none of us were brave enough to pet it.

A visit to Oz would NOT be complete without seeing the kangaroos!!!  And, wow, there were a lot of them! There were only one of two here and there bouncing around the lawn, the rest were lounging under the trees, looking as docile and sweet as deer, while we all ogled them and shoved handfuls of “Roo food” under their snouts.  At one point, a bird flew off or something startled and suddenly, just like that, all the kangaroos leapt to their feet and were poised for action. We all freaked out.  Standing there, surrounded by a bunch of large, strong kangaroos… their tails are wickedly huge and thick and just look powerful.  And they have fairly large toenail/claws on their feet that could do some nasty damage to ya.  So, yeah, we all froze and just stared at them, waiting for the boxing show-down to begin, but they relaxed and laid back down, acting like nothing had happened.  There was a collective sigh of relief.

This pic makes me laugh because it looks like Matt killed the roo!

And then, of course, there were all sorts of other fun things: crocodiles, lizards, snakes, goats….

We DID get to hug a koala, but didn’t get a picture of it.  They require you to buy one of THEIR pictures before they let you take your own, and the cheapest of their pictures was $16 for a postcard.  Um, no thanks.  The koalas weren’t particularly soft but they did seem quite cuddly as they just hang onto you like a little child and your instinct is to hug em and squeeze em, well, until you see their sharp claws resting near your neck and think twice about doing anything that might spook them 🙂

All in all, it was super fun day and a great way to learn about Australia and their local fauna.

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Scenes from Brisbane

November 26th, 2010 · Australia, Beautiful, shoe-cruising

one of the many bridges

super cool fountain park at SouthBank

the public pools

South Bank

public pool at SouthBank

bougainvillea covered walkways at SouthBank

the emblems on the tables are requests to please not feed the Ibis, provided by the Ibis Management Council; yes, that's an Ibis on the table in the background! they're all over SouthBank, like pigeons!

Dockside Marina - can you spot Syzygy??

**Downtown, from Kangaroo Point, Thornton ferry stop

**The Brisbane skyline, downtown

**Rock climbing area at Kangaroo Cliffs

**Kangaroo Cliffs

**Kangaroo Cliffs, at night (gorgeous!)

**Brisbane at night - Spectacular!

**Note – all the really great evening/night pictures were taken by JON!

Can you see why we are loving it here?!?!?!? 🙂

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Let’s say GRACE – over and over and over

November 25th, 2010 · Australia, Cheers!!, Fellow Cruisers, Life on the Boat, Random Thoughts, Shore Excursions, Somebody likes us, The End

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!!  We had a great turkey day the Aussie way, throwin’ some brats on the barbie with the only other US boat we knew in the area.  It was such an enjoyable time.  I felt really happy that we could still celebrate the holiday with a nice day with friends and throwing the frisbee and laughing and, of course, eating way too much food. AND, as though mocking us all, there was even an honest-to-goodness TURKEY wandering around the park near our bbq!!  He made it clear that he knew he was in no danger and, he wasn’t – mostly because there were several IBIS’s around being sneaky and trying to make off with our sausages and corn that we were all more concerned with chasing them off the grill than we were throwing the turkey ON it.

As we sat there surrounded by giggling boys and laughing friends who we only met a few months ago, I felt supremely blessed and thankful.  And, then, with the good news of some friends’ engagement, I started recounting the good things that happened to my girlfriends this year and felt OVERWHELMED with thankfulness that, even though I was thousands of miles away, I still got to share in their experiences.  Heck, even the not-so-good experiences make me grateful that my friends trust in me and care about me enough to share their struggles, too.

So, all in all, right now, I am feeling like a pretty happy, thankful woman 🙂

There is a lot going on over here these days, especially with the computers – Matt’s has totally crashed, we’re turning mine over to Jon so Matt is transferring stuff around like crazy, I’m starting up a NEW BLOG! (yes! a new one!), and the free internet at the cafe is hit or miss, BUT – for once, I’m feeling hopeful and optimistic about it all even though it means that Matt and I are another day closer to having to share a laptop (eeeeek!).

The boat continues to roll around every single time a ferry passes by (and they pass by about every 10-15 minutes) and Matt and I continue to grumble about the boat, so the fact that we’re going home in a week is still making us very very excited!  Not to mention that there will be two adorable little kittens waiting in our stockings!

A few nights ago, I drafted up a post about all the unusual Thanksgivings I’ve had (and there have been lots!).  As I started writing, though, I realized my memory gets all confused and I decided not to post it for fear that my mom and my brother and my aunt and a few friends might rat me out and say, that wasn’t thanksgiving! that was… and then you would all know just how bad my mind is and why it takes me a few minutes to remember what my phone number – the one I had for about nine years, and just gave up nine months ago – was.  Anyway, the whole point of that post, was to say that it seems like none of my Thanksgivings was ever exactly the same, there was really no “tradition” to them, but, despite that, there was always one thing that never ever changed – there was always, ALWAYS, something (or someone) to be thankful for, and this year, it seems there are far, far too many 🙂

Eat some yummy leftovers for me.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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The good, the bad & the ugly are all, well, GOOD.

November 23rd, 2010 · Australia, Introspection, Life Lessons, Life on the Boat, Loss of a Parent, The End, Thoughts on Family

Now that we are comfortably ensconced in civilization again and able to be off the boat and in movie theaters or cafes or restaurants at a moment’s notice, and have regular internet, and no longer have to worry about the anchor dragging or sails ripping or rigging breaking or being constantly tossed around at sea, well, it sort of seems like the trip was soooooo long ago, and that it really wasn’t all that bad.

Oddly, it reminds me of what it was like after my dad died.

My dad and I didn’t have the easiest or closest relationship and at times, just like any of us, he could be a bit of a, well, a jerk.  BUT – it didn’t mean that I didn’t love him, or that he couldn’t be a really great guy, etc. etc.  When he died, though, I remember feeling angry and frustrated with my mom and my brother because they only talked about how wonderful he was and all the good memories, and when I mentioned that time when he ____, they waved me off and acted like they didn’t remember or it wasn’t a big deal, that those memories didn’t matter anymore, or that they weren’t worth remembering.  A friend gave me a book about grieving the loss of a parent and I was relieved to read that I wasn’t the only one who experienced this “sanctification” of my dad and that it was quite a common part of grieving.

I find that some of us cruisers have started the process of “sanctifying” our trips.  A friend said that, now that it’s over, she realizes how special the experience was even though she wasn’t always ecstatic to be on their boat.  I, too, feel that way –  having a little bit of distance between me and the trip has made it easier, somehow, to enjoy what it was, even if I hated life while we were were in the midst of sailing.

What I hated most about doing this sort of thing with my dad is that it made him seem so one-dimensional; it made him less human; it made my experience with him seem superficial, almost like the same memories/words we were using could have described anyone.  My dad wasn’t perfect, he wasn’t always in a good mood, he wasn’t always rainbows and sunshine. Not every day with him was a walk in the park. But, he was my dad, he was real, and he was a huge part of my life and I loved him.  I couldn’t understand why people acted like it made his life less important or him less special to remember him as he was – the good and the bad and the ugly.

I feel the same way with this trip.  Of course, no one wants me to keep going on and on about how awful parts of the trip were or how much I hated the rocking and rolling or how miserable I felt for most of it.  People want to talk about how amazing it must have been and how lucky we are to have had this experience and how we lived their dream and they wish they could do it, too.  It’s so much easier and nicer to put a big fat smiley face on the whole adventure. BUT, again, that makes it seem so one-dimensional, so un-real, like anyone could have been on the trip. Just like with my dad, “sanctifying” the trip makes it less mine.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with people doing whatever they need to do to grieve or understand an event or experience. When my dad died, I learned that everyone deals with death and loss differently and you have to be true to your very personal feelings and needs.  And our arrival in Australia signifies a death of sorts, an end to a significant time of our lives.  And I want to do my best to remember the trip as it was (for me).  I want to remember the really spectacular, amazing moments and also the really sh*tty ones, because that unique mix of good and bad is what makes the trip my own and not someone else’s.  Those days of being tossed around and banging shins and heads and elbows are what makes the trip an experience and not simply a picture-perfect postcard.  I want to remember the difficulty of creating the whole instead of just remembering those pieces that fit nicely and easily into the puzzle.

I think a lot about what I will someday tell our kids about their grandfather. I will tell them about his funny stories and how he always forgot the punchlines to jokes.  I will tell them about driving for hours to get into a 5-minute rain shower and about spending saturday nights up at “the loop” or above the Caliente tunnel watching trains and eating popcorn.  But, I will also tell them about his raging temper and how he could get upset over the stupidest things. I will tell them about how he would get angry and leave the house for hours and how he would sometimes give us the silent treatment.  I will tell them about his delicious frosting and graham cracker snacks and the horrible spaghetti he made that even our undiscriminating dog wouldn’t eat.  I will tell them how he took me to look at colleges and then lectured me about why I shouldn’t go away to school.  I will tell them how he didn’t want me to be a lawyer and thought I should be a writer or a teacher (and then I might have to admit to them that he was probably right about that one.)  I will tell them how he once irrationally took his anger out on one of my brother’s best friends, and how, when my dad was dying, he took that friend aside and apologized in tears for those things he had said 10 years ago.

I will not sugar-coat the memories of my dad or of this trip because when memories are all you have left of something (or someone), every single one – the good, the bad and the ugly – is a gift.

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random things I was thinking about while sitting in the quarterberth listening to it rain until I realized that the lazarette was open and I had to run out in my pj’s to close it and got totally soaked

November 23rd, 2010 · Australia, Life on the Boat, Random Thoughts, The End

* starting a new blog about our “normal” life

* celebrating Hanukkah (even though I’m not Jewish)

* how I should never eat fish & chips again (even though they are so so so so so good, they are so so so so bad for my waistline!)

* how excited I am about my new, HOT Calvin Klein jeans, and a little sad and embarrassed that it’s taken me this long to have an amazing pair of “a$$ pants” (as Matt calls them)

* the US does burgers and pizza so much better than Oz ever could – top 2 reasons people go to San Francisco? Patxi’s & Little Star – and right now I am thinking about going to Pizza Hut (yes, they have it here) just to get something that resembles deep dish.

* I still have blog posts about our trip that I’ll probably never get around to posting. Ditto for pictures.

* I can’t believe that this time last year, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into

* it’s almost december!

* even though we are in a marina, we are on the river and right next to a ferry stop and every time the ferries go by, the wake causes all the boats to roll around and kindly reminds me, again, that, yes, I still live on a boat.

* I feel extremely optimistic and hopeful about life right now.  Someone remind me of that tomorrow 😉 haha

* life is good.

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another insight on happiness…

November 19th, 2010 · Uncategorized

“When the Mind wanders, Happiness also strays”

From this week’s NYT – there is happiness being in the PRESENT.

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An Epiphany

November 18th, 2010 · Uncategorized

Being happy can be hard. For so long, now, I’ve been waiting for it to be easy again. Not necessarily like magic – I’ve been “looking” for it, trying to trick it into my life, doing things that had made me happy before…  But, I’ve found myself being frustrated that, no matter what I did, it lasted only temporarily, and then I was back to feeling depressed and apathetic. I read blogs and articles telling me the key to happiness was being thankful; or smiling even when I didn’t feel like it; or laughing out loud like a maniac just because the mere sound and acts of those guffaws, no matter how cheesy or false, would make me happier.

But it all felt so FAKE and fragile to me. And what I remember most about my previous days of happiness is that they never felt insincere or fleeting.

The other day, I came across this blog (written by a student, no less!) that had a great series of posts on creating an amazing life (I so wish *I* had written this!).  I thought it would be silly, but the writer actually had some great insights and ideas that made me think.  In the post on happiness, the author mentioned happiness being work and, in my mind, I translated it to being a habit, something that you have to practice every moment, every day.  I had heard people talk about happiness as a “choice,” in the manner that all I have to do is simply choose to be happy and VOILA! Happiness.  It reminded me of when I was younger and people would ask me “why don’t you have a boyfriend? why aren’t you married?” and I’d think, um… because it’s not as easy as me just WANTING it –  sometimes, there are other factors involved.  And I’ve read those stories about people in concentration camps, etc. finding JOY in the midst of their pain, but I don’t think that necessarily meant they were telling jokes and laughing and smiling brightly as their friends and family suffered.  JOY and happiness to me are related, but very different things.

So, maybe it was just the way she worded it, or maybe it was because I’m finally in a place to hear it, but I finally accepted and admitted that happiness takes work.

As I read the post, I recounted the times when I had been happiest.  Instantly, my last few years of high school and college came to mind.  As I was journaling and describing those days, I had The Epiphany.

OF COURSE it was EASY to be happy then.

OF COURSE it was easy to be happy when I was constantly surrounded by positive, happy people; when I had a solid group of great friends who I shared life and laughter with; when I was at my church five or six days a week; when my family was happy and healthy and enjoying their lives; when I had jobs I liked and worked with people I loved and respected; when I felt successful in sports and academics; when my efforts and talents were regularly recognized with trophies and certificates and scholarships and high grades.  OF COURSE it was easy to be happy.

In those days, I practiced happiness and optimism without even thinking about it because that’s what everyone else around me was doing; that’s what my community and colleagues valued. And, after a while, it seemed as though I couldn’t be anything BUT happy. I remember getting ready for school in the mornings and trying to work myself into a bad mood because even I got bored with Pollyanna sometimes. I would screw my face up into a glare and narrow my eyes and coach my thoughts to be pissed off at the world, and then I would laugh at my own ridiculousness.  I got annoyed because it felt nearly impossible for me to sustain a bad mood.

But, again, looking back on those days, it was so easy to be happy. Effortless.

As life went on and so many things changed, it got harder and harder to stay happy – I was lonely, I was bored, I was disconnected, my faith wavered, my family went through difficult times, I was no longer surrounded by positive influences nor had the comfort and support of a church community, and I no longer knew the security of a cohesive nuclear family.  As my life continued to come horribly unravelled at the seams, I grasped at happiness, flailed desperately at it, caught glimpses of it in other peoples’ lives.

After surviving the past decade, at times it’s felt impossible for me to be anything but UNhappy. I have moments of great happiness, of course, but I’ve sorely missed that constant undercurrent of happiness that used to permeate my life.  All I can think is that I stopped practicing happiness.  But, back in the day, my happiness was so breathtakingly innocent and pure that it never dawned on me that being happy even took practice!

For the last several years, I’ve felt like a failure, depressed and worried and afraid because I didn’t know how to be happy, how to get that true, long-lasting happiness back. Based on my past, I believed that happiness wasn’t something that had to be forced, it wasn’t something that had to take effort. I thought it should sort of be like flipping a switch – poof! I am now imbued with happiness, peace, love and joy! Ta-da!  I thought that I just hadn’t found the right formula, the right recipe, the right equation to make that change. But, thinking back on the circumstances of my life, the people I was around, the things I was doing… it just makes sense that it was easy to be happy.  The habit of happiness was easy and effortless like drinking coffee or kissing your baby goodnight.

I just never thought that I would be one of those people who had to work for happiness.

Up to this point, I’ve denied that happiness should take a lot of deliberate effort. If it took effort, I thought, it wasn’t real – you were probably depressed** and should be taking medication.  But, I’ve been wrong.

So, I’m working on cultivating a new habit – the habit of happiness. It is NOT easy right now. But I’m coming up with ideas that will help me along – like repeating affirmations to myself as I go throughout the day, or waking up and saying out loud something like, “I am an amazing and beautiful woman and this is an amazing and beautiful day full or promise and surprise and what an amazing and beautiful world we live in, thank you God!” or maybe not reading heavy/depressing books, or only watching comedy shows or making a list of things that make me smile and committing to doing at least one of those things every day.

Being happy is not always easy, but that’s ok. It doesn’t mean I’m a failure or a loser or that my mood is unchangeable. It doesn’t mean I’m condemned to be miserable forever. Working at being happy doesn’t make my happiness any less real – in fact, I feel pretty confident that my life to come will be even more spectacular and rewarding than my past because Lord knows I’ve survived a lot to get here.

** I wouldn’t be a good, responsible blogger if I didn’t say that sometimes people DO need medication and are clinically depressed and have chemical imbalances in their brain that can only be altered with pills and/or extensive therapy.  Happily, I just don’t think I’m at that point right now 🙂

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