West By Sea is now in print

Michelle refused to let a cancerous brain tumor end her dreams, so she boarded a ship for 105 epic days of adventure.


West By Sea: A Treasure Hunt that Spans the Globe is the story of that trip, told by Michelle in her underway journal. Follow her on this inspiring journey around the world.


Treasure Hunt
Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.
Purchase full-color
6″x9″ Hardcover at Lulu:
Purchase full-color
6″x9″ Paperback at CreateSpace:
$34.95 $29.99 in September

Basic text, no photos


Purchase Kindle edition at Amazon:
$3.95 – $1.99 in September,
or free with MatchBook
if you purchase the paperback ->

Purchase text-only
6″x9″ Paperback at CreateSpace:

This book will make a beautiful addition to your travel library. The “Treasure Hunt” edition is 144 pages in full color and contains flip movies, encoded riddles, hundreds of small photographs from around the world, and 105 quotes and short stories that touch 40 ports in 29 countries on 6 continents.


Each book ordered is printed on-demand and shipped directly to you by either Lulu (hardcover) or CreateSpace (paperback).

To benefit charity

Proceeds from this book, after expenses and treasure awards, if any, are donated directly to charities on a quarterly basis, with the intent to benefit

  • brain cancer treatment and research
  • ovarian cancer research
  • families of deployed military personnel
  • wounded veterans

About the authors

Michelle M. B. Beale was diagnosed with brain cancer in early 2006. Since then she has battled an invasive Grade III tumor through three craniotomies, experimental proton radiation, and chemotherapy. A life-long aviation enthusiast, Michelle completed a dual bachelors degree in Aeronautics and Management. She worked in Tower One of the World Trade Center in NYC, and as Program Manager for the U. S. Coast Guard Academy’s Institute for Leadership.

Edward K. Beale loves puzzles, codes, ciphers, and travel. He finished service in the United States Coast Guard after two decades as a shipboard deck watch officer, rescue helicopter pilot, polar science operations senior aviator, and academic dean at the USCG Leadership Development Center. Ed speaks regularly to motivate and inspire positive corporate culture.

Categories: Special Update | Comments Off on West By Sea is now in print

Day 085: North Pacific Ocean

Day 85         August 12         North Pacific Ocean

“The sky seemed to clear, then I realized it was not a rift in the clouds but the white crest of an enormous wave.” ~ Ernest Shackleton |||

Under a dense blanket of lingering cloud, a long and rolling northeast swell catches the ship on the starboard quarter, a forceful and regular shove. I feel our westward movement in every step of my gait, transmitted to my feet by the surging deck. My sea legs are steady and I move with the practiced grace of an old salt, skipping lightly above the teak on the sticky tips of rubber soles. But something seems different.

North Pacific Ocean

On the beam a dull gray sea of tiny ripples stretches to the horizon, where all that gray turns abruptly into a single uncontested triumphant line of blue, a heroic blue, a terrible blue, a taut blue cord dividing ocean and sky, like the sharp edge of wide eyes in the moonlight. It beckons from the horizon at all quarters and then it comes closer, first grasping, then pulsing, reaching down across the waves, breathing out until the entire surface brims blue, dark and sinister, gobbling up the gray and leaving the lower world in stark contrast to the sky above. The sky is crisp, a springtime sky, dry and crackling, aglow with a blindingly complete and unblemished light, a perfect blue too glorious to grasp. Washed to the east by this relentless blue, the clouds have gone.

It is a typical day underway: an ample breakfast with heaps of fresh melon (while it lasts), choir, hula class, reading in canvas chairs on deck. The galley serves lunch a tad late, but no one really minds – it is a “pub lunch” and it sticks to my ribs. Formal for dinner, right on schedule. I wear a green velvet dress and pearls. Ever the gossip, Larraine dishes a juicy rumor: a new chum has washed laundry in the hot tub. Full points for creativity, mate, but the inevitable explosion of suds means the tub’s lengthy closure.

After dinner the dark blue line is back, taunting me, teasing its way across the horizon under pinkening, bushy clouds. Elegant in my finery and with a big smile, I shield my eyes from the brilliant light of the setting sun and fix the sparkling blue forever in my mind.

Daily Position:  N 29º 22’ 12”, W 133º 11’ 54”
Status:   Underway, Pacific Ocean making 20 kts
Weather:  Sunny & dry, 23º C, NW 5 kts, 1 m swells

(Travel with us around the world all summer. Purchase the book as a gift or for yourself. Please share the journey with your friends!)

Categories: 2016 Serial, Segment 5 | Comments Off on Day 085: North Pacific Ocean

Day 084: North Pacific Ocean

Day 84         August 11         North Pacific Ocean

“Birthdays are good for your health. The more you have, the longer you live.” ||| 

Across the Pacific we go, on a great circle route to paradise. It is Ed’s birthday, a birthday at sea. In the last three months, we have made good friends among the crew. They surprise him with a bunch of balloons, a signed card, and poster on our cabin door. He carries the card and a pen the rest of the day, collecting additional signatures. Much more than a souvenir or a photograph, a collection of signatures is a sharply personal way to mark a point in time. With a few strokes of ink, each person leaves a part of themselves on the page. This exact collection of people will disperse and never be together again. But we will remember when they were here with us, with each signature as proof. And the miles continue to slip by like days in a lifetime, soft and steady beneath the keel.

North Pacific Ocean

Sunday routine is posted and Sunday cooking smells waft lazily from the galley. Brunch is a comfortable weekly event. Sunday routine means time to catch up on sleep, write letters, press and fold laundry, and organize anything overlooked during the week. This down day is well timed after a frantic port call, and the common areas are uncharacteristically quiet. Some longtime passengers (who have been aboard since Sydney) disembarked yesterday to tour more of the States. With a start, I realize why the place seems empty. Familiar faces are gone from their familiar places. I will never see those smiling faces again.

As with other sailing segments, new passengers are with us. This batch seems better behaved. I discover most are Aussies catching a ride home. A group of Hawaiians is heading home too, eager to spread the Aloha Spirit. They advertise ukulele lessons, and later in the day hold a class in the ancient art of hula. I jump in to learn the moves. The music takes me right back to countless hours I spent as a child, learning dance routines and practicing body isolations.

Night falls, the bridge retards ship’s clocks to match the next time zone, and we all get an extra hour of blissful sleep.

Daily Position:  N 32º 01’ 24” W 123º 53’ 48”
Status:   Underway, Pacific Ocean SSW heading
Weather:  mostly cloudy, 19º C, NNW 9 kts, 1 m waves

(Travel with us around the world all summer. Purchase the book as a gift or for yourself. Please share the journey with your friends!)

Categories: 2016 Serial, Segment 5 | Comments Off on Day 084: North Pacific Ocean

Day 083: Los Angeles

Day 83         August 10         Los Angeles, California

“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” ~ Walt Disney

Los Angeles

The local pilot comes aboard at 4:15 a.m. to guide us northbound through the buoyed channel into San Pedro. The wind is calm, the marine layer lingers, and smog obscures the skyline. Cranes line the wharf, indistinct silhouettes of bare steel against the sickly orange hills, like oil derricks in the desert. Instead of sucking up black gold with a rhythmic up and down, they move side-to-side, plucking valuable cargo that was floated here from a hundred exotic ports. The crane operators deftly swap inbound finished goods – toys, electronics, and clothing – for raw materials from North America. The freighters will be loaded by afternoon and then head back to sea, plying the shipping lanes on an inexorable quest to trade proximity for profit.

Disembarking passengers scramble down the brow, frazzled and scowling, in competition with the bustling and efficient ship’s crew. Friends mention plans to visit Universal Studios, Hollywood Boulevard, and the Chinese Theatre’s famous collection of concrete hand and footprints.

I am scheduled for a telephone interview with DJ Grandpa, a follow-up for his weekly broadcast about inspirational Kickstarter projects. My cell phone is back on the network with five bars. Being connected feels tangibly strange, almost uncomfortable, like wearing shoes on the wrong feet. I find I haven’t missed the telephone at all.

Relatives from both sides of my family live in southern California. Uncle Charlie picks me up to join Aunt Jane and several of my cousins (plus their children!) at their home. It is a happy gathering with food, laughter, and storytelling, and then the surprise: cake and ice cream in celebration of Ed’s birthday, which is tomorrow. My soul is recharged and ready to tackle the last three weeks at sea.

Outside the breakwater and with Catalina Island to starboard, we enter the traffic separation scheme and begin the long westbound ocean passage to the Big Island of Hawaii.

Daily Position:  N 33º 43’ 45”, W 118º 15’ 43”
Status:   In Port, Los Angeles, USA
Weather:  Sunny & clear, 19º C, SE 6 kts, harbor calm

(Travel with us around the world all summer. Purchase the book as a gift or for yourself. Please share the journey with your friends!)

Categories: 2016 Serial, Segment 5 | Comments Off on Day 083: Los Angeles

Day 082: North Pacific Ocean

Day 82         August 9                      North Pacific Ocean

“It’s wonderful to travel with somebody you love and we never travel anywhere without one another.” ~ Roger Moore. |||

Eddie Icecream

Last-minute activity fills the hours. Los Angeles is the homeport of our ship’s parent company. Many of the staff will rotate ashore for time off. A senior steward, Donnie, remarks about the possible delays getting ashore. He expects a repeat of the security delays we experienced in New York. Scrutiny was especially harsh for certain nationalities. He is Filipino and takes the extra checks as a personal affront. A port call with time ashore is a chance to call home, restock supplies, send off some mail. With all this on the line, of course he and his countrymen would not cause trouble.

As the rest of us scramble to get ready for port, the bridge team keeps a steady north-northwest track parallel to the coast of Mexico, the Baja Peninsula well clear to starboard. I think back to my second craniotomy during the year I lived in San Diego. We will pass there in the night.

Two weeks at sea since New York. The short-timers, sailing only for the east-to-west passage, have been cutting corners on laundry. The smell makes it obvious. Days in the sweaty tropics have not helped, either. The aroma of poorly-washed garb wafts through the corridors. “If I can make it just one more day, I will be ashore,” they must be telling themselves. Those of us living aboard for the long voyage are not fooled. We can tell they are washing clothes in the cabin sink. Certainly the fight for open machines is a bother, but stinkiness might be a flogging offense in close quarters, such as when packed in a lift.

The Northern Hemisphere is heading into autumn, and on my morning walk I feel the cold. I am at breakfast by 9:00 a.m. The galley team hosts a culinary demonstration. I prep, then teach another technology class. The satellite internet connection slows to a trickle: fairly standard on the day before a port call as follow-on arrangements get made. I have plans to see family, and they are expecting me.

To end the day, Ed makes another “volcano” sundae disappear, living up to his nickname, Eddie Ice Cream.

Daily Position:  N 29º 38’ 24” W 116º 25’ 18”
Status:   Pacific Ocean making 21 kts
Weather:  overcast, 12º C, NW 35 kts, 8 m waves

(Travel with us around the world all summer. Purchase the book as a gift or for yourself. Please share the journey with your friends!)

Categories: 2016 Serial, Segment 4 | Comments Off on Day 082: North Pacific Ocean

Day 081: North Pacific Ocean

Day 81         August 8                      North Pacific Ocean

“It is a true gift to have the opportunity to travel this miracle of a planet.” ~ James Young |||

North Pacific Ocean

Getting back into the groove is always hard. After each of my brain surgeries it took a year to really feel like myself again. The days before each procedure were a lot like getting ready for an extended trip. Pack your bags, clean the house, pay the bills, get papers in order. The big day arrives and you put the past behind. Then wake up to a new day, a new circumstance, and the great unpredictable future. The old comfortable patterns are gone. New routines during travel are like new routines after surgery. But new routines are not all bad. You have passed through the open door, have stepped forward into the great unknown. The “getting ready” anxiety is finally gone. Soon the new patterns become regular patterns, and are finally comfortable old patterns again. I am comfortable here, settled into my traveling home, floating slowly around a watery blue planet. It took this long to find comfort again.

We are to the west of the Baja Peninsula, heading north-northwest, and will continue on similar headings until shortly before arrival at Los Angeles. Atmospheric pressure is on the rise again and Ed has a headache. I do laundry. At lunch I meet a juggler who came aboard in Costa Rica. He plans to stage a show for the passengers tomorrow.

Keeping with recent tradition, my friends and I fan out across the ship, but we are too late with our daily riddle answer. The crew solicits passenger photos for a contest; Ed submits his picture of the lightning from Tuesday. Our collection of photos has grown and grown. A lifetime of memories.

The evening is upon me. The ship hosts a formal night to bid farewell to passengers leaving us on Saturday. I wear my new outfit from India, a delicate print on cotton with turquoise embroidery and matching shawl. My regular companions are all here tonight, and we crack a reserve bottle of prize champagne. Smartly dressed, we again toast ourselves with irreverent formality.

Daily Position:  N 23º 49’ 36”, W 112º 10’ 17”
Status:   Underway, west of Mexico
Weather:  high cumulus, 25º C, NW 9 kts, light chop

(Travel with us around the world all summer. Purchase the book as a gift or for yourself. Please share the journey with your friends!)

Categories: 2016 Serial, Segment 4, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Day 081: North Pacific Ocean

Day 080: North Pacific Ocean

Day 80         August 7                      North Pacific Ocean

“The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance; the wise man grows it under his feet.” ~ James Oppenheim |||

North Pacific Ocean

Noises that once kept me on edge have faded into the background. Like the roar of traffic by a highway or sirens in the city, I no longer hear the constant hiss of ventilation, the rumble of the engines down below, or the crew going about their business in the passageways at night. Changes to the pattern are obvious. A door slams on the cabin next door. The new people are not like the old people. The new people come and go with a bang – literally. They play music late into the night. Even their speech is loud. I know of their relationship troubles, the names of their children, what color nail polish the lady wears, and more, in detail. They will leave the ship in Los Angeles. I have never met these people. I hope to never meet these people.

Gathering with my regular crowd for breakfast, Larraine tells of one “new chum” berating a member of the ship’s crew after missing the daily riddle contest – their answer was correct, but it came in too late. We all have a good laugh, because we know the prize is really not worth so much trouble. People can get too worked up indulging an overblown competitive streak. Then Larraine springs the rest of the story: she herself was first to report the correct answer! Yet another bottle of cheap champagne for us. We intend to keep winning until the bottles are gone.

Afternoon arrives. Mexico is still to starboard as we continue our sea passage toward California. Ed does laundry. We both attend the pop choir rehearsal at 12:30 p.m. The music sounds good and the concert at 2:00 p.m. draws a fine crowd. We really nail the performance, and get a standing ovation. For non-musician me, it is a big deal.

At dinner, my tablemates Karen and Roger are feeling under the weather. They excuse themselves early. The rest of us finish the champagne. The galley must have heard about this morning’s shouting match, because they put out not one but two scrumptious chocolate desserts. Nothing like a little chocolate to calm everyone down, right? Definitely works for me.

Daily Position:  N 19º 17’ 48” W 105º 25’ 01”
Status:   Underway, Pacific Ocean making 21 kts
Weather:  scattered clouds, 29º C, W 11 kts, 2 m swell

(Travel with us around the world all summer. Purchase the book as a gift or for yourself. Please share the journey with your friends!)

Categories: 2016 Serial, Segment 4 | Comments Off on Day 080: North Pacific Ocean

Day 079: North Pacific Ocean

Day 79         August 6                      North Pacific Ocean

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” ~ Martin Buber |||

Pacific Funnel Cloud

Early in the morning I am jostled awake by waves pounding on the hull. First the sound of a low “boom” from near the bow, then the shivering vibration down the length of the hull, then a sinister “fizzzz!” of salt spray against the outboard porthole of my cabin.

We are navigating adjacent Acapulco, Mexico, where the warm counter-equatorial current meets the cold California current, and the tranquil weather of the tropics is undeniably behind us. Lightning flashes all around in a pre-breakfast storm that draws both passengers and crew up on deck. We are all prepared for the weather, clad in full rain suits, but we wisely stand well back from the rail. One wrong slip on the turbulent twisting deck could mean a dangerous swim. The ocean is angry. The elemental power of wind and water is all around us, irrepressible, relentless, and invigorating.

Since I’m already up, I dress for the day and spend time updating my journal. Ed locates his backup watch, the one showing three time zones: the time here, the time at home, and Greenwich Mean Time.

Zero hour comes for the daily riddle contest, but the prize has already been claimed. I eat a late breakfast and make it to choir practice early. It is the final rehearsal before tomorrow’s performance and the music sounds quite polished. In the afternoon the galley crew surprises us with a chocolate demo (and samples). I help teach another juggling class, this time behind the wheelhouse to avoid the rain. It is a good class with over a dozen fellow passengers, and it is nice to see good progress by all the returning students.

Tonight we have plans to meet our Sydney friends for dinner up on deck. The meal starts with artichoke spinach dip, then filet mignon for Ed and tuna steak for me. Halfway through the meal, the rain starts and we drag our table under cover. Everything at sea, even a special dinner, conforms to the whims of the weather.

Daily Position:  N 15º 32’ 42”, W 098º 07’ 04”
Status:   west-northwesterly course, Mexico to starboard
Weather:  dark & cloudy, 29º C, SE 23 kts, 1 m swell

(Travel with us around the world all summer. Purchase the book as a gift or for yourself. Please share the journey with your friends!)

Categories: 2016 Serial, Segment 4 | Comments Off on Day 079: North Pacific Ocean

Day 078: North Pacific Ocean

(Travel with us around the world all summer. Purchase the book as a gift or for yourself. Please share the journey with your friends!)

Day 78         August 5                      North Pacific Ocean

“You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the last one.” ~ Michael McMillan |||

Pacific Ocean

Back underway, the start of five days at sea. We navigate west-northwest, with Central America on our starboard side. The sky remains unsettled as I step on deck in the relative coolness of morning. Back at the fantail our propellers keep on churning, generating a roiling wake filled with bubble and spray. Those stalwart propellers have carried us this far, with no real complaints. Like faithful friends, they ask for nothing, are always there, and help turn dreams into memories. Without those propellers this dream would have been over before it began. I settle into a deck chair with a book and read all morning, until the heat of the day forces me back inboard.

Under my cabin door, I discover an itemized bill for last month’s shipboard expenses. It is interesting to see in black and white just how those little daily decisions can add up over time. Ed recalls the monthly chow bill during his lengthy deployments. Back then he paid by check, which took the ship months to cash. Nowadays the charge is already on my credit card. An unexpected bonus this month is the exchange rate. The ship makes all charges using Australian currency, and the exchange with U. S. Dollars gives me a 10% discount. I appreciate the bonus, because the exchange rate was reversed when I started.

Ed tells me his watch is broken, but also that he was the first to report the right answer to the daily riddle, scoring us more champagne for the dinner table. While I was relaxing topside he was updating our online photo journal and organizing images. The collection is now over 15,000 shots and 200 gigabytes and should keep him busy for a while.

So here I am, back to underway routine, with choir practice, laundry, and the lively evening meal, sharing stories with my tablemates. Piano virtuoso Mickey Finn and his wife Cathy Reilly (a former Miss Delaware) came aboard in Panama, and they put on an excellent show for the other passengers. Before I know it the evening trivia game is over and it is time to “hit the rack.”

Daily Position:  N 11º 56’ 02” W 090º 29’ 24”
Status:   At Sea, El Salvador to starboard
Weather:  partly cloudy, 32º C, E 12 kts, 1 m swell

Categories: 2016 Serial, Segment 4 | Comments Off on Day 078: North Pacific Ocean

Day 077: Puntarenas, Costa Rica

Day 77         August 4                      Puntarenas, Costa Rica

“What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?” ~ Vincent Van Gogh

Costa Rica

Long rolling swells took me right to sleep last night, but at 4:00 a.m. the scream of hydraulic davits jangles me awake. We embark our local pilot to assist the final approach through the Gulf of Nicoya toward Puntarenas. Swells still fetch up from the southwest and break gently on the crunchy tan crystals of granite that form a driftwood-strewn beach.

Another month has passed without a buyer for our house. Ed makes a payment directly from savings, money that would have otherwise been used for activities on this trip. We must start scaling back. But today, I insist on taking a zip line adventure through the jungle.

Nowhere in all the world have I seen such a concentration of wildlife as under the leafy canopy of Costa Rica. Minutes from the ship, a family of howler monkeys swings by, with shimmering obsidian coats and shiny black eyes as big as grapes. They hang by their feet to watch me pass. Fuzzy yellow tussock moth larvae, dark groove-billed ani, leafcutter ants all in line, a dozen greasy crocodiles sunning on a sloppy clay bank, and trilling parrots in a feathered rainbow of hues. It is their domain and they know I am here, but all watch dolefully and without fear. “Just another tourist,” the locals seem to say.

I put on climbing gear and complete a mandatory safety brief. Getting up and through the zip line course is sweaty work, but the large banana and coconut leaves keep me cool, and zipping at high speed down the double line helps too. The exhilaration I feel, and yes, the fatigue, underscores the wisdom of doing this world-circling adventure while I still can, before whatever next unknown strikes me down –
or even worse, sneaks slowly upon me.

Puntarenas, Costa Rica

The locals are wrapping up a holiday weekend and vendors are out in force. For $2, the coconut man opens me a fresh nut and hands it over with a straw. Bare footprints in the sand mark my steps as I happily sip, then a distant whistle blows and it is time to sail away.

Daily Position:  N 9º 58’ 01”, W 084º 50’ 03”
Status:   In Port, Puntarenas, Costa Rica for the rainforest
Weather:  mostly cloudy, 29º C, S 10 kts, 1 m chop

(Travel with us around the world all summer. Purchase the book as a gift or for yourself. Please share the journey with your friends!)

Categories: 2016 Serial, Segment 4 | Comments Off on Day 077: Puntarenas, Costa Rica

Day 076: North Pacific Ocean

Day 76         August 3                      North Pacific Ocean

“You cannot discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.” ~ Andre Gide

Western Panama

Lost in the mists of morning, the low verdant islands of western Panama appear suddenly from the fog, ahead and well to starboard. The Pacific upholds its namesake quality today, and welcomes my arrival with openly blue skies and lazy, puffy clouds. The course is westerly, to round Isla de Cobia and turn northward by the afternoon. The swells are long and rolling and smooth, not choppy and quick as they were in the Atlantic. The water is so much more blue, a big ocean blue even this close to shore. The water is no longer an accessory to the land. Water here is unbound and free to be water again.

Coffee is the order of the morning and like a zombie I join the throng flocking to the pot. It’s the same daily grind though, not anything fresh and Central American. Bummer. On board you get what you get. I grab a bottle of chocolate syrup to make a “mess deck mocha.” It is a change from the ordinary and soon everyone at my breakfast club table is mixing in the syrup. We all collude on the daily riddle and are first to catch the ship’s representative with our answer: four ducks. The answer is right! More low-quality champagne for us. Oh joy.

Energy restored by the caffeine and chocolate, it is time to walk the decks. A brown booby flock drifts landward on the port side. Seeing the tropical birds in flight snaps me back to where I am, and I remember my pre-sailing regimen of vaccinations. Here in the tropics lurk terrible diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, typhoid, and strains of hepatitis – all diseases from which I am now (hopefully) immune. Thankfully, well to sea, disease-carrying mosquitoes are few.

The day passes like recent others, helping frantic passengers with technology and singing with the passenger choir. Others join a topside party after supper, but I spend a quiet hour at the rail, watching a radiant sunset give way to a blinding lightning storm. Under electric skies, a brisk breeze knots my hair and the warm rain finally comes.

Daily Position:  N 7º 31’ 02” W 082º 37’ 48”
Status:   southwesterly then northwesterly courses
Weather:  high scattered clouds, 28º C, SW 9 kts, 1 m swell

(Travel with us around the world all summer. Purchase the book as a gift or for yourself. Please share the journey with your friends!)

Categories: 2016 Serial, Segment 4 | Comments Off on Day 076: North Pacific Ocean

Day 075: Panama Canal

Day 75         August 2     Panama Canal

“Confidence is the key to all the locks.” ~ Joe Paterno |||

Panama Canal

The anticipation which has dominated the last few days has given way to a fine morning, overcast but still clear and bright. Gazing southeast from our anchorage across a mirror-like sea, the port of Colon at the northwestern terminus of the Panama Canal is before me. Mist rises from the golden surface, promising a tropical steam bath on an already hot day. A flock of pelicans flies below in perfect V-formation. Their wing tips gently tease ripples from the surface as if taunting the placid water, looking for fish. Aside the muted morning sounds of a working ship in the tropics, it is purely quiet and serene.

But this is not to last. A small black and white boat gives a merry toot to announce the canal pilot. She embarks by accommodation ladder on the starboard side and moves purposefully to the bridge. Her job is to direct the crew during every minute of today’s eight-hour transit to the Pacific. It is disappointing not to stop for a visit in Cristobal or Balboa, to walk The Bridge of The Americas, or to sample empanadas, yuca frita, or sancocho stew. A canal transit is all business.

Placed in service in 1914, I arrive during the canal’s 100th operational year. We are one of almost a million ships to transit in that time. As an engineering achievement, the canal is often considered one of the Seven Wonders of the modern world. High elevation runoff feeds the central Gatún Lake. That runoff is emptied in both directions through three sets of locks, first raising us through Gatún, then lowering again through Pedro Miguel and Milaflores.

Panama Bridge

Large, late afternoon thunderdrops spatter the deck, a brilliant white sun sinking in the west. I am only 30 days from completing this voyage. Western North America, Hawaii, and the islands of the South Pacific promise more adventure. Reflecting on shortcuts and passages and time, and in an ozone-charged breeze, I breathe deep and find myself thinking of home.

Daily Position:  N 9º 04’ 48”, W 079º 40’ 48”
Status:   North to south transit through Panama Canal Locks
Weather:  mostly cloudy, 28º C, light airs, locks calm

(Travel with us around the world all summer. Purchase the book as a gift or for yourself. Please share the journey with your friends!)

Categories: 2016 Serial, Segment 4 | Comments Off on Day 075: Panama Canal

Ed’s Birthday Present for YOU

North Pacific Ocean

Since Ed can’t throw a worldwide birthday party, here’s 20% off both versions of West By Sea. Use the title-specific codes at CreateSpace to get the discount, the entire month of August.

“Marathon” edition, black & white journal-only, no photos or codes, paperback:
Order here, use code P4D9J7DP

“Treasure Hunt” edition, full color with photos and codes, paperback:
Order here, use code 3UZHTXPP


Categories: Special Update | Comments Off on Ed’s Birthday Present for YOU

Day 074: Caribbean Sea

Day 74         August 1   Caribbean Sea

“It is thrifty to prepare today for the wants of tomorrow.” ~ Aesop |||

Panama Jungle

Down here in the western Caribbean things proceed at a slower pace. It is the Mediterranean without the pretension. The countries here are poor and they know it. Jungle is everywhere, and where there is no jungle there is swamp. Jungle and swamp come right down to the shore. Into a slow, moist, and steamy August we continue a lazy transit toward the entrance of the Panama Canal, skirting lush green islands and guano-capped rocks, heading west and then southwest towards the northeastern coast of Panama.

Ed and I spend the day’s idle hours making a poster to show friends and family watching tomorrow’s canal transit live via internet. The poster features a colorful compass rose, and we will hold it proudly aloft. Our work will join signs made by other passengers, some with humorous slogans like “sorry kids, spent it all!” and “get me off this ship!”

Thank You Backers

Getting to the Pacific became an obsession for explorers after Columbus returned with native stories of a “vast open ocean” to the west, across a narrow strip of land. Columbus spent much of his fourth expedition looking for a sail-able inlet. Balboa crossed the isthmus overland in 1513, 500 years ago, to “discover” the South Sea, renamed Mar Pacifico less than 10 years later by Ferdinand Magellan. Four hundred more years were to pass, with the low but formidable Continental Divide stubbornly blocking a more direct passage to the Pacific. In all that time, rounding Cape Horn was the fastest sea route to the west, a route that would claim hundreds of ships and thousands of lives. A mid-19th century railroad saw heavy use ferrying gold prospectors to and from California. To mark its 100th birthday, the original canal will soon welcome a second, larger sibling.

We approach the coast in the early dark, prowling the very track Columbus must have taken. The ship is alive with excitement. The lights on shore sparkle, the canal clearly visible from our anchorage. Away to port, a monkey howls, safe from us in the lonely jungle.

Daily Position:  N 11º 16’ 24” W 075º 25’ 36”
Status:   Underway, Western Caribbean Sea
Weather:  partly cloudy, 31º C, E 19 kts, 1 m waves

(Travel with us around the world all summer. Purchase the book as a gift or for yourself. Please share the journey with your friends!)

Categories: 2016 Serial, Segment 4 | Comments Off on Day 074: Caribbean Sea

Day 073: Willemstad, Curaçao

Day 73         July 31              Willemstad, Curacao

“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.” ~ Aldous Huxley

Curacao Lizard

Careful backtracking through the night at slow speed, first southerly and then east, brings us to Curaçao. We embark our pilot at 6:00 a.m. to assist with maneuvers toward the quay. The remnants of tropical storm Dorian have kicked the easterly trade wind into high gear, and the sky is unsettled as we approach Willemstad. At this, the largest of the “ABC Islands,” the locals are on hand to greet our arrival with dance, adorned in flowing lacy dresses of crimson and royal purple.

Chalky lizards bask in the sun, but wisely swing their hind feet away from the roasting pavement and onto their backs. A local Coast Guard helicopter circles above as I walk to the famous Queen Emma pontoon bridge guarding St. Anna Bay. The bridgemaster “drives” the pivoting bridge open and shut using twin diesel outboards.

Curacao Buildings

I cross the bridge and pass candy-colored Dutch-style apartments to visit the Punda quarter, and browse the colorful fronts of a local floating market. Here, Venezuelan boats arrive from the South American mainland every morning with produce and trade goods. Vendors beckon locals and tourists alike with wide grins and a hearty “bon bini!” They urge plantains and mangoes upon us, and offer progressively lower prices as we elbow past along the narrow and crowded sidewalk. Deeper into the Punda, tiny shops stock last years’ fashions and gadgets. Upon closer inspection, many items are inexpensive knock-offs. Let the buyer beware! At a voluminous fabric store I purchase several yards in two patterns: blue, tan, and cream feathers; and a geometric teal, beige and black. I’ll be sewing new tunics next week.

 No visit ashore is complete without a local meal, and the Iguana Cafe’s umbrella-covered seating is the perfect place to escape the afternoon heat. The skies clear, the wind dies down, the dust settles, and my drink arrives. Caribbean islands promise leisure a hundredfold, and Curaçao does not disappoint.

Daily Position:  N 12º 07’ 02”, W 068º 56’ 04”
Status:   In Port, Willemstad, Curaçao
Weather:  Few clouds, 29º C, SE 17 kts, 1 m swell~ Aldous Huxley

(Travel with us around the world all summer. Purchase the book as a gift or for yourself. Please share the journey with your friends!)

Categories: 2016 Serial, Segment 4 | Comments Off on Day 073: Willemstad, Curaçao

Day 072: Oranjestad, Aruba

Day 72         July 30              Oranjestad, Aruba

“Never interrupt someone doing what you said couldn’t be done.” ~ Amelia Earhart

Aruba Cultural Museum

The center of Oranjestad is under construction. New and beautifully clean cars evade potholes with practiced care. The streets themselves are choked with dusty grit, not all of it the native blowing sand. Shops sit empty behind glitzy fronts, and the cross-town trolley is an incomplete track down main street. Tourist money fuels a vision that is not yet reality. I saunter past a typical front yard: dirt, weeds, a scraggly cactus or two, and a late-model jeep painted to match the orange tag, proclaiming “One Happy Island!”

Jeep on Aruba

Inside a fort dedicated to Willem III, an extensive archaeological museum showcases the history of these Islas Inútiles, the useless islands. This designation by Spanish treasure-hunters in 1515 led to complete deportation of the locals, forever linking Aruba to the slave trade. The exhibits connect the population of today to their Caquetio forebears with the theme “Many Faces, One Nation.” Recent studies have revealed a native mix of 40% European, 20% African, and 40% Amerindian heritage. The pride behind an imported identity goes beyond the people: Aruba is known for their production of aloe even though the plant is not native, having been introduced from Africa. Excavations have uncovered pottery shards and beads from Columbia, the Amazon basin, North America, Africa, and Europe. Aruba, then as now, was a global crossroads, a stopover on the route to everywhere else.

Outside in the courtyard, the museum staff are preparing for this evening’s music festival. I am sad that I must miss it. The music and dance will probably be just as vibrant as the swirling crosstalk of artifacts unearthed across five centuries. A local and a tourist may share the same day, but for each the day is different. My role changes my perspective. Do they envy me, as I re-board my ship? Or is it pity in their eyes, a knowing gaze reaching back half a millennium, to waves of transients from four continents? “Sail onward, traveler, and this happy island will await your return.”

Daily Position:  N 12º 31’ 08” W 070º 02’ 13”
Status:   In port, Oranjestad, Aruba
Weather:  clear & dry, 31º C, NE 20 kts, 1 m waves

(Travel with us around the world all summer. Purchase the book as a gift or for yourself. Please share the journey with your friends!)

Categories: 2016 Serial, Segment 4 | Comments Off on Day 072: Oranjestad, Aruba