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

 

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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.

 


Full-color
Treasure Hunt
Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.
Purchase full-color
6″x9″ Hardcover at Lulu:
$39.95
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Purchase full-color
6″x9″ Paperback at CreateSpace:
$34.95

Basic text, no photos
 

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Purchase Kindle edition at Amazon:
$3.95

Purchase text-only
6″x9″ Paperback at CreateSpace:
$8.95

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.

WestBySea-Cover-Sm

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
    and
  • 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.

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Day 098: Suva, Fiji

Day 98         August 26         Suva, Fiji

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.” – Mark Twain |||

Village in Fiji

At anchor, silent and rusty, a dozen white tuna boats welcome us. They fly the host country flag at the masthead, and home country flags at the stern: China, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands. In the port, dusty buses in crayon colors bring workers from outer villages. I board a now-empty bus and wish I had worn a sports bra as we bounce out of town. A sign in English proclaims Fiji Bitter to be ‘The Taste of Fiji!’ Everyone gives a thumbs up and shouts a hearty “Bula!” There are no scowls, only wide smiles and crow’s feet.

Rewa River

Towns here band together for mutual benefit, residents often closely related. Each household provides some service to the collective whole. A fenced yard is frowned upon, but there are fences still, often around cleaner houses and newer cars. Dwellings stand on concrete stilts to cool and to avoid burrowing insects. Livestock are tethered where the grass is greenest. A large sow roots in the mud around a huge tree root – she is better than a bulldozer. Slopes are covered with broad leaf crops in low orderly rows of taro, ginger, kava, turmeric, sugar cane, and tobacco.

On the western bank of the Rewa river I board a wooden launch, painted turquoise and propelled by a blackened outboard spewing noxious, oily smoke. From my vantage in the bow, I wave to a clutch of small children playing along the freshly dredged channel, then disembark at the Rewa Secondary School. A sign at the entrance proclaims their intent to “train the soul, train the mind, train the hands.” The kids here are poor but don’t know it – they are rich in love and learning.

Kids in Fiji

Back upriver I join a town gathered for the traditional kava welcome ceremony. The milky drink is smooth, with a subtle earthy taste – perhaps a bit peppery – and it quickly numbs my lips and tongue. Ed gives a speckled nautilus shell a hearty blast, and the kids pile around to flash playful fingers as their elders drum, sing, and dance up a sweat. Under monochromatic blue skies, I reluctantly return to Suva and the fast-paced modern world.

Daily Position:  S 18º 08’ 29” E 178º 26’ 31”
Status:   Alongside King’s Wharf, Suva, Fiji
Weather:  Partly cloudy, 27º C, SE 17 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!)

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Day 097: International Date Line

Day 97         August 24,25                International Dateline

“Tomorrow is a mystical land where 99% of all human productivity, motivation, and achievement is stored.”

Rain Cloud

International travel means an ongoing battle with time zones. Each adjacent zone is separated by an hour, with one exception. At an imaginary line running north and south along the 180th meridian of longitude called the International Date Line, +12 hours and -12 hours meet, and demand a 24-hour time change. Crossing the line easterly, a day would be repeated. But my voyage continues west, so today is both Saturday and Sunday, the two crammed together, an all-at-once payment for the hours we banked through the summer as extra sleep. Three and a half months of progress erased by a rule.

Up early, I shower, then join the impressive coffee queue in the galley. My regular mates shout and gesture at the starboard porthole. The flying fish are all around, flashing silvery fins. Some land, flopping, on deck. Helpful shoes nudge them back over the side. The swell is long and rolling. Short windy breaths add stippled texture to the surface like gentle puffs across prairie grass. Cumulus thunderheads build skyward, stark white and gray. They form mushrooms of moisture, anchored on stalks of water. If we change course early enough, the torrential pillars are avoidable. The bridge team threads the slalom course with ease, and the decks stay dry.

In the afternoon I catch up on my journal and take a spin on the exercise bike. It is one of the last warm days before returning to winter in the Southern Hemisphere. I overhear a bookish lady talking to friends. She claims we only lost a half day crossing the dateline, and cites this morning’s mess deck church service on “Saturday” as proof. She then reveals she woke in the middle of the night when we crossed the Equator to see her drain water change direction. She would probably believe me if I urged her to watch for an actual line in the water as we cross the dateline. Sometimes it is better just to listen and leave silly notions unaddressed.

Daily Position:  S 16º 49’ 30”, W 176º 11’ 11”
Status:   Underway, crossed International Date Line
Weather:  Partly cloudy, 27º C, SE 16 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!)

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Day 096: Pago Pago

Day 96         August 23         Pago Pago, Samoa

“The sooner you fall behind the more time you have to catch up.” ~ Will Rogers |||

Pago Pago

Unveiled as the first misty rays of morning crest the eastern hills and paint gold upon the bushy slopes, Pago Pago’s wide harbor entrance beckons. Early 1900s colonial architecture is mixed with the more traditional rounded fale dwellings. Legend says the god Tagaloalagi once settled an argument between carpenters with this decree: future houses must match the curve from heaven to horizon. Residents build shrines to their ancestors in the yard: those with exalted status in the front, others (less reputable) in back.

I approach a happily colorful but dilapidated bus and the owner, Vernon, waves me aboard with a warm “talofa!” He says, “This is Samoa: no air conditioning, no seat belts, no problem!” We pass buildings wiped out by the 2009 earthquake and tsunami, but stop to visit a church left miraculously untouched, the altar set about with blooming flowers and aglow with sunlight sparkling through intricate stained glass.

My driver Tele (Samoan for ‘big’) sips from a coconut and tells the legend of the fair maiden Sina who, at the request of her spurned lover the eel, buried his head in the sand upon his death. The head grew into a coconut tree, and thereafter any time Sina drank from a coconut she would have to kiss his face. Another legend tells of an old woman and her granddaughter who, to escape starvation, leapt to their deaths from a Vaitogi island cliff. They were transformed into a shark and a turtle, and may still appear when called by song.

Samoan Bus

I visit the home of the first locally elected governor, marvel at his walking sticks, and relax with mango and punch while Vernon and Tele serenade on the ukulele. We pass Flowerpot Rocks, transformed from drowned lovers Fatu and Futi, each crowned by an umbrella of green.

Safely back in town I bid goodbye (“tofa”) to the magical mystery bus, and dally at a tiny museum showing Samoan art and history. Across the brow as the last lines are taken in – earning the steward’s reproach – I am away to sea.

Daily Position:  S 14º 16’ 34” W 170º 40’ 33”
Status:   In Port, Pago Pago, American Samoa
Weather:  Partly cloudy, 30º C, E 18 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!)

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Day 095: South Pacific Ocean

Day 95         August 22         South Pacific Ocean

“The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.” ~ Jim Goodwin |||

South Pacific Pastries

Another sweltering tropical day at sea, but the last before a keenly anticipated stop at Pago Pago. Coffee in the commons, computer work, final choir practice and show, evening chow. Predictable. Comfortable. Relaxed. Normal.

The bridge team holds a detailed lecture about their organization, duties, and equipment, a look behind the scenes at their very important world. The occasion shakes me awake to an important oversight: we passengers have grown to take the crew for granted. I may not have not done them justice in this tale. Equipment must be maintained, food prepared and served. Idle hours must be filled, the track line consulted, and positions taken to maintain safe passage. These activities are part of the everyday background, and because they are mundane I have mentioned them with infrequency. But behind all these things lurk the crewmembers, following in-port or at-sea routine. They drive the narrative and direct the energy. It seems like a tightly scripted show, but of course there is no script. The show has a lackluster title – duty – and they all do it well.

Before any port call after a long sea leg, everyone gets fidgety. Those going ashore pack and scramble and say their goodbyes. Only a handful will leave us tomorrow, but in less than two weeks their story will be mine, so this time I start making notes. Today holds a series of “one last time” events. For the last Cruise Critic meeting (always bring your own beverage) I bring my cidre from France. There is no way to carry it back to the States, so I might as well enjoy it now.

Karen and Roger gift me a picture print: me with some feathered dancers, taken during the stopover in Hawaii. Burt and Larraine, ever the lucky ones, claim the final bingo jackpot, and share a pricey bottle of champagne with the table. Each of us raises a toast to their good fortune, for today, the few remaining days of this adventure, and for the unnumbered days that are yet to come.

Daily Position:  S 10º 16’ 52”, W 169º 14’ 14”
Status:   Underway, South Pacific, turns for 20 kts
Weather:  Partly cloudy, 30º C, E 19 kts, 3 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!)

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Day 094: The Equator

Day 94         August 21         The Equator

“Do you fear death? Do you fear that dark abyss? All your deeds laid bare? All your sins punished?” ~ Davey Jones |||

Equator

Good morning, all ye Honorable Shellbacks, tightwads, one-wires and sharkbait. Know ye that the ship, having arrived at the gates of the South Pacific to be properly inspected by King Neptune, has been found worthy. His most Royal Majesty has conveyed to the ship’s Captain the key to Davey Jones’ Locker and has granted us passage into his domain. However, several green and unworthy pollywogs invoke a stern command: complete a structured test for saltiness and undergo a ritualistic cleansing, by which they may atone for their various and sundry transgressions against the royal court, and myriad sins of omission, commission, and intermission. At last Neptune releases the ship and company to proceed with alacrity and all due haste across that most illustrious of invisible and arbitrary lines, the Equator. Welcome to the South Pacific, and may ye venture onward with seaweed in your hair, a siren in your ears, and a seagull on your head!

Without a doubt, this is one of the best days of my life. The ship crosses the Equator at 6:14 a.m. To celebrate, the ship’s company participates in a “renewal of vows,” a traditional initiation rite for those who have never crossed the Equator. Although this happened once earlier in the trip, I missed the chance to participate. Thankfully the Honorable Shellbacks are merciful and I pass all trials with success. Another win for me: in place of riddles, the ship now asks a daily nautical trivia question, and I am first with the correct answer. “When building a ship, where do they always put the last rivet?” Why, in the last hole, of course! Prize champagne for me and my table.

My victories make me so happy, I do not mind being stopped with technology problems. I do not mind spending half the afternoon washing my goop-sludged clothing, fully trashed during the initiation. I do not even mind missing the topside deck party to welcome everyone back to the Southern Hemisphere. Right here, at the planet’s waistband, I am on top of the world.

Daily Position:  S 3º 30’ 55” W 167º 11’ 01”
Status:   Crossed the Equator to enter the Southern Hemisphere
Weather:  Sunny, 31º C, E 16 kts, 2 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!)

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Day 093: North Pacific Ocean

Day 93         August 20         North Pacific Ocean

“What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves?” ~ Thomas Merton

On Deck

Smooth and flat, these tropical waters continue to baby the ship. We make over 400 nautical miles on a day that passes quickly, a smooth progression through familiar events: breakfast and coffee, choir practice, laundry, classes, journaling, supper, and after-work amusements. Yesterday’s anxiousness – cabin fever, really – has passed. With nowhere to go but onward, I feel the calm acceptance of my benign fate.

Among the crew, the great liberty controversy continues. I am told company regulations require one day on land for every five days at sea. Even adjusted for the sailing schedule, some have not stepped ashore in more than 15 days, and have been given (in their minds, at least) no satisfactory explanation. The totalitarian “because the captain said so” is certainly not a good answer, as the days when a captain could exercise both high and low justice are long gone. Still, the rules under which we operate were not just invented. They grew over time, centuries in some cases. Is the restriction limited to this ship? As in times of old, we hear nothing from the captain. Instead we plod south and the mystery remains unsolved.

At sunset I venture topside to check our position and the weather. The wind is strong from the east, and catches me full in the face. Squinting, my eyes start to water as the wind pushes teardrops back to my ears. Lady Selene is coming up, the centerpiece of another happy coincidence: a full moon at the Equator. With only a month before the autumnal equinox, she rises from the placid waters on our port beam, exactly to the east, and exactly at sunset. Low clouds block my first glimpse, but are spectacle enough by themselves, with tops touched by pink and bottoms that glow and sparkle, unencumbered by man-made lights and atmospheric pollution. The moon’s majestic disk finally climbs skyward into the clear, and paints a narrow pathway of silver from my handrail to the horizon.

Equator Moon

Daily Position:  N 3º 32’ 53”, W 165º 03’ 12”
Status:   SSW course, midway between Hawaii & Samoa
Weather:  Sunny, 30º C, E 20 kts, 3 m rolling 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!)

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Day 092: North Pacific Ocean

Day 92         August 19         North Pacific Ocean

“The life you have led doesn’t need to be the only life you have.” ~ Anna Quindlen |||

Out on the open ocean once again, steaming south into the tropics. Early clouds drop astern and high pressure is back, pushing the waves smooth like a rolling pin. Swirling tendrils of frothy wash fan out behind us as we skate across the surface at over 20 knots.

Another passenger, Grahme, is making the full circumnavigation after a life-changing injury. He lost his foot and part of his leg in a motorcycle accident. He has since gained fame as a professional sailor, and gives a talk about his experiences entitled “Put Your Best Foot Forward.” I stay late to thank him for his inspiring words.

Then I race to grab lunch, but am waylaid by a guy asking about his smartphone. The chow line closes and I have missed the meal! Smartphone guy is long gone, and would not shed a tear for my grumbling tummy. I grab an emergency snack from the cabin and retreat to a reliably private spot: the laundry. Wonderful idea, until passenger Jeff walks in and pleads, “will you help me with my tablet?” It is Groundhog Day with this annoyance of my own making, but he rewards my help with a rumor and a quote. The rumor: someone did their laundry in the hot tub again. We agree the person should be charged for draining, cleaning, filter replacement, and refill. And his quote: “Because of people like that, I will probably never sail again.”

World travel is hard, and like anything worth doing, you must tease the tangible benefits from a background of inconvenience, discomfort, and the antics of annoying people. Today the annoyances pile up to overwhelm me. I am “peopled out.” Three months trapped at sea with a ship full of strangers will do that.

Pastel Sunset in the Pacific

Dinner brings a dose of “my people” and that really helps; familiar friendly faces and laughter. Maxine and Bruce bring down a quality bottle of Italian wine for us to share. Evening drops a pastel shroud across the sky, salmon pink and powder puff blue competing unsuccessfully with velvety black.

Daily Position:  N 10º 17’ 02” W 163º 00’ 35”
Status:   Southerly course 197º, making 21 kts
Weather:  Partly cloudy, 28º C, SE 18 kts, 2 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!)

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Day 091: North Pacific Ocean

Day 91       August 18       North Pacific Ocean

“I have seen so many extraordinary things, nothing seems extraordinary anymore.” ~ Lewis Carroll |||

North Pacific

Coming off of three exciting days ashore, I enjoy sleeping in. Adjusting back to the underway routine is smooth this time, smoother than it has ever been before. First and most important this morning is coffee with the breakfast club. The ship announces a stop to the daily riddle contest. A few zealous competitors set off a volcano of complaints – from others, apparently – certainly not us. With unexpected idle time I help new friend Rick with his tablet, then swing by the cabin before breakfast: pineapple, toast with honey, and orange juice. At trivia with the regulars, my team loses graciously to escape more cheap champagne.

The competitive drama surfaces again at choir practice. Some singers almost come to blows over notes; creative differences, perhaps. We are given a stern talking-to by the directors, and the scolding works. Renewed focus on shared goals yields musical magic. Will it last?

Yes, regular routine is back and boredom stalks the fringes of the day. An impromptu ragtime concert on piano is a welcome diversion after lunch. Tim Barton is one of the few others aboard from the USA and plays like a dream. I pull a canvas deck chair to the rail and catch up my journaling. The slow rolling waves turn my writing time into nap time, and soon it is time for the evening meal. My regular Aussie tablemates have other plans tonight and so it is just us Yanks. The whole ship seems subdued and regular evening diversions fall flat, so I head back to the cabin and watch a movie on my laptop.

“Beginner’s mind” lets you see a place as if for the first time, as a child might. Children wake up to fresh wonder each day. On a short vacation, beginner’s mind is easy to find, but extended travel nibbles at the edges of boredom, and I fear the last two weeks of this journey may mask my sense of adventure behind bland repetition. Hoping there is a way to recapture a wide-eyed wonder in the face of the familiar and safe, I drift off to sleep.

Daily Position:  N 17º 04’ 42”, W 160º 54’ 12”
Status:   Underway, SSW course toward American Samoa
Weather:  Sunny, 29º C, E 33 kts, 3 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!)

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Day 090: Nawiliwili, Hawaii

Day 90         August 17         Nawiliwili, Hawaii

“Involvement and commitment are like eggs and ham. The chicken is involved; the pig is committed.” ~ Martina Navratilova |||

Blowhole

Nawiliwili whispers rural in the way Honolulu screams big city. The island displays her older features well; red-rusted hills shrouded in flowing capes of green. I am off to see Waimea Canyon, the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. The western volcano wall collapsed 4 million years ago, and rainfall on Mount Waiʻaleʻale has since eroded the incision, 15 kilometers long and a thousand meters deep. I pause at the summit and look down. Other visitors to the canyon engage in friendly chitchat as we wave to helicopters below the rim. The conversation turns to my illness, and they ask if I have big plans. I say this trip around the world is my version of running a marathon. In the final stretch now, I feel my energy starting to dip.

Chickens are everywhere. Hurricane Iniki destroyed the robust chicken farming operations here in 1992. The long coops are gone but many of the birds escaped, and their wild descendants continue to plague the locals. They joke that the Hawaiian state bird is the chicken. KFC has been redefined Kauai Flattened Chicken, and the phrase is invoked often when out for a drive. Signs admonish everyone not to feed feral chickens. Just a few generations of free competition has adorned the birds with plumage that rivals any long-native tropical species.

Hawaiian Chicken

Macro and micro culture are also in competition here. The worldwide culture that includes Wal-Mart and Starbucks follows the tourist money. Local culture fights back, at roadside stands that display Ni’ihau shell leis and copra, and serve locally grown and roasted coffee. A sign proclaims A‘ole o Kauai‘i ‘i o ‘Amelika, ā ‘a‘ole loa e lilo ana – Kauai‘i is not America, and it never will be. Vandals have scraped off the word ‘not.’

At the famous spouting horn blowhole, I am showered by spray squeezed aloft by the southern swell. Returning to the ship, I find sailing is delayed while we wait for port clearance. Something is afoot, but mere passengers are never consulted about such things. The culture of those in charge is what matters.

Daily Position:  N 21º 57’ 33” W 159º 21’ 10”
Status:   In Port, Nawiliwili, Kauai, Hawaii, USA
Weather:  partly cloudy, 28º C, NE 16 kts, 2 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!)

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Day 089: Honolulu, Hawaii

Day 89         August 16         Honolulu, Hawaii

“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” ~ Ibn Battuta |||

We pass Maui, Kaho’olawe, Lanai, and Moloka’i in the night and navigate the narrow harbor entrance. We turn and moor port-side-to our berth at Aloha Tower. The cloudless sky promises a fine warm day with very little rain. Of course, this means no rainbows.

Graffiti Kahuna

I stroll past the image of a young Kahuna in full regalia. He looms three stories tall, his mural a pleasing contrast to slapdash graffiti. In park-like pockets of green the noise of Honolulu traffic fades and quiet settles in. I find one such oasis under the banyan trees on the grounds of ‘Iolani Palace, a sacred spot surrounded by sacred stones. The wind catches the wide banyan leaves and berries rain down around me. I escape from under and gambol across a sun-drenched lawn of wide-bladed grass. Rare pink hibiscus flowers flutter in the breeze and fill the air with perfume, sweetly masking the urban odors of trash day.

Auntie Pastos

For lunch I make a beeline to Auntie Pasto’s and arrive when they open. This place is one of those rare gems, well off the beaten tourist track and oh so good! I order the daily special: sautéed mushrooms and onions over penne, with roasted garlic and olive oil. A steady stream of locals cycle through and the staff provides attentive but unimposing service. My body warms as the pasta digests. The air conditioning is broken – if it ever worked – but chipped brown ceiling fans whir at full speed, drowning out many wine-fueled conversations.

At a fabric store I buy ten yards of patterned cloth, chosen from multi-hued options on thousands of rolls. Travelex behind the Ala Moana mall helps me swap my entire collection of world currencies for dollars. There is just enough time to make a phone call home. Then darkness settles, Friday night fireworks light the sky above Diamond Head, and to the east a waxing gibbous moon climbs out of our wake. Swaying palms, smoky torches, and soft hula music all fade astern as mighty Oahu sinks into the sea.

Diamond Head

Daily Position:  N 21º 20’ 00”, W 157º 50’ 00”
Status:   In Port, Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii, USA
Weather:  Sunny, 27º C, E 10 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!)

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Day 088: Hilo, Hawaii

Day 88         August 15         Hilo, Hawaii

“This is the most magnificent, balmy atmosphere in the world, and ought to take dead men out of the grave.” ~ Mark Twain |||

Hilo Hawaii

For today’s adventure I will help new friends Roger and Karen return souvenirs and extra luggage to their home in Kona. The town is on the other side of the island, however, and timing will be tight. We embark the local pilot at 8:00 a.m. and proceed into Hilo Harbor. It is good to see a Coast Guard buoy tender hard at work setting aids to navigation. “The bridge of a cutter is the best office in the world, after a helicopter cockpit of course,” says Ed.

Offloaded and rolling, I drive along the Big Island’s north coast and stop to walk beneath lush vegetation and over jagged lava (“a’a”) along the shore. The locals say, “if you plant a pink eraser, it will grow you a pencil.” Flowers consume the view in all directions, the xylem flowing and alive with jungle magic, wide petals of pink, salmon, crimson, and mustard, blooming perfectly and without intervention. Paradise is all around and unavoidable. A wave of awareness hits me: beauty is not limited to just here, halfway around the globe. Beauty is worth taking time. You cannot wait for an invitation. You must go and seek it out.

Hawaiian Flower

At the Waipio Lookout my gaze drifts from the horizon’s angry sea into a ravine, an inlet that was wiped out by a tsunami several decades ago. In Honoka’a town, we stop for lunch – world famous malasadas at the Tex Drive-In. Here the Portuguese fried dough is raised to a high art. You can order traditional buns sprinkled with sugar, or something more fancy and filled with chocolate, whipped cream, or local preserves – a treat well worth the journey from, well, anywhere.

By lunch I am on the western shore, north of Kona, traveling south between jumbled ridges of jagged lava rock, dark as midnight. White rounded stones offset the road, arranged into words and pictograms, stark marks on the vegetation-free terrain. The clock ticks down, and with the sun behind me I race across the saddle between snow-capped Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea to the port, and cross the brow just in time for sailing.

Daily Position:  N 19º 49’ 23” W 155º 05’ 37”
Status:   In port, Hilo, Big Island of Hawaii, USA
Weather:  partly cloudy, 29º C, NE 5 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!)

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Day 087: North Pacific Ocean

Day 87         August 14         North Pacific Ocean

“Do just once what others say you cannot do, and you will never pay attention to their limitations again.” ~ James Cook |||

North Pacific Ocean

Grudgingly still awake at 2:00 a.m., I see Ed at his computer. He is catching a satellite signal to pay our bills. The house still hasn’t sold and he remarks that money is tight. This crazy corkscrew motion jostles me in the rack. I toss and turn for hours, then wake with a start. I have almost missed breakfast: fresh fruit, salmon with capers, and tomato juice with lemon. I step topside to curse the cause of my insomnia. Choppy whitecaps top the crests of loping swells. A sturdy wind drives us before it. We are caught in the flow, a plunging seesaw of pitch.

The strong east wind comes with another surprise. The wind is from directly astern, and blows at the exact same speed as the ship. This means the engine exhaust, cigarette smoke, and other smells emitted by the engineers (I invite your imagination) stagnate around us and linger. We could change course to either side of the wind line and escape, but the bridge team presses onward and the yellow cloud surrounding us blooms larger with each passing hour.

By afternoon my weekly passel of laundry is folded and stowed away. Ed is learning ukulele from the Hawaiian passengers and plays me “Jumping Flea.” He is victim to “string teacher’s revenge” – sore fingertips. Choir practice goes well but is lightly attended. Many singers are preparing for the passenger talent show, which opens to a packed house. The crew especially enjoys seeing our varied talents on display.

Mark Twain spent four months in Hawaii in 1866, and in his lectures called the place “the loveliest fleet of islands that lies anchored in any ocean.” He returned in 1895 with a fervent desire to get ashore, but saw his “dream of 29 years go to ruin”: a cholera epidemic in Honolulu trapped him at anchor less than a mile away. He continued on around the world, but no subsequent adventure would ever dull his longing for the islands. Ed and I will make our own return visit in the morning, and there is no epidemic to stop us.

Daily Position:  N 22º 37’ 54”, W 149º 37’ 46”
Status:   Underway as before, Pacific Ocean
Weather:  partly cloudy, 28º C, E 18 kts, 2 m swells

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Categories: 2016 Serial, Segment 5 | Leave a comment

Day 086: North Pacific Ocean

Day 86         August 13         North Pacific Ocean

“Seek not to become extraordinary in an ordinary realm, but rather to become ordinary in an extraordinary realm.” ~ Edward Beale |||

Keeping to the proper track in the open ocean is an ongoing act of love. The rudder may hold straight, but the currents move to and fro beneath us. A strange swell sets up a rolling motion that moves the stern through a drifting corkscrew one minute, a figure eight the next. The conning officer is like a wrangler with a cane switch, nudging a reluctant elephant back in line.

“Nothing travels faster than a rumor aboard ship” is the old adage. Yesterday’s drama at the pool must be true: new rules circulate. “The Captain is fed up with ship’s laundry complaints, and has directed the purser to sell tickets for the laundry queue.” This is the buzz at least, and over coffee my friends and I share a hearty chuckle at the notion. I have already done wash today, and know the rumor is totally untrue. Is this just playful ribbing by full timers (like us) at the expense of the new hands? So many rumors: “Since we sailed, five people have died.” “The engineer uses this cheap champagne to degrease his machinery.” “The cook has run out of American-style bacon.” How do they start? Which are based in truth? They come and go like sea birds on the wind.

Still, life at sea goes on. I spend time cleaning up my cabin. Straightening is a welcome and uncomplicated task after considering all those crazy rumors. I gather similar items together and start sizing up luggage space for the pack out. I have kept souvenirs to a minimum, but there is no way all this stuff will ever fit back into my suitcases.

The corkscrew roll has me feeling off, so I drink lots of tea and focus on routine: a good choir rehearsal, hula class, journal, reading and a nap. At the evening meal I try to stay healthy with a fruit entrée and light flaky fish for the main.

Tropic of Cancer

Topside the sky is pink, and wispy clouds mark our return to warmer weather. Tomorrow we will cross the Tropic of Cancer for the fourth and last time on our westward journey around the world. Showers of meteors, the annual Perseids, light the sky above.

Daily Position:  N 26º 13’ 48” W 141º 40’ 13”
Status:   Underway, Pacific Ocean making turns for 22 knots
Weather:  Sunny, 25º C, SE 15 kts, 2 m rollers

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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

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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 | Leave a comment