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
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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.

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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 105: Sydney, Australia

Day 105       September 2                 Sydney, Australia

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

Sydney Bridge

Sydney Harbor Bridge

The drama, anticipation, and tears are over. As I make preparations to leave the ship, I am blessed with a warm and rainless sky. This morning Ed and I have finished a journey around the world! We backtrack under a brilliant sunrise through Sydney harbor to the exact point from which we left, 104 nights ago. We have sailed 34,634 nautical miles, crossed 13 major bodies of water and all 360º of longitude between 62º north and 37º south latitude, to visit Australia, the Great Barrier Reef, Singapore, Malaysia, India, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan, the Suez Canal, Israel, Greece, Turkey, Anzac Cove, Italy, Vatican City, Monaco, Spain, the Strait of Gibraltar, Portugal, Ireland, Scotland, France, England, Holland, Denmark, Norway, Faroe Islands, United States of America, Aruba, Curaçao, the Panama Canal, Costa Rica, the Hawaiian Islands, American Samoa, Fiji, and New Zealand – 40 ports in 28 countries across six continents. My dream has been transformed into a sparkling collection of memories too numerous to count. Now I must start the journey home.

My closest new friends are waiting to say goodbye as we all complete paperwork to clear Australian customs. Then it is rush rush rush to get ashore, my small bags draped and shifting on their straps and big bags clunking down the gangway. As I am about to step ashore for the last time, I pause to look down at my feet. The concrete is the same, the terminal bustles with the same energy, the smells have not changed. But the instant my shoes touch this pier I will be changed forever and assume a new title: world traveler.

A throng of other passengers crowd behind me, and there is no time to savor the moment. Our replacements are on the pier, looking up at the ship and thinking the same exciting things we thought just four months ago. X sometimes marks the spot, my friends, but this I firmly believe: the world is just the start.

Departing Sydney

Departing Sydney. Where Next?

Daily Position:  S 33º 51’ 08”, E 151º 12’ 38”
Status:   Sydney, Australia – circumnavigation completed
Weather:  Clear & sunny, 25º C, SE 5 kts, calm harbor

(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 104: Tasman Sea

Day 104     September 1    Tasman Sea |||

“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.” ~ Anonymous |||

Tasman Sea

Sailing the Tasman Sea

Throughout this trip, I have mentioned my brain cancer infrequently but its effects are with me every single day. The cancer is like a sinister actor, always pushing me away from “absolutely!” in the direction of “maybe not today.” The word ‘no’ is a default part of every choice, and reversing it to ‘yes’ requires strength and effort, each and every time.

Some decisions are beyond my control. By their nature they demand a ‘yes’ and require my complete attention. For example, I must step ashore tomorrow, for the last time. Only the depressing effort of packing remains. I think of Pharaohs packing for the afterlife. What stays and what goes? Choices are unavoidable. Objects hold memories, and to leave something behind means admitting any value it once had is gone. All summer has been a slow unpacking, and now it is a wild scramble to cram all this stuff into just two pieces of luggage for my next journey, onward and backward to my former life in another world.

Even amidst the chaos that colors everything on the last day at sea, our crew maintains routine. A relaxed urgency bubbles beneath a day filled with effort. I start early: breakfast with our Sydney friends, then back to the cabin for packing. Then a final lunch with new friends, and back again for more packing and more choices. I donate some old cloths to the ship for distribution to South Pacific islanders. My uneaten snacks go to friends amongst the crew: in my bag or in my belly, they will not fit. There are two dozen items not subject to any scrutiny, however: the globetrotting objects sent along by trusting sponsors. Each has completed the journey with success, and they feel like old friends. Into the bag they go.

The ship continues on a westerly course during the final hours of this epic journey around the world. Ending a glorious run, the clocks are rolled back for the 24th and final time, and with packing done I enjoy a well-earned hour of extra sleep.

Daily Position:  S 34º 00’ 00” E 157º 49’ 02”
Status:   Course 272º westward through the Tasman Sea
Weather:  Sunny, 20º C, SE 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 103: Tasman Sea

Day 103       August 31         Tasman Sea

“I am willing to go anywhere, anywhere, anywhere; so long as it’s forward.” ~ David Livingstone

Tasman Sea

Sailing the Tasman Sea

Nothing really prepares you for the end. The ship sees just another day, on a westerly course through the Tasman Sea, and makes hourly progress toward my final destination of Sydney. But suddenly it is all over. Things unsaid will remain unsaid. Things undone string out behind me as opportunities left untouched in the realm of possible pasts, lost forever in the flow of time. Adventurers are not programmed for stopping. But ever onward is the way of ships, and we the crew must all eventually step ashore for the last time. Every adventure must end.

It is a day of “last time ever” and “final goodbyes.” The last coffee and laughs with the breakfast club. Perhaps the last battles at the laundry. The final choir practice. Fleeting final moments up on deck, bundled for the cold, watching Southern Ocean waves racing north. The crests flit and flee and tease my gaze to the horizon. By the time my eye catches one to focus on, it is gone. Like phantom stalkers they lurk beyond my reach, promising to guard the edge of the world for the eternity that will come once I am gone.

Things are not all glum and dour. Big smiles and hugs accompany “last” encounters with shipmates who have shared these many days during the journey around the world. We take photos together, swap addresses, and make promises to write. With deliberation I prepare my last dressy outfit and iron it with care for the last formal dinner. We finish the last bottle of prize champagne, then head off for a side-splitting comedy act and conversation.

The passenger lounge is busy and loud. Choir directors Alan and Alana wander through, join Ed and me, and share a bottle of Shiraz as thanks for our help with the summer’s music. We talk and laugh until 1:00 a.m. and do not mind the hour. Many others are also up late, gathered in small groups. Excitement, for these few minutes, is strong enough to postpone tomorrow.

Daily Position:  S 34º 11’ 07”, E 167º 10’ 01”
Status:   Westerly course through the Tasman Sea
Weather:  High scattered, 17º C, SE 20 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 102: Bay of Islands, NZ

Day 102       August 30         Bay of Islands, New Zealand

“Maybe it’s not about the happy ending. Maybe it’s about the story.”

Maori Canoe

Maori Canoe

The unexpected sudden calmness after rounding the promontory of Cape Brett wakes me early. I roll from the rack, turn my gaze to the porthole, and gasp, for what I see literally takes my breath away. Faceted rocks grow from a golden fog, distinct and darkly sinister, back-lit by a piercing sunrise. We seem to float upon a sepia cloud, as a dozen jagged islands stream past at 20 knots, just out of reach, nautical asteroids shrouded in dangling green and cradled by the mist. A buoy marking Jellicoe Channel shatters the illusion as we anchor abeam Motukokako Island. Reality and breath catch up to me and the magical moment is gone.

Taiamai Heritage Journeys welcomes me to these islands. I wear reef shoes and am bundled for the wind as they pair my group by height. I roll up my pant cuffs, wade across crunchy sand and slippery muck, then step aboard a waka taua (war canoe) to paddle up the Waitangi River. Our destination is Haruru Falls, its sheer basalt banks once used by European traders as a natural loading dock. Big man, historian, and river guide Hone Mihaka teaches about the hoe (paddle) and its proper use. He calls cadence from the bow in the native tongue of his Ngupuhi iwi (nation), a pleasing sing-song that keeps two dozen paddlers dipping in rhythm. Before long we are all singing too, and hardly notice when the waka runs aground on a sand bar. His grandson jumps over the side to free us, while Hone pulls a bone flute from his left earlobe and plays a haunting tune with his nose.

Bay Of Islands NZ

Bay Of Islands, NZ

Back on shore, I walk the placid nature preserve paths of the treaty grounds where Te Tiriti (Treaty) of Waitangi, New Zealand’s founding document, was signed in 1840. Low clouds trundle by and cast shifting shadows over the waters of the bay, a kaleidoscope of aquamarine, muted sea-foam green, and dusty blue. Returning to Sea Princess by tender boat, I realize with sadness that the last amazing port call is now behind me.

Daily Position:  S 35º 12’ 04” E 174º 10’ 17”
Status:   Riding Port Anchor, Bay of Islands, New Zealand
Weather:  Mostly cloudy, 14º C, NW 9 kts, bay calm

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Day 101: Auckland, New Zealand

Day 101        August 29         Auckland, New Zealand

“We weren’t lost. We were just exploring.” ~ Chris Conway

Auckland Skyline

Auckland Skyline

Hopelessly early in the morning, we navigate south through the well-marked Rangitoto Channel and to our berth at Prince’s Wharf. It is chilly and wet, a miserable late winter morning. I follow commuters in galoshes and slickers to a covered ferry crossing the harbor at 21 knots. Regulars flash chip cards to check on and off, but I must pay cash. Cushy bench seats nestle under silver-framed, rain-spattered windows, and life jackets are stored in the overhead. At the far terminal, I order espresso at a tiny shop, 100-year-old coffee pots and bean grinders on display. A Segway tour tempts me, but not in this wind.

Down a brick-lined alley decorated with antiques, I find a hole-in-the-wall cafe and arrange their wrought iron furniture for lunch. The meal is the very definition of trendy: salmon and spinach quiche with a buttery corrugated crust, arugula salad with creamy caper dressing topped by hand-placed carrot and red onion slices, and individual pots of tea sweetened with local honey.

Devonport Chocolates

Devonport Chocolates

Onward to my only planned destination, the Devonport Chocolate factory on Wynyard Street. A lady in a red raincoat walks her fluffy white poodle past a colorful reminder about Father’s Day. The sign recommends a funny chocolate mustache lollipop for dad. In the show room, little confectionery works of art beckon from tray upon chocolatey tray: mint melt, cappuccino, Valencia orange, limoncello. I share a pair of heavenly cherry-topped truffles with my stalwart traveling companion and the crazy love of my life, Edward. In this rare magical moment I can forget about the rain.

Cherry Chocolates

Cherry Chocolates

Puddles fill the street, so I duck into a used bookshop. Books are frozen snapshots in the torrent of time. They collect in such shops, the loosely related titles swirled together in themed piles of karmic debris. It is exciting to think that my own little story may come here to rest some day. First, I must complete the journey.

Daily Position:  S 36º 50’ 25”, E 174º 44’ 23”
Status:   In Port, Auckland, New Zealand
Weather:  overcast, showers, 16º C, NW 10 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 100: South Pacific Ocean

Day 100       August 28         South Pacific Ocean

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” ~ Dr. Seuss |||

Travel Map

Everything good must come to an end, as sunset follows the dawn. A hard deadline always helps focus my attention, and with a scheduled return to Sydney in just four days, it is time to get serious about the onward journey. The ship obediently continues on a south-southwesterly course while we passengers scramble to organize baggage and pack baubles collected across six continents.

Ed makes an early morning call to Boston – where it is late afternoon yesterday – then swings by the cabin and escorts me to breakfast: an ample brunch with friends in the main galley. We are summoned to a last-minute choir rehearsal. Surprise surprise: no singing but glasses of champagne instead, to celebrate our musical achievements throughout the summer. The choir directors Alan and Alana invite everyone to visit them at their home in England. It is a tearfully happy goodbye.

In the afternoon I head to the laundry to beat the expected last-minute crush. Drama always attends the laundry, and today is no different. The ship’s movement sets a dryer door swinging, and I lean on it to avoid injury. A wild-haired shoeless man enters, looks across the room, then realizes his wash is two decks below. A red-eyed woman squeezes in and starts to sneeze, uncontrollably. Thankfully I am done and back out with haste to avoid the expanding cloud of germs. Something about a public laundry always makes me feel like I am back at college.

While packing I consider things I have learned on this journey. When the ship sails, all debts are paid. A Greek fisherman’s hat hugs the head in high winds. Do not cross the gangway holding anything important, especially your keys. On travel most objects demand a disposable relationship, especially paper: itineraries, receipts, maps. A common currency is a blessing. There is a benefit to going ashore in disguise. Avoid tourists, even if it means more walking. Each experience may seem an insignificant dot in the grand story, but each dot is always indispensable when looking back.

Daily Position:  S 31º 29’ 04” E 175º 39’ 48”
Status:   Underway, South Pacific, course 189º
Weather:  overcast, showers, 18º C, S 25 kts, 4 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 099: South Pacific Ocean

Day 99         August 27         South Pacific Ocean

“There are no strangers here; only friends you haven’t yet met.” ~ William Butler Yeats |||

RTW Clothes

Zone after watery time zone, we have nearly circled the planet. The enormity of the effort over the past three months hits me fully and finally as a wave of amazement, but also sadness. The long days of discovery are at an end. Just two ports and three more days at sea separate me from the goal. My body reacts in the same way it does when I think about dying. THE END. So final. I have so much more I want to do, so much more I want to see, so many things to say to so many people, and there will not be time to do, see, or say any of them. No more time lady – you have used it all. If there is any lesson it is this: use each moment well. I have just a week to get my affairs in order before stepping across the brow one last time, to leave this short shipboard life behind for an uncertain future, swirling hidden in the mists of tomorrow.

No time to waste, but I waste it just the same on one more uninterrupted day of blissful avoidance. A late morning lecture covers our next stops in New Zealand: the port of Auckland and the Bay of Islands. And laundry, endless laundry. Life can be measured in trips to the laundry. Choir separates washing and drying, and my clothes are ready after a solid rehearsal. We perform in formal black and white to a packed house, a program heavy with Australian patriotism that ends with hugs, exchanged addresses, and promises to write.

Following standard routine for two-nights-out, the evening meal is formal. Ed wears his military tuxedo with full medals and I don a navy dress and all my (few pieces of) jewelry. We uncork one of the ‘prize winning’ bottles of champagne, the one with the silver label. Table 108 finishes the evening packed into seats for the final production show, La Fiesta.

Night falls and it is abruptly cold. We cross the Tropic of Capricorn, to exit the tropics for the last time. Relentless waves build into monsters on the bow, and I shiver as the piercing winds of winter tug the hem of my lacy dress.

Daily Position:  S 24º 13’ 01”, E 177º 00’ 48”
Status:   Course SSW, South Pacific Ocean
Weather:  Mostly cloudy, 20º C, S 21 kts, 2 m swells

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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

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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!)

Categories: 2016 Serial, Segment 5, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Day 093: North Pacific Ocean

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!)

Categories: 2016 Serial, Segment 5 | Comments Off on Day 091: North Pacific Ocean