Tet – It’s Not Only a Holiday; It’s an Adventure

Yesterday as I was watching my girlfriend Trinh prepare the food at her grandmother’s grave, I realized how much my perspective has changed since crossing the Atlantic.

Food laid out at her grandmother’s grave

I accept a level of uncertainly, magnitudes above, what I would have been comfortable with even 10 years ago.

The cemetery is about 20 minutes from Trinh’s mother’s house, where we are staying these days of the Tet holiday. Trinh and her mother had been cooking all morning. Finally, they meticulously packed a large bad hat would sit between my legs in front of me on the motorbike.

We set off. I had been to the gravesite two days previously, so I thought I knew what was going to happen.  Upon arrival, I see the box of cookies we had left the previous visit. Obviously, her grandmother hadn’t eaten any. Yes, I was being flippant.

Incense was still burning; Trinh mentioned that her step-brother, must have just been here. I never knew she had a step brother, but what the hell, I’ve only known her for little more than a year!

Trinh proceeded to unpack the bag, which contained not only food, but plates, utensils, clothes and even money. When you’re dead who knows when you may need extra cash.

In spite of my flippancy, I really like, respect the Asian reverence for the dead and elderly. It was one of the differences (in my mind) between western and Asian cultures and a reason I became so attracted to first Korean and now Vietnamese culture.

After 15 minutes, Trinh was putting the final touches on the dinner. I watched as she meticulously spooned a little fish sauce seasoning on the two main plates, a tuna steak and a plate of sautéed squid. Looked so good, I thought it a shame to waste.  Knowing the Vietnamese don’t waste anything, I was surprised.

She poured little glasses of wine and water, giving the old water to the potted plants, and refilling the glasses with fresh water.

When everything was done, she lit the incense and did her little prayer ritual.

Then, just as I was thinking we were ready to leave, she started to undo all the work of the last 15 minutes by putting all the food back in the containers it had come it. Nothing wasted, even the little sauce, went back into its’ little bag.

(two short videos of her getting it ready, then putting it back)

Putting it all back

Surprised? Not really, more like bemused. After my first Atlantic crossing, I learned to not be surprised at anything. I also learned to not complain about anything. When I dared complain about the 12-foot waves, they became 18 feet.

Mother Nature taught me as only she can: Be grateful for what you have, because it can always be worse.

Oh, I can still be as miserable as I want or as the situation dictates, I just can’t express how bad it is. Can’t even think it, for who knows who is reading your thoughts nowadays.

Those three storms, each a day apart, in the North Atlantic in the last week of August 2014, re-forged my brain.

New Yorkers grow up in a culture of excellence. That’s because we complain about anything that isn’t top notch, price notwithstanding. As teacher, then principal, I took that attitude with me. I did what was best for the students and built the teachers into a successful team. I complained to the powers to be about policies and procedures that were not conducive to student learning. I was listened to. While we had a reform minded Chancellor, that was very effective; but as soon as that Chancellor left, the reactionaries returned and I was out within 6 months. My only crime was my naivety that results (graduation rate from 40% to 70% in 4 years) would speak for themselves.

Food, money, wine, water, clothes and of course money (in USD of course)

Dauntless was the crucible that helped me through that abrupt change in life.

Three years later, on the North Atlantic, heading to Ireland, this was the forge. I would become accepting of what is or else. Now, this doesn’t mean I accept just anything. More than ever it simply means that if I’m not happy with a place or situation, I need to not be there or accept that I can’t change it.

Thirty minutes after arrival at her grandmother’s grave, now, really ready to leave, I still had to ask, with a little smile on my face, but what happens if she is still hungry? Trinh answered deadpan, “she ate”.

That was that. I knew what we were having for dinner and it was quite tasty, though the tuna was a bit drier than normal!

The North Atlantic taught me not to complain; to accept. The North Atlantic opened me to the possibility to be in an Asian culture in which even when I think I understand, I don’t.

I watch, observe, but don’t judge. I assume I don’t understand the full situation at any given time. I keep my questions simple, where do you want me, when?

I never ask why. Like waves on the ocean, it is, what it is, could be better, could be worse. If you don’t like it, go somewhere else, but don’t try to change it.

As One Chapter Ends Another Begins

Asia, via the North Pacific is still a goal.

Last Days in the Atlantic for a Bit

But now that transiting the Panama Canal, a set structure in time and space, has been done, I have time to take a breath.

I want to enjoy the Pacific Northwest, British Columbia and Southeast Alaska.  These areas provide the spectacular scenery of Norway with wildlife that has been long gone from Europe.

The western coasts of Central and North America pose a formidable challenge for little boats: long stretches of coastlines with inaccessible harbors when you most need them and predominantly head winds and seas.

If I’ve learned anything in the last few years, this Krogen does not like head seas.  They make for a miserable ride that takes twice the time and fuel.

Dauntless Rests In Fish Hook Marina, Golfito

So, the first step is understanding that with any northerly component to the winds, one must stay put.

We are also constrained by a relatively short cruising period, 5 months, maybe 6 at best.  That’s 150 to 180 days.  Climo says that the winds are northerly 66 to 75% of the time. That means of those 150 days, maybe only 45 are useable.

In those 45 days, I can reasonably assume that gets me about 2100 nm or someplace in Northern Mexico from Golfito.

The following summer, 2018, I’d have 2400 nm or about 49 days to get to the Pacific Northwest.

Lastly, in the third year, 2019, that time will be spent in British Columbia and Southeast Alaska.

So, I now have a more realistic time table.

Three seasons of cruising, also means three seasons of idleness.  And we all know that idle hands are the devil’s workshop. So, while Dauntless is safely tucked in, I must keep busy at an affordable pace.

The west coast is considerably more expensive than Northern Europe, thus I find myself having to be open to new money saving strategies for the winter in particular.

Since re-crossing the Atlantic, I have been slow in updating my digital log.  Maybe because the data simply does not change very much:

  • In 2016-17, Dauntless fuel consumption remains constant at 1.45 gallons per hour or just above 4 nm/gallons. This number is only 1/10th of a gallon different from 2015.
  • My costs, total expenses for Dauntless and for myself have averaged just less than $100 per day for everything. This is also slightly less than 2015.  While marinas in southern Europe were much more expensive than northern Europe, the large number of passage and anchoring days equalized that cost.  Also, a passage day, 24 hours x 1.5 gallons = 35 gallons per day at $2.5 = $90/day.  So, using fuel for 24 hours pretty much equals the cost of a marina and eating and drinking.

The long-range plan, a circumnavigation in a 30-year Kadey Krogen, is still the plan.  I’m already thinking of where I am crossing my track and what comes after that.  Northern Europe, Sweden and the Baltic still have an attraction that is hard to beat, but who knows.

I’m always thinking of the future; reflecting on the past.  While that doesn’t leave much time to appreciate the here and now, it’s who I am.  I get far more enjoyment having the Plan come together, then just winging it.  I can read a hundred self-help books about living in the moment.  What they all have in common, is that they are written by people who are adept at living in the moment and figured out how to monetize that.

 

So, this finds me taking a break from D right now.  We’ve been together almost 24/7 since November.  My nephew Micah went home to enter Law School, so I decided to take a little break and do a little reconnoiter for this coming winter.