The Older I Get; The Less I Know

Many of you know my fascination and appreciation for Northeast Asia cultures, in particular Korean. My  first visit to Asia was 20 years ago, visiting Korean Airlines in Seoul, for a business-related trip. I found the South Koreans a marvel to work with and I ended up finalizing a NOTAMs product for them.

Father and Daughter

Twenty years earlier every stereotype I held about Europe and Italy in particular, was dashed on the bus ride across Milan from one airport to another. How could the New York Times have been so wrong?  Thus, I was a bit better prepared for my first trip to Korea. I’d even read a book, “Culture Shock Korea”, which turned out to be very good for that trip and started a long-term relationship with the people and the country for me.

I’m embarrassed to admit now, that before that, I had lumped the cultures of Northeast Asian: China, Korea and Japan, pretty much together.   Hard to imagine that, when 10 years later, I even had a Korean language program in my 100% Black and Hispanic school in the Bronx.

Quitting Time at the Factory

Fast forward to the present. For my first foray into Southeast Asia, I knew to leave everything I thought I knew at the door. I read a number of books this time. I was helped with my correspondence with Trinh. It was obvious even then that it was a whole new world.

Vietnam seems like I guess Korea was back in the 1980’s, maybe how Italy was in the 50’s. Countries pulling themselves up by their bootstraps with a population that was dedicated to hard work and sacrifice.  I have also learned that in spite of the convenient geographical reference of Southeast Asia, Vietnam is really culturally and linguistically closer to Northeast Asia: China, Korea and Japan.

In my first weeks here, as I became more accustomed to the heat, humidity and motorbikes, I started to see far more similarities to Korea than I would have guessed before. Initially, all I saw were differences, but within weeks, I realized it more like 90% similar, 10% different.

One of the big differences is the culture of the motorbike. They are popular here because of cost and they work because the climate is warm enough year around.

It took me a while to get my head around the system. At first it seems like no system, but anyone who has driven a motorcycle knows, mistakes hurt. You don’t have two tons of steel around you to protect yourself from your own stupidity.

At the simplest level, the rule is don’t hit anything you can see. Doesn’t get much simpler than that. What amazes me is the total lack of any road rage or even emotion. It’s just a very cooperative system. I’ve been on a road that is already narrow, with motorbikes reduced to one line to get around some obstruction and someone is that line will get a cell call and just stop. Now everyone must also get around them, but there are no words, not even any looks.

I’ve always thought that NYC is a cooperative place to drive. Drivers int eh middle lane, will move left and make room for the car in the right lane, if they see the right lane is blocked. Most other places that doesn’t happen.

So, I’ve have finally gotten my GoPro going and will upload the videos I make to my smug mug site sooner rather than later. The other good news is that I have many Videos made on Dauntless also that never saw the light of day because they were inverted. I finally was able to fix that.

I would appreciate any suggestions (please email me) on the best way going forward to post my action videos. You Tube Channel??

This is a static video showing the intersection by my cafe.

Here is the link to my motorbike adventures

Anyway, enjoy and let me know.

 

 

Sirens Call

Dauntless in Waterford, Ireland November 2014

While I’m cooling my heel in Vietnam; a great place to do so, while Dauntless waits for better weather to head north this coming summer and fall, I seem to hear the sirens calling.

The problem is, after having moved south and west for the last 12 months and 7,000 miles, passing west thru the Panama Canal and up the west coast of Central America, with Alaska, the Aleutians, Japan, Korea and Taiwan in our sights, the Sirens are calling be back with a distinct Irish brogue.

Your thinking WTF, what the F do you think I’m feeling???

I’m the one who put in the miles, the time, the big ass seas and certainly the money to get where we are.

Yet, I can’t watch a Harry Potter movie, an episode of Borderland, the Fall and certainly Jack Taylor, without missing Northern Europe, Scotland and Ireland.  For my tastes, certainly the best cruising since leaving New England.

Is it nostalgia?

Or just the realization that in my last 20,000 miles of cruising, the longest lasting relationships (excluding Krogenites, of course) have come from the Baltic and the Celtic areas of Galicia, Ireland and Scotland.

Waterford

Coincidence? or the Sirens?

I have a tendency to think it’s the latter.  What else could explain my obsession with Europe, while I still have Asia and a few more oceans to cross at best??

So where do we go from here? I’ll do what I do best, think and plan.

Stay tuned.

 

Who Can Resist Women in Uniform

 

 

 

I Certainly Can’t.

Which is why I being currently in Vietnam, Sai Gon or Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), to be exact.

Why here? Why now?  Why not:

  • I have a friend here.
  • I needed a vacation from Dauntless.
  • She needed a rest from me.
  • I needed to be in New York for a bit, so it’s almost on the way.
  • It’s incredibly cheap, with wonderful food.
  • The people are so very friendly, nice and welcoming
  • And I do like women in uniform.

After this post, my writings about my other, non-Dauntless related, travels will be under Dispatches From the Orient

I can write gobs and gobs about HCMC so far.  Let me suffice to say in this little introduction that it is a true working city full of really nice, friendly people, with incredibly good food at even more incredibly inexpensive prices.

Today I did a little exploration of a new section of town, took four buses that cost me a total of $1.00, that’s 25 cents each.

My DInner that Cost $0.90
The image on her fight is some kind of missile sitting on a stand on a table. This show was about various weapons systems, as I saw some US and Russian made stuff.

Here is a little video I took on my first days.

I found it best to just close my eyes often.

And if you think the motobikes are numerous, think of the alternative like Bejing, where cars sit in endless traffic jams and the pollution is so bad it’s hard to go out!

We Don’t Need no Stink’in MiniVan

Stay tuned for many more tidbits to follow:

Dispatches From the Orient

 

Coming up here next, In Hindsight; A Retrospective of the Cruise from Ireland to Costa Rica

The Plan Comes Together

Since I have talked, written, about my planning process a lot, you know I like having a plan.

But there are times when a plan, any plan, has been elusive. Also, the best plans are always subject to change.

Generally, I find that the best plan, or better stated, the best initial plan, is one that stands the test of time.  Having a straw man to test, If I go here, this will happen, allows me to continuously refine the plan and test it mentally with many different scenarios.

Having an initial plan also allows me to write about it, talk about it. So, my friends or anyone has a chance to ask, Uh, you’re not really planning on doing that, are you? I like, even need, questions like that.  They are part of my extroverted thinking process.  They make me better articulate, or think through, the what and why of the plan.  And of course, there are times, I learn of significant mistakes.

Oops.  Like this summer’s missing 1,000 nm.  That’s about 25 days’ worth of coastal cursing.  A month out of a season that may only be 5 months.

My initial plan after transiting the Panama Canal in January, was to head up the west coast ending in Southeast Alaska 6 months later.  Not a terrible plan, if traveling by car!

But when the details are still an ocean away, don’t sweat, don’t worry.

Then as my Panama Canal transit got later and later, I’d make some adjustments to the west coast plan, deciding to stop in the Pacific Northwest or even Oregon if that’s as far as I got by October.

I still had not found the missing 1,000 miles, but then I still did not know they were missing.

We had a quick five day, 300 miles run from Panama City to Golfito, the southernmost port in Costa Rica.

Dauntless Initial Planning 2017 through 2020+ All Dates, destinations are tentative, but gives me frame work for the Cruise.

I could finally catch my breath.  In fact, during the five-day run, though it meant two long 14 hour days and then anchoring in waters no so protected, the seas were flat and it allowed me to start seriously thinking of the coming cruise up the west coast.

And then I noticed that my little planning table had a little error.  I had not accounted for the miles of Baja California.  Mexico from beginning to end is 2100 nm, I had typed 1100 in what I call my “Planning Table”.  I found the missing 1,000 miles.

Another factor came to my attention.  A few posts ago I wrote about the expenses of Dauntless.  Our expenses are very consistent, when I’m on the boat they run close to $100 per day.  The only way that number changes significantly, is if I am not on Dauntless, like in the winter and if Dauntless is in a safe, secure, inexpensive location (like Waterford, Ireland).

Also, In the last weeks, I’ve realized how much I miss Northern Europe.  My biggest mistake was not spending two summers in the Baltic.  And to have this realization half way around the world is a bit annoying. (since there is nothing I can do about it now).

Martinique was a nice port, made nicer having endured a relatively rough three-week passage across the Atlantic from Europe. Beautiful women, French food & wine, what more can anyone ask for?

But after three weeks, Micah and I were both ready to move on.  Sitting for months at a time is just not in me.

Therefore, my new, updated, improved plan allows me to take my time traveling north up the coast.  I won’t have to travel in bad weather or contrary winds for a change. But it will be incumbent upon me to find good, economical places for Dauntless to winter over.

This winter that will be someplace in northern Mexico, next winter probably British Columbia and finally Southeast Alaska, maybe near Wrangell for the third winter.

Crossing the North Pacific will come next, then probably wintering over in Korea before heading south along the Chinese coast the following spring.

Exploring Southeast Asia and Vietnam will be up next.

And after that?

A return to Northern Europe; unless of course, the plan changes.

 

 

 

What Keeps Me Awake at Night

Dauntless is that little Green boat in the far bottom right corner. The red route is my currently planned idea. The Black route is just a gauge for me to look at the Great Circle routes easily. The fact that it is so close to the actual route means that it’s a pretty efficient route. The hard to see white routes past Korea are various ideas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I mentioned before, if you are not living in the moment, you are reflecting on the past or planning the future.

At night, as I drift off to sleep, I am usually always thinking of the future. I hate surprises.  For me, there is no such thing as a “good” surprise. Unless of course, I get notified that a non-existent relative left a large sum of money in Nigeria for me. What could go wrong with that?

Exactly my point. A surprise meant I did not anticipate well enough.  As many of you reading this will understand, it helps if you do read.  To know and have experienced everything, I would have to be as old as the Universe itself. I’m not that old and as most of us figure out in our formative years, we will never catch up to that second-grade teacher we are in love with.

Reading and writing allowed our civilization to grow on the experience of those who came before us.

Reading allows us to experience without doing. While not the same as doing, brain studies have shown that it’s remarkedly effective. Two pianists given the same piece of music to play, one actually plays it, while the other only “plays” it in their mind.  After a given set of time, there is remarkedly little difference between the two, when they actually perform it on a piano.

So, developing a mental picture is critical to my planning process.  I also always have an idea of best and worst conditions. I simply never want to be surprised.

Now that the Pacific chapter of this story has started, my vision has shifted to the west, Asia in particular.  Even though Asia is still years away, once I get north of Mexico, there is not much of the coast I have not seen.  When I was on Shemya in the Aleutians, 30 years ago, I never envisioned returning on my own bottom.

So, the eastern and even northern portions of the Pacific, I have well imagined for a long time. So now it’s time to learn the western periphery, Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

At the same time, I’m starting to think again about what is beyond that. The Indian Ocean, getting around Africa and even, once back in the Atlantic, then what?

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

Real Mothers and Real Soju

Today, Sunday, finds me watching parts of a Korean Drama that I first watched a few years ago, Go Bong Shil, 고봉실 여사 구하기, watching this drama makes me realize how strong a connection I have to the culture of Korea.

One of the themes that runs through virtually every Korean drama is family and the hard work of mothers in particular.

It’s always a great reminder to keep us humble and appreciative of what we have and not cry over what we don’t have.

Yeosu, along the southern coast of South Korea
Yeosu, along the southern coast of South Korea and a Dauntless goal three years from now.

And then, just minutes ago, I realized that the story of this drama starts in Yeosu, a beautiful city in the middle of the south coast of South Korea and the town that Julie suggested would be a good destination for Dauntless.

I do believe in Fate; how can I not.  One way or another, my Fate draws me to Korea.

This touching scene in 60 seconds says so much about life:

East Versus West

wp-1448997713641.jpg
Route to the East in BLUE; to the west in GREEN

So one of my dedicated, alert readers emailed me and asked the obvious question, “Since you want to spend time in the Med, why not go to Korea via the Suez Canal and Indian ocean?”

Great question. It’s been more than a year since I last looked at the charts and the route to the east.

So, I just looked at it again. Nothing changed. Sometimes Plate Tectonics does not work as fast as one would wish for.  Probably have to wait another few hundred million years before the Horn of Africa is considered another continent. But then the Pacific will be smaller by then also!

Don’t think I’ll wait.

Gibraltar to Yeosu, Korea via the Suez Canal, 10,000 nm.

So why don’t I want to go east:

  • Even though it’s about 30% or 3,000 miles shorter, and
  • we could spend a good time in the Mediterranean.

The disadvantages:

  • Avoiding the Red Sea and the Suez Canal. I have read many accounts of boats transiting both; none of them very positive.
  • I don’t like dusting. We don’t like deserts or hot dusty climates.
  • The Red Sea would be difficult; the Indian Ocean would be impossible. Jimmy Cornell’s book, “World Cursing Routes” is my bible.  It shows the difficulty of trying to go west to east against the prevailing winds 11 of 12 months in the northern Indian Ocean. Trying to time the one month of “good” winds is a fool’s errand.
  • Though the pirate situation is better than it has been and is now not much better off the west coast of Africa, it’s still an issue on a problematic coast.
  • Straits of Malacca. Even more lawless than the Horn of Africa.
  • We want to enjoy Korea before seeing Southeast Asia.

Gibraltar to Yeosu, Korea via the Panama Canal, 13,000 nm. Though longer, why do we want to go this way:

  • Like a magic carpet ride, the trade winds will whisk us from the Canary Islands all the way through the Caribbean to the Panama Canal. winds
  • Sometime in Central America will be nice.
  • Looking forward to seeing the west coast of the US; a coast that I have driven along numerous times, yet have never seen from the sea.
  • Spending time in the Pacific Northwest and Southeast Alaska.
  • Crossing the north Pacific in July should be easier than the Atlantic. Also, the Aleutians provide stopping spots.  The Bering Sea has a little east to west counter current.
  • Seeing northern Japan
  • Seeing the Aleutians. Check out this story:

http://www.powerandmotoryacht.com/boats/cruising/cruising_the_aleutians_aboard_a_65-foot_fleming#.Vl3i2PmrQU0

So that’s about it.

Thanks for asking.

The south coast of South Korea. Many islands.
The south coast of South Korea. Many islands.