What We Know

It was about 10 years ago, 5 years before acquiring Dauntless, my first and probably last boat, that I got a vague idea about cruising and living on a boat. I’d never heard of Kadey Krogen, I thought sailors who crossed oceans were living the life of hermits.

This bot was watching that light (upper right corner) and as soon as it turned green, he pointed so his mother would notice.
Kids love helping and being engaged .

I spent the next 5 years reading everything I could find about people on, in and about, boats. I’d always been fascinated with merchant marine stories, so now I just expanded to the small boat world.

Pretty sure that the sailboat life was not for me, my first readings were dominated by those prolific powerboat writers, Nordhavn owners. I’d stalk the mailman, Steven, (yes, even in the Big Apple, we had our mail carrier’s phone number), waiting for the latest issue of Passage Maker, to find out what some hardy Nordhavn owner was up to.

By 2009, it was obvious that the real estate market was not going to keep doubling every few years. I’d never have the money of the Passage Maker crowd. No one was going to give me a $100,000 sponsorship and fly parts needed to repair of my hydraulics stabilizers, by helicopter, to the Northwest Passage.

I expanded my reading to that I had eschewed previously, about sailors and sailing. The amount of material about non-powered boats was 1000-fold greater. I didn’t censor what I read. I was reading to learn, to understand, to experience without having to do, even those experiences I had no interest in doing myself.

I realized just like moving to Italy in the ‘70’s, I needed to have an even more open mind than normal. The more I read, the more I understood that there was no “right” way.

It wasn’t that what I knew was wrong, it was simply that it may not be right.

Even weeks before my first Atlantic crossing, I knew four people was the right amount. But I couldn’t get four.  Julie and I came up with a new plan. She would come but leave at the Azores. Then a third person volunteered at the last minute. But at that point, we decided that two was just fine; and it was.

Sitting in the Azores, looking for crew to assist me from the Azores to Ireland, a 9 or 10-day passage, I was finally convinced by an American sailor from North Carolina to just go on my own. I’d be fine, and it would be better than wasting good weather sitting around and it was.

What I took from all this was that what was obvious, wasn’t.

The Front Seat

I was brought to this entire train of thought recently as I watched a mother and daughter (maybe 2 or 3 years old) on a motorcycle here in Saigon, Vietnam. How touching the scene was. They were having a conversation as they motored along at 20 mph. How could it be safe? Children that age will normally sit in the very front on a little stool or stand.

Surely, I know that a child in a car seat in the back of an automobile is safer than this!

But then I wondered, safer, certainly; but happier, more secure. I wondered?

Over the days as I thought about it even more, I realized I’ve never seen a crying child on a motorbike. Not one. I see captivated kids. They are watching the world go by, with their parent nuzzled snugly right next to them, holding them.  How can you feel more secure than that?

On the other hand, how many times in the USA have I observed some child having a tantrum while being put into a car seat in the back of a car? Too often to count.

Safety versus separation anxiety. For many kids, probably not mutually exclusive, but for some?


Even in the First World, we know less than we think we do.


A child seat for your motorbike
Getting ready to go



There, But for the Grace of God, Go I

While I was stressing about my scratch, I got an email that referred me to this link about Ghost Rider, a Nordhavn 47.


It’s a heart wrenching story; difficult enough to live though, probably even harder to write about.

So that ended my pity party pretty quick.

I had a close call with a submerged jetty in Florida.  We’d only had Dauntless 8 months at that point.  For something so dangerous, basically a rock wall just under water, the charts whispered Danger, instead of yelling it.  I slowed and finally figured it out in the nick of time.  It is one of the reasons I now travel with two navigation programs running.  When the situation gets complicated a second view is extremely helpful.

The chart data is not incorrect; it’s just our mind is not seeing what it expects.  Therefore, it tries to come up with a logical explanation based on its initial (false) assumption.  A dangerous false path.  A primary cause of aircraft accidents in fact.

And it happens in the classroom all the time, especially in science, even more so in Earth Science.  In Earth Science classrooms students are learning concepts for everyday physical occurrences that they see all the time, like phases of the moon or why the sun rises in the east.  But long before they step into any classroom, their minds have already developed an explanation.  Many times, that initial explanation is incorrect, though logical with a limited number of facts.

A Harvard study looked at this phenome using Harvard students, who presumably had had a good science education just to get into Harvard in the first place.  They found that students, even after having been taught the correct explanation for various physical phenomena, generally reverted back to their initial false explanation.  In other words, it is difficult to un-teach concepts that have been incorrectly conceived. (This was a major focus of my second Master’s, in Science Education).

Tragedies happen because even in the face of new information, facts on the ground so to speak, we ignore what’s in front of us and keep trying to fit what we’re seeing with our initial explanation.

Earlier this summer, cruising south along the coast of Ireland, we were cruising at night because of the tides and currents.  I see a red light in the sky off in the distance.  Looking at the chart, the only explanation I could come up with was it looked like a radio tower on land about 10 miles in front of us. I don’t see any other lights, therefore it’s not a boat, otherwise I would see some combination of red, green or white light, at least two out of those three.  There was nothing on the radar within 3 miles.

The seas were a bit rough, so we were bouncing around a bit and I attributed the movement of the red light to that, since radio towers on land don’t move.  I periodically look at this light for the next 15 minutes.  I’m sitting in my usual spot on the starboard side of the bench seat in the Krogen pilot house.

About a minute from impact, I realize it’s a sailboat coming directly at us. I grab the wheel, turning hard to starboard. He passes about 100 feet off our port side.  I hail him on the VHF radio, “Sailing vessel showing a top red mast light”.  He doesn’t answer, but his light suddenly turns white.  Yes, he was moron, but I let him get so close because initially my mind had decided I was looking at a light far away and it then tried to fit that assumption to subsequent facts as they materialized.

Most of the time we catch it in time; sometimes we don’t.

Ghost Rider, RIP