Reading Time: 4 minutes

Maximizing priorities

A few months ago, we launched our 30-weeks to minimalism initiative. This helped tremendously to sort through what we needed to take with us aboard RJ Slocum.

I turned to the experts (the Women Who Sail facebook group that I am part of) and searched for ideas in the past on what we do once we figure out what stays and what goes. Local auction for furniture, estate sale broker (e.g., Grasons ), consignment shops, Free Cycle and simply giving stuff away to friends and family. 

Unfortunately, we were in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, so the usual outlets of selling items or donating to charity were not available to us. What to do?

I took the ideas that worked in the past and weighed them against our goals. In order of priority, here is what we want to maximize first:

  1. Matching gifts – finding the best homes for each item
  2. Speed – showing progress while not living in disarray
  3. Value – adding more funds to our cruising kitty

 

1 – Matching gifts

Given the fact that we have the summer months to do this, we already started to think about which of our friends could most appreciate or use some of these items. We are happy to give these things away and seek no quid pro quo.

This of course is a slow-going process, in particular because it is being handled solo while Andrew works full time.

 

2 – Speed

I was stewing over the lack of progress. The fact was we rearranged items (much like deck chairs on the Titanic), but nothing was moving out of our house. I was still staring at closets full of clothes… and everywhere I looked, we still had a house full of stuff.

My frustration came out one weekend in early June. Andrew was blindsided by this one Saturday morning during his first cup of coffee.

He asked, “What can I do to help you?” 

Over the next hour, we had a discussion about what we want out of this process, and it boiled down to the priorities we set above. My frustration however came from feeling as though I was handling this all by myself when we agreed months ago that this would be a team effort. I was also annoyed over the delays caused by coronavirus, and he assured me that, in time, charities will open up again, and those avenues will be available to us once again.

It was then that I realized that my impatience was my undoing. 

The other factor we need to weigh is the unknown stowage space aboard RJ Slocum. Other than the few measurements taken for lockers and drawers for clothes, we don’t know how much space remains. This is a variable that we won’t know until we head back to Ft Lauderdale at the end of summer. 

So inevitably, we are resigned to shipping to Florida more than what we can fit on the boat. As a result, we’ll have to do another round of purging once we get there, which is another lesson in learning to go with the flow

 

Wedding photos taken at Side Door, Corona del Mar. Feb. 2015

3 – Value

When we can’t find a friend who wants an item and we think we can fetch some doubloons to top up our cruising kitty, we will look to sell the items. This could be once-worn couture wedding dress, Japanese sword, bespoke dresses (sari and qipao) made in Mumbai and Hong Kong, designer clothes, shoes and jewelry, etc. I’ve started a spreadsheet detailing where these items would go to keep everything organized. 

Some of the organizations include:

If you want a copy of the detailed spreadsheet, send us an email and we’re happy to share it with you.

 

Go Green

In September after we have a chance to evaluate the stowage situation on RJ Slocum, we’ll re-evaluate what we have and then there will be a flurry of activity before we ship anything to Florida.

I’m intrigued by participating in some local organizations, such as the Facebook Buy Nothing Project and find their mission and principles are consistent with our philosophy.

Just as we discovered when we decided to pack light, we came across Going Zero Waste  provides some ideas for organizations that will take donations of unusual items such as braseyeglasses, cosmetics and shoes. Before tossing anything, we will also be taking advantage of TerraCycle to determine what to do with other waste streams.

It’s not easy being green. 

 

Reading Time: 5 minutes
Hiking the Yosemite Falls Trail with elevation gain 2,700 ft (circa June 2018)

A Life of Philanthropy

One of the first posts we published on SerenadeWind talks about our relationship with money . When we began to dig into that topic, a natural extension to pursuing a minimalist life is a life of philanthropy. 

What does a life of philanthropy look like?

Lean into values

Friends and colleagues who know me have witnessed that when I set a goal, there’s a high certainty (approaching 100%) that the goal will be achieved. Whether I am quick to set an objective or take my time arriving at it, my value system is defined by integrity and honoring my commitments.

So, at the beginning of this year, I drew a line in the sand and declared that I wanted to pursue a life of philanthropy. Andrew is in full agreement of this ethos (although I suspect he has embraced this tenet all his life).

The shape and execution of philanthropy still needs to be defined. In the meantime, we have made donations to various causes every month since the line in the sand was drawn. These gifts were made as the needs have presented themselves. 

Non-profit Charter

If we go back to what we wrote, we toyed with the following idea:

How about we set up serenadewind.com with a non-profit charter in mind?

The concept is simple:

Whatever funds that come in will go toward paying boat expenses (including upgrades, maintenance, etc.) and any surplus in excess of some threshold will be given away to causes we believe in.

In the pursuit of minimalism, we don’t want to continue to accumulate money because it will end up owning us. Since the beginning of this year, we have donated to eight organizations roughly 50% of what has already come in through our funding.  

Cash in – Cash out

You may be wondering how we’ve been able to fund charities and organizations over the past few months especially since I retired from Warner Bros.

Andrew, of course, continues to draw income, but we’re not touching any of that. We are also not drawing down on our savings, since that makes up our cruising kitty and we want to be able to sail for many years to come. 

At the moment, the funding is coming through a single source: unemployment benefits.

When I first shared the news of retiring early to some colleagues, a few insisted that I file for unemployment. I was loathed to pursue this, until I thought,

Why not try and if it works, I’ll give it all away.

The decision to do this came at a price: insomnia. Now, I had something at stake where I originally had been laissez-faire. When I discussed it with Andrew, he was in full support of my dropping the matter altogether, and I did so for a few weeks. However, on the morning of the hearing with the judge, I did some quick prep work. The hearing itself was scheduled early afternoon when I was with my mom to address some leg pain that mysteriously began. 

Virtual Hearing

The amount of unemployment benefits in question totals roughly USD $9,000 (before CARES Act  and potentially over $20,000 with CARES Act). In theory, I could set aside 10% to cover taxes and give the rest of it away to those in need. 

While the money is nice, I’ll be honest. It means a lot more to me how it was secured. The most empowering moment came when I was speaking to the judge about my case. He asked a series of thoughtful questions over the course of 45 minutes. When the hearing concluded, he stated that the decision would be sent via regular mail in a couple weeks.

Regardless of the decision rendered, I felt vindicated. I had a chance to share my story to a neutral 3rd party and it felt liberating. If you want to learn more about the case, I will provide a brief write-up about it, which will be posted tomorrow. In reality, I didn’t have to wait that long. Less than a week later, the decision came in the mail.

When I read the decision, I set down the pages, walked over to Andrew and told him the news.

Then I did a happy dance.

Andrew laughed.

Second Mountain

I am reminded each week of how lucky I am to be in a relationship that fully encourages a life of growth and exploration. We are pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone. It first began with our relationship with money (which will continue to be tested throughout our lives) and extends to pursuing a voyaging life on the high seas. 

We refer to this period in our lives as climbing the second mountain. It’s a concept that has been widely circulated through the publication of David Brooks writing. If you have 5 minutes to spare, check out his video on “Should you live for your resume or your eulogy?”

We know the life we are leading is unconventional and not for everyone. The chronicle of our journey on Serenade Wind is largely to benefit those who may be curious about alternative approaches to living a full and balanced life.

For us, life is not about following a prescribed path. It’s an opportunity to choose your own adventure!

Today, in recognition of National Ocean Month, we have donated to Sailors for the Sea who advocates green boating practices. We have learned a lot over the past few months about what we can do to live with a greater awareness about how we impact the environment, which we profiled in Going Green and Ethical Sailing.

Post Script

This story was originally written at the start of this month. Over this past weekend, I received some news about a childhood friend of my brother’s who recently passed away.

Victor Kuo was both a public school teacher and philanthropist, working with organizations including FSG Social Impact Advisors, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, David & Lucile Packard Foundation, and Global Chinese Philanthropy Institute

Thank you, Victor, for modeling an honorable life and may you rest in peace. 

 

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Heading Level 4

If you tried to send me a Linkedin request over the past dozen years or so, chances are I didn’t see it. Apologies if you think I was ignoring you. Please don’t take it personally. I was ignoring Linkedin.

Linkedin

A few months ago, I updated my Linkedin profile. I had originally set up my profile over a dozen years ago and wrote nothing on it. Current employer and title – that’s it. Andrew equates it to the equivalent of tumbleweeds. In large part, this was because I was happy where I was and didn’t need to be bothered with having recruiters solicit me. 

So while I was doing my rounds at the office saying my goodbyes, I decided to use Linkedin as a communication tool for the rest of my business contacts outside of Warner Bros. to let them know I had retired.

When it comes to Linkedin, my approach is to only accept connections with people I have worked with or went to school with. Basically, anyone I can readily vouch for in terms of abilities and competencies in a professional setting. Others seem to treat it as yet another social media platform to collect as many connections as they can.

I will probably go the other direction and cull individuals that I am really no longer in touch with, but I get ahead of myself.  

Adios

Over a weekend, I started to backfill content on my profile. I put all the impressive accomplishments from my resume on there and then (after a moment of reflection) got rid of all of it. I just put the names of the companies and the years of employment. I was done marketing my skills. I didn’t need a website profile to showcase abilities for a life I no longer want to pursue.

Linkedin also provides a feature where you can write articles. I was on a writing kick for serenadewind.com so I decided why not write a short blurb on my retirement. It was then that an article was going around Linkedin that drew my attention.

David Brook’s 5 minute TED Talks video Should you live for your resume…or your eulogy? The timing of this was uncanny. If you have 5 minutes to spare, it is well worth seeing. In this video, Mr. Brooks refers to a book written in 1965 by Joseph Soloveitchik called “The Lonely Man of Faith.”

Taking stock of life

This personal exercise came in handy for me to give some guidance to my mom who seems to have come untethered in recent months. I elaborated on this in a few blog posts and suffice it to say she is still in the midst of figuring this stuff out. I must admit that it is probably a harder thing to do after having a lifetime of habits and beliefs that spans 70+ years as opposed to 40+ years. 

Andrew and I married and moved in together a couple months before my father passed away. I wanted to live closer to my mom in the event that she needed any help. Within the first 6 months after the funeral, she completed the following:

  • sold a rental property,
  • bought a 2-bedroom condo with the proceeds,
  • downsized from a 4 bedroom, 3-car garage house,
  • did renovations on the 2-bedroom condo,
  • moved in, and
  • found a tenant to lease out her old place

So while Andrew and I lived close by, my mom didn’t really lean on us. Ironically, she is doing so now.

Why, after 5 years, is this happening? 

Second Mountain

Thankfully I had done my own work sorting out what I was planning to do with the rest of my life. I had a little head start in helping her redirect and not fall apart. I keep reminding her who she is and that what she is experiencing now is momentary. It is not permanent. 

She asks me for quick fixes. She prays incessantly, but has little faith. I take her through the various stages I went through and chronicled here on serenadewind, such as:

While many of you may have gone through this with your parents, this is new to me … this feeling of the student becoming the teacher. I am showing her the way to figure out what is her second mountain and how to live for her eulogy. 

In the words of Reinhold Niebuhr:

Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope

Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith

Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we must be saved by love

No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint. Therefore we must be saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness.

 

Reading Time: 4 minutes

A couple months ago, we decided to experiment with ways to go green. For us this means, living deliberately and raising our awareness about how we impact the world around us. Here are a few updates on our progress towards ethical sailing.

Happy World Oceans Day

Sailors for the Sea

as of May 9, 2020

As the quest for going green continues. I came across a great resource Sailors for the Sea . They provide a list of commercial products that have been tested for the environment based on the following factors:

  • cleaning
  • performance
  • toxicity
  • biodegradability

The site also provides recipes for making your own cleaning products with lemon juice, vinegar, baking soda, and salt. 

Learning about topics like this gets me more excited to move aboard. In the meantime, we may give these DIY solutions a try while we are still on land. Much like our water water everywhere experiment, we’ll test out commercial and DIY solutions in a future post. 

 

Reef-safe Toothpaste

It has been precisely one month since we began using toothpaste powder. All of the ingredients are naturally occurring (sea salt, peppermint oil, etc.) and biodegradable. While the packaging is plastic, we feel confident that this form will last us longer than toothpaste tubes. So far we have seen advantages such as:

  • water conservation – less water is needed, because there is no rinsing!
  • salt – antibiotic, cleansing properties – Andrew noticed he had a canker sore developing in his mouth. In 2 days, it disappeared 
  • plaque reduction – with its mild abrasion, my teeth feel cleaner as if I had used an electric toothbrush 

In addition, we are gathering more ideas about zero waste. Here are other cruisers who have forged a path ahead of us, including

Reef-friendly Shampoo

A couple weeks ago, we ran out of our usual shampoo. We took this as an opportunity to experiment with other ways to clean our hair. Andrew opted to use a bar of soap and said it worked great for him. I shook my head, recalling days from my youth when I tried that on my long mane. There is a tacky residue that stays behind on my hair which makes it difficult to comb or brush. I equate that with pain, so using a bar of soap was a non-starter. Instead, I reached for a body wash that had been hanging around in our shower for much too long. That seemed to do the trick until that also ran out.

I decided to pull the trigger and purchase a zero waste, biodegradable shampoo bar made in New Zealand and give that a shot. 

Verdict? Ethique left a bit of residue, but it wasn’t as tacky as my experience with Oatmeal and Honey soap from Trader Joe’s. I sprayed some leave-in conditioner and had no issue combing out my wet hair.

When I described what I was experiencing, Andrew asked me how I was applying it to my hair. He offered a suggestion which is to lather the soap in my hands to apply rather than smear the soap directly on my hair. 100% improvement! 

Reduce Plastic – Go Bamboo

We are trying out bamboo toothbrushes. The Greenzla bamboo set we picked up from Amazon come with 4 charcoal bamboo toothbrushes, a travel bamboo tube holder and charcoal mint floss. 

Our bamboo toothbrushes, dental floss and bamboo travel holder are all additive, coloring and BPA Free, and are manufactured in an FDA registered facility, so they’re better for you and better for the planet too.

If most dentists, and the American Dental Association (ADA), recommend changing your toothbrush every 3 months, then over our lifetime we would have used and thrown out over 350 toothbrushes or 7 kg of plastic waste (based on an average weight of 20 g per toothbrush). That seems unnecessary going forward. 

Perhaps the only downside is they come with only soft bristles and Andrew prefers medium bristles. 

Photo courtesy of Business Insider

Zero Waste Products

Also starting this month, I decided look at other areas of waste and reduce my use of single use, disposable items such as tampons. When I think about boat life and carrying smelly items aboard, it was a natural conclusion to switch things up. Andrew had no idea I was contemplating this until he sorted through the latest Amazon delivery and exclaimed, “My menstrual cup arrived!”

I chose this particular one based on a recommendation by Pick Up Limes. It’s interesting how marketers have influenced the behavior of millions of women, steering us at a young age toward disposable items. This reminds me of cigarette advertising: get ’em while they’re young and you’ll have a customer for life. 

The benefits of this are:

  • less waste
  • less cost
  • more time

I’m sold! I can use this product for a year and simultaneously reduce waste, especially smelly waste.

As we continue to discover products that align with zero waste, minimalism, self-sustainability or going green, we’ll continue to provide updates on ethical sailing. Please note that we are providing links for convenience, and we are not earning any affiliate revenue. 

 

Reading Time: 6 minutes

30-weeks to minimalism launched our 5 part series on how to downsize for the rest of your life. We followed this up with how to tackle sentimental items as well as clothes figuring out a way to pack light. In part 3 of this series, we address the boat head or bathroom.

Why is it called a head?

The head aboard a boat is the bathroom. The term comes from the days of sailing ships when the place for the crew to relieve themselves was all the way forward on either side of the bowsprit, the integral part of the hull to which the figurehead was fastened.

We will do no such thing aboard RJ Slocum.

The head aboard s/v Rachel J. Slocum

Features

To the uninitiated, this photo would not trigger a second look. However when Andrew and I first looked at this photo in December and read the specs, we were impressed with the following features:

  • Dry shower – It doesn’t seem like a big deal when you’re used to it on land, however when transitioning from shore life to boat life, a wet shower signals camping (in my mind). Wet showers are common on a variety of yachts, depending on what space vs. function trade-offs were being made by the designer. For example, some may want two wet heads for redundancy or additional occupants instead of one dry head. Regardless, having a dry head (shower in a separate compartment) is a necessity for our liveaboard lifestyle.
  • Kentigern toilet – The Simpson Lawrence Kentigern toilet is considered the Rolls Royce of marine toilets. If you are considering one for yourself, unfortunately they are no longer being manufactured. However luckily for us, we can still find spares from SL Spares
  • Ventilation – We were pleased to see that there are three hatches in this space. Ventilation is important to dry out the room and to reduce mildew. At the moment, we probably won’t need to modify the ventilation

 

To the right of the instrumentation is a porthole to the shower.
  • Porthole – From inside the shower, there is a porthole facing the salon (pictured above). Perhaps this is to allow in ambient light at night. Perhaps there is another reason (oh the stories this boat could tell…) Luckily, there is a curtain that can be closed for privacy.
  • Stowage – When we saw the boat for ourselves in March, we got to see the stowage available in the medicine cabinet, below the sink, above the toilet, etc. We also discovered there is additional stowage for wine.  

Can you guess where the wine storage is? It appears we are running low…

Secret wine compartment in the shower

Adapting to voyaging life

After the closet, the next priority for the “pampered” woman is the bathroom. The storage inside the head of s/v Rachel J. Slocum provides for a limited amount of toiletries, first aid and other pharmaceutical items. Few shelves exist in the medicine cabinet, so we’ll probably have to figure out our own solution to compartmentalize and store small items.

Downsizing from our current bathroom to this one will be less problematic since we are both low maintenance. 

Last month, I met up with my friend Hasmik to buy her old Nikon camera equipment, and she reminded me just how low maintenance I was. She and I travelled on safari as well as hiked up Machu Picchu together. This was during my single years before meeting Andrew. Using herself as a comparison, where her only requirement is to apply mascara and eyeliner on each morning. she tells me,

“I thought I was low maintenance, but you define low maintenance.” 

A large part of the voyaging lifestyle is becoming acutely aware of the impact we make on the environment. Just as we wrote up in going green, we want to live making deliberate choices about what we use on our body and how washing it off will end up in the ocean. It really makes you think twice about the chemicals used in cleaning products. 

Gone are most of the items in our current medicine cabinet. What will survive are a few basic items along with first aid supplies (or as Bill’s wife charmingly coins it, “the drugs.”) Out Chasing Stars shares with us what is contained in their offshore medical kit

 

On the right page, we list the linens we would take on our voyaging life

Linens

We have a fair number of queen and full size bedding in our house. We have flannels for cooler weather and a variety of bamboo as well as high thread count cotton sheets for the rest of the year.

Cruisers recommend darker colors or sheets with patterns to hide stains. We have mostly lighter shades. The Voyager’s Handbook has a guideline as well for us to reference (e.g., 2 sets of sheets for each actively-used berth and 2 light blankets. For cooler climates, fleece blanket, half a dozen wool blankets and a comforter).

As I am taking inventory of what we have, we have more than enough, but rather than make educated guesses, we decided we would ask Bill. 

Project Slocum Update

In the process of asking Bill about linens, we found out there is another person interested in buying Rachel J. Slocum.

WTF?

The other buyer wanted to move quickly, asking Bill to meet her in Florida during the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. Cruisers the world over are in lockdown. So it seems, there’s little point in rushing to get on the water. But the new buyer was selling her house and ready to go.

We had always taken a cautious approach, valuing health and safety over a transaction, even if it involved the rest of our lives. So we replied to Bill that it provided peace of mind to him, we can wire the security deposit and move forward with our deal, rather than have him worry needlessly about being pressured to make a sale, even at the cost of his own health.

So a couple weeks ago, we sent the security deposit to Bill who took the boat off the market.

How did we feel about this next step?

When he received the reply from Bill yesterday evening, Andrew smiled, pretty excited about taking this next step. In the wee hours of the morning, I woke up and read the email Andrew had forwarded from Bill, and I started to research what information we would need to complete the transaction.

The next morning, when Andrew woke up, I told him I read the email. He asked me, “How did you feel?”

I paused, and said, “Pretty good.”

“Aren’t you excited?”

“Sure, I’m excited,” I replied flatly.

Andrew raised an eyebrow.

Why the difference in reaction?

I speculate that my unchanged mood largely stems from the fact that I had mentally accepted that this was our boat. Wiring the money, finalizing the purchase agreement, and any other steps were just that: mechanical steps in a process and nothing more. In my mind, she is already ours. The steps were a mere formality. 

Andrew’s happiness over this next step, seems to stem from a subconscious belief that there are a series of go/no-go decisions. In his mind, anything could prevent his dream from becoming a reality at each of these decision points. Rather than get his hopes up about the end goal, he is more cautious. Every step becomes a celebration… or a potential devastation.

Glass half full or half empty

We mentioned this before when we first decided to sail around the world. On our whiteboard, we sketched out a plan. Over the course of a year, that whiteboard was a disappointing reminder to Andrew about the lack of progress we made. It wasn’t a disappointment to me. I looked at the whiteboard with optimism about what steps needed to be taken for us to transform our lives.

The past day is a reminder of how Andrew and I differ in our approach to the same goal. He will celebrate each positive step. I will take each step in stride as a natural course of things.

I like the fact that we are getting better at observing ourselves and our interaction. This wards off any potential for disagreement or tension.

Now, on to the next steps… to work on the purchase agreement.

 

Linens ‘n things

Back to the topic at hand, Bill replied that we were welcome to any and all linens that are currently aboard RJ Slocum. That throws another curveball into the equation, since we will now need to bring aboard what we think we will need and marry this up with what he already has and then decide which will stay and which will take a trip to the dumpster.

All in all, we decided we’ll need to revisit this when when we fly out for the marine survey and sea trial in the fall.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

While we usually publish twice a week (on Mondays and Thursdays), we thought we would announce a little bit of news. For those curious, here is a Project Slocum update since our last post on April 1st.

Six weeks ago, we came back from our boat purchase trip to Ft Lauderdale and faced a go/no-go decision. Due to coronavirus and many states beginning to lock down, we and Bill mutually agreed to put the sale on hold.

So what has changed?

Last week

As we are packing up our belongings and making decisions about what to bring aboard, we asked Bill for some guidance on bedding and linens. In the process of providing feedback, he mentioned that there is another person interested in buying RJ Slocum.

WTF?

The other buyer wanted to move quickly, asking Bill to meet her in Florida during the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. Cruisers the world over are in lockdown. So it seems, there’s little point in rushing to get on the water. But the new buyer was selling her house and ready to go.

We had always taken a cautious approach, valuing health and safety over a transaction. So we replied to Bill that we wanted to move forward with our deal. If it provided peace of mind to him, we can wire the security deposit rather than have him worry needlessly about being pressured to make a sale, even at the cost of his own health.

Upon reading our response about our decision and timing, Bill wrote:

 

I agree that that there’s little point in moving quickly at this point in time. I’ve been in communication with my friends overseas and most everywhere is locked down tight. Many cruisers aren’t even allowed ashore. The Caribbean is locked down. Massachusetts still hasn’t re-opened, and if you did anchor off a beach here, there’d be nothing open other than supermarkets and drug stores. So we’ll just have to wait and see how things progress.

 

But congratulations! At least you’re making the first move toward cruising. You can be absolutely sure I’ll do everything I can to make that dream come true for you.

 

Taking the plunge

When he received the reply from Bill yesterday evening, Andrew smiled, pretty excited about taking this next step. In the wee hours of the morning, I woke up and read the email Andrew had forwarded from Bill, and I started to research what information we would need to complete the transaction.

The next morning, when Andrew woke up, I told him I read the email. He asked me, “How did you feel?”

I paused, answering, “Pretty good.”

“Aren’t you excited?”

“Sure, I’m excited,” I replied flatly.

Andrew raised an eyebrow.

Why the difference in reaction?

I speculate that my unchanged mood largely stems from the fact that I had mentally accepted that this was our boat. Wiring the money, finalizing the purchase agreement, and any other steps were just that: mechanical steps in a process and nothing more. In my mind, she is already ours. The steps were a mere formality.

Andrew’s happiness over this next step seems to stem from the subconscious belief that there continued to be a series of go/no-go decisions. In his mind, anything could prevent his dream from becoming a reality. So rather than get his hopes up, he is more cautious. Every step becomes a celebration… or a potential devastation.

 

Glass half full or half empty

We mentioned this before when we first decided to sail around the world. On our whiteboard, we sketched out a plan. Over the course of a year, that whiteboard was a disappointing reminder to Andrew about the lack of progress we made. It wasn’t to me. I looked at the whiteboard with optimism about what steps needed to be taken for us to transform our lives.

The past day is a reminder of how Andrew and I differ in our approach to the same goal. He will celebrate each positive step. I will take each step in stride as a natural course of things.

I like the fact that we are getting better at observing ourselves and our interaction. This wards off any potential for disagreement or tension.

Now, on to the next steps… to work on the purchase agreement

Over the next few days…

On Friday, I drafted revisions to the purchase agreement and turned it over to Andrew for review over the weekend.

We spent Saturday in Malibu Creek State Park hiking and checking out potential routes to climb. On our way back home, we picked up some Godmother sandwiches with the works from Bay Cities Deli in Santa Monica and then had a small picnic at the beach. People seemed to be observing social distancing, so we felt safe. 

On Sunday, Andrew provided his edits and we revised the purchase agreement with his changes. This version was sent to Bill for review and comment. 

Yesterday, we scraped all our pennies together and placed our security deposit on RJ Slocum. We are officially in escrow! This marks a pivotal step in becoming a boat owner.

It’s time to celebrate!

 

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Catching Zzz’s

Since December, I have battled with fairly persistent insomnia. Falling asleep isn’t my problem. It’s staying asleep.

Usually, I will wake up in the small hours of the morning and stay awake for a few hours. If I’m lucky, I will drift back to sleep around 5 or 6 a.m. If not, I push on until the following night and crash between 9 and 10 p.m. In the past, insomnia occurred in my life when there was great upheaval.

Over the course of the past 6 months, the events which caused upheaval include:

  • Internalizing on the debate that began on the Whiteboard
  • My mind pinballing on the implications of turning my life 180 degrees
  • Post-Warner Bros. and experiencing retirement living 

Couple these factors with the coronavirus pandemic and it’s impact on our near-term sailing plans. and it’s no wonder insomnia has been an on-going battle.

Many of you may also be experiencing insomnia. Sleep has become the latest casualty of the coronavirus pandemic as reported in The Harvard Gazette.  

Short-term Goal

Even before I left Warner Bros., I had outlined my short term goal which was to focus on health and in particular being able to restore healthy sleeping patterns.

Rather than continue taking OTC’s (e.g., Benadryl and melatonin), I decided to seek help. I wanted to find a healthier and sustainable solution. As many of you who cope with insomnia know, addressing the root cause takes time. In the mean time, making little progress in dealing with stressors also can cause stress and compromise sleep.

So at the same time I am working on this, I went to see my acupuncturist, Dr. Lee

Eastern vs Western

My parents were way ahead of their time. During my childhood in the 1980’s, my parents introduced us to acupuncture among other novelties such as wheat grass juice and solar energy. 

My dad was a licensed practitioner of traditional Chinese Medicine. During his schooling, he would practice on my brother and I. We would have to make up symptoms for him to diagnose, and he would use a ballpoint pen to mark where he would place the needles. When I relayed this story to my acupuncturist, Dr. Lee laughed saying his father who is an acupuncturist in South Korea did the same thing to him as well when he was growing up.

Unfortunately, my father’s practice languished as this form of medicine wasn’t a covered benefit. Acupuncture did not make its way into the mainstream until decades later, well into the aughts. Once it became a covered benefit under Section 2706 of the Affordable Care Act (enacted in March 2010), the use and practice of acupuncture took off. 

Given this background of exploring alternative approaches to living and taking into account eastern medicine and lifestyles, I didn’t have any skepticism toward acupuncture.

We live in a plural society, and I embrace the benefits of all that it entails. 

Orange Acupuncture

For the most part, I have received acupuncture treatments primarily to boost my immune system and help me recover from the flu. Since December, Dr. Lee has been helping me out with insomnia, and at the same time, has treated me after various accidents.

It must be said that I am a clumsy person. Bruises and scrapes are fairly commonplace, and they occur for the following reasons:

  1. Active lifestyle – snowboarding, rock climbing, and sailing (boat bruises)
  2. Tunnel vision – I tend to be focused on a task at hand and unaware of my environment, thus colliding into desks, coffee tables and other hard objects.
  3. Curiosity – wide interest to try new things, most recently longboarding

1 – Active Lifestyle

At each visit, I provide him with a rundown of my sleeping pattern chronicled in my Bullet Journal. On a few occasions, I will also mention my latest injury.

Dr. Lee may be surprised that a near 50-year old woman engages in these types of activities that would cause injury, but he is also sympathetic and worried. Here is a rundown of what has happened so far this year:

The first accident came as a result of taking a whipper in the climbing gym and my spine took a blow against the harness. The second accident came from the dock debacle detailed in Project Slocum, Part 5, and while I had a few bruises and scrapes, nothing really required treatment. The third came from a longboard accident earlier this week. 

In the spirit of maintaining our social distance while still trying to stay active, Andrew and I started to longboard around our neighborhood. Five minutes into the activity, I took a hard fall and landed on my butt. Luckily, I didn’t land on my tailbone. This fall however injured my wrist and compressed my spine, which needed some acupuncture treatment. 

So, even though I am near successful in getting back to a healthy sleeping pattern, it seems my continued clumsiness may require additional visits to the acupuncturist. 

2 – Tunnel Vision

Andrew is particularly observant and noticing things around him, as well as getting a read on me and my moods. He is always on the look out for me as well when we do things. This complements my lack of awareness. Could be that I am accident-prone, space cadet or have a tendency to be utterly preoccupied in my own thoughts – no matter the reason, bumps and bruises, scrapes and falls, as well as torn ligaments are part and parcel of the life I choose to lead.  

3 – Curiosity

As a result this, Dr. Lee tells me I shouldn’t keep putting my body to the test. 

But I wonder, why not? What is life for but to live it to its fullest? I realize I am not in my teens or 20’s, however I’m certainly not being reckless. Within the confines of what is reasonable, I say “Carpe diem!”  

For fans of the movie Dead Poet’s Society, John Keating played by Robin Williams challenges his students to live life, whispering the legacy of students who came before,

“Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your life extraordinary.” 

Support Local

And so I will continue to take calculated risks so I can live a full life. In the process, I may continue to accumulate some minor injuries. It’s a small price to pay… and it could help to support local businesses too. 

From A to Z, here are the other small businesses that we are supporting:

  • Altayebat – Middle Eastern store that has the freshest butchered meat and our favorite place to source lamb, puff pastry, pistachios and brown sugar cubes
  • Cortina’s – family-owned pizza and Italian market, which has the best pizza and sandwiches for take-out. Great source for cheeses, in-house pasta and porcini mushrooms which we have ordered in bulk at cost
  • International Meat and Deli – this is a family-owned Romanian store where we stock up on our supplies of sausages, in-house smoked bacon, Borsec and Vegeta
  • Orange Acupuncture – weekly visits to treat some chronic conditions (insomnia and allergies) with occasional accidents or sports-related injuries. The latest came while learning basic martial arts when I tweaked my back while tumbling on the mat. 
  • Pollo Fresco LLC – farm fresh chicken and eggs… whenever we have a hankering to make Hainan chicken, we’ll stock up chicken from here
  • Sender One – while our climbing gym is closed during this pandemic, we continue to donate to help cover furloughed employees 
  • Zion Market – small chain of Korean grocery stores that carry marinated bulgogi, beef shorts, and chicken teriyaki. Some locations have a Paris Baguette (where I stock up on cream bread for the absolute best grilled cheese sandwich). Note, this is a great place to source wheat flour for baking when all the major supermarket chains have run out

 

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Why I knit

Before the coronavirus pandemic hit, Andrew and I would hop in the car on weekends and run errands, head to the gym, shop for grocery, visit family, etc. Without fail, on each of these short outings, I would take along my current knitting project. Sometimes while I am standing in line, I will pull out my project and begin to knit. Others look at their cellphone, I knit. 

I find it incredibly soothing and therapeutic. It allows my mind to focus on a single activity and block everything else out. My breathing is relaxed and I achieve a meditative state. Climbing brings the same relaxed state as well. 

While knitting is making a comeback, many celebrities are getting into it, and the benefits are tangible, it takes a certain level of patience to slog through the repetition of movements and a certain level of tenacity to complete a project over weeks and months.

It’s not a quick hit

I am reminded of the students in my mom’s crochet class. Earlier this year, she volunteered to teach crochet to seniors for 10 weeks, and I enjoyed hearing her plans for the class, the projects and of course how her students fared. Even with crochet, arguably the simpler and more forgiving skill to learn, one or two students would continue with the project outside of class time (i.e., homework). The others would work on their projects only during class and had very little to show for at the end of each session.

It isn’t for everyone

While it used to be an activity borne out of necessity, the industrial revolution has rendered it obsolete, except for as a hobby. For me it is one that is incredibly rewarding because it provides opportunities for creativity, feeling productive and at the same time therapeutic. Turns out it also helps cognitive function, thus staving off senility.

Fiber Arts

During these first few months of retirement, I am spending more time knitting. The projects I had queued many moons ago are now being tackled. I have boxes of yarn stashed, neatly organized by project, just waiting for me to tackle and it brings me so much joy to be able to finish each project and to be able to share them with others. 

At the same time, I have so many knitted and crocheted finished objects.

40+

Hats & Toques

30+

Scarves & Cowls

10+

Sweaters & Tops

50+

Mittens, socks, etc.

Bear in mind that this is also one of the areas targeted for downsizing since they all cannot come aboard our sailboat with us. We have a plan for this, which we will reveal in the upcoming weeks. 

 

Small Pleasures

The beauty of living in the present moment is gaining awareness, both internal and external. We described some of this in our previous post Past, Present and Future. As you tune into your external senses, you begin to appreciate the subtleties picked up by your senses.

I am reminded of scenes from Amelie who exemplifies these small moments in her every day life. This is depicted in the trailer for the film (see above). 

 

Lavender and Sage

I happened to tune into the scents of lavender and sage, which is the username by which I go by on Ravelry, a community site for fiber arts, including knitting, crocheting, weaving, spinning and dying yarns. Most of my projects can be found on this site, which has tracked my activity since May, 2012. 

 

Ravelry

 

In addition to being a great resource, it is an area to organize projects, stash, needles, and patterns.  

Is it for you?

I come from a family of knitters. Both my mom and my grandmother knit. While I have been knitting on and off since the age of 11 years old, most of my recent skills have been self-taught watching youtube channels, trying out new stitches and techniques. and reading knitting blogs. It turns out you don’t need to come from a family of knitters in order to start knitting.

Just as it is with sailing. No one in Andrew’s family or my family sail. Yet here we are reading, self-teaching, and one day learning from Bill how to sail a schooner.

If you would like to get started in fiber arts, please click on the links below. I hope you find these useful.

Reading Time: 6 minutes
Denise and Eric at Universal Studios Hollywood (1980)

Happy Sibling Day!

Today’s Thursday which is a good day as any for a little throw back time.

We recently celebrated National Sibling Day in the U.S. to recognize the often under-appreciated special bond of love and friendship shared between siblings.

Eric is 13 months older than me, and we’ve had our own adventures since we both left southern California and matriculated into college. It was only when – I moved back from the east coast and especially when his oldest daughter Lauren kept asking questions about me – did I spend a lot more time with his family. 

So when National Sibling Day approached, I pulled out an old photo album and picked out a charming photo of us from 1980 standing in front of a giant telephone, a prop from Universal Studios Hollywood. Luckily I still had something laying around as I hadn’t yet tackled downsizing sentimental items.

Sentimental Items

One of the toughest areas to tackle when downsizing and purging your belongings is tackling sentimental items. I thought clothes would be tough. They were a breeze compared to this.

These items include journals, photos, letters and other personal papers which capture moments in time. No one else would value them, but me. If anyone has looked back at their personal papers, you may understand this feeling of being transported as if through a time machine, into the thoughts and feelings you had at the moment pen touched paper or the shutter of a camera clicked. 

How can I casually discard this connection to the past? 

So if I use the same approach described in 30 weeks to minimalism, the haunting question I am left with is: How do these items serve me in my future? I came up with three ways:

  1. Learning tool
  2. Empathy
  3. Throw back

Learning Tool

There’s a famous longitudinal study the Harvard Study of Adult Development that tracked the lives of 724 men, year after year, asking about their work, their home life, and health status since 1938. I had read about it some years ago, and so when I came across it once again in a TED Talks video, I was fascinated to hear the results. The fourth director of the study, Robert Waldinger reports: 

The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keeps us happier and healthier. Period.

Rather than rely on my memory of events, I have documentation penned by myself at the time of the event of my own life. With less science & rigor and with simply a cohort of one, I have a longitudinal study of my own life which captured thoughts and feelings over time since the age of 13. It seems a terrible waste to discard this rich personal history without first trying to learn from it. Perhaps I can form a better understanding of myself much as a social psychologist would a patient.

As an aside, Bill’s father participated in the Harvard Study of Adult Development, and while we haven’t yet asked, we suspect Bill is participating in the Second Generation Study to provide information about aging across the lifespan. 

Empathy

After I sent Eric the picture of us for National Sibling Day, he peppered me with questions about our high school experience.

My brother is struggling with coming up with an approach to help his 15 year old daughter Lauren with getting into college. In the fall, she will be starting her junior year in high school. Should she take advanced placement courses or cool courses (e.g., dystopia in films)? Which course work will look better on her application? Naturally, she wants to take the cool courses now, but is she being shortsighted by making this choice? What can a parent advise her?

The journal I kept from my high school years gave us some insights into what is happening in the mind of a 16 year old girl. Not only did it provide me a great deal of empathy for my 16-year-old self, it provided a perspective and some guidance on what Lauren must be going through. 

From a parenting perspective, having that information brought a little more clarity to how Eric would approach these next steps. It’s hard for a parent to pull information like thoughts and feelings from a teenager. I was happy to share what I went through at the time so it might better prepare Lauren for the present day.

The Eye, Cyclops Rock (May 2019)

Throw Back

The final benefit we gleaned was reading a page out of my journal about my first rock climbing experience. I read that Scott, Kory, Eric and I along with our AP biology teacher went on a mid-week trip to Joshua tree. We stayed at Intersection Rock for two days, where our teacher showed us different knots (e.g., water knot, figure 8, double figure 8, etc.) and the various climber & belay commands. He led each of the pitches placing protection along the way, while we followed on top rope.

The kicker was finding out that we climbed Cyclops back then (pictured above). It blew my mind, and when I told Andrew about it, he was gobsmacked. The reason is this:

For his 40th birthday, Andrew and I went rock climbing in Joshua Tree. After doing a mix of face and crack climbing on “The Swift” a 5.7 multi pitch trad on Lost Horse Wall, we spent the next morning on “The Eye” a single 5.4 pitch on Cyclops Rock. According to my tick in Mountain Project, I wrote,

Lead up the gulley, ran it out 20 yards before placing the first pro when route angles to right, good holds, nice stem in parts. Need 3-4″ pro for anchor at top.

If I had never written about it or if I had thrown out the journal prematurely, I would not have made the connection. Of all the routes in Joshua Tree, we picked the same one 30 years later. 

Verdict?

If we go back to the same approach outlined in 30 weeks to minimalism, I would say these sentimental items retain some intrinsic value that will benefit me in the future. Or maybe this is just one big juicy rationalization.

 

					MICHAEL
			Don't knock rationalization; where 
			would we be without it? I don't know
                        anyone who could get through the day
                        without two or three juicy 
                        rationalizations. They're more 
                        important than sex. 

					SAM WEBER
			Oh, come on, nothing's more important 
		        than sex.  

					MICHAEL
			Oh yeah? Ever gone a week without a 
			rationalization? 

 

So, I gave myself a few days and read through a couple of journals, letters from friends and family, documents from my travels around the world and boxes of photos and photo albums.

After reading the journals, it was insightful to see my younger self throughout the years handling challenges and articulating hopes. In some cases, I did a decent job chronicling events, books I read, music I was inspired by, people I met and the circumstances in which they made an impression on me. They all shape who I am today, and I am grateful for these experiences.

In the photo albums and boxes of photos, I saw my childhood unfold. All legs and arms as a youth, athletic and still baby-faced in high school, and some unfortunate choices in hairstyle. All of these pictures pre-dated digital photos and the era of instant gratification. Since I was an editor on yearbook, I had access to some photos that didn’t make the cut. I posted a few on Facebook, which triggered the following reactions:

Annie: The hair! We had such big hair!

Grace: OMG… I love these photos! Yes, the hair!

Akemi: Oh my! I had forgotten my big 80’s permed hairdo!! Thanks for the memories.

Linda: Brings back some amazing memories.

Ellen: Love these!

In Sik: Omg. So many memories. Just glad we didn’t have social media back then.

Hans: Yearbook was the closest we got to social media haha

And so with a light heart, I am happy to let these items go.

A Pirate’s Booty

Among my personal papers and travel documents, I found a treasure!

  • 20 Pound Sterling
  • 100 Indian Rupee  
  • 3,000 Japanese Yen
  • 10,000 Chilean Peso
  • 20,000 South Korean Won
  • Red envelopes totaling USD $300

At today’s exchange rate, this is $382.41. So it turns out intrinsic value equates to monetary value. It pays to go through your papers carefully.

Reading Time: 5 minutes

“Water water everywhere. Nor any drop to drink.”

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Water water everywhere… spoken by a sailor on a becalmed ship, who is surrounded by salt water that he cannot drink.

Water Conservation

I grew up in southern California and if there is any habit that is drilled into you as a child it would be an acute awareness about conserving water. Angelinos live in a desert and yet we surround ourselves with lush gardens. Water is brought in from the mountains and somehow made incredibly affordable for us to live in this oasis. Because we are so highly dependent on water from other sources, we are careful with how much water is consumed.

This was especially the case in my family. My father was frugal and efficient. All showers can be accomplished in 5 minutes. All meals can be eaten in ten minutes or less. If you have had the opportunity to read “Cheaper by the Dozen” by Frank Gilbreth Jr., you will see a startling resemblance to my father’s ethos. 

So because of this upbringing, I am borderline hostile when I see waste and inefficiency around me. Kids these days who stand under a running shower daydreaming… the horror! Andrew knows well the stink-eye I give him when he leaves the faucet running while he’s brushing his teeth. I can understand that when you have lived in the Pacific Northwest where it rains 90% of the time, there is less diligence to water conservation. But he’s now in California. We don’t have that luxury and the stink-eye reminds him of that.

Closer to Nature

Moving aboard a sailboat will take efficiency and conservation to a whole new level. One of the features of s/v Rachel J. Slocum is a 60 gallon fresh water holding tank and a 30 gal/hour Sea Recovery hydraulic water maker. 

Now while I’ve taken a variety of efficient methods to stay clean (e.g., fast showers at home, cold showers in the Virgin Islands, sponge baths in South America, and baby wiping while camping in the wilderness), I really wanted to get a handle on what a realistic boat shower could be like. 

I decided to take a scientific approach which will require a little physics and geometry. 

Preparation

The essential tools for this experiment will require the following: 

Steps:

  1. Place plastic bag on top of drain and duct tape every side, ensuring a complete seal. 
    • If we had a bath mat, it would be ideal to place over the this seal to prevent slipping, but we’ll just have to make do.
    • If you had a drain stopper, even better and you can skip the first two steps. But we don’t, hence we had to MacGuyver the situation.
  2. Measure the length and width of the shower stall.
    • The measurement of depth will occur after the shower.
    • If you have a rounded shower, you will be doing a lot more geometry in your calculations.
    • We have both a rectangular and an oval shower to choose from, and we are opting for the one that requires less math. 
  3. Undress and step into the shower.
    • Before beginning to run the water, be sure to have someone to operate a stop watch. In this case,
    • Andrew has volunteered for this task.
  4. Turn on the water and start the timer.
  5. Then proceed with all your usual steps in your shower routine.
    • Try not to let one of the principles of quantum theory get in the way (i.e., the act of being observed affect your behavior – speeding up or slowing down – to impact the results). This is serious science, people! 
  6. When your final rinse is complete, turn off the water and stop the timer.  

Analysis

Assuming the seal is intact, you may begin analysis after dressing. If the seal is not and water begins to drain, you will have to work quickly (and nakedly) for the sake of science. 

Measure the depth of the water. Take a few readings if the shower is tapered toward the drain (e.g., at each of the corners of the rectangle and at the drain). If you want to simplify the calculation, use an average or median. If you want to make it complicated, via con Dios.

Unfortunately, the rectangular shower was sloped unevenly toward the center, so the measurement of each of the points of the rectangle and the center yielded different measurements. A simple average simply would not do. We took the complicated approach out of necessity.

Along with the length and width measurement, you can now calculate the volume of water. We had to calculate both the volume of a rectangle and an irregular triangular prism. Convert the volume to gallons (from cubic inches to gallons the multiplier is 0.004329 in/gal) and you have the total water consumed during the shower.

For the 4 minutes and 37 (and a half) seconds I was in the shower, I used up about 10.75 gallons. 

We then calculated the flow rate of gallons per minute emitted from the shower head by dividing 10.75 gallons by 4 min 37 sec. The result is about 2.3 gal/sec. Knowing this will give us some indication of how long we can stay under a running shower while daydreaming (no more than 24 minutes, apparently).

It’s the price of luxury.

Findings 

In the case of the shower in the master bathroom, the flow rate is 2.324 gal/minute. After doing all this math, we also discovered that all shower fixtures in the U.S. are legally mandated to yield a maximum output of 2.5 gal/minute at 60 psi. So we’re in the ballpark, which was nice to validate.

Of course, we don’t have the comparable flow rate for being aboard s/v Rachel J. Slocum. However, we have one more data point in our arsenal to better understand what it would be like living aboard.

Rather than sacrificing on a little bit of luxury or comfort, we are now closer to knowing what are the trade-offs when you spend an extra minute in the shower (but certainly no more than 24 minutes) or the dishes will not get done.

 

Water water everywhere

On the other hand, s/v Rachel J. Slocum also has rain water collection system via valves that can divert all the water that falls on the deck, cabin & sails to the water tank. In a sudden downpour, we could top off her tanks in 10 minutes. 

As we discover each detail about this boat, we get more and more excited about starting this adventure. For now, we are happy dreaming about it and doing our little experiments to approximate what life is like before we cast off the bowlines.

What else is there to do while you’re observing stay-at-home orders until May 15th during this pandemic?