How does one go from working IT and running a small farm on the side to sailing the world? And, even more challenging, how do you convince the love of your life that this is a good idea?
Summer of 1984. My dream job was to be a marine biologist, I loved watching Jacques Cousteau exploration shows on television. Probably liked the idea of diving more than the biology part though. I asked my parents if this is something I could do, hoping my dad would do it with me. We visited a dive shop in Toledo, Ohio, asked our questions, checked out the super deep pool where training would occur and signed up. Unfortunately my dad was unable to do it; he had a big important job and he loved the work, and it kept him very busy. In fact I learned my work ethic from my dad, although it took a bit longer for me. He was a solid provider. My mom was solid too, in her own ways. She watched after us kids as a stay-at-home mom. She kept the budget; kept my dad from splurging on "wants", paying for the "needs", and saving so they would have no worries as they aged. At the time I was 14, the minimum age to earn the Open Water Diver certification from PADI. I went through the course and successfully passed. Got my identification card with my 14-year old picture on it, bowl-cut and all. Still have it.
The years went on, I dove mostly in the quarries near my home and did some fun events every year like the "Underwater Pumpkin Carving Contest". Just in case you don't know, pumpkins are buoyant and they roll easily underwater; making the underwater aspect difficult and challenging at best. When you opened a pumpkin underwater, you were swarmed with thousands of little fish all wanting a piece of its guts, an extra fun side affect to this challenge. Eventually, I made it to Leadville, Colorado where I went to a two-year college and also served on the Lake County Search & Rescue Team as one of their divers. Unfortunately, when divers are called in, it no longer is about rescue, rather recovery. We would have training dives and do all sorts of things I had not done before like ice diving. On one of these training dives we went to Turquoise Lake that was at an altitude of about 13,000 feet. High altitude really messes with the dive charts and unfortunately, I messed up on those calculations. We did a line dive to about 90 feet, there was zero visibility and about midway I pulled off and surfaced without any decompression. About 30 minutes later, my arm and shoulder goes numb and the dive leader says I likely have a case of the bends. I lived. But, my ability to drive up and down mountains quickly and fly seems to have hit a brick wall. Both these actions now cause me to have seizures and get very ill very quickly. I have found that "real" decongestant, can help me drive through big altitude changes - but I have yet to test that on a plane, as it is a bit more difficult to just pull over and park. So, when people say "Why don't you just fly there?", that is my story and I'm sticking to it.
Rochelle and I had thought about different ways to see the world. As a young person, I had many opportunities to see the world with my family. My grandparents were in the oil business and lived in London and Oslo for some time and we got to visit them. And, if you are going to go all the way over there, you might as well see the rest of Europe too, so we did. My father was transferred to Venezuela when I was young, so we lived in Valencia & Caracas for three years and just like in Europe, if you are there you might as well see the rest of the continent, so we did. I experienced sitting on the equator, climbing up to Machu Pichu, and sleeping in a bedroom that used to house Conquistador Pizarro and his generals in Cuzco. In addition, I saw the infamous 12-angled stone in the walls of Cuzco, and got tear gassed in a riot. Oh the adventure! Rochelle on the other hand, has seen California, Oregon, Washington, and Hawaii. We set out to change that in our adventures across the United States & Canada over the last nine years. I believe she has now been to every Canadian providence except for the Northwest Territories, and every state except Alaska. Alaska is on the docket for May 2023, by sailboat, 1600 nautical miles each way, hopefully with the Waggoner Flotilla. It will be our first major passage with Karma. But what about all the other places outside of the United States?
I had heard a story from a couple I met in Alaska many decades ago. They told me how they had jumped on a freighter and rode it to Europe, backpacked for a year and then hitched another ride back to America. What a cool idea and apparently it is a 'thing'! It's not as inexpensive as it used to be, someone realized they could make a pretty penny off this. Cheaper than a cruise, but will still run a thousand dollars or so, per person, each way. Apparently, the freighters are quite nice, exercise gyms, even hot tubs; chef-cooked meals, private staterooms, and lots of time to read books and ponder life. This is one place where you can get started, if you are interested: Maris Freighter Cruise and Travel Club -- Around the World Cargo Cruises (freightercruises.com),
This was all before Karma came into our lives. Now we won't need to go by freighter, instead we will travel like the Vikings and other explorers in the past, on our own hull. Alaska will be our first test of wits, if we can handle the experience, then we will immediately set off on the Coho Ho Ho Rally to San Francisco and then on to the Baja Ha Ha to Cabo San Lucas. I imagine we may spend a long time in Mexico, likely through the whole winter and then we will decide, east or west?
Until then, our lives are filled with learning, practice and projects. Though our boat is built for blue water passages, it never hurts to have some extra insurances that we will make it. The oceans are vast and huge and when sailors are out there, you are on your own, you must rely on your team, your skills and your boat and hope that mother nature is kind.