Monday, January 10, 2005

quality - quantity - quackery

Brace yourself because I'm probably gonna get a little philosophical today. It has to do with where we are, only 150 miles from our half-way point. Smack dab in the middle, sandwiched, between a rocking and a soft spot, neither here nor there, just over the hump, all downhill from here, etc. etc.

How many things in life do I do half-way? Probably too many, but still chances are, if I've made it 50 percent, I probably will continue the other 50. In this case, we KNOW we're 50 percent, unless we got blown off course or some other unspeakable tragedy should occur between now and then. What a thought; should I expire tomorrow for some reason, the halfway point of my life would only be 19 years old. I say only, although that means I will have spent half my life as an official, non-teenager adult. Just as bad, there would be people twice as old as I was when I died who are still running marathons. Are these good parameters to determine whether I've reached the end- vs the middle?

These are quantitative reflections, something of a hot issue these days with Southeast Asia. Am I the only one who listens to the news the last 10 days and recognize that the primary horror of the situation has to do with numbers? I almost wish I knew of someone personally who was affected by the tsunami; if six degrees of separation really does exist between all of us, I probably do know someone, but just don't know it yet. That so many have perished and so many others are in danger is what makes the situation so... noteworthy. Important. (Incidentally, the word important has different meaning in French, implying bigger, having more import. An important city in French necessarily means a bigger city.)

And yet we know the importance of the death of JFK, of John Lennon, of our dog Frisky. Turning towards these more qualitative reflections, we can liken them to our speediest days out here, or the day we catch our first fish, which at this point will probably be never.

So, quality vs quantity or a combination of both? Which one rings truer to my heart?

My heart says quality. Mass tragedies such as 9-11, World War Two, the Tsunami... they are quantitatively mind boggling, but touch the heart mostly when there is personal connection involved, a family, a country, a people, a loved one, myself.

Even the reflection upon being almost 50% there (AHH! Still way over 1000 miles to go!) only has meaning because we WANT to get there. If qualitatively I were extremely comfortable bobbing around out here forever with a lifetime supply of water nutella and sirloin steaks, I might not care whether I was half way there and might even change course so I can just sail around out here AD NAUSEUM (no pun intended).

Another case in point: two children. I am one of three, Achim is one of three, so why am I convinced that less (two) is more? I am presently boggled by even the concept of a third. This morning I slept with a child in each arm, which felt great.

I know, I know, you adapt, you make due, when that third one comes. this is what would happen:

In case you can't see that image, it's Toni playing mama.

By the way, they are adapting in Southeast Asia right now, too.

So quantity doesn't strike me until it becomes so massive it's unbelievable (my mom has a friend who was one of 18 kids.). For example, infinity is a good example of a noteworthy quantity concept. Anything less is just numbers, days, miles to go, ashes to ashes...

SO it's not all the millions of gallons of water that have already passed under our keel and all around us. It's the few drops that somehow are leaking through almost every one of our vertical hatches that get to me. Another example of personal experience changing the quantity into quality: it's CRAPPY water! It's driving me crazy! It's ruining my towels, our stores, molding my mattresses!

In the absence of lightwind sails, we have Arthur's old genoa (picked freshly out of the garbage) which we set on the inner forestay with piston hooks. The genoa is boomed out with a spinnaker pole which is too big, but it seems to be working. Physical manifestation of this new sail config: better angle to Tobago (we were starting to veer too far south) and no longer leaning to one side. Achim and Coby insisted we would be more uncomfortable sailing butterfly like this, but I knew differently from our last Atlantic crossing. Pangaea takes to butterfly like well, a fly to you know what. The boat is stable enough for the kids to do "arts and crafts" today; we actually did a "project," making ducks out of cardboard and paper that say Do Not Disturb. Wasn't entirely my idea, came out of a craft book. But now they are getting ambitious and should weather permit, tomorrow we will be building a castle out of a shoebox and toilet paper rolls.

From Out Here,
16'07" N
36'52" W
1423 miles to Tobago

More of course at, click on "latest."
You can also follow our progress on a visual basis at