Tuesday, December 28, 2004

New photos... new places

When it comes to photos, this blog is most likely going to be feast or famine. Either I have internet access and I will upload images like mad and let them do the talking. or my kilobytes will be limited to text text text. So allow these pics to speak for Gomera, El Hierro and the Pangaea crew minus me (I seem to be behind the camera lately.)

Monday, December 27, 2004

While we sit here in comfort...

It´s hard to believe that our first Pangaea sailboat is presently in the Indian Ocean and barely made it through the tsunami! The story is on the website of the "new" owners, at www.pangaea.ch.

Makes us feel very grateful to be in a safe harbor. But not for long, we will probably head across on Thursday. xoxo

Saturday, December 25, 2004

As Events Churn

We sit here in the back cabin, Ari tucked up next to me wearing a doggie t-shirt and a set of purple beads. It's 10 at night and the kids are wide awake, and no wonder: they slept all day in a washing machine. It's roaring winds outside and yet here I am, writing, not sick, belly full of ripe avocado and homemade refried beans... how did that happen? Simple: we are not on open waters. But we indeed have left Gomera.
Our guardian angel Hannah waved us off from the breakwater during the last few minutes of calm waters. After that, sqalls along the coast had us bobbing about with three reefs and a sliver of a Genoa. Once we left the lee of Gomera's shore, the ocean was a stormy washing machine. That was the image that kept popping into my head: I was in the back cabin washing machine, a lumpy sweater with my two little socks. But really it was the guys upstairs who were getting the real wash over. It soon became clear that El Hierro, The southerly most island of the Canaries, was right in our path, and only the hardest core would have stayed out in such wooly conditions.

Entering and tying up at El Rastinga harbor was one of the hairiest maneuvers we've done in years, and made me ever so grateful to have this metal boat. The winds were fiercely howling as we figured out where we should go, and there was close to no space to maneuver about. Achim had us tie up the bumpers on the starboard side, but once we came crashing into the wall, it was like trying to cushion a freight train with a few pin cushions. The impact was loud as our bow roller and starboard side slammed the wall. But the damage was so minimal! I swear it would have crunched any other daintier vessel. Ari came up to the gangway, tears in his eyes. "Pangaea's hurt! We need a doctor, quick!" No matter how much I consoled him, he insisted that Pangaea had undergone an awful accident, and that he somehow would be thrown to the sharks.

Somehow, just knowing that we were going to a sheltered harbor made me stand the afternoon's banging about with more grace and less horror. But three hard one-day passages have done nothing for Ari and Toni's love for sailing, nor mine. "are we going to Oma's house?" Toni will ask every few minutes or hours. I too can't help but fantasize in each harbor we arrive about the airport, standby flights to somewhere far away from large expanses of rough water.

But I know that things can and will get better. I've said that, though, on each passage. First, the one leaving from Graciosa to Las Palmas, which was the worst of 'em. Then the overnighter to Gomera was better by only a sliver. And now this last passage. It's the WEATHER, stupid! I have to say to myself. It's been rough rough rough.

Coby and Achim have been eating up the challenge, though. They are a good sailing team. Plus Coby is great with the kids AND does dishes!

Now we are here, will we stay until Christmas? We'll leave you with that question, which only time will answer.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

more pics of our trip...

Please allow me to invite you to a link for more selected photos of La Graciosa, the kids, Achim and I and the boat! I most likely will not be using Shutterfly in the next while, but it would be a shame to have all these great photos go unseen without at least having a link to them!!

From El Hierro...

I already wrote a live update yesterday and couldn´t send it, because we were in a harbor that blocked our signal. As soon as propagation improves, it will get out. So now that I am on land here, I might as well use the time at this internet cafe to describe the last while for whoever is reading. I guess that makes me a full fledged blogger.

I am in a small pueblo 15 km outside of La Rastinga, where the boat is. I hitchhiked here with a Dutch couple... I go where the internet is! And there ain´t none in that little marina.

Here is me with what looks like a hat... actually it´s a bread I baked in the breadmaker. Basically I put in too much yeast, so it bubbled over, but I caught it in time and gouged out the middle to cook in the oven, while letting the rest bake in the breadmaker. I should try to patent the idea of tophat bread.

I´m actually grateful that fate pushed us on land for a few more days. We can replenish the wonder bread and condensed milk, make last minute phone calls. And I got an exciting email from a dear friend in Paris who may want to work on a documentary with me... let´s face it, I know that my updates can´t possibly focus on anything but the Here and Now out there. Here, on land, I can write about other things than throwing up, setting sails, catching fish or whatever else is going on when surrounded by masses of water.

For one thing, I am inspired to write about La Graciosa, where we spent over three months. We have the necessary beautiful pictures and notes, now I want to put it together as something readable. Having spent the day in La Restinga makes me miss La Graciosa. It´s beauty is overshadowed by the lack of friendliness of the people. Really Achim and I felt it immediately. The northernmost Canary Isle´s folk are so much more welcoming than these Southernmost. Maybe I need to give them time to warm up... but I doubt it.

The kids, as always, like it here as much as anywhere. The black sandy beach just a few minutes from the boat is a great place to fill their teacups and chat with the other kids, tourists and locals alike. I doubt we will leave tomorrow, Heiligen Abend as it´s called. But the day after Christmas will probably be the day we buckle down and go once again. Anyone who wants to write can contact us via sailing@pangaea.to and my sister will forward the mail!

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

That´s it... we leave tomorrow!

I´ve almost left the boat twice in the last two weeks.

But those who know me know how up and down I can be. Having Coby aboard has been both agreeable and challenging. But we are now literally in the same boat together, after a few good talks and for me, good crys. Basically, let´s face it, living on a boat magnifies all your qualities, both good and bad. We are both highly critical, opinionated people. Oh, did I forget Achim in the picture? Let´s just say that I was unsure of my role aboard lately; now that we ahve a built in second fiddle, I was "reduced" to seasick babysitter on two very difficutl passages between the isles, holding the barf bowl under Toni and Ari´s little dry heaving mouths, wondering if it wouldn´t be a little cozier in Hamburg... or anywhere else for that matter. But we all know that the sea state doesn´t always stay so cruel, and one´s bodily constitution strengthens with every wobbly day. Now we will have several weeks ahead out there. Will I be able to find the energy and inspiration to continue my tell tales? Time will tell.

Gomera is a gorgeous island which we didn´t give enough time to explore. San Sebastian is a picturesque harbor sheltered by a craggy cliff and high green hills. It´s the Napa Valley of the Canaries, feeling very homeopathic and relaxed. Still, I have managed to be a nervous wrieck running around doing all the last minute errands, filling gas bottle to buying 3 weeks worth of fruits and veggies, peeling garlic, baking bread, packing away what we don´t need and storing with easy access things we do, writing insurance and adminitrative gunk, dealing with goodbyes and well, getting excited about The Other Side.
We have a scooter I bought at a flea market for 3 Euros. Thought it looked cool to see adults running around cosmopolitan areas with these >little slick racey things. So I raced around with it the last two days. Result: charlie-horsed right butt cheek and leftupper thigh. I wonder if all scooter riders have this imbalance.

The kids love having Coby aboard. He is somehow a calming element, especially with cut-off headed chicken mama. They love to dance to his traditional ballads on guitar, and he took Ari to the Circus yesterday. Yes, there was a circus here in Gomera. In fact, they have everything here that I could imagine needing. If nothing else works out, I think we will just come back to Gomera. Goodbye, East Atlantic... xoxo.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Almost out of Las Palmas

'morning... Achim was awake before the sun rose... I could hear him fiddling around in the main cabin while I was jammed between two sleeping chimps. The weather info we had downloaded that morning indicated that we would have a strong barfy ride. To go for it or not, that was the question. I constantly feel the devil's advocate coming out of me. I said, well, we've got a window; yes the winds are strong but who knows how much longer we'll be trapped in Las Palmas, and we really do want to hit Gomera, my goodness, for a week now! But had Achim insisted on leaving I might have replied - what's the hurry?
Well, the anchor chain decided for us anyhow. Stuck and stuck could be. A directly vertical pull and no budging. No room radius wise to try pulling from different directions, either. Coby got on his flippers and new snorkel and looked at the mess 15 feet down or more. We will try again later, It'll be a miracle if we get out of here at all. The good thing about all this is it keeps the boat tidy. WHen you think you are gonna leave any minute now, aint' no way I'm gonna let the monkeys make a mess everywhere. The bed is baked, the glasses are stored.

Here is Coby, our on-board magician, with his sleeping apprentice .

Thursday, December 16, 2004

The Princess is leaving Las Palmas

Here is the princess of the boat these days.  we have done our last provisioning before we take off for an overnight sail to Gomera; Not writing much because I am tipsy and in a hurry. I won't be in a hurry for long though.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Ari and his Lemonade

So we will be leaving las
palmas any day now.  that will be when i really start these
updates.  life is hectic until then.

is a hilarious recording that Coby made unbeknownst to either myself or
Ari.  It is 5.5 MB big, so it might take awhile to download. 
Just shows what us mama's go through...



Friday, December 10, 2004

First email to blog: the Golden Mean


In Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle makes several references to navigation:
…And we do so more in the case of the art of navigation than in that of gymnastics… 1112b5

…as happens also in the art of medicine or of navigation… 1104a9

…being a principle in which nothing is contributed by the person who is acting or is feeling the passion, e.g. if he were to be carried somewhere by a wind… 1110a3

As the birthplace of Homer’s Odyssey, Ancient Greece holds an especially deep relationship to the sea, as it is primarily consists of islands. And yet, in a discussion of human excellence, both moral and intellectual, where do these skills play a role? Why did Aristotle choose to use seamanship as an activity having anything to do with ethics, or at least more so than other activities? Do we not identify more with his consistent reference to the doctor, for it deals directly with a particular human good, namely the health of people? An equally expected example is his brave warrior who concerns himself with fighting battles for the safety of people, or the excellent lyre player for the enjoyment and refinement of people.
In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle distinguished two kinds of “virtue,” or human excellence: moral and intellectual. Unlike medicine, politics, or philosophy, navigation seems on the outset to be quite unconcerned with these virtues. We can reduce the purpose of navigation to the science or art of conducting ships or vessels from one place to another. Why not then speak of chariotship or horsemanship?
Furthermore, in an inquiry on ethics, our concern is philosophical, while to put navigational skill to practice, one must have a vessel. The “activity of soul in accordance with perfect virtue” of the sailor depends on this external good to achieve his ends; without his vessel, he is an armchair sailor. Would not such practices as civics, teaching and the liberal arts, which are not inherently dependant on any external object, be more appropriate in illustrating his investigation of the pursuit of virtue? Aristotle points out:
Most noble is that which is justest, and best is health;
But pleasantest is it to win what we love. For all these properties belong to the best activities; and these, or one- the best- of these, we identify with happiness.
Yet evidently, as we said, it needs the external goods as well; for it is impossible, or not easy, to do noble acts without the proper equipment. 1099b2

The most excellent navigator must be able to show excellence even with sparse equipment, and that is even the definition of an excellent navigator. Indeed, too deficient equipment and the navigator would be imprudent to launch. In the other extreme, he who possesses a lavish or excess of maritime equipment will never truly learn how to navigate, only how to operate the equipment. This is our first encounter of the navigator’s necessity for the Golden Mean.
Let us first behold the theoretical, “pure” navigator, who has no concern over crew and vessel, but merely concerns himself with navigation alone. For Aristotle, virtuous action lies in a disposition to choose the mean (“the right balance”) between extremes, in particular choosing the mean between the vice of excess and the vice of deficiency. This is, briefly put, precisely the concern of navigation. The following table gives some specific examples of how excess and deficiency play a key role in navigation:




Points too far into the wind, leading to sudden, dangerous jibe

Points as close to target as possible

Points too far away from the wind, leading to sudden tack, completely steering vessel off course

Ignores current, runs adrift, missing target

Meets the target at landfall

Fights current too much, runs aground, sinking or damaging the vessel

Hoists insufficient sail

surface leading to bumpy ride, inability to counter current and waves, delaying or impeding landfall

Hoists just the right amount

of sail, allowing for maximal speed, safety and comfort

Hoists too much sail surface leading to

wet ride, ripped sails, broken spars, weakened rig

Note that, in order to achieve the mean in all the above cases, the navigator must always act in light of the given variables (wind and weather, currents, waves, boat length, mast height, etc.). As Aristotle misattributes to Calypso:

Hence he who aims at the intermediate must first depart from what
is the more contrary to it, as Calypso advises-
Hold the ship out beyond that surf and spray.
For of the extremes one is more erroneous, one less so; therefore,
since to hit the mean is hard in the extreme, we must as a second
best, as people say, take the least of the evils; and this will be
done best in the way we describe. 1109a31

The variables a navigator faces are entirely outside his control and, as in the case of Odysseus, often do not offer entirely ideal conditions. It will be these conditions which will determine whether he must head for the mean, or towards one or another extreme in order to achieve the closest to the mean possible.
In practice, excellent navigation necessitates not merely the equipment and how to use it, but an understanding of engineering, oceanography, geography and meteorology, of astronomy and topography, of kinetics, physics, geometry and mathematics. This only reflects the skills (as opposed to virtues) needed to get from Point A to Point B. Aristotle also seems to understand that the virtue of a navigator consists of more than mere techne when he mentions:
Something of the sort happens also with regard to the
throwing of goods overboard in a storm; for in the abstract no one
throws goods away voluntarily, but on condition of its securing the
safety of himself and his crew any sensible man does so. 1110a11

One could argue that this sensibility is needed by every seaman, but here he specifies “his crew,” so he is in fact discussing the captain of a ship. Except for the occasional solo sailor, success in “the sensible man” mentioned above depends on more than his navigational savvy. He must also have strong insight into the micropolitical, and a keen sense of sociology and psychology. Here we can begin to address his moral virtues, for according to Aristotle:
Now virtue is concerned with passions and actions, in which excess is a form of failure, and so is defect, while the intermediate is praised and is a form of success; and being praised and being successful are both characteristics of virtue. Therefore virtue is a kind of mean, since, as we have seen, it aims at what is intermediate. 1106b21

The Nicomachean Ethics uses a teleological approach which looks to the end, goal or purpose of human existence in order to determine how we ought to act. In all of his actions, the excellent navigator must look for and achieve the golden mean in order to make this determination. He must understand how to harness Neptune’s nature, as well as his own nature, to his benefit, honing and sculpting his sails in accordance with the variables placed before him. An excess of courage leads to shipwreck, a deficiency and the vessel will never leave port or will not attain the destination. An excess of generosity and he will use up the ship’s stores too quickly, while a deficiency of generosity will lead to a hungry, sick, tired, ineffective crew. Both a too harsh or too soft temper (control over his crew) entices mutiny. The golden mean in these virtues, however, best assures a satisfied crew, a functional vessel and successful sea passages. Since he will search for and achieve a juste milieu in the virtues, the excellent navigator may be considered by Aristotle to exemplify the excellent man.

Upon reflecting in these waters we can see how the navigational arts, by and with nature, in analogy as well as practice, reveal Aristotle’s golden mean.