Monthly Archives: May 2013

Shade

Costa Rica The hottest week of year is upon us, landing hard on our sweat glands. The heat takes shape on the hot pavement, like a mirror being elevated to the sky to remind you of the sun’s power. Around us, date palm trees mocking the heat and your senses by displaying human alined trunks of more than a meter width. Above them, the 4 + meter long leaves create an inviting shade. Unnatural and beautiful, and at the moment impossible to reach by wiggles. Longing for shade while surrounded by it is a new experience for me. Angela Arvizu

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A crabby experience

Walking on sandy beaches is always a pleasure, your feet touching the usually pleasurable coldness that comes with the sea. Feeling good and healthy Thad and I decided to go on a run, the sun was strong, within a few minutes we were drenched with our sweat, pushing our bodies, we continued on. The sun was burning the sole of our feet, attempting to cool them off we would approach the water, only to find out that it was boiling hot. Coming back towards the camp we slowed down and started walking, suddenly I found myself screaming with my leg raised up, and jumping up and down with the other one. There it was, the little crab holding my big toe, screaming along with me. My leg waved furiously from side to side finally he let go and fell, he promptly shut up and buried himself in the sand. Yes, I had a crabby experience. Angela Arvizu

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Costa Rica

Costa Rica Smooth road and palm trees, introduced the visual numbness of green, identifying it as nature. The time passed and from the road, I see a factory in the distance blowing smoke. The new visual input provided an alternative mental set of emotional states. The dislike of industrialization and pollution brought strong feelings of disapproval, humans destroying the world. As we approached the factory, the sweet smell of date production overwhelm my olfactory sensors, changing my already bipolar mental state to one of smell infused desire to inhale more of the sweet smoke. Delight was heard from 5 expressive mouths in the car. The drive continued on the well paved road, with perfectly aligned palm trees, the numbing feeling of nature, created by man. Angela Arvizu

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The San Blas Islands

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The San Blas Islands are an amazing collection of over 400 small palm tree islands surrounded by beautiful choral and sea life. While there we say a reef shark, several rays, explored a couple of sunken ships, saw a ship become wrecked on the choral, watched a lightning storm, cleaned the barnacles off of the hull, found coconuts, were sold lobster from locals that moved around on hand carved canoes, swam all around, and saw the biggest sea stars I’ve every seen. We call them dinosaur sea stars J. This place is one of the world’s best kept secrets.

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First Watch

After the sails finally went up we set our course from Colon towards the San Blas Islands. Angela and I had our first watch from 10:00 pm to midnight. We had timed our departure so that we would arrive at the San Blas islands just after sunrise. This would allow us to use dead reckoning to dodge the shallow rocks and choral reefs. Everything started out serene. Angela sat at the wheel, following the big red compass like a video game. Left, right, hard left, slowly back right, there was no end to the corrections that were needed. I sat on the side of the ship looking out, watching for little lights on the horizon that warned of oncoming ships. The stars were absolutely brilliant making it easy to trace out the patches of dark clouds. In the distance, straight ahead, silent lightning flashes lit up the sky. Phosphorescent plankton sparkled blue and green in our wake. Even though the stars were brilliant directly above us, it was strangely very dark. The water had a dark pull to it. If our instruments were correct the waters were more than a mile deep. It already felt like an adventure, like we were on a star ship, setting out to explore what lay beyond the horizon. Rocking side to side, up and down, we were in a soothing trance, caressed by the rhythm of Nature. In the distance small lights appeared, red and white. This meant that they were passing to our left and were not on a collision course. If they were heading straight for us we would see red, green and white. Slowly the cargo ship trailed off to the left. After the first hour the waves began to become excited. The rocking gained amplitude and began to become a bit violent. Then it became even more violent. Very quickly we learned all about what the local seamen call ‘chicken assholes’ – a term they use to describe when the sky falls down on you and the ocean tries to throw it back up. Our whole ship was tossed and turned around so much that the mast went from almost touching one side of the water to the other side in only a couple of seconds. The rain was pouring down and thunder cracked all around us. The waves were far taller than we were, meaning that there wasn’t a chance in hell that we’d see an oncoming ship. Steering seemed pointless too. Our captain, Gwen, who only sleeps with one eye at a time, jumped up from his bed the second the chicken asshole started dumping on us. He was out on the deck being thrown back and forth, barefoot, wearing only a swimming suit, taking down the sails so we wouldn’t be decorating the sea floor tonight. When he came back in the cabin, soaking wet, he laughed at Angela and me because the terror on our faces was more than obvious. After about 20 minutes of this, the chicken asshole stopped as quickly as it started. My stomach was sick, but somehow I had avoided throwing up. When our shift was over we went into our cabin and fell right asleep. If another chicken asshole hit us as least we wouldn’t be driving J.

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The Lake in the Canal

Most of the Panama Canal is actually a freshwater lake. Spending the night fastened to a mooring was delightful. As soon as the ship was secure we began diving into the waters, climbing back up the rickety ladder onto the boat, scrubbing ourselves down with soap, and diving again. It took four rounds until I felt completely clean. There were crocodiles in the water, but we were told that it wasn’t eating season. Still, when the sun went down we got out of the water. Before that happened we happily busied ourselves cleaning the boat. Throwing a five gallon bucket overboard with a rope attached, pulling it back up, and poring the fresh water as others scrubbed the deck. It felt good to make our new home clean. As twilight worked it magic, a meteor shower in progress, we set up an outdoor movie theater on the deck. What a strange yet comfortable feeling to be watching Aliens vs. Predator in the middle of this lake. I think I will always remember that night.

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The Panama Canal

Going through the Panama Canal was amazing. I hope these time lapses that we took relate some of its majesty to you. Watch the huge doors that close around the ship, and then watch how fast the locks fill up, raising the ships by 20-25 feet. We went up three locks, then spent hours motoring through the lake (they don’t allow you to sail in the canal). If you can motor 8 knots or faster you can make it through the locks in one day. We only pulled about 4 knots so we got to spend the night on the lake. That was the best part of the trip, but I’ll save that for the next post. All in all we went up 85 feet, and the next day we went back down those 85 feet (plus another 8 inches – the difference between heights of the Pacific and Atlantic). Now that we are in the Atlantic, the fact that we are going to cross its entirety is feeling much more real. I can only imagine what adventure and insights await. The last time Einstein crossed this ocean it was in a small ship and he got caught in a storm that he thought was going to kill him. In those apparently final moments he went below deck and wrote that he had come in touch with his “magnificent insignificance.” What a beautiful phrase.

Until next time,

Loves,

Thad

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