Tag Archives: Relationships

Character

Sweet Seas Avalon

Jeanneau Sloop’s Southernmost Mooring…

Avalon, Santa Catalina Island

Moitessier 1958, Sailing to the Reefs, “The deterioration in the weather was sudden and without warning— it was just a simple call to order to remind me that winds are not always favourable and that fine weather never lasts for ever. As always when I am obliged to move about on Deck at night in a squall of rain, I came out of the cabin swearing that God’s providence is a myth.”

To one degree or another admitting where our talents lend our sailing advantage is a must. Knowing what we are best and worst at is to keep our wits about us.

I am quick to change sails as the wind builds. Although I’ve suffered from sloth and torpor and been meted out punishment for the inaction.

Point near Avalon

Long Point, Catalina Island

The Length of the Trial

In preparation for the passage north from Los Angeles to San Francisco I’ve noticed a particular form of grit seeming to have been found inside. I’m determined that I will return my sailboat to her home port. I have suffered bouts of grave doubt but have fended off the demons for the moment.

Characters

Character Enhancer Seated to Left

An old now deceased sailing companion had brought his Tahiti ketch from Baja back to San Francisco’s Bay View Boat Club many times. Carl’s strategy was simplicity itself… patience.

Rather than have his will broken, rather than attempt to advance to his destination he opted to rest, wait, and pick his spots rather than have Mother Nature punish his boat or his backbone.

Carl exercised patience and judgement. His sailing skills were sufficient to the task. Pragmatism and common sense was perhaps his greatest talent—-but hardly his only. Of course he had made careful study of the weather patterns along the West coast. He knew as much as his mind could hold. Tides, currents and where the next place to anchor north of his present position was built into his plan.

dolphins on bow

Escort Services

I had once ignored Carl’s advice and in my haste wasted hours beating against a current. As the current slackened a fresh and rested Carl joined me in San Pablo Bay for a sail back to San Francisco. I arrived exhausted. Carl returned unruffled and rested.

We will see what we see in the next few weeks. I’ll pick my way north with my sage sailing friend in mind. I’ve a good twenty days to make a trip that ought not take more than three under the better circumstances. Toss away two rough days waiting at anchor to advance one good day seems sensible.

In that light provisioning and a second hand that can abide the captain’s strategy will bring the capable sailboat safely home.

Edited Red Star

 

Don’t Cry for Me, Catalina

Catalina Four

Paddle Board- Bikini- Beach

Sailing from San Francisco to Avalon, this was the long planned passage, a tribal escapade, journeying to the harbor of the living-breathing Santa Catalina Island—- a offshore destination where exists an alter paced island ambience— the much admired oak barrel aged amber liquids bottled and called booze, in all things swaddled in near nothingness called a bikini; mingling amidst the sun-gilded bronzed visitors and residents who have by happenstance roved here to this storied island— separated by nothing more than mist and fog bank—- one half-day’s sail from the buzzing Southern California megalopolis— where by arm’s-length from the mainland reside the formidable sum of forty million of western civilizations quirky and traffic hazed.

Catalina Six

Running with the Big Dogs

I pet my peoples dogs, admired their dinghies. I relished the glorious knowing transcendence, our group-oversharing, our unyielding sanguinity— a fair-weather native birthright, people tested in gridlock but unbent (until fenders have clashed,) a citizenry resplendently aglow with a can-do- window tinted willingness to rise against all ill-tempered obstacles identified as too hot or too cold. All our thermal moderation, all evidence of material insufficiency, all former physical attributes once celebrated as character traits vanished by American Express fueled scalpel and suture. This is not self-help on steroids, this is what only a modern day banking system- financialized surgeon enhanced imagination can buy. Chins, cheeks and noses are chiseled into appealing compliance. Veneers for teeth, fitness centers for a cursory quick do over of gut or bicep. Hair and nail salons are cheek to jowl from Yreka to El Centro. My people start the day in circuit training end the day on a yoga mat. Kale salad and our first of two hibiscus infused martini’s are sipped at sunset with more often than not a second or third present-life-partner. The brilliant oranges and atmospherically moody ozone and carbon enhanced reds bring to climax another Left Coast Topanga Canyon sunset.

Lacey in July

Performing the Mightiest Little of Dogs

My sailing began on the Alameda Estuary. In 1980 I had come off the road from constant touring. I had weathered five years out of state crisscrossing the nation chasing dates playing my juggling act to infinitesimally diminutive audiences. I heard the call of home. Born in Oakland and raised in the Bay Area. Northern California of the seventies and yet to be written eighties was fern bars, funk bands doused in magnums of Napa sparkling wine. We were the world’s glitzy, garrulous— glamorously libidinous. A person born in California tested the complex multidimensional iterations of the sprawling romantic endeavor described more or less as love.

Catalina Seven

Summer Winds

Decades, children, homes all came and went. Some vanished, some were sold and some simply moved out. All the while I was playing the streets of Fisherman’s Wharf a swelling population compounded like some interest bearing retirement account. The long wet winters are memory. A dryer and warmer climate has taken hold. We don’t much like to do dreary, wet or cold. It’s so awful we invented Palm Springs to help the most averse among us to not have to ever have to suffer such inconvenience.

Catalina Two

Cozy Lagoons Nestled in Hillsides of Prickly Pear

And to this leading edge of all that is left of the era of enlightenment, as we all sort through the digital catastrophe, the computer chip disrupted economic rollercoaster madcap E-ticket ride to mostly rags or in some few circumstances riches here at this island outpost I arrive to take measure of my fellow countrymen. I am here to shoot my curiosity arrows into the heart of others minds, to gauge temperament, to discern what remains of what we have in common. In less than one year three historic sized conflagrations have leveled thousands of buildings, terminated the lives of good people helping to shape the expectations of what Tesla, lithium and solar panels can bring to our fragile future. Dusk is spent rocking gently at anchor. I see you fellow citizens. I see your spirit, I see our challenge. I want to shake your hand, hold you in my arms and convince you that we can do this. Together, we can do this, starting here and starting now. Come September and my return to my harbor… it is time.

Edited Red Star

Still Earning My Stripes

welcome mat

Welcome to Wayfarer World

Christina and Garrett are members of the Ventura Yacht Club. Garrett’s father had lived at the club since before he was married and started his family. Garrett was born, raised, and then had his own children and by fact of residency is the club’s most permanent fixture. Garrett has lived aboard his entire life. His son and daughter, one in the United States Marines, and the other an aspiring wildlife photographer and college student have known no other home than the families 40’ sailboat. Three generations have spent their lives right here. Garrett’s wife from the day they vowed understood the terms by which they would live their lives.

This was the stout stock and first souls we met walking the initial steps on terra firma in Southern California.

 

Varley's Gulf Star 50

Gulf Star 50 

Morro Bay Yacht Club

We were steered in the Ventura Yacht Club direction north of here while still in Morro Bay. A club member had been out harbor hopping up and down the coast with his ketch rigged Gulf Star 50. Refinements included a 600 gallons per day watermaker and Cummins turbo diesel for punching the 17.5 ton sailboat to weather. Talk about shipshape! The skipper spent some 320 hours reskinning, sound-dampening and fireproofing the engine room and workshop.

The Newport, Oregon native started out in the music business. Tom pulling the wild card from the deck of his life concocted a sound blended with sunshine and a less fully employed pace. For some years the gigs were fat and sweet, his music and touring was all upside, but as the wheel turned the smoke filled one night stands became more grind than grand he finally closed the backstage door for the last time.

The Evergreen State College alumni had no more stomach for the long hops and short stops. Today Tom, wife, dog and sailboat devote the lion-share of their days exploring the Channel Islands. A professional mariner, Master licensed, Tom hires out now and then to deliver large fine yachts from one port to another. Tom’s part bard and poet and one-hundred percent hard scrabble. According to the dog in his life Tom Varley is something more than a ordinary-run-of-the-mill good man. Tom’s dog was canine blessed having partnered with a real human being. Dogs are never wrong about character.

Tom's Dog

A Real Sweetheart This One…

I spoke with two licensed ocean sailors from the Ventura Yacht Club. Including Tom Varley the three all had distinct opinions about how to approach an ocean passage. Jeff, a delivery skipper, who along and his wife have sailed for personal pleasure to Mexico and across the Pacific. Their Passport 40 is a capable circumnavigating sailboat. Passport owners possess seafaring confidence. As the veteran offshore sailor explained he’s got a plan when the weather gets heavy, it’s a plan he’s tested and proved to work. The anvil willed mariner invited me aboard. He demonstrated how to shorten sail fast. We went over the tactic aboard my boat and where modification and changes might make more sensible and efficient work of this task. Smaller sails are necessary for higher wind speeds. Going to weather (upwind) in 30 knots for days on end without strain to boat or crew is necessary. Like most other blue water veterans Jeff possesses a Darwinian sensibility. Survival of the fittest comes to mind while examining his hands, beard and brains. He is nobodies fool and goes to sea intending to make it back to port come what may.

Weather Fax

Weather Fax Machine

The other gentleman I chewed on time and crackers with sailed a C&C 37’. Lighter displacement, larger mast, a spirited racer/cruiser design- one of the most popular sailboats of its era. I had spoken about ocean sailing and this yacht club member quickly disabused me of this misstatement. I had not been ocean sailing I had been coastal sailing. Even though he had sailed his boat to Mexico, had for decades sailed to the Channel Islands by his reckoning he had never been far enough off the coast to describe his experience as ocean sailing. There were two reasons; first, a boat and crew setup for ocean sailing is prepared to meet a different set of challenges. Second, an ocean sailing boat because of the vast distances back to land can’t get off the water and escape the forces of heavy weather. The club member explained he didn’t mind facing difficulty for part of a day but he couldn’t stomach the notion of having to ride out a storm for day upon night and day. Below the surface the man tamped down on the swamp of his emotions. There wasn’t much more he could say. The club member had that look behind his eyes. The expression was something of a game face. Sailors are not the type to bellyache (with one notable exception…). The coastal sailor knew what he was up for and not up for and that was his reality. Coastal sailing was plenty. Enough said.

Tenacious

Naming the Unspeakable

Smooth sailing… that’s the aim. The part that isn’t so smooth, the part that tests character, sets its mark right there beneath your ribcage— between the “trust and know and doubt and fear…” In some instances the distance between is as tight a spot as you are likely ever to face. Sailors have to account for the mettle, the God given spine they inherit. A sailboat will tease the unavoidable fact of your fear right out of you. A rough day at sea is truth serum. I got some big time respect for small craft offshore warnings and plenty to spare. Feel free to borrow mine, there’s buckets more where that came from.

Times wasting mate. There’s a head to repair, bilge pump to replace,  a new rigging splice to make— a chart to study. Smooth sailing mates… smooth sailing

Edited Red Star

Two Hundred Miles Downwind

Morro Bay Amel Ketch

Tranquility as harbor

Coffee, always hot black coffee. No cream and no sugar, no thank you. Still even with a cup of fresh brew the skipper and crew were both bone tired. Anchor was hoisted at the top of the day. Deeper water was found as we dodged the kelp taking a course south and west . The jib was unfurled . We set course for Morro Bay twenty miles south.

Here would be our first chance to set foot back on land for more than just fuel. The harbor in Morro Bay would be the boat’s keeper. Her now worn crew needed to stand down. After two days we needed to tie the boat to a dock and once relieved of duty not consider for one second about the change of weather or state of the ocean’s surface. Shore side leave was the order of the day.

We docked at the Morro Bay Yacht Club. I dropped the radar reflector and hoisted the burgee of the Emeryville Yacht Club. Sweet Seas and crew were welcomed guests. We showered and shaved. Down the Embarcadero along the waterfront we took a stool at Windows on the Water. I drank one martini before and a glass of red wine with my fresh shucked oysters, garden salad and chunks of sliced bread. I was back aboard on my bunk and asleep before ten bells had sounded.

Richard Santos Best

Richard Santos- Longtime friend and crew

In the morning the ketch rigged vessel Spirit came alongside the pier. Her captain Tom Valery hailing from Ventura had come from a mooring ball to the dock to spend the day cleaning his 50’ Gulf Star. The one time Newport, Oregon native and musician now attended to an evolving set of new careers. The witty eyed sailor had plotted a post high pressure-high stakes musical career for the chance to go drifting from port to port in pursuit of his own next chapter.

There was a weekly Wednesday night barbecue at the club. Beef, turkey, salmon and veggie burgers were on offer. Six bucks got you all the fixings plus homemade side dishes whipped up by the clubs talented cooks. Conversation ran the gamut from dragging anchor to near misses in dense fog. The sailors with real sea time logged could not be worried about the inherent risks that come with going to sea.

vest

Skin in the Game

Seafarers understand the compact they’ve entered into. There is not much else to say. What choice does a mariner have? By my reckoning there are some risks in life that are best categorized as necessary. You stick your neck out because you’ll never live with yourself if you don’t. Rough weather is not much worse than a bad marriage, traffic citation or a beat up pickup truck with a broken starter. They’ll all make you cuss, drink whiskey and pile on more regret to the pile of mistakes you’ve already been carrying to this fated point in your life.

A yacht club is a collection of stalwart women and men who have some notion that a boat affords them a chance to take a chose shave with their life. There are all sorts of distracting dreams and destinations in the mix, but regardless of the aim or final port there remains the matter of surviving the getting there, even relishing that passage, making the voyage with skill and grace no matter the circumstances. Somewhere in the thing we know as sailing is a soul who needs to see an end to putting off the unavoidable.

gulls and seals

Time spent ocean sailing over the course of my thirty-eight years has been low. Most of my sailing has been in protected waters. I’ve done enough time offshore to have seen plenty. This stint is my longest yet. We’ve arrived in Morro Bay having now logged two hundred miles. Now we are just more than halfway. By my count I’ll have near nine hundred sea miles under my sailboats keel by the time I arrive back at my home port. By that time I’ll have a more intimate view of what my boat and what parts of my insides I’ve not flushed out into the open prior to this challenge. Sailing the coast of California turns out to be both a beautiful and hard won task.

More…  Edited Red Star

A Circus Show School

shoes

School of Circus Dreams

Circus summer camp is a portal into the mosaic of my heart and hope. In this station of my life helping youngsters look beyond the finite horizon to what is beyond animates a piece of my own biography. I was that misunderstood boy busy box, the over loveable squirming unmanageable never quite able to be quite entirely quiet kid in class.

Whatever national lunacy going down in the media last week was not going on where I put my time and energy. Sure I was worried about our students. We have no metal detectors, no fences, gatekeepers. Circus camp was taking place in an ordinary city where we go about our business assuming we live in an open, free and safe society.

My schedule is pressing. I want to at least send out this emergency flair of hope. We are better than all of this. We are a loving and kind people. We are the mother’s and father’s who traveled and performed and who now teach. We are guardians and our duty to the future is paramount. To be entrusted with 95 new souls means to keep both hands on the wheel and our eyes on the road.

diablo

Toys as Gateway to a Good Life

Two young brothers were in my group. If not alert to the impulse you’d peg them as troublemakers, as class disrupters. Once I realized how silly my expectations were, how they were never going to act like the best behaved girl of the same age, from the same neighborhood, in the same class things only could improve. All I had to do was sprinkle some time and attention their way. All I had to do was appreciate those two lads, point them toward opportunity and then watch as their imaginations and playfulness took flight.

The two boys noticed right off I was making room for them and in exchange they met their instructor with a measure of mutual respect. I had 95 separate, distinct, individual experiences with our future. I worked my tail off and I’m grateful I had a shot at sharing my circus dream with my community’s children.

Edited Red Star

 

 

 

 

April 15, ’18 Star Date

where are the cars

Over Under Sideways Down

A full week ahead. Saturday at Harvey Milk’s Civil Rights Academy in San Francisco. More LA in the mix.

A big shout out to the heroic work underway on our behalf and for the sake of this experiment in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. You don’t want Sally Yates or Stormy Daniels feeling like you aren’t leveling with them. You cross them at your own peril and it seems that one rather prominent man in a position to know better has done just that.

My life aboard in Emeryville where we keep our sailboat is filled with some of the bravest, toughest, smartest, nicest beautiful inside and out women I have ever had the pleasure to know. They possess uncommon courage, wit and emotional insight. The women of Emery Cove are a gallant lot whether with a cocktail in their hand or a power tool. Look out, they are not to be underestimated. Ever

Edited Red Star

March 21, 2018 Maestro’s Return

Blue Wave Surfing Starts Here

Harvey Milk

Street Theater as Social Justice Cupcake Fundraiser

Join us won’t you!!!!

The early days of street theater in San Francisco is part of a collection of photographs and essays I am putting together about the geographically more ambitious topic of busking across the entirety of North America.

The thirty minute performance was boilerplate. An act started at the top of the hour, shows were thirty on and thirty off, noon to night, seven days a week year in and year out. Social commentary remained coin of the comedy realm but the sharp political observations of the first wave acts faded and changed with the times and all but ended. Costumes had to be neat and clean and so did the street performer’s material. You work edgy out on the street but not on the wharfs best stages. A street act needed to draw a crowd, get a laugh and after the show send the audience away happier than when they had arrived. From the get-go the city center shopping districts designed to attract tourists arrived out of the box and joined at the hip merchandising T-shirts, postcards and this new age repackaged variety show entertainment. This structure prevailed for two decades plus until the audience slipped from the grasp of the street performers hold on their imagination. Like the audience the street performer had to move on.

Street hasn’t died so much as had to adapt and add more reliable venues. There remain an endless supply of people and places where this style of show remains viable. We are fortunate, we are mobile, we can go to where we can find our audiences.We are an emotional timeless siren song. The best of what street performing represents is something all of us feel being threatened when the lawless grip of authoritarian power presses in upon our democracy. We are not some cyber ops, black ops, disinformation gadget. We are a reflection of our communities passion for peace, environmental justice and social progress. That’s why I made this work a career.

in-the-round-e1521657170340

City Center’s Beating Heart Edmonton, Alberta 2014

See a show, buy a book, come on back. I’ll be here…

Edited Red Star