“This is called leadership development.” Alejandro stated with absolute authority, looking his pupil, Staton Apple, in the eye. His student had been on the receiving end of chastisement from the captain in recent days and Alejandro wanted to help him with a more effective strategy than apologizing and accepting responsibility for his actions.
“Explain your theory,” we requested with rapture.
“First, ignorance. ‘What are you talking about?’” Alejandro explained, in an effort to help the poor guy.
“Then, you deflect. Taking 100% of the blame, and placing it on a different culprit. That’s it. You can be specific - you are deflecting onto one person. Or general - you stop talking about you, or him or her, but we. Like a group thing. Everybody does it. Everybody is doing it”
Uncontrollable laughter from his classroom.
“What about gas lighting?” I inquired.
“What is gas lighting?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about honey? Just because an ex girlfriend slept over when you were out of town doesn’t mean anything happened. You always assume the worst and should work on that,” I offered as an example.
“That happened to me in Amsterdam,” he responded without pause, understanding and adopting the strategy into his leadership theorem without argument.
Again, round of laughter.
“Then, denial. It wasn’t me” He simply stated.
“Finally, you can accept responsibility but not without groveling. ‘Oohh, I always do this and can’t help myself’,” he concluded.
“So, ignorance, deflection, gas lighting, denial, acceptance and groveling. Staton, follow those simple steps, and you’ll be much more effective. And ready for middle management” Alejandro reviewed.
A final round of uncontrollable laughing. Mind you, all of this is explained in a combination of Spanish and English, delivered with enthusiasm, like Modern Family’s Gloria telling Jay about her Columbian education in helping a body disappear.
And this, on a Tuesday morning watch as the sun rises aft of the stern, is how we are starting day number 8 on our journey to Antigua and spiritual enlightenment. God help us, and our friend Staton.
It’s Monday. Ugh. Mondays. Does anybody enjoy Mondays? Back to work, the grind, packing lunches, shuttling children, answering emails, etc etc. I learned on my 4am watch that my beloved Colorado Avalanche fell to the Seattle Kraken in game 7 of the first round. An emotional blow and end to a great season. I shared the news with my Seattle resident/watch mate, Staton, right before I spiked his coffee with Jeff’s toenail clippings.
So, not a great start to the week. And yet, absent work emails, children, or any sense of responsibility, which to the disapproval of my crew-mates I’ve left in our wake, today was no different than a Saturday. Oh, and I’ve already jumped on the Florida Panther’s bandwagon, cheering for their success so I can catch a Cup game in Miami en route back to Denver.
Similar to a weekend, I leapt out of bed around 9:30, fully recharged from a full six hours of sleep. What was a bare minimum on land now results in a full charge at sea - likely due to some time-space continuum only existent offshore. With Mia’s guidance, I prepped a pancake breakfast for all those awake. While the crew didn’t fight with one another, make a disaster of the dining room, or ask for more iPad time, it was much the same as a Saturday morning with my Zimmerman Crew back home.
Now it’s nearly 6pm. I’ve been up all day, both on watch for four hours, and just enjoying the quiet afternoon slip by from my perch on the settee below decks. That’s boat-speak for the cushioned bench surrounding the dining room table. I can hear the waves lapping against the hull, the turn of the winches every so often in the cockpit, and the muffled voices of the other watch above. The fans and open hatches keep the cabin a fairly comfortable temperature - the sun out here is relentlessly trying to burn all of us despite the pancake batter of sunscreen we’ve layered on since our last shower.
I’ve been lost in the novel “Lessons in Chemistry”. It has me laughing out loud and sideways with frustration in equal measure. Exploring the misogynist, sexist, and unfair world that existed for American women back in the ‘60’s (and still does for most of the world) has me thinking about how lucky my girls are to be born in this century. I peer over at Ella and Mia, contemplating my feelings around having two younger women in charge of my routine, my safety, and my sailing education. And again I’m frustrated, realizing that humanity took way too long to recognize the unique talents and potential contributions of women. I eagerly offered Mia a fresh coffee on a reading break, hoping to chip away at the thousands of years of reparations her team is due by mine.
Following pancakes, but before our watch, the wind died, the waves collapsed, the clouds disappeared, and our little boat that had been effortlessly ticking away 6-8 nautical miles an hour was becalmed. We still bobbed along at 3-4 knots, enough speed to get us across the Atlantic, but only after sacrificing half the crew when we exhaust our food rations.
After the Captain’s weather forecast and the assumption that we will perish at sea, there was a hasty collection of straws to determine who was first to be thrown overboard. Before any of us was forced to a watery grave, Chris started the engine, and we were back on our 8 knot journey. Jeff should still remain on high alert…this fuel can’t last forever.
The day progressed, the wind returned, we hoisted a second head sail, and are making great time. I’m hesitant to ask Mia what's for dinner, for obvious reasons.
“So, Chris, I was thinking.” - pausing to gather courage, lost somewhere at sea. “Rather than raising the kite at 6am, we could wait until 8am when the main watch starts. That way, we can run a 2-person watch all night, and everyone gets 2 more hours of sleep.” My voice rising inversely to the descending moon.
“Ok.” He responded with his uncharacteristic brevity.
“Ok?” Groggy from my lack of sleep, mild boredom, and whatever disorienting factors were present at 4am. I needed certainty.
“Ok.” For once, his command was like an alpine flower on an otherwise scorched mountainside.
My life jacket, flannel and beanie were shed before I was halfway down the hatch, to Alejandro’s amusement and Chris’ instant regret.
And now, as the blazing high-noon sun rises in the sky like my 4-full hours of sleep-fueled spirits, I am ready to tackle…Sunday? What day is this?
We have turned the corner, so to speak, now heading directly west for our destination. A mere 2,000 miles away, Antigua should be reached within 10 days. The wind is dancing between 10 and 15 knots, which puts our boat speed between 8-10, a blazing velocity by sailing standards. We have put 1,000 miles behind our stern as of three hours ago - the first third of our trip accomplished in 6 days. My wagered guess of a 15-day crossing does not look promising.
Given that on watch we hand steer for 30 minutes, break for 90 and then repeat, each of the 8 crew will ultimately acquire 45 hours of helm time before the Caribbean. It should be noted that the mates and captain do not helm, but merely sit idle, like task masters sipping their iced tea (where are they getting iced cubes?) and barking orders. Thankfully, the rebukes are almost exclusively reserved for Jeff. During his 30 minutes of helming, unfortunately, all of us are in a state of abject terror. I’m convinced all of my bad dreams of careening off a highway, or leaping from a building, are triggered by his erratic steering and complete ignorance of wind direction, compass heading, or social graces. If only someone would stop rousing him from his incessant watch naps below, our chances of survival would escalate exponentially.
Hold for now - Chris just reminded me that I’m late for my watch. Where is that scapegoat, Jeff anyways?
Today, we’re going to cover time zones. Until yesterday, I thought our system of time was somehow determined in the library of some English nobleman, dividing up the world like the British did their foreign subjects. What Chris clarified for all of us was the mathematical and geographic explanation for why my watch would be an extra 30 minutes, and Jeff’s nap system elongated. I need to find that damn comments box he’s obviously hidden in the bilge.
The earth can be divided into 360 degrees. Aside from you geographic atheists, we can agree on that, right? Divided by 24 hours, you come up with 15 degrees covered per hour as the earth spins. Those lines of longitude, from north to south or vice versa, depending on which direction your toilet flushes, each determine a time zone. Each degree of longitude is 60 miles from the next, so 15 degrees equates to 900 nautical miles - the distance between each zone.
The “0” time zone, from which all other time zones are calculated, of course runs through that spoiled English barron’s library aforementioned. He cleverly established a system whereby the world literally revolved around him. Historically known as Greenwich Mean Time, the French, during a recent dispute over the proper naming of fried potatoes, negotiated to the geographically-neutral acronym of UTC or United Time Coordinates. They’ll never forgive Nelson for relocating Napolean to the desolate island of Elba. And so, children, we have a construct for time.
Why do I bring this up, other than to kill the very subject of our discussion? We passed our first time zone yesterday, and it’s thrown the boat into absolute disarray.
“Chris, before this time zone changed, we were UTC -1 or an hour ahead. You are now telling us that having traversed 900 miles west, away from the sun, we are somehow going back in time to UTC +1, I asked with mistrusting curiosity.
“That’s correct” He elaborated.
“But that doesn’t make any sense!” I expressed with mild frustration.
“Well, you have to account for daylight savings time” he explained with absolute indifference.
Confused, I set my watch back an hour. I’m returning to my old system of obedient reliance on an arrogant English system rather than cross sections of planet earth adjusted for German interpretation.
It’s the weekend! Back home a Saturday looks like the girls gearing up for soccer, Tara and I tackling laundry, yard work, a walk to Starbucks, and a trip to Bed Bath and Beyond, if there’s time. When the chores are complete, we feel deserving of a happy hour with friends, or a date night. There might be time to play guitar, poorly I might add, or just relax on the couch to the latest PGA tour event. And that makes me happy. For a time…before I dream of being on the water.
So, here I am. On the water…dreaming about doing laundry. But really, what does an Atlantic Saturday present that a Tuesday doesn’t? There are rumors that we will be washing ourselves, or one another, at some point today. Perhaps we will do laundry. My shorts could stand watch on their own at this point - the salt, the sweat, the sunscreen. I’m surprised no complaints have been voiced about the general BO looming about the cabin. Thank Orion I’m a mouth breather.
I realize I bored us all to the grave with yesterday’s celestial commentary. Not my best journal work, but I have to share a few observations from last night’s sail. The midnight to 4am watch is by far my favorite. I wore shorts for the first time, and despite Staton’s yearning glances at my calves, I was very comfortable. The moon is almost halfway to its fullness, and painted an iridescent path for us to follow. I discovered the Scorpio constellation off our stern, as did Falken, for she increased her speed through the water to avoid a painful sting.
We are still reaching to the south to avoid a high pressure (low wind) system off our starboard. In the next day we will be swinging slightly to the north and heading straight west on a “great circle” to reach Antigua. Estimates now seem more accurate around arriving somewhere between the 9th and 11th. We are marking the chart at noon and midnight, daily, and it’s rewarding to watch our pencil marks inch closer to our destination. 5 days in, and we have only moved a handful of inches - which reminds us of the enormity of the earth, or the poor record keeping of the crew. Likely a combination of both.
I’m in the cockpit, on the low side, baking in the morning sun. I should be more concerned about skin cancer, but am distracted by Alejandro’s erratic driving. He chastised Chris yesterday for profiling him, but he’s not helping the Latin American stereotypes about being dangerous behind the wheel. I suggested he learn an instrument in retirement rather than leaning into his aspirational sailing career. He replied with the one thing out of his mouth I never struggle to understand - the middle finger.
And so it goes. A Saturday where, absent household chores, a soccer match, or cocktails, we are entertained by our brotherly love, off-colored jokes, and please God, helming lessons for the Costa Rican.
It’s 12:30 UTC on Friday. I’m lounging in the cockpit, awaiting my turn at the helm. We spotted our first ship in the daytime passing us to our starboard about 1 nautical mile north. A massive tanker, making its way toward the Med or North Sea, I expect. Proof that humanity still exists. Absent her appearance, there is nothing on the horizon. Puffy cumulus clouds fan out from our ship in all directions, giving us momentary relief from the tropical sun. Winds are light, so the sound of our main sail and spinnaker flaking provide a background chorus to our setting. We’re bobbing along, in no hurry.
All of this looks and feels like yesterday. And it may be the same tomorrow, and the next day, or two days prior. So it goes out here. One day lazily morphs into the next. And yet, no boredom, no anxiety, no wishing it along, or slowing it down. This feeling of contentedness, brought on after a few days at sea, will last until a day or two out from shore, when planning, and expecting, and anticipating all return. It’s a strange phenomenon, that I’m sure science or Brenne Brown can explain, but it has set in. And it’s good.
In today’s entry, I thought we could explore celestial observation.
Last night, our team had two watches. 8pm until midnight, and then 4am until 8am. That gave us nearly eight hours of star gazing, along with a sunset and sunrise. Though these simple pleasures of observing a sun’s circumnavigation are offered up daily, I can’t recall the last time, if ever, I experienced them. To watch the sun drop over one watery horizon only to reappear, magically (according the flat earthers) on the other, over the same body of water is, well, magical. A visual orgy, which, as much as I’ve grown attached to this crew, is the only one I’d like to experience on this crossing, thank you very much Staton.
On the topic of the former, we discovered a star gazing book, or map to the pleasure zone, if you want to keep with the metaphor. Pervert. In the opening pages, it heretically claims “while it can be difficult to find family activities that engage the young and old alike, everyone loves stargazing; children are awestruck, while the elderly see the stars as familiar old friends." Have you met my fucking children? If the entertainment is not delivered via TicTock or YouTube kids, you can forget about engaging let alone “awestruck." That said, my kin are not onboard, thank Zeus, so I kept investigating.
During our midnight watch, we observed the constellation, Orion. Most notable is his belt, made up of the three stars, Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka named after the specials on Little India’s lunch menu. It’s easily spotted by the perfectly linear alignment of the stars…or the fanny pack he sports in the late spring, or on any trip to DisneyWorld. Betelgeuse (Beetle-juice), and Bellatrix form his back and shoulder from which he shoots his bow, or wrestles a bear, or swings a golf club - one can never tell what those cosmic gods do when nobody is looking. Rigel is the brightest star in the constellation, 7th brightest in the sky, and makes up the front foot of Orion, the other foot being Saiph. Looking further up into the night sky we found Gemini, indicated by the two bright stars Pullox and Castor. I won’t bore you with the lesser stars that make out their two bodies. Have I lost your interest yet?
The Big Dipper helped us identify Polaris (the North Star) and once again we learned about Arcturus and Spica, two of the most brilliant stars in the sky. Follow the arc (of the Big Dipper) to Arcturus, and speed on to Spica (follow the same line to reach her). Spica is the brightest star in the constellation, Virgo. Unfortunately, Arcturus forms the constellation of some obscure Greco Roman God that nobody paid attention to - not dissimilar to that never-married third cousin you can’t seem to avoid at Thanksgiving until you consciously avoid the chip dip, where he invariable lurks. Poor Arcturus - he had so much potential.
We learned that one of the best gauges for the number of stars observed in the night is by locating Ursa MInor (Little Dipper) and looking at the four stars that make up her ladle. If you can see all four, then you should be able to observe nearly 3,000 stars. If one of the four disappears, the number drops to 800 stars, and so on. During our second watch, all four were visible, which clearly supported the theory, as the sky was alight with sparkles.
Finally, the Milky Way. Oh, Henry, the Milky Way. What almost appears as a light cloud covering, is actually a concentration of hundreds of billions of stars emitting a band of light. These stars, like many in the night sky, are millions of light years away. The speed of light covers 6 trillion miles in one year. Which is ridiculous to ponder, when Rivian advertises a whopping 400 miles to every charge. Sucker. Sirius, named after a satellite radio station, is one of earth’s closest neighbors. She is easily identified by her brightness or quick advertisement on Willie’s Roadhouse station. A mere 8 million light years away, this neighbor is JUST out of reach for space travel and you can forget about borrowing milk or a cup of sugar, when in need.
As we progress through our passage, I will look forward to these familiar faces in the night sky…I’ve certainly grown tired of those of my watch mates.
We're the Zimmerman Family!
Home Base | Denver, CO
A family of six that
LOVES to sail !
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Set Sail 4.22.23 | Las Palmas - Across the Atlantic - Island of Antigua
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