The year, the decade…the fuck?!

I love this retrospective shit, it’s just so… I don’t know, everything! …And indeed the teens were everything! We started the decade off in Baltimore, Maryland, and learned some hard lessons about living aboard in cold climates. We were definitely up for the challenge but a challenge it proved to be. S/V S.N. Nomad was an awesome boat and Baltimore is a pretty cool place but if we were going to be off-the-grid in cold we were going to have to figure out our onboard heating system. Once again, the proof was in the solution. We discovered that living aboard is not about bringing your great big old life down to the water, it’s about the reduction of life’s needs… The smaller your needs, the more manageable the solutions. …So we went sailing! In retrospect, this decade was about the adventure of sailing for us! We logged countless nautical miles underway from the Chesapeake Bay to the wilds of Maine and south (eventually) as far as Hilton Head, and along the way we learned how to reduce our needs to suit our lives. In 2014, we became professional sailors as cruising editors for a publication called the Waterway Guide. The money isn’t enough to actually live on and we’ve had our issues with the publication itself but we love the work and it keeps us underway. We’ve edited the guide from Southport, North Carolina, to Eastport, Maine, and it’s kept us yo-yoing the Eastern Seaboard of the US for five adventurous years now. We went back to India twice in this decade. Once to get me (James) some new teeth back in ’17… …and then again this year to finish a co-written manuscript we started back in ’17. The writing turned out to be an incredible experience for us both.[…]

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A Great Circle

We sailed a great circle over the last week. Not in the traditional sense of navigating along the shortest path, but in the equinoctial Chesapeake sailor’s way. And we looked good doing it. The wind direction and intensity, the direction and speed of the tidal currents, and the long list of neat places to visit combined to allow us a circular path around the upper Chesapeake. In winter, the winds come largely from the north and, in summer, from the south. In the shoulder seasons, though, the wind cycles through the compass as weather patterns form and pass over. This gorgeous anchorage (unofficial, like most of the places we drop the hook) rewarded us well for an unexpectedly hard day. The whole point of the spring circle is to have easy weather for the whole trip, wind on or abaft the beam, and helpful currents that don’t turn choppy running against the wind. On this occasion, we jumped the gun by leaving Annapolis before the tide had well turned. We slogged a little – like walking through a few inches of water, though, nothing drastic – and motorsailed in the morning’s light wind. As we came up next to the Magothy River, a loud clunk preceded the onset of a heavy vibration. A rattling, beating vibration that got everything on the boat moving, even at the top of the mast, where the 3′ VHF whip antenna taught an impromptu lesson on sine waves. We figured out pretty quickly that it was drive-train, not engine, and sailed up the Magothy to a spot I (Dena) decided would be safe and convenient for both anchoring and receiving help. We’re getting pretty good at receiving help, something that surprises and pleases me. We’ve been so independent for so long and it’s nice to[…]

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Home again, home again…

We have definitely arrived! Our crew here in the MRE dressed our boat up like an Easter doll for us! The guys at Coastal and Bacon, and our very own Kate Bishop, took care of the nervous-parent checks and saved the boat from going down while we were gone. The news of several inches of water over the floor boards freaked us out when we were in India, but they make shit right. By the time we showed up, the cleanup was minimal and the to-do list consisted mainly of readying the boat for a sailing trip. After getting the engine running (replacement starter, air filter, and alternator belt), putting the boat back together was an awesome adventure. Like we’ve said so many times before, engine work sucks for us both so it’s always the most nerve-wracking part of our “returning-to-the-boat-after-a-stupid-long-time” duties. Now the engine runs fine and we decided to move forward on the “Twin-Primary House Battery System” (TPHB). Dena says, “I’ll buy an acronym for $400, Pat.” The TPHB is a battery system that we read about a few years ago. Morgan’s Cloud is a boat with rich people’s problems, but this is one area where we can adapt the ideas to our poverty-oriented version of cruising. The system allows you to draw all your 12 volt loads from an isolated 8D AGM battery until that battery is 50% depleted.  While you’re depleting one battery, the system takes all of your 12 volt charging systems (solar/wind) and dedicates them to a second, separate primary house battery that is not being drawn upon by your house loads. When you reach the 50% mark, you manually switch the loads over from the depleted battery to the fully charged battery. The resting battery will attain a higher state of charge than[…]

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Meenakshi Amman Temple

If you’re thinking what I was thinking, yes! Meen as in meen kappa (fish curry with boiled tapioca/coconut/tumeric), but in this case, Meenakshi as in fish eyed, an old-fashioned compliment for women with almond-shaped eyes. You weren’t thinking that? Anyway, once we woke and had a lovely breakfast of idly, vada, sambar, chutneys, and a couple new Tamilian dishes we enjoyed, life looked far more cheerful than it had the night before. (Short story: attempted mugging) Setting off in the old streets around the Meenakshi Amman temple meant winding our way toward the center. This part of town was designed so that the streets are shaped like lotus leaves and the temple is in the middle. Specifically, I think, this: But that is most certainly jumping ahead. We avoided entering right off the bat by going into the market. The bundles of trim and lace and ribbon fascinated me. Any of my witches need a new cauldron? Safety in numbers… This temple complex covers 17 acres and the original temple is over 3000 years old, it was crushed by the Mugals (of course) and then rebuilt by the Hindus (of course) and it obvious what made it through the Mugal sacking (below). And indoor prayer areas: Non-hindus aren’t allowed in the actual shrine, but the galleries surrounding it are beautiful in their own right. Seriously. No, seriously. Even the workshop area has gravitas and incredible lighting. I am amazed by the loving care given these statues…actually, I don’t think it’s insulting to call them idols. I saw a bus called the “Passionate Idolators”. This stone figure has been rubbed with so much ghee that the stone looks hot. She’s standing on a peacock, but it didn’t make it into the picture. Every building is shot with beams of sunlight, and[…]

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Puja!!!

So we live on the 6th story, which is actually the 10th floor, of this very bizarre semi-finished building in the middle of nowhere called PTC-Aquavista. (Okay, so it’s not nowhere but it’s definitely not woop’n-it-up in the big city either.) It’s been pretty quiet around here which has been great for us writer-types. Although we both have had wishing fits of being just a little closer to things but for the most part, it’s been cool. Anyway, a few days ago, we noticed them putting up a couple of big P.A. speakers right down the street from us. Later, suddenly, in what seemed the middle of the night, the music started! Keep in mind, we love Indian music about as much as we love the food. As a matter of fact, the music is a lot like the food… It’s spicy, intense, colorful and (to me) absolutely incomprehensible. …And once it started, it didn’t seem to want to go away. Shit, we thought that having cheesy (mostly Bollywood) Indian standards blasting at us at all hours of the day and night was our new status quo and it was almost like they had pointed the speakers directly at our balcony. In fact, the second night of the blaring it seemed as though they had forgotten that they were actually playing a movie and just let it play through. There’s nothing like hearing a Bollywood high-speed chase scene blasting through a couple of fractionally blown P.A. speakers in the middle of the night, in the middle of fucking nowhere! Then the lighting arrived, and we knew there was something going on, it was most likely Hindu and it was going to be around for a while. Well, as it turns out it’s the lunar-semi-annual Temple Puja, in other words, it’s[…]

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Bicycle POV

As nervous as I was about cycling on Indian roads (lanes, paths, cliffs), there was no doubt in my mind that it would be better than driving, being driven, riding a motorcycle, or walking. The first two imply a car, and anything wide enough to hold 4 people is too wide. Either the roads (lanes, etc) barely accommodate the vehicle or the middle of the road is being used as a passing lane and the stress is simply more than I want to deal with. We do still take cabs now and then. We went the motorcycle route last time. It was great in some ways. Fairly efficient travel in any direction we wanted to go – low fuel consumption, nimble enough for narrow paths and well-slung enough for rough surfaces, fast enough for a couple cyclists. The Royal Enfield Bullet 350 is a lovely machine, too, with a comfortable and, ahem, stimulating growl. On the other hand, there was fuel to buy. James was the driver, which irritated me and stressed him. And while easy enough to maneuver, there’s a whole nother level of nimble that could improve the experience of moving about on these roads. Walking? It’s the only way to see every bit of a new neighborhood. It’s the only way to get every photo. And it’s the only way to have random conversations. Every other form of transportation moves too fast. On the other hand, we did so much walking between our arrival and getting the bicycles that I wore out a pair of shoes and my body thought I should give it a rest. Cycling, though. Wow. It’s good exercise, swift enough to put most of the city within our reach, and talk about nimble – we can ride almost anywhere we want and we[…]

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This is Tamarind

We went to a new lunch place today and got pretty freaked out. Prakash said we should check out the canteen at NISH (an institute for those with communication struggles), since it’s practically right out our front door. Not that he’d ever eaten there – it’s just the kind of place to have one. Today, we went there and arrived too early (as we do), but then we got fed a lovely meal by super-nice people and paid less than anywhere else nearby. Not only that, they do breakfast! Idly and sambar (we hope) in close proximity! Wow! We’ll be checking that out tomorrow morning. As we were walking back from lunch today we saw a couple of very nice people shaking a tree in quite a few different places. They’d shake and a bunch of brown pods would fall. We approached and asked what it was and the man reached into a bucket that he was rapidly filling with these things, pulled out a couple and handed them to us. He made the universal, “Go Ahead and Eat It, It’s Great!” gesture (Hand to mouth, big grin) so we did… Wow, Fucking wow!!! It was incredible! It was almost like my (James) body just absorbed the stuff, like I needed it, badly! And, it turns out it (my body) did. Tamarind is a very large, long lived shrub although to me it looks like a big tree. The evergreen leaves are elliptical ovular and pinnately veined; in other words, it’s cool looking. At night the leaflets close up like little books in a great green library. Now for the good part, it’s sweetly sour right off the tree and perfectly edible but best of all it is outrageously good for you, it has… 37% of your daily Thiamine, 13%[…]

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