Monthly Archives: May 2015

“The loneliness of temporary friendships” (Marie Quasius)

A wise and sensitive friend of ours coined this phrase to describe her experience of the transitory encounters she experienced while traveling extensively abroad.  She noted these connections’ warm intensity and the emptiness left as people continued separately on their travels.

We recognize this phenomenon as we bond with our “new best friends” in this anchorage or that marina.  We share information both trivial and critical to our well-being and enjoy experiences from the sublime to the ridiculous.  Our closeness and connection are real.  And then, one of us weighs anchor or casts off our lines.  We wonder in parting if and when we will see each other again.  At times, our resulting feeling of aloneness makes it almost too hard to reach out to the next wanderer whose path we cross.

Technology affords us the opportunity to extend these connections through time and across great distances.  When we invest our time in touching—usually by email or a quick look at their blog—our temporary friends often touch back.

In this fashion, I received word of Guy’s peaceful passing after his prolonged battle with cancer.  I met Guy along with his wife Isabelle about six years ago in Taha’a, a French Polynesian island.  Guy and Isabelle, aboard Pros Per Aim, were sharing the anchorage with my hosts Brad and Sally on board Pax Vobiscum.  We enjoyed cocktails and long walks ashore.  Together we viewed sunsets with the hope of seeing the Green Flash.  Guy and Isabelle welcomed my efforts to practice French.  Upon returning to the States, I followed their cruising blog and celebrated with them virtually as they completed their circumnavigation.  Their return to land coincided with Guy’s diagnosis and I continued to follow their news of experimental treatments, remissions and relapses, responding with words of support.  Until Isabelle’s words, “C’est avec une grande tristesse que je vous annonce que Guy est mort,” appeared on my screen.

Upon reflection, it becomes clear that all friendships—whether formed in elementary school or more recently—are inherently temporary.  The natural limit to our time together—as is the case with most scarce commodities—increases rather than diminishes our friendships’ value.

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On the Hard: A Haiku

She is on the hard,

As a fish out of water.

A most forlorn sight.

We fly to Seattle later today for our planned summer off.  We are well positioned for next season’s exploration of the Caribbean.

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“The most important action [we] took . . . was related to the Panama Canal” (Theodore Roosevelt)

While our passage through the Canal was less challenging than the effort to construct the thing, moving from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean Sea was our second season’s objective.  Thus, the Canal was as important to us in achieving our plan as it was to Teddy in achieving his.    Elevation changes and mixing salt and fresh waters within the locks creates surprisingly strong forces with which vessels must contend.  To familiarize ourselves with some of these forces we  joined new friends John and Jerrie on their Canal  transit.  With them we witnessed the immense pressures that the rising and falling lock waters exert on  a relatively small craft.  Joining us for our passage through were Lal’s sister Julie, and Doug  and Karrey Rigby from Seattle.

Vessels under 50 feet are assigned an adviser who accompanies the vessel through the Canal.  In contrast to a pilot who takes control of the larger vessel during its transit, the adviser makes recommendations to the captain of the smaller vessel.  The captain retains her ultimate authority over the vessel.   We welcomed our adviser, Celso aboard and were encouraged when he told us we would tie up to a Canal Authority tug boat for our transit.  Of the three positions a vessel can have in the canal (directly tied to the wall, or center tied in the middle of the chamber are the other two), being tied to a tug  is thought to be the most desirable.  Although there are one or two things that can go wrong, the tug crew are very familiar with canal operations and they handle all of the line work while the water is rising and lowering.  In theory, all we had to do was tie up to the tug and enjoy the ride.


The above chart shows the Canal’s major features.  Our transit started at the Pacific Entrance (#14), where we picked up Celso, and proceeded through the Miraflores Locks and Pedro Miguel Locks to the Gaillard Cut.  We motored through Gatun Lake into the late afternoon and spent the night tied to a big mooring doughnut (without the hole) at the lake’s north end.  The next morning our new adviser, Gonzalez arrived and we transitted the three Gatun Locks, arriving on the Caribbean side at around 12:00.

Through Shelter Bay 028

The car carrier looms large behind our friends’ pilot house during our practice run through.  Eve, the sailboat we rafted to is to the right of the picture.

Through Shelter Bay 041

The gate opening.

 Through Shelter Bay 069

For our time through, we rafted to a Canal Authority tug.   The blue line in the foreground secures Elizabeth Jean to the tug.  A line secures the tug directly to the wall.  In theory, the tug does all the heavy lifting and lowering.  What could go wrong?

Panama Canal 4

Well, it turns out there are a couple of things.  First, the Canal line handler released the tug too late, leaving Elizabeth Jean waiting (as instructed) for the tug to advance.  Strong currents swept Elizabeth Jean towards the wall.  Second, the tug revved its engines to pass us.   The propeller wash accelerated our rendezvous with the wall.  Here Celso advises Lal on maneuvers to pull away.  Following the incident, Eulalie suggested to Celso that we be allowed to depart before the tug on subsequent locks.  This approach worked well on the remaining locks leading up to Lake Gatun.

Through Shelter Bay 072

After an uneventful motor through Lake Gatun, and a quiet night moored ten minutes from Gatun locks, we entered this last series of three locks.  In this picture one last gate separates Elizabeth Jean from the Caribbean Sea, glimpsed beyond the yellow rail.

Panama Canal 3

Elizabeth Jean’s Canal crew enjoying the sights after their adventure.  Front: Lal, Karrey,and Julie.  Back: Doug and Eric

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