Happy is as Happy does. This post is a simple reminder to follow your passions and do what makes you happy.
Happy is as happy does. Some of my friends love to bake. A few of them have not had any professional training in baking. They have been taught by family, learned along the way, or researched their ass off to do the things they enjoy with baking. Other friends enjoy hobbies like rebuilding bicycles, carpentry, gardening, stained glass, and even collecting leaves. Happy thoughts and happy actions bring positive moods. Positive moods and happy vibes make us a hoot to be around.
My happy place is rebuilding boats. It’s the feel, the smell, the tiny baby steps of a project that puts a smile on my face. Years ago, I read a book titled This Old Boat. It explained in detail how boat parts worked back in the old days. I still have that book. It’s beaten up, water-stained, and smells funny—kind of like me after a good day working in the bilge. Hobbies are the best therapy. It gives our hands and minds something to do. Yes, it digs into our financial pockets, but it is worth it. One of my friends has been building a barn out on an old piece of property. The barn doesn’t have a purpose in the traditional sense. It won’t hold an old tractor. No hay will ever see the inside of these old repurposed wooden planks. Not even a mule will walk through the doors. But it makes him happy to fiddle with it on the weekends. He packs a sack lunch and a cooler of iced down cheap beer, drives to the barn, and hammers nails on the weekends. It’s his happy place.
Where is your happy place? What are your hobbies? Do you have an activity that you call therapy?
In December 2020, a theatre troupe commanded my attention while they were on stage at the oldest house in Miami, Florida.
In December 2020, a theatre troupe commanded my attention while they were on stage at the oldest house in Miami, Florida. This Equal Play Production called Quickies was written and produced by my friend and crew member, Tracey Jane. Tracey captured her memories of a summer sail with a pencil on paper. From there, the real magic started. Quickies is a concept of four short plays with the same four actors. In reality, the idea is brilliant, and it works. The plays were named Save the Pets, Build a BOB, The Morning Menage, and Saving Sapphire. Sapphire, as in Aquatramps floating abode, was the centerpiece of my excitement. This performance was about the resilience of the crew during a week-long summer sail in 2020. Just like a lot of things in 2020, the trip did not go at all as planned. The words personified the ups and downs, like the crowns and troughs of waves. For this humbled Captain, it was a relief that the actors showed humor and warmth on stage. Opposite the stage sat the audience, where other crew members of that trip watched and even laughed at the inside jokes we all share. I overheard a stranger in the audience say, ” the writer has spent time on a boat!” Some things are difficult to describe about the follies of sailing unless you’ve spent time on deck.
After the show, I met up with the crew at a local outside Pub. We drank, stretched our memories, and realized that we share a bond of those days out on the water. Agua es Vida – Water is Life
The sun peeked through the portholes and started waking the crew. We wolfed down breakfast before finishing the final preps. The moment was upon us to bugout of Ft Pierce and sail back to Miami.
In early December, we untied the dock lines then pointed the bow toward warmer weather. The course from Ft Pierce to Miami kept us within sight of land for the multiple-day voyage. Omar and Derek joined me for a mini-adventure. We packed the catamaran with food and supplies for the nonstop trip. A few parts that were already broken had us on our toes even before we started. Plus, a weather front changed at the last minute for a return to port. After we were finally making-way, we reflected on the earlier decision we had made as a collective to stay put. That little extra time gave us room for a sail repair and relaxation after the beating we received from the weather the night before.
Game Time- Derek received points for reaching top speed. Omar received points for being Omar. I received points for baking the lasagna.
Miami welcomed us with a beautiful skyline and colorful sunset. With the anchor firmly set, we crashed. We slept hard and apologized to our boat neighbors for the deep sleep snoring coming from all three cabins. So generous of sleep I barely even noticed the rain shower pass in the middle of the night. The sun cracked the dawn like an egg. With smiles and a pang of hunger, we headed to town to find breakfast in the city that Sapphire calls her home port. Welcome to Miami- Bienvenido a Miami Rise and Shine.
One lost writer’s reflections on the water. From recent Aquatramp initiate, Central Florida playwright Tracey Jane.
“Most beginners oversteer.” Sapphire’s Captain Gary turns the wheel until the heading reads 132, and wind snaps the sail taut again. “You’ll get the feel for it.” His eyes scan gauges, sails and sky. I fixate on the digital number before me, but the sea shushes all around, dark in the clouded moonlight, lulling me to introspection.
Maybe I’ve oversteered my life, too. Especially in the beginning, when I had it all figured out: Get good grades in school, get a good job, get married, get a house, have kids, do all you’ve been told to do, believe only what you’ve been raised to believe. My heading was clear. And I was always firmly focused on the number in front of me — but never on where I was actually going.
The busyness of life becomes the business of living. That’s how it was for me anyway, until one day I looked up and realized I was exactly where I was “supposed to be.” Yet completely lost. I wasn’t following my own inner compass, or whatever else you might call it: each person’s unique heart, spirit, energy … The number dances: 126, 128, 119. I spin the giant rim sharply to the right.
“Small movements,” Gary calls from the saloon, where he’s writing the last hour’s log entry. He never looks up, having apparently felt the boat’s movement more clearly than I could see it. “Give her time to adjust.”
It’s been twenty-two months since my divorce, after twenty-two years married. Half my life and nearly all my adult life. While I can’t worry about the weather behind me, it still chases me, the good as much as the bad. The failure looms, even if shared, even though ultimately without blame. The grief of that loss, of love — and even more, of the dream that it will last forever — still crashes over me sometimes, like an abrupt big wave. 138, 143 … I pull back left, and Gary reappears.
“This is distracting you.” He grins and switches off the illuminated gauges. “See where the moon’s hitting the horizon?” I mumble assent, only then noticing that the clouds have moved, revealing a glowing gibbous moon. Nearly centered over our bow, it splays light across the water. “Stay on this side of it.” I nod, setting my outlook to the shimmering triangle. Gary lies down on a cushion atop the cockpit and closes his eyes.
Like the other crewmembers he’s gathered for this venture, I’m here for a reason. Maybe he knows we’re each in deep need of something, even if it’s just this shared experience at sea …
Meg is the free-spirited gypsy who survived a rare aortic aneurysm in her early 20s. Another real-life badass is Omar. A veteran first responder haunted by the Pulse nightclub tragedy, he’s the gentle giant who’s turned his observant eye to professional photography.
David and Alice are the couple straight out of Eden. (Technically, she’s from Britain, but you get the idea.) Together, this tow-haired Adam and Eve have trekked the globe and faced the formidable, including a precarious collapsed lung and devastating family accident. Onward they choose to sail and are restoring their first boat, a classic monohull.
Gary also invited his longtime friend from their quintessential Southern hometown of Erwin, Tennessee. Easygoing Robbie and his flame-haired wife Nicole, our onboard firefighter and medic, are walking metaphors of everything to love about America: likable, tough, and even stronger united.
Then there’s our buoyant first mate. The brother of Gary’s best bud from Navy days, Dan is the likeable, knowledgeable wingman in every great sailing movie you’ve ever seen. You know, the ones where the adventure goes nothing like planned but changes everyone aboard as they rally together through adversity to the unexpected end. But I’m getting ahead of this story …
Dan takes the helm for our overlapping watch. In between the continued lapping of nighttime waves, I comprehend half of all Dan says as he freely dispenses wisdom about wind. Like how you can’t sail right into it. And how it’s more often in front of you and not behind you, hence tacking, approaching the wind from alternating sides. So, in fact, the fastest way to get from point A to B is never a straight line. Nor was our route from Titusville to Miami, which was our intended July 4th destination.
“Asshole,” Dan calls the wind when it shifts again. “It keeps clocking around on us.” The navigational relationship between clock and compass, time and direction, has always been a fascination to me. Movement is measured in degrees, minutes and seconds of the earth’s sphere. Or a person’s lifetime.
At the end of my shared hour with Dan, I go to the logbook, thinking of how I might verbally capture the conditions I had witnessed him contend with. I scribble some jumble about the wind clocking around a lot. Then I look at the line above and see Captain Gary’s perfect summary: CONFUSED SEAS.
The entry could just as well describe my post-divorce mindset. Or all the “unprecedented events” that have marked 2020. But like “these uncertain times,” the mysterious ocean has a way of revealing us, of distilling our brokenness to the surface.
The sea tests us. This pandemic and its destructive wake are testing us. But maybe in the end, these trials that force us to change course will prove to be the unwanted events that also help us change ourselves.
I climb to my cabin bed and close my eyes, exhausted, feeling the waves. They rise and fall in equal measure. Some pass soft and gentle, others sharp and jarring, but with an endless balance that in itself is reassuring.
What age is too young to begin a “Bucket List?” I discovered I was asking myself this question when contemplating how to begin this excerpt.
Once again, we welcome Captain Chris as a monthly guest writer. His attention to detail recaps a trip to Canada with his wife, Holly, to fulfill one of their “Bucket List” items.
What age is too young to begin a “Bucket List?” I discovered I was asking myself this question when contemplating how to begin this excerpt; and as I thought it through, I realized that I unknowingly began to formulate my Bucket List items about my Senior year of High School. Being raised a country boy on somewhat of a farm in middle North Carolina , theatre and elements of the Arts were not something that I was accustomed to; then in 2004 I watched a video online ofAlegria by Cirque du Soleil! Instantly I was enamored with this performance and I began to figure ways that I could be able to see it in person. About this same time the show Varakai came to Charlotte, NC and I was fortunate enough to take my Mom to see it; to this day we still often reminisce about how that was by far the best performance either of us had ever seen and I am so very thankful I got to experience that masterpiece with her! This only made me want to see Alegria more!
Fast forward to 2019 and after watching Cirque’s website on and off for years it was brought to my attention that Alegria was going to be in Toronto Canada!!! Adventure awaiting knocked at my thoughts as to the fact that neither my Wife nor I had ever been to Canada, Cirque du Soleil was performing in Canada, there is a Castle (Casa Loma) with a world renowned Steak House, and I was currently working in Pennsylvania with only a 5 hour drive to Toronto! The planning began! The more I researched Toronto the more I realized it seemed to be a mini-NYC with a booming China Town, a sense of Little Italy, and several other really interesting cultural districts and places of interest; and since we were going in November the chance for Holly to get to experience “a real snow” for the first time was even looming on our horizon!
Our first evening in this beautiful city led us to the base of the CN Tower where Holly, after reading a little about the Tower, exclaimed “wouldn’t it be something to eat up there at the 360!” luckily those dinner reservations had already been made and we enjoyed making a couple new friends at the table next to us –everyone we met in Toronto were unbelievably nice to us– had a great meal, and even were able to see the “Big Top” tents that were set up by the water where the Cirque show we were attending the next day would be. If you’re in Toronto and want to see the best bird’s eye view, have a meal at the 360!
The next day was one of the most exciting thus far in my life, I had been waiting years to see Alegria and this was going to be Holly’s first Cirque show! Pictures were taken and then we made our way into the Big Top tent where we were not disappointed. Vibrant costumes, amazing voices resounding the tunes of Alegria, a Fire Knife Dance that took us away to a Polynesian Island while we sat feeling the heat from the flames on stage brandishing our faces, a perfectly synchronized Trapeze Ac! that encompassed at least 6 performers flying high over our heads doing literally unbelievable stunts! This show left us awestruck and looking forward to the next show that we will be able to see! Currently in the schedule is the Michael Jackson One show in Las Vegas, but who knows when we will get there? If you have seen this show, or any other show in Vegas that we shouldn’t miss, I would love to hear about it in the comments section below, I am always open to any insights!
Honestly, I didn’t think that Toronto would be able to envelope our emotions any more than she already had but I was mistaken and discovered this promptly upon our arrival at the gate of Casa Loma. I tipped our Uber driver and even though it was cold and snowing –Holly got her “real snow” as it snowed all day from the time we woke until after we went back to sleep this day, and was snowing the next morning as we walked to the China-Town markets for lunch—the two of us had to stop for a moment at the entrance and just gaze in awe. Casa Loma to me is like the Biltmore Estate is to us from NC, but instead of a mansion, it is the only complete genuine castle in North America. One can only imagine what the grounds look like when Spring calls out all the blooms, but here in November the snow blanketed everything for an entirely different style of beauty. I simply can not express the glamour of this castle in words, as the saying goes “a picture is worth a thousand words” …the following should speak for itself and it’s not a spoiler, everyone who appreciates architectural details and classic engineering should visit this castle if they get the opportunity. Every detail has been maintained, and unlike most tourist locations in the USA, there are no barricades and gates at Casa Loma. One is free to roam and actually enjoy the sights without feeling as if you are in a cattle shute presentation only for your money. There is even an antique car display and an unbelievable steak house, Blue Bloods, with perfectly aged cuts of meat from around the world, a Baked Alaska Flambe served tableside that is legit, and the details go all the way down to a castle replica on their chocolates; Blue Bloods can’t be missed! This is a hidden gem destination that is not that far of a drive just across the border. Take a trip to Niagara Falls and then add a couple wineries into your agenda –there are probably 50 or more between the US/CA border and Toronto– on the way to Toronto for a few day stay, I do not think you will be disappointed!
The Resolution To Travel
New year, new destinations, new experiences, a new outlook on life
When I lived in London a few years ago, a friend and I decided to visit Edinburgh to enjoy their New Year’s Eve festival, Hogmanay. We had so much fun watching the bagpipers and torch procession, the fireworks display over the castle on the hill, and taking part in the Loony Dook – yes we were some of those crazy people that went for a dip in the freezing waters of the Firth of Fouth in fancy dress!
Starting the year in another country sparked an idea. The whole reason I had moved to London was to travel. Maybe my new years’ resolution could be to visit one country a month for the entire year.
And so began my obsession. I started daydreaming about which countries I could explore. Schemed ways I could save money by walking everywhere and eating really basic student foods. I got creative with my ideas of convincing my boss to let me take leave.
This was one resolution I was going to see through. And I did. I went to a new country every single month for an entire year.
I went to festivals and events across Europe – I paid respects to the Australian and New Zealand troops by attending the dawn service in Gallipoli on Anzac Day. I took part in La Tomatina throwing rotten tomatoes at locals in Spain. I hung out with German friends at Oktoberfest in Munich to celebrate a drink I don’t even like. I rode a camel through the Egyptian desert with a backdrop of pyramids. I jumped off a felucca to swim in the Nile (gross!) and island-hopped through the Greek Islands on a sailboat (bliss). I partied on a pirate ship in Croatia. I danced to English rock songs with a group of Aussie’s at an Irish pub in Sweden to celebrate St Patrick’s Day (random!). I drank absinthe in Prague and ate hash brownies in Amsterdam (sorry mum). I posed with princesses in Disneyland Paris, explored real fairytale castles in Germany, and dared enter Dracula’s castle in Romania. I sang the soundtrack to the Sound of Music at the top of my lungs in the hills of Salzburg (badly). I listened to a Scandinavian woman sing a karaoke version of ‘My Heart Will Go On’ to me because it’s the only song she knew in English (also quite bad). I walked on a frozen lake in Sweden and wandered the quaint streets of f*cking Bruges. I went husky sledding in Finland and crossed the arctic circle to meet Santa. I sipped real champagne in Champagne and slept in an ice hotel in Romania!
All this in just one year, while still working full time in London (shout out to strategically chosen annual leave days and a few sick days here and there). On a strict budget, of course, but I did it. I made my resolution a reality and had the absolute best time doing it. I had seen and experienced so many incredible things. It sparked something within me – it was almost as though I had been wandering around in a dream, and then travel woke me up. Of course, this had me hooked. The bug had bitten and the only antidote: keep travelling. So I made the same resolution the following year and slowly made my way through Europe. City by city.
If you’re looking for a resolution that is a little different from the standard get fit, quit smoking, save money resolutions – travel travel travel! I can’t recommend it enough. Book that plane ticket. Go on that cruise. Be at that festival. Make it happen.
And my resolution for 2020…
I’m striving for that clearer 20/20 vision, really defining who I am and what I want.
And right now, what I want is to be on a sailboat, meeting awesome people, seeing beautiful places, and making new friends.
Speaking of new things, we have a shiny new website up and running. Stick around, take a look, and let us know what you think!