Archives for category: Sailing

If I were a cartoon seal, I would look like this: 

Why, you ask?

Because I am an official Skipper, certified to sail up to 27ft vessels in lakes, bays, and protected waters!

While I did not “Ace” my final (I either made an 88 or 91) I definitely passed as I proudly picked up my sailing license and certificate from the Sailing Academy this morning. The license is even laminated.

Folks, let me encourage all of you to follow your pursuits! It is an awesome, incomparable feeling to actually, successfully finish goals, even if those goals are totally for pleasure.

I leave you on this wonderful Wednesday with an inspirational poem about my new frontier, the sea, and the vessels that float on this watery expanse.

“After the Sea_Ship,” Walt Whitman

AFTER the Sea-Ship—after the whistling winds;
After the white-gray sails, taut to their spars and ropes,
Below, a myriad, myriad waves, hastening, lifting up their necks,
Tending in ceaseless flow toward the track of the ship:
Waves of the ocean, bubbling and gurgling, blithely prying,
Waves, undulating waves—liquid, uneven, emulous waves,
Toward that whirling current, laughing and buoyant, with curves,
Where the great Vessel, sailing and tacking, displaced the surface;
Larger and smaller waves, in the spread of the ocean, yearnfully flowing;
The wake of the Sea-Ship, after she passes—flashing and frolicsome, under the sun,
A motley procession, with many a fleck of foam, and many fragments,
Following the stately and rapid Ship—in the wake following.

~Arrivederci and Ship’s Ahoy


As I began this year of pursuits, I was most excited initially about taking to the sea, hoisting the mainsail, and gliding over swells. I had visions of bobbing in the water at twilight, pondering the intricacies of life with Thoreau who once mused,

“The sail, the play of its pulse so like our own lives: so thin and yet so full of life, so noiseless when it labors hardest, so noisy and impatient when least effective.”

My vision looked a little like this:

Yesterday morning, however, my reality looked a little more like this:

While I am incredibly thankful to be able to engage in random pursuits through the opportunities and resources of being a student at a major university, there is the inescapable drawback of the university imposing strictures on those opportunities.

i.e. Final Exams

Yes, folks, I had to take a final exam on sailing. I ended my sailing training sitting in a desk in a concrete walled room, pencil in hand, trying to figure out which boat is the Give-Way and which is the Stand-On in a poorly drawn diagram, and then what navigational rule applies. (If I am the Stand-on boat, is it because a port tack always gives way to a starboard tack? Or because a leeward vessel always gives way to a windward vessel? Or one of the other very technical options?)

The exam was a 100 question multiple choice test that included everyone from boat parts to navigational “rules of the water” to safety drills. While I studied, of course, I was totally unprepared for the specificity of this test. It was my albatross.

As long as I passed the mammoth exam, I will receive my certification next week, a kind of sailing driver’s license that will allow me to rent a ship off the coast of the Mediterranean or any port on the expanse of this planet.

I am determined to muse at twilight on a sailboat in open water.

Fingers crossed.


In the spirit of encouraging pursuits and the joy of achieving them, I wanted to share this lovely idea re-posted on one of my favorite blogs, the The plan is to make a list of 101 goals to complete in 1001 days and then actually do them (excusez moi?).

Here are the guidelines:

The Mission: Complete 101 preset tasks in a period of 1001 days.

The Criteria: Tasks must be specific (ie. no ambiguity in the wording) with a result that is either measurable or clearly defined. Tasks must also be realistic and stretching (ie. represent some amount of work on my part).

Why 1001 Days? Many people have created lists in the past — frequently simple goals such as new year’s resolutions. The key to beating procrastination is to set a deadline that is realistic. 1001 Days (about 2.75 years) is a better period of time than a year, because it allows you several seasons to complete the tasks, which is better for organizing and timing some tasks such as overseas trips or outdoor activities.

Goal Setting Tips

1. Be decisive. Know exactly what you want, why you want it, and how you plan to achieve it.
2. Stay focussed. Any goal requires sustained focus from beginning to end. Constantly evaluate your progress.
3. Welcome failure. Frequently, very little is learned from a venture that did not experience failure in some form. Failure presents the opportunity to learn and makes the success more worthy.
4. Write down your goals. It clarifies your thinking and reinforces your commitment.
5. Keep your goals in sight. Review them frequently, and ensure that they are always at the forefront of your thinking.

The most important element of this challenge is a concentration on specificity. I could say with all the wannabe Miss America’s of the world that a goal of mine is “world peace,” but how would I even begin to achieve that goal? Give everyone on this planet a puppy adorned with a collar of wild peonies? Instead, what this particular approach to pragmatic dream-catching offers is guidelines for success in realistically achievable goals, for actually achieving what we we would like to achieve.

So, I am going to offer my own list below. Since I absolutely adore categorizing and organizing copious amounts of information into manageable chunks, I am separating my list into four categories of 25 goals with 1 comprehensive “umbrella” goal as a garnish.

Category 1: Health/Lifestyle Goals

  1. Earn my 200 Hour RYT Yoga certification
  2. Master yoga pose: Ashtanga Jump-through
  3. Master yoga pose: King Pigeon
  4. Master yoga pose: Firefly
  5. Master yoga pose: Bird of Paradise
  6. Master yoga pose: Headstand
  7. Master yoga pose: Balancing Big Toe
  8. Take 15 Hot Yoga classes
  9. Walk my dogs every day
  10. Run a 9-minute mile
  11. Ride my bike for 5 miles 5 times
  12. Eat at least one serving of a green, leafy vegetable daily
  13. Take a B-12 vitamin daily
  14. Eliminate dairy and processed foods from meals at home
  15. Try 1 new vegetable/fruit a month
  16. Try 1 new raw, vegan recipe every 2 weeks
  17. Wear sunscreen every day
  18. Teach a full prenatal yoga class
  19. Teach a full seniors yoga class
  20. Teach a full kids yoga class
  21. Take a salsa dancing class
  22. Sail on a lake
  23. Sail on an ocean
  24. Listen to “I’m On a Boat” while sailing on a boat
  25. Drink a glass of Cliquot champagne whilst sailing

Category 2: Financial/Household Goals

  1. Write down every dollar I spend for 5 days every month
  2. Figure out our net worth once a month
  3. Avoid spending any money at all for 7 weekdays every month
  4. Avoid spending any money at all for 1 weekend every 6 weeks
  5. Earn $100 a month teaching yoga for 15 months
  6. Find one specific way to cut back monthly expenditures every month
  7. Put something in the offering plate every Sunday
  8. Pay off the 4-Runner
  9. Figure out how much my student loan debt equals every month
  10. Pay towards student loans every month (post-graduation)
  11. Review credit card statements to identify unnecessary purchase trends every 2 months
  12. Review credit card rewards every 2 months
  13. Find 1 standard grocery item a month to buy more cheaply/in bulk
  14. Organize 1 storage space every 3 months
  15. Make a home inventory complete with serial numbers and pictures
  16. Update home inventory every 3 months
  17. Organize photographs
  18. Scan all old photos to make digital copies
  19. Grow my own tomatoes
  20. Grow my own basil
  21. Grow my own rosemary
  22. Make my own body lotion 3 times
  23. Make my own candles 3 times
  24. Successfully cancel gym membership by end of current contract
  25. Avoid joining another gym

Category 3: Learning/Academic Goals

  1. Memorize 10 poems
  2. Learn Italian (conversation and translation)
  3. Memorize 2 poems in Italian
  4. Read Dante’s Inferno in Italian
  5. Read War and Peace
  6. Read 5 financial books
  7. Read 5 biographies
  8. Write a short story
  9. Write 2 Jim the Turtle children’s books
  10. Write chapter 2 of my dissertation
  11. Write chapter 4 of my dissertation
  12. Write the conclusion to my dissertation
  13. Defend my dissertation
  14. Take at least one archery class
  15. Take a pottery class
  16. Take/audit an art history course
  17. Make an original piece of pottery by hand
  18. Paint a picture in watercolors or oils
  19. Memorize Psalm 123
  20. Memorize Hebrews 11
  21. Memorize one important 5-10 line passage from 8 Shakespeare plays
  22. Learn to play 5 songs on the guitar
  23. Learn to play 2 songs on the mandolin
  24. Learn to play 2 songs on the violin
  25. Learn to play 5 classical pieces on the piano

Category 4: Relationship/Philanthropic Goals

  1. Write a “just because” note by hand to one different person every month
  2. Give 1 article of clothing away every month
  3. Give 1 non-clothing item away a month
  4. Write a real, handwritten letter to 20 different people
  5. Write a letter to the pastor who married Ben and me to tell him thanks
  6. Write a thank-you note to each of my yoga instructors who motivated me to teach
  7. Have coffee with each of my siblings
  8. Have coffee with each of my sisters-in-law
  9. Have lunch with my parents
  10. Take Ethan and new nephew/niece on a day trip
  11. Float the Buffalo River with Ben reenacting our first anniversary
  12. Make a catch-up phone call to one long-distance friend a month
  13. Start a book club with friends
  14. Volunteer 3 times at a pregnancy clinic
  15. Volunteer 3 times at a humane society/animal shelter
  16. Volunteer 3 times at a nursing home
  17. Volunteer 2 times with Heifer International
  18. Volunteer 2 times with a literacy organization
  19. Volunteer 3 times with an English language learner conversation group
  20. Participate in a Walk for the Cure
  21. Offer 15 free yoga classes for homeshool moms
  22. Make 3 micro-loans through Kiva
  23. Give 2 Cups of Joe for a Joe every month
  24. Donate 3 times to CharityWater
  25. Plant a tree

Umbrella Goal 101: Enjoy at least 10 minutes of prayer/meditation every day

And to close, I really do want world peace.


(My apologies for the brevity of this post. I’m very sleepy at the moment.)

Yesterday I had the privilege of leading a few of my beautiful friends, one of whom is my lovely friend A.Hab, in a restorative yoga practice. I have to admit, I was probably more nervous last night than I was when I taught at the gym. I was concerned that it would be difficult for my friends to see me in an “instructor” role.

Turns out, I was worried for nothing.

It was so rewarding to be able to give something to my friends who have supported me throughout all of my crazy ideas. I hope to have the opportunity to introduce them to more poses and lead them through more sequences very soon!

Also, I sailed again today. It was awesome, even though I got a wee bit of sunburn. Our new instructor, John, told us to become comfortable moving around on the boat. So, I spent some time lounging on the bow in the sun while one of my classmates sailed us on course. It was glorious. Next time I’m wearing shorts to take advantage of the sun. I’m also wearing a bucket of sunscreen.



Yesterday, I taught a yoga class. A real yoga class. Pretty weird.

One of my regular yoga instructors asked me to sub for her at a rather large gym. Of course, I went to a class at this gym first to determine how comfortable I would be in attempting my first go at instruction in such a formal setting. I was happy to find that the room was small, dark, and did not require the use of a microphone. Surely I could not falter too terribly in this space.

When I arrived yesterday, though, I found her guiding me to a large, window-encircled group fitness room in the middle of the gym. Naturally, the class I attended is the only one held in the quaint, comfortable, dimly lit space upstairs. All others, including Sunday afternoons at 4:30, are held in the intimidatingly large and visible room that practically echoed the increasingly loud pounding of my heart’s nerves. Methinks I will need a mic after all.

Fitted with a microphone headset circa 1998 Britney Spears, a sequence of poses on 3×5’s on the floor at the front of my mat, and a roomful of regulars, I found myself leading the class from Mountain, to Warriors, to Sivasana. While the class went fairly well (based on feedback from the attendees), I was struck with an unexpected realization:

This is a very different kind of teaching.

For approximately six years I’ve taught composition and literature while pursuing graduate degrees. Though the start was rocky, I am now incredibly comfortable in the classroom and could feasibly wander into a group of students behind desks and launch into a perceivably pre-prepared (though realistically extemporaneous) lecture on Dante or lesson on thesis statements and rhetoric.

However, what I discovered yesterday is that one of the comforts in a college classroom is the understanding one has with one’s students that only some of them are listening, that they can listen without watching. Not so in a yoga class.

Instead, what I discovered yesterday was that as a yoga student, I have been studying my teachers. In order to learn to move properly, check my alignment, etc, I had to actually observe how my instructor moved. While I was sinking into Warrior I and hoping that my back leg’s slight wobble wasn’t visible, it occurred to me that all of the people to my left were watching. They were looking at my alignment, my posture, my lines. Taking their movements not just by what I said, but by what I did. I was stunned at myself for never having thought of this little detail prior to agreeing to the class. I might be comfortable with teaching, but am I comfortable with being intently watched?

I am assuming that the more I teach, the more I will become at ease with adding a physicality to instruction. As of right now, I couldn’t get past wondering if my nerves were showing.


P.S. I sailed again this afternoon. It was wonderful. I’ve come to the welcome conclusion that I love boats and bodies of water. I hope to find myself in the company of both very often in the future.

Today, my friends, I sailed.

I hoisted the mainsail and jib, tacked, jybed, and felt the sweet, cool water of achievement splash on my face.

My first water lab was this afternoon and it went a little something like this…

12:35: Arrive at marina incredibly early and talk with cigarette smoking, Hostess cupcake eating Bob who has me sign in and fill out a name tag (“Whatever you want to be called. Just keep it clean.”)

12:50 Fellow “sailors” arrive, all of whom have sailed before (“My parents have a sailboat.” “My dad’s boat is docked in Florida.” “I’m very, very rich.”)

1:00 Walk to a 25-foot Capri with two undergrads, both girls, and Obie, our Mark Twain-reading-on-his-Kindle instructor (“I’ve read Tom Sawyer, Innocents Abroad, and a bunch of short stuff and am only 30% through his complete works. That Twain had a lot to say.”)

1:45 End detailed lecture from Obie on boat safety, hanks, cleats, sails, tillers, and figure eight knots (I tie a killer figure eight knot)

2:00 Out to water. I raise the jib while Emily mans the tiller and Jenna tails the line. Obie watches while we practice maneuvering around some depth markers (“Get ‘er close enough to that marker for Emily to touch it. Don’t matter if you hit it.”)

3:00 Very much getting acclimated to the boat and all of us taking turns practicing basic turns and lingo. (“Ready to tack.” “Ready!” “Helm’s a lee!”)

3:45 Sailed much around the lake and ready to drop the sails for docking. (“Hop up on the bow and let those halyard lines free.”)

4:00 Make it to the dock, fold the jib and mailsail, and escort very nervous-about-directions undergrad back from the lake. (“Do you know how to get back? I have GPS, but…”)

11:00pm Celebrate with an inexpensive Cabernet and Mamma Mia (“You can dance! / You can ji-ive! / Having the time of your life / OOOOOhhhh! / See that girl! / Watch that scene / Digg’in, the dancing queen!”)

Life’s little victories, am I right?


By reading the first 30 pages or so of Brazier’s book, The Thrive Diet, then skipping ahead to the 12-week meal plan and recipes, I missed a very important section: adapting.

Apparently, and as Brazier so wisely advises, our full-of-junk bodies need time to transition to a diet of raw, whole foods. It seems that jumping into this brand of foodie with absolutely abandon is not so ideal. Our bodies get stressed from being forced out of a routine. We go into actual withdrawals for refined, processed foods and artificial stimulants and our internal parts may not respond kindly to an abrupt change in edible offerings. We need, he says, to give our bodies time. “When you adopt a new way of eating,” Brazier writes, “it takes time for your body to adapt” (86).


My failure to read this portion of the book, and my blind-folded swan-dive into raw foods over the past week, is undoubtedly the cause of some major mood swings and other issues that my husband and I both experienced. I am so accustomed to attributing such unfortunate happenings to non-edible uncomplementary stressors (dissertation, where will we be in four months, what am I going to do with my life, I need to change my sheets and vacuum, etc.) that I never imagined part of the problem may have come from inhaling soaked nuts, pureed seeds, and obscure veggies. From eating cocoa nibs, not chocolate, and using nutritional yeast blending with hulled sesame seeds as a “cheesy” topper instead of dairy cheese. From making my own cereal and pre-making almost 20 energy bars. My cupboards cannot physical contain the supply of straight-from-the-earth elements I purchased and immediately started to consume. The food, I surmised, could not be a factor.

It’s healthy, right?

Then, the other evening, my husband (who found himself turning to Chick-fil-A for a bit of relief) was reading the book and came across the very-necessary-to-read-early-on chapter on adapting. I flipped to that section and read, “The first few days of an optimal diet may not be pleasant.” Hmm. Brazier goes on to write that the worse one feels in the first few days of switching to a nutrient-rich diet, the more there is to gain. Despite being a vegetarian/almost-vegan for several years and already eating some pretty healthy fare, my response to the switch last week indicates that my lifestyle was not as healthy as I thought. Based on the precipitation from my tear ducts and rumblings in my midsection, it seems like I have quite a bit to gain form Brazier’s plan.

I need to adapt, and maybe a bit more slowly that I have been.

I am learning in yoga that you never jump immediately from pose to pose. Instead, you transition between poses, even between the same pose of different sides of the body, with small steps designed to help one achieve the desired asana with ease and without much discomfort. I also know that fluency in a new language, Italian, for example, does not simply happen with a few days of intense study, that first you must tackle basic grammar and greetings. Indeed, learning to sail does not even begin on a boat; it begins in the classroom with lessons on safety, procedure, and tying knots. In fact, in most everything we attempt, the end goal is achieved through a usually slow and methodical process…

…even, and perhaps especially, when it comes to health.

Brazier advocates an eventual and progressive transition into a raw food lifestyle to avoid unnecessary stress. He recommends approaching this diet as a process, not as an extreme sport. So, I’m recognizing now that my body will take time to adapt. I’m still working in as many raw foods as possible (had a sunflower and beet “pizza” for lunch,in fact), but I am not totally disregarding cravings or changes in mood; I’m just spending more time assessing if the craving or mood swing is food-related (and, if so, what food) or related to some other stressor.

All that said, though, I can attest to already seeing and feeling beneficial results from this lifestyle change. While last week was difficult as my body whined for salt and refined, prepackaged sustenance, I started this week with some unexpected little victories. My jeans are already a little bit looser. I not only don’t have as many cravings, but when presented with an opportunity the other day to eat French fries without judgement, I didn’t want them. My appetite is smaller, and I feel satisfied faster while eating raw food meals. I couldn’t finish my walnut hemp burger topped with black bean salsa. I was full.


Last summer my husband and I had the pleasure of traveling to France to see my sister who was studying near Paris at the time. We spent a few days in the City of Lights, then drove a little Corsa down to the Mediterranean. We stayed in Nice, but took day trips to Cannes and Monaco. What we pleasantly found was that these lovely coastal cities share a common scenery, boats. Lots and lots of boats bobbing in the lovely Mediterranean Sea. (Of course, most of these vessels were yachts of the rich and fabulous floating next to Disney cruise ships). At every port I would gaze at the boats then pronounce at about every third boat we passed that, one day, I would sail. As a gesture of committal, I purchased a very French-looking blue and white striped shirt from a yacht club at Nice’s port, and we all took a five minute ferry ride across the Ports de Monaco.

Since that trip the closest to sailing I’ve come is a dolphin cruise in the Gulf of Mexico and internet searches to price check sailboats. (Sailboats are not as expensive as I originally thought). But a few months ago a girl in self-defense training started talking about sailing class. It was then that I discovered my university offered sailing as a physical education course through Lanier Sailing Academy. A week after talking to my classmate, I registered for the spring term. So far I have been to two lectures, and this week we are learning how to tie sailor’s knots. The instructors are a weather-beaten couple in their 50’s; she a hardy Southern belle and he a skinny cloud of cigarette smoke who walks with a cane (although on the first day he assured us that the cane is for land purposes only because when he “is on the boat,” he’s “at home). This seafaring duo have mentioned more than once how economical sailing can be for vacations since “you can live on your boat.” They themselves have chartered sailboats in the British Virgin Isles, Chesapeake Bay, and Belize. Weather permitting, we will be on the water (a small lake, but water nonetheless) hoisting the mainsail by mid-February. By the end of the semester, we will be awarded a little card and diploma stating official certification to man the helm of sailboats up to 27ft. The certification never expires.

It is difficult to explain from whence came my desire to sail. I grew up in a landlocked state and have never exactly been adept at rustic endeavors. The first fish I ever caught was my dad’s left ear. (Needless to say I gave up catching fish long ago). I rarely see oceans except for summer vacations and haven’t even spent much time on rivers or lakes. (My extreme phobia of all things slithering keeps me from seeking much adventure too far from the safety of the indoors). But there is just something about the idea of sailing that draws me in, something too intriguing to ignore.

Perhaps this urging began when I first heard Styx wail “Come Sail Away,” or Charles Trenet coax me to the sea with “La Mer.” There is always, of course, the influence of Captain Wentworth’s and Admiral Croft’s dialogues about navigating mighty waters in Austen’s Persuasion. Even Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea compels me to the water. What’ere the source of this ambition, though, I must maintain that of all of my present pursuits, this, to me, is the most romantic. I have visions of steering billowed sails across a vibrant horizon; a tranquil silhouette against the burnt orange rays of the setting sun…

While being the most romantic, sailing is undoubtedly the most achievable of my goals. Thanks to the beauty of an academic calendar, I know the exact day that I will receive my certification. (Unfortunately, thanks to a lifetime of living by academic calendars I cannot conceive of possibilities beyond finals week). How often I am able to take to the waters after this term is, of course, a mystery, but I can safely say that in a few months I will be certified. It is comforting to have some sense of guarantee for achieving one of my resolutions.