on expedition

December 19th, 2017 § 2 comments § permalink

Jack, my 7 year-old nephew, recently asked us to help him clarify a challenging concept: “What is is like where you are?” His teacher had asked each student to inquire with a family member or friend who lives in a distant place about what winter is like where they are. Jack had to report back to his class with the data.

We received the question as we were suffering from cabin fever waiting out the very last rains of the monsoon, and so we sprang into action:

I recently wrote here that one of my hopes is to crew a research or expedition vessel. F asked me, “You have a boat. Why not make IT into a research or expedition vessel?” The science challenge from Jack solidified it. Word came back from the schoolyard that our reportage was well received. We nailed it.

We have (some) gear, we have adventure, and we have the means to document it. Suddenly every device has a potential magnification or recording capability. Does this fit with that? Can I waterproof it for submersion?

As I write, F is enjoying a solo meal of octopus. I can’t eat them, because even dead, they look like this:

If I had better bandwidth right now, I would post the video of how, even in death, the creature still has rippling colors running up and down its skin. For now, just look at that picture and shake your head around.

For a few days we had a tiny grasshopper on board, who was hanging around one spot by the window. Out came the microscope to inspect its mouthparts. In spanish, “mouthparts” are armadura bucal, lit. mouth armor.

I have some new devices! #photomicroscopy

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I see it!

Even the documentation we already have is full of citizen science blurbs, and although he is an octopus eater, F has also become an ardent observer of “around the boat”, a place full of birds, fish, and sounds.

This reminds me that to wait any more or procrastinate is to just delay feeling great. Cheesy, I know, but I am saying it anyway. Now just isn’t the time to wait. Its time to hit the “extrude” button on that Ron Popeil Pasta Maker.

baptism

August 11th, 2017 § 5 comments § permalink

Water provides us with a freedom that is the main feature of our life right now. Since we got the boat “done”, the sea is the open highway that stretches out before us.

But our “process water”, what we use for cooking, cleaning, and drinking, is our main limitation. Being the smallest boat out here means that we are less insulated from the environment by infrastructure like water makers and large freshwater tanks, and puts us in the company of how most of the world lives, as it turns out.

Even though it’s the rainy season here in Panama, the last few days have been dry, and local reserves were getting low.

A Guna neighbor, Rauliano, paddled up yesterday and discussed with us a plan to accompany one another to the nearest island with piped freshwater. We would tow his cayuco with our boat, and we could all load up on water. At 8 this morning we were scheduled to go.

Still waking up a bit slowly at 7:30, I knew that we had cloud cover. If the sky is clear, our cabin is fully illuminated fully by 6am. #equatorlife

When I poked my head out, I saw those gravid clouds full of delicious sky water. And then I heard Rauliano running up and down his beach with the signaling conch – honking out a code that relays along the strings of other islands like a radio repeater, each one with their own shell. I don’t claim to know what the shell-horn code means in any detail, but I am sure today the main topic was WATER. Far and wide, off in the distance, the shell horn repeaters said, “water, water, water”.

Now, there is rain that wakes up the Capitan (F), and there is rain that wakes up the XO (me). Rain with changes in wind speed or wind direction will get F out of bed at any time, to stand on deck with a headlamp glaring around with all the other capitans. Instead, I have a humidity alarm in my brain, which is connected to whatever dish pan, snorkling gear, or laundry that is in rotation through the cockpit in a never ending cycle of  rinsing and drying. It’s a ballet, really.

This morning’s soft, warm rain, was of my variety. Big fat drops turn the water around us into a grey static, and mini rivulets take shape all over our deck. Our dinghy, and every container we have get “redded up” and deployed for sweetwater catchment, and I know our 8am appointment has hereby been cancelled.

The visibility among the boats and shore was very low, and so I take the opportunity for a head-to-toe scrub down, with actual shampoo in my hair. I cannot tell you enough, dear reader, what a luxury this is. There are many not-glamorous parts of my current lifestyle, but when I am alone washing my hair in warm rain, I gotta say I’m feeling pretty extra.

At a certain point I hear Rauliano again, now freestyling on the shell horn. His family is scurrying around the island doing the same things as me, setting out containers to catch the rain and giving everything a good scrub. Between honks, he is shouting into the rain thanking God in three languages, and cheering the good fortune of the day. We can just barely make each other out, but we exchange international signs of joy, with gesticulations toward the sky and whatever source up there we happen to feel grateful toward.

The rest of the morning was spent with a second coffee, planning a pasta supper tonight (a water–intensive treat!), and washing ALL THE CLOTHES. Our time is extended again.

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