Athanor | aTHa,nor | (noun): (1) The furnace that alchemists use to turn lead into gold; (2) Greek Mythology, the furnace that provides constant heat for the transformation of the soul.
One night, as we lay on Sonrisa’s deck waiting for the spectacular sunset show, Andrew and I flipped through the photographs stored on the camera. Spinning my thumb on the spinning free wheel, we watched the screen as the photographs flip by so quickly that the image itself was barely perceptible. Only the flash of emotion imbedded behind each image was triggered. On May 28, we reached the 90 day mark since our departure; time for a quarterly review!
Of these ninety days, 52 days were spent out at sea, 28 were spent on land exploring and 10 were spent devoted to fueling, provisioning and administrative details. We have travelled 6,600 miles. We discussed what we learned, and whether this project is fulfilling its intended purpose. That is where we became a little stuck.
The most common cruising advice we are given from any old salt who has done this before is “don’t rush” and “if you find a place you love, you should linger and enjoy longer.” We often meet sailors who waited to leave until they fully retired. They are sailing “until it isn’t fun anymore.” Many of them take years to explore an area of the world that we might be able to explore for two weeks or a month given our current time schedule. When we describe our sailing itinerary to this group of people, they inevitably say: “Wow, you are going so fast!” Then they tick off on their fingers the years they spent sailing in South America alone. We recently heard tale of one couple taking eighteen years to complete their circumnavigation. Looking back at our last ninety days, we certainly feel rushed. If we keep the schedule as it is currently slated, we must leave the Marquesas by June 10th. It feels like we came a long way to leave so fast.
Should we stay longer? This is a bigger decision than it may seem. (See prior post regarding my mood on important decisions.) If we linger in one place, will will either have to skip/speed through others in order to avoid hurricane season, or we will fall off your five year track and risk not completing the circumnavigation. This is creating a lot of anxiety for me. I am obsessed (in an unhealthy way) by the idea of maximizing the experience and results of this trip. Will I be better served by a shallow level view of a handful of places as I zip around on a five year circumnavigation? Or will my life be more enhanced by slowing down, seeing fewer places, but enjoying them in more depth?
First pants, then shoes. Or as Franklin Covey says: “Keep the first thing first.” So, as we sip our chilly beer and watch the sun go down, I ask Andrew (again) why are we doing this? I’m still not clear on this point.
We always referred to the goal as a circumnavigation because the word “circumnavigation” gave it size and gravity enough to keep the fire lighted beneath my ass. But, the purpose of our trip has always been about something more/different than simply a circumnavigation. If our goal was to circumnavigate, all we needed to do was buy a fast, sturdy little boat with bare bones then zip around in the span of 100-200 days or so. The record time for a direct circumnavigation in a speedy race boat is only 76 days. If our goal really is a circumnavigation, we should just get moving: sail until we are tired, stop and rest, then get on with sailing further. Is my goal to travel the world? Well then, traveling by sail boat makes no sense. Sailboats are slow; we would see more of the world if we hopped around via plane, train or car. Is our goal to maximize our enjoyment? If so, we should scrap the sailing plan, buy a timeshare in Mexico and pay someone to do our laundry and squeeze our Margarita limes.
We list what we feel to be the more valuable experiences of this trip so far: developing and executing the plan to go, crossing the largest span of ocean in the world together, learning what it physically feels like to be patient, discovering that humans gather around music to grill meat everywhere we have visited so far, and meeting people very different from us.
Our goal is not to circumnavigate, or travel, or maximize enjoyment specifically. Our goal is to explore. It’s like going back to school - with all the study, thinking, testing and fun school entails. The ocean will test us. Observing and participating in other cultures will cause us to think. We will need to study to survive. And, along the way, we will have fun. We will swim white sand beaches like a college student heads out to a club to celebrate the midpoint of the week on Wednesday nights. We will go to parties and drink beer with friends we just met. We will enjoy a reprieve or two from school during Christmas Break. We are exploring the world like a college student first explores life. Any decision that maximizes our ability to explore something we are interested in is the right decision.
The next day, we were floating in our “backyard pool” when a new set of neighbors swam by. We greeted them and introduced ourselves. They are Rob and Susan from Athanor, a beautiful aluminum ketch that tends to be the subject of my sunset pictures because it is anchored behind us. We begin the usual sailing small chat, and Andrew asks what their boat name means. “Transformation of the soul:” now there is a worthy goal.