“We are all in the same boat, and we only have one boat.” –Paul Anastas

Circumnavigators, of all people, appreciate how the earth is one. While sailing from San Diego to the Marquesas Islands, twenty-one days without the sight of land, I would marvel at the curved horizon all around us; we were right in the middle of the dark blue sea.

Breathtaking days were followed by overwhelming nights. I wrote these words in my journal and later in my book, Maiden Voyage:

Pacific Bliss glides gently forward, skimming the ocean waves. I know she’s moving because I hear the slosh-slosh of her hulls against the waves and the occasional creak-creak of the mainsail swaying as it tries to touch the stars. I feel like I’m encased in a giant dome, surrounded by stars crowded together so tightly they resemble a thousand Milky Ways. I am mesmerized. I find many sections of the sky so dense with stars that I cannot separate the individual star from the primordial soup. I am seeing constellations that I’ve never seen nor heard of before, lights that have taken millions of light years to come to me.

I feel unimportant, insignificant. That’s how it is at sea, a mystical experience almost impossible to duplicate on land.

“A wonderful, starry night,” I write in my logbook at the end of my watch, “the stuff of dreams.”

NASA astronomer John O’Keefe said that, to the astronomer, the earth is a very sheltered and protected place. A marvelous picture from Apollo 8 show the blue and cloud-wrapped earth, seen just at the horizon of the black-cratered, torn, and smashed lunar landscape. The contrast would not be lost on any creature. The thought, “God loves those people,” cannot be resisted. Yet the moon is a friendly place compared to Venus, where, from skies 40 km high, a rain of concentrated sulfuric acid falls toward a surface that is as hot as boiling lead. Then O’Keefe goes on to say that Venus is friendly compared to the crushing pressure of white dwarfs or the unspeakable horrors of the black holes of neutron stars. He writes:

We are by astronomical standards, a pampered, cosseted, cherished group of creatures…If the Universe had not been made with the most exacting precision we could never have come into existence. It is my view that these circumstances were created for man to live in…Someone made a lot of special arrangements and took a lot of time so that each of us could be alive and experiencing this just-right world.

 

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As shown from page 28,  In Search of Adventure and Moments of Bliss: Maiden Voyage

“The earth is what we all have in common,” said Naturalist and writer, Wendell Barry. During this Earth Week, and every day of the year, is up to each of us to cherish this gift and to treat it with the respect it deserves.

 

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Those who know me understand why I thought of our 43-foot catamaran as a person. And yes, she has a “voice.” Here is one of her sailors’ tales, written on the 6th day of a passage from the Maldives to Salalah, Oman. Position: 14º17´N, 59º23´E

Pacific Bliss

I’m Pacific Bliss, and I have my own story to tell. I wasn’t too happy last night. I droned along—as blissful as can be on a glassy sea—giving my wings a rest. My navigator was busy at the nav station entering comments into the logbook about the three fishing boats at the horizon to my port. “3-4 miles off,” she wrote. She could see that horizon under the light of a half-moon, beaming a silvery path right to the port helm seat. My able-bodied seaman Chris had just gone off watch. And my Captain was sawing logs, storing up energy for the dogleg watch.

All of a sudden, I was trapped like a hunted prey, my engine gasping for breath. And I’m a huge whale of prey, at 12 tons. My daggerboards were trapped at one side of a huge black net, and both my hulls were wrapped at the stern. I was helpless! I must say; my crew rose to the occasion. Lois ran to the helm. Chris was out of his bunk like a flash and shut off the engine. Gunter heard the commotion breaking through his dreams and arrived topsides, wearing nothing but a pair of shorts. My crew does take care of me. I’m important—and they know it.

Even so, it took them awhile to get me out of this predicament. First, they took down my sails so I couldn’t press forward. Then they raised both daggerboards all the way up to free the forward side of the net. But it was still wrapped around my stern—on both sides. White floats held the net, and one big float, the bitter end I think, was bobbing at the port side, trying to sneak underneath.

My crew used every hook on board to try to get that net free, to no avail. They discussed going down below me, into that deep dark sea, but no-one wanted to do that at night. I don’t blame them; that net was heavy and still attached to a fishing boat over four miles away.

As Lois and Chris peered over the port side, they heard the blow of a whale coming for air— three times to be exact. I wonder what happens to one of those whales caught in a net like that. I know what happens to dolphins and sea turtles; they struggle and drown. Poor things!

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Well, Chris managed to push that big float underneath me with that big hook we have on board. The float slid underneath me, past the rudder and sail drive, and out into the sea. That left only a small section of the net at my starboard stern. He pushed that down with the same hook and finally we were free. My engines started again, and we continued motoring to our destination.

Later on Captain Gunter’s watch, another fisherman hailed us on the VHF. He didn’t speak English well, but he gave his position. “Is that your net or your boat position?” Lois asked him three times. (She was still up after her watch, keeping Gunter company, “teaming up,” they call it.) Finally, the man gave her two lats and longs, one for the boat and another for the net. Turns out his net was 10 kilometers long (that’s about 6 miles for you Americans who still do not understand the metric system). We had to deviate course for some time.

Frankly friends, I’m relieved to hear that we have only 350 miles to go to Salalah. I’m tired of these Indian Ocean fishing nets, tired of sailing, and quite ready for a rest!

I’m honored that my dear friend and New York Times Bestselling Author, Marie Chapian, included our experience surviving a Force 10 storm into her latest book. She tells the story about Günter and me surviving the Force 10 storm referred to in Maiden Voyage. Here’s a excerpt from her new book, How to be Happy in an Unhappy World:

My good friends Lois and Gunter Hofmann circumnavigated the world for eight years in their forty-three-foot custom-built Catana catamaran called Pacific Bliss. They tell of a harrowing, life-threatening experience in the Colombian basin where they were heading for W. Gallinas Point, the northernmost cape in South America…suddenly the wind increased from force 8 to force 9. (Force 8 equals a gale.) The waves crashed all around them. Within hours, the wind speeds increased to fifty-plus knots, a force 10. The waves were as high as four-story buildings. Force 12 is a deadly hurricane…

In life, you’re going to hit force 12 winds. Wild, unpredictable, screeching storms will hit as your journey along on your sea of life. It’s a given. But you have a choice. You can fight against the crashing waves in a furious assault against the beast of the sea, or you can coil into a fetal position in fear of death. Or you can take the advice of experienced life sailors and “run with the wind.”

About How to be Happy in an Unhappy World
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In this explosive new book Marie shows how it’s possible to know and live a lasting happy life without awful and debilitating ups and downs. Utilizing new brain research, exercises, Scripture, spiritual awareness and prayer, she proves that it’s our rightful inheritance to be happy, and HOW TO BE HAPPY IN AN UNHAPPY WORLD gives us the tools and the loving guidance to get there. Buy the book on Amazon.

About New York Times Bestselling Author, Marie Chapian

portrait-vignetteMarie Chapian is the author of more than 30 books, translated into 17 languages. Her books, teaching materials, art, fitness classes and coaching are inspired by a passionate love for God and His people. God has given Marie a vital sensitivity to the Holy Spirit and a powerful prophetic anointing. Signs and wonders follow her ministry. As a certified life coach and fitness instructor, Marie is the founder of JC Wings of Wellness, the ministry offering Christian life coaching, health and fitness classes to restore, renew, and bring healing and wholeness to every part of our lives. Marie leads Wholly You seminars, retreats and classes to, as she says, “help bring us into a more beautiful life spirit, soul and body.” These life-changing spirit-soul-body events here and abroad are dynamic Holy Spirit empowering experiences designed to bring life-long changes and spiritual growth to each individual.

 

 

During our sailing circumnavigation, Pacific Bliss anchored near a resort called Sea World on the island of Flores in Indonesia. From there, hired a guide to take our group up to the legendary crater lakes of Kelimutu. The following is excerpted from my forthcoming book, “In Search of Adventure and Moments of Bliss: The Long Way Back.”

As I photograph the unfolding panorama surrounding me, a mysterious mist appears and disappears over the crater lakes. At first I wait for the mist to clear to take my series of photos.  Then as the mist wafts in again, I realize that I like this eerie effect. It fits with the legends of the many moods of Kelimutu.

To think that only yesterday, we stood at a concrete tower at the summit of the topmost volcano, at 1600 meters (4800 feet), where we could look down on all three crater lakes at once. What a sight! The largest lake gleamed like an emerald, but reflected a deep green teal. The lake nearby looked rusty brown, and the third, pitch black. But they are not always so. These legendary lakes have a reputation for changing colors, depending on their moods.

According to the Lonely Planet, Indonesia, “Of all the incredible sights in Nusa Tengara, (comprising the islands of Sumba, West Timor, Alor, Solar, Flores, Lombok, and Sumbawa), the colored lakes of Kelimutu are undoubtedly the most spectacular…A few years ago, the colors were blue, maroon and black. Back in the 1960s, it is said that the colors were blue, red-brown, and café au lait.”

The cause of the colors and the reason why they change is a mystery. When the mist blows over the desolate moonscape at the top, the entire area takes on an ethereal atmosphere that makes one think of ghosts and goblins and myths. The locals say that the souls of the dead go to these three lakes: young’uns go to the warmth of Tiwu Nuwa Muri Koo Fai (the teal lake); old people go to the cold of Tiwi Ala Mbupu (the brown lake); and the thieves and murderers to Tiwi Ata Polo (the black lake).

Scientists say that different minerals are dissolved in each lake, but how does that explain its many moods? The Indonesia Handbook, published by Footprints, claims that the lakes changed colors 37 times in the last 50 years! In the 1970s, they say, the lakes were red, white, and blue—giving way to black/maroon, iridescent green and yellow-green. In 1997, they supposedly underwent a transformation to brown/black, café au lait, and milky blue. 

These lakes, legends have it, are resting places for souls called by the Mutu (hence the name Kelimutu; keli means mountain.) When those eerie mists come, someone is thought to be passing on. I capture mists drifting over the mountain every five or ten minutes. Lots of spirits here today. Snap. Snap. Snap.

Have you traveled to places with local legends? Where? What did you think of them?

“Clear the decks,” the captain would bark when I was sailing around the world in our 43-foot yacht, Pacific Bliss. This expression originated in naval warfare of the 1800s, when it described how a crew would prepare for battle by removing or fastening down all loose objects on the ship’s decks.

On our boat, our crew would scurry about, stowing any pans on the stove that could slide off, clearing anything personal from the galley and salon area so that all surfaces could be used for charts and navigation tools, fastening latches on the cupboards and lockers, and battening down the hatches.

Now, as a landlubber, “clearing the decks” means “get ready for action.” I must finish dealing with what I am doing so that I can focus on something far more important. My priority for 2015 is to complete writing the trilogy “In Search of Adventure and Moments of Bliss.” But to accomplish that, I’d feel better with my research and files organized and easily accessible. That means getting my personal stuff and records (2014 tax files, etc.) out of the way and stowing the “history,” (the research and drafts of the already-published first two books in the series).

Clearing my desk clears my head. Does that make sense?

So I’ve swept the surface of my desk clean of extraneous stuff, put my journals and ship’s logbooks all in order (15 of them covering the last four years of our circumnavigation) and my two writing muses from the Austrian Alps are sitting on my reference shelf ready to encourage me by yodeling when I get stuck.

Journals and logbooks

Journals and logbooks

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Yodelers, my writing muses.

I’m interested in hearing from my followers. What process do you use to begin the New Year or a new project? How do you clear the deck?

I’m reminded that spring is here when I hear the birds chirping outside my bedroom. A pair of house wrens have a made a nest in my trumpet vine, protected under the eaves. They have only two babies to feed this year. Another couple perch on the balcony railing, chatting away—probably deciding where to build their own nest—until the new parents screech and chase them off. Possession is nine-tenths of the law.

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Spring is often the birth of new beginnings for Gunter and me as well. During the eight years of our circumnavigation, spring often brought the sailing season. It was during the spring of 2002 that we embarked on our longest voyage, from San Diego to the Marquesas Islands—twenty-one days at sea. “This will be a voyage of risk, of that I am sure, but I suspect it will also be one of renewal and reward,” I wrote.  I knew that we would never regret taking off to sea in our 43-foot catamaran, because I believed that we would eventually achieve our mission to sail around the world. And we did. It took us eight long, but rewarding, years.

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“A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams,” said John Barrymore. Continuing to fulfill our dreams after retiring is what keeps us young.

Accomplishing much, whether it’s sailing around the world or something else, takes planning… and courage…and dreams. So I don’t fault the Kaufmans for wanting to achieve their dreams. But great gain also involves great risk. How much risk is too much is a question only they can answer. They had to suffer the setback of being rescued and sinking their sail boat, their home for eight years. That’s enough already. I wish them well.

When I awoke this morning, there was an autumn chill in the air and this poem in my head, along with visions of pumpkin patches and maple sugar trees. I remember reading the poem by James Whitcomb Riley as a child in a Wisconsin school room. You can hear it recited here or read it below:

WHEN THE FROST IS ON THE PUNKIN

When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock,
And you hear the kyouck and the gobble of the struttin’ turkey-cock,
And the clackin’; of the guineys and the cluckin’ of the hens
And the rooster’s hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence;
O it’s then the times a feller is a-feelin’ at his best,
With the risin’ sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest,
As he leaves the house, bareheaded, and goes out to feed the stock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock

They’s somethin kindo’ harty-like about the atmusfere
When the heat of summer’s over and the coolin’ fall is here –
Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossums on the trees
And the mumble of the hummin’-birds and buzzin’ of the bees;
But the air’s so appetizin’; and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny monring of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur’ that no painter has the colorin’ to mock –
When the frost is on the punkin and fodder’s in the shock.

The husky, rusty russel of the tossels of the corn,
And the raspin’ of the tangled leaves, as golden as the morn;
The stubble in the furries – kindo’ lonesome-like, but still
A preachin’ sermons to us of the barns they growed to fill;
The strawstack in the medder, and the reaper in the shed;
The hosses in theyr stalls below – the clover overhead! –
O, it sets my hart a-clickin’ like the tickin’ of a clock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock!

Then your apples all is gethered, and the ones a feller keeps
Is poured around the celler-floor in red and yeller heaps;
And your cider-makin’s over, and your wimmern-folks is through
With their mince and apple-butter, and theyr souse and saussage, too!
I don’t know how to tell it – but if sich a thing could be
As the Angels wantin’ boardin’, and they’d call around on me –
I’d want to ‘commodate ’em – all the whole-indurin’ flock –
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock!

Pumpkin Field

Pumpkin Field

Riley’s poems depict country life in rural America, circa 19th century. Heralding from Indiana, he was known as “The Hoosier Poet.” The whimsical nature of this poem reminds me of my own youth, growing up on a farm.

The pumpkin was quite useful to U.S. pioneers and is still valuable to third-world farmers because it is so easy to grow: just drop a few seeds into a small, shallow hole.  The pumpkin’s thick rind would allow them to keep it indefinitely.  I found that out when sailing the Northern Banks Islands of Vanuatu.  We were given a huge pumpkin by villagers as a “thank you” for giving them a propeller for their fishing boat. It rode in the cockpit of Pacific Bliss for weeks until I finally used our pressure cooker on board to transform it into a tasty pumpkin soup.

(see Sailing the South Pacific, page 284).

Fodder is food for farm animals.  The tall Indiana corn, when thoroughly dry, was gathered into “Shocks” of corn wigwams tied at the top, and left in the fields to be used as needed

Cornstalks used as decoration in Oceola, Wisconsin

Cornstalks used as decoration in Oceola, Wisconsin

During our autumn trip to Wisconsin, we paid a visit to Glenna Farms, where most of these photos were taken. Their maple syrup is to die for! We packed some into our luggage, but one can obtain their catalog or order products on-line at http://www.glennafarms.com/