Wednesday, September 17, 2014

You Can Never Go Home Again

Today the boys and I woke up early and set off from Deerlodge, Montana headed for Wyoming.  I was born and raised in Wyoming and almost all of my family lives there still.  We are going Camping in the Tetons for a week with one of my brothers and my Mom.  Dave lives in Basin which is near Shell, the little town from my boyhood.

I moved to Shell when I was eleven.  Benny is eleven right now.  I left Shell to go to school in Canada when I was fifteen.  Kaleb turns fourteen in a couple of months and Kanyon is fifteen now.  It was pretty cool to visit this little town from my best boyhood memories with my own boys who are the very ages right now that I was then.

Shell is a little town at the base of the Bighorn Mountains.  When I moved to Shell in fifth grade, there were 50 people in town and the little red one room school house was still up and running.  It had one very pretty teacher who stayed in the little house right next to the school and there were fifteen students from kindergarten to fifth grade.  I could ride my bike through the little town streets to the school in the fall and spring and trudge through snow in my moonboots pulling my sled during the winter.

I had two best friends during my years in Shell their names were Jimmy Alexander and Tom Wallin. Together we explored the area around Shell.  We camped in the forested areas around Shell Creek and even in the mountains.  We rode our bicycles and later motorcycles all over the country around Shell.  We shot bows and arrows, built tree houses, swam in the canal and reservoir, hunted for fossils, built and walked on VERY tall stilts, peeked at Playboys, built enormous bon fires, snuck out at night to ride around town and basically lived the life of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.

I have never forgotten those wonderful days in Shell or the friends I shared them with.  The boy I was shaped the man I am.

Jimmy, Tom, and myself were all born in 1967.  Jimmy and Tom both died two months apart in 1988 when we were all nineteen years old and they are buried side by side.  I walked the little streets of Shell today with my own boys and teared up multiple times as I mourned the boys they were and the sons they never had.

My oldest son is named James Thomas.

I miss you guys.
Your Friend,

Monday, September 15, 2014

Road Trip to Montana

The kids and I loaded up the van and spent all day Sunday driving from Bellingham, WA to Deerlodge, MT.  This was the first time I have been on a road trip for ten-years.  My drivers license expired over three years ago and since we didn’t even own a car I didn’t bother to get a new one until we landed in Washington a few weeks ago.  I have enjoyed the feeling of real speed of movement since then.  Remember, I have been driving boats at speeds just a little faster than you can run for a long time now.

It was pretty great to see and smell the mountains again.  I sat outside the van in a rest area just smelling for a while.  It’s kind of funny but there is no real smell offshore.  The smells of the sea are all land related.  When you are way out there, there is a notable lack of smell actually.  It was pretty cool to watch the faces of my kids as they stared at the wide open spaces, winding rivers and curvy mountain roads.  These things that I grew up with were a novelty to them just as land kids would stare at Big waves on wide open seas or jungle harbors and impossibly aqua colored waters.

When we passed through Spokane the interstate was closed because of a terrible accident.  We were detoured for quite a while and once we were back on the road we were surprised to see yet another fatal accident on the mountain pass just past the Idaho border.  Two fatal accidents in one stretch of highway.  I couldn’t help but think  again of the folks on Rebel Heart who were dragged over the coals for taking their kids offshore but had they been taking their kids on a drive across the USA in a mini van those same people would not have had a problem with it.  I am certain that my kids were at far greater risk on Sunday’s drive than in the entire 78 days we spent offshore between March and August this year.  People are afraid of what they do not understand.

I have been getting quite a kick out of the response to my last couple of posts.  I wrote that first one very quickly and with very little thought.  In a moment where I felt very low I just took my feelings out on my poor Mac.  I feel much better now, mostly because of those of you who encouraged me and said, “Chin Up Mister!”  I wasn’t really surprised that there were a couple of people who decided that my feelings were invalid.  The first guy I respected and answered because he had read the blog for a while and knew enough about us to merit a response.  The second comment was deleted because by their own admission it was the first time they had ever read it and so they were getting that post as an introduction to the blog... (that’s a scary thought actually!)  I don’t really mind the negative feedback but the name calling was uncalled for especially from someone who has never even read the blog before.  I have considered removing the posts altogether but I decided not to partially because this blog is not just for you, the reader, but also for my own use much later when I want to go back and reread my thoughts and feelings at this time.

The boys and I will be heading down to Jackson Hole with my Mom and one of my brothers this week.  We will be camping out and riding four wheelers while my brother hunts.  I’m sure my boys and Emily will LOVE the mountains and it will be great for me to have a chance to just decompress and smell the mountain air again.

I will take some pictures and post them later on.

Good Night From Big Sky Country!

Captain Tofer

Friday, September 12, 2014

9/12/14 More on "Fit to Be Tied"

One of the things I really like about writing a blog as a medium is the close interaction one has, as a writer, with the readers.  Whenever I write a post with even a remote amount of controversy involved you can count on someone's feathers to get ruffled.  Sometimes folks get bent out of shape at the simplest things and as a blogger I don't have the luxury of saying, "Hey it's none of your business!"  If I wrote it and put it out there it becomes everyone's business.  So todays blog is to answer the comments.

First of all I want to thank EVERYONE for the comments.  The ones on the blog are not even close to the number I have on our "Wandering Dolphin" Facebook page and even in private messages on Facebook.  I also want to thank not just the folks who have encouraged me but the ones who disagree and told me to stop acting like a baby.

To those of you who sent me encouragement I want to thank you and tell you that it really meant a lot to me.  I have been feeling down for a couple of weeks now and it is a new experience for me.  I am the eternal optimist and to feel like I am falling in a hole and that I cant dig my way out is new for me.  Your comments made me feel like I was not alone.  Some of you shared your own experiences as land bound sailors and others just reminded me that this is just a season not a lifetime.  Thanks also to the reader who encouraged me to read the "Impermanence" blog about the full time RVers.  The feelings I am feeling are pretty normal for any of us who have chosen a lifestyle that doesn't fit into the mold.

I also wanted to respond to the following comment (posted anonymously by the way) and discuss it in depth a bit because I think it hits on what is really bothering me right now.

"I don't know you or your family but I've followed your 'wanderings' for some time now. I have to say I'm more than a little surprised at your comments.
You say 'we' made this move, 'we' spent every dime, 'we' owe money, 'we' have all this debt. So to whom are you complaining? Who told you to make the move? If things were so good in the VI, why leave there?
Did you research job opportunities before moving? Did you plan it? Sure doesn't sound like it.
'Enslavement of a normal American life'? WTF? If you feel enslaved by this move that YOU made, point the finger right at yourself (remember the 'we'?).
Washington is no more "full of restrictions and rules and laws...designed to curb my freedom..." than any other civilized place.
You don't like it here? Well, quit your whining and leave. Just don't let the main sail hit you on the ass on your way out of Puget Sound!"

Whenever I write a blog and post my deepest feelings I expect there to be at least one person who will decide that they need to "put me in my place."  It does take a certain amount of courage to write your feelings out for anyone to stomp on.  It would have been very easy to sit back and let my readers believe that all is well in the world of Wandering Dolphin.  It's all smiles and cotton candy clouds here.  There are a lot of readers who are dreaming of moving on to a boat and living this dream and if what I write is negative or not in a happy tone they sometimes feel personally attacked.  I believe that I should be honest with my readers and share the lows right along with the highs.  This reader was surprised by the blog post because it is usually so upbeat and positive about our life and suddenly it wasn't.

I have reread the blog post and I cannot find anyplace where I was blaming anyone else for our current situation.  I am pretty sure that it was our choice to be here; it was our choice to spend every dime to get here; we willingly took money in debt from kind family members to help us out.  Do I have to be blaming anyone to be feeling like a choice I have made was not, perhaps, the smartest move?  I don't think so.  

Did we research?  Did we plan?  We have been living on our boat for almost 10 years and EVERY year we find work almost immediately.  We are not rocket scientists or brain surgeons.  Beck is a waitress and bartender and I deliver boats.  No we didn't look for a bar-tending or waitress job in Washington for Beck while we were in St Thomas.  Based on past experience we thought it wouldn't be that hard to find a job.  We didn't count on the fact that because of ObamaCare no one is hiring full time anymore for these jobs.  We planned only as far as to make sure we had a slip in a marina because we did know about the restrictions placed on anchored live-aboards in Washington.

Did I know how much I would miss diving off the boat into the clear Caribbean sea for a swim every day after school?  I have to admit, I suspected it for sure but I didn't anticipate the strength of the culture shock I am experiencing right now.  Yep "culture shock" Just think about it for a moment.  This time last year and for the past six I was able to look off my boat at a pretty little beach, the boat and water were warm and we were able to scuba dive and swim right off the boat.  My view now is ... well a marina and we are waking up freezing already.  Do I blame anyone but myself for this? Nope!  My fault!  I don't mean to make you as a Washingtonian feel personally attacked by this comparison either but come on now.  Put yourself in my position.  St Thomas sure has it's problems and we were ready to leave but give me the right to feel a little culture shock will ya?

"Enslavement of the normal American Life."  I really thought there might be more people to get their panties in a bunch over that to be honest with you.  But, "YEP."  Enslavement - the NORMAL American debt per household is $154,000.00.  That is debt not bills.  On top of the payments for that debt most Americans have car, house, life, health insurance, water bill, gas bill, multiple phone bills, state taxes, cable, and a bunch more I am probably forgetting.  As a family who is coming from a phone bill and life insurance payment and .000 debt  I look at the "normal" American and see someone who is enslaved.  We are also used to a very mobile life.  If I can't pull up the hook and leave because I don't like my neighbor I feel trapped.  Once again... I didn't blame you, the poor sap stuck in a dead end job and hating his enslaved life, for this move I made but that certainly doesn't mean I have to like the outcome of my choices so far.  

Washington is no more "full of restrictions and rules and laws...designed to curb my freedom..." than any other civilized place.

I guess Wyoming and Montana, where I grew up are not civilized... they don't have nearly as many petty laws in those states (actually I am pretty sure that folks from both of those states would consider it a compliment to be told that they are uncivilized.)  We have been to a lot of countries and a lot of States and Washington is certainly not the only place with a LOT of laws and rules that directly impact my freedoms as a boater.  Florida has enough of them that I actually did take your advice and stopped going there all together.  Fortunately there are still those wonderful "uncivilized" places on the planet and you are dead right my friend, I need to set sail for the uncivilized!  Oh, and I ALWAYS put out a preventer so there isn't much of a chance that my Main will hit me in the ass.

Wow!  This whole process was really cathartic!  I feel so much better now!

Captain Tofer

Thursday, September 11, 2014

9/11/14 Wandering Dolphin "Fit to be Tied"

WARNING:  This short blog is NOT upbeat, fun, exciting etc... it is DEPRESSING.  Read at your own risk:

I’m pretty sure we screwed the pooch with this move to Washington.  We spent every single dime of our savings to sail Wandering Dolphin from St Thomas, USVI, through the Canal, to Costa Rica, Hawaii and finally Washington.  We went from no marina fee and only a cell phone for a bill and no debt at all to a slip, vehicle, insurance, gas, and we owe money to family members who have graciously tried to help us over this rough spot.  All of these changes in a moment when we set foot on the dock it seems.  I left quite a few delivery jobs on the East Coast for none over here on the West and Beck has been struggling to find work.  The jobs she has right now don’t even cover our bills much less food and stuff.  I am struggling with the very thought of everything we are giving up in order to be here.  Mostly it is the enslavement of a “normal” American life that is getting to me.  I don’t even want all of these things!  I want the freedom of the sea again already.  I want to drop my hook in a free anchorage again and row ashore to find work for a season right off the boat.  Washington is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen but it is also full of restrictions and rules and laws that are designed to curb my freedom and it is growing old SUPER fast.

I have also been plagued by a depression that I have never faced in my life.  To me our 78 days at sea was a milestone and I was pretty depressed when we finally reached our dock and only 3 people were there and not one of them was from my own family.  I’m not exactly sure what I expected but I definitely felt a bit of let down and even anger toward my own family.  That had really been building for years actually.  We have spent the past eight years in one of the prettiest places in the world and the only one in my family to visit was my Mom.  It didn’t surprise me to find none of them waiting at the dock but it did sting none the less.  
I am also depressed because I actually really like my life as a sailor and have been very proud of the way we have chosen to live our lives.  Now here we are actively trying to unspool that life and fill it up with all of the very things I hate, debt, bills, schedules, and our boat tied to a dock like a lion in a cage.  I am pretty sure I need to earn some quick cash by cutting crab in the fish plant, pay off the folks we owe money to, buy WD some new sails, and point her bow west this spring.
My buddy Richard told me in Hawaii to be prepared for depression when the journey ended.  I laughed because I have really never experienced it before.  I know that there are a lot of people who will read this and say, 

“Poor Baby!  You mean you have to go to work every day at a dead end job for the rest of your life to pay bills like the rest of us?”  

I can hear them laughing at me just like I have been laughing over the years every time we pulled up our anchor and set sail for another Caribbean anchorage and our day to day life on Wandering Dolphin.

Well here we are... NOT “Living the Dream!”

Hog Tied to an Ugly Dock,

Captain Tofer