Sunday, November 29, 2009

Dem Turnbuckle Dem

Happy birthday Garry Shandling?  Hmmm, not quite good enough, I'd say.  How about this: happy day-after-your-birthday Jon Stewart!  Much better...

So for the past month and a half or so I and a few others on my crew have been on the 'Mast Team.'  The Mast Team was assigned the tremendous task of rehabilitating our two wooden masts: the main mast and the mizzen mast.  I could go into a large amount of detail here describing this enormous job, but I will refrain from delving too deeply, as really I am just writing this to set up a funny story that occurred a few days ago.

But to give you a bit of context about what this job looked like, as I know at least some of you are actually interested in this project and not only the clumsy meanderings of my mind: Our main mast is a single 113' tall Douglas Fir tree (Pseudotsuga menzesii---no I did not need to look that up), and at one point was the tallest mast in the Mediterranean Sea.  Our mizzen mast is about 90' tall and is made of many planks of Douglas Fir wood all glued together.  They are both currently laying on wooden blocks at the shipyard and have not been mounted on the boat in over three years.  The main mast had a few very rotten sections which required cutting out all of the rot and replacing it with new wood (not as simple as it sounds, I can assure you).  The mizzen mast had to be completely taken apart, board by board, and many pieces needed to be entirely replaced while other planks only needed to be repaired, and then re-planed, re-glued, re-shaped, re-etc.  All of this woodwork gave me the opportunity to be introduced to different power tools, such as large, antiquated planers and table saws, and other such appendage and phalange-removing machinery.  It seemed for a time to be a job that would never end, until now, when we are finally at a stage where we can begin sanding, varnishing, re-attaching all of the rigging, and hopefully within the next ten days to two weeks will put those babies back on the ship!

It has been a monumental (emphasis on the mental) task to get where we are now, and suffice it to say that that small description of the job does it zero justice.  But that's alright, a blog can really give no more than a glimpse anyway, and we now have sufficient meat to deliver the funny story.

If you don't know, as I didn't until a month ago when I began working with them, what a turnbuckle is, here is a photo of one:

Photo Coutesy Of:

They are used to attach the cables (or shrouds) that hold the mast in place to the side of the ship, and to adjust the tension on these cables.  I was put in charge of figuring out how many turnbuckles we need so that we could order them.  The U-shaped part with the bolt going through it, on the bottom of the turnbuckle in the above photograph, is called the 'jaw', and the oval-shaped part is the 'eye.'  While perusing the catalog with all of the turnbuckles in it I came across what I was looking for, and then had to make a decision regarding the specifics of my order, because sometimes you need turnbuckles with two jaws, or two eyes, or with both a jaw and an eye as is shown above.  This is the funny part.  Here were my choices according to the catalog:

Jaw and Jaw
Eye and Eye
Eye and Jaw 

Now this is really only going to be funny to those of you that grew up listening to as much reggae music as I did, but now go ahead and say those three above choices with a Jamaican accent.

So I and I took it upon my and my self to order turteen a dem combeenation 'I and Jah' turnbuckle, so now we and we can hoist dem sails to the most high and begin our mission a justice to help protect me bredren and sistren that I mon call dem coral reef dem, seen?

That's all.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Just Here To Move Some Shit Around

To all of my people in the States: happy hangovers, happy post-turkey gorging guilt, and a happy Black Friday to you.  Or if you happen to come from the thick-skinned bubble that surrounds the Bay Area: happy regrets about thinking Tofurkey was actually worth the trouble, and happy "Buy Nothing Day."

It seems likely to me (as likely as the next thing, and far more likely than many others) that our dear bodies are but a home for our true essences, and that these essences remain after the temporal body ceases to.  Whoa there!  What is this far-outedness, and why are you blogging about it, man?!  Well, allow me to explain.  Lately I have been living a life that requires the use of my body much more than usual, and so my thoughts have been naturally tending towards ruminating on this most useful vessel that I spend my days at the shipyard working with, and then these ruminations usually bring me to: "But what am I really?" 

Is the rough skin on my elbow (which in all truth is called the 'weenis'---look it up.  I know, wonderful right?  ["Hey, would you mind giving my weenis a little tug?  Please?"]  Sorry...) as much "me" as my heart, mind or face?  Is this body and the "I" that I associate with it truly all that I am?  And will death really just come along one day and snuff the whole thing out?  Poof!  The thought of there being nothing after death does not so much frighten me as it just rings with utter absurdity in my ears (and in my essence).  It feels quite clear to me that my body is a very helpful instrument that gives my essence, my spirit if you will, a chance at a physical experience.  It also seems likely that a great deal is lost when so much energy is pushed into such a confined space (id est: forgetting that we are greater than this one life in this one body).  Part of the importance of actually believing in the importance of the self, and the body as an integral part of that self, could likely be that if we embraced the notion that we were far more than just these bags of bones we would perhaps forget to feed ourselves or to participate in the game of helping to create other bodies for other spirits to tuck into, like hermit crabs.  Okay great, but where is this all going?  Bear with me, here is where it becomes applicable to the body that calls itself Sam Keck Scott working at a Maltese Shipyard.  Let's begin a new paragraph, shall we?

There have been many times in my life when I have been hugely impressed by my species and all of the things it has been able to create.  On many occasions I have walked through cities and with neck craned upwards have gawked at the massive buildings that people, plain old people, have shot into the sky.  Fiber optic cables stretching across the ocean floors.  Traffic lights, bridges, postal delivery, cell phones!  There is this whole massive infrastructure that is happening non-stop and it is keeping our human world spinning, and it works!  It somehow works.  My musings of late have made me recognize that while all of this is going on, this highly functioning system, and I am using it and completely reliant upon it, I in no way have contributed to it.  People have made all of this stuff, but I have never made anything.  So here we all are standing on Planet Earth with our spirits living within bodies, and why?  Well, to put it quite simply: so we can move shit around.  Our ecstatic spirits are all too familiar with endless, all-knowing expansiveness, but from time to time they like to make a little trip downwards, take up residence, and be able to move shit around for awhile.  It can be useful on occasion to actually leave a mark, to make something, to push something over, to explore the physical aspects of the universe.  And finally, where this actually applies to me, and my current experiences: New paragraph?  Nah.  I am finally contributing!  That is how it applies to me.  I wake up every morning, head to the shipyard, and spend my whole day purposefully and strategically moving shit around, and eventually through my and our crew's efforts there will be a beautiful ship named Mir that floats the world's seas.  An actual product that our efforts brought forth into the world; a giant, steel, fruit of our labors.  And by contributing I am only referring to one aspect of our physical potential, and that is the actual construction of things using our bodies.  I have been contributing in other ways my entire life, as our bodies also give us the capacity to share ideas in a three dimensional world, to shake our booties, to experience enjoyment, satisfaction, pain and fathomless love.  

When I imagine death I see the body lying still and with the release of life comes an elliptical burst of opalescent energy that charges outwards in all directions.  It goes everywhere, mingles with everything and knows all (better than Jesus!).  Eventually when all of that blissful energy decides it has some earthbound business to attend to, it begins scuttling about, looking for some human syngamy to give it that perfect new shell to go move some more shit around.  Or something like that...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Drinking Mate' In Malta And White Coffee In London

Big birthday wishes to Chevy Chase, Sigourney Weaver, Jesse Jackson and my favorite of the bunch: the recently departed David Carradine.  You are all celebrated!  That's why you're called celebrities...

Each morning I wake up at 5:20 AM (except for the Lord's Day of course, when 5:20 AM is closer to bed time than it is to rise and shine time) and go out back of our apartment to stretch in the dark.  As I stretch, I ponder with great urgency the hugely important question of: "mate' or coffee?"  And these days mate' has been winning out big time.  So once through stretching I go and sit on our second story balcony where I can see the messenger clouds shouting to everyone with pink-tipped exclamations that that big lion's-maned sun is coming to bully us through another day again.  And while all of this celestial madness is unwinding over the Mediterranean Sea, I sit, just some guy who currently spends his days working at a Maltese shipyard, and I pour myself a mate'.  And it's marvelous.  Sometimes it's hard to remember that I spent the majority of this year in South America, and it can be equally hard to remember while living with nine people that I am a person who normally craves and seeks out lots of solitude, but out there on that balcony, while drinking a delicious mate', I am back in touch with these truths, and I am quite pleased.  I toted four kilos of yerba to Malta, and I'm already well into kilo number two.  Uh oh. 

And a funny little travel story: On my first morning in London, over a month ago now, after sleeping for nearly twelve hours straight, I woke up and ventured out into the unknown streets to seek out a much needed cup of coffee (coffee won the argument that morning).  I skulked around my hotel's neighborhood, nearly getting creamed by every car that whizzed past me coming from the unexpected side of the road, and feeling slightly vampireous in the oppressive, un-caffeinated daylight, until I finally discovered a coffee shop.  "Large coffee please."  "White or black, sir?"  Perplexed, I stared at this nice British lady and finally uttered: "You guys have white coffee here?"  To which she very annoyedly responded: "Room for cream?"  And I quite smoothly replied with: "Oh!  Yeah, just a little bit white for me, please..."

Whoopsies.  Well, how else does one learn the ways of the world without throwing themselves headlong into new parts of it and getting embarrassed tremendously en-route to figuring out how other people in other places do things?  Part of our birthright upon being spawned on a particular planet should most definitely be a feeling of home no matter where we are, but unfortunately this feeling of world citizenship seems to have been seized from us with the creation of political boundaries, cultures and greediness.  So to reclaim yourself a citizen of this humongously tiny Planet Earth means a monumental effort to see as much as possible, get into the heart and eyes of a place, fill your pockets with the parts you adore and take them with you (i.e. mate' from Argentina to the Mediterranean), be a regionalist (when in Rome...), order incorrectly, get laughed at, fumble through language barriers, and always remembering that you're just as stellar a hominid as the rest of 'em.  Because when on Planet Earth, do as the Earthlings do, and yes, that most certainly includes salamanders, lichens, narwhals, politicians and river otters...

Post-Script: We spent the past two days moving by hand 18.5 tons of steel ballast blocks back into the bilge of our ship.  There is no doubt tonight that I am the inhabitant of a body, and that this body of mine is a soar one.  We also painted the majority of the boat's interior, and tomorrow begin sand-blasting and painting the outside.  Oh yeah, things are happening around here, and it feels damn good.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Photos Of Malta

The view from our apartment's balcony:

Typical Maltese fishing boats in the Sliema Harbor in front of our abode:

Our funny little van that nine of us cram into everyday to go to and from the shipyard.  Let us lovingly refer to it as the Sardine Can:

Maltese vista:

The quiet city of Mdina:

Photos Of The Boat And The Shipyard

The Hull:

Fred in the Bosun's Locker:

The rotted base of our main mast...yikes:

Yeah she's in bad shape, but I trust her completely:

Tea time!

The dogs of the Bezzina Shipyard:

What's happening to me?

A Glimpse Of Our First Month

To all of you animal lovers out there, a very happy World Animal Day's Eve to you.

The last time that I was under the weight of maintaining a blog I was in Peru, Planet Earth, and now that I am in Malta, Planet Earth I am finding it to be as difficult as ever to whittle out a little piece of time to reflect, organize and share my experiences on a computer screen.  This is the first day since arriving in Malta one month ago that I have had a day off and not been hungover (don't worry mom, it's only my fifth day off, and sometimes hitting the town is a spiritual necessity when you're working six days a week...), so I thought I had better take advantage of the time and clarity and finally get down to writing about month one of this grand adventure.

Our boat Mir, named for the Russian Space Station, is currently sitting on a dry dock at the Bezzina Shipyard in Malta.  The boat was formerly known as Marilou, and at this point we still lovingly refer to her as Marilou at least half the time, because in the state she's currently in, which I'll get to shortly, she is still very much in a transitional phase from her old self, to her new incarnation of Mir.  One could go so far as to say Marilou is a caterpillar, the dry dock a heavy coating of chrysalis, our crew an eager team of metamorphosis catalyzers, and shortly a mammoth butterfly by the name of Mir will emerge to float and glide across the seas.  One could go so far as to say all of that, but that would be silly.  But assuming I was willing to entertain such a metaphor I would continue it with: for now, the chrysalis is quite thick, and Mir is still very much dormant within her cocoon.

We pulled Mir-ilou out of the water and put her on the dry dock three and a half weeks ago.  If you don't know what a dry dock is, or how it works, I will quickly explain it: The shipyard has a few gigantic concrete structures that have approximately 20 foot high walls on two sides, and are open on the other two sides.  The length of the dry dock is 200 plus feet.  The entire structure is hollow, and using pumps can either be filled with water, or emptied so that it is full of air only, which makes it buoyant.  Following me so far?  So three and a half weeks ago they filled one of these dry docks with water, and it sunk beneath the surface of the harbor, and we pulled our boat over the submerged platform where she was secured to a bunch of metal towers and then the water was pumped back out of the dry dock, and she came back up above the surface of the harbor, where she now sits, completely out of the water, and about five feet up in the air, so that we can work on the inside and outside of her hull.  Here's a photo to help you visualize:

Make more sense now?  All of the water you can still see drained off, and she is now resting just above that dry platform.

Here is how she currently looks on the dry dock with scaffolding built all around her.

Our goal was to be on dry dock for no more than three weeks, but week three came and went last Wednesday, and now according to the shipyard workers we will be back in the water on October 17th at the earliest.  It is quite expensive to rent the space on a dry dock, so we were all well prepared for a lot of very hard work once she was up to get her back in the water as fast as possible.  And hard work it has certainly been, and unfortunately it is out of our control when she gets back in the water because the steel work, sand blasting and painting that still needs to happen on dry dock is not ours, but the shipyard's to do, and we are now very impatiently waiting on them. 

Marilou is in very rough shape, but she is also extremely charming and beautiful, and her potential shines right on through the rust, holes, corrosion and rot.  The first three weeks of work were almost entirely dedicated to getting all of the old concrete out of the hull.  So there we were, hunkered down in the belly of the boat day in and day out, chipping ancient concrete from between the steel ribs of Marilou.  Hammers, chisels, jackhammers, air chisels, needle guns...Clean, clean clean...More chipping.  As we got down through more and more layers I began expecting that I would come across some old clay pots, or trilobite fossils.  Once all of the steel in the hull was exposed we could see what needed to be cut out and replaced, and for the past week plus the shipyard workers have been cutting huge holes in our poor Marilou.  So basically this entire first month has been almost exclusively demolition (not only concrete removal, but walls, old tanks, pipes, refrigeration, an old, broken, two-ton Rolls-Royce Diesel engine, and more), but we are just now finally standing on the cusp of building her back up, which I imagine will do wonders for our group morale, to finally see progress and improvement.

Malta is a very strange place.  A little speck of a country in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea (I can finally spell Mediterranean correctly on my first try just about every time now), that has a tremendously long and complex history, so is covered in old buildings, forts and ancient temples, but is also very much trying to keep up with the rest of the world, so for every old stone structure there is a huge crane erecting a new high-rise hotel.  It is very often ugly; dirty, overdeveloped, smoggy, but then suddenly surprises you with a spectacular moment of beauty; an old stone church, a harbor full of brightly painted fishing boats, or a walkway spangled with nice restaurants and cafe's overlooking the Mediterranean (got it again!) Sea.  Nothing happens quickly in Malta, which oftentimes is an endearing quality in a place, but when your boat is on dry dock and it's costing a fortune to keep it there it is far from cute when it takes a week to service a power-tool, and even longer to find an open market to buy vegetables to feed the crew.  In many ways Malta reminds me of Mexico, in that it is very unorganized, but somehow there is order in the chaos, and everything takes just a little (or a LOT) longer than it necessarily needs to.  Our latest example of Malta being Malta was when a very long awaited for pallet of paint arrived from Singapore, which just the waiting process for this particular pallet is a story in itself, but once it finally made it to Malta, and we were informed of its arrival, and greatly relieved to finally have our paint, we were then told that we could not retrieve our goods because in the same container as our paint was discovered an illegal shipment of cigarettes.  We then had to wait many many more days to get our paint because the Maltese customs office was...We have no idea.  Searching through our paint cans for cigarettes?  Huffing our paint thinner while smoking the illegal cigarettes?  Who knows, but it sure was the icing on a very frustrating and comical Maltese Cake, because when in Malta you are forced to have your cake, and eat the whole damn thing, whether you like it or not, meaning you are at the mercy of the Maltese pace, and that's all there is to it.  Adapt, or have a frustration-induced brain aneurysm.  Oh, and it's also covered in extremely easy to pronounce names such as: Marsaxlokk, Mqabba and Ta'xbiex, which is helpful with navigation.  

There is so much to say, as there always is when every single piece of life is new and unusual, but geez, this has already been a really long blog update.  I didn't even mention the people who are my new apartment mates, co-workers and family.  Just know that they are a wonderful bunch.  That's all for this one, but hopefully now that I have gotten this thing somewhat up to date I can do a better job of keeping up with it, and not allow myself to get buried again and again beneath weeks of noteworthy experiences.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Happy 131st anniversary of Emma Mills Nutt becoming the world's first female telephone operator! Let's give it up for Emma.

Wow, life sure is non-stop. And thanks to the organization of that Greco-Roman calendar we really can predict the future, but that doesn't mean we actually believe what's written on it, until it's upon us. September 1st, 2009 has meant for a few months now that I would find myself alone in a hotel room in London, and thanks to the incredibly efficient and highly functioning global infrastructure (and my own will power to not run away), I am. Me and the old passport barely had time to molt our feathers this time around, and suddenly we're back to this travelling business. It feels really natural, but also a bit discombobulating to be alone in a foreign city once again.

I was taught as a tiny little kid that it's good luck to say "Rabbit" as the first word you speak at the beginning of a new month. I have no idea where this superstition came from, but for as long as I can remember I have tried every single month to fulfill the tradition. I'm pretty good too, I probably succeed ten out of twelve months a year on average. The reason I bring it up now is because I was met last night with a severe conundrum on how to successfully say "Rabbit" as my first word because I was barreling through the icy skies as the calendar ripped off August and bared September. I didn't know whose time to go by. If I waited until Pacific Standard Time reached September I would be an hour away from landing in Dublin, the sun already high in the sky, so clearly this was not what I needed to do. I knew that during the course of my flight I was losing eight hours, and that roughly six hours into the ten hour flight we would be above the East Coast, so could I steal their time zone and use it for my own devices from 35,000 feet in the air? Probably, but not fool-proof enough for me. I am very unfortunately a superstitious wreck, and if ever there was a month where I wanted an extra pocketful of luck this was it, so I knew I had to be thorough to be sure it was my first word. So what did I do? I spontaneously blurted out the word "Rabbit" all night long. I had to, there were too many factors for me to ensure my accuracy. I got a few funny looks from my fellow passengers throughout the flight. I could only imagine what they thought of me and my outbursts. "That guy must be really hungry." Or: "I want some of what he took." Or more likely it was just a good old-fashioned: "Stay away from the creepy weirdo, kids." Anyway, I feel confident that my first word of September 2009 was "Rabbit," considering I probably spoke 40 words on the entire flight and roughly 34 of them were "Rabbit."

So here I am in London. I'm delirious to my marrow, and although there is a bustling, vibrant, brand-new-to-me megametropolis out there I am already preparing for bed at seven in the evening. Besides the delirium my only real problem is that I managed to bloom my first cold sore in ages the day before I left. Apparently it's a bit stressful to pack one's life away into boxes, say goodbye to everyone they love, and launch into the great unknown for at least a year. The cold sore is unfortunate because it is the ultimate confidence sink for me, and I am in a process where confidence is hugely helpful and necessary at the moment. People think pimples or a little mustard on the tip of the nose is embarrassing, how about: "Hey man, you got something on your lip, oh wait, sorry, it's actually just a tremendous dollop of weeping herpes virus dribbling down your chin. No worries, it'll go away on its own, in like two weeks!" I actually don't care all that much, I just thought it was unfortunately timed.

Willy joins me tomorrow! How great is that!?

Well anyway, superstition and an infected lip are really not what's important right now. Those things aside I will quickly report that though the big, bad world feels a little extra big and bad from the fourth story of the Jenkins Hotel in London, I'm really really glad to be on my way, very excited for what's to come, and feel quite clear that there is nothing about this trip that feels like a step backward or even to the side, but only a gigantic leap forward along the path of my life.

I was just watching the words appear on the screen as I wrote them and suddenly I felt like Doogie Howser...

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Rivers, Pirates and Quarters: What Else Is There To Think About When Stuck Beneath The Weight Of Imminent Departure?

Happy Kazakhstan's Constitution Day. It's late on the night before I leave on this wild adventure, and I still have lots to do before boarding the plane tomorrow, but I thought I'd share a few last minute pre-departure thoughts as a means of procrastinating what actually needs to get done.

I sure do love this California. I spent last week in Yosemite National Park doing a Wilderness Medical Training, and it was flabbergastingly gorgeous. I was camping on the Merced River, and was reminded how huge a part of my heart rivers have claimed. Not even the ocean can make my heart bang around in my chest looking for a way out so it can stay behind forever like a river can when turned into a golden ribbon by that late evening sun. Don't get me wrong, the ocean receives its own ovation, my heart salutes and bows, but then happily nestles down and is grateful for the chest and its snug warmth, not daring for a moment to brave that moody beast without the protection of a body. I gave myself a twilight baptism each night I was on that river, and enjoyed it immensely, because I get the feeling Malta isn't a very rivery place. California I want to sop you up with a piece of warm bread.

I realized over my morning coffee a few days ago that my life had taken a jump into a higher bracket of interesting when I noticed that my straying thoughts had landed on different methods of thwarting pirates. Every morning I sit out in the sunlight and drink my coffee, and somedays I stare off towards nothing and let my thoughts float lazily out past the breakers, while other days (too many lately) they can't get away from the shore, and my jagged problem of the day is left to be pummelled over and over against the sand until it's worried smooth. This particular day was one of the nice ones where my thoughts were just backstroking along, when suddenly I realized that what I was focusing on was different tactics my crew could emply to sidestep the Somali Pirates that we will be sailing close to. As many of you know we will be sailing through the Gulf of Aden where there is an unprecedented amount of pirate activity as of late. Perhaps if we sailed in a convoy with a cluster of other ships, or maybe we could hire an armed escort, or it's conceivable that we could just hug the coastline through the sketchy waters and keep help close by. Anyway, there I was sipping my coffee in quiet little Lagunitas, California, and I was actually coming up with methods to steer clear of Uzi-toting pirates, and it was then that I had to smile and recognize that my life, for better or worse, is certainly more strange and fascinating than it's ever been before.

I had an amazing experience yesterday when I was cleaning out the glove compartment of my beloved Peugeot (which I sold for $1 yesterday to my great friend Brendan, which is a whole story unto itself). I was pulling out relics and artifacts by the handful from the past ten years that I have driven that car, when at the very back I came across a $10 bankroll of quarters. My first thought was that I could not believe they had been in there all this time, because there have been countless occasions where I have been digging into the seat cushions and looking on the floor for a quarter to feed some greedy meter, and had I known I had $10 worth in the glovebox I certainly would have benefited. My next thought was that I would leave them in there for Brendan to use (I know, he could go out and buy ten more cars...), but first I would open up the roll because I had something very important to check. When I was five or six years old my dad and I began collecting 1976 Bicentennial Quarters with the drummer boy on the back, and for whatever reason a five or six year old has of doing things I started calling them Cowboy Quarters. I still call them Cowboy Quarters to this day, and I still collect them. I opened up the roll of quarters from the back of the Peugeot's glove compartment and the first quarter I saw was in fact a Cowboy Quarter. "Good thing I checked," I proudly thought to myself. I began fingering through the rest of the quarters, and quickly saw that every single one of them were Cowboy Quarters! My mind at first began running through the statistical impossibility of what I was seeing before I realized that at some point my dad had gotten this roll of Cowboy Quarters for me and stuck it in the glove box, and now over six years since he's been gone I stumbled upon the gift. Never in my life have I uncovered such a treasure, and what incredible timing! There I was getting ready to part ways with my car that I love more than anyone should ever be allowed to love an inanimate object, and I am two days away from stepping out onto the grandest adventure of my life, when suddenly from the past, or perhaps from beyond the grave, my dad was able to drop in and give me a little pat on the shoulder to let me know he's right here, still filling my life full of treasure and supporting me on my way. I have hundreds of these Cowboy Quarters, and added forty more to my collection yesterday, and with those forty quarters my heart has been filled to the brim, and all fear or doubt for what I am getting set to do tomorrow has been flushed away (hopefully for good).

I've got to finish packing now. Wish me luck that I don't develop any deep vein thrombosis on my flight to London tomorrow...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Setting Sail: An Explanation Of Adventures To Come

Happy Victor Schoelcher Day everyone. I have an exciting update to share, one which many of you have already heard, but perhaps even more of you have not. I returned from South America on May 22nd with no clue about what to do next in my life (a condition that I am getting used to but find as unsettling as ever), and luckily for me I didn't have to wait even two weeks before the doors of opportunity swung wide open, and my sails filled with wind.

The quick version of what I am getting set to do is this: I have volunteered a year of my life to work with the Planetary Coral Reef Foundation. The first six months of that year will be spent living on the small Mediterranean Island of Malta where myself and a crew of seven or eight others will be fixing up the recently purchased boat S.V. Marilou, and once that is accomplished we will set sail on Marilou across the Mediterranean, through the Suez Canal, into the Red Sea and across the Indian Ocean to Indonesia, diving all along the way and doing our part to help protect the world's remaining coral reefs. Boring!

I lucked into this incredible opportunity when I drove Will to the Eastern Sierra to begin his Beyond Boundaries journey, which if any of you have not yet heard about, or want to learn more, you can check out his blog at: On the same piece of land where his trip began live Gaie (Abigail Alling) and Laser (Mark Van Thillo...don't ask), the founders of the Biosphere Foundation and its division, the Planetary Coral Reef Foundation (PCRF). I just happened to meet Gaie and Laser a few days after they had finalized the purchasing of their new boat Marilou, a 114' yacht that is stripped down to a hull and is currently docked in Malta. My good friend Clarence had told me about them, and had already committed to joining them on this adventure if the boat was successfully purchased, and upon arriving to the Eastern Sierra I heard that it indeed had been purchased. I met Gaie and Laser and could not possibly have gotten a better feel from them. They are a magnificent pair of people, very passionate, kind and are both extremely intelligent and driven. They were also both original members of the fascinating Biosphere 2 Project, the experience which drove them to begin their work addressing the destruction of our planet, with an emphasis on its coral reefs. Gaie and Laser told me about the project of fixing up Marilou and sailing her to Indonesia, and I jokingly asked if they needed a dishwasher, to which Laser responded, "We need a lot more than a dishwasher, why are you interested?" I of course said that I was, and the following day we discussed the idea over breakfast, and by the time I left the next day they had put the ball in my court to decide if it sounded right for me or not. Ha! I pretended for about 36 hours that I actually had a decision to make before conceding to the inevitable, which is that I had never been offered a more appealing thing in my life and obviously I was on board. During this tumultuous void that is my twenties I am constantly seeking a means to actualize my good intentions in the world, but have yet to know what my way is, and how to harness my energy to help to benefit the world in some way, be it great or small. The feeling I was left with after meeting Gaie and Laser, and hearing about the PCRF was that here are people whose vision and work I completely believe in and support, and what a perfect project for me to dedicate a year of my youth to. The call to adventure is strong, and I believe that this adventure will trump any other I have had up until this point by an order of magnitude.

The entry below this one is a poem by e.e. cummings titled maggie and milly and molly and may, and it was my dad's favorite poem, and is quite fittingly about the sea. The sea. I have always wondered how it was going to come to be that I would get to spend some time at sea. The merits of youthful seagoing have never been lost on me, but I have no training or experience to get me on board a ship, so was left to wonder if I would miss this particular joy of life. I wanted to follow in my dad's footsteps and become a Marine Biologist, and probably would have had I not been so stoned and out of it my freshman year of college and failed my chemistry class. I always wanted to be at sea on a research vessel bound for the Galapagos, or in Doc Ricketts' laboratory in Monterey, or to be like my Uncle Peter catching striped bass off the coast of Montauk. Somehow I wanted to be young and on the water, and finally I have found my chance. That all said I am very nervous to be going. The URL for this blog is a joke: seasicksammy, but unfortunately has a bit more truth to it than I would like, I do get seasick. And the whole idea of rebuilding a ship at a foreign boatyard is certain to magnify some of my insecurities, as my father was a biologist/professor and my mother a midwife, and neither of them ever taught me the difference between a hammer and beachball. But I'm going, and I'm going with everything I've got, and will hopefully return with a whole lot more.

If you would like to learn more about PCRF you can visit their website at:, and you can also find out more about SV Marilou and the specific project I will be working on by clicking here:, and then hit the link to Download A Flier About Sailing Vessel Marilou at the bottom of the page. If you are incredibly inspired by what you have learned, and want to make a financial contribution to this wonderful non-profit organization, click here: Donate Now!

Marilou in her current state:

I fly to London on August 31st where I will have a chance to meet up with Willy for a few days before continuing on to Malta on September 4th. I figured I should get word out early that I am leaving so that I can spend some good time with as many of you as possible before I take off for a year (or more...). I am currently drinking beer in a Ramada Hotel in Stockton, California where I am living for the week because of a field biology summer gig, where none other than my darling sister Chloe is my boss, and I must say it feels great to be writing about adventures to come, because as much as I am the type of guy who revels in staying in weird towns in even weirder hotel rooms, this is downright depressing, and it's good to see the flickering blue of the Mediterranean Sea at the end of this particular tunnel.

More soon!

maggie and milly and molly and may

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach(to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn't remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose(like a you or a me)
it's always ourselves we find in the sea

-e.e. cummings