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: www.willbeyondboundaries.blogspot.com 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: www.pcrf.org, and you can also find out more about SV Marilou and the specific project I will be working on by clicking here: http://pcrf.org/tour.html, 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