Free, so Free to be Me.

photo 4

Poema and I on a surf adventure…No wave out of reach in the double kayak!

“However rare true love may be, it is less so than true friendship.”  -Einstein

A few days after my arrival back to Swell in January, Poema du Prel walked into the boatyard wearing a huge smile. Mutual friends had been long trying to connect us, but both of our rigorous travel agendas had precluded our meeting until that day. Ten minutes later I was loading my board into the back of her truck and we were off to chase down some waves…It had been a rough week for matters of the heart, but in her presence, I was promptly feeling like myself again…

In lieu of sleeping aboard Swell in the boatyard (something I’ve done enough of for one lifetime!), she invited me to stay in her home and for two months we shared meals, stories, waves, laughter, work, and dreams like old friends. She understands when I’d rather pee in the bushes than the bathroom, enjoy eating a mango more when its all over my face, need to howl at the moon, wear mismatched clothes, cartwheel in the rain, swing my machete, cut my own hair, or cut open my sunscreen tube to get the very last bit. Just like I understand when she runs through house in a beekeepers hat with a hacksaw in her hand to attack the wasp nest on the roof overhang, gets excited about diving for the kayak anchor, comes home muddy from head to toe, skateboards in circles at 6am around the house, gets overly excited about yoga with David Swanson, climbs the guava tree like a spider monkey, and brings home every sort of roadside fruit known to Tahiti. She countered the sorrow of heartache with the joy of a truly kindred spirit friendship. Never judging–just letting me be me, so lovingly!

There’s no mistake when the universe leads you to people who make you feel like your BEST you…cherish them! In fact, surround yourself with them! Poema, and all my dear and wonderful friends, thank you for making me feel so free to be ME!! Click to follow Poema’s Odyssey.

Poema, tending the vanilla plants...

Poema, tending the vanilla plants…

Rain or Shine, we're yours Mighty Pacific!!

Rain or Shine, we’re yours Mighty Pacific!!

Helmuth made a creative new handle for my teapot!

Helmuth made a creative new handle for my teapot!

Swelly got a new hat!

…and Swelly got a new hat!

More surf adventures, photo by Poema

Getting a pre-session shack in the cloud barrel with the girls! Photo by Poema

Going coconutty with Ema and Poema.

Going coconutty with Ema and Poema.

Let the sanding begin. New deck paint for Swell coming soon.

Let the sanding begin. New deck paint for Swell coming soon.

Surrounded by things I love!

Postcard living…

Boatyard sunset.

Boatyard afterhours.

Poema the anchor diving mermaid!

Poema the anchor diving mermaid!

New deck shower, yew!

New deck shower, yew!

Feeling back at home...

So happy to be healthy again…

You guys made a house a HOME!

You guys made a house a HOME!

You don't have to own it to call it home.

Grateful salutations to the SUN.

The Mighty, Marvelous, and ENDANGERED–> BLUEFIN TUNA

Mighty bluefin tuna on the move...

Tireless travelers–bluefin tuna on the move…

Skipjack tuna on Swell

Skipjack tuna on Swell.

Local with his big eye tuna catch.

Marquesan with his big eye tuna catch.

During my years of sea-faring, I’ve caught fish of many sorts. Catching and killing fish has helped me develop a true appreciation and respect for any creature that gives its life to nourish mine. I always take a moment to thank each fish and vow to do my best to carry its energy forward positively. I admire its form, marveling at each unique feature and speculating on how each help it succeed in its underwater life drama.

Each time I look over a tuna’s body, I’m struck dumb by their beauty and astonished by the details of their hydro-dynamically extraordinary design—the sleek torpedo shape, smooth & scale-less skin, perfectly flush eyes, a dorsal fin that actually retracts into a slit in its back! The deep purples on his back fade into silvery iridescent sides and then a pearly white belly. And synchronized oscillating ‘finlets’ protrude from the top and bottom of its rear half.

Taking a moment to thank this beautiful fish for giving its life to nourish mine.

Taking a moment to thank this beautiful mahi mahi for its life.

I often catch Bigeye or Yellowfin, but in all my thousands of miles of trolling behind Swell, I’ve never caught a Bluefin tuna. That’s likely a combination of my mediocre fishing skills and their endangered species status. I did see a few of them outside of a pass in the Line Islands while freediving once…As I floated on the surface, their powerful droplet shapes coasted past with stiff pumps of their crescent-shaped tails. They carried a weighty sense of purpose, sharp and wide-eyed, as if constantly poised to react quicker then their next meal…

I later learned that Bluefin tuna are one of the few species of fish considered ‘warm-blooded’ due to the way they can increase their body temperature beyond that of the surrounding waters by transferring body heat to their muscles similar to a ‘heat exchanger’ in an engine. This evolutionary advantage gives more power and efficiency to their muscles, allowing them to swim at speeds near beyond 50mph, dive more than 3,200 feet, and swim in constant migration ranging into some of the coldest parts of the oceans! Mighty Bluefin! Flawless hunter! Tireless traveler!

A few weeks after that sighting, a Spanish tuna processing ‘mothership’ arrived with its fleet. I was welcomed aboard by the captain and witnessed the ship’s gigantic fish hold, filled with thousands upon thousands of frozen tuna corpses of all kinds. The Republic of Kiribati, poor and unaided by other nations, sadly sells off its fishing rights to foreign fleets for a fraction of the fleets’ profits.  What will the locals eat when the tuna don’t return?

Globally, the Pacific, Atlantic, and Southern Bluefin tuna are the most pursued and prized tuna for eating. In January of 2012, a 593-lb Bluefin sold for $736,000 to a Japanese sushi restaurant!?! Its ridiculously high value in the Japanese sashimi market motivates hi-tech, grossly specialized overfishing. Bluefin tuna populations are near extinction, but protecting this species has not received international cooperation, likely due to its market value and the complexities of regulating the catch and fishing grounds of a fish that travels to nearly all corners of the oceans.

Fish market, Japan.

Fish market, Japan.

We can support the Bluefin tuna’s right to existence by not eating this fish! The $25 billion dollar illegal fishing industry will only lose its wind when demand slackens…At sushi restaurants Bluefin is commonly called ‘Maguro’ or ‘Toro’. All over the world, our oceans are over-fished. Not only the Bluefin is at risk of extinction. If we want our grandchildren to be able to eat seafood, we need to get informed before we make our next order at the fish counter or in a restaurant. I eat mainly vegetarian now, with the occasional exception of select seafood. A great way to make sustainable seafood choices is to download the free App for smartphones called ‘Seafood Watch’ or check out their website! Awareness is our ally in the fight to save our oceans!!

Get underwater with the bluefin yourself here:

EDF safe & responsible fisheries:

Learn about the Seafood Watch App:


The Black Fish–A growing movement for the oceans — A conservation group fighting for Bluefin populations


Happy Valentine’s Day!!! When you follow your dreams, put LOVE in all you do, give LOVE to each person you meet, and open your heart to receive the LOVE of others, life is full of INFINITE magic!! I LOVE YOU!! <3 <3 <3 <3

To Love as effortlessly as a child...let that be our goal!!

To Love as effortlessly as a child…let that be our goal!!

We are OF the * * STARS * *

Give yourself to the moment, and watch the magic unfold…

On duty at the helm…

After leaving Puka Puka, we moved somewhat quickly through the atolls, sailing over a thousand miles in two months with only four stops. Going with the trades was blissful after all the upwind miles we’d previously covered.

We could have waited on the parts to fix the windvane or autopilot somewhere, but rather I proposed it might be interesting to steer full time, having (thankfully) never had to do it. And seeing as there were two of us to share helm duties, it would be much more feasible than when I was single-handing.

I noticed right away that an obligation to steer let me witness more of nature’s magic. It wasn’t as if I never stared at the sea and sky when the self-steering worked, but I could easily be distracted. Now I was glued to the wheel, and an active participant in the scene, as I surfed Swell down the following seas. The waves flowed past the rudder, pulling the wheel right or left. I gazed out at the ocean panorama: ever-changing, ever-wondrous.

Day or night, there were marvels of light to behold…At every incline of the sun, the rays played on the water in their own exceptional way. Sunrise and sunset usually stole the show, but mid-morning’s fresh light uplifted, high noon’s radiance overwhelmed, and mid-afternoon’s bending yellows soothed and foretold day’s end…

Dusk had it’s own charm, too. Shades of gray lined the sky from horizon to horizon, while new stars appeared gradually, as if coming on stage. And when the last remnant of the sun’s glow disappeared, perspective shifted…we were suddenly sailing through the Universe! From horizon to horizon the heavens blazed in all their glory…Perpetual, Supreme, Infinite…

I’d cover the GPS and practice steering by the stars, aligning them with the masthead or halyards. Hercules, Scorpio, or maybe the Pleiades…the chosen star cluster of the hour would hover around the mast as I pulled the wheel back and forth. Cloudy evenings made it more difficult, temporarily hiding the celestial chart. I’d maintain our angle to the wind, checking the compass every now and then…When the winds were light, I might lay back and steer with my feet a while to watch for shooting stars. And If fatigue got too distracting, I’d wake Raiarii and we’d switch for a while…

Despite being rather exhausted, I loved that being present at the wheel for so many hours acquainted me with new-found subtleties of the sea. Plus, I felt closer to Swell than I had in all the voyage. Nothing seemed more effective in learning her quirks, than holding the wheel and letting her tell me herself! Constantly applying my mind to sea, vessel, and sky 12 hours a day, I came to appreciate just how intimately and intuitively the ancient Polynesian navigators would have known their seas.

In the moments where no guidebook or Google or a GPS can tell us what to do, we must blur the lines that separate ‘Me’ from ‘That’. We must Feel as much as reason…Listen. Be Present and Ready…Open and Humble. For the Voice within speaks to all of us, though it’s sometimes hard to hear in our distracting modern world. Nevertheless, it’s always there waiting to remind us that We are of the Stars…

We had lucky timing at a few of our stops!

Never know what you might miss when you’re not paying attention!

The Navonics charts had great detail for navigation in the atolls!

Sad to take this beautiful female mahi, but what a blessing her meat was for us and the islanders at the next stop…

Brief renions with friends broke up the passages…Maheata always has a warm meal and smile waiting!!

Special Delivery: 400 lbs of fruit for Puka Puka

Swell’s forepeak converted into the cargo hold for delivering all the fruit!

Note** This story, from last year’s circle of French Polynesia, was too good not to share, despite happening nearly 9 months ago. My neck is healed and I’m back in Tahiti, catching up on some writing before heading to the boatyard…:)

March 2012: And so the time had arrived. Cyclone season over, it was safe to head southwest say a final goodbye to the Marquesas. I poured over the chart, locating the tiny, isolated atoll of Puka Puka, 250 miles straight south. Raiarii’s grandfather was the first to colonize this desolate atoll in the late 1930s. Tehani Henere Papa and his wife, Elizabeth, had 22 children there!! Two sets of twins!?! Tehani delivered each one of the babies in a tub behind their little house. They raised the kids on fish and coconuts and the fresh Pacific air. Tehani worked copra from dawn to dusk year round, and when the copra boats came to collect the dried coconut meat that he split, dried, and collected in the large burlap sacs, he could purchase sacs of flour, sugar, and rice with his earnings. Raiarii’s father, Victor, was number 15 of the 22, and left the atoll at age 17 to find work in Tahiti and had never gone back. Interisland travel is expensive and difficult for locals, with few spots on the cargo ships and high prices for airfare. So Raiarii had never visited Puka Puka, nor met many of the cousins, aunts, and uncles from his father’s side who are still living there. Upon learning this story, I decided we must try to sail to Puka Puka!

A load of bananas for Raiarii’s family on Puka Puka…

The wind was forecasted to turn north, giving us a good angle to sail there directly sailing, so we prepped Swell and collected fruit from our generous friends to bring to Raiarii’s family in Puka Puka, where the sandy, salty soil lacked the nutrients to plant food. We gathered limes, pamplemousse, oranges, bananas, breadfruit, papayas, starfruit, taro, and pomegranates! By the time we left, Swell’s forepeak was our cargo hold, carrying nearly 400lbs of fruit!

When the wind began to shift northeast, we raised anchor, and slipped around the breathtaking 2,000-foot cliffs, and pointed the bow south. I would miss the plentiful fruit, rugged mountain peaks, wild goats and horses, shaded valleys, cool rivers, and good people of the Marquesas…

Goodbye beautiful Enata Fenua!

At sea again, with both the autopilot and the monitor broken, one of us was relegated to the helm at all times. I spent hours watching the sea and imagining our rendezvous at Puka Puka. The atoll has no pass by which to enter a lagoon. The reef extends, unbroken all the way around the island, so I hoped that we could find a safe place to anchor Swell. I’d already decided that either way, I would stand off aboard Swell, while Raiarii went ashore to meet his family and tour the atoll.

On the second day out, the winds lightened and steering grew awfully monotonous, but we plowed through the hot, long day, making mile after slow mile toward our special destination.

Busting some early morning moves at the helm to stay awake, while Raiarii gets some rest…

We hoped to arrive the morning of the third day, but the light winds slowed our progress. His family had been notified of our pending arrival, so we trimmed the sails and eeked every bit of speed possible out of the hull in order to arrive before dark. Finally we spotted Puka Puka’s flat-top of coconut palms on the horizon ahead, and simultaneously, the fishing reel buzzed with a strike. Raiarii pulled in a beautiful tuna. I thanked it for its life with a prayer and quickly put it out of suffering, grateful to be able to arrive with another gift for the family…

Our excitement rose as the island grew clearer. Taking turns at the wheel, we cleaned up Swell and ourselves a bit to be presentable upon arrival. No sooner, Raiarii spotted an aluminum tinny plying the seas in our direction.

Greeted at sea by Uncle Richard, Cousin Teva, and the local policeman.

Raiarii’s uncle, cousin, and the local police officer greeted us on the sea and motioned for us to follow them around to the backside of the island. The men assured us there was a spot up ahead that would be safe for anchoring. A pod of large bottlenose dolphins led the way, crisscrossing at the bow. Soon we were precariously close to the breaking waves on the reef, but still the seafloor did not rise beneath us. “Over here,” they called in Tahitian.

I nosed Swell in carefully, and we watched the colors of reef begin to show under her hull. It was a tiny ledge of reef that stuck out 30 yards more than the rest in about 30 feet of depth, before dropping off into the deep abyss.

Raiarii took the helm, and I jumped overboard to assess the reef for the best spot to place the anchor. With our concerted effort, I directed the anchor underwater to a barren ledge, where it was sure to stay hooked and not hurt much. We also slid a stern anchor over the deep ledge in case the wind switched.

It could hardly be called an anchorage, but the combo of light northeast winds and calm south swell would let us get away with it for this special occasion. Anchors down, we began to offload the cargo. Eyes bulged as the endless train of fruit streamed out of Swell. Filled with fruit, the little tinny rode low in the water. I scurried around Swell, securing a few things and flipping on the anchor light, as they insisted we come to shore immediately to meet the rest of the family and have dinner together. As we pulled away from Swell, I sent up a little prayer for her safety near the reef…

Swell and I were rather nervous about the open ocean anchoring!

Off we went in the tinny, the dolphins again at the bow as we buzzed back toward a small crack in the reef with a dock for offloading supplies. We followed a wave into the tiny pass as the whitewater crumbled along the reef on both sides.  Uncle Richard neared the dock carefully in the surge, and a splay of arms reached down to help us out. A moment later we stood on land, cloaked in flowered welcome ‘heis’, meeting a lineup of family and friends who’d come to greet us. The kids dove for the bananas and star fruit and we wandered to the house of Uncle Taro, Aunt Patricia, and their four lovely daughters.

Upon arrival.

Raiarii, being shown a photo of his grandfather, Tehani, whose father was Dutch, hence the European features…

Honored by our visit, our gracious hosts fed us until we couldn’t eat anymore as we learned more about the history of the Papa family on the island. Almost a third of the population of 250 were Raiarii’s relations! While eating platefuls of sashimi, poisson cru, and fruit, we listened to stories and looked at old photos of Tehani and the children. It grew late. Weary from our long nights at sea, we asked to be taken back to Swell to rest up for the following day’s island tour and picnic.

Despite my fatigue, I slept little that night. The breaking waves sounded so close I kept sitting straight up and thinking we were on the reef! But by morning I felt assured that Swell was firmly stuck and safe as long as the conditions remained the same.

That morning Uncle Richard came to pick us up and the dolphins again escorted us to the dock. He told us that they loved to swim with people and were always playful and curious when the islanders were spearfishing. I hoped we’d get to swim with them later!

After an extravagant breakfast, we visited Raiarii’s grandparents’ burial site and went to the house where all 22 children were born. Everyone was so delighted by our visit, and the whole day I felt so glad that we’d made the effort to come. After helping prepare for the picnic, we set out across the island in the back of the truckbed, stopping at sites of interest and meeting other relatives along the way. The island had three separate, shallow lagoons on the east side, and we picnicked near the third and swam in the hot, extra-salty water with the kids.

On our return that afternoon, Uncle Taro asked the local mayor if they could launch the community boat so that everyone could come out and take a tour of Swell. He was agreeable, so family and friends piled in and we headed out to Swell. They told us only one other sailboat had ever stopped there as far as they knew, and certainly none of them had ever seen the inside of one. So they were delighted and awed to visit Swell and see that we had beds, sink, oven, stove, water, and all the essentials…

As we all sat aboard Swell, I noticed the waves were picking up. The sets were breaking a little farther out and I’d seen the forecast for south swell on the way. Sadly, I knew we’d have to leave before dark. It was a bittersweet goodbye, having been taken in so graciously and having to part so quickly, but we wouldn’t be safe there again overnight. Many tears were shed as all the family members crowned us with parting shell ‘heis’. Silent drops rolled down Raiarii’s cheeks as he hugged and kissed them goodbye and promised to visit again one day. We waved to their boat until it rounded the corner out of sight…

Just then a big swell lifted the hull and the boat jerked to starboard on the anchor line, reminding us of the reality we faced. The sun was setting, the swell was picking up, and we were getting dangerously close to being tossed onto the reef! We had to get both anchors up before darkness arrived and prepare the cabin for making passage again. As I dove and cleared the anchors, Raiarii pulled them up. I looked around in hopes of saying goodbye to the dolphins, but no sign of them appeared.

Anchors clear, we drifted away from the reef with the wind, readying the mainsail halyard and jib sheets. Just then, one of the dolphins launched into the air beside the cockpit, hovering horizontally for a moment and looking right at us as if to say, “What? Leaving already?!?”

Raiarii and I looked at each other, breathtaken. I jumped in and we took turns swimming with them until it was too dark to see…a magical finish to a magical stopover…

Dusk swim with the welcoming crew at Puka Puka.

We finally dried off and rounded the corner to wave a final goodbye. In the soft dusk, we could see all the family lined up ashore. They flashed their headlights and honked their horns, jumped up and down and waved madly, and we did the same. Slowly we drifted farther and farther away with the wind. We were both sad to have to leave so soon, but grateful that the weather had afforded us those precious 24 hours spent there. After half an hour had passed, we saw the lights of the cars heading home and turned to take on the passage ahead.

As the excitement dwindled, our exhaustion surfaced, and with no self-steering we decided to heave to and sleep for a few hours while Swell drifted away from the atoll on the open sea. I lie there for a while in the cockpit under the stars, spilling over with gratitude and joy. I would never forget our ‘fruitful’ visit to Puka Puka…Time with family is a precious gift! Regardless of our lineage, I hope we will learn to treat each other like the One Great Human Family that we are!! One Love!

Goodbyes are never easy.

Giddyup! ‘Back to Nature’ adventure revisited…

Long-awaited arrival at the legendary bay of Hanavave.

Lost in the stars, I lay huddled on the port side of the cockpit in my sleeping bag. The eastern horizon hinted the coming twilight, but my gaze was fixed skyward. Swell’s soft rhythmic lurch through the small upwind chop, told me I could relax. I didn’t want to jinx myself, but intuitively I anticipated a successful arrival. On two other occasions, I’d been forced to alter course and sail elsewhere. This time the wind was strong enough to be single-reefed, but Swell wasn’t fighting. The wind would pick up later, I knew, but I was optimistic with 17 miles to go at 4:40am. Intuitive notions aside, experience had trained me that no landfall should be celebrated until the anchor was firmly set!

As dawn haloed the island’s striking silhouette, I couldn’t help but mentally wander through the tales of Thor and Liv Heyerdahl’s romantic ‘back-to-nature’ adventure that took place on this very island in the 1930s…ancient carved petroglyphs, toppling waterfalls, brisk mountaintops, hidden caves, action-packed tidepools, abundant fruits, and resourceful locals swirled through my imagination…

A few hours later, the sails luffed indecisively as we moved into the swirling wind shadow of the island’s 3,500ft peaks. Despite little sleep, I was abuzz with excitement as we furled the sails and started the engine. Gusts swooped in at us from north, then south as we neared…adding to the mystique of the legendary bay where ominous stone cliffs, gravity-defying spires, swaying palms, and turning seabirds awaited!!

Change in altitude thanks to my courageous equine friend.

Mountain picnicking!!

A petroglyph carved in stone–one of many in this valley steeped in myth and tabu.

Ol cheveaux watching over the hard stone where rocks were once sharpened into weapons and tools.

Locals heading out with their hounds to hunt wild pigs a few bays to the south.

Proud Marquesan hunter’s home.

Today Marquesan lives meet somewhere between modern convenience and ancient tradition.

Twin Tikis watching over Swell and the wedging lefts.

Post-surf, barefoot architecture project…relaxing on my stone throne…

  Leaving it to the dolphins for a while…view from the beach shack.

Breadfruit lunch…giving new meaning to eating ‘whole foods’! Now it’s off to find Thor and Liv’s cave dwelling…

Healthy bees are the Earth’s (and our) best friends.

Beauty overload, I can’t hold my camera still! Goosebumps as the full moon rises over Omoa valley…Boundless gratitude!!

Lubed gears and New frontiers

I’m healing up and almost like new…so I figured I’d go back before neck breaks or speaking tours…to fill in where we left off after hat-making!


New friends to lead the way…

I sat scooping papaya into my mouth in the cockpit, wondering if the package would arrive today. A moment later my phone rang. It was Isrin calling to tell us the windlass part had arrived and they’d drop it by later!

Several teeth on my Maxwell windlass had made their final anchor pull at the bay on the other side of the island. As I had pushed the button to raise the chain, a dreadful grinding sound screeched out and echoed off the surrounding stone cliffs .

“That can’t be good…” I surmised with a furrowed brow, but a wind shift had brought onshore conditions, and we had to get out of there before the wind chop got worse, so I  finished lifting the anchor despite wincing through every second of the awful noise.

Upon arriving in the next port, Raiarii and I disassembled the unit to reveal broken teeth on one of the main gears. Several Skype calls and two weeks of black sand beach breaks, murky water shark sightings, meals with the O’Connor’s, night fishing, abandoned puppy rescuing, and downhill skating later…the cardboard box arrived!! Freedom to sail on!

With the new part installed and the Windlass gears lubed like never before…we said final goodbyes and pointed the bow toward the island to the south…

Getting greasy as we take apart the broken windlass…it took a hammer, Kroil, some interesting leverage techniques, and a few bad words…but we freed all moving parts and waited for the new gear piece to arrive!


The worn out teeth on the windlass gear…


First stop…a mysto 3 foot a-frame that broke for over shallow reef for 3 hours and then never reappeared?!…followed by a mango binge 🙂

The glory of Nature is always near if we’re willing to pay attention…it yanks us out of our mind chatter and joins us to the Greatness that IS.

We are the creators of our reality…Swelly in Paradise!

With love all things RISE UP!!

She-pirate on commute…

With this back drop, I had to nose Swelly in for a closer look…what beauty!!

Ask and you shall receive!! Swell found some swell! Went over the falls on the way in to the beach wearing my Stormproof Patagonia backpack with all my camera gear inside…dry as could be! This exposed anchorage wasn’t safe to stay overnight, so we put in a quick surf after a long day of sailing…and an evening of beachcombing while wild horses grazed on the hillside. At 10:30pm, despite blazing fatigue, we could take no more of the sharps rolls and jarring yanks of the chain…so out to sea we sailed under starlit heavens…

What makes freedom so beautiful?

A pamplemousse giving me a morning reminder never to judge people or things by their outward appearance!

Regardless of superficial differences, we are so much more the same–sharing our Earthly ride in sorrow or joy, in glory or humility, in gain or in loss, in wonder or in doubt…so show Love to your fellow human–each of us a tiny spark in a great Fire!! Burn brighter and those around you will too…

P.S. I updated the ‘Reading Page’ to give book descriptions and I’m slowly adding short videos from this trip on my YouTube page. To view them, the YouTube button on the top right corner of this webpage will take you directly there…Enjoy 🙂

A Pain in the Neck!

What the heck, I broke my neck!?

As some of you know, I recently suffered a cervical spine fracture of my C3 vertebrae. In other words, I broke my neck! Don’t worry, I’m ok! I was extremely lucky that my fracture did not effect the spinal column, so there was no nerve damage and I will recover fully and relatively quickly… So that’s this month’s excuse for blog delays! 🙂

I’ve been lying prone and mostly immobile for more than two weeks now. Luckily, the sea has rendered me thick with patience, as this is not unlike a tough passage. The first few days were the the roughest–unable to lift my head and stuck in the warbled cross-chop of pain meds. It felt like I’d lost control of the ship! My friends and family were shocked by the news. Impossible!? How could this have happened?! But what at first seemed like disaster, has been laden with learning.  The only thing I could do was surrender, get silent, go inward, Listen…

Voyaging aboard Swell has taught me that everything that happens in life can be used to grow. In each adversity there is opportunity, if you choose to see it that way. ‘Maintaining a joyful mind’ is possible only if you are willing to stay present through the hard stuff, too. By raising the sails of surrender, I’ve discovered a new quality of stillness. Rather than self-pity and sorrow, blessings and insights abound. Surrendering to an unchangeable situation makes it possible to hear the wisdom that resides deep within all of us–the stuff we know we know, but store away in some remote inner lock-box. What if we listened more?

Yea, this has been a real ‘pain in the neck’, but in order to live wide open, every circumstance (chosen or not) must be embraced with equal fervor, ridden with equal grace, and accepted with Trust and Love. This means everything we encounter is part of the game; our teachers are disguised in our most perturbing situations and people. How we react to them allows us to choose who we are again and again and again. The option to choose Love or Gratitude or Humility or Kindness or Generosity or Joy never goes away! Lived this way, life becomes an extraordinary adventure of unlimited potential and boundless growth as you challenge yourself to evolve into the best You!! So don’t fret, soon I’ll be back on my feet and better than ever! Thank you to all my wonderful friends and family for showering me with so much love, care, and good healing vibes!

My big day at Sharp Memorial Hospital in San Diego.

“Maintain a joyful mind. Nothing wasted, nothing lost. All part of the perfection…” Flying via the birds and butterflies in Coronado–Thank you Dixon family!

And in case you’re wondering, here’s how it happened…

On October 8th at 8:29am I sat in my faded green station wagon in one of the sea-side parking spots at Torrey Pines State beach. I’d been getting anxious to get back to my travels, but numerous things seemed to be keeping me in California. I’d been nursing a swollen ankle for a whole month, for which I couldn’t pinpoint any significant injury? I’d been staying off it, ice, massage, acupuncture, but whatever was wrong had been oddly persistent. As the clock struck 8:30am, I reached for my phone to call a family friend’s orthopedic office about scheduling an MRI for my ankle. The doctor had offered to help, as i don’t have medical insurance in the US. I dialed the number…

“This is the T-mobile refill center. Your account has expired. Our refill center is experiencing technical difficulties. Please call back in half an hour to an hour to refill your account for continued service.”

“No!” I thought. Cursing myself for forgetting to refill my ‘On the Go’ service before it had run out.

I looked out to sea. I’d spent much of the last month away from it, knowing I couldn’t get in. But on this particular morning, the feeling to be near it had overcome me. Small waves tripped on the shallows and spilled upon the shore. The horizon was steady, comforting. I felt a sensation of being ‘home’.

The tide was dropping; one particular sandbar beckoned as the second consecutive right peeled and spat. With half an hour to kill and a bladder full of tea, a swim seemed in order. So without another thought, I was zipping up my Patagonia R1 spring suit and hopping down the rocks, one fin in hand. I limped across the short strip of sand and collapsed into my beloved ocean at knee deep. Ahhhh!!

My second wave looked like a beauty. It approached from the north, standing up as I kicked into it. But as I plunged down the 2 ft face, an odd warble cropped up, tossing me head over heels. Totally unexpectedly, my head hit the sand. My body was angled such that all its weight and momentum fell upon the forward part of my head, snapping it backwards in the process. “No way,” I thought…

I came to the surface. “Ok. I’m conscious.” Check. “I can move my arms and legs.” Check. “I’m ok. I’m ok.”

I let the water push me in and stood up at the shoreline. Pain gripped my neck. I knew I was hurt. “I’m alright,” I tried to convince myself, heading carefully for the car. “Ok, what do I do…? My phone doesn’t work. I guess I could ask one of these joggers to call for help? …But then again, I have no medical insurance…Surely I can make it up to my sister’s house where I can use her Skype to call someone…”

I strained to hold my head up each time I accelerated the car on the 3-mile drive to my sister’s house. My neck felt loose, unstable, weak…I made it to her apartment and laid down, but the pain seemed to be getting worse. I called my friend Chrissy, an ER nurse at Sharp Memorial Hospital. Surely she would know what to do! Lucky for me she’d surfed early and had the day off.

“I’m on my way.” She said immediately.

She whizzed me off to the hospital and we walked in the back door, where she said she asked her doc co-worker to come have a look before deciding to check me into the ER.

Dr. Healy firmly recommended a CT scan, so Chrissy and the on-duty nurses—real live angels if you ask me– checked me into a room and stabilized my neck. As they tucked me under the blanket, I thought again and again how grateful I felt to be in such caring, capable hands. Shortly after, I was wheeled off and placed inside the CT tube. The metal machine whirled; my mind did too. Warm tears rolled down my cheeks. I was scared. Back in my room, the pain intensified and I finally succumbed to the offer for pain medication. Chrissy inserted the IV and I floated off on a morphine cloud awaiting the results…

Chrissy saves the day!! Thanks for being my ambulance, nurse, and heroic friend! You made me laugh all day!

Meanwhile Chrissy waited for the results to show up on the computer, “Radiology found no fracture!” We both sighed and smiled. She removed the brace. Just then, Dr Watt, director of the ER and a fan of my adventures stopped in to say hello. “I’m happy to meet you, but so sorry it’s here!” He said. The feeling was mutual! I’d been using his Surfline password that Chrissy had given me about a year prior…I never thought I’d get to thank him in person! We were laughing about it as Dr Healy came rushing through the door. “Secure the collar!” He said. “There is a fracture at C3.” He’d reviewed the CT results himself and found the fracture of my spinous process at C3. Good work, Dr Healy!

After all the non-stop adventures, remote places, and constant risky business I’ve gotten up to in my short lifetime…it didn’t seem possible that I could break my neck bodysurfing benign beach break in sunny California!? But as unlucky as it seems, I was very lucky. Had the bone been crushed farther, enough to even lightly press on the nerves running through my spinal column, I could have been paralyzed to the extent that I could not even use my chest muscles to breathe. I’m still grasping this…so for now I’m grateful. Grateful to be alive!?! Grateful for the fabulous medical care I received (that includes you, Mom!) Grateful to be a tiny, (but living!!!) fleck in all the Grandness!

My hair especially seems to miss the ocean!?–Shorebreak hair, Whitewater hair, Double Over Head hair, Offshore Closeout hair!

Sister Kathleen fearlessly takes on the dreadlocks on Day 6! Right after finding my soulmate (see below).

Dawwwwgg and Capt Lizzy?

The more you know the less you need: Palm frond hats!

By teaching Haurainui’s mom to weave these hats, maybe he will be able to teach his children one day…Keep culture alive, it makes the world rich and beautiful!

“The more you know, the less you need.” –Aboriginal Proverb

On one of our last evenings together, Blight pulled a long palm frond from the back of his car, split it down the middle., and counted off 13 leaves. He fit it around Raiarii’s head and said, “Need a new hat?”

We’d both been itching to learn how to make palm frond hats in real Polynesian tradition. On the island where Raiarii lives, the youth seem to spend much more time in front of the TV than learning about their culture. So many traditional practices have slipped away, especially in the last 30 years…We’d been loving learning as much as possible from the more culturally in tact peoples of the Marquesas, as a part of our own effort at cultural revival…

So Blight taught us to make hats! In the days that followed, Raiarii and I spent long hours working to perfect and solidify our new hat-making skills. And at each of our following island stops, we found numerous opportunities to pass on the sustainable headwear stoke!! Some of the easiest ways to create a sustainable future are to learn from those who live/lived in harmony with Mother Earth for thousands of years…


Thanks to coach Blight patiently walking us through the steps, we gots palm frond hat-making skills!! Raiarii’s was perfect…must be in the genes.

Practice makes perfect!!

A Hundred Feet Too Many

Full moon rising…never know what might happen!?!

Lost in a deep sleep, I woke suddenly to a sharp sting on my back. I sat up quickly, wondering what the heck would be in my bed? The day prior I’d been stung by a bee hiding in a hand towel. Could it have been a bee? I’d noticed there were an odd amount of bees finding their way out to Swell…

“Must have been a bee,” I concluded. I rolled over on my side and drifted back to sleep.

I hadn’t found rest long when I felt another odd sting on my stomach. Despite my sleepy delirium, I realized something was not right. I leapt out of bed shaking that pillow that I’d been clutching in my arms, and out fell a 6-inch centipede!!

“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” I must have screamed loud enough to wake the entire island at the horror of discovering what I’d just been cuddling.

Raiarii nearly fell down the companionway stairs, thinking I was being murdered! He’d been sleeping outside after our meal ashore over the fire…

“Centipede!!” I cried, pointing to where it had crawled among the onions and grapefruits in the netting below my bunk.

He grabbed a piece of wood, lifted the net and there he was. But the centipede was clearly more alert than the two of us. He faked left, then scurried right and disappeared behind the fuel tank below my bunk. My jaw agape, I struggled to piece together what had just happened.

“What? But how? Oh NO!” I knew the hundred-footer was safe and sound within the impossible-to-access crevices of Swell.

I hauled my blanket out side, and curled up in the farthest corner of the cockpit, rubbing my stung belly now quite awake…

“He must have crawled into the backpack while we were ashore…” I determined.

The next day Raiarii went off to hunt for a few days with some friends, leaving me with my unsolicited new company. Centipedes are extraordinary creatures and important for regulating insect populations tropical island ecosystems, but a centipede as a crewmate? Suffice to say, I think were equally unhappy about the situation. I refused to sleep on my bunk, and knowing they seek warm places in the night, I decided the only safe bet was to pitch my tent…

I pitched the tent in the cockpit, maniacally shaking each pillows and blanket before it entered the zippered-in world of quietude.

On the fourth night in the tent, I heard a rustling from below. Raiarii, having returned from the hunt, had decided to sleep on my berth and see what would happen. I unzipped the tent to witness a battle between the two. He’d been stung on the leg! He was chasing the culprit around the underside of the galley step amongst an assortment of scrap wood and random parts. He crawled into a piece of stainless tubing where Raiarii trapped him and flung him overboard…

In the morning, I put away my tent, smberly hoping he had made it ashore to carry on his centipede life…