Ship's Log               s/v Uliad 


 November 1 :



       Puteri Harbor is apparently one of the first developments in an enormous real estate development here in south Malaysia.  The boat basin sits next to a real estate sales office on one side and a half-completed hotel on the other side.  At one end of the hotel building is a small indoor theme park called "Hello Kittyland"  I've had great fun teasing Emmett by relentlessly offering him a trip there so I can take his photo with the famous Asian cartoon character.

      Beyond the marina and these few buildings are literally miles of brand new streets fronted with billboards advertising new office buildings, high rise apartments, and new home developments.  There is an entire new city scheduled to be built here over the next decade.  This is astounding to me, in part because I'm used to the relative poverty of rural Indonesia.  Malaysia, or at least this part of it, is clearly different.  All of those smart phones and tablets that we're buying up in the west are being assembled here, creating a new affluent middle class ready to buy into the good life being built for them. 

      So the developers built the marina first.  I suppose to create something scenic to look at out of the window of your high rise.  If the sheer numbers of people lining the seawall snapping photos of the boats is any judge, the developers were smart to do it this way.  Every day young families (after a Hello Kittyland outing, I imagine) mill about in the courtyard in front of the real estate offices and admire the yachts while a lone guard stands by the dock gate, granting access only to the sailors.  I admit I feel like a bit of a rock star every time I walk past the crowds and Mohammed opens the gate for me.

Malaysians love to take photos of themselves in front of Uliad



November 4:


      We spent our last few days onboard huddling below in air conditioned luxury, stuffing our luggage with whatever things we might need in our new lives back home.  Uliad was put into "storage mode".  The electrical problems are all fixed now.  The last issue I dealt with was that I noticed the shore power cord felt hot next to a plug fitting,  so I disassembled the plug and trimmed back some wires that were starting to corrode a bit, then cleaned up the connections on the plug with sandpaper before reconnecting everything.  As I was sitting on deck working on this little project, another boater from down the dock wandered by and started to chat me up.  After learning what I was doing, he started to lament about how the impeller on his engine's water pump had gone out, and now he wasn't sure how to get it fixed because it was so difficult to get access to the area on his new powerboat.  So he thought he'd probably just need to call a mechanic.

     I didn't bite and offer to show him how to fix it...I had enough on my plate in these final days.  But I did offer a little advice and encouragement and then took a moment to notice how far I had come in a few years.  It seemed like only yesterday that I remember all those same anxieties going through my head as a new boat owner wondering what I would muck up if I tried to fix anything myself.  And now here I was on the other side of the planet, having just reinstalled an inverter, repaired an isolation transformer, and laid up three engines.  This guy had a reasonable idea of what needed to be done, but he stood on the edge of a precipice, unsure if he should really take that first step.

    I remember calling a mechanic in that first year because it seemed just too scary to attempt on my own.  But eventually there was no mechanic to I finally had to start doing things myself.  I remember feeling the same way about my life...knowing that something needed to change but scared as hell to step off what seemed like a big cliff.

     Now I'm that confident global sailor, and apparently I look so knowledgeable and unafraid to fix anything, that strangers will come up and ask my advice.  Our story of adventure has been such that people say I should write a book, or come give an inspiring talk to their groups.  It's all very flattering at times.

     We've been so darned busy for the past two weeks getting everything done to prepare to leave, that I never really had time to stop and come to terms with going back to "real life".  24 hours of air travel (much like a week long ocean passage) gives one plenty of time to think, though and I can say that pride in our accomplishments is pretty low on the list of emotions I'm feeling these days.

     First, there is anxiety.  There are a million little anxieties about the boat and making sure she's going to be safe while I'm away, but these are mere distractions to the anxiety of:  will we fit in when we go back?  After a life of T-shirts and long sunny days, am I ready to go back to wearing a tie and setting a pre-dawn alarm clock?  After growing accustomed to spending hours with friends telling stories, have I lost all tolerance for those who wander about with their face buried in their latest text message?  And then there's Emmett.  Much as he might yearn for a circle of adolescent friends, Kath and I worry about how junior high school can be such a social meat grinder in the best of circumstances...Will his experiences make him adaptable and resilient in the coming years? Or will he be an odd object of ridicule for not knowing the nuanced differences between "American Idol" and "The Voice"...or any of a thousand other pop culture references. 

      Second, there is immense gratitude.  I know how lucky I am to have had such quality time with Kathleen & Emmett for the past 5 years.  We have seen such amazing things together, we have grown so much and been such a team that I can't imagine us possibly becoming strangers who live in opposite corners of a big Mc Mansion, communicating by facebook pages.  And lest I sound too weepy, there are so many amazing things I look forward to back in the USA: enormous grocery stores, stylish clothing, fancy restaurants, Hollywood entertainment, family.  We are lucky to have experienced something else, and we are equally lucky to be coming back to this.

     Still, there is a certain momentary feeling that comes to mind that I must share with you.  You might not think that a sense of safety and security would be something to find on a tiny boat in the middle of the ocean, but let me tell you this:  On a warm night, with the stars out and you're on watch...and your wife and son are asleep beside you in the cockpit, a man can look around at his boat and his family and say to himself, "Everything I care about...everything in the whole world is right here... within my reach where I can keep it all safe with my own two hands."

     Coming home from the sea...for all its comforts and wonders of modern society, and for all those struggles we won't be facing anymore...coming home is a sort of letting go of that sense of security that I felt out there when the three of us were all together so close.  Perhaps we'll never be so united, so safe, so close again.  And for that, I'm not sure if I should worry, or mourn, or just be proud that we ever had it at all.

In Port Townsend, WA

      So that's almost the end of our story.  I read quite a few books and blogs like this before we left to go sailing and I always was left to wonder what happened to those families when their voyage did end.  So I promised myself long ago to continue this blog (with entries less often, I'm sure) for a year or so to let you know how the transition back has been going for us.  So keep us on your favorites tab for at least a little longer, OK? 



November 25:


     Emmett and I have another video Christmas card for you all.  View it HERE.




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