September 8, 2016 – Pattern Recognition  – #28

Batu in Paradise - At anchor in Opunohu Bay, Moorea
Batu in Paradise – At anchor in Opunohu Bay, Moorea

To my loving family and great friends around the world, thanks for your care and support! We are safe, we are well, and we are underway again. It seemed for a while that we were stationary, tangled in a Sargasso Sea of endless repairs and fruitless struggles, but perhaps we were ‘underway’ all along. As one thoughtful friend noted, you can’t really have an adventure if nothing ever happens to you! Words to live by. So now our transmission is transmitting, our refrigeration is refrigerating and the myriad of other odds & ends projects like rebuilding the head (toilet) patching the spinakker, stitching the mainsail and many, many others have finally been ended. The immigration service, known to me only as ‘Monsieur le Haute Commissaire,’ has been mollified with numerous letters and reams of documentation so we have a brief time to experience the Society Islands before our twice-modified visa extensions expire. Ultimately, we spent seven weeks at the dock in Tahiti.

Since leaving Papeete we’ve had several days exploring the lush, tropical islands of Moorea, Huahine and now Tahaa. There’s been incredible snorkeling with myriads of colorful fish and spotted eagle rays (in one instance, thirteen of them!) flying in formation. In Haapiti (West Moorea) we had a couple days of surfing in hollow waves breaking on treacherous coral reef. Forever etched on my brain is a moment of terrifying beauty and clarity as I looked down the glassy barrel of ‘my wave’. Yesterday we sailed into the lagoon in Tahaa and had just enough time for an evening kiteboarding session; turquoise water below, an artist’s rendition of a colorful sunset sky above. We saw pods of whales fishing and breaching up-close. We even caught a couple fish during our inter-island sails: a nice Bonita and a Wahoo small enough to receive our gratitude and be released on good behavior (my cousin Sal will be thrilled). The kids are finding a good balance of school and fun. Sarah is avidly focused on marine biology and learning Japanese. Sean, interested in nautical engineering, is focused intently on math, physics and beginning French. I am deeply in love with my beautiful wife and, unlikely as it may seem, she loves me too. Life is good.


Anchorage Haapiti - West Moorea
Anchorage Haapiti – West Moorea
Left Break Haapiti - The "beginner break" 2 - 3m faces breaking over coral 1m deep
Left Break Haapiti – The “beginner break” 2 – 3m faces breaking over coral 1m deep
C'est Bon...Bonita - A nice Bonita caught on passage, Moorea
C’est Bon…Bonita – A nice Bonita caught on passage, Moorea
Thar She Blows! - One of several humpback whale pods, we diverted course to avoid them
Thar She Blows! – One of several humpback whale pods, we diverted course to avoid them

Although there’s no sense in dwelling on the negative, the analyst in me wants to better understand how we became tangled in that Sargasso Sea in the first place, and how we got out. The details are specific to our voyaging lifestyle, but the basics are applicable to life. What happens when you are presented with a fairly long string of bummers? What can you do when, despite all efforts to avoid and resolve them, more bummers just keep coming? I still don’t know, but here are a few thoughts on the matter.

We humans are naturally inclined toward pattern recognition. It’s in our genetic code. Therefore, it’s easy to understand how we come to perceive and focus on naturally occurring patterns in our lives, like a series of negative events for example. Once we recognize a pattern it often becomes what we see. Our minds work to resolve the pattern amidst the chaos of other events in our lives. There are likely other patterns happening simultaneously, but they exist in periphery because our minds work so hard to identify the primary threat. This is the classic example of perception becomming reality, and I believe it is partly what pulled my adventuring spirits down during our difficult time in Papeete.


Dolphins off the Port Bow - Haapiti Greeting Committee
Dolphins off the Port Bow – Haapiti Greeting Committee
Sarah & Sean Snorkeling - Here we are watching an eel defending his territory
Sarah & Sean Snorkeling – Here we are watching an eel defending his territory
Reef Fish Series I - These small gold fish are beautiful, some of our favorites
Reef Fish Series I – These small gold fish are beautiful, some of our favorites
Spotted Eagle Ray - Swimming beneath the boat in about 25 ft depth
Spotted Eagle Ray – Swimming beneath the boat in about 25 ft depth

During this time I had the pleasure of meeting a uniquely positive person, the visiting parent of a young cruising friend. She wasn’t any more or less fortunate than anyone else, she was simply more positive. She seemed naturally inclined to identify the positive, hopeful patterns in life just a bit more than the average bear. Although our interaction was brief, it was for me a timely occurrence that helped me to ‘flip the switch,’ allowing our own series of negative events to slip into periphery while I chose to identify a more positive pattern. What I saw was a loving, caring network of amazing people in my life whom I am honored to know and love in return. I think it’s pretty incredible that we have the power to choose what patterns we see in our lives, and that those perceptions become our reality.


Reef Fish Series II - This fish is not named Nemo, but he gets that a lot.
Reef Fish Series II – This fish is not named Nemo, but he gets that a lot.
Reef Fish Series III - These fish usually swim in pairs, this one is still single
Reef Fish Series III – These fish usually swim in pairs, this one is still single
Our Front Yard - Million dollar view
Our Front Yard – Million dollar view
Coral Sculpture - I love this coral and its perfect background
Coral Sculpture – I love this coral and its perfect background

Around the same time I had another paradigm-shifting thought. It’s heavy, so hang tough. The Buddha, said “life is suffering; the key is attachment.” I wasn’t there, but that’s what they tell me. During our difficult time in Papeete this quote kept coming to mind. Life is suffering, I am struggling, what a bummer! But what I love about this initially depressing phrase is the beauty and simplicity of the hopeful message it contains. One could argue, perhaps, that  the human condition is to suffer, to stress, to fear and to struggle. We certainly do a fair bit of these things in pursuit of our petty lives. However, the thought that we alone hold the key to release ourselves from the bonds of suffering by identifying and releasing our attachments is powerfully human, and ultimately empowering. In this case I was attached to the ideas that I should be completely in control of my life, that I should be able to prevent all negative events, and that it’s unfair to have such a long and costly string of problems. Once I was able to see how desperately I was clinging to these points and let them go, there was no more struggle, only forward steps.


Suffering - Sometimes life is just suffering...
Suffering – Sometimes life is just suffering…
Isle Mahea - Entering Tahaa Lagoon at Passe Toahotu
Isle Mahea – Entering Tahaa Lagoon at Passe Toahotu
Reef Fish Series IV - The little fish is a rare one,  Sarah tracked him down
Reef Fish Series IV – The little fish is a rare one, Sarah tracked him down
Reef Fish Series V - Karen posing as a mermaid to lure sailors into the deep
Reef Fish Series V – Karen posing as a mermaid to lure sailors into the deep

At the moment, our forward steps take us farther westward, toward the Cook Islands, Tonga and ultimately New Zealand, where we plan to spend about five months exploring and waiting-out the Southern Hemisphere cyclone season. Looking ahead to a more-or-less stationary voyaging environment, and contemplating what our subsequent plans will be brings up plenty of questions about our next career steps and how (and if) we might return, someday, to lives ashore. For the moment, all we can do is have faith and trust that everything will work out as it should. We are living today, and life is good.


Colors Abound - Happy corals make for a happy ecosystem
Colors Abound – Happy corals make for a happy ecosystem
Reef Fish Series VI - Good looking pair
Reef Fish Series VI – Good looking pair
Psychedelic Fish - Seriously, this is not camouflage here people!
Psychedelic Fish – Seriously, this is not camouflage here people!
Black Tip Reef Sharks - We're very used to swimming with them now
Black Tip Reef Sharks – We’re very used to swimming with them now
Stingray - These almost tame stingrays will let you touch them
Stingray – These almost tame stingrays will let you touch them
Impossible Sunset - Tahitian flames, Opunoho Bay, Moorea
Impossible Sunset – Tahitian flames, Opunoho Bay, Moorea

5 thoughts on “September 8, 2016 – Pattern Recognition  – #28”

  1. Woohoo for the Wahoo! Freedom! :) Seriously, though, glad you’re shored up and ready for the next leg in better spirits. Pics are great. Writing is great. Sooooo good to hear what’s going on again. Fair winds and calm seas to the Cook Islands. Hugs and much love to all.
    -S
    (and if you get bored and have internet, would love some critical feedback on portfolio)

  2. I enjoy reading your posts and the photos are marvelous! We are still hunkered down in La Cruz waiting for the end of Hurricane season and the start of high season with the return of many new friends fron last season . Very quiet here now. So glad the family is hanging tight through the not so post-card times. Can’t wait to read about New Zealand!

    John and Elinore
    S/V Nakamal
    (We shared our instant chocolate pudding for your passage)

  3. Dear Peter, Karen, Sean and Sarah

    WE are so grateful that you are on your way from Tahiti and appear happy!. Between your last blog and the most recent one, I must say that you have been tested! God’s beautiful creations on land and in the seas in the day and at night are a marvel to behold and you are experiencing all this firsthand. Your photos are so awe inspiring. As with any adventure, you will experience intense joy and scary perils. And I am sure during your alone times you are experiencing tremendous spiritual awareness. I believe God is trying to get to your heart as I read your beautiful blogs. Your insights points to Christian ideology. I can’t help to think I am reading a pastor’s sermon from the seas! The trials and tribulations that you’ve experienced so far have not gone unnoticed. He is with you through all the joy and scares and you have his protection . This scripture made me think of you and your family. It is from James 1:2-6
    “2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”

    Give it to Him.

    You are becoming a strong Man. I can feel the love your family has for each other!
    Love yu, Dean, Cindy,Lauren

  4. Happy Birthday Peter, you somehow managed to slog yourself through another year. jk, you are doing what’s called living and are making a heck of a go at it! Lucky you, lucky family. Embrace the struggle, for that’s where the real learning is.

    I’ve been enjoying touching base with your adventures, although, admittedly not as regular as I would like. Blake’s robotics team finally made it to worlds, and he’s now off to UW. Time marches on, tick-tock, tick-tock.

    Sarah & Sean will never be the same, and that’s a good thing. Be well & give my best to all.

    Love to all ~ Susan

  5. Peter, Karen, Sean and Sarah, Hard to believe that a year has gone by since you pulled away from the dock. Glad to note that you are once again underway. Your adventures separate you from the hordes of armchair sailors as when they talk of the open sea and golden islands you can smile as you are not dreaming about the adventure, but living it. Give all a big hug for me. cold beer awaits..
    Chris

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>