Archive for the ‘ Personal ’ Category

It’s a new year — 2014 now — and a long time since I last posted anything. I’ll add some items that go into a little more detail, but the short story is this:

After getting through the Panama Canal, I singlehanded up the Pacific coast, first past Panama, then Costa Rica, one day at a time, finding one of the many good anchorages along the way by sundown. In Nicaragua I stopped at Marina Puesta del Sol for a bit of R&R, then ventured on a little ways into the Golfo de Fonseca and after that to an anchorage off the beach outside of Bahía del Sol, El Salvador.

From there I ran overnight and beat it straight up to Puerto Chiapas, formerly known as Puerto Madero — didn’t want to stop in Guatemala — and spent a week or more in late January 2013 in the new Marina Chiapas waiting for the Golfo de Tehuantepec to calm down.

Eventually it did, and another boat and I crossed together, keeping one foot not quite on the beach but only a mile or so off it. Approaching Salina Cruz the wind blew 20-25 knots but from the south, which made for a sloppy, wet slog the rest of the way to the Huatulco area. Far better than being caught out in the gulf with the north wind blowing 40-50 and the seas running 15-20 feet, which had recently been the case. Hard to remind yourself of that at the time, though, when you’re exhausted from the two-day-two-night run and want only to find some flat water, get the hook down, and sleep.

The Huatulco –> Acapulco –> Zihuatanejo trip was uneventful, just uphill. Spent a couple of days resting up in Bahía Puerto Marquez, outside Acapulco, while jet skis and water skiers roared back and forth.

I lingered for three weeks or so in Zihua, one of my favorite places. My friend Louise signed on board there, and our trip up to the Sea of Cortez will make the second installment of this abbreviated saga.

Comments Off on Long time gone Boats and sailing, Personal, Travels

Margarita Moreno  1957-2010

Margarita, todavía te extraño tanto. Todavía hay un hueco enorme en mi vida. Te amo; te llevo en mi corazón para siempre.

Comments Off on Two years ago Personal

No, not 502 as in “deuce,” section 502 of the pre-1970s California Vehicle Code, if you’re old enough to remember that and unfortunate enough to have had any direct or indirect involvement with drunk driving.

This time it’s Initiative 502, on the Washington ballot, which asks Washington voters whether recreational use of marijuana for people over 21 should be legalized.fillfillfillfillfillfillfillfillfillfilll fillfill
An article in the current Time magazine reiterates many of the same issues we’ve been discussing at home. On the one hand, one line of thinking runs that passing the initiative, even though flawed, would be a significant and long overdue step forward and away from the obviously failed policies of criminalization and interdiction. The initiative of course includes controls and sets limits. With the state controlling production and distribution and gaining revenue from the industry, it would be analogous to the liquor industry.

On the other hand, some among the advocates of legalized marijuana oppose 502 because it so imprecisely defines who might or might not be under the influence of the drug, thereby, say some, giving law enforcement a new means they do not now have to harass or arrest marijuana smokers. Specifically, the initiative says that if you have 5 nanograms of THC in your blood you’re too stoned to drive legally, just as a .08 blood alcohol level defines when someone is too drunk to drive legally. The problem is that alcohol in the blood goes away in a matter of hours, but THC in the blood can remain for days.

In other words, you could smoke a joint at a party on Saturday and get a ride home afterward, then driving home from work on Tuesday, long after you would be in any way functionally affected by the joint you smoked on Saturday, get stopped and THC tested and come up as DUI.

So the more interesting question to come out of this is: When is it better to do what you can when you can to drag mainstream society kicking and screaming down the avenue of progress toward a change that is inevitable even if the first cut at the law contains imperfections, and when is it better to reject the imperfectly cast law despite the opportunity to make a progressive step, in favor of holding steady for the time being and recasting a better proposal that is not so open to abuse at the hands of less-than-objective officials?

Comments Off on 502 Personal, Policy & economics rants

The next big change and positive development of the summer came about in late July or so, when we bought a house. “We” means Emmet, Kara, and baby Phoenix; Jordan; and me. We’ll all be here except when we’re working on San Juan Island or sailing or traveling somewhere, which we’ll do in various combinations and at various (but mostly seasonally driven) times.

The main house forms a big + sign with a couple of small decks on the front corners

Three generations under one roof – kinda like the Old Days, I’m told. Older than me, anyway (and at this point, that’s starting to get fairly old), as I never lived with my grandparents. The house has plenty of space for everybody, including a small, free-standing one-bedroom apartment in the back, a light and airy feeling, a great view to the south that on clear days includes Mt Rainier, lots of parking, and even a couple of fruit trees in the back yard.

The only thing we were looking for that this place fell a little short on is a two-car garage and space for a machine shop / workshop. We do have a one-car garage with just enough space to jam in the mill, lathe, drill press, tool chests, spare parts, etc., and still turn around in. Nevertheless, we’re really happy to have found this place and count ourselves most fortunate (but we also paid plenty of dues, having spent months looking and having been disappointed by a couple of potential deals that went pear-shaped).

Mini urban ski lodge, big window facing south

I’ve put a few teaser pix here; you can see the full collection, lifted from the real estate listing, on the Gallery2 page ( and click on the thumbnail). You’ll see that the house, designed and built in 1961 by the folks we bought it from, is a little unusual – overall, the house forms a two-story + or plus sign, and the interior might be called “mini urban modern ski lodge.”



This year the plum tree was prolific, very productive, but the fig tree never ripened for some reason. It’s loaded with half-size green figs that look like … well, let’s just say that they look like an anatomical feature found on male mammals and let it go at that.

The fig tree probably didn’t get much water for a couple of months, but that didn’t seem to slow the plum tree down at all. Would pruning it in some specific way in the spring help? If you have any thoughts about how to get the figs to ripen next year, send them along.

And now it’s autumn and the clouds and chilliness are starting to move in.

Mt Rainier, like an inscrutable god, a touchstone

Comments Off on Skyway house Personal

It’s official: I have a granddaughter! She’s named, in case you haven’t guessed by now, Phoenix Aloha, and was born June 15 in Anacortes, WA, without any problems at all.

Grandpa’s little calabasa

As I write she’s lying in a bassinet next to the table, making little cooing and sighing sounds in her sleep. She’s still in the earliest phase of life but so far seems to be a pretty tranquil little person. As my late wife and Emmet’s mom Pamela noted a long time ago, kids are generally pretty easy to take care of until they learn the word “no.”

Mom and Dad (Kara and Emmet) seem to be doing well, running behind on sleep at times but catching up when they can. Kara is recovering her shape and energy level amazingly quickly, to my non-expert eye. It no doubt helps that she has always been a very fit and athletic person.

Mom & Dad & brand-new Phoenix

Emmet is running back and forth to the island fairly frequently, burning his


candle at both ends a bit, to have as much time as possible with Kara and Phoenix while also keeping up with his work. He’s a self-employed painting contractor and now that the weather has turned (mostly) good he has more work than he can handle.

Kara’s sister Kim is here in the little rented house in Anacortes as well, helping out in myriad ways, showing a beautifully deft and gentle touch with all sorts of baby-related tasks. I flutter around helping where I can with some cooking and kitchen patrol, some shopping, a little baby-burping and baby-sitting, not much in the larger scheme but a pleasure to do.

I couldn’t be happier for Emmet and Kara, couldn’t be happier to have a new


family member. This is a wonderful new focus, a huge, bright positive for me as well, after the darkness and emptiness of the last year and a half.

Words are inadequate to express the feelings that arise in a moment such as this.

They’re not ready right this minute, but I will very soon collect the best of the baby pix to date in a Gallery2 album on line. Click the “My photo albums” link to the right of this post to go there.

Dumpling sleeps. In a while she will awaken, and I ‘ll get to hold her and talk to her and wiggle her teeny little fingers and toes. Life at the moment is good.

Comments Off on Phoenix Aloha Personal

Mount Baker, about 100 miles away

San Juan Island is at its prettiest – the weather is gorgeous, the fields and trees are all still a deep green, the water is sparkling, a few pre-season tourists have snuck in for Mother’s Day but the town of Friday Harbor is still tranquilo.

I’m getting to spend time with Jordan and Emmet and Kara and am catching up with other family and friends. And of course we’re all eagerly awaiting the arrival of la nietita sometime in earlyish or mid-June.

Life is good, for now anyway.

Ferry landing, Friday Harbor

Comments Off on Life is good Personal

A couple of interesting short articles on what to do about illegal drug use came out over the weekend:

Rethinking the War on Drugs

The thesis of this article is that we don’t have just two choices: an all-out prohibition, such as we’re attempting now, or legalization, which would quickly solve some problems but also create other, serious ones. We have other ways to cut down on demand, as a few pilot programs around the country are starting to show. Violent drinkers, users, or dealers would continue to receive harsh treatment, but “non-problem” users, people on probation, etc., would be motivated to stop drinking to excess or using drugs by a simple system of checks or testing. People who stay clean remain free, but those who keep using would get tagged with significantly unpleasant (but non-draconian) penalties.

The author grants that these programs will not eliminate demand or wipe out the black markets but argues that they would reduce the problem to manageable proportions by focusing on the 20% of dealers, users, and abusers that cause 80% of the problems.

OK, so it’s not perfect. But wouldn’t it be nice to have a social policy that was free of hypocritical moralizing and actually had some benefit, that did something constructive? What we’re doing now sure isn’t working.

The Marijuana Exception

This article basically says that marijuana scarcely shows up on the radar screen when viewed alongside coke, speed, crack, and smack, which are by far much bigger and more serious problems.

Happily, the article discounts the “gateway” effect (the argument that smoking marijuana leads to consumption of hard drugs), but it does worry that increased marijuana consumption could actually lead to increased heavy drinking. According to the first article mentioned above, alcohol kills more people in the US every year than all other illicit drug use combined (about 85,000 vs. 17,000).

I don’t know about you, but my experience with smoking weed has been that I drink less, not more, when I smoke. Pot and booze gives me the whirlies and makes me puke, then I either feel like crap or I pass out.

And who was it, George Carlin, maybe, that asked when was the last time you heard of a really stoned driver being stopped for speeding?



Comments Off on What to do about illegal drug consumption? Personal

(Karlita y Rena: mil disculpas por no escribir en tanto tiempo, y por no escribir en español.)

In another of life’s strange ironies, I went from being a would-be volunteer for the Floating Doctors to a patient of the Floating Doctors.

Seems that an unpleasant bacterial infection accompanied an ugly fungal infection on my left foot, causing my lower leg to swell markedly and making me feel a little off my game. Dr. Ben figured it out and, concerned that the bacterial part could be staph, gave me a course of penicillin pills to follow up on the course of Cipro (antibiotic) I had already started. He also pointed me toward a triple-action ointment to apply to the gross parts on my skin. Two other doctors, Hannah Lee and Jordan, also helped out and were kind enough to check on me a few times to make sure the situation was under control.

Happily, the meds appear to have done the job – both infections have gone away, I’ve taken all the pills, and as of yesterday, can again enjoy cold beer and other adult beverages. Hats off and many, many thanks to Ben, Jordan, and Hannah Lee!

Successful on the medical level, but I’m sorry to say that in terms of participation, my involvement with the Floating Doctors has fizzled. I didn’t hear Word One for weeks about any plans, clinics, projects, or anything. Complete radio silence.

One little occurrence several weeks ago sent a pretty clear message. The short version of the story is that one day I was told the group was leaving at a certain time for a visit to the Asilo (the home for seniors in town). I showed up at the departure point on time, to find out that the group had already departed. By chance I was able to catch up with the group and visit the Asilo, but I subsequently heard nary a word about the departure – no explanation, question, or comment about anyone departing early, arriving late, or anything else.

Oookaaay. Message received. Clearly the group’s thinking does not include whatever I might be able to contribute. And the lack of any contact since then tells me that the Floating Doctors are just not interested in my participation.

I have no idea why this is. Perhaps I was weighed in the balance somehow and found lacking, and just not told that. Perhaps the generational gulf is too great to cross, although I don’t think I have a problem crossing it. Perhaps the fundamental chemistry just isn’t good, although I haven’t clashed at all with anyone. On the contrary, I find them interesting, energetic, and admirably committed people. Perhaps they have more than enough non-medically trained volunteers at present and simply don’t need any help.

I also can’t explain the total lack of communication, even something as simple as politely declining my help for now because of <insert favorite white lie here>.

True, I have not tried to track people down, learn what work was planned, find out how I could help or whether my help was needed at all. I told myself I’d keep being persistent, but after having been left behind without any explanation I simply lost the motivation. I guess I wasn’t up for feeling like a dog hanging around the back door of a restaurant, hunting for scraps.

From where I stand, it’s a pity and a personal disappointment. Within the Floating Doctors there’s no lack of talent and energy and commitment, no shortage of excellent project ideas. I’d have thought that the group would have more than enough to do and would be only too happy to offload some of the non-technical or administrative or operational work, thereby freeing up other resources for more technical work. I’d also have thought that a group that puts out a general call for volunteers on its Web site and at times gets them by the gaggle would be pretty good at communications and at maximizing the resources available to it at any given time.

Oh well. I moved up my departure date and am heading up to the States on Wednesday, to spend the summer there. It’ll be a tedious trip, about 30 or 32 hours on airplanes or cooling my heels in airports, but I’m looking forward to being back in Seattle. Kara’s doing fine; the latest ultrasound apparently confirmed that all was well with the baby growing inside her. And we (my sons, Kara, and I) are looking for a house in Seattle for everyone to live in and be a home base. We offered on a place the other day but the other offer was quite a bit higher, apparently, so no dice. No worries, we’ll find something great pretty soon.

And there’s other family and friends to spend lots of time with. We can sit around, those of us who drink can drink a little too much, and we can all laugh a lot and tell each other lies about how good we used to be.

Comments Off on Turnabout Personal, Travels

Has been quite some time since the last post. Much of the time I just haven’t had anything of interest to report. Between a fair amount of boatwork and work on other, unrelated things, the days have been pretty full. I spent a lot of time, several days all told, analyzing some financial information for my homeowners’ association and building some spreadsheet-based tools to help keep the numbers organized, do some planning, and update the plans yearly.

Have done some but not a great deal of work with the FDs. Have been to the Asilo (the local senior citizens’ center) a couple of times and am heading there again this afternoon. One time it was raining too much to take anyone out for a walk, so we just hung around inside and chatted; one of the doctors checked with a few people, heard some medical complaints, and commiserated gently with folks whose problems she could do nothing about.

From somewhere came three or four lightweight rubber balls, and a few little games of catch spontaneously broke out. Several of the residents seemed to do quite well – good eye-hand coordination, motor reflexes working well. And a couple of little girls, not sure if they were related to one of the residents or the daughters of one of the women working there, were bouncing around as well, which further contributed to the upbeat energy. It pleases me to think we, all the volunteers collectively who visited that day, broke up the monotony and added a bit of brightness for some of the residents.

Have helped at a couple of clinics, one right here in Bocas at what we call the Warehouse (where I built the shelves), and another in Cerro Diablo, a small Ngobe village about 45 minutes away by panga. The FDs’ panga is about 22 feet, I’d guess, and is pushed by a 40 hp Yamaha outboard, so it gets through the water in pretty good shape even when loaded with passengers and supplies.

Not being a medical professional, my role at the clinics was to help check patients in (note their basic medical problem, family info, and a bit of history), observe the doctor’s consultations a bit, and fetch and carry as needed. By the end of the day, after having helped 78 people, we had run out of ibuprofen, lice treatment, and another thing or two. Impossible to know how much of which medicines and other supplies to bring to a given clinic. The Peace Corps worker living in the village was terrific, a young woman who has been there for nine months and obviously had become a positive force in the fabric of life there.

The pattern seemed to be that of entire families – both parents, all the kids, and sometimes even a cousin or two – waiting their turn to see a doctor, everybody with something for the doctor to look at. I don’t have enough experience to generalize, but certainly in Cerro Diablo the most common complaints were of digestive parasites and upset, and skin problems, what looked to me like rashes and bug bites. I’m told those are typically the most common complaints in many communities.

And on another day I unpacked even more stuff waiting to be shelved in the Warehouse, stripped off bales of packaging, and grouped like things with like so the doctors and a nurse could see what was what and organize the supplies appropriately on the shelves. At this point the shelves are pretty full.

So this afternoon up to the Asilo; not sure what’s up for later in the week. Sometimes or even often there are enough people on hand to run a clinic so my help isn’t needed. The inflow of volunteer doctors seems to be picking up, though, so life might get busier.

In any case I’m heading back to the States at the end of May for the summer and will return to Panama in mid September (unless I change the return date). I hope I’ll have been able to somehow amplify my contribution to the FDs by then and will be able to pitch in for another couple of months toward the end of the year, before truckin’ on out of here.

Am thinking pretty seriously of heading back through the Canal in late December or early January (my cruising permit expires Jan 12, 2013, or thereabouts) and working my way back up the coast to Mexico. But I’m not hard over on that – if I’ve managed to build up significant momentum here, I’d be willing to spend another year in Bocas (I think). All is scratched lightly in sand, not carved in stone.

Comments Off on Playing catch in the Asilo Personal, Travels

It’s the peak of cruising season here on the Caribbean coast of Panama, but it’s still the off season for the Floating Doctors. Ben and Sky are still in the States, gathering support and dealing with administrative issues. Ben will be back at the end of the month, when a group of volunteers also arrives; Sky returns a couple of weeks later. The first clinic is scheduled for 1 March, I’m told. Noah and Steven are aboard Southern Wind, cleaning and fixing and organizing and generally getting ready for the coming onslaught.

One good step forward is that the pharmacy still needs to be made a secure space but is now serviceable – all the stuff that was lying helter-skelter on the floor is neatly organized, shelved, and labeled. Scroll down to the previous post to see a couple of “before” pix to contrast with the “after” pix here.

La farmácia 1. Still needs a wrap with wire fencing or something to secure it, and plywood on the top for more storage. But in service.

A correction: the Bocas Breeze article I pointed to in the previous post was written by Ben LaBrot, not by Sky.

So in the meantime I’ve been working on the boat: dealing with various small things but mostly, rebedding a window (twice, because I didn’t seal the leak the first time), and redoing all the brightwork. I had let it go gray, which is OK, but decided to refinish it all with Cetol Natural Teak.

Am looking forward to pitching in one way or another with the FDs and especially looking forward to the arrival of my first grandchild — a girl child, the ultrasounds indicate — this coming June (!!).

La farmácia 2, looking down toward the walk-in entrance (at the far end on the left; not visible here)

Comments Off on Still in the off season Personal, Travels