First Mate Musings Thus Far

Well, we’ve been out for about 7 months, and time seems to have sped up. They say it slows down when you’re out cruising, but so far I haven’t found that to be the case. Perhaps it’s because, with a couple of exceptions, we’ve been moving along at a pretty good clip, as evidenced by the number of posts that comprise this very blog. Perhaps it’s because we’re still figuring out what it really means to embark on a cruising life, with no clear answer to the question, “how long will you be out cruising?” We’re still learning – or maybe it’s more appropriate to say, I’m still learning. Capt. Randy fell naturally into this life – maybe because it’s the life he’s been dreaming of since he was a teenager. Or maybe it’s because he’s not a head case, you know, like me.

As the resident ball-of-anxiety on this boat, there are a few things I’m still trying to figure out: How to approach the highs and lows; how to enjoy equally the fast pace and the lulls; how to adapt to the lack of a schedule – for work and exercise – hence, also, dealing with not having a job (especially when Rand continues to work) and the lack of exercise; how to adjust emotionally to not being in physical proximity to my friends and family (although connectivity has been fairly good, enabling lots of virtual contact…but the consummate ache is that of missing my Mama); and, most importantly, how to better communicate with Rand now that we’re in constant proximity to one another (this is a topic for a different post). Then, how do I successfully assimilate all these changes in my life into my being as I’m living life now. Sounds like a lot, and it is, but mind you, experienced cruisers would tell novices like me that it takes at least a year to settle into the cruising lifestyle. T minus 5 months. But, despite all of this apparent angst, there are things – sights and sounds, people and places – that bring pure joy and contentment and offer new stimuli for the senses. Here’s a little look inside my pea brain.

And an evening

Joy: Probably the most important, not only for me but for Capt. Randy, too, is that I’ve fallen in love with sailing. I’ve become much more comfortable running da boat and making decisions, and honestly, I just want to sail, no matter where we’re going, where the wind is coming from, or what time it is – day or night. Overnight passages have become something I look forward to now; sailing under the stars and moonlight is simply magical. I used to dread moving at night. It made me nervous. Something about not being able to see what’s in front of you – or behind you or to the sides of you. And almost always, it’s chilly! WTF? But as we’ve moved more and more under the cloak of darkness, I’ve come to enjoy it, or I guess I appreciate what it has to offer. The sensory experience is unique in that as a sighted person, you must rely more on your other senses (oh, but we do have radar, which is prudent). Then the stars come out, one by one, until there are literally billions of them. It makes one feel very small. When the moon is full, it can wash out the stars, but it lights up the sea and you don’t feel so blind. The water surface shimmers – sometimes lit up by bioluminescence. You can even make out sparkling dolphins and other fishes swimming along side. And it’s quiet, especially when we’re able to sail late into the night. We often opt for no music, just to hear the sounds of da boat, moving through the water, and the breeze in our ears. The breeze is cool against the skin. Your skin gets tacky in the thick, salty air. And you can smell the salty sea. Then back to being sighted – the sunrises and sunsets, moonrises and moonsets just never get old, hence, the blog being inundated by photos of these moments.


Angst: Missing loved-, and even the not-so-loved, ones back home. This is the biggest challenge for me, for sure. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about my Mama and wish so badly that I could share these experiences with her. She was so worried for us, but recognized that life is for living and ultimately supported our plan. I never told her that I harbored many of the same concerns she had about cruising because I didn’t want to upset or worry her more than she already was. I long to tell her about the beauty of the places we’ve been, the people we’ve met, and the simplicity of this lifestyle. She would be so relieved to know it’s not the scary thing she thought it would be. I’m not sure about what comes after life on earth, but I feel she is with us in spirit, so she knows we’re all good. Inevitably then, I think of my dad, who is now living alone after losing his partner of 50-plus years. But his attitude is so Zen. He hasn’t missed a day at the gym this year, he does yoga everyday, he meditates, and he still goes to Padres games and eats hotdogs and ice cream. And for the first time in his life (at the spritely age of 84), he secured a passport so he can travel to Mexico to meet us sometime, somewhere. That’ll be fun.

Besides my Mama, we lost other close friends and family, which contributes to this ache. Several would have jumped at the opportunity to come crew or just spend some time with us in Mexico, or wherever on the earth we end up. I think a lot about our buddies (and sadly, there are many) who also lost loved ones and are facing a year of firsts without them (the holidays suck); dear friends who have recently separated from their life partners (do we have to chose sides? geez, I hope not); friends who are battling the Big C (damn the Big C) and will hopefully prevail. So far, so good. So the emotional angst surrounding missing my peeps, both living and lost, is with me daily. The longing inside me has been somewhat tempered by trips home every few months. Hopefully, I can keep to that sort of schedule. It’s pretty easy from Mexico, that’s for sure (as long as Rand keeps working diligently! Incidentally, watching and listening to Rand struggle to get an internet connection creates its own angst. It’s been a bit frustrating to say the least.)


Joy: Beautiful new landscapes. Pretty darn dramatic – from hot, dry desert to palm-covered, mosquito-y mountains and volcanoes. So much of these spectacular coastlines appear uninhabited, but then we spy small, inconspicuous roof-lines or large in-your-face mansions, and glowing lights sprinkled here and there. We often wonder whether people live in these seemingly remote places year-around or are they vacation villas – how do they get to them, where do they grocery shop? So curious. What is the ratio of population to landmass? Whatever it is, the vastness of the unpopulated and sparsely populated areas offer amazing eye candy. Perfect for just sitting on the bow of da boat and contemplating life. And did I mention the night skies? Talk about a landscape! When sailing or at anchor, oh my goodness, the stars. Simply dreamy.

Unfortunately, however, in many places, there is an almost-constant hint of smoke in the air and in our noses, as the inhabitants here generally burn their garbage – there is rarely infrastructure as in the U.S. for collecting and burying trash in landfills, at least not in the tiny towns that we can tell – and they also burn coco husks to keep the bugs down at dawn and dusk. Too bad that doesn’t work for me (they don’t call me Bitey for no reason). But no matter when we’re out on the water. For the most part, bugs don’t bother out here, and the water, especially in The Sea, is stunning. Just stunning.

IMG_1121Angst: No job/schedule (also a joy), and a lack of exercise. After 18 years of federal service, I went from all to nothing. Literally, my last day at work was October 14 and we left San Diego on the 20th. While I don’t miss the politics of the agency, I miss doing conservation and fighting the good fight together with my coworkers. We were closely bound by our mission and our passion for protecting natural resources. I greatly miss the camaraderie and being in the thick of things. I would venture to guess, however, that the leadership in our regional office doesn’t miss me one iota. I was a loudmouth and spoke too freely about what I thought were the weaknesses of our agency when implementing the law and our policies. Some would say, because of this, I didn’t leave a legacy, but I left my mark (although I would probably have a hard time getting rehired if I ever wanted to go back). Regardless, I miss the job, the level of commitment, and my cohorts. A lot.

Part of having a job meant being on a schedule. Part of my schedule was getting exercise. Part of quitting the job meant no more schedule. So, it’s been a challenge to figure out how to get a good workout while on da boat full-time. My yoga routine has fallen by the wayside and we’ve yet to break out the TRX suspension straps. We have managed to do some HIIT workouts (high intensity interval training) and paddling on SUPs, but overall, it’s been a bit inconsistent. With the lack of exercise comes a sense of diminished mental acuity, moments of self-loathing, and touches of anxiety. And of course, weight gain and flabbiness. It’s a vicious bad habit that needs to be broken asap.

On the upside, wherever we are, we love to go ashore and hike, explore the little pueblos, and walk the miles-long malecons. Also, sailing isn’t necessarily a spectator sport. I never totally understood when fellow sailors talked about making multiple sail changes (i.e., switching between the genny, drifter, and spinnaker) on passages, but now I get it. The winds are so variable here that, in order to take full advantage of what you’ve got, you have to make changes to the sail configuration, sometimes frequently. This is good because some days it’s the only activity I get. Ok, not totally true, but close. I should mention that Capt. Fishguts gets a fair amount of calorie consumption because he’s constantly changing fishing lures – with every sail change comes a lure change. So, it’s not a total disaster, but finding a rhythm is a must.

Oh Maru!Joy: New, beautiful people and learning Spanish. I’ve always loved Spanish, hence taking 3 years during high school. But just because I took all those years of it doesn’t mean I remember any of it 30 years later. But I’m learning again and it’s really fun, especially because it allows me richer interactions with the local people we’re meeting. Even though our  Spanish is still pretty rudimentary, we’ve gotten compliments from shopkeepers and restaurant servers on how well we speak. What’s interesting is that wherever there is a cruising community, there also tends to be a lot of English spoken, even by the locals, so we often end up speaking English anyway. What we really need is immersion. That or more of a commitment to speak it all the time wherever we are. We’ll see how it goes.

Many of the people we’ve met along our way, both cruisers and locals alike, are wonderful. Everyone is more than willing to help with anything needed, from the trivial (taking the painter at the dinghy dock) to the not-so-trivial (helping to fix problems with autopilots or starter motors, etc.). The locals are welcoming and beautiful and always helpful with my Spanish. So, as far as human interactions go, it has been an exceedingly pleasant experience thus far on our journey. I look forward to many more of these experiences in new and previously-visited places.

Ok, I think that’s enough for one post. I don’t want to leave you with the impression that I may be so anxiety-ridden that I’m unhappy. I’m not unhappy. I’m undeniably happy; I’m just adjusting to a new life. I don’t deserve any sympathy. My life is not hard. I simply miss all of you.


  1. Don Mitchell

    Awesome, touching post.

    We miss you guys. Feel lucky that we got our friendship back before you left and we can’t wait to be done with our house reno so we can travel again and get down to see you!

    1. Jody Fraser

      Miss you guys, too. And ditto – so, so glad we reconnected! Good luck on the renovation!

  2. Carla Adwell Webb

    Jody…this is such a perfect post. When we moved to Switzerland (no work for me, new language, unbelievable beauty that my inner critic said meant I couldn’t be sad) it took me a solid year to adjust even a bit. So appreciate the share and so thrilled you are stepping out and living outside your comfort zone. ?

    1. Jody Fraser

      Thx, Carla. It’s definitely a transition – one I’m very happy to be making!

  3. Tom & Barb Dilworth

    The life change that you are experiencing is huge. We are so happy to have been able to hang out with you guys as much as we did.

    T & B

    1. Jody Fraser

      It is, but having time with you two has made it so much more meaningful. Love and miss you both! Best to the Mariah, M/A, and the bun in the oven!!

  4. Roger Dunn

    Thank you for such a thoughtful, thought-provoking description of the pros and cons of your adventures.

    1. Jody Fraser

      Glad you enjoyed the post, Roger. It’s been a challenging, interesting, and super fun 7 months. Hope TomCat is still bringing you joy as well!

  5. Nan Adams

    You go deep Jody and make this blog so rich and real and interesting. And fun. Your beautiful heart and mind show up on the page and I can’t wait for more.

    1. Jody Fraser

      Awe thanks, Nan. There will certainly be more to come! XXOO

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