Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Our Year in Review

Sun Setting on the Holy Mountain

The last day of the year is here. I tend to always reflect on what I've accomplished and where I may have side stepped progress. It helps me frame my mind set for the year to come. I am a goal-oriented person and I feel lost if I do not have some objective set for myself, something to strive for.  By looking back, I can gaze forward and see what needs to be done. 

It's been a remarkable year in the world. The Ukrainian revolution is particularly poignant to me as I am of Ukrainian-American descent. There will be much written about 2013.  So here is the story of us.  

Saturday, December 21, 2013

We've made it out of the darkness and into the light...Happy Winter Solstice!

I wait for this day every year. For months, it has been getting darker, and noticeably accelerating. For a writer, this is not a terrible thing, as it means there are fewer distractions. I do not feel compelled to go outside after say 1530 when the sun has already sunk behind the hills and the loss of daylight is looming shortly.

Last year, for the first time, I suffered a bout of depression through this period. All through the Fall I felt myself sinking into a depth from which it felt increasingly difficult to crawl out. This year, a whole different sense was about me. I started looking forward to Christmas and the Winter Solstice knowing that it was the turning point to another exciting year -- a year of promise and hope of accomplishments in business and adventures in sailing.

Then I realized that something even bigger was happening. I realized that not only had I crawled out of the hole, I had scaled a mountain.  I found light and an understanding in the pagan sense that one must experience the darkness to appreciate the light. Long ago, my mantra had been that one has to experience the worst to appreciate the best. Somewhere along the way I had lost that sense, that grounding. Now I have found it again.

Winter is coming and there will soon be a grand stretch to the day. Here's to the joy of celebrating light, and a lightness of being.

Stonehenge and Achill-henge, places of ancient and contemporary spirituality. 

And here's to our friends sailing in the southern hemisphere, where summer is just beginning.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Why did the sailor cross the ocean? To get to other side of course!

Or not. 

I am a proud member of the Ocean Cruising Club, and have been drafted onto the Committee. As part of my responsibilities, I have taken on the very first PR Officer role, have become the head of the Communications Subcommittee, joined the Website subcommittee as a contributing member and co-chair the Awards Committee. Phew. 

That last aspect, the Awards, has gotten me to thinking. Lots of people sail. Far more cross oceans than ever before. It's not enough today to circumnavigate the world the way Joshua Slocum or even Moitessier did. Today, to stand out as worthy of an award, one must really do something extraordinary.

Last year's most extraordinary award recipients included Matt Rutherford. He crossed the Atlantic first because he felt driven to get to the other side.  He rode his bicycle across Southeast Asia before that.  Then he learned about sailing, so he bought a boat and crossed the Atlantic. He learned that CRAB needed funding so he then circumnavigated the Americas. No small feat. In an old 27-foot boat. He is one amazing person.

Are we pushing ourselves too far or is this just human nature to always push farther to find out what's on the other side?

Due to a bizarre set of unrelated accidents, I discovered a truly inspiring "three dimensional sailor", an astronaut by the name of Chris Hadley, just yesterday.  It was a convergence of events that reinvigorated my soul. Space rock star, teacher extraordinaire, galactic photographer, and ordinary dad. Chris Hadley is my new hero. Especially since I really wanted to be an astronaut but was told on investigating application that I was too short!

It will be interesting to see who the recipients of the OCC Awards are this year. Best of all, it is most interesting to read the stories of all the nominees. We are in the company of heroes. We are in the company of extraordinary people.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Crowdsourced review of satellite images can help rescue the schooner Nina

There is a fascinating story of the attempts of family and friends of the people lost aboard the schooner Nina to locate her using satellite imagery.  They have secured assistance from many places including a service called Tomnod to crowdsource review of the millions of square miles of ocean represented in the images.  They have 13,000 volunteers reviewing the images and tagging potential ships, liferafts and other objects.  The idea is that if enough people tag an item, they can then look at it more carefully to determine if it could be the Nina.

It's a fascinating development in Search and Rescue technology.  The thought that satellites can help locate missing vessels is certainly intriguing. The point made in the article that if the SAR includes satellite imagery in the vicinity of a distress call, it could make a huge difference in located the vessel in distress in a hurry without putting rescuers in danger.

This is amazing!  I've signed up. Give it a whirl if you have a few minutes of time to spare. You just might be saving a life.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Black Friday leaps across the Atlantic

Black Friday, traditionally the biggest shopping day in the US which marks the beginning of the Christmas "shopping season", has now crossed over the Atlantic wreaking havoc across Northern Ireland. Shoppers queued from 5 am at stores in anticipation of the bargains announced for the day. The stampedes caused at least one shopper injury and spread fear among the workers in the shoppes.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Achill-henge, a monument to the Celtic Tiger, continues to roar

Stonehenge and Achill-henge. Image (c) by Alex Blackwell.

Two years ago, Joe McNamara, one time developer and native of Achill, Ireland's largest island, frustrated by the rise and fall of Ireland's economy known as the Celtic Tiger, launched a mysterious plot. By the light of the moon on a cold Friday 25 November 2011, 30 trucks arrived on Achill carrying loads of concrete and building materials. They carried the materials up the hills onto commonage lands high above the village of Pollagh, obscured from direct view from roads and homes. By Sunday evening, under the cover of darkness, they had constructed a structure soon after dubbed Achill-henge.
Walking up the muddy road
soon after the construction.