Nicknames are given to you by friends, family, and foe for a myriad of reasons. Some are based on character references while others have a personal significance to the givers of said nicknames. Some are meant as a sarcastic satirical view of the aptly named subject while some are logical and to-the-point.
My nickname, picked by my father, is Shanbeh. It literally means “Saturday”. I was born on Shanbeh, February 17th 1979. I adore this nickname because it was always said with loving exclamation.
“Shanbeh, tell me a joke!”
“Shanbeh, want to go for a drive?”
“Shanbeh, let’s go eat!”
“Shanbeh, no matter where you go, the sky will be blue.”
Moments in life are importantly significant and that concept isn’t truly grasped until much later when they are recognized as fleeting. Much of life is spent in the hunt for recreation of perfect moments. They carve out bits of our personalities and, whether we like it or not, become an integral part of our nature. I have been fortunate that my nickname was followed by wholly significant moments that my sentimental self cherished since childhood as if I knew that none of it was permanent.
A night time drive in the back of Dad’s pick up truck, a watermelon cooling down in an icy creek, a farewell with a simple uttered sentence that changed my life, a meal in India, an introduction to an additional fatherly figure, acceptance to a job, a helmet, winning a marriage, a motorcycle ride with a new friend – these are all but few tiny moments in nearly 15,000 days of existence with the innate knowledge that there will be more, so long as there is a willingness to continue and experience; something new, something different, and maybe something similar in the spirit of the constantly evolving spirit.
And just like that, a new experience was presented to me with the promise of a few moments of clarity, adventure, and exploration. Mind you, no one can promise such things and if they do, they are trying to sell you something. But I’ve been around this rock a few times and can recognize a self proclaimed promise of a good time to be had.
My best friend and comrade completely changed the course of his life and got rid of most of his earthly belongings in lieu of a life on the deep blue seas of the world aboard a sailing vessel. His floating fortress of choice: a Lagoon 42. A beautiful and highly useful 42’ long dual-hull catamaran sailboat that makes the world a waterfront property with continuously changing scenery and seemingly endless servings of sunrises, sunsets, and stars as far as the eyes can see at night. I was offered the opportunity to help sail this mighty vessel, from the lower Caribbean to South Florida.
A new career path and the hardships that it brought along were a major roadblock to the privilege of hopping on a plane from the rainy and cold Pacific Northwest winter to sunny warm Caribbean weather. It’s not fair to leave the person who’s carrying the household behind with intentions of sun, water and seabreeze. Alas, yet again, she held my soul in her heart and wished me farewell so that I would help a friend, feel the breeze, and clear my head of the funk that fear and uncertainty of a new chapter had brought along. I miss the younger self who was too naive to know fear in uncertainty. I miss the younger self who didn’t worry about the pain and just forged forward. Older, wiser self has learned a lot of lessons but has slowed down a tad because broken bones and broken souls take longer to heal as we age.
We’ll always be OK, she insists when I’m clouded with dark inadequacy of spirit and gusto and she knows that if she just pushes me a little more, I’ll spring right back into action. She always reminds me of this no matter how dire or scary the situation.
“Go and experience something new and reset your head. What good are you, to yourself, depressed and full of doubt? This will do you, and us, more good than not and I know that you’ll come back with a new perspective.” My Valentine, sweet Ann, even neck deep in her own worries always pushes me out of certain drowning first. I always pull her along with me. Maybe that’s what she means when she reminds me: If you win, I win. It’s hard to not well up like an overflowing fountain when I think of her and her sheer strength and perseverance towards our household.
So, off I went to experience a new thing: Sailing. I had previously spent a total of 3 or 4 hours on sailboats and had zero notion of what lay ahead in the deep blue of the Caribbean and the mighty Atlantic. After a flight to Ft. Lauderdale, where I had dinner with my mother, I set off to Puerto Rico – the forgotten project car of USA that had just enough work done to it to get the engine kinda-sorta running but was set aside because the roof leaks and and the tires are bald and in need of repair. A beautiful land that was taken just to cast aside and be forgotten like many things an entitled child has taken without repercussion. From San Juan, I jumped aboard an old but functioning SAAB twin prop by the friendly Silver Airways and flew over the islands of the Caribbean to our destination of Dominica: a land of many waterfalls, rivers, jungles and sweet beautiful people. A one hour long, conversation filled, taxi ride through the narrow and switchback filled mountain road took us to the town of Portsmouth where my home for the next 2 weeks awaited me.
Sailing Vessel Sabado.
Funny thing about nicknames and their meanings to the giver and receiver. Captain Ray, owner and main resident of Sabado has always had a mantra to help him through life: Every Day Is Saturday. Every day spent on Sabado is Saturday and now I was to be onboard this beautiful shining white craft that sat, moored, in the crystal clear bay of Portsmouth, Dominica. Shanbeh on Sabado – Saturday on Saturday. This thought didn’t truly dawn on me until the flight out of Puerto Rico – as if I was somehow MEANT to be on this boat with my best friend and experience something new. The thrill of new experiences has always been the driving force of so many decisions throughout life and there I was, aboard a giant sailing vessel that was named as I once was: with love and hope for the future.
What to expect when given the opportunity to be a crew member on a sailboat: Nothing. Stop psyching yourself up because that’s likely going to be the cause of your sea-sickness. Much like any new experience, I find it best to just dive in, head first, and trust the people who have experience and are leading you through the ordeal. The other crew on Sabado were a duo that I will never forget as I grew so fond of them within hours of the initial meeting: Captain RJ and his lovely fiance Jenna. If you are the type that judges a book by its cover, you may assume that he’s a flat-billed baseball cap wearing jock and she is a pumpkin spice latte sipper who thinks that ambition is writing poetry at sunset.
He is an established business person and she is a world traveler and they are both rock-steady at life’s many challenges and chose a life on sea because it takes a strong, self sufficient person to sail a boat, feel the winds, know the current and still be able to prepare and eat dinner at 6pm while the ocean rises and falls just steps away from the deck. Their physical stamina, flexible personality and unwavering trust in one-another made me relax, immediately, on this very alien craft. A 42 foot long boat shrinks down to a speck of dust on the seemingly eternal blue waters of the ocean. Trust in the hierarchy of the crew makes for a very easy passage, regardless of what may come, because everyone has their duties and checks on each other continuously to ensure a safe passage. It really is a matter of life and death.
Back to the real star of this adventure: Sabado. The “Every day is Saturday” idea personified by a seemingly alive object that has so much attitude, personality, and a happy humming song that comes from her very center when the wind is just right. You can’t just set a sailboat up on a course and walk away – not for long periods. You and the vessel are in constant debate over wind speed, wind angle, which sails to use and how much line to feed, or take away, to help her with that happy song that she loves to sing. It takes a practiced and patient person with a sense of urgency to keep the boat happy. A happy boat is a happy place to live and an unhappy boat is choppy and begging for your attention, so look alive!
The four of us split our duties at the helm by 3 hour increments which promised a chance to see a sunset, a sunrise, and everything in between. Bioluminescent algae that sparkle in the water like the vivid stars that are overhead anytime the boat crashes into a wave. The Milky Way, bright and in high definition, overhead, made me wonder about the skills and abilities of sailors past who didn’t have digital GPS and AIS systems that kept things as safe as electronically possible. Fresh caught Kingfish that could feed an army of sailors, so hearty that it kept intact while being slowly poached in a rich curry being cooked over the opal blue waters of the southern Atlantic, 26,000 feet deep below our floating sailboat that suddenly felt like a tiny dinghy with 4 souls onboard. The moments spent, alone, at the helm are forever cherished in this writer’s head as times of peace and self discovery shared with a sailing vessel that has a name in common with me. Saturday on Saturday wasn’t about helping a friend in need or moving an object around the world. It was about gaining perspective on the size of this world and our ability to connect, personally and emotionally, with our surroundings. It’s about learning that no matter where you go, the sky truly is blue. We have so much in common in these distant lands and Sabado afforded us the opportunity to connect the dots and shrink the world a little bit more, 7 knots at a time, quietly and deliberately carving a path through the blue waters and the neurons that can seem so confusing inside of our own heads.
The truth is that it doesn’t need to be a sailboat or a motorcycle or an airplane. Get out there, somehow, and step out of the perceived comfort of your home – be that a house, a city, or a State – and talk to a stranger. They might teach you a thing or two by reminding you how similar we all are. You may receive a new nickname and create a new moment that will, undoubtedly, fleet away and make space for another one if you so choose to accept it and move forward.
I, for one, can’t wait to see what’s next.
Thank you to Ann, Ray, RJ, and Jenna for making this incredible experience possible. I can’t wait to get back on Sabado.