Among my Christmas emails was one titled "9 years and not counting."
It was from Wendy Kall, wife of my husband's lifelong friend Dave Kall, a 1970 graduate of Davenport Central High School.
Until nine years ago, Dave and Wendy worked for a Florida public school system, he as a teacher and she as a counselor. When they qualified for retirement, they decided to follow a long-held dream to set sail and explore the world.
They presently are in New Zealand, where they have permission to stay for two years. They began their journey in Florida, sailing the Caribbean, traveling down the coast of Central America, making their way through the Panama Canal and, island by island, sailing to New Zealand in a 44-foot sailboat named Elysium.
Wendy's emails, Dave's online blogs and their stories told in person during periodic visits back to the Quad-Cities leave me slack-jawed.
When the two are in port, a portion of their time is spent doing chores much as they would do on land — laundry, cleaning, buying and making food, reading, listening to podcasts.
Other time is spent exploring and experiencing the places in which they find themselves.
In Fiji, for example, Dave taught in a local school that was just introducing science as a subject. He gave instruction in the scientific method — how to construct a hypothesis, test it with an experiment, analyze the results and draw a conclusion.
In another place, they helped rebuild a school destroyed by a hurricane.
Wendy's emails share their observations.
"Into our 9th year of cruising now, we have visited countries and cultures different from our own," she writes. "I have found myself out of my comfort zone more times than I can count! Comfort zones are seductive, and 'bubbilicious.'
"Yet having experiences out of my comfort zone renews energy, offers new perspective and expands my world view."
The Kalls also report finding common ground with people they meet, both natives of the countries they visit and other "cruisers."
"There are things that divide us for sure, but so many more things that bring us together," Wendy writes.
Amid the accounts of exploration and reflection, there also are those that speak to the dangers they face. There are just two of them, after all, so what if there is an accident or health issue and one becomes incapacitated?
The open sea still has its pirates — people with real guns who might want to rob a lone boat.
There is a need to avoid sailing too near countries whose politics are openly hostile toward the United States, lest they encounter hostilities themselves.
And always there is the ocean itself. Getting from one place to another on the high seas requires courage, brains, planning, hard work and a dependable boat.
The trip from Fiji to a northern island of New Zealand, for example, took 11 days with total mileage of roughly 1,000 nautical miles.
There were a few periods of calm, but "the rest of the time we were clawing our way southward with relentless southerly swells, along with many other cross swells," Wendy writes.
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"Bashing to windward is noisy, rough, raucous, and scary at times. When we come off a wave, sometimes there are small bangs or big bangs and if a wave hits in a particular spot, loud pops causing some consternation. At one time, we heard a 'different' noise and identified it when we found one of the controls from the stove had flown off and landed on the floor about three meters away!
"Offshore passages require a 24-hour watch, and with just two of us that means sleep deprivation will occur, the challenge being to stay as rested as possible in case both people are needed to attend to something. When those moments happen, they don't sneak up but roar loudly.
"Our watch schedule at night is three hours on, three hours off, then two on, two or so off. "
And there is beauty.
"We experienced a full moon, or near full, the entire passage," Wendy writes. "It lifted my spirits. It is important to keep up the spirits and not become too dispirited, for instance, screaming, 'Will we ever get there?!'"
I learn a lot reading Wendy's emails. There's a lot to think about, too.
The way she concludes her emails always makes me stop.
"No hurries, no worries."