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The Law of Unintended Consequences

The Law of Unintended Consequences

In June, 2001, I published my first article in the Stowe Reporter. It was about, as the estimable Biddle Duke (owner and publisher of the Reporter at the time) wrote, a guy who “runs and owns an inn in Stowe with his wife Chantal, but he drives a FedEx truck to make ends meet.” Here’s the first passage of the article, which was part of a regular column called InnSights:

It was one of those fat Vermont mornings that makes you wonder what clocks are for Dollops of mist hung in lacquered sheets over Cady Hill and the promise of rain, spring rain, soft and cool and sweet, stung the air. These are what I call the coffee commercial times, when I fill my mug, take a deep whiff of bean vapor, and check to see if Juan Valdez is hiding around the next corner.

I was reminded of that writing recently as I gazed out the window of my brother’s B&B in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, sipping my coffee, reflecting. The similarities between then and now were not lost on me; neither, however, were the differences. Yes, I was working, serving, and living; but I was now doing so not for myself, but to help someone else in need.

Or was I? In sailing it is said that Murphy—the Murphy of Murphy’s Law—is always busy. Regular readers of my Ship’s Log updates know that I refer to that mayhem as Klingons: the irascible, unpredictable, mercurial race constantly interfering with the operations of the Starfleet starship USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-D). But it may be that Murphy and Klingons are only a perception, a way of interpreting the world. What if the way to deal with them is to accept them and view things from a different perspective?

We left Grenada with heavy hearts; our sailing forays were moving forward, and we wanted to get off the mooring ball and begin traveling—maybe up to Carriacou, maybe beyond. But there was this thing that kept nagging at us, this thing that would not go away: Covid.

Grenada dodged Covid better than most: as of the middle of August there had only been 180 cases on this island of 105,000 people, and only one death. That all changed with an outbreak in mid-August that infected 14 people. There are now over 1,400 confirmed cases and 12 deaths. The island is essentially on lock-down, with a 5 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday curfew, as well as an overnight curfew. Sailors are to remain on their boats and not visit each other, and they are only allowed ashore from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. on the beach for exercise, or to go to the store by appointment. In other words, Klingons.

And that does not include the aggravation of hurricanes. While Grenada misses most direct hits due to its location, there are still plenty of tropical waves that make it through. Earlier we endured a wave that eventually became Hurricane Ida. Our friend Kris, who is looking after Camino while we are away, said that winds gusted to 47 knots the other night as a tropical wave passed by.

So the fact that we find ourselves in another paradise—one less affected by weather and viruses—seems like an unintended consequence, because we did not plan it this way. Would we still be on our boat, bobbing in Woburn Bay, hunkered down with other sailors if not for these circumstances? Probably. We would at least be more motivated to buck up our courage and set off for someplace else, even though that would involve a lot of administrative aggravation and not inconsiderable monies.

There are always upsides to these situations, and they are still unfolding for us. The most important is our family and our ability to support them through a difficult time. The closeness and love we feel is real and regenerative. Another upside is a sailing opportunity that presented itself, and if all goes well, we will be sailing at least down to Florida, gaining some valuable offshore experience in varied conditions.

We have learned a lot about caminos. We have learned not to “analyze the fuck” out of everything all the time, reducing it to entries on a spreadsheet, or risks versus rewards. We have instead tried to listen to vibrations of the world around us; in the words of a wise person, we dance.

When the band began to play and play.

And we danced

like a wave on the ocean, romanced We were liars in love and we danced Swept away for a moment by chance And we danced and danced danced.

--The Hooters

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