Everyone Needs a Hero or Two

We like Rockland, and as I was discussing with Alison today, we’ve met incredible people during our stay. There is a spirit of warmth, friendship, and generosity that overflows out of this town and is especially evident at crosswalks where vehicles come to a complete stop and the driver waves you over. Just absolutely amazing.

Maggie and I were just leaving the docks after running errands, hunting/gathering, dealing with laundry and securing propane when a couple waved me down from the boardwalk. “Hey, Sean!” He yelled, “Safe trip!” I waved back. “Thanks,” I said starting the outboard. Maggie shook her head at me. “See.” I smiled. “Friendly people here.”

“Yeah. Okay, Sean.” Maggie said adjusting the propane and laundry then shoving the bow off of another tender as 100 people standing in line to board a replica Viking ship stood above us on permanent overwatch.

A few days ago, I was walking towards the docks after an unsuccessful hunting/gathering trip from the local marine supply store. I was lost in thought, admiring the crumbling wharf that supported a local restaurant and thinking about weather windows south when I decided not to walk through the waterfront parking lot. I hopped a curb and slowly cruised the cement boardwalk appreciating the 10-foot tide when a couple unloading a car to my right caught my attention.

They were unloading a station wagon and had out of state plates. “Boat people,” I thought as I strolled by. Then my mind did a replay of who I was looking at. “NOooooooo.” I did a double take at the risk of being the creepy dude strolling by with a backpack. I saw Ben’s hair and recognized Teresa’s voice from a TED talk.

I still didn’t believe it until I saw their boat Rocinante, a beast of a Norseman 447 tied along a local restaurant pier. It was Ben Eriksen and Teresa Carey, people whose careers, advocacy, adventures, and lives I’ve followed for years via Facebook, their publications, and websites.

Several years ago, I was sitting in my classroom long after school hours had ended grading. I found myself gazing into the sunlit dust that spiraled around the room in the late afternoon light and decided that work was over. Needing a break, I zipped through a few YouTube videos about sailing and stopped at a short clip with two adventurous types on a Nor’sea 27. That was my first introduction to Teresa and Ben as they did some fine sailing. The next video, Teresa was offshore in Daphne, the Nor’sea 27 having engine problems talking about the sound of the waves hitting the hull. I recognized the look on her face and knew the emotions that came with being far away from home and needing a little help. The next video I clicked on was Teresa talking about living small, living simple and boat life. It was a philosophy that Alison and I had adopted 11 years ago when we moved aboard our first sailboat Doggie Paddle.

Since those first few YouTube video’s I’ve been an avid fan and admirer of their work and adventures. Their Facebook page Sailing, Simplicity, and the Pursuit of Happiness 
has over 12,000 followers, and they use it to promote their summer sail training excursions aboard the Rocinante and in general what they are into and up to.

They have been featured in numerous magazines, articles, blogs, and podcasts. One of my favorite podcasts that I discovered with Alison on a trip to Michigan is On the Wind at www.59-north.com. You can listen to Ben and Teresa on episode 122. You can also learn more about their sail training excursions athttp://www.windcheckmagazine.com/morse_alpha_sail_training_… .

Teresa is a Science writer and PBS journalist that has also contributed to Cruising World magazine. She has written and worked extensively on and about environmental issues and has contributed to Helloocean.org; an expedition research organization that works with NGO’s to study marine mammals and facilitate conservation efforts.

As if all of that wasn’t enough, they made a movie. A genuine Indian Jones (at sea) adventure that details life at sea on a small boat. In the film, they go north and see things that I’ve always wanted to see; to behold. The movie is a real film about life at sea and presents a perspective that lets others really understand the world, nature and our impact while tossing in a first class adventure.

You can check out their excellent award-winning (11 awards and counting) movie at http://simplequestionmovie.com/

I decided that I was going to meet Ben and Teresa, but they had vanished down a pier. “That’s easy,” I thought. They were clearly going to their boat with a few loads of provisions. I walked down a dock, ducked around the back of a restaurant and came to a gate that closed off the pier. It wasn’t a formidable obstacle, but it did represent a threshold into an area that I had not been invited. I looked up and saw Ben and Teresa walking away, down the dock and towards their big blue water beauty.

“Do I yell their names?” Then it hit me. “I didn’t actually know these people, and they had no idea who I was.” I was, in fact, that guy that saw them in a parking lot and in a sense followed them home. I know how I would react.

My wife and I have taught several thousand students between us. She was the teacher of the year for our county, and I spent some time as a director with our education association. For a time we were active, involved, political and I had my eye on the association presidency and higher aspirations. Then Eleanor was born, and life is just too short, so we changed directions, started really sailing in the summers and began our blog. Since the union and teacher of the year days, we’ve been semipublic people in our little county and understood what its like to meet people that know you, but you don’t know them; for all of the good, the bad and the ugly. I considered this as I watched two people that I’ve admired for years head towards their boat.

“Morse Alpha!” I yelled down the dock. It’s the name of their business. “What did I just do,” I asked myself. Ben and Teresa spun on their heels and looked at me. “Do we know you?” Teresa asked. “Great. Now what? What do you say at this point? A lady that gave a TED talk is asking if she knows me.

Let’s go with the truth. “Facebook,” I said. Then watched as they looked at each other.

“Okay!” Teresa said, come on down. “Hey grab those bags that are up there.” I hoisted a couple bags of provisions and met Ben on the ramp. “What’s your name again?” He asked smiling. “Oh yeah,” he said, “We’ve done some corresponding.”

Ben works on Tugboats in Baltimore, so I was expecting either a handshake or waking up in the ER. Thankfully Ben chose handshake.

I nervously chatted with Teresa and Ben for a few minutes on the dock. They were warm, kind, down to earth and easy going. They were provisioning for a trip, and there was a little fatigue behind their broad smiles. The pressure and stress that accompanies getting ready to get underway are significant, and I felt my intrusion as soon as I arrived. But none the less, they listened and asked questions as I stumbled and stuttered through our conversation.

I walked away from that encounter jazzed. Not only did the Baltimore tugboat guy not punch me, but I also got to meet the cool kids and take a picture.


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