Somewhere East of the Equator

Nothing cures writers block better than a day of skiing with sailing friends and finding out that Japan is east of the Equator.

Alvah ¿stretches his muscles and airs out his mind¿ on Mt. Baker, Washington.

Alvah ¿stretches his muscles and airs out his mind¿ on Mt. Baker, Washington.Courtesy Of Alvah Simon

I meant well this week, I really did. I had an article on sailing in Japan that was long overdue, and I swore to chain myself to this computer until I was dead, or it was done. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

No matter how long I stared at the computer, my muses remained mute. I chastised myself. "A welder can't press the back of his hand to his forehead and say, 'Boss, I just don't feel inspired today.' Welders weld. Writers write. Get to work." But the screen remained as blank as my mind.

I knew what the trouble was. I explained to Diana that the best thing I could do about my writers block was to go skiing. "You know, stretch the muscles and air out the mind." Inexplicably, she failed to follow my logic. But she knows me too well and recognized the futility in trying to dissuade me.

So, leaving Diana onboard the Roger Henry in the Poulsbo Marina, I set out for Anacortes, Washington, in an old wreck of a car to rendezvous with sailing friends, Cathy and Herve Burnel. Diana and I first met them in St. Petersburg, Florida, where we were preparing for an Arctic adventure, and they were fitting out their racing sloop for extended cruising. We next met in Puerto Rico, and then again in Annapolis, where they ran the Sun Charter Operations. Their switch to multi-hulls apparently only fed their need for speed. They relocated to Washington so that they could sail summers and ski winters. Somebody has to do it.

Cathy, Herve, and I had such a delightful day skiing Mt. Baker that I felt refreshed and rejuvenated. I thought, "Well, if one day of skiing can do this for me, imagine what a solid week of skiing with my family in Montana could do. Why, I might just write the great American novel!"

I e-mailed Diana with my brilliant new change of plan and set out from Anacortes at pre-dawn. By sunrise I was creeping along in a blinding blizzard at the top of Stevens Pass. That's when the clutch gave out, finally and forever. Many frustrating hours and hundreds of dollars later, a tow truck unloaded the car at the wreckers in Monroe, Washington. I rented a car, loaded all my gear and limped back to the boat in utter defeat.

The next morning that same blank screen taunted me. I decided I would at least do a little research on Japan. If you can't be artistic, at least be accurate. Two books I had differed on the number of islands that make up the entire Japanese archipelago. I went to a definitive source, the Internet.

Years ago I learned that there is energy in anger. I was driving across the country, it was late, I was tired, and the white lines began to blur. That is until Rush Limbaugh said on the radio, "Clear cutting reinvigorates a forest." I was good for another hundred miles.

I was only mildly irritated when Wikipedia gave yet a third island count, but when they authoritatively informed me that Japan lay "36 degrees east of the Equator" I almost spit out my coffee.

"This is sacred stuff to a sailor," I yelled, "the Equator, the Prime Meridian, degrees and minutes of arc, the Tropics of Capricorn and Cancer! East of the Equator? How can you get it THAT wrong?"

While I muttered in indignation, I found my fingers flying over the keyboard, memories of Japan now vivid before me. My words blew at 80 mph with gusts up to 110. I passed my allocated word count like a speed limit sign on a desert highway. Before I had cooled down, our entire Japanese experience was recorded in bits and bites. Diana and I edited the piece, selected photos, wrote captions, and created a sidebar of information. Then came any writer's magic moment - The End.

Unlike the writer James Kahn played in the movie Misery, I do not smoke. But there was a celebratory sip of adult beverage. If Hollywood can somehow get Krakatoa east of Java, and Wikipedia can get Japan east of the equator, then I think next week I will somehow get myself to Western Montana, east of the Great Divide.