Monday, December 23, 2013


by Ray Jason

It is Christmastime down here in the Banana Latitudes.  Far to the north in the Frenzied Latitudes, the shoppers are body-slamming each other with vigor and venom.  In a little Panamanian town square, I savor the sight of the Indio families in from the hills letting their children marvel at the lights and the decorations.  Compared to El Norte, it is all so calm and unhurried and moderate.  Surely gifts will be exchanged on the big day, but there is none of the fevered gluttony for stuff that soils the holidays in the First World.     
            As I leave the park to head back to AVENTURA, a faint, sweet music whispers from the little chapel across the street.  I cross over and answer its call.  It is a choir of children practicing Christmas carols.  The beauty and innocence on their faces is enough to inspire a Leonardo to reach for his canvas and brushes.  I am spellbound by the sound of these old English folk songs exquisitely rendered in Spanish.  Their last song is a playful version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”
            It is still joyously cascading in my head when I step back aboard my lovely sailboat.  Since eggnog is not available this close to the Equator, I improvise and combine some warm milk with some Bailey’s Irish Crème.  It keeps my festive joy simmering; and I settle in to ponder what “my true love might give to me.”


Tuesday, December 10, 2013


by Ray Jason

Sailing down the decades, my sweet little boat and I have witnessed some amazing meteor showers while alone at sea.  During those nights I always listen to Debussy’s lyrical masterpiece “Reverie,” while lying on my back and marveling at the falling stars.  And what makes it even more sublime is being the only human presence in that sector of the planet.  It reminds me of how utterly tiny Homo Sapiens is in the grand scheme of things.  Unfortunately, back on land the dominant perspective is just the opposite.  Humanity considers itself the Grand Actor in the center of the cosmic stage, and Nature is merely the backdrop.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


by Ray Jason

Time shimmers past differently for a long-distance sailor.  The daily markers that are so familiar in the real world do not exist out on the Wide Waters.  There is no breakfast with the family or racing off to school or leaving for work.  There is only the subtle curve of the horizon, the enveloping water, and the on-looking sky.  Occasionally a wild sea creature flies past or emerges from the depths, but mostly it is an immensity of space and an undulating flow of time. 
Thus, my decades as a sea gypsy have gently distorted my sense of how swiftly the years thunder by.  So I was totally blindsided last week when I realized that the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy was approaching.  That horror bludgeoned me in my youth.  It was the first time that I really had to deal with mortality.  That was my initial taste of the bitter randomness of death – of someone being vibrantly alive and then gone forever.  
Like so many other young people, I was inspired by JFK and hoped to one day follow his lead in sculpting a better world from the clay of our democracy’s political institutions.  My grief then was overwhelming and personal – my hero had been viciously gunned down.  But as the decades ebbed and flowed, my sense of loss widened and intensified.  Yes, I had lost a role model, but the planet had lost a visionary and a healer. 
What haunts me the most is that brilliant speech that he made before the United Nations when he offered the olive branch of Peace during one of the most incendiary stages of the Cold War.  When I watch that footage and see him accepting the applause from the General Assembly after he offers to lead a campaign for total world disarmament, a heart-breaking realization assaults me.  He already knew!  There is a nobility and resignation in his body language that seems to imply a foreknowledge that the bullets had already left the guns and were headed his way.  He probably understood that by speaking those peace-seeking words, he was signing his own death warrant.   But he spoke them anyway - boldly and poetically - because he knew that sometimes Right must defy Might.

Friday, November 8, 2013


by Ray Jason

There is no calendar aboard AVENTURA, and I often lose track of what day it is.  Actually, down here - south of many borders - the seasons are so similar to each other, that I often lose track of what month it is!  But I always know when it is Sunday.  That’s because a veritable armada of cayucos will stream by my boat on their way to church.
A few weeks ago one passed very close, and as always, I waved with neighborly enthusiasm.  Seven or eight of the kids waved back just as vigorously.  But there was one young, teen-aged girl who responded differently.  Apparently she had never been so close to one of these sailing boats, and she studied it carefully.  I watched her gaze drift from bow to stern and then from the waterline to the top of the mast.  Then she noticed my boat’s name which is the Spanish word for “adventure.”          
With the cayuco only 10 feet away, I delighted in seeing her happy smile as visions of travel, freedom and exotic elsewhere’s danced in her head.  But swiftly her face changed, and I witnessed something that a man in his Middle Years never wishes to see in the eyes of someone so young.  As she looked directly up at me, I watched as her youthful joy was suffocated by despair.  There was surrender in that look - the realization that her dreams for a life that could cross over the borders of her birth, might never be achieved.  
This experience touched me so deeply that I created this little story, which tries to depict what she is experiencing at this threshold moment in her life.  And even if this tale is not accurate in the case of this young woman, it surely is for someone else her age – and probably for many, many others out there who also feel caged by the circumstances of their birth.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013


by Ray Jason

      We were still … and we were solitary.  The wind had been mute for two days.  Our only companions were our brethren in the sea and the sky.  No other human presence disturbed this deep blue mirror, stretching to the horizon.   AVENTURA and I were becalmed but content.      
            I rigged a shade awning and went below for a chilled drink.  My tiny refrigerator is powered by a solar panel.  A cold young coconut was awaiting me.  I opened it with my machete, inserted a straw and savored it beneath the awning.  My back rested against the mast and my thoughts drifted as aimlessly and contentedly as my boat.  Gradually, the word “contentment” inspired a meditation on what I consider one of the great curses of the modern world … Stuff. 


Wednesday, October 16, 2013


by Ray Jason

An ordinary sunset was about to turn extraordinary.  AVENTURA was resting between voyages - way down south in the Banana Latitudes.  We were anchored in a cove so serene that the birds seemed to fly at half speed in order to preserve the tranquility.
            A native cayuco slowly emerged from behind one of the islands that frame this tiny bay.   A man and a woman were gently rowing their dugout canoe through the pale, peach-glazed water.  When they swung their bow around and faced the west, I recognized the young couple.  They had stopped by yesterday and traded a freshly-caught fish for some cooking oil.
            They stowed their oars in the cayuco and drifted about 30 yards off my starboard side.  She leaned her back against his chest and his chin cradled the top of her head.  Although the twilight panorama that we were savoring was only mediocre, I suspect that their contentment was as transcendent as mine.
            Suddenly, this exquisite peacefulness was destroyed by the roar of an outboard engine as a shiny American powerboat came blasting through our little sanctuary.   Two overweight guys laughed drunkenly as they watched their wake nearly capsize the little native canoe.  I looked over at my neighbors and shook my head in disgust.  They responded with body language that said, “Sad, sad, sad.”   

Monday, September 30, 2013


by Ray Jason

Deep ocean full moon
It has been 23 years since a mystical experience jolted my consciousness.  But the memory of that event remains so vivid, that it could have been only 23 seconds ago.  AVENTURA and I were Westbound in the immense Pacific.  There was no land within a thousand miles in any direction. 
Several dolphins had surrounded us, but they were behaving in a strange manner.  Instead of frolicking in the bow wave as they normally do, they were repeatedly circling from bow to stern.  I tried to decipher this, and guessed that they were pointing out the majestic full moon looming directly ahead.  Or perhaps they were agitated by the

Sunday, September 22, 2013


by Ray Jason

The chicken is in the cayuco
         My new neighbors seem to like me.  This is quite lovely - because they are dolphins.  And it is even more wondrous because they are a mother and her child.  Today is the fourth morning in a row that they swam a lazy circle around my boat. 
Each day I greet the sunrise with an enthusiastic blast from my conch shell.  It connects me with my post-civilized, feral self.  It also seems to amuse the nearby creatures of the sea and the sky.  No people are disturbed, because I am the only human animal in the vicinity.  More importantly, it attracts the mom and her baby dolphin.  They arrive just after I serenade the sun with my tribal horn.
Yesterday, the little Indio boy who sells me fresh coconuts from his tiny cayuco, also brought along a live chicken.  Although he offered her at a good price, I declined.  But I did buy some of her eggs.  Their yolks are so intensely

Monday, September 9, 2013


by Ray Jason

The Sea was mild and soothing as I sailed alone in the western reaches of the Caribbean.  It had been four days since my last human contact.  Such exile does not disturb me - it comforts me.  The wind was light, and the waves were small and melodious - like the cello phrase in a string quartet.
          Although quite relaxed, I was also vigilant, because my position was near the busy shipping lanes between the Panama Canal and the Yucatan Channel.  Suddenly, I sensed a nearby hazard.  My first scan of the horizon revealed nothing.  On my second, more careful sweep, I saw her – a gray smudge of a ship, still half below the undulating cusp of the Earth.  I took my binoculars from their rack and focused them.  What I saw slammed me backwards - both physically and emotionally.   She was one of them – a gray, military transport vessel that was all too familiar to me.  I had served aboard one - a U.S. Navy ammunition ship in Vietnam.

Thursday, August 29, 2013


by Ray Jason

          My Sea Gypsy Tribe essays, which outline my unusual strategy for dealing with the possibility of a major societal Collapse, have now been orbiting the Blogosphere long enough to generate considerable discussion.  These articles have been republished by at least four influential websites.  The debate in the “comments” sections has been undeniably “lively.”  In this article, I will address the two main objections that were raised. But before doing so, I can happily report that nobody exposed a flaw significant enough to lessen my belief in the merit and achievability of my concept.


     It was quite amusing to observe that almost all of the comments about the threat of piracy were from landsmen.  Those of us out here in the cruising fleet do not even lose nanoseconds of sleep worrying about this supposed danger.  This is not because we are devil-may-care adventurers who laugh at fear, but because we understand how TINY this threat actually is.  You have a much greater chance of being killed by a golf ball while walking your dog near a country club, than by getting fed to the sharks by buccaneers.     

Thursday, August 15, 2013


by Ray Jason

     It was a subtle, delicate, watercolor sunset.  The sky was not ablaze with vivid reds and oranges battling for attention, but was a serene panorama of gentle saffron and peach.  I was seated on AVENTURA’s cabin top with my back against the mast, drinking what I call Tarzan Tea.  It is the water of a young coconut which I have just opened with my machete.  My notepad and pen are within arm’s reach as I settle in for the last stage of my IMMERSION TIME.

Thursday, August 1, 2013


Hello Chris,
            For many years I have admired the powerful brilliance of your thinking and writing.  But for me, what is even more remarkable is the way that you have sculpted such a principled and incorruptible life.  So I am writing to express my heartfelt gratitude.   
And there is an additional reason for my letter.  It is to suggest a less painful way that you can continue to press your campaign for a world of justice, peace, equality and happiness. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013


by Ray Jason

Dinghies at rest as the tribe holds a council?
In my last essay, I proposed an unusual response to the possibility of global societal collapse that previously has not been suggested.  My core message was summed up in these 30 words:
            “I believe that if there is a near extinction catastrophe, a sea gypsy tribe has the best chance of both surviving and replenishing the human population in the wisest manner.”

Saturday, July 6, 2013


by Ray Jason

         A fine sunset is beginning to pastel the sky.  I am seated on AVENTURA’S cabin top watching a great blue heron standing motionless in the twilight shadows, patiently awaiting its dinner.  The melancholy is heavy on me tonight.  These pristine, quiet, un-peopled places do that to me. 
My sweet, strong sailboat and I have been together for over a quarter of a century.  While aimlessly meandering amidst some fond memories of our decades together, I am suddenly jolted by an unpleasant realization.  It is all so profoundly different now. When we first sailed together, she was just a sea-going magic carpet, transporting me to far-away lands, plush with exotic creatures and cultures.  But now she has also become a survival pod, protecting me from the possibility of societal collapse.

Sunday, June 2, 2013


by Ray Jason

       I am rowing home to my boat, which is anchored in a beautiful, isolated cove near Key West.  Suddenly, the solitude and peacefulness is shattered by the sound of two military jets shrieking back towards the nearby airbase.
As I cover my ears and look scornfully towards them, a sport fishing boat comes blasting out of the mangroves with 500 horsepower ensnared in its outboard motors.  I wonder to myself if the fish that they will catch in their $100,000 boat will taste any better than the one that I just speared from my little rowboat.
When they pass beside me and see me covering my ears, they holler over to me, “That’s the sound of freedom.”  I nod noncommittally.  For the remainder of the day my mind could not stop thinking about what I wish I could have said to them.  If only we could have shared a beer and some grilled fish and some open-mindedness, I would have tried to give them a different perspective on the true essence of that sound.

Saturday, June 1, 2013


by Ray Jason        

          I am lying on my back on the deck of my sailboat in the far reaches of the Pacific Ocean.  It is night and the sky is plush with stars.  I am alone … and in voluntary exile from humanity – immersed in an elemental realm of sea and sky and wind and wave.
Such timeless immensity inspires reflection; and suddenly with shooting star swiftness, I realize that seeking to understand “The Big Picture” does not probe deeply enough.  Instead, we must try to comprehend “The Vast Picture.”