Sacrificial Mettle

To prevent galvanic corrosion, boat owners strategically install “zincs” between proximate metals, objects that share the same saltwater (electrolyte) space.  Zinc metal is used because it more readily gives up its electrons (anode) than most other, more stable metals (cathode) such as bronze and stainless steel, metals which are prevalent underwater on boats.  Zincs thus protect bronze from being depleted by stainless, and one type of stainless from another type.  In this arrangement, zinc is what is commonly referred to as a sacrificial metal.  Over the past two years, the notion of “sacrifice” has often come up in conversations.  More recently, my mother-in-law suggested I ask too much of Leslie and the boys: the hardship, the lack of convenience, and time away from family and friends.

Exclusionary Sacrifice: Last week, Dina Pielaet, our media partner, interviewing me for our future YouTube channel, asked me to describe the sacrifices we’ve endured in preparation for our adventure.  As I spoke, my words seemed hollow, almost winey. “Well, to save for the trip we didn’t travel as much, we didn’t visit our friends in Europe or my brother in Australia.  I didn’t join Leslie and the boys on their extended visits with friends and family. We didn’t purchase fancy new cars, or RV’s, or vacation homes, . . . .”  On reflection, I rarely, if ever, missed a family event, and did pretty much what I wanted.  We had everything we needed and most of what we desired: nice house in a nice neighborhood close to work, great job with great benefits, good public schools and multiple after-school activities (sports, music, scouting), dependable transportation, scheduled professional house maintenance, frequent entertainment (dinners, movies, plays, operas, concerts, museums), and we vacationed in Hawaii, Tahoe, Palm Springs, and the San Francisco Bay Area. What, then, did we really give up?  This type of sacrifice is more about choice than about living without. We experienced the stresses and strains that come with living dense and full lives.

Choice being one of two truly owned ‘possessions’ (attitude being the other), when making a choice, the options not selected become the sacrifice.  Picking rocky-road over any other flavor  sacrifices the other 30 ice cream flavors.  In short, the sacrifices I’ve experience before moving from Los Angeles have been that of exclusion, the things I didn’t experience as a result of the choices I made, a result of my preferences.  Selecting one experience minimizes or excludes my ability to experience other compelling options.  After career, family, health, and working toward the goal of our trip; there was little time left to develop friendships or volunteer as I would have wanted, had I the time.  But I made choices, and in the big picture, I liked what I picked.  The demands surrounding our adventure minimized my time with friends and my ability to volunteer with the boys’ activities.  These were my sacrifices up until the time we moved from Los Angeles.  Now moved aboard Kandu, we are giving up everyday comfort and conveniences in exchange for a constant state of disrepair in a cramped space with few conveniences.

Transformational Sacrifice:  Leaving our home of 16 years, parting with possessions long-owned, and packing the more sentimental ones was a monumental effort, both physical and emotional.  Uprooting Bryce and Trent from their routines and dropping them into new circumstances of school, nomadic housing situations (not knowing where we could live or for how long), and relationships was dramatic; more so for Leslie than for the boys.  Parting from her hard-earned dream career having performed 12 years with Los Angeles Opera, including a coveted role in an upcoming regional opera, was heart-breaking for Leslie.  Seeing the toll it was taking on Leslie was difficult for me.  I tried to find the silver lining.  Leslie and the boys made terrific new friends and she enrolled the boys in wonderful activities in Ventura.  Bryce had his picture in the paper within the first month and earned a lead in a professional Christmas Spectacular.  Trent loved his new teacher and school, and made several friends, the best friends he ever had.  Acclimating helped a lot, but did not solve the problem.  Leslie wanted to be “going.”  Every month we were delayed upset her.  She gave up a lot to go, and go she wanted.  But as she also states, the moving, the letting go, the adjustment to boat life are all part of the journey.  “Although we haven’t left Ventura, our adventure has truly started.”

The sacrifice associated with the transition phase, leaving land life and preparing our boat for a five-year nomadic life at sea and aboard, is likely the hardest part of the entire journey–super-strength sacrifice.  We’re gambling that once the boat is ready and we’re sailing, the intended benefits will infuse our lives, making all the work and frustration worth it. Still, along the way of transition, we’ve been blessed.  The boys have been active in surfing, Ripstick and skateboarding, basketball, Kendama play, choir, wood shop, clarinet lessons, and performing on stage.   We’ve been blessed to spend time with friends in Ventura we’ve known previously and with the friends recently made.  We’ve been blessed by the generous help and advice offered by well-traveled live-aboard neighbors (other people who live on their boats in the marina), several who have sailed long distances for many years, including one couple who has sailed around the world a couple times.  The many problems I’ve been forced to solve has taught me much about our boat, and what is needed to maintain our lifestyle.  It has built a foundation of knowledge that brings with it a greater confidence. In eighth-grade metal shop I learned that when steel is heated to a near melting red-hot temperature, then dipped into carbon powder before being plunged into a cool water bath that sizzles and crackles with the dramatic temperature change, the process creates hardened steel, capable of doing more than it could have prior to exposure to extremes–the metal was transformed into something greater than its origins.  In large part, I feel the same is occurring for us.

Sacrifice of Proximity:  Postponing our trip has allowed us to experience some important family events.  These past two weeks afforded multiple opportunities to participate in important family events: a rare reunion with my three brothers and our families with our dad; a cousin’s wedding with friends and family from around the world; the engagement announcement by my youngest and closest brother; and the loss of a friend to cancer.  Had we left on the Baja Ha-ha rally as planned, we would have missed these events.  Appreciating our circumstance, we relished more intensely the experiences.  The culmination of these family events makes clear all that will be missed when we leave.  I’ll miss several weddings of people important to me.  I’ll miss annual holiday gatherings with family, birthday celebrations and graduations.  I’ll miss hearing the details about the joys and sorrows of friends and family. Their triumphs and tragedies will be bullet points in an email or text.   I won’t be there to share remembrances of those close to me who will pass on.  Absence will be our sacrifice each week we’re away, the flavors we will not savor.  But what of the flavors we will enjoy; the weddings and birthdays and holidays we will celebrate with new life long friends, remarkable people from around the world; building an intense family bond with our sons, imparting confidence and skills and memories to last a lifetime.  We’re temporarily trading experiences with those who have been geographically close to us for many years for those persons and families who will be close to us as we travel–relationships of proximity.  The shared adventure, the daily delving into foreign realms, the bond with nature, and so much more; these are the flavors we will taste as we sacrifice our ability to share experiences with our California family and friends . . . absent not forever, just for now.

Mettle:  Will the experiences we will have gained by trip’s end have been worth all the various forms of sacrifice paid?  Leslie and I wouldn’t accept these sacrifices if we thought it would not.  It’s a reasoned choice, we argue.  I have deep faith that the adventure on which we are about to embark, and truthfully have already started, will be the single greatest gift we give ourselves as a family, that it will establish how we interact the rest of our years together, giving the boys the confidence and the know-how to determine their dreams and achieve them, building an intense strength of spirit that should enable us to forge ahead despite difficulties, like hardened steel.  Just as I appreciate the sacrifice of electrons which occurs beneath our boat, I whole-heartedly and fully welcome the strengthening effects of our ‘sacrificial mettle.’


Leslie's Kitchen #1
Leslie’s Kitchen

McCool Kitchen 3    McCool Kitchen 2

Leslie's Galley
Leslie’s Galley

Post Script:  Last week, we attended our young cousin’s wedding. I spoke there because I wanted to share some marital advice with those who might marry in my absence.  Although I didn’t say everything I wanted that evening, I’d like to include as a post script an outline I’d said there:

Key Traits to Successful Marriage


  • Regularly throughout the day
  • Listen
    • Two ears, two eyes, one mouth
    • If a communication is crucial, repeat the other’s communiqué in your own words to the other’s satisfaction
  • No individual owns the truth
    • First seek clarity and understanding, over acceptance
    • It’s not a competition
  • Seek humor, laughter, and humility over winning/being right
  • The tone of communication is remembered more than the words.
  • If angry, wait 24 hrs. before responding; never insult or use derogatory language toward each other.
  • The written word carries more weight than the spoken.

Shared Values

  • Money, differences have marriage killer potential
  • Family, friends, and children
  • Free Time
  • Compassion and forgiveness; especially yourself

Romance > Sex

  • Weekly date night, flowers, scented candles, soap notes on the mirror, picnics, wine and chocolate.
  • Recall the best, “I’d rather be me looking at her than her looking at me.”
  • Foster a comfortable relationship, a sharing friendship with each other.  A reclining chair in a living room may not be as exciting as a stool in a singles’ bar, but it’s a heck of a lot more satisfying.
  • Humor

Pursuit of Happiness

  • Declaration of Independence
    • U.S. forefathers, ahead of their time, chose to tout the “pursuit of happiness” over Locke’s “property.”
    • It’s one’s civic duty!
  • Supporting each others purpose
    • Twain, “The two most important days of a person’s life are the day they are born and the day they discover why.”
    • Quickest way to happiness is helping another achieve theirs, service to others
    • Having an advocate for your happiness is powerful
  • Gratitude
    • Happiness requires effort. Misery comes automatically.
      • Make many purposeful “happiness” deposits to help offset the unintentional, but inevitable, “misery” withdrawals.
    • Everyone has a good excuse. Excuses are like rectums, we all have them and they all stink.
    • Half full or half empty matters less than if there’s any water in the glass. If so, then game on!
    • Live each day with intention.
  • Maintain good friendships in addition to your spouse


  • Choice and attitude are the only things we truly own.
  • Possessions possess us. Memories are our only true treasure.  Build beautiful memories.
  • Today, as secure and comfortable as most Americans are, sacrifice is more about choice, not about the loss of life essentials.
  • Even a trip to Disneyland requires sacrifice, examples: money, time, physical effort, and crowds.
Natasha and Michael's Wedding
Natasha and Michael’s Wedding


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