Now available at Barnes and Noble for download to your NOOK
See book info below Amazon buttons. For photos of our voyages, click Photos at top of this page.
New book by Matt Johnston now available for kindle download:
Alton: with a touch of Magic. (See below, after the Sailing Elsewhere table of contents)
We picked our way along the Pacific Coast, through the "Forgotten Middle" of Central America, and all the way to Ecuador and then across to the Galapagos, the Marquesas, and on through French Polynesia, the Cook Islands, both Samoas, Tonga, and finally north to the Marshall Islands. I include accounts of our inland trips through the Ecuadorian Highlands, the Amazon Basin, Peru, and the Galapagos Islands.
I'll show you what cruising in a small yacht is all about - the glory of it all and the nitty-gritty of everyday life afloat. At times we visited some very unusual places and I will share it all with you. We were not on the tourist route. There are no hotels in Penrhyn or Niuatoputapu for instance.
I wrote this book as we sailed along and much of it is in the form of my logs from that time frame. I would send these logs by email to friends and family back home so they know the story well. I lost most of my journals and mementos when we lost the boat. This book is only possible because my daughter, Tracy, faithfully saved my correspondence all those year. My hope is that you will enjoy this book whether you are an "Armchair Sailor", someone who might just sail away eventually, or someone who wants to hear about strange out-of-the-way places. Places such as the Galapagos Islands are frequently written about but I think you will find that it is a very different place when seen from the perspective of a Cruising Boat.
The paperback edition is published using fairly large print which makes it a big book.
Book's Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Freedom
Chapter 2 Ensenada to Pitcairn
Chapter 3 We Buy the Boat
Chapter 4 Under the Bridge
Chapter 5 Across the Sea to Mazatlan
Chapter 6 Isabela and San Blas
Chapter 7 Puerto Vallarta and Back to Mazatlan
Chapter 8 Into the Sea of Cortez
Chapter 9 South Along the Mexican Coast
Chapter 10 El Salvador and Guatemala
Chapter 11 Costa Rica
Chapter 12 Panama
Chapter 13 Ecuador
Chapter 14 Peru
Chapter 15 Galapagos Islands
Chapter 16 Crossing to the Marquesas
Chapter 17 The Marquesas
Chapter 18 Tuamotos
Chapter 19 Tahiti
Chapter 20 Rangiroa
Chapter 21 Society Islands
Chapter 22 The Cook Islands
Chapter 23 The Samoas
Chapter 24 Tonga
Chapter 25 North to the Marshall Islands
Chapter 26 The Wreck
Chapter 27 Epilogue
Note: Pictures from our travels are available by clicking on "Photos" above.
Disclaimer: GPS coordinates given in this book are where we actually swung at anchor. Additional navigational information may be needed to access these anchorages.
Alton: with a Touch of Magic
This new book became available for Kindle download on December 1, 2012. It is the story of growing up in a small town in Canada during the 1950s. Just for fun, I threw in a little magic and we were off to a different world where our hero, Gray, met a supercilious dragon during an adventure on this strange new world. Gray returned to his home world with the love of his life in tow and is backed up on Earth by Apeluzar, the dragon extraordinaire.
The book chronicles life in the real world and adds some magic to make it all more fun. There is no evil in this book, no violence, and not even a single homicide.
I hope to have the book available in paperback before too long but right now it is only available in Kindle format.
About the Author
Matt was born in Alton, Ontario, Canada, in 1944 and lived there until, at age 20, he took off and moved to Redondo Beach, California, to find warmer weather. While living in Canada he was known as “Harry,” a name that he didn’t think fit. It was not his legal name so he just started using the one on his birth certificate.
Four years in the American Navy soon followed, during which time he became an American citizen. His navy service occurred during the Vietnam War; his deployments were to the Caribbean and Mediterranean. The Navy, at that time, was spending its time playing chicken with Russian shipping. This was not combat by any means, but that is what Uncle Sam assigned him to do.
Matt and Judy had teamed up shortly after Matt arrived in the States. They were married in June 1966, immediately after boot-camp. Therefore, Judy was part of this navy experience too. Judy would be Matt's partner both in life and adventures for the rest of his life.
After being released from the navy, Matt (with Judy) moved to Key West, Florida, to pursue a career with AT&T. After a short stay there, they returned to California and he worked back and forth between AT&T and Pacific Bell for the next twenty-seven years. They have a daughter, Tracy, and a son, Trevor. An early retirement opportunity was presented to him in 1996. He took it and went sailing, which is what his book "Sailing Elsewhere," is all about.
Matt and Judy now live in Antioch, California. You can reach Matt by email, click on the following:
Following is a magazine article published in Latitudes and Attitudes also by Matt
I have become an advocate of walking barefoot, or more than that even, living my life barefoot as much as possible. Of course, in our civilized world, it is necessary to wear shoes much of the time for social or practical reasons. No argument there, you have to wear shoes. “No shoes, no shirt, no service” is a commonly seen sign and for many tasks and environments it would be foolhardy to not wear shoes. Temperature is another real reason for wearing shoes.
But frequently there is nothing that prevents you from being barefoot. I became attracted to the “barefoot,” idea after reading the old classic, Tom Sawyer. I tried it and it didn’t work. At that time I was a child living in Canada. Everything in my life made this impractical. Number one was the climate. Precious little of the year was warm enough to even think about it. Because of this short season there was little time to condition your feet – toughen them up to a natural state. When conditions seemed good enough to give it a try other difficulties popped up. It was okay to run around the house barefoot in warm weather but going outside without shoes took more fortitude than I could muster. The roads were made of sharp gravel and there were a multitude of thistles laying in wait for tender feet. I would quickly give up but it always seemed like a wonderful idea.
Later, while living in the Los Angeles area, I did go without shoes around the house and yard. I also had some degree of success at our cabin south of the city. For many years we had a cabin in the hills above Lake Elsinore . There one of the big impediments was heat. It was in a hot desert-like terrain and “hot footing it” is no fun either. However, gradually my heat tolerance did improve somewhat. So, like most people, I wore shoes almost all of the time. The ground there was mostly decomposed granite, which is not ideal for beginners; but, although abrasive, the ground was uniform and without prickly plants to implant nasty little stickers in your unwary feet. These efforts did stop the padding on the sole of my feet from atrophying away to the point that is common in Americans. Some progress was made, but it did not give me feet that could really stand up to anything more than short walks under ideal conditions.
After retiring and changing to a life cruising on a sailboat in the tropics I would seldom if ever wear any kind of footwear on the boat. This in itself started conditioning my feet. I kept stretching my barefoot time while ashore too, on beaches and short hikes on sandy trails. This built on my efforts over the years of toying with the idea.
After retirement, as mentioned above, at the tender age of 52 years, my life changed dramatically. We moved aboard a sailboat and traveled south to warmer climes. While traveling and visiting native cultures I saw many supposedly less sophisticated peoples – people that didn’t wear shoes all the time and some that rarely or never did. I noticed that these people, even the older people, did not have mangled or grossly deformed feet. The years did not seem to have been unkind or damaging to the appearance or functionality of their feet. Toes were not distended or crooked. Nails were not destroyed by fungus or disease. Their feet looked “normal.” I have seen people in the States with feet in much worse condition, caused I suppose, by years of wearing ill-fitting or badly designed shoes. Spike heels can’t help but mess up your feet.
Then came the epiphany. We were cruising in Panama and happened to visit the Gamboa Indian village deep in the Panamanian jungle. These Indians do not wear much of anything, as befits the climate, and certainly not shoes. Like most civilized people, the other 6 people in our little group thought this was “quaint.” Something natives do but not us lofty modern folks. I have an affinity for bare skin (another story) and thought this was great. I was hot and sweaty, like everyone else, and chose to take off my shirt. This earned me a “tut tut tut” from my fellow tourists who thought this inappropriate for us white people. However, a strange thing happened. I received applause from our native hosts. An actual hand clapping, smiling applause of approval. They deemed that I was, therefore, approving of their exposed skin, which I was, and had affinity with them. At this point, however, I was still wearing long pants and shoes.
We then entered their immaculate village and were given a tour followed by refreshments of drinking coconuts. A short jungle hike was next on the agenda. However, when this hike was to commence I was taken aside by a wizened old shaman. He was the oldest person that we had seen in this village, though probably not much younger than me. Using his limited English and body language he told me to let the others go and that he would show me the real jungle. However, I must dress exactly as he did. This meant no clothes and no “shoes.” To be part of the jungle and see it as the natives saw it our naked feet must touch bare earth. Their belief is that the earth is our mother and we separate ourselves from her when we put shoes between ourselves and the ground on which we walk. Touching the earth with our feet lets us naturally communicate with “our mother,” and her with us, he said with words and gestures. He pointed out that walking barefoot is a sensuous experience in every sense of the word. Barefoot we feel the earth as the gods had intended. We experience the warmth of the sun on the ground and the coolness of the jungle when we step into shade. We feel the sensation of the dry dusty trail, the leaves and twigs that litter the ground in places, and mud at times. Pebbles may tweak our senses but they are not really pain. They too are communications with mother earth.
With the stage set, we dropped our accouterments and commenced into the jungle. A couple of his grandchildren tagged along similarly attired. I was amazed to find that the trail was gentle on our bare feet and I did, of course, experience all the sensations that he had predicted and more. How could I not? I was glad that my feet had been, minimally at least, conditioned to the natural state. My guide showed me beautiful vistas of jungle and streams and he pointed out plants that they depended on, but the real wonder was the experience of walking bare through primeval jungle as man has done since the beginning of time.
Later, much later, after returning to the United States, I happened to watch a Nova episode titled “The Brain That Changes Itself,” on PBS TV. Among other aspects of the brain, it reported that when we are born a specific area of the brain is assigned to communicate with our feet. It is a specific size. If we have worn shoes all the time our brain has received a constant signal from our feet indicating only a firm smooth surface with no other details. Since this signal is constant there is nothing for the brain to compute. Therefore, the assigned area of the brain is not used to its intended extent and much of it can be reassigned for other purposes. By the time you reach the grand status of “Senior Citizen,” most of the area intended for foot communication has been reassigned. Like in so many other instances, “if you don’t use it you lose it”. This results in loss of communication from brain to feet. The brain has no computing power to analyze input from your feet and anything unfamiliar is interpreted as pain.
This loss of computing power also results in the loss of spatial positioning sensing and you are unable to determine where your feet are without looking at them. You also may not be able to recognize that you have stepped on an object or feel a change in incline. This is the cause of the “old man shuffle,” that is common in older people’s gait. They may stumble frequently and lose confidence in their walking ability. This is frequently confused with a balancing problem, which does happen, but more often than not it is the loss of brain to foot coordination. Late in life this is irreversible.
Developing your feet to walk comfortably without shoes requires several things and may be impossible if you have developed podiatric problems over the years. The first and easiest thing you must accomplish is to condition the skin on the bottom of your feet to be able to walk barefoot without blistering. Start by walking inside the house and, as you advance in this regard, venture outside for short walks - extending the time and distance as you progress. You will possibly reach a plateau quickly because it takes more than tough skin to walk barefoot. There is a layer of padding which is the sole of your foot. This may have atrophied over the years and it takes a considerable length of time and exercise to redevelop it. It may take a year or more to build up this necessary layer, even with constant effort. The third thing is to reprogram your brain to recognize the sensations your feet will encounter. A sensation, new to your feet after all these years, will be interpreted by your brain as pain. You have to keep going which forces your brain to analyze this new information and determine that it is not pain but just coarse grass, for instance, which your feet can easily handle. The changes in perception amaze me. Even after your feet have been conditioned sufficiently, walking along on a new surface may hurt initially. Assuming that it is truly not a hostile surface, as you progress the perceived pain will melt away - not because your feet have become numb, but because your brain has decided that this is not pain after all.
The good news is that all these things are accomplished at the same time by the same method, which is using your feet “bare,” under varying conditions. No tricky therapy is required, just persistence. How long it takes to recover depends on how much the soles of your feet have atrophied. Now, back in the civilized world of California, I hike the trails through the hills near my home enjoying the freedom of well-developed bare feet. In this country we may never want to go barefoot into a grocery store or restaurant (as they do in New Zealand) but I receive the satisfaction that comes from being able to walk barefoot, like the old man in the jungle. I feel it is the natural thing to do and, in spite of occasional strange looks from people that I encounter, I enjoy it. Hopefully I will never develop the “old man shuffle”.
By Matt Johnston