Bridge Burners Vol. 16 - Macy Price Ciszek
Creating Bridge & Burn required a leap of faith. Founder Erik Prowell quit his job as a software developer, lit the proverbial match, and threw it—burning the bridge of working for anyone else behind him. With no formal training, he trusted his smarts and his strong work ethic, and took the plunge. In that spirit, Bridge Burners is a series showcasing people who are taking a similar leap.
A moon dog by definition is a bright circular spot on a lunar halo. Picture the moon and a mock moon beside it—a false image, yes, but none-the-less specular. This anti-shadow of the moon exists and doesn’t exist, like our own fantasies. It’s alive in the same way the person we may really want to be lives out a magical life in our mind, but perhaps not in reality. As you sit behind a desk somewhere, maybe your moon-dog self is crossing the Gobi with nomads, or boldly trekking into Borneo’s lost world, or summiting the wondrous roof of Africa—Mount Kilimanjaro.
For Bend-native and explorer Macy Price Ciszek, an ordinary version of herself—the humdrum desk jockey—never quite existed. Instead she sought out the fantasy from the start—through middle school and high school, through her college years, and now in her thirties as she co-captains a thirty-foot sailboat named “Moondog” with her husband Quintin. A week after they married, their adventures on the great high seas began, island hopping for three months, from the West coast of the U.S. to Baja, then to Hawaii and French Polynesia.
The earliest moment of reckoning for Macy occurred when she was just thirteen years old. When other girls her age were trying out for the soccer team, Macy had to make a life-changing decision: Do I join my peers in after-school scholastics or accept my first offer of sponsorship by surf, snowboard, and fashion brand Roxy and complete in the US snowboard circuit.
As history goes, she chose the latter and said adios to that rigid path of ubiquitous teenage experiences. Instead, she became the youngest girl to be invited to the US Open for snowboarding, and she was soon to appear in national ChapStick commercials, as well as regularly appearing in magazine and catalog adverts. By the age of sixteen, Macy had won first place in the US National Championship for snowboarding and turned professional the following year to the tune of sponsorships by Billabong, Von Zipper, Dakine, DC, and Ride Snowboards. Up until age twenty-two, she was a mainstay in the Vans Triple Crown Slopestyle Circuit and the US Open, as well as squeezing in modeling gigs for companies like Nike, Adidas, REI, and Eastern Mountain Sports to earn a little extra cash on the side. A traditional childhood, this was not.
While Macy was traveling the United States, from snowboard competition to competition, her friends back home were attending their proms, graduating high school, and entering college—all things regular kids do. But Macy had missed out on that. A sudden sense of longing consumed her; she contemplated if her path was the right path. Though she had enrolled in online college classes here and there while traveling and competing and posing for photo shoots, she was not on the same trajectory as her peers. For Macy, her thoughts turned to what she had missed out on, which prompted a sudden retirement from professional snowboarding in her early twenties. Acting quickly, even impulsively, she completed her Associates degree and finished her Real Estate License, and for her, a new “normal life” was off to a fast start—selling a half-dozen houses in her first year on the job. But in 2006 the market crashed, and her only backup plan was to return to what she knew, and she moved to the City of Angels to pursue modeling. But with an open mind, this leap would actually land Macy in the hospitality industry—or more accurately, hospitality on the high seas.
“When I got to LA, a friend introduced me to world of Yachts,” Macy says, explaining that this transition did not seem strange but almost normal in comparison to the previous lives she had lived. “I became a Yacht Stewardess and First Mate, and in four years at sea I clocked over eighteen thousand nautical miles and learned everything from engine maintenance, to navigation, and even professional cooking.”
During those four years, Macy crewed for a ninety-foot yacht that sailed from San Francisco to the Panama Canal and New York, and then back to Panama and SF; followed by another stint on a one-hundred and ten-foot craft zipping up the West Coast from Seattle to Sitka, Alaska, and then a final trip on a one-hundred and seventy-foot vessel, whose captain steered them back from Alaska to the land of the famous Tarrazú coffee bean—Costa Rica.
“Life has different chapters,” Macy says. “A lot of people don’t have the opportunity to get to the next one because they’re tied to something: their house, their dog, or their job. But I don’t have that, and I wanted to sustain the adventures of my snowboarding years; I knew instantly that boats were the answer. Plus, I made better money on the Pacific than I did at Mt. Hood.”
As Macy’s timeline in the United States unfolded, another in Australia was also taking shape. In his early twenties, Aussie surfer Quintin Ciszek, set out to visit relatives in Encinita, California, where his path briefly overlapped with Macy’s, who was—at that time—twenty-three. They delighted in a three-week whirlwind tryst, but it was bound to end once Quintin’s vacation subsided. During that short time, their secrets were shared, and day-tripping fantasies were hatched. Quintin charmed Macy with his dreams of someday buying a boat and sailing the world, like he had as a child—that boat captained by his father. Even though Quintin’s California vacation would end, their relationship did not.
They carried on as long-distance pen-pals, and after seven years of saving and planning and growing up, Quintin found his dream boat, the one had he imagined so many years early, but he would have to return again to the United States, where it was docked. When he arrived on the West Coast to purchase it, he immediately contacted Macy, and they realized that their love was stronger than any geographical distances that had previously separately them. In September 2014, Quintin and Macy married, and a week after they married they set sail in their dream boat—the word Moondog stenciled across the stern—from the West Coast of the USA to Hawaii and then charting the wild Pacific all the way to Australia.
“We gave ourselves two years to have adventures like this,” Macy says, “but it’s turned into something much bigger and open-ended.”
Home in Bend for the first-time in nearly three years, Macy is now working in a restaurant and selling her artwork—"Portholes”, which are photos in resin with the latitude and longitude of their locations around the world stamped on the back. For the last eight months, she has been preparing again to return to the Moondog. But with each visit home, it becomes harder and harder to leave friends and family, and she is all too aware of the next moment of reckoning that is on the horizon for herself, and Quintin: How do we support ourselves on our next trip? And more importantly, how can we possibly start a family at sea?
“The dream is to buy boats in North America to sell in Australia where there is a shortage,” Macy said, grinning. “From sail to sale.”
She tells me about a friend, a web developer who shares time on the Moondog.
“Technology is changing the way we live. He can work while on the boat and surf during his lunch breaks. Sure, it costs him $4 USD/MB to upload his work, which is incredibly expensive, but when you factor in that he isn’t paying rent or car insurance, that bill sounds pretty good,” Macy says. “I lived for years jet-setting and snowboarding around the country, and now I’m on a boat, and, honestly, life has been incredible.”
The basis of life, as she explains, is to enjoy ‘it’ – and Macy and Quintin are happy doing what they want to be doing. Macy recognizes how difficult it can be: the lonesomeness out at sea for months at a time, or enduring heavy, unexpected bouts of rain with seemingly no shelter except the compact hull of the Moondog, or the immense physical strength and endurance involved in routine tasks in her life at sea.
“It’s not uncommon for your anchor to get tangled around coral, so you might have to free dive thirty feet to retrieve it,” she says. “Life on a boat is an athletic endeavor.”
She concedes that even after all that, the feeling she gets accomplishing something like surviving the sea, gives her the confidence that anything is possible—achieving one dream is just the starting point for a series of new dreams to be revealed. The moon dog in the distance might not be a fantasy, but one will never know until they reach for it.
“We’re looking forward to putting down roots,” Macy says, her voice strong and sure, “but we’re intent on growing from them too.”
To read more about Macy and Quintin’s adventures at sea on the Moondog, visit: Looking Further and to enjoy Macy’s artwork, head to: @KeelCollection.