The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

The Cure for Gerbil Brain


I sometimes suffer from an affliction I have come to call Gerbil Brain. I’m sure none of you are thinking that this refers to the size of my brain are you? No, I thought not.

Gerbil Brain is usually brought on for me by dealing with way too many details, usually in front of a computer: e-mails, comments, server issues, taxes, yada, yada, yada.

I’m sure many of you have experienced Gerbil Brain too. Yes, that’s when our brains start going round and round like a gerbil that some nasty child fed coffee beans to, on its wheel. Faster and faster until we are flipping between tasks and getting nothing done.


The Fix

You know what stops Gerbil Brain cold, at least for me? Grab a camera and go make some photographs. But keep it simple. One camera and one lens. No bag, no flash, no tripod. Within five minutes, I’m locked in. In the zone. Totally focused. In the moment. Mindful. Gerbil Brain doesn’t stand a chance.


Of course, it helps to have Lunenburg, an incredibly picture rich town and UNESCO world heritage site eight minutes away. And a chilly spring morning with that perfect pearly light and ethereal feel that only fog delivers doesn’t hurt either. An hour and a half of that and I was back at the desk, happy and productive.

The next time you have Gerbil Brain, try the photo cure, it might work for you too. Doesn’t matter what camera you have. Even the camera in your phone will do. Don’t worry about making “great art” or even if anyone else will care. Just concentrate on making something that works for you. And focus, focus, focus—you, not the camera.

Here are a few more shots from that time. Click on them to make them bigger.


I  have been experimenting with black and white inspired by some great work that AAC technical correspondent Matt Marsh has been doing lately.

This was processed with Tri-X pre-set in Silver EfexPro. Brings back memories of my time at school when we used Tri-X exclusively because a parent of one of my fellow pupils worked for the BBC and snagged the ends of film rolls for us—free film, woo-hoo.


The junk schooner rigged “Easy Go” was alongside the newly launched float. No one around. I have written about her before.


I thought we could all do with something lighter after all the heavy duty engineering.

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I get gerbil brain daily. I’ll give photos a shot! Running or biking works for me too. Bob from Easy Go will be in our movie. Check out the trailer for a glimpse of Bob when we met up with him in St. Peter, Cape Breton. He was a great help in finding icebergs. He uses his beard as a wind indicator!

richard dykiel

Great pictures for us shackled at the office! Keep’em coming!

Bob Groves

Sorry to have missed you when you came by Easy Go. I was either getting some groceries or being reclusive. Hope to see you before I head to Cape Breton and points north for the summer.

Dennison Berwick

Gerbil Brain – that’s a good one. Yes, I definitely afflict myself with that; it’s very similar to what Buddhist’s call Monkey Mind – jumping around and unable to focus.

Have you ever been visited by the Morning Demon? You wake, look at all the jobs to be done, the equipment to be installed, the pieces to be reassembled and wonder what’s the point of it all. The only cure I’ve found is to let Morning Demon chatter away in my mind, while “I” fix a good breakfast and then get to work. Around mid-morning it seems Morning Demon gets bored with watching “me” getting on with the job in hand and just wanders off.

Easy Go – if you’re going down north to Labrador this summer, please keep an eye out for Kuan Yin, my small green ketch Tahitiana.

Bob Groves

Dennison Berwick – I’ll be keeping an eye open for you. I believe I saw Kuan Yin wintering in the Bras d’Or Lakes. We wintered in River Bourgeois.

Victor Raymond

We all have it. But for me a double shot espresso does the trick. And fast.
Speaking of Tri-X, I haven’t heard that name in about 40 years. I used to use Tri-X exclusively when I was a photographer at RISD. I made my own developer, stop bath and fixer. The technique then was over expose and underdevelop as per the Harry Calahan school of thought. It took me years to get the smell of acetic acid out of my hands. Those were the days. Don’t miss the darkroom though.
Thanks for the memories. I always enjoy your photographs and wish I had the time and inclination to take more myself.

richard s.

what helps a lot with this for me is just keeping a running list of the needs and wants…this relieves me of having to keep up with all the demands…as one is completed i find it rewarding to make the line through its entry on my list although invariably there is a new entry to take its place…another equally satisfying and mollifying remedy i always employ is to say aloud to lakota: “yes you’re tough baby, but i’m tougher”…suddenly the matter at hand doesn’t feel so demanding…i think lakota hears this and backs off accordingly

richard in tampa bay…s/v lakota


Hits home. Love it!
See you in NS this summer, we hope.

Simon Fraser

Thanks for the links to Easy Go. I now have some great ideas to try out for my next set of sails and battens. And its so refreshing to hear people talk such common sense.


Love the last one. Reminds me of frost on a window pane. Not a lot of that here in the tropics.