Ultralight Lifestyle

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Minimalists expedition is how I would explain it.  I’ve stripped my life down to a 33 liter pack, two bottles of wine and my ukulele.  Half filled with snacks, my trusty Izula and a handful of warmies my new Osprey Talon 33 is already pissing me off…

ultralight backpacking

Light and simple is good.  My rucksack filled with pepper crackers a summer sausage and three types of cheese.  My squishy down bag, wool socks, titanium mug and hopefully enough string to hang a bear bag.  My entire load including food and water is a hair under 20 pounds 14 of it consumable….  The mountains are calling me home.

No shoes, no, shirt, no service

Touching The Void

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One hundred letters and counting, each one helping to fill the void in my heart.  Not a single letter has been read without shedding a tear and filling my heart with some level of hope that this empty feeling will turn to anything other than pain.

touching the void

Finding a reason to live is difficult these days.  We all have some driving force that fuels our lives with desire.  I’ve spent the last year carrying Chloe everywhere we went, now I have an open void that needs to be filled If I’m to survive this.

bicycle touring on a single speed

I never wanted this new freedom I have but here it is, I can go anywhere or do anything without responsibility, time frames or travel restrictions.  Travel is no longer an obstacle to be dealt with.  I can walk out the door and never come back if I choose.    It was Chloe that always kept me grounded.  The restrictions and responsibilities of traveling and living with my little buddy are gone.  Last week traveling 100 miles was like packing for an expedition, now I need little more than  the clothes on my back.

Osprey Talon 33

My brother showed up unannounced and kidnapped me to his ranch.  We spent the weekend eating drinking and laughing with him, his wife and two amazing doughters.  I slept the whole night through for the first time in years and had no reason to wake up early.  No 6:00 Am rows to shore or midnight walks.  there was and endless supply of laughing and smiles on the outside but deep down I’m more frightened than I ever have been.  Do I go back to work now that I don’t have an excuse not to?  Backpack around the world?  Bike tour America? sail to Alaska?

sailing engineless to Alaska

I know I’m not ready to go back to the boat anytime soon.  My brother is threatening to send me to Austrailia via Hawaii and the South Pacific.  My heart tells me to get lost on the Pacific Crest trail but my crippled knee has me wondering if I can hike 20 miles a day for 5 months straight.  The only gear I have other than a turn key blue water sailboat is a steel bike with no gears, a titanium mug, a 45 degree down bag and half a camp pad. I know I need to do something or I will loose my mind.  I’m committed here till November so I have some breathing room but its the perpetual silence that has me going stir crazy.

mans best feind

So my mourning process is to just live, to get lost out on the trails of life as often as I can and to think about Chloe every chance I get and find a way to smile.  To have asked her for one more single day would have been greedy.  I know Chloe is snuggled up in front of our fireplace waiting for our next big adventure but for now I’m flying solo.

If you smile when you are alone then you really mean it.

The Things We Do For Love

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I closed my eyes and watched my little puppy running through the dry summer grass and dissappear into the forrest.  13 years ago I met my soulmate, my life forever changed by a fancy french furry little monster named Chloe.

Chloe

When I die it will be of a broken heart but thats not how it all started out.  I hated dogs.  They stink, shit, piss on everything.  They shed all over your furniture and clothes, they bark and eat your shit and in general find every button you have and push it every single chance they get.

Chloe

I never believed in God until I met this new little alien that would completely consume my life.  It took less than a month for her to convince me in the all mighty because surely as the sun will rise in the morning there would be no dogs without a higher being.  If it wasn’t for the fact that puppies were so damn cute we would kill them.  But in her infinite wisdom God did create them cute and adorable and loyal beyond the scope any human will ever understand.

Chloe

We did battle that first year but from the very first night she kept me up crying at the top of her lungs we were connecting at the heart.  We would eventually travel the world together by boat, private jet, car, bike, foot and every other means we could dare dream up.

Chloe

We lived in cars, apartments, mansions and slums.  We called an abandoned clam plant our home as well as a 6000 foot warehouse, a snow cave and a tepee.  We have been rich and poor, happy and sad.  Everywhere we went and we went everywhere, we did it together.  Soon into our relationship we made a pact that we would live forever, I don’t know what her soul is made of but whatever it is hers and mine are the same.

Chloe

24 hours a day, seven days a week, three hundred and sixty five days a year.  Thats how long we have been together.  I can’t magine life with out her and I never could, she is my best friend, confidant and an all around instigator of a better life for the both of us.  Every single decision I have ever made was based on her and her needs.

chloe

I held my best friend in my arms as she took her last breath today and remembered the words a friend recently said to me.  We were talking about a book Idea I have been mulling over and all the adventure we have had together when she said to me.  That sure is one lucky little dog, you saved her that day you adopted her from the rescue.  You have it all wrong I responded.  I didn’t save her, she saved me.  Before I met Chloe I didn’t know how to love unconditionally.

Chloe

Goodnight sweetheart
Til we meet tomorrow
Goodnight sweetheart
Sleep will vanish sorrow
Tears and parting may make us forlorn
But with the dawn a new day is born
Goodnight sweetheart
Though I’m not beside you
Goodnight sweetheart
Still my love will guide you
Dreams will enfold you
In each one I’ll hold you
Goodnight sweetheart
Dreams will enfold you
In each one I’ll hold you
Goodnight sweetheart goodnight  -Dean Martin

Chloe

The Holy Grail

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Only the penitent man shall pass, these are the words that keep going through my mind as I drop to one knee 630 times in 4 hours.  I’m as far away from the ocean as I have ever been in my life, now I am surrounded by a sea of a different sort.

The holy grail

To make the most out of any given situation is never enough.  You can climb any hill ridge or mountain but until you have descended into the valley you have not finished what you started.  Its from this valley that we start our next summit attempt.

Standing on the highest peak of Mt Whitney I looked across the world and smiled.  I had run all the way to the top but I didn’t have to summit before I knew I could do it.  Climbing out of the valley is easy, put one foot in front of the other and repeat as often as necessary until you have reached the top.  Its the desceent that hides the truest risks.  Euphoria and exhaustion are a dangerous recipe for disaster.

Some people are born for success, others find it through sheer luck.  I achieve it through attrition.  I say success but its a word with a thousand meanings depending on who you ask.  For me success is measured in small daily increments.  I could never ride my bike a thousand miles but 50-75 a day comes easy and adds up fast.

The universe is conspiring to break me and I won’t fight it.  I will drop to my knees as often as I have to as this too shall pass.  Sitting in a vacant parking lot I watch the blood moon dip into the nights sky and know its almost time to start my ascent.

“Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears.” -Les Brown

The Days Of Our Lives…

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I can’t say exactly why I can’t say anything, but our current mission is so top secret you won’t hear a peep out of me about it.  Lets just say in a purely metaphorical  sense I have eaten the forbidden fruit.

the forbidden fruit

Soft balmy winds blew through the valley caressing our skin and evaporating our sweat into a thick salty paste.  Three days of hard labor, riding and … with no shower had us smelling in ways the average person can never imagine.  Heat wave is an understatement but true to form we found ourselves sitting at the gateway of nirvana.  Like any good story this one had a bridge to cross and a troll to appease but the battle was won in no short oder.  My cotton tee was soaked through strangling my body.  Salty sweat dripped from the tips of my long unwashed hair, ran down my face and settled on my lips, I tasted like the sea.

All good days come to an end and today was in the purest form of luxury, a hot steamy bath, followed by cool clean water and a fresh cotton full size towel.  We took turns pouring huge buckets of fire warmed water over eachother in our impromptu turkish bath rinsing away layer upon layer of the hard earned days of our lives.  Our clean skin tingled as we laughed and teased running around naked as Adam and Eve in a wide open public venue but there were no eyes to shame us.  Our souls danced surrounded by thousands of gallons of natures oldest and wisest aphrodisiac.  I could tell more but my lips are sealed.

 All men’s souls are immortal, but the souls of the righteous are immortal and divine.  -Socrates 

The Simple Life

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I would die if I were ever to be confined, New people, new places, life unfolding in ways I could never imagine.  I could never imagine so I don’t try.  With wandering eyes I move forward, always following that small space between shadow and darkness where photography finds its infinite magic measured in fractions of a second.

Barefoot

Confucius said it best when he said, choose a job you love and you will never work a day in your life.  Uncorking a bottle of wine last night, for the first time in my life I saw it as art, the wine makers gift to the world.  I couldn’t help but to wonder how many hands touched this object of impossible perfection before it was passed to me.

Nikon D

No man is an Island, wandering from here to there I carry with me the thousands of life’s lessons handed down to me from the masters.  My art is found in my struggle to do what most people have never given a second of thought to, Seeing.  Its my constant struggle with vision that rewards me with simple images created with a single push of my shutter release but its the journey that makes each snapshot so valuable.  If there is a more difficult way to do something I will find it.  My natural powered journey continues.  The long rolling hills can’t beat me down, when the wind blows hardest from the direction I want to travel my sailor mind tells me to change course and find a new route.  The sky opens up on me, one more day I won’t need a shower.  Life may not be easy these days but its simple as dirt,  We gorge on fresh berrys pulled from the roadside, drink gallons of pure crystal clear water, bath in the most un usual places and sleep here there and everywhere  One night its a huge bed with clean linen sheets, the next an inflatable matress or our down sleeping bags with flimsy foam pads to insulate us from the earth.  The photograph is a snap shot of the final destination.  The journey is the story of how we got here.

There is a real magic in enthusiasm. It spells the difference between mediocrity and accomplishment.      Norman Vincent Peale

 

Dirty Old Town

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Riding through this dirty old town I am falling in love with her industrial side.  Endless bike trails from here to there.  One in a million lead to the coast and thats where my cheese is stored.

Kona Paddy Wagon

I load up my Nikon and a few snacks, this town begs to be explored by bicycle.  Its hot here compared to the cool of the islands and I love it.  I don’t go anywhere without packing a world class bottle of wine for just in case.  Turns out just in case has once again changed my life.  No more cheap wine for this boy, having fallen ass backwards into yet another miracle.  The Universe abides and has again been good to me.

I met my love by the gas works wall
Dreamed a dream by the old canal
Kissed a girl by the factory wall
Dirty old town
Dirty old town~ Ewan  ~Mac Coll

The Lost Coast

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Somewhere down this long meandering road I have found a small piece of nirvana.  I have become a migrant worker.  I love Oregon just enough that I don’t think about my home in the San Juan’s any more than I need to.

Kona Paddy Wagon

My feet hate me, I have put shoes on them and kind of hobble and limp in pain, my toes crushed and blisters forming everywhere.  If there is a hell on earth it surely must be measuerd by how many pairs of shoes you own.  I walked down the coast, each step in the warm sugar white sand reminding my poor little dogs that there is a reason for all this madness.

The Lost Coast

One step at a time I climb the long hill, my bare feet slowly feeling the way gently cushioned by the cool mossy earth that guides me through the broken shade of the forrest.  This valley I have entered is a small one and soon enough we will have filled our time bank to overflowing, burn our shoes and continue on down the road.  People often ask me why I live the life I do, All I can do is suggest that they walk a mile in my bare feet.

“And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair”
~ Kahlil Gibran

Somewhere In Oregon

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Huge raindrops pelted the dry scorched earth, the islands are crying. A balmy summer breeze called to me but its too late.  My bag is packed, Sookie is snuggled up as warm and tight as a bug in a rug   I took one last walk around, re adjusted her tarp and walked away…

Kestrel 48

I load up a friends car and plop Chloe in her nest of blankets, I can’t help but to wonder if this is her last time on the boat.  My home, her home for 4 years this has been our refuge.  I mount my bike and pedal off, I want to look back but I don’t, I can’t.  My future lies somewhere down this long winding road.

mans best friend

I have stopped my search for a new Bristol Channel Cutter, its not my time.  I have declared this 2015 the year of Chloe.  Fresh off sniffing every beach from here to the Discovery Islands and Desolation Sound and we are off to find her a small cabin with a wood burning stove.  The three of us have a lot of work and prep for our next adventure but Until November its going to be overnighters, and day trips.

ultralight backpacking

The ride to Canon Beach will be a nice one.  Its time to harden myself beyond the scope of the sea.  I need to run naked and wild through the forests, make fire and live closer to the earth.  My next journey will be a physical one but also a spiritual one where I again will attempt to lighten my load on the earth, simplify my needs and downsize my ball and chain.  A VW Westfalia van keeps creeping through my mind but I’m not yet ready to end my 6 year boycott with cars.

mans best friend

August 26 is the 13 year anniversary of the day I met Chloe at a rescue on the edge of the Washoe Indian Reservation.  We both have a bit if red skin in our blood, maybe thats what prompted our escape, our call of the wild, but its still hard to believe we have been on a 13 year adventure together.  The girls are snuggled up on the inflatable bed.  I’m still getting used to hot running water, flush toilets and all the space we have shared in a friends beautiful house.  In two hours we walk out the front door, All it takes is that first single step, the journey continues.  I am smiling so hard my face hurts, I mainline on adventure and freedom, the unknown and movement.

Mans best friend

“We seldom consider how much of our lives we must render in return for some object we barely want, seldom need, buy only because it was put before us…And this is understandable given the workings of our system where without a job we perish, where if we don’t want a job and are happy to get by we are labeled irresponsible, non-contributing leeches on society. But if we hire a fleet of bulldozers, tear up half the countryside and build some monstrous factory, casino or mall, we are called entrepreneurs, job-creators, stalwarts of the community. Maybe we should all be shut away on some planet for the insane. Then again, maybe that is where we are.”

~ Ferenc Máté,

Top 20 Sailing Blogs – Boats and Outboards

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Perspective wields a sharp knife.  The boat yard managers head is about to implode, we go round and round.  No I’m not living in the boatyard, I’m just staying here for a few days to wrap the boat up.  So you are living in the boat yard…  I’m already bored with this conversation and my ADD takes over as my mind starts to drift.  A week ago my girlfriend stone cold dumps me.  I’m unemployed, broke, my boat is for sale and I’m watching my dog who is my best friend in the whole world literally die in front of me.  In a few brief moments I’m going to have to add homeless to the list.  Did I mention that I’m visually disabled.  I pull a Stormy and laugh at him and walk away. top 20 sailing blogs boats and outboards Attitude is the difference between ordeal and adventure.  I’m blessed with a story to tell and Boats and Outboards has further blessed me by adding my name to their list of the top 20 Sailing blogs.  I read through the list and even though I haven’t met a single one of the mentioned writers, they are all good friends of mine.  I follow thier lives, the ups and downs and feel like I know them on a very personal level.  I get side tracked to Liz Clarks blog (yes I have a crush on her) and fall deep into her little world just long enough to remeber why I left corporate America, its not that I hate business, its that I hate rules.  I don’t follow anybody’s rules I make my own up as I go.  I wrote a very short and too the point letter declining my new offer of employment.  With the simple stroke of a key the weight of the world was lifted from my shoulders, again free.

We all lose our way from time to time.  As for me, well; I’m not lost, I just don’t know exactly where I am.  I hope some day soon to realize my full potential.  Until that day arrives I don’t mind sailing into the wind and I’m reminded of some of my favorite words by my favorite sailor Larry Pardey.

 If its this difficult, it must be worth it.

Foot Loose and…

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Walking past a small A frame church, music singing from the walls brings with it a smile. Dry earth crackling beneath dirty feet set music to my pace. This new pack fits  like a glove, my sweaty back tells me its to hot for gloves today and I find a piece of shade for a sip of cold juice. I reach into my double plastic bag, its the first cold beverage I’ve had in weeks. I smile at my world wondering how many countless miles I have trekked carrying a small plastic bag with my snacks. Camino De Santiago The empty sacs will become water proofing for things in my pack that don’t do so well when wet and eventually become trash bags as I walk lonely stretches picking up the litter I can rarely escape regardless of where I am in the world. I have packed and repacked my bag 5 times a day and still can’t quite get it right. This journey I’m going on is a bipolar one by trekking standards. I will be carrying work clothes, business clothes, travel Clothes… One by one I will drop everything but my most basic gear. Its hard to par down your life when you only have a few dozen things.   Do I really need my 3 ounce knife or will a little pocket knife do. What about light, shelter, food preparation. I have to be in Maui by December so I have decided to pop over to Kauai to hike the Na Pali Coast to the Valley of the Gods while Im there.

I got an email from a little girl a few days ago asking me to teach her to pack for a minimalist world journey and how to stealth camp. How to carry everything you need for any situation… I sent her many emails and then she returned, I don’t want you to tell me, I want you to show me, so she will be coming on the next journey. I will teach her the art of light travel, and even lighter living. I have already helped her find a new pack and piece by piece I will fill it with the minimal gear needed to camp anywhere from Nepal to South Africa. I will teach her how to blend in and disappear.

Any seasoned trekker can pass their pack off as a daypack because carried on luggage can never be lost. A good trekking pack as to be able to shrink to 38 inches but must still expand to carry the weight of your world on your back.. It also has to be light enough that it isn’t a burden weighing you down. My pack only weighs 10-12 pounds full but add food and water and it can climb to 35 lbs.  My travel strategy for hosteling and couch surfing is simple, I take a 15 liter day pack and my tooth brush. For backpacking and camping its a bit different and I’m torn between the new pack I’m testing an Osprey Kestrel 48 and her smaller and 5 ounce lighter little sister the 38.

When it comes to weight I use the Heavy, Medium, Light strategy I developed years ago. I get the lightest pack I can but it also must carry well which makes it fairly heavy. There is nothing worse that trekking through the blistering sun with a sack of potatoes on your back. My shelter is medium or non existent depending on where I go and everything else is light but most things just get left behind.  I travel to experience the world, not to play with my toys.

Satisfied with my juice I pull a Luna bar and munch on it while I day dream of hiking the Camino De Santiago The 800 mile hike is an easy one and living off of fresh cheese and fruit, black coffee, wine and bread makes my heart go pitter pat. I need a good pilgrimage before I return to the sea and besides, walking just feels right.

I watched a friend trimming the edges off her map, cut the tooth brush handle off and snip every extra inch of strap on her pack. What are you doing I asked her. She told me she was lightening her load. Why not just take a sip of water it will save ten times the weight you just cut. We all go about things differently but at the end of the day you still can’t fit a ten pound parcel into a two pound sac. I lean back using my tiny pack as a pillow and smile knowing she will take good care of me until I’m ready to come home.

“The place where you lose the trail is not necessarily the place where it ends.” — Tom Brown, Jr.

Adding And Subtracting Zero’s

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Eating cold beans straight from the can tasted especially delicious today, it tasted like freedom.  The choice in front of me is simple fill the local bank or fill the memory bank.  Packing and repacking my backpack I just can’t seem to fit it all in the way I want to, my life is complicated now.  The more I look at Bristol Channel Cutters the less appealing they become to me when compared to Sookie.

falmouth cutter 22

I got notice today, I’m heading out in a week and since I doubt I will find a new home for Sookie in such a short period of time I am mothballing her for long term storage.  Everywhere I look on this fine little ship I find pieces of me.  A dead mosquito  smashed on the ceiling board reminds me of our nightly battle with those little bastards.  Coffee grounds in the corner of the bilge remind me of our first heavy weather of the trip and how the boat looked like a salt water bomb had exploded inside of her.  Emily passed out in the cozy v-berth from exhaustion, wet water gear everywhere.  The boat took a hit from a  big gust and went so far over that contents from one galley locker that Emily forgot to latch actually found their way across the boat safely lodging in our boot locker.  Pebbles stuck in the tread of my Xtratufs from every beach we visited.  Sandy remnants of Emily’s shell collection, foreign coins, immigration codes, well used and battered charts each telling their own story, my story, our story,

falmouth cutter 22

We had a great adventure, one of hundreds the sea has given me.  While all adventure someday come to an end, new ones are always beginning.  I’m going to Portland to bang nails while I contemplate sitting in and air-condition office in a big cushy chair adding and subtracting zero’s.  The more I think about it the emptier my soul feels.  I’ve been rebuilding sailing and living aboard boats for almost 10 straight years, I need a break, I need the stillness that you will never find at sea.  Reading through my log book I don’t want it to end but honestly I just want to sit on the shore for once looking out at the sea and know that their will be no weather to contend with, no bad anchorages, no boatyards or condensation or…  The live-aboard fight is getting to me.  Most marinas welcome derelict vessels that never get used but bringing my little cutter in to live-aboard  starts world war three.  I have yet to stay in a marina with a single boat that is better maintained than Sookie.  I’m a hermit, I keep the dock clean and don’t bother anybody but I constantly am harrased for wanting to live a reasonable life.

Top designs Klettersack 15

Distance makes the heart grow fonder so that is the direction I Have chosen be-it a day, week, month or two years I need to recharge.  When I leave I will have Sookie ready enough that I can launch her and sail away in an easy weekend.  If she sells I will convert the proceeds and bury them in the jungle as I always do and continue the search.  I’m looking for a boat but its not the boat I’m searching for, the right boat will always find us.  I’m searching for the life I was destined to live, a sustainable way to continue what has basically been a 13 year adventure and more than anything the peace that comes to the soul when you know you are living true to yourself and the slave of no man, corporation or entity.  Freedom is the easist thing to obtain in this world if its actually what you seek.

island life

Somewhere at 48 N – I tuck the logbook in behind my binoculars, tide book and tattered old copy of instant weather forecasting.   No I don’t think we have had our last adventure together I reassure Sookie.  Go to sleep now, winter is coming, We will both wake up soon enough.

House Of The Rising Sun

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For three weeks the weather guesser when we could get it was reporting Gales to the north of us and strong wind warnings to the south.  We tucked in and out, around and behind the weather usually finding idlyic sailing in the process.  We were heading across the Straits Of Georgia and they had been throwing a tantrum for days. falling down I pulled myself around Sookie in my dinghy inspecting each chain plate and all the lower terminals on the boat.  When I was satisfied I announced that we would set sail in the morning.  I’ll do anything to avoid sailing in heavy weather but when  it catches me I become alive, a strange feeling of calmness, fear and excitement take over.  These same characteristics are the what has gotten me through life virtually unscathed.  I say virtually because lets be real no matter how well you stack your deck of cards there is always some fool blindly staggering through life who will bump your table and bring the whole house down. I can’t protect my table any more than I can control the weather, what I can do is build a strong foundation and keep pushing foreword.I screamed over the howling wind to Emily, now do know why I put so much love and attention into Sookie, tears were streaming from her eyes but thats her story not mine.

Its official I have an offer for a two year contact starting in January and all the fringe benefits that go along with it.  Sure there is a bunch of mandatory hand shaking, grip and grin, BS dinners blah, blah, blah but if I want the false security its mine for the taking.  My chest is constricted my heart hurts and that short two year contact feels like I’m selling my soul to the devil.  Your money or your life, you can’t have both. At the age of 25 I couldn’t even comprehend the span of two years, I was a time millionaire.  Now at the crusty age of 47 I measure and live my life in dog years  and 14 years seems intolerable.  In 2005 I was poised to retire a wealthy man, two years later I was living in my car.  Two years later I was back on top, two years after that married to the right woman.  Two years after that building our dream boat together and two years after that living alone on said boat and selling it.  The whole world could end in two years…

I’m clairvoyant, but you already know that.  I’m sensing you don’t believe me.  While I can’t guarantee that I can tell you everything about your future I can tell you that time is running out and that no amount of money will buy you anymore. Sitting in complete and utter silence I watched the candles flicker on Sookies Butternut ceiling boards, tears running down my face.  They weren’t tears of sadness, they were tears of sheer paralytic fear.  At sea I don’t have time to be afraid but back here in the boatyard the damn is bursting.  My tan bare feet are proof that I still can’t find my shoes or maybe on some level I’m not prepared to put them back on.  Waiting for the train is one of my all-time favorite essays and I have to wonder if I’m on a train bound for nowhere.

My dream was never to circumnavigate although I’d like to.  Its not to sail to the South Pacific although it would be nice.  I love living aboard, even in winter no matter how much I bitch about the cold.  I love sailing local and always having a plug to come back to.  My dreams are simple and attainable which is why they all come to fruition.  When people ask me what I would want If I could have anything in the world it all comes back to a solid foundation and I’m still working hard on it.  Nothing worth doing in this world is worth doing alone.

I’ve got one foot on the platform, the other foot on the train.  I’m heading back to New Orleans to wear that ball and chain.  ~Ted Anthony

Heading towards the station …

Tucked away in our subconscious minds is an idyllic vision. We see ourselves on a long, long trip that almost spans the continent. We’re traveling by passenger train, and out the windows we drink in the passing scene of cars on nearby highways, of children waving at a crossing, of cattle grazing on a distant hillside, of smoke pouring from a power plant, of row upon row of corn and wheat, of flatlands and valleys, of mountains and rolling hills, of biting winter and blazing summer and cavorting spring and docile fall.

But uppermost in our minds is the final destination. On a certain day at a certain hour we will pull into the station. There sill be bands playing, and flags waving. And once we get there so many wonderful dreams will come true. So many wishes will be fulfilled and so many pieces of our lives finally will be neatly fitted together like a completed jigsaw puzzle. How restlessly we pace the aisles, damning the minutes for loitering … waiting, waiting, waiting, for the station.

However, sooner or later we must realize there is no one station, no one place to arrive at once and for all. The true joy of life is the trip. The station is only a dream. It constantly outdistances us.

“When we reach the station, that will be it !” we cry. Translated it means, “When I’m 18, that will be it ! When I buy a new 450 SL Mercedes Benz, that will be it ! When I put the last kid through college, that will be it ! When I have paid off the mortgage, that will be it ! When I win a promotion, that will be it ! When I reach the age of retirement, that will be it ! I shall live happily ever after !”

Unfortunately, once we get it, then it disappears. The station somehow hides itself at the end of an endless track. “Relish the moment” is a good motto, especially when coupled with Psalm 118:24: “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” It isn’t the burdens of today that drive men mad. Rather, it is regret over yesterday or fear of tomorrow. Regret and fear are twin thieves who would rob us of today.

So, stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles. Instead, climb more mountains, eat more ice cream, go barefoot oftener, swim more rivers, watch more sunsets, laugh more and cry less. Life must be lived as we go along. The station will come soon enough.

~Found as published in Dear Abby, The Station, By Robert J. Hastings

Ukulele Traveler

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Hours of searching confirmed that my stealth campsite so so stealth that even I couldn’t find it.  I had left just hours earlier to hitchhike to the Pack and Save for food while I planned my journey to the volcano.  I sat on a rock and the heavens opened up on me, I couldn’t have been wetter if I was swimming.  I had literally lost every single possession I had on the planet earth.  I pulled a can of juice out of my plastic grocery sac and contemplated my future.

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With nothing but the clothes on my back I started my new adventure.  Within 24 hours I had a place to stay, met a nice girl and was given an invitation to travel in style to one of the outlying islands.  Sometimes we get so attached to our stuff it becomes more important than our lives.  Its a murky line between owning our possessions and having them own us.  I was a little suprised when everything I own in the world that isn’t attached to the boat fit inside my 48 liter pack.  This pack is way to large for me but I’m not going on vacation, she is my tiny home, turtle shell and life support sytem while I set off to buy my freedom.

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The more I research the Bristol Channel Cutter the more I wonder if i’m getting in over my head.  I know I can sail her and maintain her and upgrade her.  My biggest fear is that I might be buying the farm with her.  I can rig up and sail Sookie in about 10 minutes, she is easy to dock, fun to sail and always can fit into this or than little nook.  The BCC is a ship and while its always been my dream to own and sail my own ship I wonder if the romance and challenge will be lost.  I slung my pack over my shoulder with my Ukulele strapped to the back and my trusty Nikon slung around my shoulder to take a test run.  I didn’t make it far before setting eyes on a gorgeous Nor’sea 27 at the guest dock.  Studying her lines made me smile, Lyle Hess sure could draw a pretty boat.

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When I set out on this voyage I knew that there was no safety net at the end of the journey, perhaps thats what made it all so special.  Without risk there is no reward, the open road calls my name and a new journey is underfoot.  Sookie feels cold and lonely in this forlorn little yard but she is safe and soon enough I will return to put her back together.  Step off the cliff and a net will appear.

I aint afraid of nothin.  ~Adam nash

Back In The Saddle Again

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Sprawled out on all four’s the distinctive smell of shit was overpowering.  I’m barfing my guts out in a grass drainage ditch at the top of some un-named hill.  Snot dripping from my nose and foaming at the mouth like a rabid dog.  The most fucked up part is whats going through my mind each time I wretch.  I keep thinking, man my stomach is going to be so ripped from this and thats how I met her but I’m getting ahead of myself.

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When Emily left the boat she took a piece of my heart with her.  I feel distinctly alone but not lonely.  I’ve been busy wrapping up the boat but it was just to hot to work, I stepped into the cockpit for a ciggi and there they were… There is a camp ground literally 20 feet from Sookie and in it were two young coeds in the smallest bikinis I have ever see.  Normally I would sneak a peek and go about my business but not today, I’m jacked, I need a woman and  none of this was helping.  I ducked into the boat grabbed my helmet and hit the road on Katie, my fixie.  The next best thing to a cold shower is a good hard ride.

Lets face it I don’t do well when confronted with stupid people like the girl who refused to sell me ciggis without ID on my 47th Birthday.  Today it was a group of spandex clad hipsters on $10,000.00 bikes hogging up the winding road pedaling at a snails pace.  There was a long climb coming and I needed to punish myself on it to clear my mind.  I kept remembering my good friend Wayne Dyers words, Stormy, there are no justified grievances.  My frustration got the best of me, I called out on your left as I passed team spandex, I was wearing my chaco’s hiking shorts and a cotton tee shirt as I passed them on the climb.  The only thing more humiliating to a cyclist than being passed by a guy on a single speed would be if the bike was pink, yes Katie is getting powder coated. When I lived in Hawaii I learned a fun trick, if you want to race somebody you blow a snot rocket at their front tire and its on.  I could hear the lead rider rolling his gears and with it started the Tour De Lopez.  One by one every one of them passed me I couldn’t keep up with their gears.  I was feeling light headed as I rounded the top of the hill, stepped off my bike and fell to me knees.

Nothing could be more humiliating than being beaten by spandex hipster cyclists except one thing, a witness.  I heard the distinctive unclipping of riding cleats, felt a pat on the back and heard her soft soothing words, take it easy friend, I’m a nurse you might have heat stroke.  I don’t have heat stroke I blurted out half muffled by my hand from wiping barf off my face, I haven’t eaten in four days and pushed it a little hard.  A little hard?  I saw you racing that cycling team. on your fixie, and you haven’t eaten in how many days?  What the hell is wrong with you?  Where should I start I replied, a single tear rolled down my cheek.  She smiled reached out her hand and as I reached out mine she retracted, I suddenly knew when the smell of shit was coming from.

I cleaned myself up and she offered to buy me a slice of Pizza and a beer at the local food store.   She is staying at the hotel next to the boat yard and invited me in for a shower.  I was too dense to know if she was offering me a shower to clean up or attempting to get me into the shower with her.  I made up some lame story why I had to leave and thanked her for dinner and good company.  She went in for a hug, her warm breath whispered in my ear, you have no idea what you are missing.  As she pulled back she snuck in a peck on the lips…

My head was a little higher when I threw my leg over my bike and pedaled into the sunset.

From the log of Sookie – Alone in the islands  `Breaking up sucks, but not half as badly as re-entry.

Sailing The Inside Passage

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I heard it before I saw it, looking back I saw white water crumbling over my head.  The wind was up and the sea as steep and angry as I have seen in this area. The wave slapped Sookie with an explosion of white water, streaks of foam blew off the crests of the waves and for the first time on this journey I almost wished I had added a reef point to my 80 square foot staysail the only canvas I had up.  I was is heaven caught in the belly of the tempest. Sookie was doing what I built her to do, keep me alive.  I couldn’t of known it at the time but in less than 48 hours I would come as close to losing Sookie as I could on a dead calm windless day. sailing blogs People who sail with me know if anything that I’m not easily rattled, some day I will write about our near fateful encounter but honestly weeks later I’m still too shaken up.  I can teach any good student 80% of sailing in a week.  The other 20%, the part we call seamanship takes the rest of your life.  Sookie turned out to be the absolutely ideal boat for the voyage, she never failed to tack, beat into steep short period sea’s like a witch, was super comfy at anchor and as fun to sail as any boat I have ever been on.  It took me 4 years but her running rigging is finally perfect, i can reef her in under a minute, she heaves to instantly and no matter what the weather she handled like a lady. sailing blogs The only complaint I have is that while she may be able to claw off a lee shore getting her to make weatherly progress in anything over 40 knots of true wind is beyond her or my ability.  I’ve been doing my research and I think a furling jib might be in my future.  I’m convinced that if I could roll just a scooch of her jib out in combination with a reefed staysail we might find a middle ground when the wind turns grumpy.  A third reef in my main is also in the makings  I ask a lot of this 22′ boat but due to her small size she does have limitations although they are few and far between. sailing blogs I was told you can’t sail the inside passage  so many times I got paranoid and added 5 gallons to my 4 gallon total fuel capacity, I never used it and could have done the whole trip with 2.  I was also really beaten up for continuing to sail without a depth sounder but it was never an issue.  I did however meet 6 people who all had hard groundings with their depth sounders on.  I have to admit our fun meters were pegged on more than one occasion trying to negotiate small rock strewn passes but it was the constant challenge that made the trip what it was.  Our little 6hp outboard would have been the perfect size engine had she run properly for us.  One hour into the trip she started to faultier and got worse every day, ONE HOUR!  The final insult was when her prop spun its ring while we were being sucked backwards into the rocks at 10.2 knots by a rapid that was going north south and west all at the same time. sailing blog We carried 34 gallons of water but never used more than 14 between refills.  Our meager budget of 100 a week and a fairly well stocked boat was easy to stick to and we never ran over it until the last week when disaster came looking for us, the motor runs perfectly now that we are back thanks to the wonderful people at Roche Marine.  The prices in Canada were ludicrous and there are three taxes on everything. With a little bit of luck I will set off again April 2nd 2016 with a windvane so I can completely skip the Gulf Islands which didnt do much for me other than all the wonderful people I met.  My goal is Glacier Bay and a full 8 months to do it in.  Had circumstances been different this year I would have gone all the way but I’m still working hard at that last 20%. falmouth Cutter 22 We didn’t have heat and were cold and wet for half of the trip, heat is number 2 on my list followed by a good light air sail that our tiny budget couldn’t afford.  Our anchoring system was flawless easy to use and even though we couldn’t set our amor or use the engine for anchoring we never dragged and inch, not even during a full gales in soft squishy mud.  We would drop the anchor in silence doing about half a knot down wind which was enough to straighten her chain but never enough to set it.  We witnessed many boats dragging even some with all chain.  I would like to go to 100′ so we don’t swing so much but thats mostly due to boneheads who don’t know how to anchor and drop their hook right on top of us in a deserted bay. sailing blog And what about crew?  We had more fun than any boat we came across but the universe has different plans for both of us.  I will never sail solo again so its back to the boatyard for now which gives me the opportunity to work on Sookies almost legondary cozy factor. falmouth cutter 22 I loved the early mornings and daily routine of setting up the boat.  We rarely sailed over 12 miles in any day and almost always found safe quiet empty anchorages. Before we left many sailors tried to give me advice and tell me of their favorite spots, I refused to listen to any of them.  I wanted my own trip, my own adventure and boy did I get it.  Each morning I would pull out my compas and make a 20 mile circle on my chart from our anchorage, only then would we have any idea of where we were headed.  We never made a single plan or destination some days we sailed north, others south, east or west. DSC_1049falmouth cutter 22 We didn’t see a single whale but we were whitness on  regular basis to the brutality of nature.  We never saw the bears we were warned of but did hear them.  We met up with a super pissed off mountain lion but missed the wolves.  Having a Sasquatch encounter was the scariest part of the trip but awesome.  Now that were back its time to look for a bit of work to buy my freedom.  I carefully bottled up enough selective memories to carry me though another winter and this one is going to be a wild wet one. falmouth cutter 22 The hardest part of the journey was remembering to put clothes on, we sailed out of the cold and into 100 degree temperatures that followed us for the remainder of the trip. Rowing naked across our anchorage Emily looked down and asked do you think we should have clothes on?  More often than not we had wide open empty anchorages.  Sookie was our own private island the surrounding nature our universe.  While I loved every aspect of the voyage the sound of chain rattling through the haws hole was the most satisfying.  I would crack a warm beer sit on the scuttle hatch and scan my new horizon  content with yet another successful day at sea, more lessons learned and the best damn boat in the world firmly planted under my tan bare feet.

You’ve learned everything about sailing but nothing about seamanship. 

One Cup Of Coffee

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Sitting on the set of the movie One Cup of Coffee, nose buried in my book I was the last place I should have ever been.  I had backpacking plans that seemed awfully important at the time.  I hate night shoots and had just come off of a week shooting a horror film called Mirror Mirror. Somehow my a friend talked me into taking his place as an extra on the overnight shoot so he could go out on a date.

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The previus week I had made friends with one of the actors that got me bumped from extra to day player, a huge pay upgrade and another line on my resume that wasn’t total BS.  I was pulled from the jaws of the storm i was fighting with Tania Aebi in Maiden Voyage when the Stunt coordinator introduced himself to me asking if I had ever done any stunt work.  My lack of experience didn’t seem to matter much to him as he excused himself announcing that he would return later to talk more with me about it.  Minutes later the director came up to me introduced himself and offered me a bump to day player if I was ok doing my own stunt work.  My friend Ricky from last week was in this movie as well and convinced them to bump me. Two roles in one week and my resume was almost all real.  I never did watch either movie and don’t know if I made it to the big screen or ended up on the cutting room floor, of the hundreds of movies I have worked on I have actually watched less than a dozen.

So thats how it all happened, I had been traveling till I ran out of money and fell ass backwards into Hollywood.  Talk about dumb fucking luck, but thats my life.  I never sweat the small stuff knowing the Universe will always provide for me if I let it.  Sipping my coffee in the morning sun my mind wandered off to where I might land next when I was smacked square in the face with the 2×4 of life.  My mind exploded with ideas for a new photography project that is just up my alley and Portandia is the prefect place to pull it off.  I’m headed to Hipsterville with everything I own on my back  and not s single care in the world.

One Cup Of Coffee was a movie about a washed up minor league pitcher who had one shot at the majors.  We all get one shot in life, what me make of it is who we become. Because I don’t have to skill or talent as a photographer to pull this one off I will have to rely on my passion and yes again my best friend dumb fucking luck.

The harder I work, the luckier I get.

STORmY TELLER

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In thirty years of sailing and voyaging our journey engine-less up the inside passage was far and away the greatest adventure I have ever had.  Someday I will tell the story.

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I’m often asked what it takes to be a really great writer and while I don’t consider myself to be one I will answer the question. I will because I’m Stormy and thats how I roll.  I love when grammar nazi’s attack my blog, lets face it any putz other than me can edit, truly great writers are one in a billion.

If you really want to be a great writer its easy. Tell the truth or at least the truth as you perceived it.  You can put 4 people through the same situation and have 4 completely different perceptions of what happened.

Stop trying so hard if it doesn’t flow you don’t have a story.  I recently read the worst sailing book of my life, not only did she not have a story to tell even though she had sailed across the Pacific, but her writing was straight out of a how to become a writer workshop and was literally painful to read.

Forget about everything they taught you in school a good writer can have run on sentences, make up words and pretty much do anything they want to convey the story, writers are artists, color outside of the lines often.

Have a good story, just because you did something everybody in the world is doing doesn’t mean its interesting, A great story is great to write about once but keep making them up, change is a good thing.

Thats it, it isn’t rocket science.  Live the good life and write about it.

So I’m sitting in the laundry room pirating internet.  The washer is banging around below me, it sounds like I am on a roller coaster but feels like I’m on a train.  Yesterday was a sad day around here for all as Emily moved off the boat.  I woke up alone today without her little chirping protests of starting a new day.  In one more day my new backpack will arrive in the mail, I’m headed to Portland for a bit and then setting out to create my masterpiece.  Its taken me a lifetime summon the courage for the next journey but it has already begun.

Its not an adventure until something goes wrong.  ~Yvon Chouinard

Spinning My Wheels

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I just bought my bike back from my LBS.  When we sailed out of Lopez I was damn near crippled and could barely walk, now in the best shape of my life I am strong like ox and ready to put some serious miles on my trusted steed.

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The journey to my new Bristol Channel Cutter 28 will take place on my simple old Fixie, everything I own in tow with Chloe as my navigator.  The beauty of being such a minimalist is that I am free as a bird to pursue any opportunity  at the drop of a dime.  I failed miserably at integration and have sailed on.  My life savings is 400 bucks, there are no employment opportunities  here for me.  I have a sick dog and everything I own is hanging on a half inch piece of string.  Am I scared?  Hell no, I say bring it!  From here on out there is no path to follow, there are no  charts to guide me and no relief from the helm.  I’m setting out into uncharted waters  on little more than a wing and a prayer.  A challenged life is a fulfilled one.

There is nothing more efficient than a scared man with a bucket.  Unknown

180 Degrees South

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I tap my quarter against the metal box like a gambling junkie seeking instant self gratification from a one armed bandit.  My last one drops with a plink and an almost endless supply of water erupts from the shower head.  Hot water scalds my naked shivering body.  Soapy sudsy bubbles  swirl around my feet cascading down the drain taking days, weeks and months of salt with them.

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No man can fully appreciate the luxury of a hot shower the way a sailor fresh in from weeks at sea can.  My mind drifts off to the first really big storm I experienced solo.  I was so afraid no amount of water could quench my dry mouth.  I wanted off that boat so badly I would have done anything but the sea had different plans for me.  You can’t watch the miles tick off or stare at a motionless clock hoping the time will miraculously  wind forward until the seas are calm again.  All you can do is tuck in and enjoy what I can only describe as beautiful and frightening at the same time.

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Shoreside life moves in the same mysterious ways. the weather patterns are different but reintegration is frightening.  I still can’t find my shoes, I’m land sick, time moves to quickly here, everybody is in such a hurry.  I need to find a slip for Chloe a bit of work for me and a new boat for Emily.  Like that fateful day nearly 30 years ago this storm to will pass, i could try and fight it but I prefer down wind sailing.

Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream.

Falmouth Cutter 22 Sookie For Sale

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As I slip into my 47th year on this planet if nothing else I know I want to continue to push further and further in my adventures ways.  The toll of time marches on and with every year I feel the need for life to be just a bit more managable.

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In less than a week I will pull Sookie for some much needed TLC. Emily is moving on to pursue blue water destinations while I am committed to continuing on with my push north to explore the last frontier.  Sookie has been listed for sale and my search for a new boat begins.

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I still can’t find a single fault in this fine little ship and while my cruising dreams haven’t changed I have.  The new boat will have heat, a diesel engine, a giant chart platter that I  can actually see and just a smudge more space.  I don’t know where I’m headed for now but it will be somewhere between Port Townsend and the San Juan Islands or Bellingham.  Chloe needs a bit of dry land and thats what she will get.

If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.  ~Lao Tzu

Riders On The Storm

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We must be the luckiest sailors in the world.  We were told you can’t sail the inside passage but we have sailed more than 95% of the 350 miles we have covered.  There hasn’t been a single day that we aren’t running from, hiding from or caught out in the weather.

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Running the Malaspina Straights we were averaging 5.8 to 6.8 with an opposing tide, our theoretical hull speed is 6.12

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Slow easy days have filled in the gaps and given us much needed rest from long hours at the tiller without self steering.

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Most nights we have found beautiful little hurricane holes which inspired Emily to write another song about playing hide and seek with the weather.

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The more we explore this region the more I realize I don’t want to leave, a lifetime could be spent here and never touch the tip.

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The water is warm and inviting and crystal clear.

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Emily does a farewell dance in Lund as we set our sights south in search of work and a good place in Port Townsend to hang Sookie for the winter to do a few improvement to her interior.

Wedged in  my quarter berth I hear the water rushing by as Sookie charges south Emily screams when the largest of the rollers lift Sookie and attempt to throw her off course but she holds true and lifts to every one.  I should tuck a reef but she is having way too much fun.  Once again the weather guesser has been wrong but we always feel safe  and cozy in our little ship.  If I could bottle this freedom I could have made my fortune on this trip. From the Log of Sookie June, Malaspina Straights

Changes In Latitudes

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43 days ago we set sail with no plan, destination or preconcieved notion as to what, when, where or why.  Nothing in life gets in the way more than a good solid plan.

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Somewhere down that watery road we fell into a rythim with the sun and moon.  Guided by the stars our memories faded until nothing existed except the present.

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Our freedom is felt through sandy bare feet, sun kissed smiles and the golden locks of salt washed hair.  In seeking nothing we have found everything but is it ever enough.

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Sailing south from the 50th parallel, we know it is coming, we don’t have to seek it out, our future waits patiently for us and in it lies simple changes we call life.

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Change is a good thing.

“The only way that we can live, is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change. The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open. Do it. Throw yourself.”

Voyaging On $400 A Month

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You know Jimmy Buffett was a voyaging sailor, no song describes our wandering hunger more than cheese burger in paradise.  We sailed too quickly through the San Juan’s and too slowly through the gulf Islands but here we are at the end of the road.

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There will always be some dweeb who has never sailed more than 15 miles from his home port telling us that we are doing everything wrong.  We may be doing everything wrong but we are having a hell of a lot of fun doing it.  Our budget is tight but totally manageable as long as nothing breaks and you don’t mind being tortured every time you visit a new port with smell of cheeseburgers wafting through the air and the sight of dozens of people sharing iced cold pints of Ale.  On 400 a month you won’t even get to lick the glass but for us at least this voyage isn’t about beer, burgers, or crispy well done perfectly salted fries.

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We wanted a new adventure together and from day one it has been everything and much more than we could have asked for.  We never planned on sailing past the gulf islands but here we are on the edge of grizzly territory and still pushing North.  Some days we have good charts, some days we have none.  Some days we bask in the sun while others we shiver from dusk till dawn.  The wind has for the most part been under 5 knots or over 20 almost always on the nose but she has given us more than our fair share of down wind backhanded smack downs.  We are motoring substantially more than we hoped too but still under 10% of the time.

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The most water we have used before finding more has been 9 gallons, I just topped off with piss colored water that I was assured was potable, I let Emily try it first, we will see if she is still with us in the morning.  If I had to choose my favorite thing about Canada so far its hard to say as there are so many wonderful things but I love the fact that they named their one dollar coin after George Clooney.  Everybody is crazy nice here except for the jerks.  The weather has been perfect except when it sucks.  Everything on the boat is working perfectly except for the outboard that didn’t go a single hour before it started to sputter and die.

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The rockstars so far of this voyage are the small things that make our life so enjoyable like our little short wave radio that gives us classical music (thanks Ken :) )as we drift mile after mile off the wind taking turns at napping in the sun, munching on snacks and trying to make coffee on our non gimbaled non mounted camp stove.  I pulled the tiny GPS off my bike, who knew micro chart platters could be so much fun.  Our Ukuleles which get used almost as much as our cameras and of course our trustily Rocna anchor that in over 150 nights of use has yet to fail us, I can assure you that it has more than been put to the test.

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If we truly miss anything on this trip other than a proper diesel engine, heat, food, clean water, a bigger boat… its warm dry clothes.  Getting Chloe from the boat to the dingy is like a slow motion train wreck always leaving both us and the dog salty,damp and cold.

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So where are we heading?  We don’t know and we don’t care, our world is perfect, except for everything listed above.

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Row row row your boat gently down the stream.  Unknown

 

Box of good measures

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I tack for the first time by myself with Alan sleeping down below. A fishing boat is starboard of the bow, dropping pots for prawns, we’re getting closer and closer. He yells something out the window as I lash the tiller over, the luffing sails and wind drown out his call. “Sorry, mate” I think to myself. I should have changed course earlier perhaps, but we needed to lay as close to the island as possible. The passage was pushing near eight hours, and Chloe needed a potty break.

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I push the tiller from side to side, adjusting ever so often to remain on the compass course. Which way the the boat moves and where the compass lands is lost on my mind while my hands grasps the concept. They seem to know what to do the less I think.

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The anchorage is the first we find where we think “this is what we’re looking for.” It’s remote and rugged, very Alaska-y. The village is one dilapidated dock and and a bar with red pleather booths and flies buzzing around.

We see the fisherman from earlier tied up at the dock and he’s petting Chloe. He tells me he was laying pots down and that once he starts he can’t stop, that’s why he was trying to get my attention. We make amends and in his thick, north Canadian accent he laughs and says no worries and asks where we’re headed.

“Well, you have a reliable motor, right?” he says.

Sort of.

“Well, you have charts?”

Some.

“You’re not going up around the west side, are you?”

Planning on it.

He warns about the north end of, where it gets “narsty.” The forecast, subsequently, is calling for 30 knots.

Heeding the fisherman’s warnings we decide to call the next days sail and wait it out in the anchorage. Alan says it’s up to me, the big blow might not even come and that he can get us there safely but it might not be pretty. Despite my confidence in Sookie and her captain, and my desire to learn some heavy weather sailing tactics I figure that being out at sea when there’s no choice but to weather a storm is better than going out looking for it.

I figure deciding to stay goes into my box of good measures. Plus, why not spend some time in the place we looked so hard to find?

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Canada Canada, or city Canada?

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After two nights trapped in the rolling anchorage of the half hippie town half tourist trap of Ganges Harbor on Saltspring Island, we were stoked to pull in to the more pristine, quiet waters of Montague Harbor on Galiano Island.

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Rowing over to the fuel dock to top up our 1 gallon jerry can we’re greeted by Big Dan (not to be confused with Big Mike, his look alike brother. They say they’re not twins, but we think they’re lying).  By far these two brothers are top notch Canadians we’ve met on our adventures in the land of the maple leaf flag.

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Dan and Mike are the new owners of the Montague Harbour Marina, a rustic and secluded set of docks in the beautiful Gulf Islands of British Columbia. The marina has full amenities, a water front café, and a marine store with guide books and charts. If it was time to top up our ship’s batteries, the bros’ marina would have been the ideal location. We kind of just wanted to tie up for the night for fun, but we only just recently came out of dock withdrawal and didn’t want all those nights of cold sweats to have been for nothing.

In fact, the marina would be a great place to hole up and find work in the winter, but alas, we’re not Canadian.

Dan gave us the scoop about where to snag some fresh water (the Gulf Islands can be scarce for water, even the marinas), didn’t mind my studying of the charts and guide books in the store without buying them, and it only took a little bit of flirting to get him to give me the marina wi-fi code for free (non-marina people have to pay for wi-fi—sorry ya’ll, guy’s gotta eat).

Dan the Man commandeered the marina one year ago and lives in a permanent tent structure on the hill. He plans on building a house overlooking the wonderful harbor one day, but we think he should live on a boat.

If you’re in the area and want an authentic place to gather, stop by Montague Harbor Marina on Galiano Island, BC and experience some down home Canadian hospitality.

 

Lovely people, lovely places

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Rode the current up San Juan Channel between Cliff and Shaw Islands. Through the narrow pass on a starboard tack, trying to decipher the chart I could barely tell which island was which. As we enter Deer Harbor the most beautiful wooden boats, most under 30-feet, are silently racing. Their drifters like white clouds, colorful spinnakers like hot air balloons. If only Sookie had a light air sail. Crewing in the silent race is Duncan, the Flicka owner we are sailing in to see.

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Back aboard the boat we meet two real hippies, the authentic kind, Leo & Christine. Leo is gregarious and tells us we’re “not close enough!” when we ask him if our boat is crowding his in the anchorage. Later, I express my apprehensions about checking in to Canada (blame my authority issues) and he tells me not to worry, we look like Canadian youth. He tells wild stories about San Francisco in the 60s, how it used to be a place of culture, like most cities back then. Now they’re filled with people trading their lives for money, their youths for a paycheck.

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Christine, soft-spoken with kind eyes tells me the story about her first boat, a Cornodo 25. She lost it one stormy night anchored in Fish Bay. It wound up on the rocks. She lost everything. We know lots of people who have dragged anchor in that spot. The whole time I keep thinking what I would have done during those different moments, to prevent the same outcome. I give her my Kombucha starters. Now that we’re away from our trusted dock I can’t make frivolous fermentations with our precious water supply. Christine is a healer and very conscious of what she eats, so I knew my magic health elixir was going to a good home.

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We hear a whistle from the Duncan on the dock as our new friends shuffle off and I row out to get him. It’s windy and choppy but in my favor on the way to shore. I anticipate he will row back, since he’s a big guy. Turns out he’s a worse rower than I am, so I thunder on pulling the oars through the chop, the wind hard against us. With our collective weight in the deflating dinghy and deteriorating conditions the yachters in the marina are getting quite a show. They, along with us, probably thought we’d never make it out of the slip we were stuck in. Duncan is ready to throw in the towel when we clear the big power boat to port and are on a straight course back to Sookie.

Duncan has similar sentiments to us. We talk about the DNR “cleaning up” the harbors in the islands, displacing so many live aboards, all because of the vacation home owners and their waterfront view. The islands are changing. The more money comes in the more community is pushed out.

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A few days earlier, en route to Shaw, we decide to go to Friday Harbor. We poach the breakwater and buy sunscreen in town. The breakwater is a miserable rolling motion for nearly 24 hours. The next morning I buy a plastic chart holder at the swap meet from Kevin, the first friend I ever had in Friday Harbor. He took me sailing and that was the day I met Alan. Funny how it all comes full circle.

Wind

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Sookie bobs at her anchor rode hobby horsing, pitching and rolling.  The harbor is a crazy mix of huge power yachts and sailboats.  The drone of sea planes buzz in our ears like mosquitos while wind gusts through the harbor mercilessly.  Once again we have chosen the wrong anchorage.

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We must be cold because heat is almost all we talk about.  We look like aliens walking the town in our foulies where is out warm and dry but out in the anchorage its a different story.  The dingy leaps and tumbles as we attempt to transfer Chloe for her third walk of the day.  This simple act is made extremely labor intensive by the weather but must be quite an amusing sight to those on shore.  Chloe is tolerant of our floating home as long as she gets shore leave every 6 hours.

For the first time in my life I can’t write, I don’t have writers block, there is so much to share I don’t know where to begin.  Sitting in the cockpit we watch boats dragging their anchors across the harbor, there is nothing we can do, if we leave the boat we won’t be able to row back so we call the harbor on the VHF, they are useless.  A Vancouver 27 is being pounded on the sea wall, we can’t understand why the guy doesn’t move his boat, then we watch him shove the boat off in a break between the gusts, he beats his engine-less boat through the mooring field and we are quite impressed.  I feel fear for him as we watch the whole scene unfold.  We shout encouragement, deep down I know that I have changed, my engineless days are over and I’m ok with it.

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My tired canvas has pulled me on a thousand journeys all different yet somehow the same, this is Emily’s first real voyage on Sookie,  Two weeks ago when we set off she was a a greenhorn,  I watch her stare off at the horizon tiller in hand, for the first time ever I can go below and sleep in complete peace, Emily has become a sailor.

“To find yourself, think for yourself.”
― Socrates

New salt

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There’s a Scandinavian word for looking out the window anticipating someone’s arrival. The word doesn’t translate directly to English, but the feeling does. 20150508-DSC_0622

We waited for our friends to arrive in the harbor by boat. It would be the last time we’d see them. For how long? We didn’t know.

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Aboard our neighbor and good friend Adam’s Ketch, this small community of sailors were as different as the boats they came in on. The smell of fish tacos and oysters frying wafted through the companionway. The sound of laughter echoed deep into the bellows of the ship.

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That saloon had become a second home. We went around in circles teasing and provoking each other, basking in the collective’s idiosyncrasies. Countless nights were spent beneath the warm glow of the lantern. Sometimes there were six of us, sometimes only three, but the open door policy was a constant. We could count on our friend sending his precocious seven-year-old son over whenever there was left over chocolate chip waffle mix. We could count on a ride anywhere on the island if we needed parts, groceries, or were late for work.

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On the other side of the marina was another friend, Kevin. A true voyager with stories of south pacific landfalls, encounters with the unknown, and an endless ability to stir the wanderlust in me. But his story is his own. You’ll have to read his book.

We had the pleasure of running into Chris time and time again, as he made it a point to come and visit us wherever we were moored. Always sharing the bounty of his wild harvests and his unrelenting enthusiasm for our local waters.

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Then there’s Julie. On the cusp of her first summer in the islands she reminds me of myself one year ago, only more focused and determined. She’s never sought anyone to show her the way to a life on the water, but has such a genuine openness that those people seem to find her.

The following morning we pushed out of the protection of the harbor at 7 a.m. As I watched my friends’ boats get smaller and smaller I knew I wouldn’t be looking out the window anymore to see if they had arrived for the weekend, or were ready to come over for dinner. Familiarity was left behind in our wake and it was time to tell a new story.

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“Everything is better with other people.”

All My Ducks In A Row

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They say a picture is worth a thousands words.  It was bound to happen and when it did it was like watching a puppy fall asleep mid-stride as its spastic being is running around one second and stone cold asleep the next.

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Emily went down hard and was down for the count.  Day 34 without our engine came and went, wrapping up this and that wasn’t overly stressful or tiring but at the end of a 6 month stretch it finally caught up to us.  I grabbed her camera and took what was quite possibly the best photo I have ever taken.  You will never get to see it as she accidentally formatted her card before downloading it but it told a story well worth a thousand words…

All our ducks are in a row.  The engine is back and starts on the first pull after a few warm ups.  We have 24 gallons of water, 4 gallons of fuel and what was an ice cold six pack of beer sitting in our bilge.  When we sailed into Lopez 60 days ago we decided that this would be our new short term home while we finished up the boat.  All along we had planned on leaving today and now that we are finally ready to go… well were not going anywhere.  Two good friends are sailing in to see us so like good little sailors we have thrown our schedule out the window and now our lives depend on little more than the wind and tides.

“Time is what keeps everything from happening at once.”
― Ray Cummings

Cut from the same cloth

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Rowing out to the pirate ship our friend says, “the moon is full tonight.” It’s not. Siren pirate He comes aboard Sookie and gives me photo editing lessons into the evening. My new camera is smarter than me, but as I learn the ropes of post editing I begin to understand how it thinks. Helm Us live aboards have commandeered the corner of the dock. We lean against the slippery breakwater, rolling cigarettes and talking about running aground. golden tuwamish dink On opening weekend yachters from around the island line the marina with big white boats, offering gin and tonics to us self-proclaimed riff-raff. I get a navigation lesson from one of the sailors in the group and finally get a better understanding of what I’m talking about when I say where we’re headed.

“North,” we’ve said for six months now. North.DSC_0443Not wanting to disturb the beautiful evening with the engine we hoisted the yankee and ghosted silently into the dock.

I’ve learned you can’t go out looking for sailors, you have to become one.

Blue Collar Sailing Budgets

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The term mortgage translated from Old French, literally ‘death pledge,’ from mort (from Latin mortuus ‘dead’) This is a cash and carry boat, neither of us have any form of credit card nor are we willing to extend a single penny on credit, so much for a golden parachute.sailing blog

Budgets are like schedules and we refuse to have one but what we do have is a limited fund and when its gone we have to go back to scrubbing toilets.  Aside from our cash and carry rule cash depletion avoidance is a pretty simple.  Guest docks cost money so with the exception of the need to recharge or batteries they are out as are mooring balls.  I found this boat grounded with its ball still attached.  On our budget we have to work hard at not having too many emergencies that could rob us of the precious and small amount of gold we carry in our treasure chest.

While we don’t budget we do use simple math on a regular basis.  We add all our expenses annually rather than on a one time occurrence to put the real cost of things into perspective.  I am at day 60 on my no poo experiment “shampoo” and my long hair has never felt or looked so good.  I wear the same chlothes for a few days preferring to change my location rather than my clothes.  In the islands its 6 bucks a load for laundry and a buck a minute for a hot shower so these things are luxuries not necessities.

Emily thought I would break when she asked me to switch to Folgers from my premium coffee but I didn’t flinch nor did I when I stopped using sugar and cream, something is always better than nothing.  We use cast iron in our galley which will cook long after the heat is off to save fuel and the less mess we make the less water we use to clean so less hauling and searching for water.  Every upgrade on the boat has been premium and while its costs a bit more upfront it lasts twice as long.  We drink cheap booze “Emily doesn’t drink at all” and ration each can and bottle leaving us a surplus of cash should we need to splurge and pay for a pint in town.

With the exception of my $@% &@*^ motor I install and maintain everything myself.  I threw in the towel on the outboard after 30 frustration days, they have had it 31 and are no closer than I was which is yet another lesson to be learned.  We use two principals for everything on the boat, cost vs worth and pennywise pound foolish.  I could have and still could easily get 800 bucks for our old motor and buy a new one for 1500, I’m 150 into it already, loosing precious days and haven’t seen the bill that will arrive if our outboard ever does run properly again.  Where we sit now we are committed to the project but in hindsight a new one would have made more sense.

Being on a budget also means being creative, we don’t have all the charts we need but we were able to beg, barter or steal enough to get us started, I can and have used hand drawn charts and we will do it again this year with a lot of caution it works just fine in a pinch.  At nearly five bucks a gallon we use the outboard as infrequently as we can although ours is dangerously close becoming our new anchor.

Every season I go through every bit of gear on the boat from rigging to sails to the tools that keep them smart, you know the old saying an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Buying when its cheep is another big money saver for us.  100% of all food stores with the exception of Chloe’s food which is imported at a premium was purchased at a huge discount.  Two or three times a week all winter long we went scavenging for what we call bug out food.  When its dirt cheap we will buy half a dozen and store them in our huge lockers.

Our tiny budget also keeps us uber healthy.  Well over 80 percent of our food is completely unprocessed and comes packaging free.  Our favorite snack is home made kettle corn that cost about 50 cents a bowl and our drink of choice is water which while you can pay quite a bit for,  ours falls out of the sky.  I have and entire locker of junk food for those days when we just feel the need to eat like crap.  A can of chili with a bit of cheese and a hand full of fresh local onions satisfies that need.  We use Fritos scoops to eat it with and are instantly replenished with all the fat and sodium our healthier diet lacks.  Fritos are pure junk food but still only have three ingredients, corn, corn oil and salt.  They have more calories per ounce than any other food on the planet and are a much needed treat after a long hot and sweaty day in the sun.

Do we need to live like this??? Need has nothing to do with it.  Emily might be batshit crazy but I like her a lot and really enjoy spending as much time with her as I can, the more frugaly we live the more of our very precious time we can spend enriching our lives together rather than enriching someone else’s business.

We both admittedly have much to learn when it comes to being frugal sailors but the challenge and joy we get from it makes our days and lives more fun and interesting.  It also leaves a few bucks in the bank for the occasional special night out.

“Things do not change, we change. Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts.”  ~Henry David Thoreau

Conspiracy Theory

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Several years ago a  good friend said to me “You just lost everything you have in the world, what makes you think you can just buy a boat and sail to the Islands?”  My simple reply, “what makes you think I can’t?”Beer koozie I was recently told that my blog is a bit whiney, he continued on, “do you know how many people slammed their computers shut when you guys didn’t move the boat to Florida”  We both laughed, now so far in the past its funny to us but back then it wasn’t, we were within pennies of being able to make the transition putting us on the brink of warm clear water but any sailor knows that life is often little more than one big conspiracy of challenge.  Anything and everything will get in the way often bringing us to our knees.  If your refitting a boat you know exactly what I’m talking about. sailing blog I don’t know how to write honestly about our lives without it occasionally sounding whiny.  I guess I can blame this new nirvana syndrome on social media where everybody is climbing all over themselves to prove how awesome their lives are posting fun pictures and comments and all form of rah rah look at me shit.  We may be the only ones left on this planet but occasionally our life sucks, thank god its not often.

Aside from waiting on one single item we had all of our ducks in a row.  We left getting Chloe’s health certificate till the last minute so it wasn’t until the weekend that we learned that her rabies shot was due.  A quick google search informed us that in her failing health her immune system couldn’t handle one.  I can see the headliner now, The Cruise Is Off, more slamming computers.  Actually we immediately started talking about plan B, C, D, E, and F.  Fortune smiled on us and Chloe is all ready to go but it easily could haver gone the other way.

So the conspiracy we are learning isn’t against sailors, its against quitters.  Deep in the bowels of my hard drive I have an almost completed story nearly 80,000 words long.  It has all the logs and journeys that never made it to these pages, hundreds of pictures and many incredible encounters.  This blog was never meant to be a sailing blog, it just transformed into one.  My book yet to be titled is not a sailing book although it takes place on a sailboat.  Its a book about the struggle to achive a better life.  We all have one unwritten chapter, make the best of it.

“Your dreams minus your doubts equals your net worth”

On A Wing And A Prayer

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Theres and old saying that if you ask any two sailors the same question you will get three answers.  We’ve been asking the same question, if you had 4 or 5 months to play where would you do it.

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I was the only six year old pirate in my school, my zebra eye patch had me looking like Captain Ron’s mini me.  Reconstructive eye surgery left me with a bit of a limp, I see the world through the eyes of double vision, backwards, crooked and blurry.  I’ve gotten so used to this that I almost don’t realize it anymore until I pull out my charts.  Before I met Emily route planning was a bit of a challenge, I would have to memorize my charts through a magnifying glass squinting with one eye closed.  Navigation for me has always been on a wing and a prayer.

Somewhere way back when on a dark and stormy night I not so gently reminded Emily that in a  blink of an eye it would be spring and she was the chief and soul navigator on this boat.  All sailors myself included suffer from what we refer to as Parkinson’s law.  In a nut shell we will wait till the last minute and every job will take exactly as much allotted time as we have to complete it.  Emily has been working hard for the last few days on her navigation but it will be trail by fire at 5 knots.

And so it happened with the suddenness of a broken shoe lace.  There are no more projects to be crossed off the list.  I took my first shower is over 45 days and put on clean clothes.  Were still in hurry up and wait mode but now we have time to turn the galley back into a galley from a work bench.  Organize tools and put them back into their lockers.  Out comes all the summer clothing and away with our winter warmies.  Counters are being cleared.  Everything has its place if we can only remember where. As we prepare to leave the grid lanterns are replacing our 12 volt lights, we never got around to adding solar or water tanks or…

We are going on a scavenger hunt in search of all the things we never got around to finding over the winter.  We will scavenge every boat yard and used marine chandalry from here to, well we don’t really know.  Call it what you want but the next 4 or 5 months of voyaging will scanty differ from what we are doing now.  Wake up make coffee, walk the dog, do a bit of writing, tinker on this and that, read a book, take a nap…  The word journey has a thousand meaning to a thousand people.  To us we have no idea what it means because this is our first true voyage, together.

Besides, if we get lost, we pull in somewhere and ask directions. ~Captain Ron

A Salty Seaman’s Wet Dream

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Help me.  Help me, help you.  Help me help you.  Thats right, I’m going to give one of my readers one thousand dollars.  Why?  ‘Cause I dig you and also because I want you to help spread the word about The Salish Sea’s most beautiful and distinctive Micro Ship, Siren.  She needs a new steward.

36' Pinky Schooner for sale

Who hasn’t dreamed of sailing over the horizon or maybe just across the bay?  Siren is ready to set sail today for any place on earth.  The is finely fitted with every option known to man from her water maker to her hydraulic steering.

This boat has essentially never been used and all her systems are brand spanking new.  Add a few cases of beer and a couple cans of beans and you are off.  She has refrigeration, diesel heat and everything in between.

Siren is 100% turn key and built just for you.

36'Colvin Pinky Schooner For Sale

All you have to do is spread the word, if you help me ring a new steward for Siren I will give you a cool grand. 1000 smackaroonies. See full spec’s here.

36' Pinky Schooner for sale

36' Pinky Schooner for sale

36' Pinky Schooner for sale

36' Pinky Schooner for sale

36' Pinky Schooner for sale

“To be truly challenging, a voyage, like a life, must rest on a firm foundation of financial unrest. Otherwise, you are doomed to a routine traverse, the kind known to yachtsmen who play with their boats at sea… “cruising” it is called. Voyaging belongs to seamen, and to the wanderers of the world who cannot, or will not, fit in. If you are contemplating a voyage and you have the means, abandon the venture until your fortunes change. Only then will you know what the sea is all about.

“I’ve always wanted to sail to the south seas, but I can’t afford it.” What these men can’t afford is not to go. They are enmeshed in the cancerous discipline of “security.” And in the worship of security we fling our lives beneath the wheels of routine – and before we know it our lives are gone.

What does a man need – really need? A few pounds of food each day, heat and shelter, six feet to lie down in – and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment. That’s all – in the material sense, and we know it. But we are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention for the sheer idiocy of the charade.

The years thunder by, The dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it, the tomb is sealed.

Where, then, lies the answer? In choice. Which shall it be: bankruptcy of purse or bankruptcy of life? ”
― Sterling Hayden, Wanderer

Falmouth Cutter 22 for sale

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Good news on the FC waterfront.  Honu has had a price redution just in time for spring sailing.  We wish we could take you along with us on Sookie but the next best thing is having your own and Honu is ready to go.

Falmouth Ctuuter 22 for sale

I could go on and on about how great those boats are but all you have to do is read my last 500 posts about our little Falmouth Cutter to know that Honu is among the most beautiful and well designed boats in the world.  She is turn key, on her Trailer and ready to go when and where you are.  Your destiny is in your own hands, buy this ship and sail away.

The cure for anything is saltwater – sweat, tears, or the sea.
– Isak Dinesen

And that’s why so many sailors are single…

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It’s a common scenario, the young sailor takes his new girlfriend out in a gale and she’s scarred for life. The seasoned seamen brings a woman aboard his boat with no standing headroom, and merely a bucket for a toilet.

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Not all woman are nautical, and some need coaxing and comfort to ease into life on board.

My first time sailing was as a crew member for the delivery of a 43-foot charter catamaran from Tonga to New Zealand.  While I knew nothing of boats at the time, and it’s plush, spacious interior was fun for a few weeks at anchor and ten days crossing the ditch, I knew right away it wasn’t really my style of boat. It was those three weeks anchored in Vava’u harbor, however, that I got my first taste of the sailing lifestyle and met cruisers from around the world.

It was smack dab in the middle of cyclone season and my naivety had me enjoying our waiting period in the small island group, not biting my nails in anticipation for a weather window. The good weather eventually came and off we went, never encountering storm-like conditions and the giant waves and winds I now more knowingly fear and respect. I can’t help but wonder though–had we hit nasty weather or had something else gone wrong on my first ever sailing trip, would I too have been turned off from sailing forever?

I was lucky. I had a magical first time experienced and eventually eased into life on board a sailboat.

My favorite uncle grew up on boats and owned a few small sailing vessels in his formative years. As he enters into the next stage of life it’s his dream to be a retired live aboard on a Grand Banks in his native waters of the Long Island sound. In the early days of his marriage to my aunt he hadn’t quite mastered the art of coaxing and comfort and her first night on the boat would be her last. This is his story…

I Spent my twenty’s getting on board Friday night, taking a cold shower Monday morning and going right to work, (for one summer with an Akita on board). Other than one summer where I had a housemate (she left the Akita) who was totally into the boat and “got it,” I kind of always dug being out for the weekend alone, as opposed to hearing one of the uninitiated piping up with, “what are we going to do now?” ( Um, we’re going to ferry your ass back to the dock, before your ignorance takes the shine off a perfect day)

Mia (my wife) loved my Catalina 22 and we had a lot of great days and nights on it. We had a slip 5 minutes from the house back then. In her defense, the first and last night she stayed on the boat over night with me was a comedy of errors.

It was this hot humid night in Port Jeff Harbor. I had yet to pick up a new Magna Kettle (grill) so I stupidly made this horrible, indigestible pasta and sauce deal on the alcohol stove. We had drinks, enjoyed the night, and I happily passed out in the v-berth. Well, a few hours later, the rain coming through the hatch woke me up.

As I took stock of the situation through the haze of Dewars and fog, I heard quiet sobbing. With a quick flop of the arm I determined that the crew was not in her berth. I headed for the cockpit, to see what was the matter.

It was hot, humid, and dinner refused to go quietly in to the night. The Catalina lacked a proper bulkhead between the engine room and the main salon, rather a snap on cushion in the aft dinette seat was all that was between you and 10 gallons of mixed gas and its accompanying fumes. This was no big deal on a breezy evening, but on one of those dead hot humid nights it could get anyone feeling a bit claustrophobic.

She never minded if I went out for a weekend overnighter, and we had many pleasant evenings in Stony Brook Harbor, but she’d never sleep on that boat again.”

Up shit creek without a paddle

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At 5:56 AM the sun unceremoniously rose somewhere behind a dark cloak of storm clouds.  It wont set again until 8:22 PM giving me nearly 15 grey hours to contemplate our current location,  up shit creek without a paddle.

Falmouth Cutter 22

Every-time we leave the dock its like the great escape.  Contrary currents and wind don’t make a good combination when your engine hates you.  It is the most consistent engine I have ever seen always stalling as soon as we are exactly half way out of the guest docks.  Sookie is small and manageable but still has a long keel and doesn’t like to do anything as much as she likes to go straight foreward.

Falmouth Cutter 22

I crawl back into our tiny cabin and retreat from the world, I’ve lost all confidence in this mechanical beast, the bane of my existence.  Mechanical aids are suppose to serve man, to make our lives easier but they don’t, they make us slaves.  So I have become a servant to convenience although I can’t think of a single convenience our little outboard offers us.

falmouth cutter 22

I can build and rebuild boats of any size shape or design, I can wire a boat, rig a boat, sew sails, install plumbing, paint varnish hammer and screw.  When it comes to internal combustion my eyes glaze over and everything turns Chinese.  Im missing my warped Yuloh but the design never fit on our tiny boat, a sculling oar would but I doubt I can make one with my Swiss Army knife in our time frame.  June 21 is right around the corner, a rude reminder that winter is on the way and I am still here.

Some men wish to be rich, others powerful.  I wish I was Larry Pardey.  From the log of Sookie somewhere up shit creek without a paddle.

Shrouds, halyards & sheets, oh my!

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Be wary of the man who asks you to wash his boat, especially if it’s bigger than your own because it can only go two ways. sailing blog

You quickly grow to admire his more spacious cockpit, cabin, and his options for heat. You begin to envy his top of the line gear and electronics. You start to think about what a smaller boat lacks rather than it’s advantages.

But if you’re like me you’ll just become even more enamored with your own vessel for her size and simplicity.

Two hours into scrubbing and rinsing I realized I’d only just then finished the starboard side. It was beginning to rain. The GPS and radar were both on as the boat bobbed gently in her slip, and I hadn’t the slightest clue how to turn them off (or really how to use them at all).

While this boat, a Westerly 32, was seriously awesome and outfitted (the owner did a huge refit and pretty much everything from standing and running rigging to the engine is brand spanking new) and could probably take you to exotic destinations just fine, it’s just not the boat for me.

Too beamy, too long, and way too time consuming to clean. The side deck space was so limited I pretty much had to balance on my big toe as I moved astern with the scrub brush.

This boat, awaiting her new owner, hadn’t been washed in a long time. This was probably a major reason for the length of time it took for me to make her sparkle and shine. The more often you wash your boat the less time it will take.

Despite being ten feet shorter, Sookie has wider decks and I don’t have to climb a jungle gym of lines and shrouds to go forward or aft. I can’t imagine trying to reef the mainsail on the Westerly in weather, as I could barely keep my balance at the dock.

Sookie’s interior has so many secret compartments that we could load up a three month’s supply of food or more before she will even begin to sit on her water line. And while we may have to shuffle around each other while standing indoors and use commercial kitchen talk like “behind you!” when one person wants a glass of water and the other is cooking, I find our tiny-home’s interior charming. I like cramming as many friends as possible inside and hearing no complaints into the late hours of the night even though the headroom where they sit in the quarter berths is, err, lacking.

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The igloo looking cabin top on the Westerly does make for a bigger galley, more space to entertain, and yes, the aft cabin is a nice touch (I wouldn’t mind sending Alan in there sometimes)—but anytime I begin to lust after a bigger living space I remember that 22-feet is just the right amount to clean.

“We owned the whole world. So we never thought of her as small.” Lin Pardey on Seraffyn

 

Growing Pains

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Walking barefoot down a desolite beach in Costa Rica golden sand squished between my toes as the morning light warmed my body.  It had been nearly 6 months since I had traded my sandals for a machete, it was a good trade.  Everything I owned in the world fit in a tiny pack on my back.  I was free both mentally and physically but it didn’t start out that way. sailing blog

I was petrified when I landed in San Jose, alone in a foreign place where I didn’t speak the language.   I nearly suffocated that first night in my one man tent, hot and humid, raining harder than I knew was possible.  Bugs, I didn’t know so many could exist, some larger than my hand, I didn’t get any sleep that night or for many after.  I was an alien in a foreign land, my pack heavy and cumbersome pulled my aching shoulders, the blistering hot sun cooked my pale skin, more than anything I wanted to quit, to fly home and sleep in a real bed, eat food I recognized and have real conversations with people I understood.

From day one I started jettisoning things from my pack that previously was sure I couldn’t  live without.  It was a good 2 weeks before almost everything had been bartered or given away including the pack.  As my load lighted so did my mind and spirit.  I was no longer afraid of being robbed, or getting lost, or drinking the water.  I started to understand the language and culture, I was no longer a tourist.  Somewhere down that long lonely stretch of beach I had become a wanderer, at home in my enviornment and as comfortable in my skin as I was in my bare feet.

Late last night I crawled into our v-berth trying not to wake Emily.  I’m still getting used to how deeply she sleeps these days, it wasn’t always this way.  It has taken a solid 10 months for her to get comfortable on this little boat.  Her insomnia was making us both crazy, something you really want to avoid in such a small place during the long dark months of winter.

No longer is she afraid of our stove, or things that go bump in the night.  She is all settled in and found a place for each and every thing she possesses.  To fit aboard she has had to become a mnimalist but now her scant few possessions fit her life like a glove, she has all the necessities from her little string bikini to full expedition weight warmies and crappy but water proof foulies.  From day one I knew she could make that transition but there were many days and nights I think she was ready to throw in the towel.

Sharing our morning coffee with a good friend she is where Emily was a year ago, her boat is huge, but size has nothing to do with it.  Her growing pains are no different than mine were, or Emilys or anybody’s for that matter.  Change is a good thing but scary for all humans.  We all have different visions of what an adventure is but regardless of the size of the challenge it will never be met unless we are willing to suffer through the tiny space in our mind that tells us we can’t do it.  I don’t remember the challenge of learning to tie my shoes or ride a bike or drive a car, they are all as natural to me as breathing.  When I find myself in a situation well beyond my comfort zone I take deep breath, scream at the top of my lungs and ride that wave  for everything it is worth.

I thought that I was retired for the third time in my life but it seems that I am not.  I have found a new challange, it scares me and is as daunting as climbing Mount Everest.  My mind tries to play tricks on me, to tell me I can’t do it.  Its too difficult, there is too much competition, I don’t have what it takes…

Every-time my mind tries to take over I smile and chuckle to myself, this isn’t my first rodeo.

Coconut Telegraph

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The pitter-patter of deck shoes and chirping of happy voices was a great way to start the day.  An extended arm passed us a hot and tasty home made zucchini and banana bread pie that was gone in a matter of minutes.  These kids are awesome I say.

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Marina and Conrad in their very young twentys are doing everything right.  They have blocked a huge chunk of the summer to push North to the Desolation Sound with their beautiful pocket cruiser and we miss them already.  The only thing we could find missing from their finely fitted yacht was a Ukulele for Marina but I’m sure Conrad will find her a good one.

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Charlie and Hailey came and left the pervious day, we seem to run into them everywhere on their beautiful Flicka.  Alaska is their halfway mark and we hope to cross wakes with them many times over the next few months even though our plans are not quite as ambitious. We’ve already made a dozen new friends all heading north.  Emily is putting together a pineapple telegraph to email out every few weeks with everyones locations so we can all keep in touch.

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Captain Emily just took her first solo sail did awesome from the get go.  The wind really started to pick up and we could hear her screams as she zoomed past us again and again.  So life goes on, the scavenger hunt for our last bits of flotsam and jetsam continues and each day we fall a little deeper into the spell. The cruising season is upon us.

From the time we are born to the time we die we are free. That is all we have in this world is time. The value that we put on money, stock, bonds, land and toys is all circumstantial. So we get groomed into chasing the all mighty dollar to be able to enjoy the life we want only to work so much that we forget to live. And by the time we do it would have been too late. In the end don’t live your life looking back saying, “I wish that I had worked more.”

Live your life now. Sometimes “Later” becomes “Never”

Fun-DUH-mentals

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Be careful what you wish for because it might come true. I might be the first person in crowd-funding history to admit this (thought I certainly can’t be the only one who’s felt it) but I’m indebted.

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Not financially in the way one curses their student loans or regrets a purchase that overextended their wallet. No, it’s more of a pressure to succeed—a pressure to deliver print worthy photos and words, and ultimately make a living doing so. It’s a pressure that I’ve not only put on myself but have now involved other people in, which is causing a buildup so fierce it can only be described as one thing: writer’s block.

For the most part I live in a perpetual state of insecurity and fear. Like the little green man that haunts Ed Chigliak when he’s truly onto something as a filmmaker, my unwelcomed intruder has me thinking that I officially have the artist’s temperament but no accompanying art.

Yet somehow despite my vague and unpromising Go Fund Me campaign description, written with little effort on purpose so I could keep the wall up and not be judged as a “writer,” people saw through my attempts at ambiguity.

Raising over half of my goal in nine short days, with most donations from complete strangers, I’m in awe (funny how the old English origin of that word translates to dread, terror…just saying). Actually, I’m completely stupefied as to how these people managed to believe in me, and my abilities as a writer, enough to reach into their pockets and donate their own hard-earned cash.

Now if only I could adopt the generous sentiments of my donors and start to believe in myself.

Seaman

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I said that’s life (that’s life), and as funny as it may seem
Some people get their kicks stompin’ on a dream
But I don’t let it, let it get me down
’cause this fine old world, it keeps spinnin’ around.

I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn and a king
I’ve been up and down and over and out and I know one thing
Each time I find myself flat on my face
I pick myself up and get back in the race.

That’s life (that’s life), I tell you I can’t deny it
I thought of quitting, baby, but my heart just ain’t gonna buy it. ~Frank Sinatra

The Greatest Show On Earth

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Every morning just before sunrise I crawl my lazy butt out of bed take a peek at the morning light and determine if its time to put on a cup of coffee and go light stalking or crawl back into big brown, my super snugly warm and toasty blanket.

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Spring has arrived  here in the Salish Sea we are blessed with the greatest light show on earth.  for the next month or so storms will roll through fast and furious with the beautiful calms that always follow.  Big black low hanging clouds, crystal clear air and if we are truly lucky one or two lightning storms will push through scaring us but also awakening are sleeping souls.

Every spring since I was 21 I have made a point of finding spring nirvana.  Death Valley and the Southwest still top my list but the Pacific Northwest comes a very dear second.  The frogs are awake, the drone of bugs flying about fills the air and the sweet scent of the natural world waking up is as pungent as my strong morning brew.

Our self imposed deadline is in 34 short days away.  There is no destination, no schedule and no time to waste.  My summer will be spent chasing light, writing freelance for National Geographic and a few other top publications that have taught me everything I know about writing, photography and the art of adventure.  Of course for every big story there is a little one and while I prefer to start at the top and compete with the pro’s, Emily wants to write short essays for local papers and continue a journey she started 8 years ago when she joined her college newspaper.  So a perfect team we will make, I will try and capture the big story while she gets the small one.  Its the people we meet  that shape our lives more than what we are actually doing when we meet them.  Emily has created quite a name for herself in the local writing world and has a natural eye for photography even is she is still a student.

Emily has been turning out some pretty excellent results with my old point and shoot but is rapidly outgrowning it so its almost time for her fist DSLR.  I’ve spent the last few months failing at bartering a new camera for her so she is looking into crowd funding and with a little bit of luck she will have a new used camera before we set out.

“A photographer is like a cod, which produces a million eggs in order that one may reach maturity.”
~ George Bernard Shaw

B.O.A.T.

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The acronym B.O.A.T stands for break out another thousand but in our case it should stand for bankruptcy on a trailer.  We are not shipping the boat!  The Caribbean will have to wait but all is good on the hipster  waterfront.

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We had our hearts set on shipping the boat to Florida at the end of summer and sailing south but the math just doesn’t add up so Port Townsend it will be and we are stoked. Like most boaters we have completely blown the budget for our 100 day drift but neither of us could care in the least.  The boat is stocked we have a hand full of charts and no curfew.  Things are getting downright interesting around here and there is so much good going on it feels like we have gone to fantasy camp.  Its almost time to put the lists away and I have fallen into a slow groove.

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Emily’s last day at at work is next week and we are throwing a Pirate bash to celebrate, of course I started early but its just because I’m really excited for her.  Sewing sails, splicing lines lots of naps and sundowners in the jacuzzi is a pretty good way shake the winter tedium.

Kramer goes to a Fantasy camp? His whole life is a fantasy camp! People should plunk down $2,000 to live like him for a week. Do nothing, fall ass backwards in the money, mooch food off your neighbors and have sex without dating; now that’s a fantasy camp. ~George Costanza

The Son Of Man

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No self respecting man, woman, pirate or pirate wench would be caught without their faithful blade.  These are just a smattering of the knifes that have found their way shipboard.  I give knives away often knowing that if I only have one razor sharp edge with me I have the tool for every job.

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When I was 5 years old I lived a stones throw from the trail head at the very top of Lake Street in Altadena California.  We were a hippie family, raised our own chickens and farmed our own fruit and vegetables.  My father loved to take us into the woods and teach us how it was our natural home.  I can still remember that cool fall day when he told me if I could walk all the way to the top of the mountain and back without crying or being carried he would buy me my first survival knife.  We met many hikers in those days.  We never hiked, the mountains were our yard so we only walked, climbed and occasionally skipped.

It was a long hard day that seemed to never end but like a pirate ever seeking that elusive treasure their was a bounty waiting for me at the end of the trailhead were I had begun.  The next weekend found me a the local gun shop eyeing all the different shapes and sizes of shiny new knifes.  I settled on a nice 4″ blade with a bone handle and leather sheath.  I thought the lesson being taught was how to climb a mountain but it wasn’t, it was one of many in self sufficiency, respect and caring for my tools.

He taught me that my knife was mine and mine alone to never share it or even let anyone touch it as it was my most important tool.  I cared for and carried  that knife for nearly 20 years before it was stolen.  These days my knife is always firmly attached and I use it about a hundred times a day.

Soon after, he taught me to make fire.  Not by striking a match but by rubbing two sticks together.  Each lesson had its purpose but it had nothing to do with with the tools at hand, the lessons were how to become a man, how to grow to be so self sufficient and that I can survive anywhere with only tow things.

Strung around my neck under my shirt or stealthily lashed in a horizontal carrying position on the back of my belt I know its always there.  Sharp enough to shave my face, light enough that it doesn’t pull my pants down and the perfect fit for my hand.

Like fire, the knife is a symbol of man passed from one generation to the next, of freedom, of choice, of wild.  It doesn’t give me freedom but it represents the one thing about life that we seem so soon to forget.  I was born wild and I fully intend to die that way but not before I have passed the knowledge handed to me.

“…no woman can love a weak man hard enough to make him strong.” ~Unknown

Cosmetic Surgery

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Its been nearly two years now since we have seen the protection of a real marina.  Bumping from one place to the next we easily find semi protected moorage but winter has taken its toll on Sookie so its time for a little cosmetic surgery.

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Its a hard knock life for cursing boats but a little “read a lot” of elbow grease will have them new and shiny ready for another year of bashing around this inland Sea.   It was Captain Leah my first real sailing instructor who taught me that there is no such thing as cosmetic maintenance on a boat, everything is structural.  Oiling our bulwarks  and cover boards gives them a nice piratey look but also protects the soft layers of teak and keeps our bungs sealed so no leaks on this boat.

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Varnish looks snappy and gives a real classic feel to our new teak boomkin and taff-rail but it also protects that wood from a constant assault of dog claws, dropping winch hands, foot traffic, flailing mainsheet blocks and the just plain anarchy that ensues in the cockpit.

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Wax makes our old gel coat shine like a new boat on opening day but also protects the gel coat and fiberglass beneath it.  It also makes cleaning the boat easier and just plan looks pretty at sunset when you can see your refection in it.

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Clean lines last longer as does periodically rinsed anchor chain and annually cleaned and polished standing rigging.  Sookie isn’t just our home, she is also our calling card.  I might bitch and groan every spring when its time to get on my hands and knees and scrub from bow to stern but an almost cold beer at the end of a hard days work  is the perfect excuse to sit back and admire the fruits of our labor.

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Every time I think I want a bigger boat which is often all I have to do is take a look at Sookie and her perfectly maintained simple clean lines.  She is the largest yacht I can afford to maintain not just financially but physically.  Now where did I put that beer?

“Time is a created thing. To say ‘I don’t have time,’ is like saying, ‘I don’t want to.”
― Lao Tzu

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