to begin.


as wicked storms rolled into spring park bay tyler, mike and i would plop a 6 ft sunfish into the angry, angry waters. our knowledge of sailing was nonexistent, and our ignorance made us fearless. 3 high school kids were beyond capacity for this mighty boat. and when the gale force winds got the better of our overzealous heeling, we'd capsize.

stretch, stretch to save our fallen crewman, scramble on the belly of the boat, and then heave all our weight on the keel to flip the beast back over.

soaked and with furious gray clouds above, we sailed onward, only to repeat this joyful turmoil.

ooh the beginning.

the answer to a legit experience on the ocean sea comes from a 35 ft ketch named cappella. she's on her way home to sweden. as of 2.17.11 mats, the 45 yr. old captain, is awaiting my arrival in st. vincent & the grenadines.

the following gnarnia is an attempt to document the journey from the southern caribbean and beyond.

i am no writer, i've never sailed in salt water, i haven't journaled in years, i have no idea what to do when i return home…but…i just bought my first pair of shorts in like 10 years…so…

these entires are meant for myself and anyone remotely interested.

this is.

The Valinor Collective

Thursday, July 14, 2011

the final leg. passage to england

for whatever reason, the passage from the caribbean to the Azores is like the big shebang. the one errbody gets stoked about and when you pull into one of those tiny islands in the middle of the atlantic, you feel soo accomplished, so relieved. like you just crossed the effin ocean. i mean, you did, but in reality, you've crossed 2/3 of her. depending are where you go, there's still at least another 1000 miles til mainland europe. we expected 1300 of pleasant southwest winds from behind that would comfortably push us to our destination in southern England. we're to arrive in Portsmouth in less than 14 days.

a God laughs when sailors make plans. as we pulled out of Horta on the 23rd of june, a God began chuckling.

as we cleared the island of Faial, hoisted sails, shut off the engine and began harnessing the wind, the island fog lay behind us and the sun shone above blue skies. it was afternoon, the wind was pleasant, in the right direction, and sitting in the cockpit, slighly bundled in cozy gear, my anxious tum tum, doubts, fears and worrys were being eleviated. the volcanic islands got smaller and smaller astern and fear was being replaced with condfidence. stunning sunset with calm seas and perfect winds. stoked for this final leg. to england we go

we were off to such a baller start. i took it as a good omen. more clear skies. fantastic mornings and evenings, a constant brilliant sun, calm seas but with enough wind for a 4-6 knot average. meals were easily made, and the solitude it gave of only 2 on board was therapeutic.

someone always needs to be on watch. we got down on the classic watch system of 4 hours on, 4 hours off. ideally, the one off watch is catching up on sleep while the other tends to Capella's course. ideally. but, often he rest you get, if you can fall asleep, is never more that 3-3.5 hours. assuming the 12am-4am, 8am-12 and 4pm-8pm  watches, i was the one with the most darkness Charlie Murhpy.
i was all about it, during that midnight darkness a burning red red crescent moonrise rose, the most intense shooting star seared the sky and left sparky trails as it died, nearly all constellations were recognized and memorized as the mikly way reflected itself on the calm, black waters. phosphurescence was of the most vivid, glowing green i'd ever saw or imagined and the marine life was equally as stoked about the radiating seas as i was. packs of dolphins frequently came to say wadup throughout the night. their accompaniment recognized by the glowing green tube of water that was created as they darted around the hull. away, back, under and around Capella. like tron. their bottle nose outline, back, dorsal fin and tail easily seen as the glowing, glowing green illuminated their bodies. it was unreal.

with those glass nights, the horizon that couldn't be distinguised and thousands and thousands of stars gave the feeling of drifting in space. effortlessly drifting in space. happy to assume the night watch at first.

the days were spent making bracelets, eating, sleeping, sitting, fishing, sailing or reading all three bourne books. who is jason bourne?! what do you know about treadstone 71?! who is carlos?! what happened in marseille?!the fertile, nutrient enriched waters we crusied through was some sort of highway for marine life.  sea turtles, toitles, i like toitles...kevin loves america because there's a lot of toitles... and whales. whales whales whales. about a bakers dozen bob. their insanely loud blowhole spouting, pressure releasing noise alerted us of their presence. heart fluttering and so stoked, scanning the waters, scanning, scanning and there. deep, dark blue backs surfacing, shots of water fly into the air, they mozy up and then melt below the surface. saw single ones, couples, packs from afar and one, in the golden morning sun surfaced, not evenkidding, less than 100 feet from the boat. my gasp and "oouuughaa!" must've scared him away, it was the last we saw of that close encounter, but mats managed to snap a hot pic. concluded it was a sperm whale? sperm.

(no justice)

ish started getting real around day 4 or 5. or that chuckle became more sinister sounding.  through short wave radio we're able to snag a simple weather file once a day. if lucky enough to make a connection. its a snap shot of a given time of day, so by comparing the file between 2 days we can assume where these systems are heading. not that we could outrun weather, but once a day isn't nearly enough to form a stratedgy. we'd take whatever came. high pressure systems, massive, massive systems of weather produce wind in a clockwise direction in the northern hemisphere. calms are on the outside and get stronger toward the middle. and by massive, i mean upwards of 1000 miles wide. they can move quickly but if on the wrong side, they hinder any progress.
we got stuck on the eastern side of one. north winds, northeast winds, north, north. not good when wanting to sail northeast. a couple days of dead calms, zero progress and minor annoyances we finally skirted through it and onto the other side. taking 7 days to do about 350 miles...not good...south and southwest winds prevailed with moderate speed and we began progressing toward the smell of fish and chips and proper english accents.

low pressure systems come from gnarnia. they pack the worst punch. strong strong winds on the outside and spin counter-clockwise in the northern hemisphere. called depressions for good reasons. a low pressure system came from the west and sandwiched itself between us and the high pressure system we were riding. with the winds from both systems colliding into eachother, what was experienced was insanity.

the warming, comforting morning sun hid behind gray skies, stars were shy and the winds gradually increased. our speed picked up along with the seas and nights were illuminated by the crashing waves against Capella's hull. bashing waters would retreat in a massive radiating blanket of greenish white. at 6 knots our wake was a billowing plume of phosphurescence. when a wave crashed into the cockpit, vivid sparks of green trailed down the drains. these high, eradic winds gave the auto pilot a hard time staying on course. and so, the auto pilot anxiety began. that effin beep. beepbeepbeepbeep. mechanically, evil heart stopping beep. always at the most inopportune times. cooking, peeing, pooping, relaxing, whatever. that damn beep meant Capella needed assistance getting back on course. manual steering her until she found her way again. often not hard, but other times a real bitch.

the gennaker is this giant thin materialed sail that is awesome for downwind travelling. a valiant sight when hoisted and properly working but when the wind shifts, she's instantly turned into a huge hassle and potential nightmare. dark clouds were on the horizon as my midnight watch approached. we attempted to bring down the gennaker in darkness before any unexpected wind changes effed us up. in night darkness, harnesses buckled on, tethers locked to the side deck we clutched and hobbled to the bow. in the day's windy turmoil the line that brings down the gennaker got wrapped, or knotted or tangled or something stupid in the mast. pulling and pulling in darkness. nothing. the clew edge of the sail flapped so violently it disodged the metal halyard free from the sheet sending this gigantic sail viscously  waay out to the side of the boat. nothing could be done. quick decision forced us to collect the entire sail by hand and i slowly lowered her down. working quickly and scooping fast to not let any part of the sail the water. a tiny section caught in the water could turn into a giant mess as the sea steals the entire sail away. got her in, lashed her down, back in the cockpit. my 4 hour night watch began. the problem would wait til morning to get sorted out.

more sail problems. a downwind, high wind, rolling sea tack was attemped solo. the sheet let out too fast and too much and the genoa, the sail in the bow, got wraped around itself like 6-9 times. total disaster. a cupped section of the sail was free and capturing all 20+ knots of wind, flapping, flapping, monsterous roaring flapping. mats awoke to the violence and failed to set it free. so totally effed. looked awful. taking responsibility for my eff up, harnessed in, clambered all the way out to the tip of the bow on the bowsprit. pissed up off sail flapping flapping. fearful the thing would tear apart, i analyzed the sitch. and with good timing, brute strength, luck, a jammed finger, one hand clutching for balance, the other unwrapping, she finally was free. untwisted and like nothing ever happend. no idea how the sail didn't rip apart. collapsed in the cockpit, heart pounding and exhilerated, another crisis averted.

seeing the worst of the low pressure system by day 13 or 14, winds were averaging 30-35 knots and gusts were over 40. the swells and seas were abosolutely wild. completely monsterous. completely immense and no words or pictures could portray the sheer magnitude of what we were sailing through. in the through of each wave, looking up at the pure, gray evil that come rolling astern, there's nothing to do but stare at it and watch it pick Capella up  and ride the surf down. watched our speed climb to 11.9 knots surfing down one swell. thats insane. no idea how to measure wave height but, were at LEAST 20-25 feet. conservatively.
the wind was ferocious and because of the eradic layers of giant waves, the auto pilot stood no chance and that effin beepbeepbeepbeep was common. hand steering for over an hour one morning, trying to get us on an acceptable course, a rogue wave kicked us sideways down the biggest wave i'd witnessed yet. we slid sideways, the wave crashing into the cockpit overflowing all around. never seen so much water in the cockpit. steadied her off, tacked and we were soon somewhat calmer. as mats rested, the most intense seas were being stirred up as i chill alone in the turmoil  anticipating another rogue wave....beeepbeeeeepbepbepbeepbeep...

even more sail problems. 404 am, just got cozy in my bunk. relieved to feel the warm blankeys and relief from responsibility of being on watch. "ahhndy?!" he said. "yeea"..."we got a problem." because we were downwind, the main was always fully extended to one side of the boat. we rigged a line that prevented the main sail boom from flying from  one side of the boat to the other. blown off course, the wind shifted to the other side of the main sail, violently backing the entire thing. so violent it ripped the top and middle of the sail clean off the mast. our main sail had separated from the mast. wtf. jumped into warmer rain gear, harnessed up and scurried out to assess the damage in the morning light. of course fierce winds and high seas. slackened the halyard to begin bringing down the sail and i collected what sail i could grab. the wind ripped it off more and she got snagged in the metal spreaders of the mast. hoisted sail back up, yanked her free with one hand, the other bracing for balance, spider legged to get good leverage. free from the mast a gust ripped the entire top half of the sail off. entirely. the halyard free, she shot out 20 feet to starboard flapping violently, angrily. sooo soo loud. the noise was overwhelming. impossible to bring her back in. nothing working. we steer into the wind as best as possible, i let the halyard fly, sending the entire sail farther out, but with enough slack to haul in the sail inch by inch with all my strength. adrenaline  juices flowing, strapped down the rest of the collected wrecked sail and we both sat in the cockpit stunned. just sitting. asessing what the fuck just happened. damage was done. about 500 miles to go and no main sail.

a solid 72 hours of wet, cold, draining, exhaustive weather. watches rolled into the next. cyclced through soaking wet, cold socks and sperry's and damp rain gear. less than 3.5 hrs of sleep at a time. beepbeepbeep. the weather started taking its toll. never able to relax and always on edge, just waiting for auto pilot freakout beep. we ened up splitting the night into 2 hour watches which was more than enough time being alert in the wet, cold, dark cockpit. mountains of water crashing in and rain drilling your back. my first moment of real fear induced by sleep deprivation, wetness, unpredictable waves and mental instability. slept like the dead and awoke a new man. day 15 and slivers of sun shown through. the sea calming and winds easing. we'd passed the worst of it.

to charge some batteries and motor us out of the confused seas left over by the last few days, the main engine was up and running after a lil mid atlantic starter surgery. before long, she over heated for an unknown reason and then got jammed in reverse. of course. seized in reverse and no way of getting her out of gear, we now had no engine. engineless and about 300 miles to go.

Portsmouth harbor was too dangerous to come into with no engine and no main sail. we had to skip Portsmouth and head all the way down the english channel another 100 some miles to Dover. through the heavily traficked waters. the constant changing tides with us, against us, with us, against us...every 6 hrs or so..when the tide was with us we made 4,5,6 knots, when against we'd do 1.5, 2, sometimes stand still. mildly annoying when so close to our destination.

the last day of sail aboard capella. my final moments after 4.5 months with her. coming to an end. blessed with a gorgeous last day. sunny skies and good winds as we cruised the coast of southern england. its rolling green hills to portside and town after sea town drifted passed. relishing the last 36 hours aboard, i opted to stay on watch til 10pm to catch my last sunset under sail. awoke at midnight to assume my regular hours til 4am under a near full moon, and awoke mats at 6am as the sun came up. the white cliffs of Dover grdually being revealed. found energy in the anticipation of landfall and the bittersweetness of it all. that last cup of tea in the cockpit with Dover due ahead and morning light made the drama of the past 18 days oh so worth it. none of it mattered anymore. soaked in those last moments as the wind died as the tide drifted us inland. drifting. ironic way to end the whole ordeal.  no sailing, just drifting, calm seas just a mile from Dover.

soaked up the last Capella vibe before calling up Dover port control for a rescue tow into harbor. they came. we were rescued. and placed into a soothingly placid berth in Dover marina around 8am. morning sun aglow.

this last leg. THE leg of the atlantic. the one that sealed my journey aboard Capella is complete. proud to have done it on 2. thankful to have done it on 2. meant to be done on 2. the original 2.

atlantic. conquered. m effers.

azores. faial. horta.

The Azores, Faial,'s as if my idea of a quaint fishing town in the pacific northwest was injected with a little european culture. brisk, but cozy sunny mornings. back to bow stretching ritual; watching fisherman and their run down vessels putt out to sea at sunrise, then returning at dusk. tiny, intricately layed brick streets and sidewalks, buildings pressed into one another with decaying facades; huge, green wooden doors and shutters with peeling paint and inviting shops and cafes. the gigantic volvanic island of pico seen south just miles away. all this seen from our berth in the simple harbor that Capella now rest.

first day was an acclimatization day. impossible to walk in a straight line, my brain was saying wtf when my legs began moving and my body was propelled forward on solid ground. after just a few minutes of civilized walking, i had to retreat back to the subtle sway of the boat to supress the gradual onset of landsickness.
we were lucky enough to be berthed alongside our good swedish companions mats and alina aboard their 47 ft steel cutter Elan Alida. they invited us aboard for a some local boxed wine they got for like 6 euro. surprisingly not bad. we discussed battle stories as the effects of portuguese boxed wine gradually took its effect.

Peter's Sport Bar. THE Effin Bar. errbody knows bout Peter's. takes the cake for best sailing pub in the world, and to be amongst the crusty, old sailors who sailed from lands afar for years and years was super awesome. warm bellied and content, we found our way into Peter's that evening and got down on their famous gin and tonics and 1euro brews. floor to ceiling wood doors are always open to the streetside welcoming in those who've sailed many a mile. dirty, ragged flags signed by loads of crewmembers are draped throughout the warm, tiny interior as bearded sailors guzzle dranks. mail and post cards are pinned above the bar addressed to those whom are expected to arrive in horta...could be weeks, months or years. with the hope the recipient will find their letter. super sick idea. in the company of our other swedish sailing companions who had safely arrive on faial, i could finally soak in the glorious glory and feeling of accomplishment of our endeavors. fantastic.

day 2 on land was a total nourshing, cleanse fest. capella was cleansed of the grime produced by 3 people in 26 days, clothes warshed and cleansed, and a hot, fresh shower for the first time in over 3 months gave deep deep soul cleansing . with a cleansed body and fresh fresh clothes we got down on the very first indoor, sitdown restaurant with a legit established roof since my arrival in march. i devoured the meal i had been craving for weeks. salad. we ate like kings. fruit and salad plate; corn, lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, kiwi, grapes, apples, bananas, with a side of local sausages and cheeses and olives and garlic bread. washed down with 1euro brews and fries. holy shit. what mirth and inner belly happiness.

next to Dominica, Faial provided some of the most rewarding and stunning hikes and views yet. isabelle, from St. Martin, safely arrived in port aboard Olivia with her sister louise and her bf peter. so awesome to see they survived the haul. mikkel, isabelle and i explored the nearby area to the west. passing lush green meadows borded by the coast, black sand beaches, old, old whaling station, crashing waves on black chunky sea boulders and a coastline that could be seen more miles ahead. the black boulders strewn about catching white heaps of water as far as the eye could see. trekked a foot path leading us up and up through wild gardens of dill, corn, berries and orchids. up and up a dirt stair way under dense over hanging shrubs until the top rest a one roomed, white church. of course a one roomed, classic looking white church was up there. insane view of horta and its red clay roofs and white cluttered buildings, green rolling fields meandering their way up to the centralized volcano in the center of the island. we sat and ate our local fruit and bread snacks on the brick wall overlooking Faial.

the quality, amount and prices of local fruits, veggies, breads and olives is ridiculous. the portugeuse know whats up in this department. so glad mikkel shared the same passion and devotion to such things as i. we shared renobs and excitement of the loins when we stumbled upon their town market and bakery. fatty dense loaves of delicious bread and super effin cheap produce. stunned and mouth agape we freuqented these places. always with loads of shiz to bring back to boat. mats dug it, but no where nearly as stoked as mikkel and i.

without out the turmoil of a rolling sea, we got down on some bomb ass meals. able to use the electric stove instead of kerosene and without constantly bracing yourself, cooking soo much simpler.  we fixed up salads, burgers, pastas, fatty spreads of freshies, eggplant lasagna, and fresh shrimp. washed down with local portuguese wine. eff.
even though being about 1000 miles west, the azores are on mainland portugal time. something to do with their TV schedules? we were given 4 additional hours to  our clocks when we arrived. sunlight til like 10 o'clock and darkness round 11 gave us cool, cozy, late dinners and total chill sesh in the cockpit til the moon glow bright.

a tiny open door caught my eye while roaming the town. inside were shevles and shelves of books. in no real order or organized fashion. way in the back, an old portuguese dood was on the phone behind his dishevled desk with a single source light above his head. this effin guy. once he saw us inside, he stood up and got super stoked. he did that thing when you're on the phone, you're trying to get rid of the person on the other end..."si, si, okay, sisisi, okay."  his ear, hand and head slowly, slowly began titling closer and closer into the phone cradle. his body wanted to get away but was tethered to that effin phone and that effin person on the other end. the eagerness in his eyes to get away was clear. he really really was stoked to have us in there. slammed the phone down and scurried over. "speak portuguese?" no, english..."francais?" oui, un peau...aaah!? oui!?....and so it began. this winkly old guy whose name i can't remember kept us there for like 45 minutes. showing us pictures of the architecure his dad did in boston, the boat models he'd constructed and book after book of the history of faial. all in broken, simple french. we'd pull a random book off the shelf to find it'd been printed over 100 years ago. none were for sale. they were just there. dusty, old, moist paper smells in a cramped dark hole in the wall. a stoked old, portuguese man speaking broken french to us while classical music play softly in the background.

for like 20 bucks per person between the 3 of us, we rented a 1.2L opel for the day. pure european muscle. one of the best decisions ever. cruised nearly the entire island on a perfectly sunny clear day. starting with the volcanic rock pools with towering, black, chunky jagged rocks that formed years and years ago when liquid hot magma (sinister grin, pinky to corner of mouth) found its way to the cool sea after a volcano began spewing. a local fisherman sat amongst the rocks, wielding a bamboo pool and single line, baby crab for bait, cig dangling from his mouth. we humbly watched as he pulled in a couple fish. cruised onward, stopping when something interesting stood out, snapped loads of pics, scrambled this massive deteriating volcano crater by the sea that once atop we marvelled at the sloping green plots of land rolling up and up and on and on. plot after plot of land, bordered by dark green shrubs giving the rolling hills the apperance of a custom made quilt that'd been patched and re-patched generation after generation. back in the late 50's one of the seaside volcanos erupted liquid hot magma (sinister grin, pinky to corner of mouth) and covered a nearby lighthouse in layers of molten shiz. we were able to walk around this barren, eerie landscape with the feeling of walking on the moon. no vegetation in sight, all gray rock, dirt and dust. onward down the tiny paved roads, in and out of village after village with all the same quaint, white facades, red clay roofs and crumbling walls. picnic in a field with local cheese, bread, brews and jam. cruised onward up and up, twisty twist of bright red roads, green fields and blue skies until some 6000 feet up into Cedaira. the abandoned volcano where you can walk to the edge and peer into the some 1500 foot deep crater that spans over a mile across. blessed with a clear day we could see the entire son uva bitch. so effin gnar. mosied down the slopes, passed classic red, rundown windmills and took a dip into the ball shrinking, brisk atlantic waters that crashed onto black volcanic sand beaches. Faial had been conquered and with all things considered was shaping up to be my fav island no doubt. dominica? i dunno.

it was awesome having an exploration partner, a partner in crime and one with like-mindedness when it comes to wandering. after getting a tip from a cute whaling expert chick, we managed to find our way to the city limits with vague directions. passed the stage with blasting, corny portuguese tunes as a circle of locals danced their native jig. passed the wrinkly, old portuguese folks stepping in time, being shuffled from partner to partner until our noses led us to our real destination. noses following the smell of poo. cow poo. until the poo fumes lead us to a full out fair. a rural agricultural fair. complete with stables of cows with prize winning ribbons, farming equipment, cheese samples, hordes of short, dark haired portuguese folk, beer, sangria for 1euro, wine for 50cents, heaps of food and a cheesy band playing songs everyone knew the words to; whom apparently are the bees knees of faial?? a baking powder? made our laps around the grounds, scandi-man mikkel sticking out like no other with his lanky tall, fair sinned, blonde haired doodness. the two of us, drinks in hand soaking up the local natchral vibe. fantastic.

Faial was a location where we left our marks...or it left a mark on us. after getting a tip about a local tattoo guy, it became mikkel's mission to find the elusive dood. after searching and searching and a couple failed attempts, a address was texted to us, a car ride was hitched, an insanely long ass walk up and up through this tiny villge was walked, the tiny abode was found and we entered the home of louis the tatto guy. complete with a modern, black ikea living room, a 13 month old, 2 rowdy kids, his wife, his cousin and his uncle. with the nephew as an english interpreter, mikkel showed louis some pics for ideas. louis drew up something mikkel dug and after a day of thought, discussion and persuasion, the next day we repeated the exact same process with the same packed living room and he left with an anchor on the inside of his left bicep. indie tattoo louis. total baller.

there's a tradition that exhists for sailors and their vessels coming into Horta. if neglected is sure to bring bad luck upon departure. you must paint a mural on the harbor walls, the cement docks, or the edges of the peer. pretty much wherever you can find a spot that is free, or the exhisting mural is aged beyond recognition. we got down. no doubt. after a mock up rough draft and 4 days of taping off and painting and drying we left our mark on the sea walls of Horta. until the sands of time and sea elements decay our marking. Capella had been to Horta.

it was a day of goodbyes. mikkel caught a flight home. our 3rd crewman had left. bummed to say goobye we were back to the original Capella crew of 2. familiar faces like the Olivia crew, Nada Crew, nils, Elin Alida and jason & rosy were said farewell to.
goodbye european pacific northwest. goodbye port wine and phenomenal bread.
mats and i set sail from another island that was sad to see us go. with overcast skies, bye bye waves to the docks, a bit of nervous anxiety tum tum and a still growing atlantic sea beard, we set out for the last leg of the atlantic journey.

to england we go. planned for 1300 miles and MAYBE 2 weeks of sailing. just the two of us and Capella. expected exhaustion, expected a new challange, expected easier weather and planned for a fran rendezvous.

but, holy balls did i underestimate.

Friday, June 17, 2011

the effin atlantic crosing.


i honestly had no idea what i was getting into. june 16th, on that sunny blue skied day in the hong kong
of the caribbean we knew winds were shit, but waiting around any longer wasn't an option. so, we peaced,
with the knowledge of gnar headwinds, possible calms and the likelihood of it taking more than 3 weeks
to cross 2300 miles of straight up salt water blue blue.

the magnitude of the journey didnt hit me until maybe a week in. i was so prepared for it, so ready to
tackle the bitch, i psyched myself up due to the incessant talk of 'the crossing' amongst all the
cruisers we came in contact with. when the time came, Capella stacked with food, we cleared simpson
bay's draw bridge and cruised out into the endless horizon with the mindset that i was embarking on a
simple day sail, a simple island hop. it was this mindset for the first week that kept me sane. i
honestly never thought of our destination, how many miles to go, how many we'd gone, how long it'd take.
the days simply began, my watch from 12-4 came and went, ate when hungry, slept when tired, observed and soaked in the expansive, stretching blue, and soon enough, dates and days of the week were forgotten and negligable. all this zen until maybe 10 days out. i hit a wall when i realized the winds were exactly
what we didn't want, we were making no progress and we had back to back days of less than 50 miles in 24
hours, half of what is average. then the dark days crept in.

our plan, and the most common route to take for this crossing, this season, was to head north from St.
Martin for about 900 miles, just 300 miles southeast from Bermuda, then snag the supposed westerly winds
and fly east to the Azores. in theory and on paper this looks fantastic, but as i've learned, sailing
never goes as planned.
it's impossible to sail into the wind, no matter how awesome you and your boat are. what we hoped would
be strong southeast or southwest winds out of St. Martin, but what we got were strong north and
northeast winds...exactly what we didn't want. this forced us to cut the corner of our intended route,
cruise about 150 miles more north than intended and for 3 or 4 days make essentially 0 progress to the
azores. rather, progress to Greenland. on paper, Capella looked like a drunken, staggering ship
uncertain of her destination. it was around this time of high, gusty winds, choppy, menacing seas, damp,
cold watches, incessant heeling, bow smashing, dark dark, starless, rainy nights, achey joints from
constantly bracing and holding onto something and howling wind that brought upon a spell of low spirits
nestled deep within my soul.

again, we drew slips of paper for our atlantic crossing watches. i pulled 12-4 again. 12-4pm and 12-4am.
we didn't mess with changing timezones as we crusied east, so, my night watch, what began and ended in
total darkness, by the time we were several days from land i was catching dawn and some of the most
pictueresque, magical sunrises. a watch and time of day i grew to really enjoy. even if it meant
sleeping for a max 5.5 hours the entire journey.

to make things super interesting, the hatch over my bunk wasn't properly sealed...again...resulting in a
tidal wave of sea water on our first night of gnar swells; just 3 days in. cotton and salt water aren't
friends and seem to never properly dry out until rinsed with fresh water. since fresh water is a hot
commodity, the proceeding 23 days at sea, every night i crawled into a semi-soggy, rough, sticky feeling
bunk. i'd adpated and forgotten the feeling a week or so later.

some people are plagued with an inescapable seasickness. even with pills there's no escaping the Dark
Wizard. The Dark Wizard can unleash debilitating, bed ridden, pukey, fetal position sickness that can
last an entire passage. luckily, magnificently, when the Dark Wizard approaches, i've learned i can
conquer any quesy tum tum by fresh air, standing and gazing into the horizon while thinking happy
thoughts. this seemed to keep that bastard Dark Wizard at bay. one must do everything in his power to
avoid laying eyes on the Dark Wizard. if and when he is's game over

by joining forces mikkel and i managed 27 different dinners while at sea. a variety that kept us
creative and brainstorming throughout the day and also provided critical discussion that helped pass
the time. shortly after dinner, i typically enjoyed a chunk of dark chocolate with sea salt, slept for
maybe 3 hours, awake to mats' accented wake up call, "aahndy, it's time" he'd say, crawl outta my warm
bunk, slip on layered clothing and go out to face either a completely unobstructed view of the night sky
with dazzling stars, a dead calm sea or a viscious, relentless, dark, dark indistinguishable horizon,
gusty, wickedly mean night...and everything in between.

there was an evening while enjoying dinner in the cockpit, a thunderstorm was brewing in the west. way
way off in the distance. we marvelled and oooh'ed and aaah'ed as its lightning illuminated the wicked
clouds. keeping an eye on its path i went to sleep with Thor still beating up trolls far off on the
horizon. i awoke a few hours later to the viscious sound of water gushing violently passed the hull
where my back rest. the flapping, angry genoa was shaking the entire boat. we were in a solid gale.
gusts of over 40 knots (about 40 mph) and the most intense heeling i've ever felt. over 50 degrees at
times. i could hear mats struggling with the sails. fought my way outta my bunk, into rain gear and was
engulfed by the gnarage once above deck and into the cockpit. rain fall that felt like needles, crashing
waves, black black seas and sky all around. the only way to hear each other over the howling was to
shout while standing just feet from one another. total chaos at first. so much force from the wind it
was unbelievable. oddly, for what ever reason, i found myself giddy through the ordeal. even after
things were under control and mats went below deck to change out of his soaked gear, i was left smiling.
Capella was finally under control and we were flying with only the mainsail. left in the darkness, wet
and chilly, but knowing that when morning comes and the sun shines over blue skies, it'll feel
heavenly...and it did.

days seemed to roll on by, watches came and went, little rituals were created; fighting the swell during
morning stretches, oats for breakfast, reading, bracelet making, card games, detailed discussion of
upcoming dinners, spoke of family, friends, loved ones, attempted to wrap our heads around the physics
of sailing and how the eff 13 tons of Capella moves through the water by wind and sail; the turbo-
morale-boost of baking fresh loaves of wheat bread, relishing the smells that permeated the cabin,
fished, star gazed, predicted exact times of day by looking at the sun, sat in silence staring into blue
blueness...and, of course, tried my effin best to stay regular and avoid excessive bloating.


(pro fishing lines)

(blue blueness)

holy shit. pooping in an angry, tempestuous sea is an experience. the head, (toilet) is situated toward
the bow, where the blunt of all waves are absorbed. to avoid seeing the Dark Wizard, eyes must stay
closed, one foot braces the wall in front, both hands clutching to either side and once you sit down
you're already in there too long...thus, it was dubbed 'The Chamber of Secrets.' what happens in The
Chamber must never, ever come out of The Chamber. when things aren't moving as smoothly as they should
be, add in some stress, some pushing, maybe a lil grunting... and 10-15 minutes in The Chamber is an

thanks to mats' baller status as a mechanic and complete soul fusion with Capella, when the generator
quit creating power a few days out, or when the main engine was spewing salt water, or when the main
sail shackle snapped from high winds, never was i fearful while aboard. of course mats had the parts to
re-route the salt water cooling pump, and of course he had an extra heat exchanger laying around to
perform a mid-atlantic swapout of the old rusted through one. what could've been major major problems
without proper knowledge, were fixed with a couple hours of work in a rolly sea.

i wouldn't say sea madness was entirely avoided, but i know for certain having mikkel aboard kept me
from slipping into complete insanity. perhaps we waded in the waters of madness. it did wonders to have
someone aboard who shared the same humor, same age, someone to pull my finger when needed and to discuss the eery presence of the approaching Dark Wizard. never was i alone or felt like it. for that, looking
back, doing the crossing on 2 people would've been a completely different experience. and im super
grateful the stars aligned in both our favor and his to have that lanky ass scandi-man aboard Capella.

it was the simplest of things that brought such joy and content. a sunny morning, warm dinner after a
soaking wet grey day, grooving alone on a night watch, 13 shooting stars in one night, cup of hot earl
grey at 2am, proper winds, our champagne and cuban cigar once we crossed halfway, after-dinner-full-
belly-nirvana, giddyness when packs of dolphins dashed and jumped just feet from the hull; so, after 24
days of empty fishing lines, pulling in an 8lb. tuna 2 days before reaching Faial, i was 10 years old
again on christmas morning.
(mid-atlantic coconut sesh)

                                                                         (sweet nectar)



(the mother load)


(effin cutlets in tha fryin pan yo)

never will i forget that sunny afternoon we finally pulled into land. the last couple days at sea i was
so ready for it. fantasizing about solid ground, green trees, smell of soil, washing off the visible
layer of dirt on my skin, wearing clean underwear (i'd been commando for the last 2 weeks when my 4
pairs of undies were too crusty to handle and developed a madd itchy ass rash from sittin on cold, wet
steel for days on end), and simply sitting in stillness. it were these thoughts and knowing we were so
close that made those last few days seem super looooong.

visibility on the morning of june 12th was reduced to a few miles. the sun was shining but a force field
of fog hid Faial and not until we were super close did she slowly, slowly reveal her comforting,
sloping, vivid green volcanic face. so odd seeing land. like a mirage at first, a trick. for centuries
these islands were a stopping point for ships of all sizes crossing the atlantic. i can now imagine that
feeling sailors experienced for hundreds of years when they sighted the inviting islands of the azores
after all those miles and days at sea.


so, after over 2500 sea miles, 20 degrees of latitude, 45 degrees of longitude and with waters over 20
degrees cooler than the caribbean, we mosied into the historic port of Horta on the islan of Faial in
the Azores.

solid, static ground has been felt, sweet land air smelt and fresh fruits and veggies devoured. and that
first night in harbor i slept for 11 hours in the quiet, stillness of Capella.

we fuckin did it.


Sunday, May 15, 2011

waiting, waiting, st we peace

so, we were 3, then we were 2, now, we are back to 3. in the over extended stay in st. martin we arrived with 3 on board with the idea of quickly provisioning and peacing out within the week for the big atlantic jump. it is said that sailors make plans, and god laughs. now, 16 days later, mats, me, and our new 27 yr. old, danish journalism student named mikkel begin the atlantic trek tomorrow morning...finally.

anchored in st. martin, the hong kong of the caribbean, the super americanised island, casino filled island, strip club island, tax free liquor and tobacco island, cuban cigar island, busy-airport-strip-1/'s an odd to experience to be in such a place after being in all the previous islands.
for the most part all of the above was avoided, but, naturally, denver, isabelle, our new swedish friend, and i had to indulge just one evening....a very late evening. one that resulted in denver getting a little moist in his drunken attempt to board the dinghy as the sun came up. he fell in. shouting and laughing and broken english as he made a madd scramble to pull himself aboard. repeating and slurring and grunting my name..."aee, anee, annyy, aneee, ayee," he'd say.

denver decided it'd be best for him to jump ship and head home. the thought of crossing the atlantic got the better of him. i told him the expression of 'when the rubber meats the road' and he agreed thats whats happening. when he tried expressing that same thing the next day he said...when the ham meets the burger...i understood..... he flew home a few days later.

st. martin was a waiting game. thanks to the peculiar, rainy, no wind, odd direction weather. we, along with dozens of other boats were just chillin...waiting for the wind.

in our waiting we provisioned...4 days of it. 4 grocery store sesssions. each load filling a shopping cart, then a full low riding dinghy ride, then miraculously making all the food disappear in capellas bowels.

this is a short, but sweet, last entry before the crossing. our final day is a madd scramble to fit everything in. in the madd dash i've forgotten the camera with our provisioning pictures. so, using some imagination..think of all the canned goods, boxed goods, chocolate, beer, dried meat, eggs, milk and cereal for over 30 days on a boat....thats what they look will be up when we reach the azores.

gone will be the nights sleeping on the bow, no more morning stretches to the sunrise, no more morning baths in the bay, no more collective breakfast in the cockpit, no more rum nights with swedes, and no more green land...for a little while at least. whole lotta blue ahead.

i'm clean shaven for the first time in over 8 weeks, and tomorrow we say goodbye to the warm waters of the caribbean. the sea beard will grow the entire 2300 nautical miles to the azores. a long distance passage was my main goal for this whole sailing thing and here it is. the ham has meet the burger and it's time for capella to make her way eastward.

eastward we go...toward the sunrise...

                                                                             (the crew..yes)
follow the link above for a daily position report if you feel so inclined.

the collective will be updated upon arrival of the azores...i love you all.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

passage #4- antigua to st. martin

early, 6:30, we peace outta Falmouth Harbor. finally an island in good spirits to see us off. perfectly sunny morning, scattered clouds and a strong  breeze. 16-20 knot winds from the ESE, we unfurled only the genoa. with a course of pretty much NW we were cruisin madd with an average speed of like 6 knots. as we passed the lee of antigua, the gnarliest rolling swells were being kicked up all the way from africa or gnarnia or some ish.
 i dunno how to measure swell height but these blue, blue beasts were absolutey insane. they would roll in astern, capella in the trough, this wall of blue appeared aft as if to swamp and crash over us. but, capella would effortlessly mosie up and atop this monstrosity, surf down and this blue, blue beast would pass far and beyond.

this passage didn't win super gnar points, but it was no doubt the rolliest. constant bracing, grabbing and securing everything down. constant. incessant rolling. uneasy tum tum cured through deep yogi breaths and staring at the horizon as my body gyroed and absorbed each rolling and rocking motion.

we threw out 2 troling lures and caught one!! saw the son uva bitch jump high into the air. and it was biig...our pine wood 2X4 with meers of heavy line served inefficient in reelling in the bastard and mats' excitement made the fish spit out the lure, or we yanked it out of its mouth. the few minutes of exhileration was worth it... even though we were fishless....lure #2 was found bitten-broken off at 2am during my watch as i brought in the lines....fishless again...but not giving up

i proposed to let fate decide our watches for the crossing. i crumbled up 3 pieces of paper---one reading 12-4, one 4-8 and one we all chose at random...i drew the 12-4. the 3 person watch system makes all the difference. i nap, watch the sunset, nap, eat a snack, think, look, observe and when my midnght to 4am watch rolls around i'm wide awake. able to dance, hum, sing and groove to the live albums on the ipod and enjoy the clear, starry night.

the strong, constant winds forced us to furl in the genoa slowing Capella down to like 2-3 knots. we were way ahead of schedule and ariving in an unfamiliar harbor under the shadow of darkenss is a real bitch. just after day break we arrived just outside St Martin, but we had to wait for the bridge to open to let us into the gnarly huge bay. at around 1030am we dropped anchor on the french side of St. Martin and 101 nautical miles later in about 24 hours, we were settled.

we cleared customs with the lazy french. the marina and little town looks like it was picked up from france and plopped here on this island. stores, fashion, stores, cafes, narow streets and the sound of french overheard everywhere. unlike martinique, there's no reminer that you're in the carbbean. this is effin france.

another passage in the books and we await provisioning...the crossing is the next hurdle...more on that soon

antigua with big d's

so, it turns out antigua (ant-ee-ga) wasn't just a huge weiner size contest loaded with big d's. unlike all the islands before we got sucked into the whole nighly party vibe. with the 2011 classic regatta and sail week going on as we were there, oftentimes filled with free drinks, free chili, lobster bisque, bread and cheese and loads of happy sailors, it was hard not to get down on the festivities. thanks to these outings, we met some super awesome people. a minnesotan crusing alone, a young south african couple, scandinavians, the crew of a tall ship circumnavigating the globe, and those crewing an 88 ft schooner who invited us aboard for 2 days of racing. thanks to the races during the days and happy times at night, it wasn't until nearly 10 days after dropping anchor did we venture outside the harbor.

we dropped anchor in falmouth harbor and chilled for about 2 weeks. the bay was absolutely stacked with race boats young and old, and cruisers from around the world. everyone stoked to see what majestic vessels will set sail in this years calssic regatta race.
falmouth harbor and english harbor pretty much sit shoulder to shoulder from one another. separated by a chunk of land with restaurants, ice cream joints, street side open bars blasting island music and at night, many stumbling, smiling drunks. falmouth has a super modern marina and load of docks, large enough for the frequent megayacht, and at this time, dozens of wooden, perfectly varnished ships. english harbor and nelson's dockyard on the other hand is the most well preserved, oldest, most famous dockyard in all the caribbean. still chillin are a handful of the buildings when the english set up shop to defend against the french for ownership of all these islands.

my first caribbean thunderstorm was experienced while eating dinner in the cockpit. lightning started creeping in from far beyond the outlying hills and before long was all around us. usually these beastly clouds pass around whatever bay we're in, but this time thunder followed. we intended to go ashore for a few drinks, but with the looks of things, mats wasn't willing to leave the boat unattended with the looming doom. instead, we rode that bitch out and indulged in some bread, cheese and kerosene lamp as the wind picked up from afar and started puking, thundering and flashing. super sick.

until coming to antigua it was all retirees, middle aged couples or the odd older, solo cruiser. so, i got stoked to actually see kids my own age cruising the docks and frequent the local bars. after dragging mats ashore for a drink one night, i got to talking to chris and brittany. a couple in their early 20's who were crewing on a an 88 ft schooner built in the early 20's. after a few drink and chatting they said they were looking for a couple extra hands for the race the next morning. renob. not knowing what to expect, we showed up on the docks bright and early. i slipped off my sperry's, left them on the dock and in awe, we boarded the biggest sailing vessel i'd ever been on.

i had no idea what we were getting into. soo much rigging, soo many lines, soo much sail, and everything is done by man power. hoisting and trimming all sails were done with nearly the entire crew of 11. her name was Ocean Star and where she lacked in speed she made up in style. when under full sail she rocks 6 gnarly huge sails and she looks like a classic old school sailing vessel. all steel and wood and smiles.

(ocean star under full sail)

we were in the damn race. awaiting the starting gun, some 60-70 boats all under sail, all circling in the small area, some 100+ ft, some 30, all in hopes of getting a quick start off the line for their race. we hoisted sails and i was assigned a small role in aiding the process. within minutes we had 5 sails up and we were cruisin. flying jib, jib, stay sail, fore sail and main sail.
we dodged, circled, dodged, tacked and dodged these 100 foot ships that i recognized and admired from the docks. only now, we're all under sail and these monsters are flying around us just a few yards away. it was insane. just the day before we were ashore snapping pics of these ships, now it felt like i could touch them.

aboard ocean star were a few people from the circumnavigating tall ship named Picton Castle. its a school ship, but from the stories they told, where they'd been, what they'd seen, was byond any school i know of. awesome people.

(picton castle)
we made a damn near perfect start, but because of Ocean Star's fat ass we were soon over taken by the much more race worthy boats in our class. the course took us a few miles off shore, back to the start, out again and then back. therefore the gnarly huuge boats that were kicking our ass in the race flew passed us giving prime spots for taking some amazing pictures of them under sail. their crews of 30, heeling over and cutting through the swells.
5 hours of racing, we came in last. haha. afterward we cruised into the main harbor for a parade type deal for all the boats in the race. we motored into cheering crowds of hundreds ashore. honking, hollering, clapping, cheering. chilling in the stern sitting on the rails with the other crew being congratulated for racing? wtf? can't describe it.

it's a weird thing meeting people while travelling. feeling a connection, and then possibly never seeing them again. there's only so many things you can do. i guess that's the way this whole thing works. like the island you visit, you take a piece with you when you pull anchor.

oblivious of easter and good friday, we ventured into st. john's, the capitol of antigua. we snagged an island bus and arrived in an absolute ghost town. nothing was open and the odd person walking the streets could be seen every 5-10 minutes. super weird. we explored the emptiness for about an hour trying to get a feel for what this place is like while inhabited. found a street vendor, got down on some banans and sweet potatoes and peaced.
the day after easter we attempted st john's again only to find the exact same creepy ghost town. managed to talk with a local who hooked us up with a beer and we enjoyed it on the empty dock overlooking the harbor. the whole quay is pretty dope. although infested with touristy boutiques, gift shops and 'art' stores, what remains are the small buildings and structures of an old english fort town with red brick buildings, classic white trimmed wooden accents, stone streets and slim alleys with green vines running up the walls. strange to see all that with no one around.

same day we picked up our new crew member and mats' friend, denver, at the airport. a short chilean swede who loves snus and knows little english.

if anything, antigua provided the time and resources for some delicious dinner experiments. dinner aboard capella is like a sacred ritual. the day is planned around it and each night, in the back of the boat, when we finally sit down amidst kerosene lamp, the meal tastes oh so good. we only have two burners, running off kerosene, and a very small fridge with a freezer that only has room for a tray of ice cubes. so, when an experimental dinner is successful, its a beautiful thing. rosemary turkey burgers, rosemary sweet potato fries, loads of pasta variations, granola, rice curry shiz, veggie dishes, tacos (island style), burritos, canned goods and with every meal onions and garlic is used by the boat load...every meal.

oftentimes, before preparing dinner, i'll shuffle through mats' CD collection that includes several springstein albums, bob marley, bon jovi, u2, savage garden, metallica, some swedish stuff and numerous other 90's rock tunes. 9 times out of 10 i land on the live bob marley album to groove to.

mats, no doubt a function over form kinda guy, he built this bombproof 35 ft ketch pretty much from the ground up. function over form, with a  rusted potato peeler and boat to prove it. finally, after years of use, rust, and many potatoes, the peeler had done its deed. she broke...and had to be retired...mats is clearly bummed.

on our second to last day we had much better luck with st john's. 3 cruise ships were in harbor and the town was near opposite from the last 2 times we had explored. completely stacked with tourists, cab drivers offering you cheap rides to the most beautiful beaches as they held up post cards to show you what you're missing out on. suffocated by so many people we made out way east and after a gnar bus ride and a descent hike we arrive at a quintessentail caribbean for snorkeling. sand that looks and feels like flour, atlantic waves breaking over coral some few hundred yards offshore providing calm turqoise waves lapping up on shore. we snorkeled with blue and purple fishies, drank, ate a delicious fish burger, drank and then then headed back to capella feeling accomplished and full.

now we are 3...2 swedes and a minnesotan.
below deck we shuffle around each other and the small dinner table is completely stacked with plates, forks, knives, food and drank. it's unbelievable that for the past 2 months it has just been mats and i. so crazy. aboard this 35 ft steel boat. just us. sailing north. the shock and disruption of our daily vibe from having another body aboard is subsiding. denver's vibe is slowly meshing with our vibe. good, natch-ral vibes.

for the first time, when i asked myself if i'd ever consider cruising back to antigua, i'm leaning more toward the negatory. i dunno if it was the 'pay-by-foot-by-day' to anchor, expensive living, lack of veggie stands, dryness, lowness, the vibe, the locals, or if i'm comparing her to our last stop of dominica. hmmm......either way, a piece has been taken, memories logged, and maybs or maybs not i'll hit it again one day.

now, here we are, dropped anchor on the 28th of april, in the super shallow, super huge bay of simpson lagoon, st. martin. a wicked huge bay split down the middle, one half owned by france, the other by the don't give a fuck dutch. but, yet again we are chillin with the french. our main purpose of being in st martin is to fuel up, prep the boat and provision for the crossing. whatever left over time will be for exploring as we wait for the right winds. the duty free, tax free, dutch side is the most appealing...aka...the 'hong kong' of the caribbean.

it's crazy, after 2 months, this phase, phase 1 of this journey is actually coming to an end. after phase 1 we say goodbye to the caribbean sun and hello to a shit ton of blue. soo much effin blue. 2300 miles of it to the azores and 1200 of blue to england. phase 1 drawing to an end.

for now, we enjoy our duty free, tax free in st. martin.

(update on the antigua to st. martin passage soon)

Friday, April 15, 2011

passage #3 - dominica to antigua


another full day sail in the books. left dominica at 6am, cruised for 31 hours and arrived in antigua in the afternoon. due to no/shitty wind we were forced to motor for about half the journey.

domnicia, another island sad to see us go, was dreary, drizzly and damp as we pulled anchor and peaced. a couple miles off shore a horde of dolphins came by to say wadup. they jumped, dashed, and played along side capella as we headed out. i was able to snap a few pics as the jmped high into the air as if showing off. we'll see if any turn out. i could see others dashing below the surface no more than 4 feet from the hull. amazing.

we had the same watches as always. so much more chill than last passage, no stars, overcast, light sporadic drizzles, no luck with the 2 trailing lures i had out. danced, sang and grooved to reggae, my morning jacket and blues to stay awake and drank a few cups of tea. to make time go by faster i cherished every meal and every bite of my pb&j and almonds, taking about 35 minutes to finish one sandwich.

enjoyed a cup of tea, cozy in rain gear in the cockpit as the sun rose, alone chillin on the water.

(few miles offshore from antigua, sails up)

we are now arrived in a bay near opposite of dominica. falmouth harbor, antigua. oldest english harbor with loads of history. greatly secluded, insanely expensive and surrounded by gorgeous mega yachts. we just so happen to arrive the day before one of the worlds largest classic yacht regattas and sailing week.

it's absolutely unreal. dozens of the most beautiful 100+ ft wood boats, from all over the world, crazy sail configurations and ships of all differnt types. sloops, schooners, ketchs, brigs, etc. everywhere. nothing like i've ever seen. even this guy and his boat is docked here.
tom perkins' boat, at 290 ft, 3rd largest private owned sailing yacht is chillin near us in the harbor.

i don't know what lines needs to be crossed that sends a boat into 'ship' territory, but the majority of the boats docked are absolute ships. massive crews are constantly wetting and polishing the perfect wood decks, maintaing rigging and scuttling about.

this is the most estabished marina i've ever seen. so much different than dominica. not as welcoming as the small island village of portsmouth and at first sight, this place is saturated with high class, pretentious people all showing off the size of their weiners. i'm open minded and know this sail week is once in a lifetime. i'm open to it all. and the nightly parties filled with high class sailors is a fun change of scene.

now, we're anchored right next to a beautiful 60 ft wooden schooner with a white hull with classic lines. the most heavely packed bay yet. boats from iceland, australia, us, and of course sweden. sail week. sail week. insane.

switzerland of the caribbean - dominica


portsmouth, dominica (dome-in-eeka). our home for the past 2 weeks. she gave us some of the gnarliest, rolliest mytery swells making it impossible to keep a glass unattended and sleeping annoyingly difficult. cheap food and alcohol, the most gracious locals, new friends and insanely gorgeous rain forest waterfalls. this place is like the switzerland of the caribbean. 2 weeks here, our longest stay yet, and it wasn't enough.

such a relief to speak english again. my brain is at ease with no more translating, asking simplified broken questions and much less confused looks. the bay of portsmouth is massive.but only a tiny sea village with tiny vivid homes lay at the bottom of rolling, thick forested hills. littering the coast, washed up on shore, are the wrecks of like 5 or 6 huge fishing vessels. rusted and scoured for parts, the creepy superstructures are all that remain of boats who seeked refuge from hurricanes back in the day.

dominica is apparently one of the most impoverished of the caribbean islands. the prices on food, fresh fruit and veggies support this, but the smiling, friendly random conversations with locals suggest their stoked like errday. inland is saturated with rain forest, dozens of waterfalls and loads of hikes. emptying into portsmouth bay is the indian river. state protected, and motoring isn't allowed. every local and their brother will offer a guided tour up this beast, but we decided to go with a local bro named alexis who flashed us his 'official tour guide card.' he paddled mats and i up the river, saw some iguanas chillin in trees, massive crabs and loads of old, creeping vegetation that inevitable found its way into the water. spoke and paddle, spoke and paddle. alexis talked of the history, its plants, animals and the native caribs who are protected by the state. dominica is like the last island unmolested by tourists. their government has vowed to never build massize hotels and condos anywhere on the island and much of the interior is regulated through national forests, parks and hiking trails. "for the next generation, mon," alexis would say.

it's insane, the majority of cruisers in the caribbean seem to be scandinavian. i had no idea. swedish, norwegian, danish and finnish flags litter like every bay we enter. (reade, tyler) so, naturally, there's this comraderie amongst swedish sailors. oftentimes they're the majority. they dinghy up to us in their goofy sounding langauge and mats engages them in typical sailing convo. im assuming. andreas and christina approached us and asked if we wanted to split a rental car and cruise the northern part of the island. aah ward? at nearly 40, andreas and christina started dating and like immediately started planning for this trip. they bought a 31' sloop, prepped it for a year and peaced last july. planning for a year to cruise the atlantic circuit, i could tell they were rushing to see everything.

it was a sort of northern coast tour. simply stunning. we cruised east out of town early in the morning. it was amazing to drive through the interior. layer after layer of rolling green mountains. the highest covered in clouds. too shy to show their peaks. we twisted and turned, righ hand drive through the surprisngly well maintained, well kept rain forest roads. passing hundred of coconut trees, banan tree farms, tiny, humble shacks, and oddly friendly smiles and waves from locals just chilling outside or harvesting their crops. unlike any other island, the locals are genuinely happy to see you. i zoned out the noise of goofy sounding swedish conversation and got lost in admiring everything the passed. only goofy sounding because they emphasize strange parts of words making their inflection go up and down up and down.
the lack of 4 wheel drive and our tiny toyota stopped us where the road got gnar. it was a 30 minute hike of the trail of the waterfall pool we were seeking. a high altitude, cool down pour welcomed us and a friendly lady in a shack directed us toward the path. we passed squacking parrots, caught a glimpse of it chillin high up in a tree, cabbage fields, banana trees, thousands of coconut trees, pineapple plants and a view that is beyond words.

the rain stopped, sun was out, cold high altitude air subsided and we entered the thick rain forest path. a dood man wearing a bob marley shirt, dreads and surrounded by basket making material warned us that if the river below was flowing too fast, we shouldn't cross. it can get gnar if rain comes and you can't get back across. apparently, some tourists died recently because they didn't know how to listen.
we reached the river. snapped some pics, hopped to the other side, scurried over the rocks, rounded a corner and came upon chaudiere pool.
this gorgeous 6 foot fall elegantly crashed into a large clear pool surrounded by black smooth moist rock. we indulged in bubbling bubbles from the falls. brisk at first, once near the falls the bubbles have a massaging thang going on. had a stand off with this 9 inch orange mean looking crab that sprang from the rocks. he was pissed i was changing on his turf. i saw his wicked snappers and didn't eff with him.
cruised back with lizards everywhere and sunshine. clothes slowly drying, we passed rasta bro, gave us fresh coconut milk and we trekked back to the tiny toyota.

continued our tour and stopped for lunch. i ended up talking to the night chef who happened to be from philly. i was intrigued to see an american working there. eric, 30's, married, left the US when he and his wife's schedules were insanely opposite. they never saw each other and weren't diggin where things were going. they packed up and peaced out to dominica. built a house in the mountains and began a life there. i got his number and a few days later we enjoyed drinks, saw his gorgeous home in the mountains and went for a hike.
after lunch we headed north along the coast and then west through the mountains. switchbacks, switchbacks and some stupid steep hills. indescribable, most amazing view while along the coast. without words. once back in harbor we enjoyed brews together by the beach till thesun went down, they dingied us home and adreas and christina left the next day.

the locals organize these fund raisers that encourages cruisers and everyone to get together, bbq, drink their local rum punch and dance. we got down on their sunday night event. the rum punch was flowing, delicious  bbq fresh fish and local food was for dinner. everyone is stoked to talk to everyone, learn their past, where they came from, where they're headed. people from all over the world enjoying the song and dance. our inflatable dinghy has a hole, forcing us to use a fiberglass one and rowing. i rowed us to shore, but after this flowing, delicious rum punch, it was in both our best interests to have mats row us back. in insane winds hahaha, i was happy, and mats was profusely sweating as we finally arrived to capella in the darkness.

i'm a sucker for these markets that litter the streets. everyone is selling fresh something. like a mosquito to a bright light. we may not need the fruits or veggies being sold but i need to go and check out what they're selling. dunno what it is. gotta check out the fresh fruit and veggies yo. with all fresh shiz, one night, i made real amercan burgers. i hyped them up and finally got a chance to indulge with european mats. perfectly marinated ground beef with onions and garlic, fresh tomatoes, fresh lettuce, real kraft singles, grilled onions and a side of grilled fresh carrots, fresh green beans, potatoes, onions, garlic, tomatoes...heaven...felt like i was back in the us. so damn good. back with friends. back with family. back at home.

eric, the chef, invited us to his place and to join him, his wife and 6 month old for a hike near their home. we snagged a bus south to the capitol. the lead footed driver twisted us around dry sea cliffs in a packed 'bus', bodies and heads swaying in unison as we rallied around these corners and swerved to avoid death pot holes. after 2.5 hours of travel we made it to the interior of the island and up to eric's home. could be one of the most quaint, gorgeous, simplistic homes i've ever seen. an unadvertised hidden walkway at the top of a steep craggly road leads you to their property. you walk a slim winding path with surrounding plants and trees and come upon a dark wooded, single bedroom home high on stilts that overlooks the forest preserve. layers of hills. below are banana trees, cinnamon trees, pineapple plants, other edible goodies and beautiful tropical flowers and plants. on the veranda, their deck, in front of the folding window doors, herb seedlings line the floor. glass windows are non existent and unnecessary. open air or folding walls welcome in the troical breeze. it was unreal.
he took us to a 2 sectioned water fall that we barefoot scrambled to, swam and admired. i was introdced to spiced rum. rum infused with cinnamon (sophi). of course i was intrigued and vowed to make my own bottle. we enjoyed some beers together, chatted and we headed home before it got too dark. awesome people.

totally intrigued by alcohol and different ways to indulge, i got down on some fresh cinnamon and cloves. fresh, hugh chunks of cinnamon bark are now chillin in two bottles of local dominican rum awaiting to be enjoyed while back in the states. feeling creative, i cracked some fresh coconuts loaded with moist, white, oily coconut meat and attempted to make granola bars aboard the boat. sophi, i need tips and guidance.

soo much fresh fruit and your disposal. after snorkeling through a school of THOUSANDS of fish in a secluded bay to the north, up on the sand, heaps of fresh mangoes were just chillin. i scooped up the little bastards and they provided nourishment for the next few days.

the hardest part about communicating with someone who doesn't speak english as their first language is the lingo. especially with a 20 something MN kid who speaks oddly. mats has successfully understood and utilized the word gnarly. several times it has been used in a sentence from him. hes slowly understanding the expression. "get down on, you down with that?, you up for it?"...hard for him to grasp...the hardest of all is by far...word...he sees no logical reasoning to use it and i'll be surprised to ever hear it from him...all i can do is use it and hope he catches on.

our last night was spent in the boat of a 40 ft sloop owned by a 27 year old wind surfer. him and his buddy are cruising south for 6 months with friends and family frequently stopping by. one of the most inspiring pair of doods i've met yet. it is possible to be young and cruise. rare, but possible.

we set sail the next morning, 31 hrs later and 90 nautical miles north we now rest in falmouth harbor, antigua.

dominica, my favorite island by far, and no doubt i'll be back. beautiful.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

night passage #2 - martinique to dominica


martinique didn't want us to leave. rain and heavy wind delayed us til afternoon.

this crossing was unreal.

same watches as before, except this time i was wide awake and alert. i understand the instruments, got to steer, trim the sails, and attempt to tack by my lonesome.
we lost wind on my first watch and began spinning in slow, wide circles. boom slapping furiously, genoa flapping and cracking, shits beeping at me saying we'd gone off course. its pitch black, except for small town lights of humans away on shore. i looked up to check wind direction and caught a shooting star. a good sign. then all around are noises of giant air bubbles bursting at the surface. coming from the left, the right, then behind, this noise as i'm attempting to regain control of the steel boat. a glimpse of a dorsal fin in the reflection of a bright star gave assurance i had some company in my negligable turmoil. they bubbled and bursted and breathed at the surface for maybe 10 minutes and then peaced.

i woke up mats once the spinning got ridiculous and we motored to insane winds and swells off the coast of martinique. coming straight off the atlantic, from africa or some ish.

we were underway with like 22-25 mph winds, massive swells and a solid but vicious cruising speed of 6-7 knots. rain sprinkles were sporadic. and we hit this huge swell just perfectly, sending a wall of water into the cockpit and all over the boat. it would've been severely unpleasant if i weren't huddled under the little roof. water still dripping onto my lap and saturating the seat i was on.
mats releived me of my duty around midnight. i crawl into my cabin excited for rest, only to find my sheets soaked. my hatch wasnt locked. that gnarly wall of sea water found its way all over bed. thankfully, my pillow was salvaged. snatched it up and curled into an uncomfortable contorted position on the l-shaped seat of the saloon table.

i've slept better in my day. the wind howling, boat smashing, angry monsterous moise was relentless. i slept in 20-30 minute sections. the sound of the wind was unbelievable. complete chaos. suspected over 30mph winds.

my shift from 4am to 8am began with nearly no wind. dead calm. mats peaced out. he looked exhausted. and i was alert and determined to keep us on course. trimming the main sail and genoa like a champ, reading the instruments, singing to stay awake and steering like a baller. for the most was all good.

mats took over, i got some much needed rest, and when i awoke we were pulling into Portsmouth, Dominica. (dom-in-neeka)

                                              (hammock rigged in the bow, portsmouth, dominica)
here we are anchored. cheaper, greener, nearly untouched by serious hotels and tourists and gnar mullet has been tamed. alls well that ends well.


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