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

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.

lazy martinique.


we anchored in the french caribbean town of Fort de France. the two looming pitons guard the small town on the water.

St. Lucia said her farewell through clouds and a breif rainfall as we cruised out of Rodney Bay at 6:45am. after clearing the lee of the island the trade winds gave us a steady, quick 6knots nearly the whole cruise to Marinique. monster swells were being whipped up from the atlantic as we pased between islands. the swells were some of the biggest waves i had seen yet.  blue perpetual walls. below was about 6000 feet until the ocean floor. it was clear skies and sun the entire 8 hr cruise. burnt thighs and arms radiated heat once we stopped moving and the wind ceased in the bay of Fort de France. thank you aloe.
finding the customs office to check into an island is never too difficult. but in france, through broken french, it takes 4 different contradicting french-caribs giving directions that send you to one edge of town, to the other, back again, to the other, then only to find it tucked away in a tiny sailing shop far from the docks.
and yes, as far as customs go, the french don't give an eff. no authorities, no stamps, no written forms, and no fees for stopping by. all info was filled out on a dusty computer in the corner of a hallway. we set our departure date upon arrival and never had to deal with it again. after all the confusion and wandering a local beer was well deserved.
we stopped into the nearest bar. owned by a frenchman named jean-pierre..of course it's jeanne-pierre. we sat on the balcony that looked out on the town and bay.

this became our go-to spot. through broken french and his patience he told about martinique, its wildlife, the rain forest, the unusual weather as of late, the town, france, his travels and a little bit about beer. he seemed super stoked about the hikes he routinely takes on sundays. the one day where the entire town shuts down. i asked if we could come along one day. and so, on our last day in martinique he was our rain forest guide. unforgettable.

that french laziness seemed to rub off on us. a combo of that, sporadic, mildly annoying rainfalls, unexpected overcast days and ATM issues, we didn't venture out the city until after a week of anchoring.
although within that week my french improved from asking so many damn questions, the tiny streets lined with decaying french-style-stone buildings became familiar, the fresh fruit and veggie market was routinely visited, ate fresh baguettes, got an irrepairable tear in the dinghy and of course through the euro conversion to american dollar, spent too much money. we were living in a french town with all its cliches and sterotypes situated in the caribbean.

traveling, seeing and arriving into a foreign city by boat has a unique psychological effect. compared to traveling a town and chillin in a hostel, you are living IN the city, IN the town. i always felt rushed and anxious this way. aboard a boat, with a slight breeze while anchored in the bay, the town looks and feels smaller. at ease and clear minded. like you can see the town from the outside looking in. interesting.

i had mats pull my finger while i was rowing us back to Capella. oblivious to the preceding event, he found it hilarious. apparently, the swedes don't have such tooting games. im bummed though. he won't play the game anymore. he sees it more of trickery than something we can both enjoy together. i'm hoping he'll come around.

once we finally ventured out of the village, we snagged a bus up into the mountains to this botanical garden. it was a little toursity, but the plants and trees and birds and insects inside were all completely new and totally jungle growthy bra. and they had this awesome suspended rope bridge that provided some wicked views of the pitons and the valley below. afterward, i was itching for more exploration into the wild, but when i asked this old, local lady, she said the nearest hike was like 3 miles away. far too far to walk. i don't know if it was my poor french or she was unaware of her surroundings, but the very next day when our plans for snokeling in the south fell through due to buses and ferrys shutting down in the afternoon, we got word of a trail literally 1000 feet from the botanical garden. effin lady. we bussed to the spot.
walking down this paved road, thick, thick vegetaion walls on either side followed us down toward the sound of a river. it was moist and smelled of rain. this was a jungle, a rain forest. we followed the road without certainty and came across this super old stone bridge that provided passage over the river. mossy stairs led to the waters edge. i hopped in to get closer and snap some pics of the waterfall upstream in a little cove. got some gnar pics and continued onward.
we came across this jungle path that deviated from the road we were on. a french sign attempted to tell us what the deal was here, but i couldn't make sense of it. with my sperrys and swimsuit on, so began the first rain forest hike up the sloppy, muddy stairs twisting up and up into the jungle.

the growth is insanely thick. there is no way you could deviate from the path to explore. unless you had a wicked machete and left bread crumbs. a wall of green, wild flowers, bamboo trees, mossy stumps, dead brown leaves and plants and thriving vines. unlike anything i've ever seen. incessant bird noises, wind blowing or gushing water. never silence, something always moving or living.
we sloshed on, up and up and twisting for another hour. it was realized this path led much much farther than we intended to go or had time for. so, a perfect natural bench, a fallen tree we came upon. enjoyed an orange, sat in silence and observed then headed back. the trek back always going quicker than the way in.

constipation is a crazy thing. an unpleasant one. and for some reason is a fact and lesson of travel. after like 5 days of no movement in this french caribbean town, it was time for some action. when squatting, stretching, rolling, massaging and pushing produce no results, 3 cups of coffee and bananas first thing in the morning gave the release i so desperately needed. pure elation and joy. (soph)

on our very last day in martinique, we met up with jeanne-pierre. he offered us beer before departing into his tiny peugeot along with his unnamed, skinny greyhound type dogs. we cruised to the rain forest. near the base of those two looming pitons we saw everyday.
he whipped out some hidden walking sticks from the brush and what started as a hike down a paved road, soon turned into sloppy muddy trekking. i was all about it. jeanne-pierre turned out to be a damned near expert on flowers, birds and vegeation. through mixed french and english he told of what this plant does, this flower, how to eat this, that, how this trail use to be back in the day and how it's different now. he was our guide.
he had us follow him off the main path onto his own path into the wall of green. we hopped a stream, thrashed through huge moist, green leaves to show us the massive, gorgeous pink flower that smelt sweet and fresh. he pulled out a bag of seeds and started poking holes in the wet soil with his index finger. "for ze bats and ze birds," he says.

then came the rain. of course. big 'ol fat rain as Forest would say. jeanne-pierre busted out his umbrella, and so did mats. i, ill-equipped, took it all.
we hiked and walked, in the mud and changing terrain. he'd stop to tell us of this plant, that plant, break off a leaf, and have us eat it. crossed a river and got soaked boots. more hidden paths to rows of big flowers and the sun barely shining through the heavy forest leaves. it's unbelievable how much growth there is. living things, upon living things. a tree saturated with moss, with other plants growing in the moss, with insects scurrying about, with drops of water dangling on the tips of leaves.
the day lives as a memory now. too rainy to snap any pics. but nonetheless, we enjoyed another beer back at his bar afterward as he showed us pictures of the birds we were hearing earlier that day.

we set sail the next day. a trip to gnarnia.


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