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

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)


  © Blogger template Shush by 2009

Back to TOP