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, 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.


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