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.


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