In our Ocean of Blue

After the news that James’ sister was recovering from her heart…issues, we were determined to keep on moving forthwith. The internet access at Santa Maria gave us weather forecasts and we were sure we could sail, with relative comfort, to Madeira. If that was too much upwinding, we’d just skip the anchorage and travel on to the Canaries. Meanwhile, distance creates perspective and one of the things we pondered on the next leg of our life’s journey was the following proposition: Human people are anchors. In Praia, we met a M/F couple that said some things and made some moves in the direction of friendship that ultimately turned out to be the same old ‘Merican bullshit. Ill will, fake chill, and lies…just like the accumulated history of the country we ran away from. These old and old school propagandists of a past that never existed, who came to a place they don’t belong, to do an antiquated appropriation… Oh, never mind. We were hurt because we trusted those assholes. Fool us again if you must, but we can’t give up the entire concept of friendship because we believe in the ongoing evolution of our species. No, really, we think that someday we’ll grow out of this cycle of petro-evil and ultimately we, the humans, will find a life of balance on this planet that so generously supports our kind. A kind of human who can see a future without a military base in every paradise. Our time in Santa Maria was spent getting loose of the ties we wanted to shake and newly establishing the ones we wanted to maintain. It’s not always easy to make sure we keep people we like in our lives while letting the others fade away. Being at anchor, we were at home. The surroundings[…]

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Terceria-Santa Maria Day 2

Dena’s 1700-1800 watch  We got close enough to São Miguel to get some new weather forecasts. Now it really does look like we’d be better off stopping at Santa Maria tomorrow, waiting out Saturday’s bad swell, and then taking off again Sunday or Monday. I am underway! I would prefer to stay underway! Also, I don’t like the idea of 4 meters at 9 seconds any more now than I ever did.  It’s hard to believe it’ll be that bad. Right now, we’re motor-sailing in F2, downwind. The sun is bright overhead after an overcast morning and it’s sensationally beautiful.  We’re running the chartplotter, the tiller pilot, all the regular house loads (fridge, a couple lights, chargers), and the motor, and we seem to have enough power that we could maintain this pace (about 3 knots) forever. Once the sun goes down, we’ll be using from the banks rather than from the solar panels. We’ll make sure we leave a good safety margin and just wash along gently under main only if power gets low. Dena’s 2100-2400 watch São Miguel and the capital, Ponta Delgada, are receding more slowly than the last light. The only thing I would have gone there for? The only Indian food restaurant in all the Atlantic islands. The moon will rise a little before 2230 and I’ll be watching for it. (And other vessels, of course!) There’s a thick cloud later ringing the horizon so it might happen a little late, but I can be patient.  All the clouds are an ominous reminder that we’re doing something we try to avoid…racing to safe harbor ahead of storms. Since we’ll never be the fastest boat on the water, we arrive for good planning and I think we have plenty of time. Dena’s 2100-2400 watch The moon[…]

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Terceira-Santa Maria Day 1

4/24, James’s 1700-1800 watch We’re averaging about 4.5 knots on a beam reach, port tack, in a F4-5. The seas are busy but not terrible. It’s definitely something that’ll take getting used to again.  All hail meclazine! I got a little unsteady in my stomach in my first off-watch, below deck. The last hour had been fine in the cockpit and now I’m lying on the starboard settee without queasiness. Beluga Greyfinger is a tense little lump under the covers in the forepeak. Poor kitty will be okay, but I’ll worry about him until he drinks, eats, and uses the litter box. I took the boat out of the slip and, wow, that couldn’t have been easier. Cetacea is handling well despite not being able to clean her bottom. The new paddle for LoveBot is doing its job, and the rest of it seems no worse for a winter of disuse. The sails look good and set well. So far, so good on the gear. James’s 1900-2000 watch I’m already getting stiff from bracing against the boat’s motion. It’ll be ibuprofen for dinner, I guess. On the other hand, I’m glad to be away…underway. I still hope we get propane in Lanzarote or Gran Canaria, but we may not be able to make enough east in the conditions that are coming. I’m not averse to the idea of skipping it for Cabo Verde except that running out of cooking gas partway to Brazil would be…bad. 4/25 Dena’s 2400-0300 watch I’m beginning to get a little more poetic but I’m still pretty focused on the practicalities. The moon is full but the sky is cloudy, so it’s not fully dark but there isn’t that interest point in the sky.  We’re rolling along pretty fast, still on the beam reach. The waves[…]

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John Barth is dead

On March 26th, 2024, the Francis Scott Key bridge in Baltimore was struck by a ship and destroyed in seconds. Exactly a week later, John Barth died. He had been in hospice for a while so I can’t help but think he might not have known. Like the aforementioned structure, Barth was synonymous with the Chesapeake Bay and more specifically Baltimore, Maryland. He taught at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore for many years and wrote some of the most incredible tales of the Chesapeake I (James) have ever read. I can honestly say that Professor Barth was the main reason I moved to the Chesapeake Bay in 2009. Dena and I had been living in India for almost a year when we discovered a great deal on a sailboat in Norfolk, Virginia. We bought that boat (S/V SN Nomad) and sailed her up the Bay to Baltimore by the end of our first year. And we did that because we both (Dena and I) had spent the previous decade devouring the works of John Barth. I was first introduced to the works of Barth in the winter of 1987, when a good friend (and marriage relation) found out that I was a big fan of “post-Modern” fiction. Dude went to his library and landed right on the B’s. He looked at me with a wry smile and picked out two books by an author I’d never heard of. The first one was “The Sot-Weed Factor” by John Barth and the second was “Giles Goat-Boy” by the same dude. He held both book in his hands as if weighing them, shoved “Goat-Boy” into my face and said, “This one first.” I spent the next two months reading that book, whenever I wasn’t working on my own last year of manufacturing a bachelor’s[…]

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’23

If you’ve been with us through this incredible year, then you know…fucking wow! We started this calendar year with an unreliable dying diesel engine and more anecdotal evidence of climate change in Vero Beach, Florida, trying to get south to celebrate my (James’) mother’s life. One loop around our local star later, we are in the middle of the Atlantic flow enjoying our winter in the Azores. We’re learning Portuguese on Dena’s phone, rocking the boat projects, not using the electric motor much but also not having to work on it, and house-sitting with the goat-lawnmower… But how do you get to here from there? If there is Vero Beach, and there was, you start with the New Year’s Day breakfast buffet to beat the band. For a couple of Jacksons (NDN killer), it was every damn thing I (Dena) associate with getting what I want for breakfast, right down to eggs Benedict and unlimited oysters on the half shell. The decadence couldn’t continue nonstop, but we’ve done a good job this year of eating inexpensive food aboard so that we can go all in when it really seems worth it. We did grinding little hops down the ICW for a while because the usual winds weren’t happening for the offshore jumps we’d hoped to make. A broken bridge locked us north of West Palm Beach and we slowly watched our window of opportunity to visit the Bahamas narrow and close. Instead, we finally got a hard dinghy, a good rowing vessel with a full sailing rig and put our energies into easing toward the Keys while fixing up that poor mistreated boat. Tursiops took on Cetacea’s color scheme with pugnacious grace and fit on the bow like they’d been made for one another. Projects and swimming, making water and[…]

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Writing about writing about sailing

I (James) love to say this in conversation: “and all of the sudden we’ve been doing this for twenty-four years!” We’ve crossed two oceans under sail and worked on every one of our boat systems and that kind of makes us a hot commodity in an industry dominated by itself and the petroleum industry. …Did I say that out loud? I recently got an amazing response from one of my all-time favorite sailing magazines. The publisher found an article I submitted by email in his spam-folder. He read it and kind of flipped out. He told me it was “one of the best things I’ve read in quite some time!” He asked me for a bunch of photos and they printed my story in the centerfold of the December 2023 issue of their magazine. The lead editor for the magazine also stroked me hard on my “talent as a writer” and offered me a column in the magazine, then turned right around and mis-edited my article to make me out to be a liar. They never sent me any proofs of the edited piece, they just printed it. They also promised to pay me for my labors and I still haven’t seen any doubloons from those scurvied scoundrels. The article looks totally awesome in print, it really does. There’s no getting over how cool it is to see your work immortalized on real physical pages. It just fucking rocks! Dena shot a bunch of great pictures of me, I shot a bunch of great pictures of us adventuring and we both look like the modern, totally awesome electric sailors that we are… But! …They totally fucked me. Obviously I don’t want to burn anything in this incredibly small community of ours, so this is me putting down that can of[…]

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Another winter in paradise

We have sailed the ocean blue and found a place of ancient familial connections. We put that hook down and laughed at the effort. When you first show up to a place, newness is pretty much the dominating feeling. The way the autumn light reflects off the particular stone making up the streets (not Fells Point serpentine, something volcanic?), the mysteriously timed bells that chime from the cat-licker buildings, the grudging smiles transforming the (is it just me or is it) ubiquitous resting-bitch-faces, and the way the non-sailors everywhere look at us and pass that very local version of judgment. It feels as if life starts anew every day and then again the next and the next one after. Then one day it all looks so familiar. All of a sudden, we’ve been here in the Azores for a nice long time. We do our epic-walks and our projects and the weather descends upon us like the winter that could give-a-shit about our mortality…like it always does. When anchored, we snuggle down south in southerlies. Shore access at the fishing docks fouls our shoes a bit but convenience and a whole lot of being ignored make us grateful. There’s a bad grocery store and an excellent restaurant. At the northern end, we’re either anchored off the beach or in the marina. Storms spin across the planet and our safe zone shifts as they pass over. The fetch can be brutal, so retreating behind the breakwater has been a prudent move more than once. The marina is also our dinghy dock and we can use the bathrooms and showers and laundry whether we’re paying for a slip or not. Ultimately, the cyclonic reality of seasonal weather inspires us to descend upon another marina in Winter. Not plugged in, not running a[…]

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