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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Underway Still and Again

We left Praia da Vitória on Ilha Terceira at about 1400 Wednesday the 23rd of April, 2024, and two days later (well, about a day and three-quarters) put the hook down off the island of Santa Maria, our final stop in the Azorean chain and not exactly a planned one. After five months of (damn-near) static living aboard, we silently glided out of the marina and back into that one big ocean. It was incredible! It wasn’t kind, it wasn’t calm, it was fucking awesome! The winds were a northeasterly 18-30 knots with a 2-3 meter chop across our port beam leaving the lee of Terceira, so a reef went in the mainsail just outside the harbor breakwaters with a full staysail and no yankee. The gusting got worse and the staysail got smaller, but that didn’t last long. We rocked and rolled…and I’m talking from sunset on! The full moon was devoured by a thick gray-shield of cumulus that never gave us a peak of our local satellite. An ambient sky-wide light kept it from feeling like a new-moon night and made it easy to get around the little we moved on that first night of watches. That first overnight was hard but doable simply because we were both so stoked to be underway again. The cat not so much. As the sun rose, the winds abated and moved abaft so we furled the staysail and went mainsail alone for the rest of the adventure, clipping along at a respectable 3-5 knots. Shortly after leaving Terceira, I (James) got a text from my brother informing me that my sister had had a heart attack and was in a third-world Texas hospital with a grim prognosis. Just after that text, our internet went dark. We decided to sail as close[…]

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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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60’s

Wow, life! When I (James) was in my 20’s I remember lying in the grass on a warm Texas summer’s night looking up at the stars at the immensity of it all and saying to my friend next to me, “I can’t even imagine living after 30!” My friend exploded with laughter yelling, “Here we are looking up at the infinity of space and time and you can’t even see past 30 years? What could possibly be wrong with living your life as long as you can to experience as much of the universe as possible?” From my current vantage of 60 times around the sun my answer to her would be a resounding, “absolutely nothing!” Now granted, at the ripe old age of 24 I had already experienced a large part of the U.S., Europe and the Caribbean. I had lived through 2nd and 3rd degree burns on about 20% of my body. I had also somehow lived through a broken neck without any permanent paralysis, so my perspective on living was a bit skewed by the drama of trauma and the road well traveled. But wow, life! If I had given in to my own fatal expectations the incredible things I have witnessed in this life would have never existed at all. I wouldn’t have met my friend Dena, the most important influence of them all. I wouldn’t have been a pirate or a rock star in the 90’s in Seattle. I wouldn’t have experienced 10 hours of 40 ft following seas coming around Cape Mendocino. I wouldn’t have walked the halls of the Taj Mahal, the Red Fort or Fatepur Sikri. I wouldn’t have seen the Golden Temple or Kanyakumari. I would have never sailed in an ocean so blue it vibrated my eyes. But wow, life![…]

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The electric advantage

We just heard that the guy who was prepping his NorSea 27′ for an electric circumnavigation from Seattle is approaching Hawaii. We were thinking he might be the one to challenge our potential world record as the smallest electric boat to circumnavigate. The only problem: he’s not on an electric boat. He says he is, and he has an electric motor aboard, but discovering he backed it up with a gas generator that he ended up using all down the California coast was a shocker to say the least! That’s not an electric boat, that’s a gas boat! I (James) am so fed up with that stupid bullshit! I am so sick and tired of these people who claim to be doing something revolutionary like taking an electric sailboat around the world and at the last moment packing a cheap genset aboard, 50 gallons of gas, and taking off under the false pretenses of going electric. That’s not revolution, that’s a fucking lie supporting the status quo. (For those of you who don’t know: genset is the term for generator-set meaning a combination of diesel or gas engine and electric generator.) We’re on this leg of our life’s adventures at sea to prove -once and for all- that the world can be discovered under sail with a completely electric auxiliary motor as back up. I get the idea of wanting to cover all your bases for the sake of self preservation and the ‘Prudent Sailor Survives’ and all that crap but you are either going electric or you’re sucking at the petroleum tit. And that’s all there is to it. Now backing up a few years, when we first started batting around the idea of going electric, we were looking at a beautiful Tayana 37 Pilothouse with a dead diesel[…]

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Shop Sitting

Having space to lay out our projects is a rare opportunity for us. When you live aboard, your home is your workshop until you turn it back into your home and vice versa. It’s a dynamic we’ve long since learned to live with, but it does mean that set-up time and clean-up time eat into project time pretty intensely. Our friends Nancy and Glen are ex-pats living here on Ilha Terceira, Azores, Portugal. They are in the process of shutting down their lives in the US after six years of establishing residency and building a house with an incredible workshop here on the island. They had a whole bunch of family and property to deal with back in the states, so we’re house-sitting–or rather, shop-sitting–while they wrap things up back there on the crazy continent. I (James) say shop-sitting because, well… We’re taking care of the house and checking the mail as well, but it’s not even tempting to sleep over. My (Dena’s) dad came to visit and he did the cleanup when a northerly bearing torrential rain flooded under the old front door and the living room became a shallow lake. It is good to have someone looking in on things, if not staying full time. The place is absolutely beautiful with a breathtaking view but Glen and Nancy are boat people. So of course we fell in love with that workshop! We made a list, like you do, of all the priority project that we absolutely had to get done while we had this totally awesome opportunity. What requires shelter from the almost-incessant winter rains and benefits from easy use of power tools? At the top of the long term wish-list was the dinghy sailing rig. …and let me (James) tell you, that shit was fucked up! We[…]

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The seasons

One of my most profound memories about Hawaii is the absolute lack of seasons the year we were there. I mean, I (James) understand that “season” might mean a different thing in the middle of the Pacific flow at 18 degrees north, and I might not have been particularly attuned to Hawaiian seasonal change given the fact that I was all involved in survival of the wage-slave fittest the entire time I was there. It was 80 degrees Fahrenheit every day we were there and seventy-something every night. I stopped giving a shit about the weather after a while which (I know) is a little weird for a sailor. It’s not like that here on the other side of Earth in the Atlantic flow. We have some serious season-age here in the Azores for sure! Change is dramatic and obvious on every level. The ocean rolls in with a vengeance some days like it was actually pissed off at you. The banshees in the marina cry and mourn with the modulation of the cyclonic winds spinning off into the Atlantic flow like a pair of googly-eyes. The island of Terceira is an incredible environment with obvious active change going on around us constantly. It’s tiny and grand at the same time. It’s completely exposed to the angry winds from the northeast and the protection we get from the southwest is restricted to the shadow cast by a volcano (Pico) about 96km from us. That huge mountain shatters the winds that come over the Atlantic so by the time they get to us here in Praia da Vitoria they’re kicked up with a kind of confused fury. And then there’s the fact that this is an active volcanic zone. Yeah, that means earthquakes sometimes like the 5.6 quake we got the[…]

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