Home, once again

We set sail from Lanzarote in the Canary Islands on June 23, 2024 and had the LoveBot rig set up astern within minutes of getting underway. Immediately we knew there was something wrong! It wasn’t able to recognize a course which meant we still had some tweaking to do. The Monitor Windvane (LoveBot) self-steering system is a truly rugged piece of kit but, make no mistake about it, it must be finely tuned or it doesn’t work at all. Because our Monitor sits so far off our Norwegian stern, working on it while underway posed some serious problems. The cool thing about being in an island chain in the middle of the ocean is that there are plenty of bolt-holes to drop the hook for emergency repairs or adjustments. About 35nm from our anchorage off Lanzarote was a very nice little cove tucked into the island of Fuertaventura, one island west of Lanzarote. We made very little to-do about the fact that this was the first time we’d sailed west in well over a year but we did have a few other things on our minds. We put the hook down in a lovely (although rolly) little cove called Pozo Negro (Black Sands) and went to work on fine-tuning the LoveBot the very next morning. It took us about an hour to get LoveBot dialed in but we made the mistake of looking at the 10-day on Windy! I (James) have been grumbling about that stupid app for a few months now because, for me, it seems to be a little too much information with totally scary graphics to illustrate their predictions. Now granted, weather tech has exploded in accuracy the last few years with Elon’s lower orbit bombardment of high albedo telescope distortion but at some point a sailor[…]

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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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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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’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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