Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Hi Everyone,

I'm now tied up at Georgetown getting ready to head south in the morning. Everyone told me that the Exuma Islands could not be beat when it comes to friendly people and exploring and they were very right. The waters were just as clear as in the tourist brochures and the islands were perfect for walking on the trails and tramping around the brush.

All the locals ashore were friendly and helpful and so too were the yachites on all the boats. It was a good thing because many boats got into trouble with the rough headwinds and shallow waters.

Being from Washington State, I'm used to being able to sail in deep water relatively close to shore and to be able to run off to deeper water when the weather becomes unsafe. Here the depth is often just a few feet under your keel and you have to be wary of reefs even when miles offshore.

The Southeast Winds, coming from right in the direction I'm heading, made it slow going. At times, the combination of short, steep seas and maze of reefs made it so progress was nearly impossible and I ended up waiting for better conditions rather than slowly tacking my way among reefs.

Now I'm on my way to Panama via a few more islands en route.

Here's a few pictures of sailing in the Exumas:

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sailing Caribbean

I flew down to Grand Bahama, an island just across the Gulf Stream from Florida and got to the Contessa after about 26 hours of flying and airports. The Bahamian customs were convinced that I was going to move here forever since I had no return ticket and made me buy a ticket back to the states...oh the joys of bureaucracy.

I'm now in the Exuma Islands slowly working my way south toward the Windward Passage between Cuba and Haiti where I will be able to sail straight 700 miles or so to Panama. The sailing here is hard work because the prevailing winds are right on the nose and all the shallows, but it is made up for with the beautiful anchorages and crystal clear water.

Sailing a Contessa 26 is great because although quite small she handles like a proper ship. She isn't particularly fast or roomy, but you feel that she could take a real blow in safety.

I'm at a tiny island right now, but when I get to Georgetown will send a longer post and some pictures.



Tuesday, November 9, 2010

next adventure

Hey everybody,

I'm off this Friday to the Caribbean to deliver a Contessa 26 from the Bahamas to Panama and on through the Canal. As many of you know, the Contessa 26 is the design that was chosen by Tania Aebi and Brian Caldwell for their solo round the world voyages. It is the smaller version of the Contessa 32 that I considered for the longest time to use for my own circumnavigation. In any case I am very much in love with the design and excited to be making a solo passage on one.

This boat is owned by none other than Jesse Martin, who was the youngest to sail nonstop, unassisted around the world in 1999. I will be flying to a small island in the northern Bahamas where the boat is and sailing east around Cuba to Panama. I'm definitely looking forward to going through the canal, something I've dreamt of my entire life.

In any case, I'll be sure to keep you all posted on my progress. Here's a diagram of the boat.



Monday, November 1, 2010

Passage Complete

We just got in on Friday from the latest crossing from Oahu to Los Angeles with BJ Caldwell and his partner Linda. The trip was 26 days, longer than the other crossings I have made on this route but perfectly respectable time considering how late it was in the season.

We almost didn't begin the crossing. The boat (a Columbia 50) had spent far too much time sitting at the dock and therefor needed a lot of work done to get her ready for the open ocean, as we soon discovered during sea trials. Among other things, the entire 100 gallon fuel tank had to be removed and replaced with another custom tank.

By the end of September, the weather was already starting to change, with hurricane force lows passing through the North Pacific and we decided it would be best to delay the voyage until next spring, unless an exceptional weather window opened up. On October 1st I flew back to Washington, convinced that the trip would be put off until next spring. We had grown so tired of life at the marina that Linda and I promised each other we would never return as long as we lived.

Two days later I got a call from Brian telling me to come back to Hawaii right away. A prefect weather window had opened up and they were ready to go, and so I immediately booked a flight back to Hawaii. So much for never coming back!

Soon after leaving we hit our first of the bumpy weather. It wasn't really bad, just rough enough to make it uncomfortable and for a good amount of water to come over the deck. This quickly exposed one of the most annoying problems on the voyage---the leaks.

Almost all boats leak to some extent when at sea, just some more so than others. This boat wasn't too bad except that the leaks were located in some of the worst possible locations. The worst one on the boat was naturally located above my bunk and so for a large percentage of the passage I had a wet and soggy bunk. One of the few things you can usually look forward to after a long cold night watch is a warm, dry bunk, but it wasn't to be...

For the first week we made good progress in the right direction. Typically, when sailing from Hawaii to the mainland, you head due north for the first week or so to get up above 40 degrees north for favorable winds to take you east. This late in the season, however, we knew we would have to stay far to the south to avoid the hurricane force storms that were happily plowing their way across the North Pacific. The risk we were taking by sailing south was that we would encounter easterly headwinds that would be impossible to make progress against on this boat.

A week into the crossing, just that happened. For the next six days we either had winds coming from exactly the wrong direction or no wind at all. As you can imagine, we made little progress in the east and ended up using the motor a fair bit. We had loads of fuel aboard so this was no problem.

The amount of floating garbage in the area was truly depressing. On my two previous crossings on this route, I hadn't encountered much garbage so we had thought the reports of floating islands of the stuff towering into the sky mid pacific to be a little bit exaggerated. What we saw wasn't islands of it, but it was still far, far too much to be out there in our once pristine oceans. You would pass a garbage bag and then a floating bucket and then a bottle...on and on. We sailed through a sea of garbage for over a week.

Over the course of three days we had six fishing nets wrap themselves around the propeller, which of course we had to cut free. One of them was so huge that it took half a day to free. Brian dove under the boat and cut it holding his breath, nothing less than a heroic effort in the cold water.

Two hundred miles from the coast, I popped my head out the hatch to look for ships when an owl looked right back at me! It certainly wasn't what I expected to see this far offshore. Land birds often get blown out to sea, but I had never seen anything like an owl out here before. He spent the day resting on the deck and then flew off when it got dark.

After 26 days we made it to LA where we went straight to grabbing some hot, cooked food. We hadn't had anything warm or cooked for 13 days because the propane system decided to call it quits. All in all, it was quite nice to get in and enjoy the comforts of shore.

Now I'm working out the details for a trip from Florida to Panama and on through the canal.