Posts Tagged ‘Offshore sailing preparations’


Leaving Green Isles & Al Green’s Leaving

July 21, 2010

Thursday July 8th- Orcas Hotel, Orcas Island, WA- I’ve been working for over one month now on Orcas Island (and other nearby islands) preparing for my upcoming offshore passage south to California. The Bruja Dulce is not entirely prepared, nor am I, but things are finally coming together. The heavy weight of reality is lifting in the warm, north, offshore summer breeze and I think I’m going make it- just in time for a September departure.

Yesterday I felt free enough to sew a kite-aerial-photography rig (an unnecessary but long-wished-for part of my rigging) and test it from nearby Yellow Island, seen above, whose caretaker you can see in the photo telling me, “This is a nature preserve, not a recreation area”.

The south porch of the Orcas Hotel overlooking the ferry landing

Enough work has been done that I’ve decided it’s time for me to leave Orcas Island- to drive south to California. I’m going to visit and work with Karisa and the noble crew at Live Power Community Farm near Mendocino as well as my dear friends at Skyline Harvest in the Sierra Foothills. I’ll also be leaving my car in the Golden State, so it’ll be there when my Dad and I arrive by boat in two months.

Right now, sitting on the porch at the Orcas Hotel waiting for a ferry, I’m looking around and noting that I feel a little out of place, and scuzzy- like I’ve been in the wilderness for over a month. I’m wondering if anyone else sipping their coffee here on the porch can sense, or smell, the detachment I feel.

Just this morning I was woken at 5am- anchored fore and aft, alone, in a small and shallow bay off Jones Island- by the sound of an otter eating a crab in my dinghy. A little later, while having my own breakfast, I made the spontaneous decision to make a noon-ferry off Orcas island and begin my road trip south.

I nearly ran aground while weighing the anchors and sailing off of them- the experience and hot sun triggering ample sweat by 8am. Barely cooled down by the short sail back to Deer Harbor- having spent most of the time pulling seaweed off the anchors while Ray, the autopilot, steered through the warm, evergreen scented air flowing over Orcas Island- I broke a full sweat again while docking solo. Then, after packing for the trip and closing the boat up in less than 45 minutes, I hurriedly heaved the dinghy up on deck- realizing as I flipped the small craft upside-down onto my un-shirted back that I had never cleaned up the otter’s crab breakfast. With this coating of juices and too many bags, I flip-flopped as fast as I could, my hands going numb, another layer of sweat bubbling-up, to my die-hard, baking in the sun, no-AC-having Camry- which has been inhabited since early June by a Californian lizard I have named “Toyota” (a story for another time).

I missed the noon-ferry.

Such was the punctuation for this 5-week run-on sentence of offshore rigging work and low-budget self-sufficiency training. A period which was harried by fits of feverish and sometimes desperate internet research and which necessarily included parenthetical weekends of sailing to nearby islands, often alone.

Rebuilding winches

I worked at least five days per week on the boat. About 2/3 of the time I was physically working, and the other 1/3 of the time I spent with my head hung over my laptop figuring out what I needed to do and how to do it (and looking for jobs). I blame this anxious and excessive “screen time” with my not wanting to do much else with the laptop.

Trying to mend with my old Nelco machine

However, I am ever grateful to the emerging sphere of collective consciousness that exists within the cloud of the Internet. With it, I was able to tap into the experiences of not only other offshore sailors, but offshore sailors of Tayana 37 cutter-rigged sailboats like the Bruja. The Tayana Owner’s Group forums became daily reading for me.

Repairing the bowsprit

Off to the right, I have posted an “Offshore Listings” page which outlines this first list of important preparations. A number items have been checked off this list but there’s still some whoppers left to check (and pay for). I plan on writing more about maintenance techniques- to add conscientiously to the cloud- but for now, the new page, these few images, and the video I have posted below will give a glimpse into the nature of the work.

Mending the Bruja Dulce's mainsail on the nicely mowed lawn on Jones Island

My violin-maker-neighbor, Vince, the proud owner of my old Apple iMac, holding a gift for Karisa.

Friday July 9th, Seaside Hostel, Seaside, OR- During this time, my neighbors at Cayou Quay Marina in Deer Harbor have been a godsend. These blossoming friendships have brought me sound advice, valuable equipment, and have bore wholly unexpected treasures. I have learned that trading my own time and no-longer needed items with these kindred liveaboards yields returns many-fold beyond such marketplaces as eBay or Craigslist. My neighbor, Lee, especially, has transcended being merely neighborly, and has helped me immensely. I am grateful to him, Vince, Joseph, Kevin, and Eric. It will be tough to leave this neighborhood in August.

But despite this small marina community, and despite sailing with visiting friends the first weekend in June, it has been a somewhat lonely time. I sailed subsequent weekends alone, venturing 6-10 miles to other islands.

Sailing to Stuart Island, alone, Ray at the helm- captured during a time-lapse sequence

Learning to single-hand the Bruja Dulce in the San Juan Islands has been incredible. On my first single-handed Saturday, three weeks ago, I sailed for five hours in the sun letting a CD Karisa made for me cycle over and over. That afternoon was a peak experience which I’m only just beginning to understand, and which I plan on sharing in full as my time allows. The result of this experience was positive, I became determined and confident. However, there was a strange and torturous side effect: the Al Green song “Tired of Being Alone”, third track on the CD, spilled like milk into my brain- seeping into every last cranny of my consciousness, and sticking like honey.

When I say “song”, I mean three or four measures of the song. It wasn’t the song at all, in fact. It was just Al, and his refrain, “I’m so tired of being alone, I’m so tired of on-my-own, wont you help me girl, just as soon as you can…”

I ate with Al, I worked with Al, and yes, I went to sleep with Al. The first thing my consciousness encountered in the morning was Al- crying to me while I lay in the forecastle.

After 10 days or so, when he seemed to be getting comfortable in the salon of my internal dialogue, I began asking him to leave, “That’s enough, Al.” “Please stop, Al.” After 20 days, “Stop!” “Shush!”. When he wouldn’t let up, these requests sometimes escaped the gravitational field of my sanity and manifest as odd mutterings.

Beginning my homepathic treatment: animating time-lapse and editing while camping on the Oregon coast the night before arriving at Live Power Farm

Thursday June 15th, Live Power Community Farm, Covelo, CA – Even as I left left the San Juan Islands, and drove down the coast, Al was with me. On the drive, I concocted a homeopathic treatment. I decided to make a short film, set to Al’s song, so I would be forced to listen to it over and over while planning and editing. Maybe this is more shock-therapy than homeopathy, I don’t know. The treatment helped in my recovery, but there was an obvious cure.

Harvesting is well underway by sunrise

While visiting Karisa during her internship at Live Power Farm, I am asked to help out on the farm- to join the crew in exchange for room and board during my stay. This is my third time staying with Karisa and working, eating, and playing alongside these wonderful people. It is my pleasure. Incredible things are happening here. The work being done, the thoughts being shared (so often the most poignant and cheerful while hoeing or weeding in +100º), the food being grown and prepared, their wild and diverse stories being inked in the fabric of human consciousness, all of it, so wonderful to be a part of- a crew, so……not alone.

I am dedicating, for whatever it’s worth, all the hours I put into this video to the Live Power Crew and the Decaturs. Because, while I happen to have the time to share all of this, they are working 60 hours or more per week, lovingly, achingly, and sometimes sleepily, growing lively food for themselves and 125+ families in the Bay Area- their other passions and interests mostly at bay while they learn and teach the practices which will help the full diversity of life grow more sustainably through people. Their sacrifice will come back many-fold, I’m sure. All the best, and see you in the Bay Area soon- when you can join my crew for a while!

Photos for Karisa and Elijah (because they asked), and all those wanting to see more of what it’s like up in the SJ’s:

Speiden and Jones Island from Yellow Island

Sunset over Waldron Is.- Canadian Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island beyond

Deer Harbor from the top of the Bruja

The Bruja, anchored off of Jones Island- Yellow Island beyond

Speiden, Vancouver, and Gulf Islands

I love this boat! It was anchored next to me at Jones Island. The crew appeared to be Grandfather and Grandkids. Cute!

David of Waldron- I plan on finding him and having another chat, seems like an interesting guy


Offshore Rigging

June 22, 2010

I arrived back in Deer Harbor over two weeks ago hopeful, motivated, and dreamy. A 40-day absence lubbing land and visiting loved-ones all along the west coast had fueled my imagination and sharpened some points of my impending sail south to California. Within days of my return however, bubbles began to burst- pierced by the one point I had been taking too lightly: offshore rigging.

Dreamers don’t make good blue-water sailors unless they can turn down the IZ cover of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow/Wonderful World” long enough to assure their safe passage offshore. Preparing this vessel to sail for 7-10 days at sea, 100 miles out, in winds likely reaching into the 30’s and maybe the 40’s of knots, with seas building into the teens or even 20’s of feet high requires clear, realistic thinking. Preparations must be uncompromising- using more practicality and less inventiveness, more fore-thought and less intuition. And the area of transition, from creative to pragmatist, I am learning, is a stormy sea unto itself.

As I surveyed the Bruja Dulce’s sails, rigging, and equipment, and refreshed my understanding of safe offshore preparations, I noted my own neglect, oversight, and lack of planning. Some critical points like the condition of my sails and the lack of a storm sail rig never made it over the rainbow and into my offshore list. This was deeply unsettling. I thought about what I had been doing with my time, recently, and over the last 3 1/2 years. I had been living a dream. But you don’t take dreams offshore, you take mended sails, well-tuned rigging, and a ready-to-deploy liferaft.

The “uncomfortable” feeling that resulted from this revelation, I have learned, comes from cognitive dissonance

The Turtle Cover and related supplies, the elephant on the boat

a well-studied lack of harmony between a persons perceived world and the real, cause-and-effect-based world. The dissonance, the internal struggle, tore at my sanity- it was way more than uncomfortable. As I was taking down the “Turtle Cover”, the project I had spent many dollars and hours creating (which will be absolutely no help to me at sea), I cursed it, along with my inventive self, and other aspects of “the dream” I had been living and creating. I felt far away, out of control, and somehow fraudulent.

Dissonance happens. In music, it is dissonance that gives contrast to consonance- harmony. It is necessary. What is important, I think, is what you do with the dissonance, and there seems to be two basic paths: You can listen to it, shouldering the discomfort, and search for it’s natural resolve, or, you can “rig” a system which moves the dissonance “offshore”, away, out of earshot.

It’s much easier to recognize this in others. And though it’s a grave folly to be outwardly critical and inwardly naive- I say this with recent experience- it’s important to recognize the many ways this dynamic manifests in individuals, groups, and societies. I had been thinking about this other type of “offshore rigging” for weeks before it hit me between the eyes.

The Enron corporation annihilated itself through the use of “offshore” financial entities, dissolving it’s toxic assets into the larger economic ecosystem in late 2001. The executives and consultants who generated this toxicity believed the energy-trading company they were crafting was sustainable, forming offshore entity after offshore entity to store their bad assets in an increasingly complex system of self-delusion.

The recent financial meltdown? It was crazy rigging, way offshore, see Financial Derivatives and Housing Bubble. The 4.6 lbs of waste the average American generates each day which are buried-away in landfills and burned-away into the atmosphere? It’s sometimes literally dumped offshore. The dependence on mono-cultural industrial agriculture? They’re rigged ecosystems based on non-renewable energy, where we ship bees around the country to pollinate because the immense single-species crops won’t sustain a hive for more than a few weeks per year.

The modern offshore oil and gas rigging systems?

Illustration from Wikepedia Commons

Deep Water Horizon (AP Photo/US Coast Guard)

On an individual level, more so with isolation, this dynamic can also be very difficult to deal with. On July 10, 1969, Donald Crowhurst’s 40′ trimaran sailboat “Teignmouth Electron” was found off the coast of South America, empty- the electronics inventor’s presumed suicide the result of a torturous nightmare of his own creation.

Donald Crowhurst departing from England in 1968.

One of seven entrants in the 1968 Sunday Times Golden Globe “Round the World” single-handed yacht race he had left in a frenzy at the last minute, unprepared, on an untested vessel, his house and failing business mortgaged to pay for the attempt. He planned on crafting the boat’s safety systems, a self-inflating balloon mechanism of his own invention, while sailing.

The boat’s progress south was very slow, and troubled. He was intentionally ambiguous with his initial location reports back to England. Within a month, Crowhurst was faced with only two real choices: continue the race with his unprepared rig and surely be lost in the Southern Ocean, or turn back, and arrive bankrupt, but alive.

The abandoned Teignmouth Electron

Crowhurst crafted a third option. His reality split against the sharp dissonance of a perceived “lose-lose” scenario. He radioed back to England an increasingly complex fabrication of an around the world voyage from his nearly stationary position just offshore from Brazil. At first he hoped to slip in at the end of the race, burying his false journey in the distant field of a last place finish. But as the race developed, he let his imagination rig more and more solutions to the ever-changing scenario. For seven months he kept two logs, one real, and one imaginary, descending into a madness that is as telling as it is frightening. Entries found in his log read:

The shameful secret of God… is that there is no good or evil — only truth…”
I have become a second generation cosmic being, I am conceived in the womb of nature, in my own mind… In the womb of the universe. “
“I had a complete set of answers to the most difficult problems now facing mankind. I had arrived in the cosmos while contemplating the navel of the ape…”
“It’s a small sin for a man to commit, but it is a terrible sin for a cosmic being.”

“Deep Water”, a 2006 documentary about the Golden Globe race and Crowhurst is an excellent and yet positively excruciating film.

This sign is just down the road from the marina in Deer Harbor. When I first saw it, I thought it was neat, and timely. But then, as the true reality of my situation clashed with my fancy point of sail dreams, the sign began to taunt me. It’s message amplified the dissonance.

For a while, I fought to rig my situation. Just over a week ago, I imagined forming a partnership with a canvas/sail-fabrication company to develop the Turtle Cover into a marketable product- their equity share into the idea being, of course, a new mainsail for the Bruja Dulce- all in three months….crazy. Remember Donald Crowhurst’s safety preparations? The one’s he invented and planned on crafting while sailing? He also planned on marketing them and selling them upon his successful return.

An apt name for a common offshore rigging system. Chase what? Chase Manhattan? Maybe, but not on credit.

Over the following few days, I came to terms with simply borrowing the money, “going for broke”. I got a North Sails business card from my practical and very helpful neighbor, Lee, and planned on calling them the next morning. Imagining myself hoisting a sparkling new mainsail up the mast as I headed offshore in September- a tribute and lasting member of my offshore rigging- didn’t feel quite right, but it seemed to quiet the uncomfortable feeling, curing the symptom.

Kevin's driftwood farmstand under construction

Then, just when I thought I had solved the problem, I met another liveaboard neighbor, a local carpenter and wood-enthusiast, Kevin. He’s my age or younger with a 38′ Ingrid Ketch- a well-rigged deep blue, blue-water boat, with ladders in the rigging like a pirate ship. I discovered he’s the one building the beautiful driftwood-timber farmstand down the road, just past the damn sign. He’s also planning on sailing south, offshore, to California this summer. His sails are in about the same state as mine (without the tears), but he has extras. He sounded competent, or at least consonant, and this sent me seeking my natural resolution.

The Bruja's new (barely-used) storm jib.

For now, each day is a struggle. I am humbled daily. My imagination now serves to render the effects of crashing seas and gale force winds, my creativity picking up the pieces.

A new mainsail would be nice, but it’s hardly a panacea for my rig. I can mend the old sail. I scored a used storm jib in excellent condition today from Second Wave in Seattle. This is what you use to ride out the bad weather anyway, not the old mainsail.

It was a good day. I spent 33 cents at Fisheries Supply, an all time low. It felt incredible. Upstairs in the North Sails loft, I met Angus, the sailmaker that Lee wanted me to talk to. I told Angus I was going to mend my own sails. He sold me some sail cloth and gave me some professional needles, thread, and much much needed advice. I paid him with the cash I got from selling my old Nelco sewing machine- it wasn’t up to this task.

I think I can do this. But if I can’t, I won’t- not until I’m ready. And the same goes for any culture that has a dream: check your rigging. Our society is farther from understanding what it means to be sustainable than I am from sailing to Chile, New York, or Tahiti. We’re just getting started. What’s the point? Be real.


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