Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Down to the wire

Vineyard looking good.

Well, we had some work done on Aleria in Vigo over the winter.  Now we are in the final throes of getting ready to sail the next leg of our slow circumnavigation of the Mediterranean Sea. It's a sea, not an ocean. I've never known the difference, until now. My sense is that a sea has places to stop all along, whereas an ocean requires a crossing -- but who knows. Like the Caribbean Sea, you can sail from island to island to get across it.

NOAA says, "Many people use the terms "ocean" and "sea" interchangeably when speaking about the ocean, but there is a difference between the two terms when speaking of geography (the study of the Earth's surface). Seas are smaller than oceans and are usually located where the land and ocean meet. Typically, seas are partially enclosed by land. Seas are found on the margins of the ocean...the Bering Sea is part of the Pacific Ocean."

So now we're heading into a sea again. We've organized a house and pet sitter, settled the garden, cleaned the house and packed what we thought were the right things. The crazy thing when you sail seasonally is that you can never remember exactly what you left on board and what you need to bring. We wrote down exhaustive lists last year, but can we find them? No!

So here we are packing what we think we might need. Not too much as it will be warm. Not too little as we are sailing down the coast to Portugal fairly soon after we arrive. Lots of angst. Lots of anticipation. I find myself wanting to go yet wanting to stay. I take mental pictures of the gardens, the cats and the donkeys.

I'm certain it will be great to get into the Med, I've been dreaming about it for years. But I just wish I could tele-transport back and forth at will. In case I forget something important. In case I miss my kitties too much. In case...

Cinquo guarding the donkeys.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

New movie - Adrift

Stranded and fighting for survival, Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin star in #AdriftMovie, in cinemas June 28. Watch the official trailer here.

As the two avid sailors set out on a journey across the ocean, Tami Oldham and Richard Sharp couldn't anticipate they would be sailing directly into one of the most catastrophic hurricanes in recorded history. In the aftermath of the storm, Tami awakens to find Richard badly injured and their boat in ruins. With no hope for rescue, Tami must find the strength and determination to save herself and the man she loves.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

The Camino Voyage – An Epic 2,500 km Modern Day Celtic Odyssey

The Camino Voyage, a full length feature film by Dónal Ó Céilleachair (pronounced O’Kelleher) of Dónal Ó Céilleachair, left us wishing it wouldn’t end. We saw it in a special screening as part of the Celtic Camino Festival in Westport, County Mayo. The theatre was packed with Celtic Camino Society members from many countries, including visitors from as far away as Vancouver, Canada, the US, Holland, Spain, UK and all over Ireland.

The movie is about a crew – including a writer, two musicians, an artist and a stonemason – who embark on a Camino expedition not by land but by sea in a traditional boat they built themselves. Their naomhóg, a wood-framed canvas covered boat, carried them 2,500 miles in three six-week long stages over three summers across the Irish Sea and the English Channel, along the coasts of France and Northern Spain and canals inland to Santiago de Compostella. They rowed and sailed the entire way, until they reached the last stage. They transported the naomhóg by car to Santiago, then carried her to the entrance of the Cathedral. It was an epic and inspiring journey, often dangerous and always grueling.

The Camino (the Way) is the name of any of the pilgrimage routes to the shrine of the apostle St. James (Santiago in Spanish) in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in Northern Spain.  The route they took was once called the Camino Inglés, one of the sea routes. It traditionally started in A Coruña or Ferrol to which pilgrims arrived by boat from Great Britain and Ireland. But the north coast of Spain was deemed too dangerous for the small vessel. They were not out to prove their machismo. They had an idea of a voyage and wanted to see if they could do it. Very simple. So they opted to take an inland route once they reached Spain via canals and rivers as far as they could get. Camping in coastal towns and villages en route, this eclectic crew forged many new friendships and surprised those they met with a boat that seemed to come straight out of the middle ages.

They were tested to their limits but still found humour in their situations. It was a voyage of self-discovery, of rediscovery of nature, and inspiration to all. They all attested to it being life altering. Yet, it was great craic and naturally the Irish charmed villagers along the way, played music in pubs and endeared themselves to all they met.

Featuring Brendan Begley, Liam Holden, Brendan Moriarty and celebrated poet Danny Sheehy (Dómhnall Mac a tSíthigh), who conceived the idea, the movie opens with Danny convincing the lads to join him on this journey. Much of the movie is in Irish with subtitles but that does not detract, instead it somehow punctuates the allure of the concept. They rope adventurer Paddy Barry to come along on his sailboat as support vessel.

In 2014, they set out from St. James Gate on the Liffey on the first leg of their three-year Camino Na Sáile in Naomh Gobnait, nicknamed ‘Naomhóig Na Tinte’, or naomhóg of the tents. The initial crossing of the Irish Sea from Wexford to Wales took 23 hours of non-stop rowing.  At night in shipping lanes, it got potentially dangerous as a row boat was hardly visible and certainly would not be able to get out of a freighter’s way. Paddy Barry’s role was defender.
The journey was filmed for broadcast as a series on TG4. When Brendan Moriarty left the group for the third leg due to a job offer, singer-songwriter and actor Glen Hansard (the movie Once with hit song Falling Slowly), took his place having never been to sea before. He was a good fit for the crew.
As you can imagine, three years of rowing has the potential to be deadly boring on the screen, but there was not a slow moment in this finely crafted movie. Kudos to filmmaker Dónal Ó Céilleachair and the lads for their brilliant portrayal of what’s worth living for.

We learned at the end that Danny, who continued on after this voyage to get to Africa, sadly drowned when the vessel was overturned by a rogue wave in the Río Miño which separates Spain from Portugal. The Kerryman was so enthusiastic about this voyage that every detail was fastidiously recorded in a leather bound notebook he carried in his chest pocket. His three commandments for the ‘Naomhóg na Tinte’ crew were ‘no captain, no complaining, no anger’.  RIP Danny. Thanks for taking us along with you.

Donal and all the crew with the exception of Danny were present at the screening and answered questions at the end. It was a wonderful experience.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is Growing Exponentially

Plastics floating on the ocean surface

Ocean plastic can persist in sea surface waters almost indefinitely, eventually accumulating in remote areas of the world’s oceans. A scientific study has determined that the plastic patch between California and Hawaii is now three times the size of France and accumulating plastics at an astonishing rate. Researchers at The Ocean Cleanup, an NGO dedicated to cleaning up the earth’s seas, recently published (Nature, 22 Mar 2018) the results of a three-year study to determine the size of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP). The results are alarming.

Monday, April 2, 2018

How many boats are out there at any given time?

It's a question we are asked often. How many boats are circumnavigating or sailing the oceans at any given time? It's not an easy one to answer, because some go for a year and do an Atlantic circuit, others continue around Cape Horn or through the Panama Canal. They pass through various ports and are counted multiple times, but no one that we are aware of provides a count at a given point in time like a census. As the seasons are different north and south, you'd have to count a date in the summer in the Northern hemisphere and another in the Southern hemisphere.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Reviving the Voyage for Madmen

Robin Knox-Johnston on his return to Falmouth in 1969 on board Suhaili
Last week, we saw The Mercy, a movie about Donald Crowhurst, the amateur sailor who lost his mind and his life in the first Golden Globe single-handed non-stop race around the world in 1968/69. The story of the nine men who took part was first told in an excellent book by Peter Nichols titled A Voyage for Madmen.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Arctic air, ice and temps: a sea change?

Ice receding in the Arctic regions

Yesterday I wrote about sea levels rising faster than predicted. Today, I'm going to summarize the latest in climate change anomalies. Scientists have recorded a warm air intrusion through the central Arctic this winter. In the area north of 80 degrees latitude, average temperatures were 36 degrees above normal. Whereas there were only four such intrusions between 1980 and 2010, there have been four occurrences in the past five years.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Sea level rise is accelerating

A new study by NASA's Sea Level Change team published February 12 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has shown that sea levels are rising at accelerating rates rather than a steady increase as previously thought. That means that by 2100, the levels will be twice as high as previously predicted, causing serious problems for many coastal cities. If the rate of ice melt continues at this pace, sea levels will rise 26 inches (65 centimeters) by 2100. That's a lot more than shown in the graphic above.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Mercy of the Golden Globe Race

With the advent of the resurrection of the Golden Globe Race in 2018 comes the release of the movie called The Mercy, telling the extraordinary tale of Donald Crowhurst's bid for fame and fortune in the first Golden Globe single-handed non-stop, around-the-world race. Starring Colin Firth and Rachelle Weisz, it's a disturbing journey through the deteriorating state of mind of a man who set out to win everything and realizes he is about to lose everything instead.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Monday, February 19, 2018

Managing heavy weather at sea

Yesterday, we addressed a conference of about 100 cruisers at the Irish Sailing Cruising Conference. In 2008, on a crossing of the north Atlantic, we encountered six gales and managed to avoid one strong storm. What we learned then, we were here to share about our experience with storm management. The conference was summarized overall in Afloat magazine.

aleria message8

Following is an overview of our talk:

Monday, January 22, 2018

The Ocean Cruising Club Awards

As PR Officer, Web Editor and Rear Commodore of the Ocean Cruising Club, I have the honour of being the one to announce the winners of the annual awards which recognize the extraordinary achievements of people cruising the world's oceans. I've been a member of the Awards Committee and co-Chair for several years so I know how arduous a task it can be to coordinate the awards decision-making process. We have members all over the world taking part, some submitting nominations others taking part in the selections of winners. In any case, it's an extraordinary thing to be part of as we journey into people's lives to see what they've done that merits the attention of the world, and to be blown away by the stories we uncover.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Buying a boat

Many of you are probably scouring the boat shows for that perfect next boat. Whether it's larger for the big adventure or smaller for the downsize, the decision to buy is never an easy one. Until, of course, you fall in love. Then all bets are off. Here's a decision tree that may make it easier. I came across it randomly on the internet and don't know who to credit. I hope it helps.

Good luck!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Diary of an Atlantic crossing

We are shortly giving a talk on heavy weather sailing at the ISA Cruising Conference. I recently came across my diary from our first Atlantic crossing in 2008. I was reminded that the markets collapsed while we were at sea. As all we had was an SSB radio, we didn't really know about anything happening in the world, so it didn't matter. We sailed north from New York to Canada and then set off for Westport, Ireland from Halifax, Nova Scotia. Herb Hilgenberg was our weather router and Matt aboard s/v Ault was the only other sailor in the northern North Atlantic. That it turned out to be Matt Rutherford is a whole other story.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Christmas at Sea

In 2009, Alex and I set sail from Ireland in early October heading to the Mediterranean to overwinter. When we got to Portugal, someone told us it was going to be very cold there, so we turned right and went to the Caribbean instead.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Citizen science and sailing

Getting involved in scientific research is a real game changer for many cruisers. Like Alex and me, many people get out there and then find they need more than just floating around from place to place. They need a purpose. As budgets for research in Universities and government agencies get cut, supporting research projects through participation in citizen science is a real boon. Many cruisers end up in remote places where it would be hard to justify sending a research vessel. Having someone already there who can take some measurements or observations and report back via an app when signal is available is making a difference to the collective knowledge base about the earth and oceans.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Technology and sailing

Visibility decreasing as we enter the Bay of Biscay 

Not long ago, when people set sail to cross oceans, they set off with some charts, a sextant, sight reduction tables, pencils, dividers, parallel rules, a compass, a log to measure knots and a clock. If they knew the speed at which they were sailing, and how long they had sailed, they could determine where they were. They would back that up by taking sights on the stars and the sun and calculating their lat and long.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Yacht Sharing - the new trend among young boaters

An article in BoatUS magazine outlined rather nicely why Millennials participate in boating at similar rates to their parents, yet they're far less likely to actually own a boat. They are finding creative ways to get out on the water without breaking the bank. It seems to be the result of a larger societal shift in thinking away from ownership and toward minimalism. This could explain the rapid growth of boat sharing entities. Regardless of the reasons, it poses a challenge for all the clubs vying for a shrinking population of "boat owners." It calls for a change in thinking of who our members can be. If it's boating enthusiasts regardless of ownership, then all we have to do is change where we look for them and add a few basic benefits to the membership offerings.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The danger of slipways

We have been dropping boats into the water from trailers for a lifetime. We have two little boats right now that are forever being taken in and out of the sea. For years, I had a Hobie Cat that I trailered all over the east coast of the US. Typically, the car never came near the water. But in some places, where the slipway was gently sloping and more water was needed, the rear wheels sometimes came very close to or even entered the water. We have never really thought about the risk to the car and driver, until now. 

Monday, November 20, 2017

Positive feedback

Today started out with this note from our friends Fred and Chris, who have just bought their dream cruising yacht, a catamaran called Sea Jay. They come from New York but they bought the boat in South Africa, and sailed her first to St. Helena. Not the typical first leg of a cruise. From St. Helena, they sent us this note: