09/29/14


Slick and I have finally completed the long transit to the end of the Mediterranean. So much motoring all the way across. I think from the time I left Turkey until now I have maybe sailed only ten percent of the time. The wind is either too light or on the nose or just plain non-existent. In the 2,700 miles since Turkey I have put 500 hours on my new engine, so I guess I am very glad I changed it.

This will be a short blog post because all I have been doing is transiting. I won’t even bother getting philosophical. I left the little anchorage on Majorca and made way to another place near Palma called Cale Portals near Porta Vella. This was a nice little spot and I got to hang out with Finally My darling for a few days. I don’t think I had seen them since Sardinia. The anchorage was nice but a bit rolley and it turned out it was another nudist colony. They seem to be everywhere.

After a few days we motored around to Santa Ponca, this was actually a proper town. I got to do a little shopping and there was a renaissance fair or some such thing going on so we went to shore and had a little walk around. They even put on a fireworks display for Slick and FMD, so that was nice. In the morning I left.

It was a long motor to Ibiza. There was little to no wind and about noon I passed a line of benign looking dark clouds. They had six or eight funnel clouds in them though. One of them formed into a full waterspout and touched down less than a mile from Slick. I have seen many waterspouts before, but usually they are in rough weather or coming off a tall peak from an island. I have never seen them on a perfectly calm day with nothing of particular interest in terms of weather. It was really just flat and there was this tentacle coming out of the sky. It was so calm that I almost wanted to just motor over to it and see what it was doing. But it didn’t last long. Later I saw a picture from FMD of some waterspouts they saw over Mahon and they were enormous.

I stayed the night in the anchorage of San Antonio on Ibiza. This was uneventful except for two things. The first is on my way in a fishing trawler came barreling down on me. I turned to avoid being run over by the over taking vessel and it turned too. I turned some more and then realized there was not even anyone driving, it was on autopilot and no one was to be seen anywhere on the boat. I guess it was a good thing I was paying attention. Then when I got into the anchorage my windlass broke and would just click. Ah, how annoying, so I lowered the anchor by hand and then recovered it the next morning, taking care not to re-agitate my back. I just fixed this today, turns out more corrosion, so I have moved all the electrical connections inside.

My plan was then to go on a solo-overnighter to Al Miramar on the south coast of Spain. Things were going well and then the sky just kept getting darker and darker. I dodged a few lighting squalls but they just kept coming so I started motoring toward Greenwich Marina north of Alicante. Eventually I was close enough to get live weather on the phone and there was a line about 75 miles wide and a few hundred miles long, stretching all the way down to Africa, of thunderstorms.So I put in for the night and was for the first time in two years back in the Western Hemisphere. I left two days later, but had I realized the Volvo Ocean Race was starting so soon, I probably would have stayed.

Anyway, it was an uneventful motor the 70 miles or so to Cabo de Palos and anchored off the beach and waited for a southerly to blow out overnight so I could get around the point and down to the next place. The southerly was pretty heavy but finished about 3am. I left at first light and spent the entire day surrounded by the Spanish Navy. It was sort of funny as they were having arguments with NATO warships about who had authority to approach who and things like that. They left me alone which was nice. About two in the afternoon though the wind really started to build on the nose. It was against the fair current and things chopped up real fast. This probably would not have bothered me too much but I was running very low on fuel and I was worried that my fuel lines would get clogged (as they do recently when I am below 1/8th of a tank). The sailing was very rough and by the time I was near the port the waves were near 6 feet and short and fast. Slick and I were getting beat up a bit and we sailed up to the port and fortunately the motor started right up. The sail (just jib sailing) went away and I stayed the night at the fuel dock. I was very happy to get in that day.

The next morning was a fast motor to Al Marimar where I met Carebouse, my friends from Mahon. I stayed in this dilapidated little English-vacation paradise from the past for four days while waiting for the weather to turn. It was not so bad there though. I met some nice folks and earned a regular bar for a few days. They even put up a Slick sticker, something people in the Med seem loathe to do.

Then it was 65 miles of motoring to Puerta Caleta de Valez. I don’t think I even got off the boat aside from to check in. The port captain there told me I don’t need to check out of Spain and not to worry about the Schoengen stuff. That made me happy as I was considering going to Morocco to avoid any hassles. But apparently I don’t have to as no one cares. So the next day I made a push for 90 miles and got to La Linea just before dark. Passing the Rock of Gibraltar felt really good. I put another sea behind me and it was a sea I didn’t particularly enjoy, even though I didn’t want to go around the world without coming here.


So far things are OK here, many of the people I have met throughout my time are here or will be here soon. The weather is a mess though. On the way in, the Rock was covered in a strange cloud and then it rained for a full day. I haven’t seen that much rain in a long time. It was terribly foggy this morning. I think the British empire purposefully kept places that were just like home. La Linea town is a real workers town though, it is surrounded by petroleum processing plants and the town itself feels like the ex-communist eastern Europe. The rain helps to finish off the mood. At least the couple from Carebouse came over and made me crepes! They were delicious.

In a little under two weeks my brother will arrive and after preparing the boat and getting settled we will be off. I am not sure where we go first, maybe Morocco or maybe Madiera and then it is down to the Canaries where Mathew will rejoin us to be our cook for the Atlantic crossing. Back to the ocean, I can’t wait for that. Hopefully it will be all downhill trade winds and fresh fish. Only 6,000 miles to Boston!

09/11/14

I finally left the dock and Mahon for good. I really needed to do that, I was going a crazy there. I even found a rat on the boat, it ate part of Slick. I stayed a few more days to see the horse festival, and these are some pictures. I don’t particularly want to talk about the horse festival other than its a full-contact fiesta where horses are ridden through crowds of people in a wild manner. The caballeros rear the horses up and the pomada-drunken crowd touch the horses front legs and stomach for luck. The longer you can hold the horse up the luckier you are. OK, I touched a horse’s stomach, I wasn’t in any shape to hold it though. Leaving the dock made feel I was a captain again. I need to be, I have an ocean to cross still. This is going to be a long blog post.


I want to focus on what it means to be a captain of a small boat in a big ocean. The psychology, I think, is different than the average land-lubber. So I want to try to elaborate on what that is and how I got there. I certainly wasn’t born this way and even when I left I was not really a captain. I thought I was, but I wasn’t. I know three different boats in the last week who have either decided to sell their boats or ship them home because they didn’t want to do it anymore, mostly thanks to stress from weather. I understand that, I’ve been there for sure. For a different but similar take on captaincy, see Cresswell Walker’s book, “Sailing the 7 C’s”.

So, what is the difference in terms of the reality of my day that makes me think I’m any different than anyone else? I think the primary thing is the peak-stress level. Yes, I sit most days with my feet up and a cocktail in my hand in some gorgeous foreign land after a fantastic day of sailing. That’s the image anyway, and its partly true. What this image doesn’t portray is the stress involved in pushing your boat around the world. Most people, land-lubbers, have stress. I’m not saying they don’t. Few of them, though, have ultra-stress. The worst things that happens to people in a given day is perhaps losing some (or a lot of) money, losing a job, perhaps divorce or dealing with death. But they don’t get in their car and think “OK, if now is not the right time to drive, I will have to deal with severe consequences,” No, they just buckle their seat belt (actually in much of the world they don’t even do this) and go. When they get home, they don’t have to check the weather to make sure their house is in a safe location, it probably just is. And if it isn’t, well, accidents happen, but there will be help.


A skipper has to deal with this and have it on his mind every moment of the day. Every anchorage you stop in, every passage you plan, every choice of crew, every upgrade to the boat, everything you do, has a consequences that involves loss of ship and loss of life. And you have to be able to deal with it. You have make choices, usually none of which are from a list of good ones. Your crew and your boat count on you not to mess this up. When you are in the middle of the ocean, help can be days away, if it even comes. You can’t outrun the wind so you have to deal with it. You can’t shut down, you can’t pull over and park, you can’t say “that can wait till morning” you just have to deal with it. What is this IT that you must deal with? Well, IT can be an anchor dragging onto a lee shore at 3 AM in a massive thunder storm after a long passage, IT can be a medical emergency at sea during a period of large swell, IT can be cyclones that you just can’t out-run, or dealing with major material failures like the loss of a mast (or worse the keel). IT happens, you try to remove all possibility of IT, but IT happens. And you have to have that on your mind at all times and make decisions to prevent IT or deal with IT when IT does happen. Just to make it worse, IT usually comes when you are tired, hungry, cold and fatigued maybe even to the point of hallucinating.


There we go, if you think that I am making up the idea of ultra-stress, when was the last time you had to deal with a compounded major event at work or at home while you were hallucinating? I want recommend three books to potential ocean going captains out there. No it isn’t the The Venturesome Voyages of Captain Voss or The Long Way
or Sailing Alone Around the World or any of that. Those are great books and they will inspire you and when you get somewhere that is discussed in those books and read that passage again it takes on new meaning. But the ones I want to recommend are ones that tell you what the IT is that can happen, how bad IT can get, and how fast IT spirals out of control. They tell you how to deal with IT as well, but until you actually are dealing with IT, you don’t know if you can. So, the books – Adlard Coles’ Heavy Weather Sailing by Peter Bruce, Advanced First Aid Afloat by Peter F. Eastman and John M. Levinson and Adrift: Seventy-Six Days Lost at Sea by Steven Callahan, and if you can imagine yourself, your boat and your crew in any combination of situations from these books (IT always come in combinations) then you might be ready to be a skipper on a blue water sailing boat. If you want the ultimate freedom of captaincy then you have to be able to deal with the responsibility and consequence of choice, with no safety net or perceived security. If you screw up the responsibility and dealing with the consequences – its over.


Most people think they can do this, but they can’t. Which might be why they never actually try. So if you made it this far in my post without thinking I am some sort egoist, then please read on and I will explain how I got there. I certainly wasn’t there when I left, I thought I was but I wasn’t. I want to select a few life lessons that helped me become a captain. Some are funny, some are personal, some are tragic, but in the end they all helped me grow.

I remember my third time skiing. That was the first time I ever went down a black diamond. Black diamonds in the west are completely different than blacks in the east, as in the eastern ones are really blues. Anyway, it was a little pimple of a mountain in Eastern Washington called Bluewood. I went up for the day with three other friends who were good skiers and were going to help me get better. At some point, we stopped and looked down the steep face of the hardest run of this hill, Jackhammer. To me, it seemed a snow-covered cliff with speed-bumps in it. Why would I want to go down that. Two of the skiers were very good and dropped in and took the moguls with ease. I looked at the girl next to me, also a much more experienced skier, she could see my hesitation. “You’ll never get better if you don’t do it, Tim.” With that she dropped in and fell at least five times down the hill. I’ll never get better if I don’t. I think I fell the entire way down the hill, bouncing off moguls, leaving things behind, just making a general yard-sale of ski-gear. Did it hurt? Yes, a lot. But did I come off the bottom of the appropriately named Jackhammer a better skier and more confident person? Yes.


A few years later my life was kind of shitty. I failed out of college, I was living in my brother’s basement. I realized my life need to change. No one was going to change it for me. I had to take responsibility and do something to improve it. I was 20 at the time. I remember being stuck in traffic and looking over at the military recruiters and then looking ahead at the hot Eastern Washington pavement, the traffic and my overheating car. Then I look over at the Navy office and there is a chief leaning against the wall in his dress whites holding a cigarette and a coke. I looked again at the traffic ahead. I took the last possible turn into the recruiters block. Eventually, after taking all sorts of tests and things, I qualified to be a nuke, and I volunteered for sub-service. I made a choice, I took control of my life. That single choice changed my life. The schools were harder than anything I had ever done before, of the 22 in my first class that started, less than 10 of us made it to the fleet. This was were I learned that not everyone has the capacity to do everything that anyone else does. Some people fail, they need to go seek life elsewhere and succeed there. Not everyone earns a blue ribbon, or a red or even white one for that matter. The last thing the recruiter said to me, after explaining how hard of a path in the military I chose was – If it was easy, everybody would do it.

After 6 years in the Navy and almost a year of life underwater in an intense and difficult environment working as a reactor operator on a submarine, I understood stress. And I understood how to deal with it. I had 140 brothers to help out, but as we say down there, all of us surface or none of us do. The education, skills and training I received in the military where more than just academic. I learned how much suck I could deal with, and how much stress I could deal with. The answer is a lot.

I don’t know why I ever chose to sail around the world. I’m not sure where I even got the idea. When I bought Slick I had only sailed a few times, I really had no idea how. In my first semester in grad-school I got divorced. This happens to submariners, even after they get out. Anyway, for some reason, probably an escapist idea, I wanted a boat, and I wanted to sail around the world. One night, I was meeting some friends in a bar. One of the guys I had never met before, we will call him “Steve.” I told him I wanted a boat and to sail around the world, it turned out he was a very experienced racer and we agreed that if I bought a boat I should call him.


I called Steve 9 months later. I suppose Steve gets calls 9 months later from people he meets in bars all the time, but for a different reason. I bought Slick, and I thought he should come have a look and go on the first sail with me. Especially since she was the biggest sail boat I had ever been on. We went out into Buzzard’s Bay, sailed about and came back to the most beautiful harbor in Massachusetts. Steve tried to convince me to race the boat. I just wanted to get it back to Boston in one piece. My ex-girlfriend and I took Slick to her new home. And Steve spent the rest of the fall teaching me how to sail, we got out as much as we could.

The next spring we went to a big party in Hyannis where a sail boat race breaks out called Figawi. The race is across Nantucket Sound to Nantucket Island. Anyway, the race is not important, its the delivery home where the lesson is. The wind was blowing maybe 25-30 on the cheek. I wanted to delay a day to let the blow go by but the crew didn’t have the time to sit. Well, I will never get better if I don’t, so we put the second reef in and left. I never sailed in anything like that before. Short period, big waves, steep seas in the shallow sound going to windward, we got beat up for 8 or 10 hours on that crossing. I couldn’t handle it, I made Steve drive, not just because I was a terrible helmsmen but because it was beyond my ability to sail in those conditions.

When we got back to Boston, some guys I never met before came over to talk. They also delivered their boat back. The skipper told me he saw boats rounding up all over, two that had to be rescued and at last one that sank. Wow. I didn’t realize I was going into those sort of conditions. I didn’t realize the potential consequence of my choice to go that day. If Steve hadn’t been on board, we very well may have needed rescue too. Steve looked at me at the end of it and said – the boat that is tougher than you are.


I spent three years racing Slick after a season on that other skipper’s boat. This was were I really learned to sail. The first season though, everyone laughed at us. We were terrible, we had no idea what we were doing. My jib trimmer had a winch handle in one hand and a book on jib-trimming in the other. I never actually learned to helm a boat, but it was mine so I was driving. Steve was there, coaching and running tactics. The rest, well it was the girlfriend and whoever I could get from the office to come race. We lost races because we didn’t know what we were doing, the bottom had 4 inches of growth from the winter, my sails were old, and I didn’t know how to drive. I lived on the boat, I was racing my house. It was overweight and I was afraid to mix it up, in an accident those guys lose their toy, I lose my home. The following season I bought a new main sail and took care of the bottom. I had sort of regular crew and we did a little better. Then I bought a racing jib, and a big spinnaker. I had a solid crew that I built over three years and a clean bottom. Every Wednesday and Saturday we emptied Slick of all my belongings. We started winning races, or at least making the podium. No one laughed at us anymore, they were scared. It was great. I then knew how to sail. More importantly, I then realized boats have a woman’s names for a reason. It isn’t because they take lots of time and money, they do, but that isn’t the reason. Its because if you love them and take care of them, they will take care of you. There are wrong boats, and a whole lot more wrong women, but the important thing as a captain, just as a lover, is to take care of her. Then when you need it, she reciprocates. If she doesn’t, it might to time to think about getting new one.

I don’t want to sound arrogant. But after the nuke school in the military, the majority of my grad program at MIT was pretty easy. The math was hard, real hard, but that was to be expected. There was other stuff too that I had never been exposed to but the concepts and the majority of the actual doing, that was comfortable. Part of it was because I learned how to study in the Navy, and part of it was because I entered grad school with a lot of experience in what I was studying. That helps. Anyway, I failed my first PhD qualifying exam. Let’s be clear actually, I didn’t fail it outright, I was close enough to failing that I could be failed if they decided to. And they did. At first I was a bit confused, they said they failed me because of my analytical ability, what the hell does that mean? Eventually I realized that was just the excuse, I really failed because I had upset some people. Well, as they used to tell us in boot camp – if your going to be stupid you better be strong or at least pretty. It wasn’t that I was stupid per se, it was actually that I was just an asshole. A captain has to stay strong, even if he fails as a result his own actions. There is no room for self-pity. You have to take accountability and step-up. Anyway, the following year It was really hard to stay motivated, but I had to be strong, and I passed.

The final thing, and this one is really tough, and I think most people never figure it out. If the boat is stronger than me, how strong am I? This isn’t a question you can answer at a corporate confidence builder or executive-retreat. You find this out at sea, and on battle fields and on mountain tops. I remember getting a phone call one day when I was working in the lab. It was my brother and he said if I wanted to see my dad alive one last time, I had better fly home. I think I was on the next flight. My dad had been dying for years, but it accelerated after my mother went, I think. Anyway, the entire time I was in grad school I always had that on my mind. And then one day I had to actually confront it. Dad had some machines to help him breath and monitor his condition. We watched daily as the machines increased in output and his blood oxygen level decreased. At some point the machines were at 100% of their capacity and his oxygen level was still dropping. This was it. As a scientist it seemed to be a fairly straight forward linear problem. He was going to die, and very soon. The doctors of course, they seem to think it is in the best interest of the family to keep giving them hope. I am not sure why they do this. We realized he wasn’t going to wake up, and after all the loose ends of slow death, like taking care of last minute things, the visits by friends and clergy, whatever, it was time. My brother and sister and I sat there as the machines were removed. They both had their spouses with them. My dad’s best friend was there too. When the oxygen was removed, we thought it would go fairly quickly. The six of sat their watching, crying. It took a long time. Longer than any of us expected. For some reason my father did not just die, he did not go easy. He fought. I had only seen one other person die before, and they just died, nicely, no struggle. He fought and fought and refused. Even though his eyes were closed and he had only a frail body left, he continued in his drug induced sleep to fight. I don’t know if I remember this next part because It actually happened or if in the extreme emotional state of the moment I imagined it. But he woke up and looked at all of us and said “That’s it.” Then he laid down and turned gray starting from his toes. My sister-in-law went and kissed his forehead and closed his eyes.

That’s it. What the fuck does that mean? This devastated me. I fell apart. I had been running a lot, running is good therapy. I was doing it too much though, like 50 miles a week every other week and 35 in between. The day of my dad’s funeral, I ran 20 miles. The next day I flew back to Boston. I ran 15. I just kept running. When I reached 50 miles the next day I realized something. I am going to run 100 miles this week. I made it a goal, I pushed myself. I broke myself. It was physically the most difficult thing I have ever done. I had two running partners. One was the undergrad that worked for me and one was my then-girlfriend. I ran with one in the morning and the other in the evening. It was the fifth day of my personal challenge. I had already run 10 miles that morning. We set out at night to do another 8, 4 out 4 back. The trail, for all you Boston runners was the Minute-Man, we left from Davis Square. As we hit the 4 mile mark I wanted to do another mile, I felt good. At 5 another. My partner, a marathoner, said “remember, every one you do is one you have to do going back.” I felt good. At mile 7 she made me turn around. OK good. That was 71 miles, by the time we got home it would be 78 miles. Good, I can do this. Well, you don’t just go run 14 miles with out a little prep, like water or some snack especially after having already run 10 earlier in the day. I remember very vividly the pain on the way back, it started 3 miles after we turned around. It hurt. My knee, one that had been damaged by being struck by a car several years before, it was felt like it was in vice. My lungs were burning, chest exploding and muscles vibrating in painful weakness, they were trying to give up on me. Finally, at mile 76 for the week, that’s almost three marathons, we reached a drinking fountain, the only drinking fountain, by Alewife. I took a few sips, and then laid down in the grass.

Combat divers, when they are in dive school have something they call “seeing the wizard” this is where you hypoxiate from not being able to breath thanks to the water. It isn’t quite drowning but its close. At the outer reaches of your vision, it turns black and then works its way in till your vision is gone and you wake up on the side of the pool with instructors poking you. This is what happened to me, although it wasn’t quite hypoxia. That’s it. I passed out from the pain. I don’t remember how long I was there, probably just a minute. Then I realized, that was it. That was what I needed to know. That is the absolute limit of my ability, the physiological limit of my body, and psychological limit of my mind over my body. If I was in an actual survival situation, that was the moment I would die, when I could no longer fight. I rested awhile, then limped home. I finished off the last 24 miles over two days. I completed my goal, not just the numerical one, but the one of enlightenment.

So how does this all lead to me being a captain? Like I said, when I left I was not. I remember the last time I felt fear. It was on the way to Grand Inagua, in the Bahamas. We got caught out again, because we made a bit of a bad decision. The waves were big and square and fast. We had no where to run to, except down between Haiti and Cuba, the Windward Passage. Some of the most dangerous waters in the entire Caribbean, at least in that sort of weather. We fought all day and night with this passing front. The auto-pilot was overwhelmed and we were driving. It was pitch black and you couldn’t even see the waves, it was physically and mentally demanding. We were cold, wet, hungry and tired. Sleep deprived, actually. I was having hallucinations. Our lives and my boat really were on the line, based on the decisions that I alone had to make. Do we run, down to even more danger? Do we turn to Grand Inagua, the island we missed, and go to windward? Is Slick up to that? Are we? Neither of these choices are good, both are stupid, so we better be strong as neither of us are pretty. The boat is tougher than we are. But I felt like I was at about mile 75. The stress was overwhelming. There was no getting better here, there was no don’t. I had a choice and I was going to be accountable for that choice, and the consequences of that choice were tremendous. We turned to and made way for the island. We didn’t know for sure we would make it but the other choice would have been suicide. Slick handled the new point of sail well and she was taking care of us. Slick is not really a woman’s name, but she was there when we needed her. I don’t think other cruising boats could have made that point of sail. Eventually, after a a few hours on a hard-tack we got into to the lee of the island and dropped the anchor off a beach, it was like three in the morning. We were safe, we had dealt with IT. Nate asked me – this was supposed to be easy, why were doing this? I just looked him and said – If it was easy, everybody would do it.

I am pretty sure I went in my rack and shut the door and cried. But I was safe, my crew was safe, my boat was safe. Nothing else really mattered. Since then I have dealt with much worse weather and more difficult situations, and made difficult decisions with less information, somewhat regularly. I am a captain and I have a lot of new gray hair and I am still a terrible helmsman.

09/01/14

I want to focus on the cost of cruising in this blog post. The main reason is I don’t have much to talk about since for the last month I have been nursing a hurt back. It turns out I have a contracted muscle and it is slowly getting better even though I keep re-agitating it. First though, I want to plug my friend Fritz Herscheid’s crowd sourcing campaign to find the AE1, the first Australian Submarine which was lost almost 100 years ago this month.

Before I get into the cost of cruising, I did manage to get off the dock and go anchor out. This proved to be an excruciating mistake for the back and so I returned to the dock off Mahon. The dock isn’t all that bad as the Panerei Classics regatta was this last weekend so I got to see some incredible wooden boats racing. This will make up most of the pictures of this post. I also managed to make some more videos of Slick’s Refit, those can be found here.


A comment on one of my blog posts awhile back was something along the lines of “most people would give up everything to do what you are doing.” My response was that this was exactly the cost. Which is why most people don’t do it. Recently that cost has become very apparent to me as I try to plan a post-cruising life. The funny thing about it though is that when you start the cruising life you have some ideas about the costs. Its the ones you don’t realize though that are the most expensive ones.


Lets start with the two most obvious ones, time and money. Going with time first, since its the easiest. When I set out on this voyage I wanted the trip to last between 2.5 and 3.5 years. That seemed fast to most people and the reality is, it is. When it looked like the trip was going to go beyond that, I decided to ship the boat. At least this was one of the many justifying reasons for the shipment. Shipping was my exit plan. The exit plan should have just been scuttling the boat, but that’s an entirely different argument. In any case, shipping should have allowed me to be back in Boston some time this year. Well, the boat was late shipping and whatever else came from that so I should be getting back to the US in about 9 months. OK, total time-cost, 3.8 years


Next, and this is the one most people think about and ask about when I meet them, how much money does it cost. I will think of this in today-money, so no need to worry about inflation, since the total investment time is less than ten-years. The initial purchase of Slick was $47,500. Then I spent another $50K outfitting her for the voyage. On top of this comes the living costs while cruising. I spend approximately $2,000 per month. This covers food, diesel, moorings and shore activities. If I cut down on the drinking I could probably lower this a bit, but I am sure I would just find somewhere else to spend it. So after 3.8 years this will amount to $91K. Finally there are some unforeseen costs, like shipping and major repairs, this has set me back another $80K. In total, the obvious out of pocket expense then amounts to around $270K. That is a lot of money, but most cruising-boats cost more than that just to buy. I also don’t actually know if Slick will have any salvage value when finished, but if I can sell her then I can recoup some of these costs.


However, there is something else in terms of cost, that is equally valuable to someone my age. This would be the impact on my career and the financial cost that comes with that. Most of my fellow PhD level graduates started out making something in a range from $70K to around $200K, with the average being somewhere about $120K. So, taking that average, over 3.8 years this amounts to an additional $456K of lost income. That is a big number, especially added to the out of pocket expenses, giving a total cost of $726,000. That’s a bit depressing. This is probably not the real number though as I miss out on 4 years of advancement, bonuses, 401K, medical and all the rest. So, I don’t actually know, and I don’t want to think about it. But it is likely more than buying a house in the suburbs and raising a family in it.


Sticking with career for a little longer will help bring on the non-financial, more intangible, costs of cruising. When I was finishing at MIT, I had a few companies attempting to court me and the job potentials seemed endless. After all I had an elite degree from the best university in the world and tons of experience on top of that. They can wait, and they will, or so I arrogantly thought. Now I am in the process of trying to find a career and rebuild a life of normalcy and it is difficult to say the least. Part of the difficulty comes from not being anywhere near where the jobs are, so it isn’t like I can really schedule an interview or even network for that matter. What my career search amounts to then is sending 8-10 resumes a week off into the ether and hoping it might land on someone’s desk who will actually read it, then give this high risk person (me) a chance. Nate and I likened this to a beach full of desperate, single women, some of which you wouldn’t actually want to date, but you a need a date anyway. And we anchor off the beach and make paper-airplanes with our old phone-numbers on them and toss them in the direction of the beach, hoping one might make it, or at least fall in the water close enough to wash up still legible for one, any one, of them to find. Then hope that maybe they will call us on our non-existent phones and ask us out. Clearly I am going about the job search wrong, and have changed my strategy a bit and hopefully it will come to some fruition. Until then, the cost of cruising was working my way into irrelevance and obscurity in what was once a promising career path.


The next thing I gave up, and didn’t think I would, was my physical health. Yes, I breath ocean air everyday and sail lots. But it isn’t like I can just go to the gym, or for a run, or whatever, let alone shower afterward. Almost all of my muscle has atrophied and I am probably overweight. In most of the world it is hard to get decent food and I can’t imagine what metrics like cholesterol or blood pressure would be, but probably way out of the norm. It’s not like I go to a doctor and get these things checked so there are probably tons of other problems too. Recently, I pulled my back as mentioned above and I keep straining my left knee. Thanks to the loss of muscle in my legs, they don’t quite perform always as I would want them to. I think by the end of this trip I will need another knee surgery, that will make 4 in 15 years. Perhaps I can get them to just install a zipper to make going in there easier the next time.


There is a cost of security in cruising. That is to say, I have none, at all. I have to lock the boat and dinghy when I am not on it, always. This isn’t such a problem as people lock their houses and cars too. But while at anchor I must be extra vigilant about dragging. After all Slick contains all my home and worldly possessions outside of some things stored in some people’s basements. And I frequently leave her hanging on a string attached to a plow in the sand. Sand is security. Weeds, that’s and entirely different story, those help your anchor drag, even maliciously I think. I have been lucky that I, or my crew, have always caught a dragging anchor, but it could happen where we end up on the rocks. There are a lot of sleepless nights surrounding this. The most secure I feel is when I am tied to a dock, but even this isn’t safe. Just yesterday I awoke to some Spaniards who hit Slick while docking. Then they got their anchor caught on Slick’s lifeline and still tried to back-up. Of course, there is also the sailing itself, there is a constant awareness of submerged objects to run into, pirates, lighting and storms. This goes with the territory but that doesn’t help reduce the stress. These sort of things have aged me. Stress is the cost.


The last cost I want to talk about, and this is a tough one, is the emotional cost. The first thing that happens is a loss of a concept of home. I don’t know if I can think of Boston as home. I don’t think so. Washington State, no. Sure I grew up there and served there, but there is very little left of that. Friends, does that make home? I have lost almost all human connection outside of Facebook, which is hardly fulfilling. I do get some validation by the reader stats of this blog (thank you to all 18 of you) and I have one video on youtube that has been watched almost 20,000 times, that is 19,982 more times than I expected. But it isn’t like I get to hang out with any of those people. I looked at my email and aside from business and some other cruiser’s exchange, I have had eight, only eight, separate people contact me in the last month. One I hear from almost daily, a few a couple times a week or every other week and the rest, once a month or so. I have also, ironically, had 8 visitors in 2.8 years of traveling (not the same 8 people) despite thinking that this would be an inviting time for any of my friends. Home is where I am and it moves a lot. I carry it with me, I am like a snail. It takes time to get used to a new place, to find an approved grocery store, water, and a local bar, maybe make some friends (albeit fast ones). And as soon as you do, its time to go.


Time to go, that’s it right there, I am perennially leaving. This is where it gets really tough. I am not able to maintain any semblance of a relationship. It is absolutely impossible. My life, the single-cruising life, is not fair to another person emotionally. Neither side of the relationship gets anything close to what they want out it. This is compounded by the fact that I am usually in some of the most difficult places on earth to reach. It becomes geographically untenable for long periods of time. It is sort of like when the Apollo astronauts went on the dark side of the moon. No one, including them, knew if they would actually emerge on the other side. They were alone. I am often alone. That is not to say that I have not had emotionally fulfilling visits, but once the reality of the distance and time sets in, I realize what a Faustian-bargain this life is. There are no relationships, only the hope that when (if) you see that person again, a long time from the last time, the feelings will still be there. So forget the things that normal thirty-something year old people do in a relationship, you know – go on dates, meet each-other’s friends, test-drive each other, see if its a good fit, if it is then plan a future together. That is just not possible. And it sucks.

There are, of course some ways to mitigate these costs. I think the best way to do it is wait until you are fully retired. Then you have a nicer boat, more time, presumable more money and your life partner is with you. The idea of home is better established and you can fly there between seasons. You’ve finished your career so no need to worry about that at all. The stress remains, but that’s part of the life. Maybe you can’t be as active, but I have met plenty of divers, hikers and sailors way over 60. I wanted to do this for a number of reasons when I did. Mostly, I think, because I have some fear that I would never actually make it to retirement and I didn’t want to regret not doing this.

And I don’t regret doing it. Was it worth it? Yes. Absolutely YES. The experiences I have had have been incredible. I have met some of the most amazing people you can imagine. I have been to some of the wildest places on earth and seen some of the most unique single entities our planet has to offer. I have challenged myself beyond measurable ability, helped out entire villages in need, and grown as a human being. If I had to do it over, I would do it again. I am happy with the person I am, and a large part of that has to do with doing this voyage. When I am finished I will do my best to lower the above-mentioned costs. Hopefully I will find a rewarding job in a place I can call home and hopefully I can I end up geographically located near the right woman and we can reciprocally-love each other for the rest of our lives. I have the capacity to structure my life any way I please, where I please and, with a willing partner, with whom I please. The career part isn’t entirely up to me but I will find something. I am sure I will have lost a lot of the autonomy of being my own captain, but the security might be worth it. I am positive and ambitious about the future but as for the cost of this 3.8 years of my life, it is, in fact, everything.

08/10/14

Before I get on my hobby-horse and ride for awhile about my trip I want to congratulate the members of Constitution Yacht Club back in Boston for their success in the first annual Barefoot Regatta. Not only did they sponsor the regatta after the Ally Foundation canceled what was my favorite race, they managed to take the the top two spots on the podium in A,B and C divisions. Excellent work captains and crews of Shout, Migration, Superstition, Rockit, Sparkle Pony and Enya.

Meanwhile, back on Slick… Summarizing the trip to date, which seems to be all this blog consists of now since nothing particularly interesting ever happens here, We rode out a blow in Mgarr. It was no problem, and I am continually happy with the new (now well-used) all-chain rode. I never should have taken the advice of certain people back in Boston and should have had this from the beginning. Definitely life would have been different on so many 2AM anchor dragging exercises. Once the blow was over we checked out of Malta. This proved to be no problem and it was explained to us that as crew on a visiting boat we fall under the same rules as seamen on a ship, that is to say that the Schengen Agreement doesn’t apply to us. See, as employees on a ship, we “are not here by choice” so we don’t get penalized. That’s nice, no stamps, no fuss and no limit. Well, that’s the Maltese, and apparently Italian interpretation.

Naturally we couldn’t just have an easy trip to our next destination. Immediately upon exiting the anchorage, and fortunately clear of traffic, the diesel filter clogged, again. We had just enough wind to make forward progress on the sails so Nate took care of that. I used an evacuation pump and hooked it to the fuel line coming from the tank and found a few tablespoons of bio-goo clogging the line. After that the diesel ran OK for a few hours when it happened again. This film in the tank has been a problem since right outside of Singapore. How frustrating and I have tried all sorts of treatments to be rid of it for good. The best advice I can get is not to get your tank infected in the first place. Thanks.


We headed to the south coast of Sicily and even got to sail a bit. It was an easy over-nighter then up the south coast with tons of fishing vessels going out to get their catch, presumably of minnows as we haven’t seen anything else in the markets. We stopped briefly in the Trapani Islands and thought about staying the night on the second night. The Itai’s wanted too much money, since it was a national park or something. We learned that this used to be the prime blue-fin tuna grounds in the Med but that it had been awhile since anyone had seen one. Imagine that.

That night we had a beautiful overnight sail. The evening started out fairly relaxed, motor sailing and the wind built a little just off the nose. Nate went down for his time off watch and I rolled out the jib, trimmed it up and killed the motor. The prop made a clunk as I shifted into reverse and the boat gained in speed. How wonderful the silence without the noise maker running. We made 6-7 knots to windward towards Sardinia under a rising bloody-moon. As much as I complain about this life, it sure is good sometimes. Later though, the wind continued to build and since I sleep in the V-berth (even when going to windward) it got a little rough and we de-powered.

We changed our plans again, and headed for the north-east coast of Sardinia and all it’s alleged beauty. Col and the rest of the crew from Finally My Darling (FMD) were scheduled to arrive the next day so we thought it might be nice to see them again. We decided not to bother checking in, since no one cares anyway, especially not now that we “are not here by choice.” The anchorage was quite nice, under a giant slab of ancient continental granite on the Island Tavolara in the Spalmatore Bay. The next morning FMD came sailing in and anchored not too far away. It was nice to have a little company again. Nate and I finally decided to repair the autopilot ram after it kicked off several times during our triple-over-nighter. Everything looked to be in good condition except carbon build-up from the brushes causing one of the brushes to stick (and thus kick off). We cleaned it and re-assembled it. This is supposed to be a service done every 1000 hours by Raymarine authorized dealers (at something like $240). Well, I think it has held up fantastically for not being serviced in, um, several thousand hours. As for Sardinia though, the first impression of the area was dominated by 30-50 foot RIBs either coming from exclusive resorts or off one of the many mega-yachts. One must wonder where the shear amount of disposable finances comes from that is expended in this little piece of watery real-estate.


Yet another blow was coming, this time a Mistral, so we headed to the well protected port of Olbia. Rod Heikell has terrible things to say about this place and so we expected an industrial dump. It was anything but and I think he was way too harsh on it. At first we anchored off the town but as the wind was scheduled to build we grabbed a free place on the leeward side of the wall. This was good as the rest of the day it really filled up, sometimes several boats rafted deep. Unfortunately as the blow began, all the dirt and debris from the parking-lot just to windward blew all over Slick. It was a bit nasty and I think this is what amounts to Italian street cleaning. I am still finding crap that blew into the boat from that few days. We also changed he oil, which I realize now is quite a pain on my new engine. As well as it is designed, I really think that part is poorly done. But we managed and the engine still runs fantastic.

We took our leisurely time heading up to an anchorage full of mega-yachts, Cale Volpe. Its really amazing, it was like seeing the commercial ships anchored off the Panama Canal or Singapore Straights, except that these were private 100-400 foot yachts. I don’t think I have ever seen anything quite like it. A flotilla of charter boats came in though and the were led by one guy who got there first. It seemed he was the only one who knew what to do and as a new flotilla member would come in he would head over to their boat on a paddle board and help them to anchor in the right spot. Unfortunately all the right spots where all around us. There was some BOBA but not with us fortunately. Then that night there was about 20 knots of breeze and a few of them drug, again, thankfully not into us. In the morning they all had a dinghy convention on the back of the leader’s boat and one by one they pulled up and departed. That evening I went into the local bar. Well, this was anything but actually, it was a really posh place and I was stunned to find out that a drink I ordered was 24 Euro. I think that might be the most expensive cocktail I have ever had, ever. And it didn’t even come with garnish.

We made a short hop up to Puerto Cervo the next day and anchored in an area that was marked for anchoring. The whole reason to be here was to secure the week-long park pass to go into the La Maddellena Archipelago, supposedly one of the crown jewels of the Med-Cruising circuit. Cole had been here a few days before and the nice lady in the yacht assistance office was expecting me. Everything went smoothly and when finished I headed to the village to get some provisions. I was amazed at how preciously manicured the little town was. It was in a semi-arid environment and not even a spec of dust anywhere. Mega-yachts lined the quays and the people were all dressed in amazingly expensive things. The women in this town (and much of Italy in general) must spend 4 hours preparing themselves before they even leave the house. That isn’t to say that they are all some how attractive, just that they always look like they are on their way to some black-tie event, even at 9 AM. Anyway, once provisioned I headed back to the boat and Nate and I cracked a couple of beers and watched the mega’s return from their day-cruises. Right before sunset, but after we were a little loaded, the local yacht-club marinero came with the coast guard and the kicked us, along with a few other small boats, out of the anchorage. We tried to argue but they threatened a fairly heavy fine. When we asked how much a mooring ball cost the marinero looked at Slick as if to decide how much was too much and told us 80 Euro. 80 fucking Euro for a mooring ball? I told him to fuck himself and put the mooring ball in his ass (in Italian no less, a very useful phrase an ex-girlfriend taught me) and we left. I don’t think I have ever been chucked from an anchorage before and I was pretty pissed. I think this was pure pretension on the part of the little village as you never see the Italian Guardia Costa care about anything. We found another anchorage outside town and in sort of deep water. In the following hour all the other boats that got chucked came around too.


The first stop in the park was Cale Portese on the island of Caporera. This was a wonderful little spot and with the park pass we also got free moorings, which we thought were everywhere. We arrived early to guarantee we got a ball and then sat back and watched the other boats come in. It was really amazing to see people trying to pick up mooring balls. The seamanship in this Med is incredibly bad. I think it is on average, really, the worst I have ever seen. Worse even than a Searay Convention in the US. After seeing people having swimmers in the water to tie up to a mooring and one guy’s deck-donkey run his outboard prop out of the water and up onto the hull of his yacht (DOBA) in a completely confused state, we relegated ourselves to not swimming until everyone was gone for the day in fear of being run over.

A blow was again coming, it seems this Mistral is incredible active this year. So we headed to another anchorage only to find it was controlled by the local town even though it was in the park and wanted 50 Euro a night for mooring. We told them to pack sand and it seemed that was exactly what they wanted. We only saw one of the moorings taken and only occasionally a boat go in. I think these moorings are more to keep boats out of the best anchorages. I find this a really annoying tactic. Anyway, we headed a mile or so down the inlet and anchored behind a big rock. We didn’t realize we had found ourselves a hidden rookery. The location, Cala Garibaldi, had nice holding and we set ourselves up to ride out the blow.

The strange thing about this park is that the rangers come around to check you have the pass. Even more strange though is that we were the only ones who actually had it and most of the French and Itai boats tried to talk their way out of having to get the pass and the 40% sir-charge that goes with buying it in the park, in addition to not getting the 40% discount for buying it ahead of time. There was plenty of BOBA and even some AOAA going on and every time a boat came in we had to really watch to make sure they didn’t anchor on us or pull ours up. There were also no mooring balls here, adding to the fun. It got to the point of being annoying. I tried to take our trash ashore and thanks to Italian law only certain ships are allowed to carry trash off the islands. I finally found an unattended trash can in a marina near La Mad town and made a deposit. I headed back before someone did something terrible involving Slick. When I arrived back a local sailing team was coming in with about 9 boats, 3 First 30.7’s and the rest J-22 type things. They anchored and rafted up, seeing them come sailing in was quite impressive, they were quite good, but as soon as they started trying to anchor and maneuver in the crowded area it got scary.

Time was running out for Nate and we had a lull in between blows so we headed to Budelli Island, home of the famous Spagia Rossa, the pink beach. We again arrived early enough that we secured a mooring ball. Then moved to a different one closer in after more boats left. As soon as we moved the assault on the rookery began. The pink beach itself is protected and you are not allowed to even walk on it, so around the corner is where they rook. Tour boats began pouring in with hundreds of people each and taking them to the beach. It wasn’t even that nice of beach and there were certainly no facilities. I walked though the island and the entire thing is coated in toilet paper. Boats and Yachts anchored up wherever they pleased completely ignoring the regulations concerning the protected Neptune-grass (which in the end appears to be just regular sea-grass of the anchor-clogging variety). On the beach there was a plethora of shameless people baring as much skin as they could, the rookery abounded with aqua-hobbits, water-wookies and hyrdo-trolls. I was really amazed at the lack of caring both for the national park and other people let alone the general sanctity of prudent seamanship. Fortunately most of those type of yachts leave before sundown and its fairly quite at night. One could almost relax after the current flushes the bay until you realize that there is a restaurant with a helipad near-by. I have never seen such a thing and wonder who would really ever need such a service. Granted it was just cut out of the arid vegetation of the national park, but I’m sure it was once used for a bunga-bunga party or two.

When the blow subsided we wanted to head to Porto Pozzo and provision, then make way for the Balearics. But you know, that cranky Mistral had other plans and it was scheduled to blow 35 knots for three days, on the nose, of course. We picked up a town mooring for a surprisingly cheap 25 Euro a night. We stayed on it for a few nights and anchored out one more. This town, just 20 km away from Puerto Cervo was quite relaxed and normal. There was not even an ounce of pretentious feeling and the locals were, well, local. There was no sneering as we brought Mutley to the dock, I locked it because I was afraid of having it stolen as opposed to someone setting it free so the richers didn’t have to look at it. The local fuel station was kind enough to give me a ride the mile or so back to the dock after filling jerry-jugs. The shop keepers seemed happy and helpful and they laughed off our feeble attempts to ask questions in Italian. Things cost a normal price. It was nice.

When the Mistral blew out we headed for a double over-nighter, landing in Minorca. This passage was full of everything, mostly boredom. It started out well though, we were able to finally put up a spinnaker on the new bow-sprit. It worked really well and I am quite happy. We even passed by a 50 foot tri-maran in the light air. Once we got that put away, the wind wrapped a bit and we had about two hours of hard sailing. Once clear of the cape sticking out of the north-west end of the island though the wind just died. As the sun began to set we could see giant thunderheads over the island. I grabbed one last GRIB as we headed out of cell signal range and it showed southerlies with some precipitation. Nate woke me up around 1 AM and we were skirting the edge of an enormous electrical storm. We were quite far from land and I was surprised to see so much sea striking lighting. Once we got the headings of the storms though we powered up to about 6.5 knots in the calm and managed to barely outrun the edge. It was certainly the most nasty lighting I have seen at sea the entire trip, much worse than the straights of Malacca even. Once we were far enough to be safe we cut back the motor to about 5 knots and got back on course. The following day was boring motoring in not a breath of wind and 6 foot swell. The best we could do to stay positive was not talk. Although we did strangely get buzzed by a Learjet.

As the sun went down though, we heard that amazing snapping-whir that only Jim Gentry can tap out. The oversized reel on the back of the boat was having all the line tore out of it at high speed. It had been so long since we heard that sound we were not even sure what to do. “Fish On!” and Nate went to reeling. I had to find all my killing things and barely got ready as we landed a 15 pound or so albacore tuna. Wow, what a way to raise moral. I was a little rusty slaughtering it but we still had a great dinner of tuna with fish on fish and a side of fish and fishwiches with fish for the next few days until Nate left. We are pretty sure that was the last one in all the Med. To celebrate, that evening we made a boat out of the spare emergency-tiller handle and lit it aflame using some old tiki-torch oil. We wanted to see just how far one might be able to see it at night (three miles, but I think it went out before disappearing). I think this was the best evening sailing so far in the entire Med. It was also, unfortunately, Nate’s last one, but it left enough of an impression of how good it can be that he will surely return.

The next morning we pulled into the port of Mahon on Minorca. There is no anchoring allowed so we pulled into a floating pontoon with no services. At 25 Euro a night it isn’t overpriced really. So that’s nice. I was told that I needed to check Nate off the boat and back into the Schengen Area when he was about to depart. Of course the Spanish Immigration Officials had no idea what I was talking about. When I asked about my own status they seemed to think I was in violation. Three of them were talking to me at once in Spanish and I could barely keep up. Especially since I learned the language in the US where we are tought a Central-American barrio-gutter speak as opposed to the formal Castillian-accented Spaniards. Eventually I relegated myself to not bother with the official stuff anymore in Europe. No country seems to agree on how to implement the law and even more interesting, most of them want to do nothing, so stop asking questions Tim, and do nothing too. I wrote Nate a letter for his departure in case he had problems. He didn’t. “They’ll stamp anything, they just don’t care,” was how he described it.

Now that I am within striking distance of Gibraltar my time in the Med will soon expire. I can’t say that bothers me a whole lot and the reality is, I haven’t really found this sea to deliver on the over-ratings. Sadly, there is no real buddy cruising and most folks are just downright uninviting. I guess this is understandable as they are in their home waters. The cost of things is frequently prohibitive, and local bars are too expensive to hang out. The sailing is not all that great and the fishing sucks (expect for the one tuna). I find that I pretty much have to keep my mouth shut to keep positive. Then the geology is interesting but underwater is just OK, at best. Finally, as already mentioned, the Med has the worst seamanship I have ever seen. These people are laughable sailors. They approach a dock with no fenders or lines ready, the boat will hit the dock and the three ladies in the cockpit will just keep reading Vogue while their husband/father/brother or whatever tries to moor-up, they anchor with just 1.5 to 1 scope and so on. Its sort of embarrassing really, if I was like that I would never fly my colors. Oh wait, I never really do, hmm. Anyway, they all seem to think they are the next Moitessier or Soldini, and they get very upset when you tell them that “no, you can’t raft, get your own mooring ball” or “Hey, put my fucking anchor back in the water!” or “I think you forgot to rig fenders before coming along side me.” These are the owners, the charter sailors are much, much worse.

I will slowly meander through this archipelago until I get to the Spanish mainland and then work down to Gibraltar. I am not in such a hurry but will certainly miss Nate as sailing alone gets boring. I meant to leave the dock and go anchor the day Nate left but I hurt my back pretty bad. Probably from picking up that back-breaking dinghy motor of mine. I think, perhaps, it is a slipped disc. At least that is what the old people on the dock tell me. I spend most of the day crawling around as the process of standing brings on quite a bit of pain, but after I am up I can walk and that feels better so I make an effort to walk up and down the dock. Moving about Slick is incredibly difficult, I must look like an 85 year old man and solo-sailing is no place to sport that sort of injury.

07/31/14

Sorry no blog post recently but here are a lot of pictures from the last month or so. First all the pictures from Malta, then back to Italy for Sardignia and La Maddalena Archipelgo. Enjoy and an explanation in the form of a blog post is coming soon.

Also Thanks to the hard work of Mathew the Spot-Track page is working again, mostly.

07/10/14

Summer on Slick seems to be drifting by without me realizing it. Its been two months since I left Turkey and already we are in Malta. My two guests have come and gone and in another month or so, Nate will leave too. The sea temperature is finally getting warm enough to comfortably swim without protection from the cold, although now the jelly fish are about. The summer winds are filling in, on the nose of course, and the heat is stifling in the afternoon, leading us to the Mediterranean daily ritual of siesta. We happily partake in these afternoon breaks but are occasionally annoyed when we need things. Our fault I guess, we really should know better than to expect anything to be open between noon and 5 or on the weekends. Anyway, it is never anything serious, usually just a desire for cold beer.


To catch up on the movement about the Med though – The day after Mark left, Nate and I hired a car and drove down to Catania to pick up my friend Susanna. Nate and I stopped along the way and checked out what we could off the autostrada. We had all day and he would be stepping off the boat for ten days or so, so we might as well enjoy having a car. Probably the coolest thing we saw was Castlemola which is the highest square above the cliff-bound, seaside-city of Taormina. The square just drops off over the edge of some hundred meters of cliff and two thousand feet of open air come up from the sea a mile or so away. It really is an impressive place. When we got to Catania though, I dropped Nate off and picked up my new guest.

After provisioning for ten days of cruising we headed from Milazzo to the Island of Vulcan. The wind was about 15 knots on the nose and we had about thirty miles of pounding into it under motor and sail. Yes, its true, I have become a bit of a wuss when it comes to sailing to windward, plus I have this new motor, so I might as well use it. Anyway, along the way there were a couple of huge sword fish jumping by the boat. They would leap full body out of the water and look into to see the inside of Slick’s cockpit. At least that was how it felt. I’ve never seen sword fish jump like that without a hook in their mouths, and these guys were big too, maybe ten-twelve feet long, plus some sword.


Upon arrival in Vulcan we headed for the leeward side anchorage of Porto di Levente. This sits right below the Gran Cratere of the Volcano Vulcan, where the name of the pimples of the earth was born. Vulcan is no longer spewing anything other than sulphery gas, at least for now and there are some hot pools about the anchorage. The rotten egg smell wafts over the area and we tried to avoid the malodorous places. Unfortunately, the best of the anchorage is taken by moorings costing no less than 40 Euros per night. The rest of the bottom was uneven and lumpy with steep rock piles. Eventually we relegated ourselves to anchoring in the vicinity of the pools. This turned out to not really be all that bad though.

After a night or two of watching the coming and going of ships and ferries in the port we headed to Lipari, the capital of the Aeolian Islands. The wind was up and we had a nice sail off the wind, although it was only 4 miles long it made for some excitement as he wind blew through the nozzle between the two islands. Anchoring under the castle, we headed to town to exercise our itchy feet. Lipari gave the feel of a typical Medievel-Med-Island town, narrow streets and tourist shops complete with Castle and Church above it all. We motored around the corner to avoid the ferry wake the next morning, anchoring off Porticello. There is a pumice quarry here. There are actually many pumice quarries in the Aeolian Islands, something that has nearly led to a revocation of their UNSECO status, but that part wasn’t what was so interesting. The bottom made an area that was 20 feet deep and nearly a square mile or two of flat-glistening pumice-sand. In the clear blue waters of the Med it was maybe the biggest swimming pool I’ve seen. Obviously the pool is a haven for the tripper boats so we left for Panarea.


In Panarea the best anchorage was in the south near Punta Milazzese, unfortunately it is supposed to be a no-anchoring zone. Fortunately though, no one cares. Panarea is a nice island but the most exclusive of the Aoleans. Strangely there is really nothing to do save look at a few interesting rocks and then lounge around the nice town enjoying the dolce-niente. Internet is also difficult to find there.


After fulfilling all the requirements of visiting Panerea we headed to Stromboli. Since it was only ten miles away, we deeded to sail in the 5-7 knots of breeze that was coming, more or less, on the nose. The light air and calm seas made for an enjoyable 4 hour ride. I even took some time to leave the boat and head out in the dinghy for some picture taking. Upon arrival in Stromboli though, the anchorage was not quite what it seemed on the charts. The only place with real anchorable depths sits off a point on the north eastern end of the island and there is maybe 45 degrees of actual protection. This didn’t stop the anchorage from being full of boats and since the seas were calm it was a OK.

That night we motored around the northern end of the Island to watch the effusive eruptions. The volcanic eruption of this sort is named after this very volcano, the Strombolian Eruption. This is similar to the eruptions we witnessed in Tanna in Vanuatu. Although the Italian version is somewhat less frequent and less impressive. Never-the-less active geology is always interesting. The motor back was in the dark and there were many boats around. It was a bit like motoring home after the Fourth of July, except it was really really dark.


We anchored in almost the exact place we had left and in the morning, my birthday, awoke to an awful swell running through the anchorage. I pulled up the anchor and while doing so broke a small piece of cast aluminum on the windlass. I went around the corner a bit to find some protection off a black sand beach and anchored in 35 feet of water on a precipice that dropped quickly down to 100 feet. While paying out the chain it just started free-running spilling maybe 50 feet of chain into a pile. Turns out the small piece of aluminum is needed to keep the chain in line with the wild-cat. Who knew? I set the anchor toward shore and was unable to straighten all the chain. Seemed pretty good to me and I went back to sleep. Being my birthday, we went to shore and spent the day exploring the little town at the base of the occasionally puffing mountain. Eating lunch at a place overlooking the anchorage, we watched as several boats came in and anchored around Slick. She looked so small compared to all the other boats. That was a weird feeling. Then I realized that none of these people knew my chain wasn’t very straight and after lunch we returned to the boat. As I was thinking the best way to pull up, the afternoon thermals were coming in lightly and boats swayed about. There was nearly some boat-on-boat action (BOBA) between some Spaniards and Auyssies behind me so we expedited pulling up. Each time I dropped the chain though I ended up with a pile. How frustrating. Finally I just did it by hand and was satisfied with the placement.

After a nice birthday dinner we returned to Slick. It was late and time to get to bed. At five minutes past midnight the wind started to pick up and Slick and the other boats swung out over the underwater ledge. Now we were in 90 feet of water and the wind was building. The strange part was that the wind wrapped to the north-west and now the wind was coming off the tephra pile of the volcano. The temperature of the air went from a kind 70 degrees to well over 100. As the night went on the wind increased and boats began to drag. There was certainly some boat-on-boat action and many boats pulled up and went around the corner or out into open water. I was very happy that I reanchored earlier and we stayed where we were. I had 200 feet of chain out and even in winds up to 38 knots Slick held well to the black sand. I stayed up the whole night watching the action. By morning though the wind had calmed and only two other boats were remaining. Slick was covered in black ash.


We left for Messina and the wind had completely died. On the way back we bucket washed Slick to get all the ash off. The straights were kind and we pulled back into the marina in Messina. Slick needed lots of cleaning after he 8 days of anchoring and the marina was so rolley from ferry wake that she also was given some new fenders. We got diesel, we had intended to go to the fuel dock but after reading about the mafia-controlled and watered-down fuel quays of Sicily, we decided it best to borrow two shopping carts and take the jerry-jugs into town. That went well and the next day we “sailed” for Taormina. The wind here was interesting. In the area between the toe of Italy and Sicily the wind was climbing into the upper 20’s, but less than a mile after exiting the opening to the nozzle the wind was maybe 5 knots. Of course the swell was terrible. Approaching Taormina by sea is pretty impressive and seeing Castlemola from the bottom was just as amazing. We parked Slick in Taormina Bay under the cliffs and headed to shore to find Nate, who was patiently awaiting our arrival in the closest pier-side bar. After a brief turnover with Nate and some lunch, Susanna and I caught a late-train to Catania and Nate went back to Slick to endure the swell. Catania was nice, very baroque, and very dirty, just like I remember it.


With Susanna on a plane home, I was now, again, phantom-traveller-less and Nate and I spent another night (less rolley) off Taormina and then made way for Siracusa. We skipped pulling into Catania on the way down and came into the very large Grand Harbor of Siricusa and anchored off the old town of Ortiga. This place is, like Catania, very baroque, but unlike Catania, it is also very clean. We set immediately out on the scavenger hunt to try to buy some dive tanks but apparently it is not allowed in Sicily for some reason. We gave up and made a small tour about town. Nate was here the previous week during his ten day walk-about and knew his way around. It was a very nice town and I can see why it is a popular tourist destination. It was also the home to Archimedes and all his fleet-burning tricks. We provisioned and the afternoon southerlies filled in so we went to the south end of the bay and anchored off some cliffs. Many locals were there and we witnessed some BOBA, a very common thing in the Med. At the end of the day, everyone left and we had the nice anchorage to ourselves.

In the morning we headed for Malta, unfortunately when we rounded the bottom of Sicily the wind was way more blown-up and the seas were building. Rather than make a 55 mile hop to windward we pulled into a dumpy place called Porto-Palo. When I checked into the Costa Guarda they told me to keep everything locked down as they had some recent thefts from yachts. Great. After a hitchhike to town and back in the heat the wind had built even more and we motored Slick to the windward side of the bay and breakwater for more protection. We then had the entire place to ourselves and the fishing boats all stayed on the other side. In the morning we made the hop to Malta.

It was quite a nice time spent in Italy. I think every time I go to that country I fall in love with it a slightly different way. When I was young it was certainly one of the first and most favorite of foreign destinations. I knew prior to arrival that the winds of Italy were not fantastic and while I didn’t like them, I couldn’t get too upset. Its called the Motorterranean for a reason. The thing that really got me this time was a realization of how fantastic the food ingredients are here. This is the first time in Italy that I was able to cook my own food in my own galley and the freshness and variety of meats and cheeses is incredible. Produce is cheap and great and even the steaks are reasonably priced. So this was quite a welcome feature. On the negative side though, well, everywhere you go people try to steal your stuff. Some things about Italy never change I guess. In all my time traveling, I have never (outside of Italy) had anything stolen from my companions and I other than a pair of flip-flops by a drunk in Solomon Islands. In the rest of the world – no problems. Here in Italy though, one of my guests had a cell-phone stolen, My friend had his dinghy stolen (he recovered it, complete with motor) in Taormina and If I think back years ago we had a backpack taken from us in Florence, that event caused no end of problems as we lost a passport and some apartment keys. Welcome back to the white-world I guess, where people steal things and you must lock everything down.


Anyway, on to Malta. The wind wrapped around to the North and we had downwind sailing under jib alone for the first 30 miles or so before the wind died. With the following swell and no land in site it felt a lot like being in the Pacific again, except we didn’t catch any fish. A thousand miles of trolling and still no fish. We pulled into Mgarr on Gozo and there was Col and family on the cat “Finally my Darling”. They were waiting for us. We stayed the night in the anchorage and over evening cocktails caught up on things since Turkey. In the morning we checked in and made some provisioning and then headed to Dwerja, an anchorage in a great big bowl behind something known as Fungus rock.

This was a nice anchorage and very protected from any winds but north-west. We decided we would do some diving and took the skiffs over to an undersea arch, an above-sea arch and a swim through that led to an inland lagoon. This was all pretty cool and it was nice to get some dive time with these guys. There wasn’t much in the way of wildlife but the undersea formations are worth it, if you are in the area. The next day, Nate and I did some snorkeling in the caves around the anchorage and then both boats headed for Comino Island.


If you are Maltese, and you have a boat, you spend every weekend at Comino Island. This is the home of the finest swimming in all of Malta, the Blue Lagoon. Tour boats flock from all over to come here and people fill in the rocks above the lagoon and swimming area in mass. At the end of the day, a tremendous exodus occurs back to Mgarr and Valletta. Col adequately described the place as a rookery. The first day we anchored outside the lagoon and stern tied to some rock. The local tour boats didn’t like this at all and one guy in a 50 foot jet boat full of tourists tried to run me over while tying. Then once tied they would honk at us because they had to drive around. I found this to be a bit annoying but once the anchorage cleared out a bit we let the stern tie go and free swung. The tour boats there though are quite rude and come right up next to your anchored boat with the most wake they can. Anyway, part of the culture I guess.


That afternoon we did a dive on a wreck. It was a patrol boat that was intentionally sunk and it was quite a nice swim through. One more evening of cocktails and Col and family departed for Sicily. It was nice to have a boat to cruise with, even if just for a few days. I don’t think I have really buddy-cruised with anyone since the first few days in the Philippines. Hopefully we will catch back up with them or someone else.


In the morning, Nate and I moved into the rookery proper and stern tied along with some other boats and proceeded to watch the morning migration. Nate had noticed the windlass wires getting hot (and some smoke) so we decided it best to take the connections apart and clean it up. We did that and reassembled it, just in time. We watched the shit-show of the rookery for awhile and the wind was starting to pick up on our quarter and we decided to go back to anchor in deeper water soon. Just about when we were thinking about being ready a guy in a 30 foot power-boat came in. They didn’t seem to really know what they were doing so we thought it best to let them do it before we pulled up in the crowded and tight anchorage. First they tried to stern tie but couldn’t quite get it right, with only a 1-1 anchor scope it is pretty hard to get it to stick. Then they went out to free swing and while anchoring managed to catch Slick’s anchor. Wonderful. I ran to the foredeck and had a closer look. No only did he catch it by dragging his anchor on a 1/2-1 scope, basically dredging the bottom, but the clown pulled it up too. I yelled back to Nate to start the motor, then yelled a mild obscenity or two at the power-boat. The guy didn’t know what to do and the wind took him down into two other anchored boats. There was certainly BOBA, a three-way even. I jumped in the skiff as Nate held us off the rocks with the engine. We removed the stern-tie but the powerboat still had our anchor in the boat orgy just down wind. Nate was cool in keeping Slick safe even though her leash was being pulled over where we didn’t want to be. I ran over in the skiff and tried to get the power-boater to motor forward. He eventually did and I got the anchors separated from their Anchor-on-Anchor-Action. I motored a short distance away from the trio and non-challantly tossed the hook in the water. Then once back on Slick, we pulled up and went out into deep water around the corner where we stayed the night. It was the Fourth of July and as every night in Malta, there was a constant pounding of fireworks. I guess the thing that was really annoying about the whole AOAA episode though was not so much that they guy didn’t know how to work his boat and not even that he caught or picked up our anchor. The annoying part was that he didn’t know what to do so he chose to do nothing. If Nate and I had not been on board, Slick would have surely ended up on the rocks and the guy would still be holding the leash. He motored away after that, but I gave him a wave anyway. His girlfriend waved back and hopefully they know there are no hard feelings from the guys with the giant American flag flying for America Day.


We left the next day for the capital, Valletta. The motor down was not so interesting other than the mass-migration out of the capital heading for the rookery. Good thing we didn’t stay in that zoo any longer. Pulling into Valletta though was, well, amazing. I have never seen a place so fortified from attack by land or sea. I can’t even think of the number of fortresses from eras gone by that I have visited in my life and this one is by far the most complete and impressive. It was built mostly by the Knights of St. John in the 16th Century. As if the citadel, castle and numerous outer walls and batteries are not enough, there is a constant barrage of fireworks from all over the city and countryside, all day and all night protecting the twin-harbors.


We spent the daylight hours in hot-siesta, or break as they call it here, and went for a wonder around town at night. The design of the town and overwhelming fortification is truly intimidating and amazing. The town itself is also every bit as quaint as other historical centers in Europe. While in the capital we repaired the windlass guide and the last dinghy floor repair didn’t take so we took care of that too. We also learned two things about Malta, the fireworks never stop in the summer and are celebrating the permanent feasting that occurs for the patron saints and that there are two types of Maltese – those who eat pastries and those who don’t.

A blow is coming and we decided to head back to Mgarr and wait for it to pass. On the way out we wanted to see the other harbor so we took a drive through Grand-Harbor. It was equally amazing but on the way out a pilot boat buzzed us at speed and the wake submerged Slick up to her mast. Unfortunately the V-berth hatch was open and my bed got soaked, with a bathtub of sea water. Along with my wet bed all of my things were wet too. I was furious. I had never had a pilot boat buzz so close and at such speed. But what can we do? So I dried my things and we continued motoring in the otherwise flat water toward Mgarr. About an hour later the diesel stopped running. A problem we keep having as the Racor filter I have is slowly leaking somewhere. We went into the drill of bleeding and restarting only this time the filter was clogged. Good thing I bought a new one the day before. We finally got it running and then had to try three different anchorages before finding one that was protected from the coming wind and the current swell. All this combined with tearing my foot open between the pads of my big toe and ball the day before led to a miserable day.

Yesterday was a little better. We decided to take it easy and have a break while we waited for the big winds to arrive. A cat next to us fouled their anchor on a massive old mooring and I freed it for them so they gave us a three liter box of wine. That helped with the relaxing for sure. Next up, three days of thirty knot winds and then we try to head to Corsica.

06/29/14

Here are new pictures of Italy and Greece.

06/16/14

Things have been really happening fast on Slick and not always according to plan. We are sitting in Sicily right now after a short-feeling transit from Greece. My friend from grad-school, Mark Reed, has come and gone and soon I will get another visitor, but more on all that later. I feel like I have been really busy transiting and haven’t really had time to write blog posts, but now I am between people so I have a spot of time.


To catch up, after we left the Corinth Canal we headed for a town called Galixida. This was by far the nicest little town we visited to that point in Greece and surely the nicest in the Gulf of Corinth. We came in and stern-tied to the town wall and even though Nate and I haven’t done too many Med-moors, this one worked out. The main attraction here, besides the relaxed Greek village, is the Oracle of Delphi. It was a pretty good stack of rocks. Although, very unfortunately, the bus frequency in Greece is not so high so we didn’t get enough time to really appreciate the fairly large site. On a different note though, we also bought a large plastic crab that we are assured will catch us octopus. We’ve only tried it once with limited success (we didn’t lose it) but no octopus. Well, everyday can be a fishing day, but not everyday is a catching day.


We headed down the Gulf and went under the biggest suspension bridge in the whole world. That’s right, the whole world. Well, its the biggest if you put enough qualifiers on it. It was impressive anyhow. Oddly though, there was still a ferry service that ran between the ends of the bridge, needless to say, the ferries where all empty. We stopped the night in Mesologion. That place was a bit of a dump and felt a bit like the bayous. The water-police of Greece even came down and told us to lock our things down as they have had some theft lately. We also decided it was a fine time to fix the throttle cables. The bolts had been seized and I was unable to open up the control unit, so the reverse and forward directions where switched. Well, after nearly plowing into a boat while parking near Corinth and then hitting a ship-sized bollard on the docks here, bending my anchor, we decided it was time to try to fix it. Ten beers and four hours later, Nate and I had it repaired.


Upon leaving that town we came into the Ionian Sea. This is the part of Greece that I wish I would have spent the entire time in. When you think of chartering a boat, it seems everyone wants to go to the Aegean, but in my opinion, the Ionian is much better. The anchorages are protected and the hills even have trees. Our first stop was on Ithaca, the town of Vathi. It was a bit boring until we rode out a little blow.


We moved up to the Island of Lefkas. The first anchorage we picked out was a giant protected mud-hole called Vliko. It was full of sea-gypsies from England. We had previously been warned about it from some of the boat shops in Athens but really couldn’t believe such a place existed. Well it does, so we pulled up the hook and headed to Tranquil Bay off Nidri. It was much nicer. I still couldn’t get the diesel serviced though. So we changed the oil at least. We also changed the fuel filter and I am still having fuel problems. Part of this might have to do with Nate losing part of a latex glove down the fill line, but I think by now we’ve pulled all that out. The other sad event that happened in Nidri was I finally said goodbye to Shirley and Shielah, my fuel barrels from Panama. I really decided I needed the space with Mark coming soon. Plus the lady that ran the local used-marine shop was really nice and I thought she could find them a nice home. I told her though that they are twins and and couldn’t be separated. She looked at me strange, I am not sure that all translated right.


At this point things were starting to get difficult. We needed to be in Montenegro soon but there was a giant low pressure system moving our way and we needed to also run for shelter and certainly didn’t want to try to crash up the Adriatic. We headed for the very protected harbor of Prevesa. After much deliberation we finally convinced Mark to change his ticket and fly into Corfu, saving us the trip. We rode out a pretty serious blow in a very sketchy marina. In fact we only tied up about half of Slick, the rest hanging off the dock. I thought they should give me a discount since we only used about 15 feet of dock space, but they wouldn’t. On the strange side, there is a battle between the marina managers and the local port police as to who should get paid. In the end we paid the managers. Positively though, the local gyro shop made the best ones we had the entire time in Greece. They were so good that afterward we stopped eating them.


With a little more time at our disposal we headed to the island of Paxos, and anchored off the town of Gaios. We stern tied to a tree and it was a beautiful little area. Just enough tourism to be interesting but just far enough away to still be quaint. After a few days though, we headed up to Corfu to meet Mark.


The sail up was uneventful, and by sail I really mean a motor in flat calm water. We anchored under the Venetian Castle and thought all was well. As soon as we were settled a very angry squall came off the mainland and destroyed the anchorage. Everyone drug in the thick grass. They all pulled up and went to deeper water. We motored up hard on our anchor to stay off the lee shore (aka castle walls). After about a half hour the squall was gone but the seas were tore up. It had gusted over 40 knots and rained horizontally. Somewhere in the melee we lost part of Slick’s new swim ladder. We re-anchored but as the upper-level clouds started to move in again we could see that we were in for another hard squall. So we headed into the marina. No shame in that I guess. Once safe in the marina, the next squall came in, it was much angrier than the first. We watched the anchorages get tossed again and a very heroic effort by a mini-mega-yacht crew to save their boat from certain destruction.


That night we picked up Mark at the airport and showed him his new home. He adapted quickly to living in my garage. Unfortunately we didn’t get to be as welcoming as we had hoped as we spent nearly 5 hours in the water swimming the anchorage in search patterns to find the missing ladder part. It was cold and exhausting and we found lots of things, including an old amphora, but no ladder part. Damn, I just had that made too.


Checking out of Greece proved to be just as dysfunctional as anything else having to do with the government there. It was quite a pain as the immigration officer needed certain papers from the port captain and three times in a row the port authorities gave me the wrong papers. Eventually though, we checked out. We also checked out of the Schoengen area so that we are not docked for our days at sea. We headed back to Paxos to wait for the passage to Italy. Mark got a nice tour of the Island and Nate and I did boat chores. After two nights, we left.


The overnight passage was not so interesting, just lots of motoring. Thirty hours later, we arrived in Rochella Ionica. Upon getting into the shallow approach to the marina, my engine died. Fuel problems again. This time though when we got to the berth, Nate noticed that the fuel tank was very hot. It turns out the fuel return pumps hot fuel back into the tank. It isn’t dangerous, but I don’ think it is very good for the engine. Anyway, the whole point of stopping here was to have pizza by the meter and wine by the liter. We did, and then we left the next morning.


We arrived in Messina, on Sicily the next day. It was, again, a windless trip. The Italian immigration refused to stamp us back into the Schoengen area even though I explained to them numerous times and ways that we checked out of it. They didn’t even want to bother checking their computer to see and said everything was OK. So right now we are not actually checked into any country. Its strange. But they insist, so what can I do. I just hope this doesn’t count against my days in since we only get 90 out of 180 so this could be a real blessing. Or it could screw us, wait and see, wait and see. After we left Messina we headed though the straights between the toe and Sicily. This was kind of interesting for two reasons. First the massive current and upwelling made for several visits by the chickcharines, those weird little currents that toss you about. And second they have these very interesting sword-fishing-harpoon boats here. The have a tall mast where spotters look for the sleeping sword fish and then on an incredibly long bow-sprit a man sits with a harpoon to get the fish. I’ve never seen such a thing.

We pulled into Millazzo and cleaned up the boat. Mark departed after a short time thoroughly enjoying his trip. Nate and I cleaned the boat and Nate will leave tomorrow. Then my phantom traveler, who I shall name Susanna, will finally return to Slick. That will be quit nice and our plan is to head to the volcanic archipelago known as the Aeolian (or Lipari) Islands, home to Vulcan and Stormbolli. The weather looks quite settled and I am looking forward to a good trip. Hopefully we can sail a bit and maybe, just maybe, catch a fish.

05/27/14

I finally managed to leave Turkey. That was a relief except for getting completely bent over by the Turkish Customs officers. I had all the correct paperwork and old parts to receive my tax back on the new engine but the officers couldn’t be bothered to come out in the rain and inspect in the deepest parts of Slick. When the inspection officer had to climb into Slick’s tiny engine compartment and try to see the serial number on the new engine he had had enough. When he asked about the other things on the receipt and I explained where they were located he simply said he can’t refund my taxes. They didn’t like that I had sectioned Perky into a few pieces to be able to put her back on the boat and that the parts I was taking out were installed. Then they told me that I must have an inspection of everything before it comes out of the boat and before the new stuff goes in. This is completely wrong but after four hours of arguing and talking to the regional Inspector their was nothing I could do. It didn’t help that the agent I hired was particularly inexperienced and had never handled a tax return before. He was also a complete coward. I am fairly certain that the tax exempt receipt is pretty much a way to get your hopes up when buying large ticket items and that Turkish Customs exist solely to find every excuse not to give you a refund, thus insuring you leave with a sour taste of Turkey. That night I motored in the rain to Buzacalle and had dinner with a family that runs a restaurant in the bay. I stayed with them awhile last year and enjoyed seeing them again. I only spent one night, but they have a brand new dock and Slick liked the tie-up. At least the non-bureaucratic Turks are still nice people, so some adoration for the country was restored.


The next day I sailed for Kos, in the Dodecanese of Greece. It was a long motor sail but nice to finally put Turkey behind me and start the long journey back to America. The first sail for Slick after the refit was in 25 knots of true breeze and to windward. It was a bit of a screamer and she handled it great on just a very reefed jib. Yanni did the motoring part well too, so far I am very happy with the new Yanmar. Upon arrival in Kos, I called the marina and asked for a night and to check in, they invited me in but the fairway was dead down wind. I asked the marinero for an easy slip and some help since I was alone. I may have been going a little fast down the fairway since there was 25 knots pushing me, even with the engine in reverse. The marinero got pretty upset yelled some obscenities (in English) and told me to leave, he then put his little boat on Slick’s aft quarter and used all 60 horsepower to spin me around and ordered me to leave. I was a bit shocked as I had never been treated like that before in an marina and especially not when asking for help in adverse docking conditions. Not a nice first impression of Greece, but also not a correct one. I went to the town harbor and had no problems and everyone was very friendly. With some help from the dock manager Slick was med moored on laid moorings and I started the check-in process. It was easy and I was happy to finally be legal after a long two day transit, so I treated myself to a gyro.


The whole reason to come to Kos was for the return of Nathan. He managed to find Slick the next morning and he was quite timid to cross the new (slightly used) passarial that someone had given me last year. I can’t really blame him as it is sort of scary. When I was putting it up a zephyr came across the bay and before I could move the rig Jocylin started trying to eat the metal bar. It clipper all her blades about four inches shorter. She is much quieter now. Anyway, it was quite nice to get Nate back on board so after he got settled in, we went through all the parts he brought and had a few beers to catch up. We were so successful that we had a few more and of course, some gyros.


From Kos we sailed to the island of Kalimnos, on the east side of the entrance is a little fjord (not by the technical definition) and the village of Vathi, we pulled into and had a wide open dock for our first attempt at team-Med-mooring with the anchor. The anchor switch I installed at the helm is invaluable and we looked like we were good at it, at least that was what the dock committee had to say. Slick was crooked though, but that was because we are not that good at it. The harbor was quaint and full of very tiny fishing boats in all colors, but mostly white and blue. These things are tiny and so are the fish they catch. This is part of the magic of the Aegean I guess. We left for Antipalaia the next day and had a 25 knot-off-the-wind sail and it it was nice to move along at 7.5 knots on a reefed working jib. Slick was fast and smooth and the new bottom felt great, although it was a bit lumpy as there is such a short fetch for such winds the waves don’t really have a chance to develop as in the open seas. We anchored off a small village in flat evening calm and made a run to shore, mostly just to introduce Nathan to Mutley. The outboard terrified him almost as much as the passarail.


The next day was a long motor to Santorini. This is an enormous caldera with the crater rim lined with stereotypical Greek Island white houses with blue trim. From a distance it looks a bit like a rock that birds spend a lot of time on rising out of the sea, but up close it is beautiful. While it may look nice its full of cruise ships and we spent the better part of two hours driving to every corner of the crater trying to find a place to anchor for the night. It was all very steep-to and finally we ended up on the cone in the center. After we got the hook down between a massive volcanic plug and the center of the cone we realized it was still active. Oops, well, we are only staying the night, and it was a very peaceful night.

A mean southerly wind was scheduled so we had to run and find some shelter. Normally the wind blows from the north-west here. It does so much it has a name, the Meltemi. In winter and early spring though it isn’t so active and when a southerly comes it is usually really bad. We headed for Paros and anchored off the town. It was quite nice their and we took the opportunity to inspect the rig. Much to my dismay I found that both my lower shrouds had broken wires. When I last inspected it, at the end of last season it looked great. We rode out the blow (40 knots on the hook, new chain worked great) all night and didn’t drag an inch. The wind died and was then scheduled to pick back up again so we took the opportunity to move into the town quay to be a little more comfortable, and have better access to gyros.

When the weather returned to normal we headed to Siros. We originally wanted to go to Mykonos to see the most touristy place in all of the Greek Aegean but the broken stays took priority. Being the capital of the Cyclades and the largest city in the sea we thought it would be our best chance to find the parts. We arrived and found an abandoned, not quite complete, marina outside of town where anyone can tie up for free. It could be world class marina if they just finished it and its a real shame that it is becoming dilapidated. In any case, we tried unsuccessfully to find the bits for the rig but had a nice walk about town. It had amazing marble streets that were very slippery. We decided to go to Lavrion on the mainland to try to find the parts next since this is the center of the charter services in the Aegean. We failed again and just relegated ourselves to more gyros.

Finally we decided to go to Piraeus, a suburb of Athens, where all the marine parts in Greece come from. In Greece you have to check in to every port that has a coast guard station if you dock your boat there. Well, everywhere I had tied up since checking in either didn’t have a station or they never opened. The Hellinistic Coast Guard in the port was not at all happy with me and were even a bit rude. I was surprised because everywhere else they are really friendly. After talking to the other cruisers, it is just this one station and they have quite a reputation for it.

We were staying in the expensive marina (they are all expensive) and were originally going to avoid it because of the bad reviews I had heard and read (not the marina or the staff, but the location and Athens in general). I found these to all be false, or at least I had a much better experience. We located a rigger named George almost right away and got the lower stays taken down. He had them made for me the next day and we reinstalled them so Slick has a sound rig again. His service was excellent and I really recommend him. After spending some time talking with the rigger and looking at the pieces I really feel that the swages where over swaged when they were made just five years ago back in Boston. This really upset me mainly because they have never been over-stressed and shouldn’t have failed so soon, especially not both of them. This, combined with the swages being bent leads me to believe they were manufactured improperly. It was especially annoying since I purposefully used the best rigger in New England and paid a dear sum to have the rig redone, specifically so I wouldn’t have these sort of problems. Lesson learned, again. To feel better about things, we had gyros, actually jumbo ones, twice the size of normal ones. I think I had to lay down after that one.


While we were in Athens we decided we had better go and visit the Acropolis and all the rest of the main sites. The piles of stacked rocks were impressive enough to justify taking the whole day and walk through the city. I was imagining Athens to be something like a safer version of Cairo after all I had heard. In reality though I found it to be a perfectly tolerable city and we enjoyed the friendly and helpful Greeks and all the availability of things in the city. The marina was quite highly priced though so after the rig was repaired and touring and shopping done we had to leave.

We then made for the Corinth Canal which separates the Peloponnese Peninsula from the mainland. This canal is the most expensive canal per mile in the world. And it was definitely spendy, 177 Euros for 3 miles. It was pretty amazing to transit through though as it is only two Slick-lengths wide and has steep cliff walls up through sediment and volcanic tuft. We had a small ship in front of us so the wash pushed us about a bit, but it was really an interesting transit.

My impressions of Greece are certainly mixed. On one hand I can only really blame myself and the route for some more or less crappy sailing. Most people start in the Ionian and head to Turkey, not the other way around. I, on the other hand, spend the entire time heading to windward. This normally isn’t a problem since the wind doesn’t blow but when it blows it really blows. The fishing is terrible too, not one hit in almost 300 miles. The scenery in the Aegean is not particularly beautiful. It is very much a desert and reminds me of where I grew up, if it was flooded with water so only the hill tops existed as islands. I find Med-mooring interesting and Nate and I are getting better at it, but the real scary part now is when someone wants to park next to us, some of the skippers are really bad, worse than us even. One nice part though is that you park usually on the town pier and there are cafe’s and bars all along and it is usually the center of the town. This can get a bit tiring with all the gawkers but then you just pull in bow-to. In general Greeks are really friendly too, although they don’t seem to work all that hard. The unemployment is rampant and obvious and we have heard some terrible stories about it. Most of the new structures you see are funded by the other members of the EU and when you meet a German or a Frenchmen they are quite condescending although it is somewhat understandable. We just wonder if being from the countries that fund this one if you get some sort of discount, but I guess not. On the other hand, Greeks have the lowest suicide rate and one of the lowest crime rates in the EU so they must be doing something right. The part I find most sad though is how many of the towns seem to have given up every bit of their own local culture and embraced what one expects to find on a Greek holiday. In this sense many of the places have become caricatures of themselves just for tourists, which seems to be about the only industry. Anyway, so far its pretty easy and kind of fun, especially with Nathan here. But it certainly wouldn’t be on my top ten list of world cruising destinations. I hear the Ionian is better though, but we will only get a few short days there then head to Montenegro to pick up another crew member. Sadly, I hear there are no gyros there.

05/04/14

The unthinkable has finally happened – Slick is in the water and all the work is complete! It feels fantastic to have completed the list and cleaned the boat and be floating in the water instead of suspended in a dust bowl. Its only three weeks late but our stint on land is finally over.


It took a great deal of effort to get the work finished up. The weather was not the most cooperative as it’s April and rains a lot. The work in the end was completed really well. There were a few screw ups along the way. The most delaying of which was mixing two much barrier coat at once and it started to set off before it was applied. This resulted in a lumpy finish. I was not happy and after some discussion with the contractor they sanded it off and tried again. There is never time to do it right but always time to do it over, as they used to tell us in a former life. There are some other practices here that are sort of annoying, like reusing rollers or thinning the paint so much you can really cover big areas. But eventually the bottom was finished and then Slick got her boot stripe replaced. It looks great and the guys did a magnificent job. Finally the last thing was the stripe between the bottom paint and the boot stripe. I wanted this in white anti-fowling. The contractor showed up with dover-white which is more like light grey (think bird poop). I wasn’t happy and after some more discussion the contractor then went on to find the right color. It was late Sunday evening and all the shops were closed, so he borrowed some from another shop and it came out great. I don’t know why that was so hard.


At first the delays were not so bad, they gave me time to complete a bunch of other projects. Well, that was the first week of them anyway. The other two were annoying. The first project was to disassemble the old engine so I could pick it up. I tore it down to just the block and crank. The reason I have to do this is in order to get my taxes back on the new one I much present the old one to customs upon check out. I have to take it to them, on the boat. Then I am told I am expected to leave Turkey with it. Well, the old engine weighed 600 pounds and there was no way I was going to be able to pick it up, see I just don’t work out that much anymore. So I tore it down and still the heaviest of those pieces is about 250 pounds. British engineers certainly built those little 4-108s to go to war. It had the biggest crank shaft I think I have ever seen on such a small diesel and everything was way overbuilt. This is good though, I guess that is what you want. Its a shame really that I have to toss it as I am sure it could have been rebuilt. A couple of engine shops offered me 500 lira for it, which is about all it is probably worth, but to the Turkish Taxman its worth about $2000. Sorry guys.


The dodger came together nicely too. I am actually really happy with it, considering my sewing abilities. If I had paid a professional I might have a different opinion but I got to make all the same mistakes for free. It took sewing, lots and lots of sewing. I installed lights in it too, and will add a rain catcher in the future. It gets a lot of comments on the docks and is much cooler underneath than a fabric dodger. In the end, I am really glad I made it and I hope it performs well at sea. I don’t know that I ever want to go through that again, but if I do at least I have some better experience for an iteration, since I think I made every possible mistake. Slick is very happy with her new hat too.


Finally I installed the bowsprit that I had made downtown. It was sort of a last minuted thing and was not so expensive. I also didn’t put a whole lot of thought into it. It fits up nicely and was easy to install. I can imagine how much better the kite will fly with this. It has a way out position and when this seemed too long (is that even possible?) I decided to add a shortened position too. I think I will also put a dolphin striker on it but I could only find cast pad-eyes here, I think I want one that is drop forged. The cast one was cheap so I bought one. When I asked the load rating I was assured I could pick my boat up by it. Hmm, interesting spec, I wonder if they test that on calibrated equipment.


Slick’s big day came and as always the time of launch was one of contention. First at 9, then 11, then after lunch. Finally at 5:30 pm she was whisked away to the launch pool. The yard is a bit behind and so they used the 300 ton travel lift to put us in the water. That made Slick look like a toy. In any case, she floated, on the first try. Then the engine guys came down to be there for the first run, and it started right up with little to no priming. Wow, these Yanmar’s pump a lot of water. Well, just about anything would pump more than old Perky.


When we finally got off the dock, it turns out that the cable on my transmission is backwards, so when I go in reverse Slick goes forwards and vice versa. I will just have to get used to this though as the throttle lever housing is corroded shut and I broke several drill bits trying to drill it out. I can live with this but I am sure I will make a mistake at least once or twice or ten times. We Med-moored up to the pontoon. The marina put us in a slip that was too skinny for Slick and after some pushing and a little rope easing we fit in. I don’t really like this Med-moring business. It seems to me that it is a good way to damage a lot of boats. Plus doing it buy yourself is not easy at all. I think it might be the single hardest boat maneuver one can do alone, I am not sure. The new swim step proved helpful though and it is also where the passarial mounts.


Two days ago we went out for the engine shakedown run and warranty tests. What a great sounding and running engine. The top speed through the water was a little over 8 knots and the cruising speed should be somewhere around 5.5 to 6, which is faster than I ever was able to take Perky. There is some vibration in the shaft though and they would like me to get it replaced as soon as possible. I think that means Boston, or at least the next haul-out, but I am not sure. Also, for some reason the prop has about 2 milimeters of play in it. I didn’t discover this until she was getting launched, I had to reassure myself by beating on it with a hammer. It passed that test. Anyway, the company that sold me the engine, Marlin, is by far the best company I dealt with the entire time in Turkey and I recommend them to anyone who comes through here.

Now that we are floating I had a few more projects to do. I repaired the main sail and sewed a seam that was never sewn in the first place (it was glued but not sewn) on the cutter I have. I made some bed covers and hopefully have enough fabric left over to get new cushions made for the interior when the trip is over. I purchased and installed a used dinghy crane and fitted the passarial (its scary). The sails are bent on and the boat is rigged. There really isn’t much left to do but leave. First stop customs to clear out and get rid of the old engine. Next stop, Greece!