Sunday, February 17, 2013

Arctic Downwind Groove

Leaving Svalbard, Sailing downwind near 77 North Latitude


Surfing Across the Arctic Circle!

3 August 2012 

at 0600 Listening to the DOORS "Riders on the Storm".... 


Harnessed in, with 30 knots of wind behind us we surfed at speeds of 10-14 knots across the 3 meter (cold 4c /39f ) Norwegian Sea waves



Sunday, September 2, 2012

Arctic Respect

30 days ago we sailed out of the locks at Den Helder Holland happily leaving the Jongert Shipyard behind in our wake. We were now bound for Svalbard and the Polar Ice Cap a true Arctic Cruising Expedition.

It’s hard to articulate all of the emotions and logistics of moving back on board Vivid and getting back on the water after living on land for 8 months during the refit of Vivid.  To put this in perspective: In the past 11 years, I have not lived on land longer than a few weeks! I guess it would be like you moving back into your home and land-based life routine after 11 years away at sea. 

I have just had my first few real nights sleep in over a month.  In the last 30 days we have sailed over 2400 nm, including crossing the Arctic Circle, a stop in Lofoton N. Norway, an amazing 10 day cruise of Svalbard, sailing over the 80 degree N. latitude line and sailing along the edge of the Arctic Polar Ice Cap. 

Today we are pinned in up here at 78 13N 15 35E - in Svalbard.  We are patiently waiting for a gale force low-pressure system to clear its way out of our path South.   We have about 3700 miles ahead of us to reach Spain when we pick up anchor and leave the North behind. The severe weather systems are one of the risks that come with cruising in the extreme high latitudes this late in the season. 

The best of the cruising season in the Arctic is about 2 months long.  We are past that now and the gale force weather systems are starting to dominate the Greenland, Barent and Norwegian Seas, as summer turns to winter with no “in-between” season.  

I will breath a much easier when we get south of the Arctic Circle and down to warm water again and have a few months before we sail to the South Extreme High Latitude’s.  

This truly has been a proper Arctic experience, with everything from: Hungry Polar bears, explosively calving glaciers to beautiful serene anchorages changing that can change there attitude in a few hours to become unwelcome ice choked anchorages.

I have come to find my self with a jaw dropping awe and admiration for this remote arctic area’s beauty.  It is never static and is always changing; one minute - sunny vivid blue skies the next you have, rainbow outlined snow squalls. 

I do find my self cautiously tempered with a critical respect and appreciation for the extreme dynamic’s of the fast changing unforgiving weather, ice and in general the forces of nature that are unique to high latitude cruising.   

Two real life “hit close to home” stories that build this cautious respect and are sad reminders of how serious you must take the nature of cruising around ice and cold water: 

6 Years ago when we cruised West Greenland, 4 yachts went up to Greenland and only 3 came out.  One ill prepared boat got too close to a Glacier it calved and sank the boat.  Luckily a tour operator quickly plucked the crew and guests from a certain frozen death.

Two days ago, 5 miles from where I am writing, a tourist was killed while sightseeing near a glacier.  Sadly the tour operated RIB (small boat) was to close to a Glacier when it calved.  Ice fell on the women’s head.

Respect, caution, safety and awesome appreciation….

15 August:
We are anchored in front of a in the jaw-dropping beautiful Fjortende Jlibreen Glacier.  We are in the last weeks of the Midnight Sun, where it is daylight 24 hours a day.  Night becomes Day and Day is Day.  The energy and stamina that you have is noticeably different when it is 0100 and it is as light out as 11 in the morning.  It is so silent here, all you here are the birds and the ice popping like rice krispies.  Randomly your attention is thrown to the glacier with a massive thundering percussion.  As sound travels slower than the actual glacier calving event you look in time to see a chunk of ice the size of your garage fall into the water creating a huge spray and then local tsunami.   It is a spectacular sight, almost better than the best fireworks finale you have ever seen.  I hope for future generations that we are not watching the Polar Ice finale. 

0200  We are surrounded by ice.  As I come on for my anchor watch I find our picturesque glacier front anchorage is rapidly deteriorating.  The anchorage is full of ice and more is pouring in from nearby glaciers.  To mix things up a bit throw in a thick fog pushing in.  Time to pick up the anchor and gently push our way out, minding the brand new paint job!

To make things challenging in the last 48 hours we have lost our depth sounder, and our entire compass generated electronic navigation equipment.   It is time for “old school” navigation. I slowly steer and push ice along the plotted a course for the opposite lee shore, monitor the measured distance off the rock cliffs and navigate around the large mini-van sized ice chunks are stopped on the shallow water ledges.


I am very aware how incredibly fortunate I am to to be doing what I love and to be working for someone that I have great admiration and respect for.  I am just now comprehend what we have accomplished in the last 30 days.  Fantastic experiences and memories that will last a lifetime….

As winter is quickly closing in here it is time to sail south, we have about 3000 miles ahead of us starting tomorrow.  The compass course will be easy to remember from watch to watch.  South (180). 


28 Aug. 

As a young kid my Dad continued to teach me to sail on the  24” Kittiwake brand sailboat.  She was a sleek 24” low freeboard, shoal draft solid sailing boat.  Today as we coast slowly away from the massive and incredibly beautiful Blomstrandhamma Glacier in Klongsfjorden Svalbard, we are surrounded by Kittiwakes in the water bathing themselves.  Full circle.

Back then sailing the 24 foot Kittiwake that bore the name “Engender” .  This was the name that my Dad carried on the four sailboats that he sailed over the years.   I do not think that I really ever grasped the full meaning of why my Dad chose that name for his first boat (#100 Interlake - a 18 foot sailboat) and stayed loyal to it for the boats to come...

Back then sailing on the Engender's, My Dad could not get the tiller out of my hand.  Now that I think of it, I don’t think he wanted to take it from me.  He would sit back, beer in hand enjoying the company of his friends, and occasionally toss me a smile and nod as I would sit quietly for hours sailing the Kittiwake named Engender. 

I just looked up the word “Engender” again in the dictionary (on-line dictionary!).  

I think I am beginning to understand my Dad’s purpose and meaning of the name Engender on all of his boats.

- To make people have a particular feeling or make a situation start to exist

- To make happen, To produce or bring about, To bring into existence, To originate

I used to be resent and be critical of my Dad for not giving me more “life guidance”.  Sadly, I quietly felt this when he died as well.  Why did you not sit me down and talk through life and what I should do, who I should become, How I will get there...... 

I can only laugh now at how silly this was. 

Looking at the  “big picture” of my life so far – I wonder if some how, way back then sailing on the Maumee Bay and Ottawa River that the more he “Engendered” my early passion for sailing the more I would be prepared for a rewarding and fulfilled life of doing what I love.  

I am pretty sure he did, and that all of that “Engender” time helped prepare me for sailing today in this extreme part of the world near the polar ice cap and to be living a life, doing what I love. 

Message in a Bottle: Part 2

On my recent birthday in Svalbard Norway, I was very fortunate to be surrounded by an super interesting group of new friends, mostly adventurers and in all representing about six different countries.

Giggi from Austria (our Awesome Arctic 
Guide/Polar Bear Protection), presented me with a special bottle of rum. He told me the story of how the bottle has travelled many miles on the sea and has crossed the Equator and the Meridian a few times. He asked me to carry it back over the equator and towards the South Pole and Antartica.

I gladly accepted the task.

I then passed a card around the room and asked everyone to write a message "to the world" in their own language.

I shared that I would not only take it to Antartica but that I would securely seal the bottle, and with a proper "Message in a Bottle" ceremony I would release it to the Oceans currents.

Then I went on to tell them this story...... (follow the link)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Athens Greece Street Art

Love it or Hate it... It is ART.  

Recently I spent an exhilarating day immersing my self in the underground world of the Athens Greece graffiti. I ran around the city with one of the underground world's well known "writers" and learned all about the culture, the psyche of the "writers", the different graffiti styles, and the strategy used to do the big pieces and to tag trains.  

Since my days living in Venice Beach California, I have always been drawn to graffiti. The colors, the styles and the mystery of how it takes place. That curiosity found my self wandering the streets of Athens mesmerized by all of the graffiti. I stumbled on a "graffiti shop". A shop that supplies high end spray paints and supplies to the street artists. After convincing the store owner that I was not a cop, and that I wanted to learn more about the graffiti world in Athens. He agreed to introduce me the following morning to the hottest young graffiti artist in town, Asod.

Together Asod and I walked, ran, rode buses and trains and weaved in and out of ghetto neighborhoods looking at graffiti. The whole time he would be telling me about the various artists, crews, styles etc. One of the most interesting stories was how they disable the train systems electric to shut it down for a few minutes to do a piece. In the same story he shared that one of his mates died last month being run over by a train because he did no stop painting in time as the train started up again.

 The graffiti in Athens is sometimes dark and sends a strong message of the current situation in the city. One difference between a "normal" artist and a street "writer" is that a normal artist may work on a piece for weeks in the secure comfort of the studio. A street writer averages 5 minutes or less on a piece with the threat of being caught at any moment and going to jail, or get run over by a train. This is the buzz for the street "writers"...

Enjoy the photos.... Love it or hate is ART!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Three Somali Pirates Face Death Penalty Responsible for SV Quest Killings

Three Somali Pirates Face Death Penalty
Saturday, 9 July 2011

Three of the suspected Somali pirates alleged to be responsible for their part in the death of four US citizens onboard the US yacht, SV Quest, are facing the death penalty; according to press reports from Saturday, 9 July. It was reported that Ahmed Muse Salad, Abukar Osman Beyle and Shani Nuraniu Shiekh Abrar were originally charged with piracy and kidnapping which has a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. However, a new indictment against the suspects carries fresh charges alleging that the suspects were directly responsible for the death of the US sailors. The new charges carry the death penalty, and the suspects face arraignment on 20 July.

SV Quest was hijacked approximately 400 nm east of Salalah on 18 February with four US citizens onboard. A boarding team from a US frigate was dispatched on 22 February when gunfire originating from onboard the yacht was heard. However, when the team was able to board SV Quest, they discovered that all the hostages had been shot. Four pirates lost their lives during the incident and a number of pirates were detained. Eleven other suspects involved in the hijacking have reportedly pleaded guilty to piracy which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.