Showing posts from 2013

Our Year in Review

The last day of the year is here. I tend to always reflect on what I've accomplished and where I may have side stepped progress. It helps me frame my mind set for the year to come. I am a goal-oriented person and I feel lost if I do not have some objective set for myself, something to strive for.  By looking back, I can gaze forward and see what needs to be done. 
It's been a remarkable year in the world. The Ukrainian revolution is particularly poignant to me as I am of Ukrainian-American descent. There will be much written about 2013.  So here is the story of us.  

We've made it out of the darkness and into the light...Happy Winter Solstice!

I wait for this day every year. For months, it has been getting darker, and noticeably accelerating. For a writer, this is not a terrible thing, as it means there are fewer distractions. I do not feel compelled to go outside after say 1530 when the sun has already sunk behind the hills and the loss of daylight is looming shortly.

Last year, for the first time, I suffered a bout of depression through this period. All through the Fall I felt myself sinking into a depth from which it felt increasingly difficult to crawl out. This year, a whole different sense was about me. I started looking forward to Christmas and the Winter Solstice knowing that it was the turning point to another exciting year -- a year of promise and hope of accomplishments in business and adventures in sailing.

Then I realized that something even bigger was happening. I realized that not only had I crawled out of the hole, I had scaled a mountain.  I found light and an understanding in the pagan sense that one must…

Why did the sailor cross the ocean? To get to other side of course!

Or not. 
I am a proud member of the Ocean Cruising Club, and have been drafted onto the Committee. As part of my responsibilities, I have taken on the very first PR Officer role, have become the head of the Communications Subcommittee, joined the Website subcommittee as a contributing member and co-chair the Awards Committee. Phew. 
That last aspect, the Awards, has gotten me to thinking. Lots of people sail. Far more cross oceans than ever before. It's not enough today to circumnavigate the world the way Joshua Slocum or even Moitessier did. Today, to stand out as worthy of an award, one must really do something extraordinary.

Last year's most extraordinary award recipients included Matt Rutherford. He crossed the Atlantic first because he felt driven to get to the other side.  He rode his bicycle across Southeast Asia before that.  Then he learned about sailing, so he bought a boat and crossed the Atlantic. He learned that CRAB needed funding so he then circumnavigated the …

Crowdsourced review of satellite images can help rescue the schooner Nina

There is a fascinating story of the attempts of family and friends of the people lost aboard the schooner Nina to locate her using satellite imagery.  They have secured assistance from many places including a service called Tomnod to crowdsource review of the millions of square miles of ocean represented in the images.  They have 13,000 volunteers reviewing the images and tagging potential ships, liferafts and other objects.  The idea is that if enough people tag an item, they can then look at it more carefully to determine if it could be the Nina.

It's a fascinating development in Search and Rescue technology.  The thought that satellites can help locate missing vessels is certainly intriguing. The point made in the article that if the SAR includes satellite imagery in the vicinity of a distress call, it could make a huge difference in located the vessel in distress in a hurry without putting rescuers in danger.

This is amazing!  I've signed up. Give it a whirl if you have a…

Black Friday leaps across the Atlantic

Black Friday, traditionally the biggest shopping day in the US which marks the beginning of the Christmas "shopping season", has now crossed over the Atlantic wreaking havoc across Northern Ireland. Shoppers queued from 5 am at stores in anticipation of the bargains announced for the day. The stampedes caused at least one shopper injury and spread fear among the workers in the shoppes.

Achill-henge, a monument to the Celtic Tiger, continues to roar

Two years ago, Joe McNamara, one time developer and native of Achill, Ireland's largest island, frustrated by the rise and fall of Ireland's economy known as the Celtic Tiger, launched a mysterious plot. By the light of the moon on a cold Friday 25 November 2011, 30 trucks arrived on Achill carrying loads of concrete and building materials. They carried the materials up the hills onto commonage lands high above the village of Pollagh, obscured from direct view from roads and homes. By Sunday evening, under the cover of darkness, they had constructed a structure soon after dubbed Achill-henge.

Boaters make better lovers

Impulse Research Corporation, Los Angeles, USA conducted a survey of nearly 1,100 Americans on-line. The survey queried 542 boat owners and 536 non-boat owners. The survey commissioned by the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) finds boat owners report higher levels of satisfaction in marriage and romance than non-boaters. In addition, many key areas of life, including overall well being, friendship, spirituality, health, work, leisure, sleep and finances, are more likely to be rated "excellent" or "very good" by boat owners than by their non-boat-owning counterparts.

Hurricane season in the Atlantic comes to a fizzling close

When I read NOAA's Atlantic hurricane season summary yesterday, I wondered how they could the pronounce the end of the hurricane season almost a week before its official ending on November 30. This from their report:

"The 2013 Atlantic hurricane season, which officially ends on Saturday, Nov. 30, had the fewest number of hurricanes since 1982, thanks in large part to persistent, unfavorable atmospheric conditions over the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea, and tropical Atlantic Ocean. This year is expected to rank as the sixth-least-active Atlantic hurricane season since 1950, in terms of the collective strength and duration of named storms and hurricanes."

Cruising Rallies... what is it that leads some boats to succeed and others to fail?

The Salty Dawg Rally has caused a maelstrom of discussion on the cruising forums.  It's easy to second guess the decisions made when you weren't there making them. We like to give the benefit of doubt, but we are most certainly not proponents of organized rallies.

None of us can cross oceans with any guarantees. But the choices we make can have a big impact on the results. In our cruising experience, we have noted that people who were on a schedule were often the ones who encountered problems. Schedules make you compromise. Schedules can make you do things you might not have otherwise done, like rushing to get off before you are ready or before that storm system passes by. It applies equally to sailors who have to meet crew at specific times in different places and to those who cruise in company on a schedule. 

Small world

I noticed a note in my inbox in Facebook. Then I noticed the inbox next to it that says "Other". I remembered that this is the box where Facebook stows stuff it thinks you don't want to see. I wish Facebook would just stopping trying to think for me. They always get it wrong. In it were multiple messages from friends and one astonishing one.

Coming home the fast way

I admit it. I really hate air travel. This was no exception. Our trip from Paris to Ireland West Knock could have been disastrous. It turned out okay, but a story nonetheless.

The time had changed overnight from GMT+1 to GMT. 'Spring ahead - Fall back' is the mnemonic I always use to know which way the clocks change.  Well, Alex's mother had different ideas. Many of which just did not correlate with being on time in the morning. Suffice it to say, we got up at 6, were at breakfast by 7 and on the road by 7:30.

Paris in the Fall

I don’t really like cities, but Paris is an exception. I don’t like how dirty it is. One feels grimy just walking around. The streets are littered. The buildings are turning black. But there’s a je sais quoi about the place that is unlike any place else.
Alex and Meike arrived Wednesday late. Thursday morning we went to the Orangerie to see the Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera exhibit. I was glad to see Frida had top billing.  We could not get in. The cue was at least 5 hours long to get tickets. But I discovered there was a shorter cue for people with tickets…less than an hour long. So we went to the Musee d’Orsay instead, bought tickets good for both exhibits and vowed to go back the next morning bright and early. Paris museum strategy. Very important.

The Church of the Holy Brand

It's about 20 degrees C ( that's room temperature) in Paris and sunny. You wouldn't know it's so warm because everyone is wearing coats and scarves and boots. That's what one wears in October in Paris. I have a meeting in the morning and then the rest of the day is mine. I have decided that shopping is in order.

I walked and walked and walked today. That's also what one does in Paris. It is somehow very reassuring to come to a foreign city and know your way around. Alex and I were here just a couple of years ago. We went everywhere on foot and by Metro. We stayed at a small boutique hotel and because we liked it we chose to stay in the same hotel again this time.

Three dimentional sailing

How very different air travel is from sailing to a destination on a cruising sailboat. Here I sit in the airport having struggled with baggage from car to train to bus to airport. My flight is 4 hours from now. At least the airport has wifi to entertain me. And I have everything in reverse to look forward to at the other end after traveling in three dimentions across thousands  of miles in few hours.
Groups of children are huddled in corners with their iPads waging their next intergallactic war. I am surrounded by tourists of various shapes, sizes, colours and tongues. There is the rather large German Zha Zha Gabor wanna be who never was. The aging American flower children stuck in the California of the 70s. The vast Canadian ordering multiple triple decker sandwiches. The African immigrants making a pilgrimmage home. And on it goes. The world is vastly multicultural and airline travel accentuates every aspect.

Piracy warning

As Pirates Attack a Super Tanker in the Indian Ocean, Naval Forces and Sailing Groups Warn Yachts to Avoid High Risk Areas
A British based group of naval and cruising organizations formed a working group called EUNAVFOR Somalia to tackle piracy and its threat to yachts transiting dangerous waters. Today, the group has issued a new warning against yachts going there.  You can read the text and view the evidence supporting the position here
The Ocean Cruising Club, one of the organizations involved and of which I am a member, is developing additional resources based on the collective experience of our members.  Check here for updates regularly.

Taking our time in Galway

Putting Aleria to bed and taking in the city In the morning, the harbourmaster's team took away the boat that was in our slip.  Then we had to maneuver Aleria from one slip into the other. No easy task for our lady of poor reverse. Usually, springing her around allows us to bring the stern around. But there just wasn't enough room without bow thrusters.  Alex managed to get her close without bumping into anything and thankfully, Brian came down to assist.  I threw him a spring then the midships line and jumped ashore with the stern line. Piece of cake. Now about a half hour of adjusting docklines until she was just right in the slip with chafe protectors in position and we were set. 

The last sail of the season

Inishbofin to Galway - the best sail of the year! When dawn broke, it was even colder. But the sunrise was glorious, even though 'red sky at morning, sailors warning' usually means bad stuff coming. We pulled anchor at first light and headed out just ahead of Brian. As we set sails, the wind was a steady 15 knots -just out of the NE instead of the forecast NW. It stayed on the beam most of the way. It was a slightly fluky day with the wind dropping down to less than 10 knots then charging up to 20+, but that made it interesting and exhilarating.

Delivery in October

Clew Bay to Inishbofin - spectacular! We'd done little sailing since returning from Scotland in August. 'Things' like weather and birthdays and business matters and novels -- the writing of one -- kept getting in the way.  When it came time to put Aleria away for the winter, we were once again confronted with a dilemma. She's a big lady for this part of the world to handle. Our options were to bring her up on shore like we did in the past or haul her out like we did in the spring. Neither option had proven entirely reliable. She just doesn't like to sit on the hard. Alex actually thought she'd be best off on her mooring, which would have given me palpitations all winter long.

Summer is back.

Fall morphs into Indian Summer? Just as we were making plans for hauling out, the weather turned. Fall morphed into summer once again and this week's blue skies yielded temperatures in the 90s F in the sun and 75F in the shade. That of course makes us want to go sailing. But is the weather god simply taunting us or are we the beneficiaries of climate change for good. Who knows? Who cares?  It's glorious!!!

So who wants to work?  This is the problem I've been dealing with in Ireland. I've always been a proponent that weekends should come when the weather is fine. In Ireland, the winter is dark and bone chilling, perfect weather for working day and night as you cannot tell which is which for much of it.

Winter is coming!

Preparing to haul AleriaAleria is a rather big handfull of boat. At 57 feet and 27 tons, it takes a bit of effort to lift her, not to mention move her.  She also needs a bit of space around her, which isn't always easy to find. This was her lift in this past spring.  It took two cranes and lots of prayers. I am already biting my nails about the lift out this Fall. Oh, woe is me. We need to move south like to Spain where she can stay in the water all winter. Now there's an idea.

So here we are searching for one crane big enough that can haul her alone, or two that can do it together. Logistically, it has to be done only at high tide or we'll be stuck in the mud careened at the Quay in Westport. Not the best thing for her to do.

So we're calling around to see who is going to be in the vicinity at the time we need. Let's hope we find someone soon.

Blowing stink

Weather, the ever challenging concern for the blue water sailor Our sailing club cancelled racing for today several days ago when it became clear that we would be experiencing gale force conditions with periods of storm force winds from the wee hours of Sunday into the late hours of Monday.  Right now, we have driving rain and we've already had 23 mm of it.  There are sunny spells in between but the wind is relentless. I worry about Aleria out on her mooring. But she's been through worse out there on her own.

The cyclonic system causing our weather is actually passing over Iceland so we are getting the southern portion of its rotation. We had westerlies yesterday and are now into southwesterlies so a big chunk has already passed by. No sailing this weekend.

Off to the Inishkeas

A typical cruiser's change of plans We were heading to the Inishkeas, a group of deserted islands off the Mullet peninsula in County Mayo, Ireland. The weather was supposed to be settled, with light northwesterly winds and patchy fog clearing by late morning. The anchorage is completely exposed to any easterly winds, so the forecast was perfect for a simple overnight stay. Our destination is only about 45 miles away and high tide was at 0820. Perfect. We could leave at 8 am and be there by late afternoon. Then we could return on the evening tide the next day.

I was really looking forward to exploring the deserted Inishkea homes, the ancient monastic settlement with beehive huts, and the remains of a whaling station. We hadn't done enough of that kind of thing this summer. And I was sure we'd be the only ones there on a Monday. The best thing about working for yourself is that

Planning an overnight getaway

Before the novel hits the virtual shelves...
We had been working hard for more than a year to get Alex's new novel completed. He started it last September when his mother broke her leg and we moved into her house to care for her, the house, and the farm. One day, Alex started writing. He wrote much and more, and then some more again. He was crazed, like a madman compelled to get every last word out of him. It was fascinating to watch. He didn't know where it came from or where it was heading, only that it had to come out.

Alex was doing research online for historical tidbits to weave in. He was delving into our personal experiences with and around 9/11, as we had been living nearby and had many friends affected by the tragedy. He was conjuring up characters that cobbled together bits and pieces of people he'd known in his life.  It was all a fascinating adventure.

Aleria's Jaunt to Scotland: 1 August 2013: Clew Bay, Ireland

There and back again – there's no place like home!

Once again, we marvelled at the beauty of Clew Bay as we prepared to bring Aleria back to her mooring. Every time we have left, we have REALLY felt good about coming home. This time was even more poignant. The west coast of Ireland has no match.

The house was immaculate. It hadn't been that clean since it was built. Our friend Siobhan who was house and kitty sitting for us did an amazing thing. We were afraid to touch anything as our fingerprints would be telltale!

Aleria's Jaunt to Scotland: 31 July 2013, Broad Haven to Clew Bay, Ireland

Making our way home to Clew Bay, bypassing the Inishkeas
The wind was < 2 knots on the nose, so motor boat we were once again. We left Broad Haven early, shortly after sunrise, as it would be a long day rounding Erris Head and Achill Head and high tide was mid-afternoon. We have a 15-foot tidal variation and need a minimum of half tide to get across a shellfish bed to our mooring.

We made it to the Inishkeas around 1130 and poked our nose into the anchorage. The Inishkeas are relatively flat and said to be much like the Outer Hebrides, which we had not made it to in Scotland. There is a wide expanse of sandy beach, abandoned houses, some being restored as summer holiday cottages, and lots of ruins. Another of St. Columba’s monastic settlements – the guy was like George Washington, he slept around – and the remains of a whaling station.  We toyed with anchoring and going ashore until we heard the weather forecast.

There was a small craft advisory warning announcing deteriorating co…

Aleria's Jaunt to Scotland: 30 July 2013, Broad Haven stopover

Flying Across Donegal Bay to Broad Haven Bay
We got up early to make the long trek back home.  Some time during the night, the wind had shifted and we now had quite a swell coming into the harbour.  It made getting out of bed pretty easy.
Alex was thinking we could make it all the way home to Clew Bay, but I wasn’t convinced. The sea was much more settled but still messy. And the wind, which was supposed to go west, went southwest. We managed to sail in glorious 15-knot breeze and mostly sunny conditions, with passing showers, all the way across Donegal Bay. It’s the most amazing feeling when you shut off the engine and the wind takes over in silence. Ahhhhh.
Our original destination was all the way to Clew Bay or a stop in Portnafrankagh, but the latter would have been untenable in a westerly. As the wind shifted, veering southerly, we knew we couldn’t make it home, which of course is due south.  We made two tacks around the Stags and sailed into Broad Haven on the North Mayo coas…

Aleria's Jaunt to Scotland: 29 July 2013, Teelin, on Donegal Bay

Harbour of refuge and the parking lot at the edge of the world
We left Gola early through the South Sound. The wind was to go westerly but it was southerly. And of course we wanted to go south all the way to Mayo.  We sailed southeast past Arranmore where we had stopped on the way up, then had to start motoring.  We were not looking forward to 10 hours of motoring while bashing into the wind.

Our goal was to cross Donegal Bay, a wide expanse of water where one shore is not visible from the other. But first we had to sail down the coast of Donegal.The Atlantic can be mighty unforgiving here. It bounces into tall cliffs and bounces back out to cross itself. And it was just awful out there. Bash bash bash. Bash Bash bash. Hour after hour. After a while it got really tedious.

Aleria's Jaunt to Scotland: 28 July 2013, Gola Island, Ireland

Getting Closer to God
We woke to a beautiful crisp morning with sunshine and puffy white clouds. We decided to go ashore for a morning exploratory visit. We stopped at the café/tourist information hut on the far side of town and saw photos of inhabitants from around the 1930s before the island was deserted in the 1960s.  This was a special exhibit for the weekend festival.  Decendants are now coming back and restoring the old homesteads.  Very interesting. Marie, the proprietor of the café, told us all about the people, the history and the current happenings.  They’ve laid on water and electricity and built two new piers. Yet, they are having difficulty with conservationists who want everything preserved to protect sensitive species.  The islanders are being forced into making all kinds of concessions to be permitted to restore their ancestral homes.

Aleria's Jaunt to Scotland: 27 July 2013, Tory Island, Donegal, Ireland

Tory artists and artifacts aplenty, but no King
Someday we'd like to come tour Mulroy Bay by small boat. It's supposed to be the most wild waterway in Ireland. From what we could see, I'd say that's true. But today we were heading off again.
It was yet another calm day but thunderstorms were forecast.  We hauled our anchor in Mulroy Bay destined for Gola in Donegal, but en route we decided to stop in Tory Island.  We are very glad we did. There were squalls and thunderstorms all around us and we kept thinking we’d get caught, but we somehow managed to miss them all except one little one.  There was  a persistent light rain which welcomed us back to Ireland. We’d had little rain in Scotland for almost an entire month.  The clouds made for a beautiful sky and we enjoyed the transit to Tory along the rugged coast of Donegal. 

Aleria's Jaunt to Scotland: 26 July 2013, Port Ellen, Islay, Scotland to Mulroy Bay, Ireland

Across the North Channel, Heading Home
There was heavy rain overnight, but it was generally calm and a gentle swell brought a sweet night of rest.  The ferry boomed us awake in the morning. Thick fog had wiped the world away. We were very glad to be anchored here away from town, rather than closer inside where the ferry turned.  You couldn’t see the boats we knew were anchored there…at least they had been there attached to the bottom the night before.
Typically, you shouldn't be starting a voyage on a Friday.  But this wasn't really starting a voyage; we were completing a circle. And we weren't really sure it was Friday. When you are cruising, you don't always know what day of the week it is. You know the date because you make log entries daily, but the day of the week can be elusive. Sometimes, they include it in the forecast on the VHF radio. Usually, I jot it down then. This time, we thought we might be off by a day or so. The days of the week all soon merge togeth…

Aleria's Jaunt to Scotland: 25 July 2013, Oronsay and Sound of Islay, Scotland

Gorgeous scenery, wildlife galore, and a lovely passage under a painted sky
We had to rise early to catch the south flowing current in the Sound of Islay. It would be a long day and once again there was no wind.
We headed out by 0800 and picked up a favourable flow past the Treshnish Isles towards Colonsay.  We passed close to the basaltic stacks off Iona and we realized we were early – at least 2 hours early and we now had a 1 knot current against us.  So why fight it?  We pulled into Oronsay for a visit.  Dropped anchor between the rocks and the island in the most beautiful spot yet. We thought we might have time to get to the priory but it was too far to walk in the time we had before the tide turned.

Aleria's Jaunt to Scotland: 24 July 2013, Loch Tuath, between Mull and Ulva

The day of the winds

It was heavily overcast, but a nice breeze of 10-15 knots as promised, as we prepared to get underway. We hoisted the main and mizzen and made way by 0830, heading down the Loch Harport with the tide but directly into the wind.  As we turned the last corner by the light house where we thought we’d be sailing, the wind started cranking up really fast: 20, 23, 25, 27, 29, 33.  Oh my, the boat ahead of us in full sail was getting hammered.  Suddenly, it was slammed to the water, broaching as it rounded up. 
Aleria is not as easy a pushover, but seeing that, Alex quickly went forward and double reefed the main as the wind stabilized at around 27 knots.  The boat ahead of us did the same. We suspected katabatic winds, and so we power sailed through it, mostly on the nose.  It suddenly dropped from 27 knots to 17, and we were sailing along quite nicely with Skye behind us whipping up our wake.  A katabatic wind originates from cooling of air atop a plateau, a mountain,…

Aleria's Jaunt to Scotland: 23 July 2013, Loch Harport, Skye,Scotland

Touching Skye in Scotland Mid-morning we headed over with the tide to mountainous Skye, which looked like the fabled Highlands to me.  This whole area was once connected to Greenland and North America at the equator.  But its peaks were formed by volcanos in more recent times. There are collapsed calderas noticeable everywhere.  Skye itself reaches up into the heavens and catches the clouds on its lofty peaks. It is spectacular, when you can see it. 
The sky darkened as we approached Skye and thunder started booming overhead.  There were small lightning discharges but nothing like what happens along the east coast of the US.  A heavy downpour washed off the boat and Alex, while Onyx and I suffered down below. We were concerned about bursts of wind but it really wasn't like that. We'd never seen such interesting and heavy cloud formations at every level above us. Cumulobimbos Alex always calls them.  There were rain showers all around us.  The scenery kept appearing and disapp…

Aleria's Jaunt to Scotland: 22 July 2013, Rum in the Small Isles, Scotland

Castles, calderas, and wildlife on Rum
We sailed downwind out of the harbour to Ardnamurchan Point where the wind died, so we motored until the wind came back up. Lovely.   We were heading for the Small Isles, and the topography had changed significantly. The hills were more ragged and peaked. Ardnamurchan is the remains of a volcano, as are the Small Isles – Muck, Eigg, Rum, and Canna. We were heading to Rum which consists of huge peaks covered with forest. Very distinctive.  We wondered why it was called Rum and not Whisky, but we didn't find any answers.