Sunday, July 20, 2014

Living


Living

I started dying when I was born

But I didn’t start living until I realised and accepted that dying was an integral part of living.

Each cell of every living creature is in a continual state of new growth, cell multiplication and also death.

The balance between cell growth and cell demise is the key to the extent of our existence.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Wave splashes to ashes, Wind gusts to dust


Wave splashes to ashes, Wind gusts to dust

I walked back along the pontoon dock, it was getting late, and the docks were calm and quiet. A small black dog came as to greet me as I headed towards Xplore.

The night had no wind and as I looked forward along the dock with this small dog closely following me I could see moored behind Xplore a small yacht that had arrived earlier in the day. On the dock stood a man and by his feet were two burner pots with a gentle flame flickering in each, giving a surreal glow to his boat and gentle shadows that moved and changed with the flames.

I came to pass him, and we said good evening, I could easily tell he wasn’t French, but from where I couldn’t say quickly enough. I commented at the robustness of his little yacht, it was a very smart and a well found boat. Our discussion on the dock as with most sailors do, turned to the design of our boats and were we had come from, and to where we were going.

He looked along the docked and asked about Xplore, and I mentioned that it was designed in the UK by David Thomas. The old man went quiet, I wondered if I had offended him in some way ? but he quickly continued with a smiling glee to explain that his yacht, just 24 feet long was also designed by David Thomas, small world.

Even though late, I invited him on board, as he was impressed with Xplore’s stature, we continued talking. I asked him why he was burning the two portable cookers on the dock and he explained that the stove fuel that he had bought in the UK was not good. It was alcohol fuel commonly used on small sailing boats, but the fuel he had, had additives so that people on shore wouldn’t drink it, but for him it was impossible to use for cooking as it filled his boat with strange fumes, so he was burning it off outside to get rid of it.

As a lover of dogs I had suggested that his small puppy visit Xplore as well, so as we talked and I gave him a brief tour of the boat, I remembered that I had bought a quantity of alcohol in South America before we departed, we use it a lot when we are cleaning and doing maintenance. As a gesture I offered him a spare bottle for his stove. He quickly removed the top and sniffed the contents, duss is zer gut, he promptly said, giving away his German back ground.

We joked and shared a few sailing stories as it came out that I had been sailing in Antarctica and the south for the last 11 years, I said to him that I have always jokingly say that when I get tired of sailing that I would become a dog farmer, that is to breed boat dogs, ones that are suitable and smart enough for a life at sea. His ears pricked up at this and he explained that his wonderful old little dog was just that, a breed of dog designed for boats dating back many years so as to be small enough and fast to be able to catch rats onboard ships. A “Schipperke” they are called originally from Belgium / Flanders.

I could tell that he was tired, and his burners on the dock were getting lower, but he insisted that I have a brief look at his boat. How could I resist, such an interesting boat, a junk rigged sloop and oh so small compared to Xplore, but you could tell that it was so well maintained and strongly built that it had in so many ways a similar feel to my boat.

We parted after exchanging names and addresses, but he asked me to visit the next day so he could write some details down to email David Thomas in the UK, he knew the designer quite well as client and as a friend. Back on board I wondered about this dear older man as I had a night cap of wine, where was he sailing to I didn’t know, but you could tell from our talks that he had done quite a lot of miles, sometimes from sailor to sailor you just know that.

Daylight streamed through my port hole window and another day commenced, time here in Brest seems to have become so busy in these last few weeks that I often feel its more relaxing and easier to be out at sea. But by the end of the day I walked down the dock with a cold can of beer to see him and to look at three of the Pen Duick yachts that had tied up in the marina.

He asked me to come on board his boat, named Golden Wind from a Japanese saying which matches very well with his colourful Junk sail which he has hand painted. He opened his journal book and asked me to write a note about Xplore, he had already glued my card in place and I wrote a short note. As I wrote he rummaged through a locker and explained that he had a small gift for me, I said that I didn’t need anything but he handed me a bottle of liqueur and explained that he was pleased to give me the gift as thanks for the bottle I had to him the night before. I smiled and thought how the two bottles had contents the same colour, clear fluid, one to drink and one to cook with, it was cherry schnapps.

I stepped out into the cockpit as we shook hands, he was explaining that he was sailing over to the United States as there was a foundation there that had been set up as a sail training base for delinquent youth and that he was going to donate his boat to them. I seemed surprise, but the words from his mouth flowed out to me without further a do to explain that he was dying, and he didn’t even know if he would reach there. The cancer he had, he knew would bring him soon to an end, and he hated the smell of hospitals and nursing homes, so he had transferred all is wealth to his wife there in Germany, and with her blessing he was setting off for his last voyage.

My eyes became watery, but the atmosphere between us was strong, I couldn’t argue with his logic, it actually made a lot of sense to me, one sailor to another, not much was needed to be said.

I woke early, earlier than normal, light from outside was barely visible as I heated the kettle for a nice cup of tea. I stepped out on deck, it was 5.30am and I strolled up onto the break water. There were a few people fishing, and a few youths weaving along the concrete, still saying Bon soir, as I was saying Bon jour, and there just outside the break water was Golden Wind, Hans was on deck making ready for sea, the light was soft with some clearing clouds. I called out loud his name and waved a farewell, bon voyage my friend.

Stephen

Golden Wind

Hans



Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Unknown

The unknown, and times of uncertainties can reveal opportunities.
Success in all endeavors requires utmost attention to detail.
Stephen

Monday, April 14, 2014

Stern lights in the sky

At sea when there are other ships around at night they all display navigation lights, depending on which angle you are looking at them, you will see different colored lights, but they are distinctive so that you can ascertain whether they are heading towards you, passing you, or going away.
Even far off the coast, in the middle of the ocean there is always a chance of not only seeing other ships, but also of being hit by a ship.
Based on your height of eye on a sailing yacht, you can only see the horizon about 9 nautical miles away. So if you are traveling at 7 knots, and a ship is coming towards you at say 15 knots, then you have a closing speed of 22 knots, which means that from not seeing anything on the horizon within 20 to 25 minutes you could be run over, hmmm hence why we always have someone on
watch, sensible don't you think ?
Tonight is a full moon night here in the North Atlantic, and a clam smooth night it is. For days as we have headed north from Brazil's Fernando De Noronha, crossed the equator, slipped out of the crippling calms of the Doldrums and are now north of 20 degrees.
The days are now getting longer as we head into northern hemisphere spring time, the waters are now getting cooler again, instead of the tropical blue's with bath water temperatures of 33 degree's Celsius, we are now back at the still pleasant mid 20's. Day times are still wonderfully warm, and the evenings are a beautiful cool, but not cold, well for some onboard ! (compared to Antarctic climates)

With every passage there is wear an tear along the way, which is to be expected, unfortunately on this leg north the only breakage has been a running back stay block, this for non sailors is part of the mast rigging, and needs to be tensioned and changed each time we make a substantial course alteration when the wind changes from one side of the yacht to the other.
Well dear Vincent was the very unlucky one to find this out the other day when we tacked. In applying the needed tension to the running backstay, the deck turning block that the rope runs through exploded. I was near by doing the main sail, when it happened, Vincent went quiet as I reached over to check on him. Luckily, but unfortunately he was hit on the side of the head, the blood that was coming from his head was not large, but I was concerned.
Audrey and I grabbed the medical kits after our initial examination of his head, and as Vincent has said he is a very lucky "Black cat". The wound needed two stitches, and this Vincent managed without local anesthetics and my initial slightly shaky hand (stitching sails are not as stressful).
Now two days later we removed the first dressing and inspected the wound, not too bad a job if I say so myself, and certainly Vincent is back in his normal form.
So tonight's full moon party at sun set had "cheers all round" as Credence Clear Water Revival was playing Bad moon a rising in the back ground. The stars are all out, and eventhough I am not so familiar with these northern sparkling lights, they do remind me of ships that have safely passed us by, because from that aspect you can only see one small white light.
Safe sailing, 1,106 nautical miles to the Azores.
Stephen

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Bra............zillian

2,400 nautical miles may seem to you all like a long way to go for a relaxing drink, yes that's nearly 5,000 kilometers, but our passage north from Uruguay has taken just over 13 days with some superb sailing, positive inshore currents to help along the way, warm weather and great fishing.
Remote Brazilian islands there are not a large amount of, but Fernando de Noranah is one of their jewels. Located about 200 nautical miles off the coast to the north east it is a lovely volcanic tropical island with a wonderful array of wild life, on shore and in the sea.
Very popular for surfers, wild life enthusiasts and wedding honeymoon couples, there is also a healthy stream of visiting yachts heading either north or south in the Atlantic's as a stopping destination.
But being Brazil, it holds the essence of their culture is so many ways, their foods, drinks, music and their people.
Now men being men, and women being women, having even an average eyesight is very rewarding when visiting Fernando de Noronah, because the women there they have some amazing, outstanding features which makes me wonder why the letters BRA is the start of the country name ?? because they just don't seems to be needed.
Now the second part of the countries name I have also found out why it is, eventhough this is my third stop at Fernando de Noranah (yes for the wildlife and relaxing atmosphere of course) Brazil has over the last few years become a very very expensive country, their currency is now at about 2 to 1 to the US$ so its just as well that for spectator sports that you get your moneys worth ! which of course we did, but with World Cup happening very shortly if your going to be a visitor then come well armed with cash because that's why the second part of the country name comes from the word
Zillions.
We have departed Fernando de Noronah today, heading due north to the Azores, with a spectacular display of Dorado fish jumping 3 meters into the sky as they endeavored to catch flying fish, we all on board can honestly say that we were impressed and astounded by what we saw there in our time at this picture perfect location.

Stephen

Friday, March 21, 2014

Murky

Ah the murky river waves that stain the shores of the water way.
They're three giants to blame, with great South American fame.
They empty their bowels non stop day and night, a relentless stream of brown disgrace.
These giants of the River Plate, have different personalities from their home land states.
They gorge and they spew the soils and fluids of their lands, from fertile field, to barren slate.
Thousands of years these giants cease to abate, ever changing the channels and lanes.
Standing still, when its calm you really feel, this grand expanse is a desert plane.
If Casablanca was near there'd be camels roaming free with nomads in chase.
Its a water desert that's here, mighty river streams coming quite free.
Feed the giants and let them continue to snort, from Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina, they're really having sport !

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Step No 1 Frog legs and snails

To every voyage there is a start, a middle and an end, our journey to France started in Ushuaia with 7,500 miles to travel. Step No 1 is nearly completed with news that Tierra del Fuego has been covered early with heavy snow, strong winds and very very wintery.
As we glide up the coast of Mar del Plata the iridescent phosforecence that wafts off the side of Xplore is more like driving through massive milky jelly fish, their rims catching the moon light rays over the calm oily waters.
The passage north has been good, the team, very well balanced, and the sailing tremendous. The change into shorts and tee shirts came all so fast, and the change of meals from hearty stews and soups into summer cuisine is stretching our imaginations after so many months down in the Antarctic
freezer.
We left at the right time, and have made good time, our first pit stop is Punta del Este on the South east shores of Uruguay, a few days there to dry out and to prepare for step No.2 will hopefully be relaxed and productive.
Stephen