#73: Raising the New Rig — Part 2

Here comes the Hotstepper!  And here comes the hi-mods.  Watch as we step the mast and install mechanical fittings (hi-mods) on each of the stays and shrouds to complete the final phase of replacing our original 1985 rod rigging with uniform 5/16 stainless steel wire.

Now that the stick is back up, we’ll splash on the Tube next week and then finally … get our boat out on the water.  Say what?  She floats?!  Hell yes she does!  You’ll be seeing a lot more of this soon.  : )

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Ch. 2: “No Gloves”

“No gloves,” she said.  “Okay?”

We were at Yannick’s house, meeting his wife and children, and discussing, for the first time, the realities of Phillip and I serving as crew aboard his catamaran for the passage from Florida to France.  It was pretty much understood that Yannick had granted our request to make this passage with him, but I think (wisely so), before that decision was officially announced, he and his wife wanted to sit down with us and have a serious discussion about the voyage so they could get a better sense of who Phillip and I are and why we really wanted to make this passage across the ocean.

Can’t say that I blame them.  I’m sure they were asking themselves:

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I believe Yannick got a sense early on that Phillip and I were capable, committed sailors and this was truly a bucket list item for us, something both of us had wanted to do for a long time and that we were planning to do in the future on our own boat, but that Yannick’s crossing had presented itself at an opportune time to give us the invaluable experience, first, serving merely as crew as opposed to Captain and First Mate aboard s/v Plaintiff’s Rest.  Another concern Yannick had was that I would probably want to share the entire voyage on YouTube via my HaveWindWillTravel.com platform.  While he has plans to launch a YouTube channel someday, exposing himself, his family and their future home aboard s/v Andanza to the scrutiny of my YouTube audience through the perspective of my camera lens was not something he was comfortable with.  It may come as no shock that not everyone enjoys having their lives and home put on widespread public display.

While I was a little surprised and disheartened by his request initially, as with many things that appear to be bad at first, with a little time and perspective, I found it was really for the best.  It was Yannick’s request and agreement to allow me to share it on a non-public, exclusive medium (Patreon) that inspired me to create a new, hybrid platform, where some content is free, some is for purchase.  It’s like putting on a free concert, but also selling backstage passes for those who want to pay to get backstage to meet the artist.  Overall, in exchange for the privilege to be invited as crew for my first ocean-crossing, it seemed a small price to pay.  I also had a fantastic time sharing the voyage through my “Cross the Atlantic with Me” Patreon campaign via the Delorme tracker link as well as weekly travel logs, photos and videos while we were underway and I gained many new followers and supporters, whom I now call friends.

With the YouTube issue settled the only other matter that seemed of utmost important to both Yannick and his wife Clothilde, was that we understand that Yannick was the Captain.  We were to offer input and our opinions as needed or solicited, but it was Yannick who would make the decisions and instruct us accordingly.  It was Clothilde, actually, in broken English, who really drove this matter home when she said:

“No gloves.”

Clothilde previously worked as a flight attendant with France Air and was telling Phillip and I the procedure and delegation of duties for her and the rest of the flight crew as an analogy to what we should expect while serving as crew under Yannick, and she repeated the phrase several times throughout: “No gloves.”  At first Phillip and I weren’t quite sure what she meant by it but as she continued to explain, it became clear she meant no kid gloves.  Clothilde was trying to prepare us for Yannick’s very matter-of-fact, direct approach.  He was not going to sugar coat anything for us and he was not going to treat us gingerly to avoid potential hurt feelings.  If he disagreed with our recommendation or input, he was simply going to tell us, without the gloves.

“Agreed,” Phillip and I said in unison, both surprised by Clothilde’s bluntness and both in admiration of the no sugar-coating agreement Yannick and Clothilde had obviously assumed in their relationship which had served them well for years, as they have embarked together on many adventures—sailing, traveling, moving from France to the states and back, as well as biking and backpacking through Iceland, and much more.

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With those understandings in place, it was understood.  Yannick was the Captain and Phillip, myself and Johnny Walker would be joining him as his diligent and dutiful crew.  One other very exciting piece of information we learned during this meeting was our departure date:

May 28, 2016

Why was that exciting?  Because thirty-four years ago, on that date, a fine specimen was brought into this bright, blazing world.

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Annie “Jo-Lo” (2) and “Bro-Lo” (5) circa 1984.  Anyone remember ShowBiz Pizza Place?

When I learned we would be leaving on my thirty-fourth birthday, I knew, then and there, I had made the right decision.  I couldn’t imagine a better way to celebrate the accomplishment of thirty-four years—particularly when I had spent the last three trying to build a life that allows me to do the two things I love most: write and travel—than by setting off on my first trans-Atlantic crossing, my first trip overseas to Europe and my first blue-water voyage.   As Johnny so accurately put it: This trip was going to cross “many items” off the bucket list.  But, it was mid-April already so we had much to do to prepare for the trip.

Very soon after mine and Phillip’s “no gloves” meeting with Yannick and Clothilde, Yannick set up another rendezvous at his house, when the whole crew was able to attend, for a detailed discussion about gear, provisioning, sail plans, weather and (most importantly) crew safety, complete with a slideshow he had prepared.

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I kid you not.  Yannick had put together a very helpful step-by-step PowerPoint that he used to walk us all through the important topics that needed to be covered to ensure we were all aware of the risks we were taking, how to decrease them and how to respond if we did, in fact, find ourselves in an emergency situation.  I was astounded at the amount of research, thought and energy Yannick had put into this trip.  Well, except for the meals.  I give you Yannick’s thoughts on passage food:

Aside from meals, however, he had considered and made contingency plans for some situations I had never even considered.  When we were discussing that night the one obvious downfall of the crew—i.e., our lack of experience in that not a one of us had crossed the Atlantic Ocean before—I will never forget what Yannick said when I made the comment that, despite his experience, I believed he was competent and intelligent enough to serve as our Captain for the passage.

“It’s not intelligence,” he said.  “It’s situational awareness.”

Touché.  I could tell at the outset I liked Yannick.  Was he cocky at times?  Sure.  He’s a fighter pilot.  They all are.  Well, most of them.  (Allan, if you’re out there and reading this, I exclude you.)  Was he blunt and dismissive of input at times?  Yep.  But, it was often because he had already researched, considered and (rightfully or wrongfully) rejected your idea.  Frankly, I like that quality in a captain.  If anything, he was decisive and incredibly efficient in the use of his time and resources to analyze, decide and move on.

“No gloves.”  Got it?

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Got it.

I have uploaded a link to view the entire, extensive PowerPoint slideshow our esteemed Captain put together for our first crew briefing on Patreon.  You will see there were many (many!) situations of which he was more than aware.  : )

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In the PowerPoint, Yannick mentions a “2012 Passage Video” aboard s/v Andanza.  This was something super cool I shared on Patreon back in May.  Get this: Andanza has crossed the Atlantic Ocean not once, not twice, but THREE times before we set off on her in June for her fourth crossing.  And there is an awesome video on YouTube from the previous owner’s crossing in 2012.  Check it out!

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Did you SEE the 17.4 knots she was making?  I believe the highest our Niagara has ever reached was 8.3.  (Phillip, correct me if I’m wrong on that.)  And, that was while surfing down a wave.  At the time, I could not fathom a sailboat traveling at 17 knots.  I can now …

With our extensive crew de-briefing complete and all crew in agreement with the “No gloves” standard operating procedure, all that was left to do was (snap our first crew photo!) then ready the boat and crew for the passage.

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We were about six weeks out from our departure date at that time and we had about 600 very important things to accomplish before then.  First and foremost, our focus was on the boat.  We only needed to install and test a few key items before we would be ready to shove off on May 28th!

  1. The mast
  2. The new sails
  3. A few windows
  4. Some critical transmission parts (which were still en route from Italy ETA TBD at the time)

Minor stuff, really …

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(Screenshot from my first tour aboard Andanza, posted to Patreon May 4, 2016.)

I hope you all are enjoying the Atlantic-Crossing tale thus far!  You’ll see there is a lot of additional Patrons-exclusive content I have been posting to Patreon since we learned we would be making this voyage back in April.  If you needed any other excuse to get access to some extra goodies, I hope a chance to win our 6-Day Bareboat Charter Certification course through Lanier Sailing Academy is enough!  Just a few short weeks before we’ll be giving this awesome prize away.  Get on board at https://www.patreon.com/havewindwilltravel.

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#72: Raising the New Rig — Part 1

Three months in the yard and we are finally (in video time) ready to raise the new rig.  Watch as we assemble the shrouds and stays, put our first hi-mod mechanical fitting on the forestay and complete all of the leg-work in order to (finally!) step the mast and raise the new wire rig.

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Ch. 1: The “Human Factor”

I don’t toy with the idea; it toys with me, pecking and picking at the back of my brain.  “You should go,” it says.  And I should.  At least I believe I should.  Maybe not believe, but think.  I think I should.  Shouldn’t I?  When the idea starts to grip and pull me hand-over-hand into its graces, there is only thing that pulls me fast-and-hard back.  That is Phillip.

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Friends, followers, I dare say it is time.  While filming my adventures, making videos and taking pictures is fun, it is merely a pastime compared to my true passion: writing.  I find the endeavor of trying to capture and re-create my surroundings in such detail you feel you are right there, breathing the air next to me, a deliciously-thrilling challenge.  I am up for it, and it is time.  I want to tell you the tale of my first Atlantic-crossing, from start to finish, complete with plenty of photos.  As I come across footage, while making the Atlantic-crossing movie, that corresponds with these posts, I will share it in an exclusive video on Patreon as well.  Although I hope my words will conjure crisper images, mostly I hope you enjoy the feeling of the journey as I experienced it.

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When I say “Phillip” was the main reason for my not wanting to go I do not mean he had asked me not to go or that he did not want me to go.  Quite the opposite.  He was the first person to encourage me.  Much like the trip I had bravely set off on not one year prior—where I agreed fly to the Bahamas alone and crew for five days on a boat with total strangers in the Abacos Regatta—Phillip encouraged me to sign on for the Atlantic-crossing even though he knew not at the time whether he could join.  No, it was not Phillip’s desires or concerns that held me back, it was the thought of embarking on this incredible journey without him—leaving him behind to stand on the shores while I cast off to cross an ocean—that gave me serious pause.  Had Phillip merely said, “It’s up to you,” I likely would not have gone.  But he did not.  “You should go,” he said, as if his was the voice of the Idea.  And so I decided I would.

“Alone.”

We all eyed him in a mix of astonishment and admiration.  Alone.  It was Yannick.  Our Captain.  Our faithful leader on this voyage, and the man we now congenially refer to as “the Wandering Frenchman.”  I didn’t know him well at the time.  This was probably my third time speaking with him.  And I sure didn’t know in a matter of months I would be stepping foot aboard his boat to cross the ocean with him.  At the time Yannick was just another boat owner who was having work done on his boat at the yard at the same time Phillip and I were hauled out this past winter re-building our rotten stringers, replacing our original 1985 rod rigging and knocking out a few hundred other “while you’re out of the water” projects.  Yannick’s 46’ high-performance French-built Catamaran was docked at the yard at the same time undergoing significant repairs after suffering a lightning strike in September, 2015.

I’m sure this is no secret.  It seems many boat owners—males in particular and Brandon and Phillip in a unique form of particular—can stand around and talk about boats for hours, days even.  While Brandon mentioned Yannick’s catamaran often during these “boat conversations” at the yard, merely as a matter of course, we could tell he was especially surprised at the astonishing array of electronics Yannick was having him install on his catamaran: a back-up chart-plotter, radar, AIS, forward scan, numerous alarms, a siren, even!  It wasn’t until the “alone” conversation that we learned why.

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Yannick is a fighter jet pilot in the French Navy.  He had been in Pensacola for two years working as a flight instructor but was soon slated to retire, at which time he planned to move he and the family—his beautiful wife Clothilde, their five-year old son Nils and five-month old daughter, Clemence—back to France where they would plan to move aboard the catamaran in the following year and then begin cruising northern Europe.  All he needed to do was get the boat back to the France.  All he wanted in order to do that was some high-end electronics and a siren.  Yannick’s initial plan was to sail his catamaran single-handed, non-stop over 4,600 nautical miles from Pensacola, Florida to Roscoff, France.

I clicked on the GoPro the minute this news broke, out of habit (what a story!), and I’m glad I caught it on film.  Yannick explained one of reasons he hesitated to seek out crew to help him make the passage was what he called the “human factor,” meaning: “Who do you want to take with you across the ocean?”  Definitely a legitimate concern.  It’s a small boat and a lot of days.  It’s fun to look back on this clip, though, and realize none of us knew at the time, as Yannick was telling Phillip and I about his “human factor” theory, the pesky “humans” he would taking with him across the ocean would be us.

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Video from our first conversation with Yannick about the crossing, up now in a Patrons-only post on Patreon.

I will admit, his plan seemed a little outlandish.  While Yannick had brought his catamaran up from the Caribbean to Pensacola on a 16-day run with a hired captain, aside from that he had virtually no other offshore experience on his boat.  What he did have, though, was confidence.  He seemed so resolved, so pragmatic about the whole thing, I honestly believed he could do it.  Surely someone who flies jets at supersonic speed can handle a slow boat across an ocean?  Some of those skills must translate?  Well, they do and they don’t.  I will say at the outset one of the most interesting aspects of this voyage was watching someone as capable and smart as Yannick have to adapt in many ways to cruising.  The weather, the elements and the boat simply do not treat you any differently based on your resume.

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At no point did Yannick seem to be uncertain in his decision, though.  At no point did he seem to be desirous of bringing crew aboard to help him make the passage.  He seemed determined—excited even—to do it alone.  “I like a challenge,” he said.  Phillip and I chatted about our interesting conversation with Yannick a little here and there over the course of the next couple of weeks (this was mid-March), thinking how cool it would be when we would finally be ready to cross the ocean on our boat, but that was the extent of it.  It wasn’t until Phillip came home from work one day a couple of weeks later, after having stopped at the shipyard on the way home, with a new piece of information and a seed to plant.

“Johnny?” I asked, a little confused.  I wasn’t even sure Johnny and Yannick knew each other, at least not well enough to meet Yannick’s “human factor” and I didn’t know ocean-crossing was something Johnny had always wanted to do.  Johnny Walker (no relation) is an old friend of Brandon’s and a well-known diesel engine mechanic in the Pensacola marine industry.  We had worked with Johnny on several occasions over the past few years in tuning and maintaining our engine, borrowing some rare tools as needed from his impressive collection.  (Remember the torque wrench we broke when re-torquing our keel bolts?)  We also had the opportunity to buddy sail with Johnny on our way down to the Keys in 2014 when he and his son, Jeremy, were sailing his Morgan 38 down to Key West at the same time.

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Needless to say, Johnny was an old friend, an old salt and, specifically, a proven and reputable sailor and mechanic, and he was now on board for the Atlantic-crossing.

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“Johnny’s going,” Phillip said, with a playful gleam in his eye.  I knew he was looking at me funny for a reason and I knew this information was key for a reason, but it was like I couldn’t get the rusty gears in my head to turn fast enough to put it all together.  Why is it so important that Johnny’s going?  Phillip could tell I needed help connecting the dots.  If Johnny’s going, Yannick is now taking on crew.  If Johnny is going, maybe others could go to … 

“You know who else Johnny thinks would be a good fit to make the passage?” Phillip asked.  Then it clicked.  Me!  Us!  Me?  Once again it seemed a little outlandish.  I might be crossing the ocean this year?  The idea was very new.  My first thought was honestly how cold it might be and what gear I would be wearing.  My vivid imagination apparently wanted to see it first before I could process the actual details.

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High fashion.

Once I got past the fashion block, however, and started to truly digest it, my second thought was Phillip.  I couldn’t imagine embarking on an ocean-crossing voyage without the single person who turned me into a sailor in the first place.  I can’t go without Phillip.  Or at least I shouldn’t.  I can’t. 

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As luck would have it, right around the time this outlandish idea emerged Phillip had a rather large block of time on his calendar, for a trial that was scheduled in June, that could possibly open up assuming certain things fell into place with his case load.  Now it was not just an idea, it was a hope: Phillip and I making our first ocean-crossing together this year!  All of that depended upon Yannick, however, as we hadn’t even been invited yet.  Phillip and I were dreaming about the voyage long before Yannick even considered the idea of welcoming us aboard for the trip.

This was the gut-wrenching part for me.  The one, singular thing that held me back from jumping immediately on the idea was the one, singular person I truly wanted to make the trip with.  We were nowhere near sure at the time that Phillip could make the trip with me.  We spend just a few hours apart and I begin to miss him.  Now we were talking weeks, months perhaps.  I ached just thinking about it.  But, it was an incredible opportunity and it was Phillip who did, and always does, push me to greater experiences.  “You should go,” he said, and I knew he was right.  The one thought that comforted me in agreeing, at first, to sign on without him was how much I knew this trip would mean to him.  Phillip has crossed oceans before, in large carrier ships.  He has traveled much more of this awe-inspiring world than I have.  But one thing he has not done, that he has always wanted to do, is sail across an ocean.  My hope was if I was able to secure us two spots as crew for the passage, he would move mountains to be able to join me.  So it was decided.  I, at least, was going.

My blood pulsed hot through the veins of my neck as I scrolled through my contacts in my phone, looking for one in particular: Johnny Walker.  I needed to tell him one thing: If Yannick would have us, Phillip and I wanted to come.

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Fun video following my initial conversation with Johnny that I shared on Patreon April 8, 2016.  Thanks, as always, to my followers, friends and Patrons who enable me to share this journey.   Get on board!

Gift #2: 6-Day Bareboat Charter Course!

Gift of Cruising Campaign #2 … LAUNCHED!  I’m giving away a 6-day live-aboard Coastal Cruising and Bareboat Charter course through Lanier Sailing Academy in Pensacola, FL this October which will (of course!) include a tour of our Niagara 35 post-shipyard and a day sail with Phillip and I aboard s/v Plaintiff’s Rest.  If you were ever waiting for a reason, this is it.  Become a Patron for a chance to win this awesome prize.  Giveaway date is 8.12.16!

Atlantic-Crossing Top Tens!

“You’re going to hate sailing forever.  It’s like wanting to try cake for the first time and instead of trying one slice, you eat the whole cake instead.”

This is what one YouTube follower told me when I shared the exciting news that I was going to sail across the Atlantic Ocean.  Now that I have completed the journey and can respond with the benefit of first-hand experience, my initial reaction remains the same: “I have never regretted eating an entire cake.”

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It seems the decision to join a handful of fellow sailors and embark on an undeniably risky, yet promising new journey can invoke some extreme guttural reactions from friends, followers and especially family.  The wide range of responses we received to our announcement (ranging from the excited to fearful, the encouraging to foreboding) undoubtedly surprised me.  Thankfully, none of the naysayers swayed me and I can now say—with the benefit of hindsight—I am so glad I made that voyage.

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While the crew of s/v Andanza did endure some difficult passages as well as our fair share of equipment failures and frustrations, I enjoyed every bit of the arduous, eye-opening journey and am thankful for the valuable lessons and insight I took away from my first ocean crossing.  I am also excited to share all of it with you.  Before I got into the incredibly-fun task, however, of one of my favorite parts of any adventure—the telling of the … story—I thought it might behoove you all to first share a few fun, educational and entertaining “Top Ten” lists Phillip and I put together soon after we finished the voyage.  (Many of you who followed along via the Delorme link on Patreon heard about many of these along the way.  Others you will find we did not share publicly at the time so as not to worry followers about our occasional precarious state.)  In all, I hope you find them, as I did, enlightening, insightful and a fun way to kick off this Atlantic-Crossing Saga!

Top Ten Things that Broke:

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(Not necessarily in half or in two but they did break in some fashion and not necessarily in the order of breakage)

  1. The auto-pilot
  2. The generator
  3. The water-maker
  4. The spinnaker
  5. The main halyard
  6. The starboard engine injectors
  7. The port engine muffler
  8. The MasterVolt
  9. The starboard shroud
  10. The port shroud (much more on this later but know the true gravity of the failure, which we discovered upon our rig inspection after making landfall, was alarming).

 

Top Ten Phrases (and Expletives):

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  1. “Ahhhh … putain!” (French for f%@k.  Grumbled by Captain Yannick after each breakage)
  2. “Arthur!” (A reminder to trim the mast. Yes, you read that right.  The mast.)
  3. “Request received” (Intended to confirm receipt of a request while offering no guarantee of its grant in order to prevent useless repeating of said request)
  4. “That is not good thinking” (Offered by Captain Yannick when he didn’t like your request)
  5. “Recommendation voice” (The oddly high-pitched inaudible tone Annie’s voice takes on when she lodges a request)
  6. “Hundred percent” (Phillip’s way of saying he’s sure about something, 100%)
  7. “Mayonnaise biscuit” (Johnny Walker’s alleged confectionary specialty)
  8. “What’s our voltage?” (An inquiry into the state of the batteries)
  9. “Get some rest” (According to Yannick, something Annie said every time a crew member went below for sleep)
  10. “I think this is a do-over” (Johnny’s way of saying he liked Phillip’s cooking)

 

Top Ten Things We Ate:

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(Lawyer disclaimer: This is in no way an endorsement of these items as being the most healthy, cost-effective or best items to bring along for an ocean-crossing.  These were simply the items that were, in fact, stocked and consumed in voluminous amounts on Andanza):

  1. Peanut-butter cracker packs (I’ll leave it to Johnny to say how many he truly ate … )
  2. Nature Valley granola bars
  3. Ground coffee (made every morning, several batches in the French Press; Nespresso made in the machine for Yannick)
  4. Bread (loaves as well as hot dog and hamburger buns, bagels and naan, many frozen for longevity)
  5. Pork (many batches of frozen pulled pork as well as pork tenderloins and bacon)
  6. Hearty produce (carrots, cabbage, turnips, Brussels sprouts, potatoes, etc. – devoured and disposed of early on as a result of poor packing that lead to quick spoliation)
  7. Various coveted snacks (the wasabi peas were diminished early but later followed by Chex Mix and Cheetos; Yannick hoarded the beef jerky)
  8. Canned tuna and chicken (often used by Chef Phillip to make tuna and chicken salad sandwiches for lunch)
  9. Canned fruits/vegetables (peas and corn primarily for cooked dishes; mixed vegetables, carrots, asparagus, pineapple, peaches primarily for me – eaten out of the can, including the requisite drinking of the “veggie juice”)
  10. Boxed meals (red beans & rice, jambalaya, pastas, etc.)

 

Top Ten Things We Drank:

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(In the order most consumed) 

  1. Water! Bottles primarily.  (We packed approximately 15 packs (36 12 oz. bottles each) of water in the bilges of the boat, as well as 80 gallons in the tank and approximately eight back-up gallons stowed here and there.  We re-filled the tanks in Key West and the Azores and bought a few more gallons but, as Yannick put it, he is “confident we brought some Pensacola water with us to France.”  Even after suffering the loss of the water-maker very early on, we had plenty of water.)
  2. Monster drinks (Yannick. Nuff said.)
  3. Powdered tea (Arizona brand, made in a large pitcher with water from the tanks and kept in the fridge)
  4. Powdered Gatorade
  5. Beer
  6. Wine (We had a good bit of beer and wine aboard—some brought aboard for the passage and a good bit leftover from our farewell party at the dock. In true French style, Captain Yannick allowed each crew member a single beer or glass of wine each day while off-shift.  I think it helped to deter thoughts of mutiny.  Thank you Yannick!)
  7. Canned teas and sodas (primarily Arizona Green Tea, Coca-Cola and A&W root beer)
  8. Dasani water squirts (this was just for me, good for flavoring the water and easily “marking” my bottle as “the pink one” – any time a water bottle was removed from the fridge it was to be marked with Sharpied initials immediately upon opening under threat of being “keel hauled.”)
  9. Port wine (as the occasional after-dinner sweet treat!)
  10. Water from the tap (although it tasted fine, for whatever reason it was shunned)

 

Top Ten Things We Did:

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  1. Read! (One of my favorite parts of the passage were the long stretches of time that were utterly devoted to reading!  While Johnny devoured (sometimes one a day!) books about piracy, submarine warfare and other battles on the high sea, Phillip and I clicked through a long-awaited list of books we had been meaning to read for quite some time and had a fantastic time discussing each of them afterward, our particular reactions to certain characters, plots and scenes and our general takeaways from the book.  I will share our reading list soon.  Oh, and Yannick read manuals, dozens of them, as well as maintenance textbooks, instructions, labels, and more manuals, for hours at a time.  The Captain indulged in no pleasure reading on the trip.)
  2. Slept! (I will miss the naps!  Never in my life have I had the pleasure of indulging myself a deep, soothing daily nap, sometimes two!  Now, while this was necessary for the 2am, 3am or 4am wake-up to hold your two-hour night shift, for me it was well worth it.  Some of my fondest memories were lifting my sleepy lids to reveal a beautiful dancing blue horizon and then falling right back to sleep.  The sleep was necessary yet savored.)
  3. Worked on boat projects. (This was primarily the work of the Captain but it deserves the number three slot because this is what Yannick did approximately 70.3% of his off-shift time).
  4. Held watch. (Each crew member held a 3-hour shift during the day, sometimes two depending on the rotation, as well as a 2-hour night shift, sometimes two shifts a night also depending on the rotation.  This is the watch schedule we used (rotated every four days) when the auto-pilot was working.  We created a secondary, shorter-shift schedule after the auto-pilot quit as it took much more energy and focus to hand-steer as opposed to simply “Supervising Otto.”)Watch
  5. Talked.  (Many a debate was sparked on Andanza!  Mostly they were fun and intriguing, sometimes they were a little heated, sometimes they were a little tedious, but I was pleased to find it was easy to politely decline to engage in conversation if you wanted to sit quietly and read, write or just stare at the wall, and the other crew members took no offense.)
  6. Cooked.  (Phillip was our head chef on the trip and he often cooked a warm meal for both lunch and dinner every day, even while manning his shift (a.k.a. “supervising Otto”) at the helm.  I was his soux chef, but he bore the real burden of preparing the meals, something he very much enjoys doing, but I would suspect Phillip devoted 2-3 and maybe sometimes 4 hours a day to cooking.)
  7. Cleaned.  (Dishes primarily.  I might have spent an hour a day doing dishes and cleaning up the galley, although the crew readily chipped in often.  With Phillip doing the bulk of the cooking, I felt the best way I could contribute was by doing the bulk of the cleaning.  The crew also devoted the occasional 1-2 hours every week or so to cleaning the boat, although looking back I believe everyone would agree we could have cleaned the boat more thoroughly and more often).
  8. Watched movies. (Yes, we did this plenty, primarily toward the end of the trip.  But, if I had to guess I would say we all gathered and watched a dinner feature—when the boat and conditions allowed—probably every other evening while on passage.  The best part of this gathering was often the heavy debate struck over which of the hundreds of movies we had available on hard-drives that the crew should watch (i.e., whether we should watch another “dude movie” (Yannick’s term) or an “actual, good movie” (Annie’s term) and the endless ridicule that would fall on the unlucky crew member who made a very poor movie choice (just ask Phillip about Big Trouble in Little China.)
  9. Watched shows. (While Yannick spent approximately, what was it I said 70.3% of his off-time working on or researching issues on the boat, the remaining 29.7% was spent watching entire seasons of Breaking Bad and other drama series.  While he had downloaded season five of Game of Thrones on his computer, the wife banned him from watching it without her and enlisted the entire crew to ensure this pact was held sacred.  Clothilde — there was no Thrones viewing, I swear!)
  10. Wrote.  (I, of course, did the bulk of this, but Johnny did his fair share, hand-scrawled in a little spiral-bound notebook (often with the jovial prodding among the crew that he was writing America’s next great novel) and Yannick did his fair share as well tediously-documenting his daily list of maintenance and projects accomplished on the boat.)

 

Top Ten Lessons Learned:

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  1. Crew dynamic is key. (Nigel Calder actually told Phillip and I this during his lecture at the Strictly Sail Miami show in 2015 and he was right.  Nigel said, “I can teach anyone to sail or work on the boat.  What I cannot teach them is how to get along.”)
  2. Cotton is the devil. (Do not bring any cotton on board for any blue water passage.  There were some towels and shirts that remained moist, if not thoroughly saturated, for three weeks straight.  I’m not kidding.  Quick-dry, synthetic blends are a must.)
  3. Don’t forget who is in charge. (If you forgot, it’s the weather.  You have to be flexible.  Even if you have allotted ten extra days to make it to port, be prepared to need fifteen.  Things never go according to your plan, or your back-up plan or your last-resort contingency plan.)
  4. Carry spares. (Many, many spares.  Particularly impellers, zincs, fuel filters, and the typical lot.  But, if you have the space and can handle the weight, other larger spares may come in handy, like a spare water pump, auto-pilot, starting battery, etc.)
  5. Sail responsibly. (Don’t take unnecessary risks.  Go only as fast as you absolutely need to.)
  6. Take care of yourself. (Rest and eat well. No matter what kind of physical shape you are in, ocean-crossing is far harder on your body than you realize.)
  7. Monitor all systems. (Try to remain aware, at all times, of the status of each system: What is the engine temp?  How long has the generator been running?  How much water is left in the tanks?  When was the last time the sails were trimmed?)
  8. Look for chafe. (Walk the boat multiple times a day, every 3-4 hours would be best, with the specific purpose of looking for chafe.  Lines chafe through much quicker than you think.)
  9. Clipping in needs to be a habit. (Especially at night.  If it’s not habit, it will not be done the time that it needs to be done most, i.e., in an urgent situation.  Make yourself do it every time so that you build muscle memory and it becomes habitual.)
  10. Organize and stow. (Keeping things secured and stowed away inside the cabin is a must, for both safety and comfort of the crew.  Everything needs to have a place and it needs to go back to that place when you’re done using it.  Make this a habit too while you’re at it.)

 

AND ONE FOR THE ROAD:

  1. Time is truly the only commodity.

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If there is one huge lesson I took away from this passage it was how incredibly rich each moment was, how in the moment I felt (with very little to truly stress about other than the boat, the weather and what book I was going to read next) and how quickly the whole trip was over.  Phillip and I are already planning our own ocean crossing on our beautiful Niagara sometime in coming years.  This voyage definitely told us this is something we want to do: cross oceans.

If you’re thinking about getting a boat, thinking about cruising, thinking about traveling the world, please take one small piece of advice from this wild-eyed adventurer who has been lucky enough to do some of it early on: DO IT NOW!  Whatever you can do in your current situation to allow yourself more time and opportunity to get out there on the water and experience cruising, do it now.   Even if it is just small steps.  Take them.

I will be doing the same by working even harder to create more content and more sources of remote income that will allow me to do what I love (write) to earn income that allows me to do what I also love (travel).  Maybe I should call this blog HaveWillpowerWillTravel because I am more committed than ever!  Here is the grand plan:

  1. The Atlantic-Crossing Tale!  I will post a vivid weekly article on the blog replaying each colorful day of our Atlantic-crossing adventure, beginning next week with “Ch. 1: The Wandering Frenchman” which will cover our first encounter with the adventurous Captain Yannick, his initial plan to make the sail across the Atlantic single-handed and my personal decision to join him and the rest of the crew for the journey.  This series will likely one day be melded into the Atlantic-Crossing book!
  2. The Atlantic-Crossing Movie! I will also be working over the next couple of months to make a high-quality, polished short film covering our Atlantic-crossing from May 29th in Florida until we docked in France on July 5th.  This will be free initially to all Patrons as my personal thanks for your continued support and will publish thereafter on Vimeo.
  3. My Gift of Cruising Campaign!  I will pick back up with my Gift of Cruising campaign this Friday on the YouTube channel where I will reveal my second Gift of Cruising!  A phenomenal six day, five night on-the-water coastal cruising and bareboat chartering course offered by our very own Lanier Sailing in Pensacola.  I’m kind of (super) excited about it!  If you are too: Get on Board!
  4. My Weekly YouTube Videos! I will continue to publish a video once a week on Fridays covering mine and Phillip’s travel adventures and progress in preparing our Niagara and ourselves for cruising south this winter!  Yes, that’s still happening.  I’m kind of (super) excited about that too.  I will also continue to include the occasional boat tour to help you all out there in the boat-shopping phase get a better understanding of the compromises and capabilities of various boats.

If you all have found any of this content helpful and you’re excited about the Atlantic-Crossing content to come (or, more importantly if you’re looking to go cruising and would like the chance to win a six-day coastal cruising class to help get you cruising more safely sooner!) please get on Patreon, become a Patron and help Phillip and I continue sharing this incredible lifestyle on the water!

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My thanks to all who have followed, supported and joined us vicariously on this incredible ocean-crossing.  We have many stories to share and much more traveling to do!

#71: The 847 Other Projects

They say: “If you’re going to haul out, be sure to do this and that and this while you’re out of the water.”  Well, trust me.  We did.  I have spared you for quite some time but I now think you’re ready.  I give you …. just a small glimpse at the mountains of OTHER projects we did while at the yard as a final farewell to our shipyard days.  Next up, we start the rigorous process of stepping the mast and raising our new rig.  Enjoy!

Andanza Means Adventure

It truly does.  “Andanza” is Spanish for “adventure.”  The minute Captain Yannick told me this, I knew it was the perfect boat for me to jump aboard to sail across the Atlantic.  And, the entire adventure — from our breath-taking blue water days, to our troubling times dealing with equipment failure, even to the 3:00 a.m watches — have been truly eye-opening.  I find myself trying to answer a lot of big life questions during my night shifts, particularly those where we had to hand-steer.

While I mourned the loss of auto-pilot and sympathized with Yannick’s dilemma in having to stop his journey to replace it, as well as fund the project, I will never regret the fact that I had to hand-steer the boat for a short amount of time.  I know I would not have experienced that feeling otherwise.  Up until the point he gave out, we had been (rightfully, as he is far better at it than we are) allowing the auto-pilot to hand-steer the boat every minute of every day.  Had he not failed, I am sure we would have let him steer us all the way to the channel and breakwater in France.  If this had occurred, I would not have had the privilege to truly feel the boat diving into waves, skidding and careening across the ocean.  This feeling was only possible with my hands cinched on the leather of the wheel, guiding the boat gently left and right along our rhumb line.  It was a bit of a majestic feeling, particularly at night and it gave me hours of time to think about what this trip has meant to me.  I imagined one of the most common questions I would get (perhaps from Andy Schell during my interview!) when I returned would be: “What did you truly take away from the trip?”  As I pushed the wheel right to left, watching our heading of 110 degrees hour upon hour, I tried to formulate — for my own benefit and in order to share with others — a truly valid answer.  This is what I surmised.

Ocean crossing is simple.  Sailing is really very, very simple.  Cruising is simple.  You have a certain skill set — knowledge of your vessel and the things you need to monitor, repair and maintain to keep it healthy and capable coupled with knowledge of the wind and coming weather patterns (via the water, clouds and colors of the sun or information provided by today’s impressive electronics, either way) — which you apply to the situation at hand.  That is all you have to do.  That is all you have to worry about: your boat and what it needs to endure.  After that, there are no pressing deadlines, no people to please or disappoint, no due dates, no briefs to file, no bills to pay.  Many of those things will likely greet you when you make it to shore, but they cannot reach you out there.  In a vast body of blue, it is only the wind, your sails, your hull and your hunger, for food, books or philosophy.  Your only real stress is what you’re going to read or eat next and that is really a rather fun choice to make.  The simplicity of it is truly freeing.

While I am thrilled to be on this journey, savoring every minute, I am also excited to get back and begin trying (to the best of my creative ability) to capture and re-create it for you.  I have been diligently keeping a running log as we’ve been going, which recounts in mere clips and phrases (just enough to remind me) of the events, stories and mishaps we have experienced along the way, and that alone is already 60 pages single-spaced.  I have hours of footage and hundreds of photos.  It is overwhelming now to even think of how to begin, but it is an invigorating challenge as creating content for this website is one of my absolute passions.  I’m eager to begin scaling this creative mountain!  But first, I’m eager to finish this voyage.  More to come my friends.  We have many stories to tell!

#70: Turnbuckles, Tangs, Taps … Oh My

If any of you have re-rigged your own boat, you know — there are so many crucial, critical pieces that must all fit together and offer fair leads for each shroud and stay.  In short, a LOT of work goes into a re-rig.  Watch as we match, mount and make sense of the new fittings for the rod-to-wire re-rig.

As an aside, I am sitting as I write this in a little cafe in the Azores pondering this amazing journey I have undertaken, the incredible sights, sounds (yes, plenty that I am looking forward to merely trying to describe to you) and sensations I have experienced along the way.  Thanks to all of my friends, family and Patrons for your continued support and encouragement.  I hope you have enjoyed the journey vicariously!

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Phillip and I also want to wish you all a fantastic Fourth of July weekend with family and friends.  Shoot fireworks, sing and dance, clap and shout and be grateful for this incredible country we live in that allows us amazing opportunities to travel, work, create and prosper!

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