Jun 172012

Here’s a little display of the many colors and textures in the rocky riverbeds and temperate rainforest leading up to the glaciers. I couldn’t stop taking photos of the beautiful quartz intrusions in the wet granite, or the bright lichens peeking out of crannies.

Feb 192012

Live Like the Wind

For those that don’t know, in addition to being a sailor, I’m also a musician. I arranged and recorded “Live like the wind” in 2010. The lyrics are from an obscure poem by a man named Countee Cullen, written in the late 1800′s, but the music is mine.

Me practicing my claw-hammer skills on the banjo!I originally found the poem published in “Loving and Leaving the Good Life” by Helen Nearing, a woman who moved from NYC to Vermont with her husband Scott in the 1920′s to establish a homestead. She and Scott are often described as “the original back-to-the-landers”. She wrote about a dozen books describing their lifestyle in detail, and she was a lover and collector of quotes.

From the moment I first read it, the sentiment of this poem resonated for me. It speaks of two people in love, each firmly independent, but joined together by the invisible bonds of mutual respect and freedom.

Six years later I re-discovered it, and just as easily as reading it, it fell into a song. I remember walking down the streets of Worcester humming the melody to myself, reworking the words in slight ways, and refining the harmony. I have no idea if descendents of Countee Cullen exist, but I give credit to him and thank him for producing such a simple and poignant tribute to partnership without ownership.

“Live like the wind,” he said, “unfettered
And love me while you can,
And when you will and can be bettered,
Go to the better man.

“For you may grow weary sleeping
So long a time with me
Like this, there’ll be no cause for weeping.
The wind is always free.”

“Go when you please” he would be saying,
His mouth hard on her own.
That’s why she stayed and loved the staying
Contented to the bone.

If you liked this, you can find more of my music here:

Feb 062012


In 2004, when I was sailing up in Rockland, ME, I crewed on the schooner Elida for a trip. We were anchored in Stonington Harbor, where another schooner, the Stephen Taber, was also anchored. The Taber is known for the musical talents of her crew, and there was a little impromptu concert happening on board that night. We decided, like good sailors, to board her.

After making the most of what theatrics we could pull together, climbing in the dark over the bullwarks, we joined the party. That night I met a woman that I will forever remember. Evelyn was her name. With long, white hair, she must have already been in her late 70′s at least, but spry as you could imagine. She played tunes on the fiddle, and later I learned that she kept a junk-shop in Stonington where she sold knick-knacks and hand-painted book-marks.

I spent a lot of time in that junk-shop, asking Evelyn questions about life and listening to her answers. Her best words of advice: In life, if you don’t want to get to the top of the escalator, don’t get on the first step. It’s a lot harder to get back down.

This is a song I wrote for Evelyn.

Feb 042012

I’m slowly collecting words and phrases that my crew and other Ozzies use that I think should be universally adopted throughout the world because of how great they are. Try them out today, if you have the chance. It just feels so good.

1. Replace “What?” “Okay?” “Right?” or “You know?” with “Hey?”
“I don’t care what the rest of the crew says, Richard, I think you’re great.” “Hey?!”
“Mattie, that last one was a bit harsh, hey?”

2. Replace “Hey!” with “Oy!” As in “Oy, Jack! Hold onto this line for me, hey?”

3. “I can’t be bothered…” I don’t think there’s an equally ubiquitous phrase in American slang that just means ‘I don’t want to do that.”

4. “Mad-dog” can be used as either a noun or a verb, and describes overzealous, obsessive behavior.
“Alex is a mad-dog in the galley today.”
“That’s just Alex mad-dogging again.”

5. “I reckon” replaces “I think.”
“Oy, David! Do you reckon we’ll be setting the t’gallant today?”

6. “She’ll be right.” A classic Australian phrase meaning “It’ll be fine.”  Best to be on alert and use extreme caution if you ever hear these words.

And here’s a pretty sunset shot just to satisfy the photo-philes out there. :) See you mañana!

Sunset reflected in water

Jan 112012

January 6, 2012

We’re sailing now. It’s the afternoon of day two. I awoke a little while ago from a glorious nap in the sun on the foredeck, a spot that the second mate tipped me off to as a prime “allowable” nap spot. Now, I know not everyone out there is a napper, but the boat nap is a very special kind of nap, and I think it deserves a little explanation.

My spotMy nap spot

On most boats, and any commercial boat, it’s necessary that someone is always awake and checking in on things. To accomplish this, our crew is split into three watches. Different boats run their watch schedules in different ways, and we happen to split our shifts into four hours apiece, except for two two-hour “dog watches” in the evenings. The dog watches mix up the schedule a bit so nobody is stuck taking the same shift day in, day out.

What this translates into, in terms of daily schedule, is some mixture of two or four hours on, split up by four, six or eight hours off. That’s 24/7, daytime and night. When I say that a sailor’s life is for me with a dreamy look in my eyes, this is usually what I’m thinking about.

You see, where many people might look at this schedule and just see that they have to be up from midnight to four AM every three days, I see something else. I see naps written into my daily routine, not as a luxury, but as a necessity. This, to put it simply, is awesome.

The view from my nap

So, there I was, a little sluggish from a restless first night’s sleep on board, looking for a good nap spot, and I found it. Right up in the bow it was, rabbited between the bulwarks and the anchor windlass, with the hawse pipe that tunnels from the deck to the waves below just two feet from my ears, piping a peaceful serenade to me as I dozed. When I lay down, the wind was blowing a pleasant and boisterous 15-20 knots, making the bow a perfect windbreak while the motion of the boat rocked me gently, and the sun warmed me from above. Armed with my travel pillow, and a beanie pulled over my eyes, I was soon deliciously asleep.

When I awoke, the wind had died, and the sun was getting too warm to lay in. Just then, lunch was called, and here I am now, telling you about it. I don’t want you to get the wrong idea, because you pay for days like these with cold, wet, rugged work when you least desire it. It’s not all sun and naps. But luckily, some of it is.

The peaceful serenade