Jul 012012

It is nearly six months since I arrived in Tasmania. The intense and challenging voyaging season is over. The sea-sickness is but a memory, with people suddenly coming out of the woodwork assuring me that Winde in particular sends her passengers to the rail more than other ships. I am rested, encouraged, just home-sick enough, and I have a job!

ClearwaterIf you’ve been keeping up, you might remember a few posts ago, I wrote about my top choices for employment this fall. The Isaac Evans, Sultana and Clearwater were tied for first place, and I was recently hired as Bosun on the Sloop Clearwater for the fall season!

I’m really excited to be sailing on Clearwater, for many reasons. The first is its environmental mission. The Clearwater Organization was started in the mid-sixties by American folk-singer Pete Seeger in order to build environmental awareness about the Hudson River, which at the time was very polluted. The sloop was launched in ’69 as a symbol of environmental stewardship and teaching tool for young students. Clearwater continues its environmental mission today, with multi-faceted programming, not limited to the work done on the sloop. I was raised as an environmentalist, and I look forward to using my science degree to teach about something that is so important to me.

The second is the music. As I said, Pete Seeger started the organization, and continues to be involved today. For the last six months I’ve barely picked up a guitar, and it’s the longest period I’ve spent without almost daily music practice. I’m really looking forward to joining a ship whose history is intertwined with music.

The third is the Hudson River! So far I’ve sailed around the islands of Maine, some harbors in Massachusetts, the Eastern Pacific of Southern California, and now the Southern Ocean, but I have no inland experience! I’m looking forward to learning about inland rules of navigation, and putting everything I’ve learned in my Coxswain’s course to work.

Finally, I’m excited about the rig. After a square-rigger and a bunch of schooners, three sails is sure to feel sparse, but every ship has her own secrets to share, and I’ll be glad to get to know a new rig. Sometimes the simplest things in life are the most enjoyable.


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.