May 152012

Well once again it’s been a bit since I’ve written. I definitely overestimated the amount of time, energy and internet access I would have during this voyage season. We’ve got about another three weeks to go before it ends. In the meantime, a little bit from my life:

These last two voyages were the most difficult for me, and I suppose it comes down to the intensity of the schedule, and my propensity for sea-sickness. The experience of sea-sickness just cannot be described in any decent way to anyone who has not been sea-sick. You can list the symptoms (headache, nausea, vertigo, lethargy, painful awareness of the impossibility of escape) but the sum is equal to more than its parts.

Some sunrise or sunset, somewhere...

Some sunrise or sunset, somewhere...these pretty sights help with the recovery process quite a bit.

My latest source of hope in the face of this brutal disease is the thought that I am not allergic to the sea as a whole, but maybe just to the Southern Ocean, or Windeward Bound, specifically. I’d experienced mild, passing nausea in the Pacific Ocean before coming to Tasmania, but I’d never been so constantly and severely sea-sick as I’ve been here. I refuse to believe it’s a permanent change…

But such an experience does lead a little adventurer like myself to ask some pretty confronting questions during those wee morning hour watches. What will I do if I never overcome my sea-sickness? What will I do with all of my dreams of world travel across oceans on sailboats? How stubborn am I really? Stubborn enough to live permanently in the world of dizzying, miserable, punishing sea-sickness?

The real answer, much as I hate to admit it, is no. I’ve lived a good portion of the last two months in that state, and I have finally reached my limit. My plan now is to tie up my commitments here in Tasmania, go home, get myself back on a schooner, and enjoy some coastal sailing for a little while.

Then, when I’m ready, I will get myself back out into the open ocean, and before giving up on blue water entirely, I will try one ocean crossing. If my brain and my inner ear don’t start playing nice after that, then I will just have to content myself with quiet and comfortable coastal sailing. Not the worst thing in the world, at least until I’ve had time to get antsy for travel, and forget just how awful it is to be sea-sick…


Jan 092012

Well, it’s true. A sailor’s life is for me.

I’ve just returned from my first week at sea aboard Windeward Bound, the brigantine in Tasmania, Australia that I’ll be sailing on for the next three months. I don’t think that I could have asked for a better first week. We had a fantastic group of Australian scouts on board, delicious and plentiful meals, and almost every kind of weather you can imagine. I admit again that I was a bit nervous for this first trip, wondering how I’d get along with my new crew, and how the crazy weather of the Southern Ocean would treat me. But I had no cause for worry. I’m as in love with this life now as I was when I discovered it eight years ago, if not more so.

I’ll be posting my journal entries all this week, but until then, here are some photos from the voyage. Thanks for checking in, and enjoy!

Jan 082012

I just came across this beautiful little piece entitled Cape Horn to Starboard, by Lin Pardey, who has been sailing around the world with her husband Larry for decades.

I continue to feel encouraged by reading of other very experienced sailors’ expressions of fear and worry about their adventures. It’s been easy at times to wonder whether I’m “cut out for this”, after experiencing extreme anxiety during rough weather at sea.

At the beginning of my season sailing up in the Channel Islands of California last year, we ran into a pretty decent gale with a dozen and a half 15 year old’s on board. In all honesty, I can’t really say how bad of a storm it was. The important part was that it was the worst weather I’d seen, and my first real experience of having to respond to the cascade of events that often accompanies rough weather. When we finally got home after spending over 12 hours in this gale (a relatively short time, in retrospect), I called up Angus for some serious life advice: was pursuing this career really the right choice for me?

This is a shot of Yellowbanks, the anchorage we chose to wait out our gale, just hours before it hit.

Angus’ efforts to bolster my confidence were varied: he listened sympathetically to my rambling, repetitive play-by-play; he told me he thought I’d be fine; he challenged me to tell him I wasn’t tough enough; finally he told me I needed to shut up and stop being a baby. And yet I whined. The sentence that shook me back to my senses was: “Katz, you’re more passionate about this than anything else in your life. You owe it to yourself to just give it another try.” So I did.

As I read more essays and books by life-long adventurers, I realize that fear and anxiety just go with the territory. It’s pretty normal, and actually, I think that’s a big part of why we do it. So in a way my crazy compulsion to chase after something that strikes fear in my heart is what makes me a member of the tribe. The only thing that determines whether or not I’m “cut out” for this lifestyle is…my own choice to go after it, or not.

Jan 072012

I just finished reading this fantastic sailing adventure book by a Brit named Miles Smeeton. He and his wife were heroes of WWI and after the war, like many people, missed the excitement and adventurous lifestyle they’d grown accustomed to.  After attempting a new start on a farm in Canada, they bought a yacht and began sailing around the world.

“Once is Enough” is Miles’ account of the attempt by him and his wife, Beryl, to round Cape Horn west to east in their 46′ wooden yacht, Tzu Hang. He and Beryl, along with their friend and ship’s carpenter John, survived an almost unbelievable knock-down, dismasting and swamping of Tzu Hang. After completely repairing and refitting the destroyed ketch, Miles and Beryl made a second attempt.

I found my way to this book while reading “A Voyage for Madmen” about the 1969 race to be the first non-stop solo circumnavigator (also a great read). This is a beautifully composed memoir of an exceptional journey through the South Pacific. What more can I say without sounding cliche? If you are addicted to sailing adventure stories like me, you’ve got to hunt this one down.

Give a man — or a girl for that matter — a horse he can ride, and sooner or late he, or she, will want to ride further and faster and to jump higher. Let a man climb one mountain and he must find another until he seeks the snows. It is the same with a ship…Capes and seas, like mountains, “are there,” to round and to cross; and adventure, even when not in search of knowledge and without scientific aim, is good for its own sake.

-Miles Smeeton, “Once is Enough”


Dec 112011

19 days until departure. I’m heading out into the Pacific and into the Southern Ocean. Everyone has their little gadgets and comfort gear that they wouldn’t think of embarking on a trip like this without.

What five specialty items do you bring with you to go sailing in frequently cold and harsh (but sometimes warm and pleasant) conditions on the other side of the planet?

photo by rachaelvoorhees on flickr

1. Fuzzy-lined rubber lobstering gloves
2. Silk or merino-wool long underwear
3. Headlamp with red night-time lense
4. Funny, light, easy reading
5. Ear-plugs