8 things you learn sailing on General Patton’s yacht

This past Sunday, I was delighted to make my debut in my other hometown newspaper, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, writing about my journey from Marquette to Duluth aboard the When and If, the yacht belonging to General George S. Patton. Click here to see the PDF and get all the history on this amazing boat, the oldest and most authentic to visit Tall Ships Duluth.

1. Making friends is easier when your boat is famous. Everywhere we went, from, people wanted to ask about the boat, talk about old Blood ‘n’ Guts, find out where we’d been, and learn our stories.

2. It helps to have a professional photographer on board. I wish I could have Emma Louise Wyn-Jones with me all the time! Check out more of her amazing photos on her Facebook page.

3. Even in August, swimming in the middle of Lake Superior is colder than you could possibly imagine, even when you’re diving headfirst from the legendary Black Rocks in the Upper Peninsula capital of Marquette.

4. A boat is the only way to get around the wild, unspoiled, and gorgeous Apostle Islands (which, despite living mere hours away, I had never visited before this summer).

5. Being a crewmember (even a guest one) at a Tall Ships Festival is like being a gorilla in a zoo (and I mean that in the best possible way). Luckily, we had intern Ben Shaiman (Official Blogger of Tall Ships America) onboard to show us the way.

7. Lake Superior is not to be taken for granted. The Edmund Fitzgerald is just for starters of shipwrecks.

8. Pasties are delicious for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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It’s been almost two years, and I miss it every single day (VIDEO)

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Dutch TV has now aired four different video installments of the Oosterschelde’s round-the-world voyage of 2014, which I’ve been watching with awe and a little trepidation. I’ve seen most of the videos, so I figured it wouldn’t be that earth-shattering. But I was a delighted to see that a lot of this astonishing footage–of dolphin pods, of hauling lines in gales, of the beautiful sun-hardened faces of the crew–was new to me, too.

In particular, I recommend watching the last one. Not all of these people I met in person–my leg of the voyage unfortunately isn’t featured at all, because two months straight at sea proved too much for even the most intrepid documentarian. The focus here is on the shorter Antarctic  journeys and the Cape Horn voyage that took place before I boarded, as well as the trip from the Azores (where I got off) to Rotterdam. However you will see many of the crew members who were onboard my leg.

It’s also a chance for you to see some extremely familiar faces to me (without naming any names of course).

But I’m just going to say it–going back can be painful. The other day, the longing to go back was almost unbearable. Images flit through my brain: as if I were back sitting on the wooden deck box, the rain pattering on my face on midnight watch. Watching the sun rise out of the gray mist, the drowned world reformed anew each day.  Unfiltered sunlight on weathered rope. The flip of the tail of an Ascension blackfish. The drunken ecstasy of dancing in the middle of the world with people who, for that moment, at least, are beautiful, inside and out , and who think you are beautiful, too. I felt…blessed. And even though some of those good feelings eventually crumbled, as they always do, our community of pirates has dispersed and moved on, our connections broken or lost, their etchings remain on me, unerasable.

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What I’ve written on this blog and elsewhere has only scratched the surface of what it was really like. So few people get a chance to experience something that is so far removed from everday existence that it’s like almost literally traveling to another universe. I look around my house now and I have to pinch myself to remind me that it was actually real. How do you ever move on after that? How do you engage yourself in the normal rhythms of 21st century life? Honestly, I still haven’t quite figured it out. I’m not the same person as I was before that trip, and I don’t know if I ever will be.

This isn’t “an oh, wasn’t that a great trip.” It’s so far beyond that it scares me–the fact that it’s almost two years later and this longing is as powerful as ever. And the knowledge that I will never get that feeling back–and I may never do anything in my life that makes me feel that way again– sometimes scares me.  I can try to recreate it (I have tried to recreate it) but it would never be the same. I don’t want it to be the same.

All I can hope is that someday I’ll be able to do something again that will mean as much to me as this trip did, that I’ll be embraced by a group of people in the same way I was embraced by them. I had hopes that it would continue, that this could somehow be the new normal. But I was naive. But if it’s possible for anyone to simply run away to sea forever and never come back, I’ve yet to meet them. There are always obligations, always yokes, always links to land.

As 2015 comes to a close, I’m feeling reflective. The readers of this blog have helped me along the journey, and I am thankful for you, too! The chance to share my adventures with you is a true gift. I hope there are lot more adventures ahead of me, no matter what they may be, and I hope you’re along to experience them, too.

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In the New Year, I have big plans for this blog. The number one question I get when I tell people about my adventures is, how? How did you sail on a tall ship? And how can I do it too?

In 2016, I hope to do a post, or series of posts, that answers that question.

And still I keep dreaming.

The Oosterschelde and her sisters: A field guide

Today in Learn Along with Claire, get to know your tall ships! In case you didn’t know, I will spending part of February, March and April sailing the Atlantic aboard the topsail schooner Oosterschelde. At the moment she and her sisters are off the coast of Hobart, Tasmania as part of the Australian tall ships regatta. A couple of local filmmakers hopped on board their boat and sailed out to the harbor to put together this video, which serves as an ideal tool to get acquainted with a pirate’s most important asset: the ship!

The Europa is the three-masted barque with square sails, for the pirate who wants to make an entrance.

The Oosterschelde (my ship), a three-masted schooner. Fast and furious, for the pirate on a mission.

The Tecla is the small two-masted ketch, for the pirate who works by stealth.

Announcement! Princess of Pirates is about to be more than just a state of mind

Actual trip may differ from photo.

Actual trip may differ from photo.

For the past few months, this blog has been in stealth mode. I’ve been hiding in the trees like some kind of fairy-tale witch, tossing out candy to see if anyone will take the bait. But now that the advance check is in the bank it’s official, it’s time to reveal why I decided to start it–and it isn’t, as you might have guessed, just a sudden, unexplained obsession with eyepatches.

My first book, the memoir Princess of Pirates: Or, How I Ran Away to Sea is a go! It’s due out in 2015 from Cleis Press, with a hearty salute to my intrepid agent Anna Olswanger of Liza Dawson Associates. As a result, come February, I’ll be heading back to sea for the first time since 2006, as a guest crew member on the Dutch schooner Oosterschelde. And you’re all invited along for the trip!

In the coming months, I’ll be dishing up as many typhoons, swashbuckling duels, and wind-blown love affairs that I can cram into digestible 300-word chunks, as well as more pedestrian fare like…um, finishing my manuscript. All in real time (for the polished stuff, of course, you gotta buy the book!) As always, since this is the 21st century and not (sadly) the Golden Age of Sail, I’ll be cross-pollinating on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Some of you may get handwritten letters stuffed into glass bottles, too–but I can’t guarantee timely delivery.

See you at sea!

A three-hour (pirate) tour in Honolulu

Hawaii News Now – KGMB and KHNL

Maybe you’ve got the pirate princess bug but you’re not ready to run away to sea just yet. But if you’re a lucky bastard and happen to be in Honolulu, Hawaii, you can join the crew of the Treasure Seeker for a whirlwind hour-and-a-half jaunt from Kewalo Basin to Waikiki and back. Aye, ma’am!

New Pirate Themed Cruise Set for Launch.

This gorgeous pirate girl is just one of the boys.

Yeah, the first and last verse pretty much say it all here

I won’t forget when Peter Pan came to my house, took my hand
I said I was a boy; I’m glad he didn’t check.
I learned to fly, I learned to fight.
I lived a whole life in one night.
We saved each other’s lives out on the pirate’s deck.

And I remember that night
When I’m leaving a late night with some friends
And I hear somebody tell me it’s not safe,
someone should help me
I need to find a nice man to walk me home.

When I was a boy, I scared the pants off of my mom,
Climbed what I could climb upon
And I don’t know how I survived,
I guess I knew the tricks that all boys knew.

And you can walk me home, but I was a boy, too.

I was a kid that you would like, just a small boy on her bike
Riding topless, yeah, I never cared who saw.
My neighbor come outside to say, “Get your shirt,”
I said “No way, it’s the last time I’m not breaking any law.”

And now I’m in this clothing store, and the signs say less is more.
More that’s tight means more to see, more for them, not more for me.
That can’t help me climb a tree in ten seconds flat.

When I was a boy, See that picture? That was me,
Grass-stained shirt and dusty knees.
And I know things have gotta change,
They got pills to sell, they’ve got implants to put in,
they’ve got implants to remove.

But I am not forgetting…that I was a boy too.

And like the woods where I would creep, it’s a secret I can keep
Except when I’m tired, ‘cept when I’m being caught off guard
And I’ve had a lonesome awful day, the conversation finds its way
To catching fire-flies out in the backyard.

And so I tell the man I’m with about the other life I lived
And I say, “Now you’re top gun, I have lost and you have won”
And he says, “Oh no, no, can’t you see

When I was a girl, my mom and I we always talked
And I picked flowers everywhere that I walked.
And I could always cry, now even when I’m alone I seldom do
And I have lost some kindness
But I was a girl too.
And you were just like me, and I was just like you.”