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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6 times the ocean left me speechless

Happy World Oceans Day! As a Mermaid-American, I have been drawn to the ocean for as long as I can remember, and the more I travel, whether by sail or by land, the more I realize how much it means to me. Here are 6 times in my travels the ocean left me speechless. Let’s preserve our oceans so generations to come can experience its power and beauty.

 

 

Diving off the pier into the phosphorescent harbor of Ascension Island and feeling the blackfish nibble my feet.

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Snorkeling (and kissing!) friendly wild stingrays off the reef in the Cayman Islands.

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Climbing the mast of the Oosterschelde after 30 days at sea and seeing the entire Atlantic spread out before me like a shimmering blue carpet. I felt like time had stopped we now lived in a flooded world.

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Releasing a baby sea turtle into the ocean off Baja, California at sunset, watching it crawl down the beach and get swept up by the waves, to happily live the rest of its life at sea.

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The first time I stood in the bow of a schooner in rough weather, and felt the boat lift off the surface of the water. When I jumped, it was like leaving the earth for a while.

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Racing a pod of joyful pod of hourglass dolphins off the Falkland Islands.

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What’s your all-time favorite ocean experience?

There’s a guy in Anguilla building robot boats, and it may revolutionize sailing for women

 Vincent Cate and his three sons have dubbed themselves the Island Boys. They sound like a boy band, but they’re actually a father-son team of boat designers living on the Caribbean island of Anguilla, and they may just change how we sail. Inspired by the Dashews, the supercouple of boat designers, he’s on a mission to build a better boat.
Vincent recently came to me for advice about why more women aren’t into sailing and if maybe a better designed boat might help?
My answer? Absolutely!
Let’s face it, as much as we talk about the romance of the sea, sailboats are just horrible to live in most of the time. Toilets you can’t flush properly and a frequent lack of hot showers; lack of laundry facilities, and getting really, really, really hot. When I’m on a smaller boat, I tend to feel like I’m constantly in the way of someone or something. My dream is to live on a boat full-time, but the more cramped the quarters are, the less appealing it is.
Women like adventure as much as men, and we aren’t complainers. For me, personally, I don’t like feeling useless or like I’m in the way, and on a small, cramped boat, that happens all the time.
Seasickness is a big issue too, especially on monohulls. (No, it doesn’t effect women more than men–women are just less likely to put up with it). Catamarans are much better, but even they’re not perfect. Vincent says he has a solution: a solar-powered robotic boat, that people will be able to live on full-time for next to nothing. Yes, please!
The read model on the Island Boys website shows the basic idea. There are 4 floats in the corners that are shaped so waves you can around them, which makes for even more stable boat than a catamaran.
Here is video showing model and some future ideas: 

I had to ask him a few questions about this (not so) farfetched plan, and what it’s like to work with those four charming sons of his.

What gave you the idea to start designing solar boats?

When I was around 12 I had a little electric boat. I took out the 2 AA batteries and connected a small solar panel up with alegator clips. It went fine across the pool. I said, some day I will build a big solar boat.
So I have been thinking about it for a long time. I am 52 now.

How did the boys get involved?

The boys like doing something interesting and this is interesting. The older two are home schooled, so the programming of this was a home school assignment really.

What’s the appeal of this kind of boat? How does it improve on current designs?

I think it will sell because solar does not cost anything to operate (so much cheaper than power boat) and is simple to operate (does not require the skill level that sailing does).
The boat will be very roomy and stable. It can be roomy because we are above the water so space is sort of easier. Having the right shape floats spaced far apart makes for a very gentle motion. This makes the boat safer and less trouble with seasickness.
I think with lots of electricity we won’t worry about running the watermaker or water heater and with lots of room we can have a real shower. Real beds, real fridge, laundry, etc.
I really think it will feel closer to a regular home than to a normal sailboat. So I think women can feel like “nesting” and not “camping”.
Many people when sailing like to take a break in a hotel. With this boat I don’t think there would be much desire to switch to a hotel.
I live on a Caribbean island, Anguilla. A nice house next to the ocean costs a lot. If I can make floating houses that cost less, I think I can sell them. A boat gets a great view. Also, you don’t have to pay property tax. So if we can get the stability and costs, it should be good.
Not only will these boats be comfortable, roomy, and technologically advanced, but they’ll also be cheap to operate! Sounds like a win to me.
Cate has a crowdfunding campaign going on now, and adds in recent years there’s been a rush to snatch up the “.ai” domains assigned to Anguilla. Whether these are actually Artificial Intelligence researchers or just sci-fi nerds, it’s putting money in Cate’s pocket, which means these solar boats may become a reality sooner than later. And then I’m moving in.

Why Do I Sail? New Essay in Misadventures Magazine

I’m thrilled that my new essay–parsing out the whys (and why the hells) of why I sail, is featured in the new online edition of Misadventures Magazine, inspired by my recent pilgrimage through the Caribbean on wind power.

Misadventures is wonderful new print and online publication that seeks to cover adventure travel from a woman’s perspective, something that’s desperately needed in the current media landscape. Please check it out and subscribe!

 

 

Ile a Vache, Haiti: The Caribbean Paradise Where Poverty and Luxury Collide

Île-à-Vache (literally “Cow Island”) is a roughly eight-mile island off the southwest coast of Haiti. Its pirate credentials are solid, having once been a hideout for Captain Morgan (yes, that Captain Morgan), and it’s difficult to get to. It’s home to at least two luxury hotels, plenty of shipwrecks, a few small lodgings, sailboat cruisers, charities and most importantly, lots of brave people with an enterprising spirit who are just looking for a chance after a ton of bad luck.

It was here where I joined the crew of the cruising yacht Tandemeer, who, in partnership with the International Rescue Group (IRG), had already spent a month in Haiti delivering goods and supplies to the people of Île-à-Vache and the surrounding regions in partnership with a number of aid organizations in the area. I’ll detail some of the trip in future posts and articles, but I wanted to get this post out here now and describe the nature of the work we were doing and what the organization has accomplished, as well as my impressions on my first trip to a Third World country.

The four-hour bus ride from Port-au-Prince to the port city of Les Cayes (the jumping off point to Île-à-Vache) takes you over some of the most stunning rolling landscapes in the interior of Haiti. Marinated goat, rice and peas, and pickled vegetables served at a pit stop was some of the best — and cheapest — food I ate in Haiti. Seemingly on every corner along the way were New York lottery ticket stands — evidence of the country’s big dreams, if few of them are ever likely to pan out.

I wasn’t alone for this journey, thankfully. My guide to Île-à-Vache, Fedrique Tarjette, is living proof of what these organizations can do. Now 33, he was burned in an accident as a child and transported for treatment to the United States, where he was raised in various foster homes throughout his teenage years before returning to his family in Haiti, whom he had to had to get to know all over again. He’s basically raised himself, and his competence shows. He now works as a guide on Île-à-Vache and knows every trail (and goat, and place to buy Prestige beer) on the island.

He also speaks flawless English and has the talent to draw out the truth from people (even if they don’t necessarily want to share it). Within an hour of meeting him, I was sharing my deepest hopes, dreams and desires, including my fears about what to expect on the upcoming trip, diving (as I always do) in the unknown headfirst. He asked me: “If you could have anything without worrying about money, what would you want?” Coming from a Haitian, this question seemed to take on a whole new meaning.

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When the bus let us off at Les Cayes, Fedrique led me past the sea of enterprising cabbies and we hopped onto the back of a speeding moto-taxi — I’d never gripped harder onto the back of a guy who I’d only met mere moments before. But the primitive motorboats available to take you to the island are even more precarious. We got there late so we were afraid we were out of luck. Thanks to Fedrique, we were able to catch the last boat speeding across the channel. The captain passed out a tarp that we all joined together in holding up to shield ourselves from the spray, along with a handful of other hardy souls (including a new friend with Urkel glasses who passed out caramels to everybody in the boat to welcome us.)

“Is he an old friend of yours?” I asked Freddy after they’d been engaged in conversation in Creole for 15 minutes.

“Nope, we just met,” he said with a laugh.

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We arrived in absolute darkness — the island has no electricity and is lit only with occasional solar lights. This is a resort island? I wondered as we groped our way up the hill to Port Morgan. I spent the night at the Port Morgan Hotel, which will also get a separate post. The hotel’s French-born proprietor, Didier Boulard, a spry and wiry man in his 70s, moved to Île-à-Vache decades ago after falling in love with the place. He and his black Lab warmly welcomed me into Room 1, then later to the elegant palapa-roofed patio to enjoy a meal of gigantic prawns by the swimming pool. He told me it was high season at the hotel, but there weren’t too many guests. Given the challenges of transportation, it’s not hard to see why.

 

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Later that night, I met the crew of the boat I’d be sailing on for the next two weeks. Tandemeer is a 57-foot cruiser whose well-weathered captain, Sequoia Sun, has been coming to Haiti since 2010. He’s noticed a lot of changes on the island — from a completely rural backwater to the beginnings of a viable tourist industry, both of which seem to have made an uneasy peace. When he first came, the island had neither electricity nor any motorized transportation to speak of. In the rural areas, people still get around on donkey and horseback. I was later given an ATV tour of the interior of the island, but even these ATVs didn’t exist when he first came.

 

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Madame Bernard’s is the only market on the island, and was unfortunately closed when I was there, but the crew was able to buy products from local farmers, including coconut macaroons that I was lucky enough to sample — the local way, according to crew member Sanne, is to boil them with coffee grounds and lots and lots of sugar.  Tandemeer’s first mate Anne Ostlund encountered one of the most wizened old women I’ve ever seen, and gave her jellybeans when she asked for food. “What are these?” she asked in Creole. Apparently jellybeans don’t count as food in Haiti. Do they anywhere?

There is enterprise on the island, including a fish farm and a sailmaking business which was founded with the help of Sequoia Sun’s longtime colleague Bruce Leeming, another cruiser who’s a veteran of Île-à-Vache.

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The produce is abundant and rich, but the lack of a functioning economy makes the locals unable to really glean any income from it, unfortunately. During mango season, “everybody sells mangoes to everybody else,” said Sequoia.

 

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Thanks to the Haitian tourist board, I was taken by ATV for a tour of Sister Flora’s orphanage on Île-à-Vache, where Tandemeer distributed medical supplies and sporting goods. There, I was greeted by Sister Flora and three dedicated nuns. The sister was a tiny little person with a big, big heart, who gave me a kiss on the cheek and, through a translator, explained how the corruption of the failed Haitian government has unfortunately screwed over their organization again and again.

Every year politicians arrive, take photo ops and make promises they don’t keep. Sister Flora has been here since the 1970s, dedicating her life to the least, the last and the lost. The Tandemeer was able to deliver badly needed medical supplies for the disabled children who call the orphanage home. The knowledge that there are people out there who eat, sleep and breathe charity was truly humbling, and I was wiping tears from my eyes as we sped away to the next portion of our journey.

The children were all fascinated by technology and eager to have their pictures taken, especially to turn the camera around and see how they turned out! One particularly friendly little girl named Beatrice was a real camera hog. Some of the shyer kids hung back, and having been a shy kid myself, I would have loved to get to know them better, but as it turned out, the orphanage had a “no pictures” policy so I had to shut it down.

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Conditions here are stark for such a beautiful place, but the French-Canadian nuns never wavered from their work, especially with the constant attention demanded by the special-needs children. In the U.S. children with special needs are educated in public schools right alongside typical kids, but we forget that for kids in poorer countries, that option isn’t there — and most of the time, their parents can’t afford to care for them, either. So they end up in places like this. I couldn’t stay here long because of the bleakness, with children housed in a single room with two overworked caretakers. It did hearten me that most of the wheelchairs, changing tables and other equipment were in good condition, which means that donations were eventually getting there, no matter how sporadic their arrival.

During my whirlwind Polaris ATV journey, courtesy of the Haitian tourist board that is doing what it can to promote this lovely place, locals paused on the side of the road to watch us with interest. Many children waved eagerly; women stared suspiciously. I could tell they weren’t sure what to make me of me, frantically snapping pictures with my camera phone, but a smile and wave seemed to warm things up, as it does everywhere.

At last, it was time to meet the boat. The Tandemeer’s dinghy, operated by young crewman Cal Dodge, who’d been on the boat since it left New England months ago, picked me up on the beach in front of the hotel, and we sped over the shockingly clear water to the boat anchored in the harbor. There, I met Sanne van der Meusen, an adventurous, effusive and outgoing Dutch backpacker and ship’s cook who would be my cabin mate for the next few weeks. Has there ever been a Dutch seafarer I didn’t like? She’d already been in Haiti for weeks and had been awed by the connection she’d made with the locals, talking about the amazing moment she’d made with a little girl in the orphanage. She was moved and sad that she’d had to leave so soon, though she’d gotten to know the locals intimately. She’d love to come back to Haiti and engage in even more intense charity work.

 

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It’s hard to imagine anyone who wouldn’t enjoy this island — whether for sailing, snorkeling, beaches or cultural tourism. But it’s going to be a challenge. The island is also building an airport to try to attract more tourists, an idea that Sequoia thinks is probably premature. “The locals don’t have clean drinking water,” he said. How does anyone expect to get water for airports, luxury hotels and golf courses?

A few years ago, the government drilled wells to help provide water to residents — which were soon made useless when another large hotel on the island (one I didn’t stay in) actually diverted the water for its own use, illustrating the precarious push-pull between survival and progress in this place.

When people donate money to charity organizations, the organizations can buy supplies they need, but the supplies still need to get there. Due to the limited infrastructure in Haiti (which was further damaged by the 2010 earthquake) that’s not always an easy proposition. We forget that not everywhere has a FedEx and USPS that can deliver anything, anywhere in a limited time. That’s where small cruisers like Tandemeer, working with IRG, can come in and help.

Sanne in particular, given that she was in the country longer than I was, told me she’d grown disillusioned with charity work after learning that funds don’t often go where they’re intended and charity doesn’t always benefit who it’s supposed to.

But this illustrates the importance of IRG’s work — when boats can deliver supplies to these organizations directly, they can bypass a lot of the red tape, corruption and monetary costs that it takes to ship supplies.

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Before our departure from Ile a Vache, the crew gave me a briefing on some of the work they had done prior to my arrival and that donations helped fund.

They brought a large cargo of supplies to the city of Deschapelles: books for the new library being built there in French and Creole, musical instruments for the band, tennis rackets, balls and strings for the tennis program. The crew played tennis with them each morning, ping pong at night and attended the grand opening dedication ceremony of the new library being built their thanks to philanthropist Jennifer Grant, who grew up in Haiti and now works with the Albert Schweitzer Hospital, which was founded by her mother Gwen Grant Mellon.

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Their second stop in Haiti was the small fishing village of Soulette on Ile a Vache, where they unloaded donated sails for local boats, soccer balls and shoes for the organization run by Pastor Raymond Bideaux and his Islander Evangelic Ministries, then onto Ka Kok (Caille Coq) where they unloaded 22 boxes of medical supplies for the Citi Lumiere hospital there, plus shoes, clothes, soccer balls and jugs of water along with more sails.

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In the port city of Les Cayes, where you catch the boat to Ile a Vache, the boat unloaded many large boxes bound for Little Footprints, Big Steps (LFBS) brought from Florida and hand delivered to LFBS Director Morgan Weinberg.

LFBS, as the director explained to me, is not an orphanage but rather an organization dedicated to getting kids off the streets, putting them in school, and reuniting them with their families, if possible. The equipment they are using to give these kids extracurricular activities–the kind we take for granted in the U.S.–will really help enrich these kids in ways we can’t imagine.

On the boat, Sanne introduced me to Samedy Louisson (Haitians have the wildest, most mellifluous names ever), a local woodworker with an infectious smile, whose skills refitting the Tandemeer earned money for his family and possible future employment with other cruisers, thanks to a recommendation letter from Sequoia, safely put in one of my two-gallon plastic bags for safekeeping (glad I could help!) Since we were departing that day, he seemed sad to see us leave. We exchanged email addresses and promised to keep in touch, even though he’d known Sanne for weeks and me for only minutes. When you make a lifelong friend in 10 minutes, that says something about a place, don’t you think?

 

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My last glimpse of Louisson was as he paddled off to shore on his brand-new stand-up paddleboard — which could have been ours to enjoy on the boat if we hadn’t donated it to him. Nuts! But of course, we only wanted it to have fun — he needed it to make a living, and that’s all that matters.

My introduction to the unique island of Île-à-Vache and the people we met there in particular — their friendliness, their openness and bravery — will stay with me for a long time. This is the first trip I’ve ever done that was even remotely like this — I’m an anxious and cautious person, but here, I threw caution to the wind and went for it. The rewards I reaped will stay with me always.

As you all know I partially crowdfunded the volunteer fee for this trip, and these photos and tales illustrate that your help is not in vain. Merci, merci beaucoup à tout!

Also thanks to Sequoia Sun for providing some of the photos for this post.

I’m sailing to Haiti on a relief boat. Here’s why.

UPDATE: Guys, I wrote this post before I knew that the trip was going to be $1000 more than I had budgeted. Fuel is expensive and boats are incredibly pricey to maintain, so I know this happens, but it means I’m kind, of um, desperate.

I leave in seven days, my flight is already booked, and the awesome folks at the Haiti tourism board has been incredible in arranging a tour program for me. They need all the help I can give them in spreading the word about the great things that are going in this country. I’ve set up a Go Fund Me page. I have never done crowdfunding before and I didn’t intend to start now, but it’s my last resort before canceling the trip.

As a travel writer and blogger, I’m supposed to be requesting press trips to try out new hotels and asking for sponsored posts. Instead I’m hopping on a relief yacht sponsored by the International Rescue Group and sailing into the poorest country of the world to hand out medical supplies, clothing, toys, and water–which I can’t even afford.

Why?

Haiti and the Caribbean Still Need Help–and it’s Our Fault. Here’s why:
1. It’s been five years since the devastating earthquake hit Haiti, one of the world’s poorest countries, killing 200,000 people. A disaster of such magnitude would be hard-hit for any country, but for an already-impoverished nation, it’s going to take much longer than that.

2. The media has forgotten Haiti–which is why we can’t. The media tends to report on the latest disaster of the moment, turning their attention away from those that dominated the headlines just a year ago. Just because you don’t hear about something anymore, doesn’t mean it goes away.

3. Although the physical rebuilding has begun, disease is still rampant. Haiti is one of the few countries in the world that still suffers from cholera, According to CNN, it has now infected upward of 700,000 people, and has claimed the lives of nearly 10,000. And it may be that we’re to blame.

According to the AP, peacekeeping troops from Nepal carried strains of the disease with them, contaminating a large portion of Haiti’s drinking water. The U.N has denied any wrongdoing, and in January, a U.S. judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by human rights groups seeking compensation for the victims.

This is the last thing this country needs is for the U.N to dodge responsibility for this mess. While there may be no legal redress for this anytime soon, our crew on the Tandemeer is bringing clean drinking water and medical supplies to do what we can to combat this.

4. Even when people get their basic needs met, their emotional needs are still there. Toys, books and other supplies are needed for children. These kids need a chance to be kids, and sailing on Tandemeer we can help them do that! For example,  in Haiti, IRG partnerned with organization Zoe’s Dolls to distribute dolls to 40 girls.

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5. Education! Kids can’t learn if they’re struggling with basic needs, let alone afford school books or uniforms. IRG has partnered with Little Footprints, Big Steps to help the neediest children in Haiti get a good education and a chance at life.

6. As someone who writes about travel, I don’t always have to be the one who’s running off to the it-destination of the moment to party with the beautiful people and tell you where to drink sophisticated cocktails and be seen. Of course, that’s where the money is, so I tend to forget that.

But the truth, greatest travel experience of all time was on a 100-square mile island in the middle of the Atlantic with no tourist industry to speak of–and it was because of the people. The guy at the bar who saw me across the room and beckoned me in and made me feel at home.

While I’m there, I’ll also be in contact with the Haiti tourism board in order to hopefully see the brighter future of Haiti, one where economic prosperity will attract people from around the world, because they want to be there.

There are people in these regions who struggle with issues I can never hope to understand, but I will watch and listen and try. And that’s why I’m sailing to Haiti

 

Due to a last-minute price increase (and the sudden loss of another source of funding) I need to raise $1400 to go on this trip, so I’m turning to Go Fund Me. I will be so grateful for anything you can offer me. Continue to follow along here as I set off on my trip!

Thank you so much!

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 Gypsy Pirate Returns: Part 2 of my interview with Josje Leyten

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If you’ll recall last week, I posted the first part of my interview with Josje Leyten, the sailor who made a splash, literally, with her videos as a crew member aboard superstar sailboat SV Delos, and has now embarked upon a brave new journey as an artist and designer at Ramatree.

The response was amazing! Friends and fans from all over the globe stopped by to check out the interview, leave comments, and wish Josje good luck. Lucky we saved the best for last!

Now, here’s part 2, where we talk about the meaning of “gypsy pirate,” how she conquers fear, and what’s next for her.

Q: You call yourself a gypsy pirate, which I love. Why, and what does that mean to you?

A: Oh thank you! Well to be fair, I like to consider myself both of those things; part gypsy, part pirate. My sailing and nomadic journey have definitely shaped me into this being and I just feel so free and liberated when I am being a Gypsy Pirate. It doesn’t necessarily mean I wear 1000 layers of bohemian styled clothing and a ring on every finger, nor does it mean I live on an old wooden boat and drink rum straight from the bottle, although I do enjoy all of the above. To me, its more a feeling, it evokes a freeing sense of being and my inner heart calling. I’m big on following feelings, not so much thought, because thoughts can be destructive if you are not aware of them. Feelings are true and come from within. You can always feel if something is right, it’s your intuition and it always comes first. Learning how to listen to that is what I am trying to do, letting this feeling lead me through this forest path. So to me, being a Gypsy Pirate evokes this feeling of ME.

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Q: To me, being a pirate means having no fear–or at least not giving into it. What’s your biggest fear, and how do you conquer it, or work toward conquering it?

A: Hmmm, I think my biggest fear would be feeling ‘stuck’, not moving forward, or feeling ‘trapped’. I like the expression that there is never any grass growing under my feet. But at the same time, I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, so whatever happens will happen, and it is meant to be. So in saying that, I can’t really be afraid of anything right?!  

Q: What’s next for you? What does the future hold for Ramatree?

A: I will be based here In New Zealand over the summer but next year brings a complete open book, which I am super excited about! I am finding the balance between setting my goals and dreams, yet also allowing myself to flow down the river. Truthfully, I have absolutely no idea what the future holds, which is both extremely frightening and extremely exhilarating! I love not knowing what’s around the corner, it makes life more exciting, more thrilling, more liberating. There are so many branches and directions I want Ramatree to grow in, but at the end of the day, I cannot force it one way or another. I must let nature and the Universe nourish and grow me the way nature intended. I am super fucking excited to see where and how far it will go though! I am seeking the light, as trees seek the light, I know I will grow up to where there are no limits.

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Q: Anything else you want readers to know about you and your work?

A: I think a sense of mystery is always a good ally to have on your side! I just love to create and tap into my artistic, open, flowing space where anything and everything is possible. I live for spontaneity, adventure, photography, visual media, freedom and one love! I’m open to collaborations, bookings, ideas, people, anything, so feel free to email me if reading this ignited something inside of you! Much love and light!

That’s it for the interview with Josje! What do you think? Leave a comment below.

I hope to bring you more interviews and features with inspirational and fearless sailors, artists, and dreamers , so watch this space!

 

Josje Leyten, Gypsy Pirate: An Interview

I have a boat-crush on S/V Delos. The photogenic crew of this 53-foot Amel Super Maramu has been island hopping around the Pacific since 2009, and recently crossed the Indian Ocean from Asia to Africa, where they’re now cruising the coast. Their videos are full of endless tropical sunsets, brisk winds, idyllic beaches, and frequent laughter. I know how intoxicating life onboard a boat can be, and the nonstop fun they seem to have is enough to make you want to double-click on the “Buy us a Beer” icon on the website repeatedly, hoping if you do it enough they’ll let you come onboard and stay for a year or two…

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But to everyone’s surprise, just this year, Josje Leyten, Gypsy Pirate, lifelong sailor and Dutch Kiwi who joined up with Delos five years ago and became a regular face in the videos, made the announcement that, after the Indian Ocean journey, she was chucking it all and flying home from Madagascar to New Zealand to begin a landlubber’s life. So long, Delos! What could possibly prompt someone to give up paradise at sea?

Why art, of course. On a long passage over the Indian Ocean, Josje had a moment of clarity, as tends to happen when we lie on deck and look at the stars. Her new venture, Ramatree, embodies its name by including many branches, including photography, fashion design and jewelry. I had to see some of it: wow! She is seriously talented.

In her work, she incorporates vibrant oceanic colors, the textures of shells and driftwood, exotic cultures from her travels, and the hypnotic rhythms of waves:

And the bravery that she demonstrates by giving up her life at sea for an uncertain future truly embodies the pirate, no-quarter-given spirit I try to cultivate in my own life.

I had to find out more, so I asked Josje some questions, which she was kind enough to answer! Part 1 of her answers runs today:

Q: Does your time at sea influence your work, and if so how?

A: My whole tree of life has grown from inspiration that sailing across the oceans has given me. Wide-open spaces, time to think, to breathe, to reflect, to dream. Cultures to experience, different ways of being and living, absorbing vibes and experiencing different tribes have all been catalysts to planting this little seed that has formed my tree of life. I like my jewellery pieces unique, one off and handmade, from old treasures and hand picked collectibles.

The clothing I am designing is gypsy inspired from my nomadic wanders and sailing adventures. And I try to keep my creative writing as authentic and from the heart as possible, just the way nature intended. So yeah, I guess my time at sea has influenced me in huge ways, perhaps not necessarily so easy to explain, but in a more abstract way.

But mostly, the sea has taught me respect, authenticity and integrity. I want this inspiration to shine through my work and my being, because my time at sea has taught me that there is nothing you can pretend to be, the only thing you can do is be you and be real.

Q: What was one moment from your travels that influenced you most?

A: I guess it was sailing across the Indian Ocean this year and one specific place we visited, the Andaman Islands. It lies in the Bay of Bengal, half way between Thailand and mainland India; it is a chain of islands governed by India and it’s absolutely beautiful. The amazing fabrics, colour and styles blew me away over there. It was sort of where the whole thing started, I don’t know why but I just felt like I had to go and explore this creativity that was beginning to shine through. It was definitely the beginning of Ramatree.

Another huge influence was another creative soul, Frida, who joined Delos for the Indian Ocean crossing. She has an amazing gift of seeing people for their authentic self, of seeing the light, guiding them and allowing them to draw it out of themselves, and in turn, showing them their true potential. So she was a huge influence and inspiration for Ramatree as well.

Q: Which piece of art that you’ve made are you most proud of, and why?

A: Ohhh this is difficult, because the seed was only planted around 6 months ago, so my real life creations are limited, however my creations in my mind are big and ready to explode and radiate outwards! But I guess I’m most proud of visualizing and creating my figurative Tree of Life. I know its nothing I can show you, that you can touch, see or feel, but you can read about it, learn about it and understand it. I’m also extremely proud of my website which, with a little help, I built to share with the world. To be honest, I’m pretty proud of every creation I’ve made so far, whether its earrings, cuffs, necklaces, artwork, designs, or pieces of writing. I just love creating it all and for allowing myself to go through these transitions of life in order to do what I love, for that I am most proud

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Stay tuned for Part 2 of my interview with Josje, and post any comments below!

UPDATE: Part 2 of our interview has been posted!