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?

5 tips for publishing your travel writing on major sites

Recently, I was chatting on a message board with a fellow travel blogger, who had come across my site and saw all the badges on the the side of my blog. “I’d love to write for some of those,” she said. “But I don’t know where to start!” I was surprised, because she’s a successful blogger who’s got slick concept and a great-looking site. But, like most bloggers, she’d love more exposure for her writing and the perks that brings–traffic, more paid assignments. Hmmm, that gave me an idea for a new post!

I’ve been a professional freelance writer for almost a decade, long before I started this blog (although I had other blogs, a long time ago in another life!) I know there are a lot of bloggers who’ve yet to do any freelancing, but would love to gain a bigger audience by publishing their work beyond their blog, but may not know where to start. I’m here to help!

Weirdly, I found one of my biggest travel writing clients, Matador Network, by accident, when they syndicated my post on XOJane, which was an article that arose out of my book, Princess of Pirates: How I Ran Away to Sea. But if they aren’t coming to you yet, go to them!

How To Get Started Writing for Travel Sites in 5 Short Steps

  1. Decide where to pitch. Don’t know where to start? Start at the easiest place–with the blogs you already read and love. Chances are you might have an idea for a post on a subject they haven’t covered and are looking to cover. Don’t be afraid to think big–even if a blog has a lot of traffic, that doesn’t mean they aren’t looking for a subject matter you might be an expert in–like working a yacht, for example, or train travel, or luxury hotels in Singapore, or…
  2. Do your research. Log onto the site, browse it thoroughly to make sure you get their tone down and get a sense of what they seem to publish most often. You don’t want to waste your time pitching “10 tips for solo travel in India” when they just published “What I learned from traveling alone in India” two days ago. (At least you know there’s an audience for it, so save that piece for somewhere else!) Be sure your concept is fresh, but still falls within the scope of what they publish. For instance, Matador had published pieces on yachties, but nothing on tall ships. Cha-ching! Found my niche. The subject doesn’t have to be brand-new, either. You can also adapt one of your previous posts (generally they don’t want a complete duplicate, so you will have to change it a little).
  3. Craft the pitch. Offer to write about something that they haven’t covered, and convince them why you should be the one to do it. What are your qualifications? give them a link to your blog and/or portfolio. Remember don’t bore them with a bland, predictable pitch: “This is what I’m going to write about…” You’re writing, so write the pitch the way you would write the post. Make it sing!
  4. Send your pitch. Make sure to check out their submission guidelines to see whether they accept pitches or want you to submit the entire piece, or have any policies you should know about. Sometimes they’ll give you a generic email address (e.g. info@bigtravelsite.com.) If you can try to find the name and email address of an actual PERSON. If you can greet them by name, it helps shape personal connection that makes them less likely to ignore you.
  5. Follow up. Editors are busy–don’t be afraid to nudge! If you don’t hear back right away, don’t throw up your hands and give up. I can’t tell you how often editors have gotten back to me and said “Oops, I never saw this. It fell through the cracks, but we’d love to publish it!”
  6.  Don’t give up. Rejection SUCKS. Believe me, I hate it more than I hate just about anything in the world–which as a writer, is quite unfortunate for me! (The only thing I hate more than being rejected is being ignored altogether, which also happens). But I grit my teeth and keep going, because this is my business; this is my life. Rejection is NOT a referendum on you as a human being, and it doesn’t mean your story is worthless. It just means “not here.” Maybe you’ll get accepted right away. Maybe you won’t. Find another market who does want it (see below). Remember, as long you think it’s going to take to get accepted, it will most likely take 100 times that, or longer. But if you keep pitching, brainstorming, and sending great ideas, it will happen. Take it from me, the Rejection Queen.

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Here are some great resources I’ve found for finding new places to submit your work, tips on submissions, and all around support:

  • Facebook Groups for Travel Blogging. Once you request to join, these are incredibly useful in networking with other bloggers, sharing ideas and (sob) stories, getting advice, and spreading word of mouth about sites who are looking for writers/pitches! Plus, helping other writers makes you feel fuzzy inside! The ones I belong to:
  • Next Level Travel Blogging
  • Female Travel Bloggers
  • Girls vs. Globe
  • Drifters Unite
  • Pitch Travel Write. Veteran travel writer Roy Stevenson has written literally thousands of articles for travel sites, and has dozens of valuable tips for how to pitch, what to pitch, and the business of travel writing.
  • Make a Living WritingThis site isn’t specifically about travel writing, but it is covered in several posts, as well as hugely use list of sites paying $50 and up, including a long list of travel-related sites. Carol Tice is a rock star when it comes to offering tips to chase big sites and clients, and more importantly make $$$!
  • Matador Network. The site actually offers a class on travel writing called Travel U. I haven’t tried it, but it’s got great testimonials and it’s something to think about if you’re serious about getting more work. But they also have a great free how-to series on travel writing by editor David Miller that are just as valuable (e.g., “Why lists are killing travel writing!”)

What about you? Any techniques that have worked particularly well for you in getting your writing published? Any that haven’t? Share below!

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.

I’m featured in Cosmopolitan this week

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One of the biggest challenges of being a die-hard pirate princess is that as a freelancer, it’s extremely difficult to sail and make a living. It’s a big reason why so many sailors are retired. (Although slowly, that’s changing!)

In any case, by the time I got home from my epic tall ship voyage, I’d had to give up all of my freelance gigs, not to mention my New York apartment. I needed some seed money to get on my feet again. The solution? Why, participating in a medical research study, of course! Today in Cosmo, I lay out the whole story.

Check it out and let me know what you think!

 

 

Looking toward the horizon

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My XOJane It Happened to Me article (yes, the one that started it all) is now in “syndication,” being now hosted on the excellent travel site Matador Network. At 7K views, I was informed it got more play than almost any other personal essay they printed. I was surprised and delighted, but it’s not surprising, I guess. Exotic tropical locales and hot sailor sex–what more can you ask for?

The editor there as invited me to keep contributing to the site, and my first article, 16 things only tall ship sailors understand, is also live, complete with bizarre lollipop cover art (see above).

Finally, my editor at Cleis/Viva has gotten back in touch, letting me know that someone in the universe besides me–in this case, her assistant–has read my manuscript and is preparing notes on it.

Believe me, after what I’ve been through with my publisher (and I’m not blaming anybody, there’s just been a lot of upheaval), this is progress.

As a writer, it seems sometimes that all I do is relive the past but I’m trying the best I can to look toward my next adventure. Ideally, I’d like to find a way to make it a permanent one. I’m entranced by the growing popularity of the digital nomad lifestyle and working from anywhere. Of course, sailing is still my preferred way to travel, and a stable wi-fi connection is generally inconsistent with being at the mercy of the wind and waves. But hey, if anybody can find a way, it’s a pirate princess, right?

My income is also not such that I can afford to spend two months at sea out of touch with the working world, as glorious and refreshing as that was. What this all means is, if anybody knows a boat with a room for a mermaid-in-residence and regular access to wi-fi, please tell them to get in touch.