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A Serious Ocean
You know it by the northern look of the shore,
by the salt-worried faces,
by an absence of trees, an abundance of lighthouses.
It's a serious ocean.
North Sea off Carnoustie by Anne Stevenson
Tomorrow will have an island
by William Stafford
Tomorrow will have an island. Before night
I always find it. Then on to the next island.
These places hidden in the day separate
and come forward if you beckon.
But you have to know they are there before they exist.
Some time there will be a tomorrow without any island,
So far, I haven't let that happen, but after
I'm gone others may become faithless and careless.
Before them will tumble the wide unbroken sea,
and without any hope they will stare at the horizon.
So to you, Friend, I confide my secret:
to be a discoverer you hold close whatever
you find, and after a while you decide
what it is. Then, secure in where you have been,
you turn to the open sea and let go.
The Poet's Obligation
by Pablo Neruda
To whoever is not listening to the sea
this Friday morning, to who ever is cooped up
in house or office, factory or woman
or street or mine or dry prison cell,
to him I come, and without speaking or looking
I arrive and open the door of his prison,
and a vibration starts up, vague and insistent,
a long rumble of thunder adds itself
to the weigh of the planet and the foam,
the groaning rivers of the ocean rise,
the star vibrates quickly in its corona
and the sea beats, dies, and goes on beating.
So. Drawn on by my destiny,
I ceaselessly must listen to and keep
the sea's lamenting in my consciousness,
I must feel the crash of the hard water
and gather it up in a perpetual cup
so that, wherever those in prison may be,
wherever they suffer the sentence of the autumn,
I may be present with an errant wave,
I may move in and out of the windows,
and hearing me, eyes may lift themselves,
asking "How can I reach the sea?"
And I will pass to them, saying nothing,
the starry echoes of the wave,
a breaking up of foam and quicksand,
a rustling of salt withdrawing itself,
the gray cry of sea birds on the coast.
So, though me, freedom and the sea
will call in answer to the shrouded heart.
Schedule is posted now!
If you are looking for travel planning advice and/or private guiding services, visit my wife Tadji's new site, travelswithtadji.com.
Check out an article about this past August's Gulf of St. Lawrence voyage: Northern Wanderings by Dallas Murphy, with photography by Nick McKinney
and Refit for the Next 100K Miles" from the December/January
2015 issue of Sailing magazine
On August 22, I was interviewed about
my new book by CBC Radio in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. Click
here to listen to the podcast.
An excerpt from Sailing a Serious Ocean, titled "John
Kretschmer's Darkest Hour at Sea," was posted on Sail
magazine's website in July. It's sure to fire your imagination
for the adventure and potential peril of a blue water passage.
A SERIOUS OCEAN: Sailboats, Storms, Stories and Lessons
Learned from Thirty Years at Sea
My new book is widely available. All humility aside, I am
proud of it. It's an exciting mix of sea stories and seamanship.
It's personal, humorous and at times terrifying. Learn what
makes a boat blue water capable and how to handle it and
the crew when the ocean turns angry. The book is filled
with anecdotes and hard-won advice. I think you will like
it. You can order an autographed copy from my online
Thank you for venturing into the far flung world of John Kretschmer
Sailing. If this is your first time, welcome, otherwise many thanks
for dropping by again. 2016 is just over the horizon. It was more
than 32 years ago we beat around Cape Horn in the brave little
sloop Gigi, seems hard to believe. I have been sailing professionally,
if that's what you call what I do, ever since. I have lost track
of how many offshore miles I've logged. When my sailing odometer
ticked over 300,000 I stopped counting. It seems absurd to keep
tallying miles, I have nothing to prove and I am not convinced
that miles matter very much. They define sailing as the distance
between landfalls, as if land's edge defines the ocean and our
relationship with it. That's crazy, it's the in-between that matters,
the voyage, the journey, the interlude of being "at sea," that's
where the magic lurks.
What amazes me is that I am more passionate about what I do than
ever before. I think I am old enough and maybe wise enough finally,
to realize that I have a great gig. I love being aboard Quetzal,
driving her through whatever conditions come our way. The people
who track me down and sign aboard are always intriguing, they
get it, they know that sea time is valuable and we usually end
becoming friends and frequent shipmates. I remain devoted to providing
unique, honest and challenging sailing and travel opportunities
for my clients.
I am also committed to sharing useful information and hard won
opinions about blue water and coastal voyaging, and more to the
point in these interesting times, living life on your own terms.
Deep ocean sailing in small boats, and at 47' Quetzal still qualifies
as a small boat, offers a powerful blend of responsibility, freedom
and self-discovery. Joseph Conrad titled his sailing ship memoir,
"The Mirror of the Ocean," and I love that phrase. There is nowhere
to hide at sea and the image that reflects back at you from the
face of a steel blue wave is brutally honest. To thrive at sea
you must take stock of who you are, not who you want to be. There's
no pretending out there.
Our passages are rarely easy and at times downright miserable,
they're all too real. And they're rewarding. The people that sail
with me buy, sell, invent, teach, build, cure, protect, in short
- they shake the world when ashore. But at sea, aboard Quetzal,
they feel refreshingly small and profoundly alive. Time slows
down at sea and somehow matters more, and what can be more important
than managing your allotment of time?
I began my book, Flirting With Mermaids, "I make landfalls for
a living." It's a good line but as I get older I have come to
realize that making landfalls is easy. Making departures, pushing
off the dock, unplugging the electronic handcuffs, subverting
the shore side guilt, that's the hard part. And that's where I
can help. Take a good look at the site: the schedule of training
passages, the workshops, the pictures, videos, books and even
the poems, then send me an email. Let's communicate. Sailing dreams
are too important to leave for another day. It's time, time to
go sailing, time to go to sea and I look forward to welcoming
you aboard Quetzal.
Looking Back - Looking Ahead
As I write, Quetzal is in Newfoundland after a summer cruise
around the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Soon we'll be exploring the rugged
fjords of the south coast as we make our way to Lunenburg, Nova
Scotia. Then we will prepare for our annual rite of autumn, the
heavy weather passage south to the Caribbean by way of Bermuda,
and that's always an adventure.
and her many crewmembers continue to log prodigious sea miles.
We tallied 10,000 in 2014 and by the end of 2015, we will have
added 12,000 more, laying down tracks across the Atlantic. Two
years, twenty passages, more than 100 shipmates, and a thousand
thanks to all of you who signed aboard. The big news of 2015 is
that we took the teak decks off, a major project to say the least.
A special thanks to Spring Cove Marina in Solomon's Maryland and
their talented crew. Friends Ron Sorensen, Alan Creaser, Danny
Peter, Bruce Steely and Earl Bennett all assisted with this project.
Quetzal looks beautiful and is ready for years of sailing.
The 2016 schedule is sold out but I do have wait lists for each
passage so don't hesitate to drop me a line and see if there might
be any openings. The 2017 schedule is being posted with this update
and there are some intriguing passages to consider. Don't hesitate
to contact me if you're interested in signing aboard.
We will begin 2017 in the Caribbean, Antigua to be specific.
I am calling our first passage The Rhumb Line - a strong wind
passage. The first leg to Barbados is a 300 mile run close reaching
into the heart of the winter tradewinds. It won't be an easy passage
but there is a reward, a Quetzal reception at the Mount Gay Factory
in Bridgetown. Then we head southeast, reaching or running before
big seas for 200 miles to Grenada, arguably my favorite Caribbean
isle. Finally we head north to complete the triangle back to Antigua.
This will be challenging sailing with great landfalls, a good
combination. The next passage in March is our classic Caribbean
Island Passage as we sail south from Antigua to Grenada.
Join us in the Mediterranean in the summer of 2017. Working with
Sunsail, we have arranged three separate one-week voyages in three
different locations. We will be day sailing primarily aboard comfortable
Jeanneau cruisers. Each boat will have 4 double cabins and it
is primarily aimed at couples to join Tadji and me. We are going
to have a lot of fun exploring our favorite sea. The schedule
is designed so that it is possible to join two or even all three
voyages and spend the week between traveling inland. Like all
our trips, everything is included except transportation to the
boat and shoreside expenses.
May 13-20, Leg One: The Balearic Islands of Spain. We will begin
in Palma de Mallorca, one of the world's great yacht harbors and
my old stomping grounds from many years ago. The islands of Mallorca,
Menorca and Ibiza are the best cruising area in the Western Mediterranean.
There are beautiful anchorages in narrow coves called Calas, regal
marinas in Mediaeval villages, and towering mountains and sheer
rock faces that are steep too. It's real sailing between the islands
and May is an ideal month for exploring this dramatic archipelago.
May 27-June 3, Leg Two: The Amalfi Coast of Italy. We will begin
on the island of Procida in the Gulf of Naples and spend the next
7 days exploring what is not only the most beautiful coastline
in the Med but maybe the world. This is one of those places that
live up to the hype, to the dream. We will explore the islands
of Ischia and Capri before heading to the Sorrentine Peninsula
to visit Positano, Amalfi and Salerno. The sailing can be lively
between the islands and we'll spend most nights in marinas or
on moorings. The food, the wine, the vistas make this an unparalleled
June 10-17, Leg 3: The Cyclades of Greece. The Aegean is the
still the classic Mediterranean cruising ground. It's windy, sun
swept and the sea a shade of blue found only there. This passage
is a bit more challenging than the first two legs, as we cover
more miles and the wind is fresher. We will begin in Athens and
make our way to Kea. From there we will explore the heart of the
Cyclades including Paros, Naxos, Mikonos and others. Most nights
will find us stern-to ancient quays. The Greek Islands are as
charming as ever with great food, music, and festivals ashore.
Email me, or Tadji using the contact form at travelswithtadji.com,
for more information, especially about ideas for combining passages.
Another strong-wind passage is scheduled for November, the Spanish
Main passage from Grenada to Cartagena via Bonaire. This is the
most consistently windy area in the Caribbean and will be a downwind
romp in heavy seas. This is a challenging passage. In December,
our final sailing passage will take us from Bocas del Toro, Panama
north to Isla Mujures, Mexico. This is also a challenging winter
passage, and will include stops in Providencialles, Roatan and
We are also offering two workshops in 2016, both in October.
The Cruising Boat Buyer's workshop is scheduled for October 17-18,
while the expanded JKU Blue Water Passage Making workshop is slated
for the next week, October 22-25.
French Canal Boat Trips 2016
Our canal boat business is growing and Tadji and I are offering
three in 2016. The July trip in Burgundy is sold out, however
there are still openings on the two September trips. The September
3-10 trip will be in the Loire Valley while the September 17-24
trip will take us back to one of our favorite regions, Aquitaine
in Western France. We charter 45' to 50' canal boats that I skipper.
Tadji does all the real work, organizing the trip, planning the
route and most importantly, the gourmet cooking. I am in charge
of the wine and we never run out. We have bikes for each person
and there's plenty of opportunity to ride along the canal or into
nearby villages. The trips are relaxing and great fun. Email Tadji
using the contact form at travelswithtadji.com
for more information.
Sailing a Serious Ocean
My latest book was published in October 2013 has been very well
received. It's been one of the top selling nautical books in 2013/14
and actually cracked Amazon's top 100 best selling books, a rare
feat for a boating book. Thanks to all of you who have purchased
copies and helped spread the word. It's available on the site
in hard cover, and at book stores, marine stores, and online where
it is also available as an e-book.
Here's what one reader, Amy Stapleton, had to say about the book
in her Amazon.com review:
"This book chronicles John Kretschmer's adventures offering
offshore training passages to all levels of recreational sailors.
I've had the good fortune to sail with John on five separate adventures.
You can't sail with John without becoming his friend. He embraces
sailing and being on the water in the same way a virtuoso probably
lives just to perform the next sold out concert. He is passionate
about sailing the way an artist is completely consumed by her
craft. If you like to sail, and you wouldn't be in a boat with
Kretschmer if this weren't the case, then you can't help but be
drawn in by the force of his personality and his passion for the
sea. John is one of a kind. He can write as well as he sails.
He's also the only person on earth who can welcome five to seven
strangers onto his boat week after week and give each one the
feeling that there's nothing he'd rather be doing than going sailing
Kretschmer's uniqueness comes across loud and clear in this wonderful
book--part memoir, part advanced sailing guide, part homage to
the sheer magnificence of a life lived on the water (and the joy
that comes from being able to share this experience with other
sailors). This book has stories for everyone, whether you're a
sailor or not. Although it's hard to pick out just one favorite
section, I enjoyed the chapter on Storm Stories immensely. Each
chronicle is both an entertaining nail-biter and a inventory of
potentially lifesaving tips for the offshore sailor. It's amazing
to see how detailed John's recollection of storm events are that
occurred decades ago. Obviously he's preserved his logs from those
many voyages and he's able to look back on earlier decisions and
actions with the benefit of hindsight (and the wisdom and self-knowledge
that comes with experience and age). His lessons learned are now
documented for the benefit of the reader.
This book is a gift to those of us who have sailed with John,
because it captures the feeling, which lies somewhere between
insanity and redemption, that we experience during those finite
voyages. John lives the life, and we're lucky enough to live it
too for just a week or so. Read this book to see what it's like.
Then decide if we're crazy or not."
At the Mercy of the Sea
Cassiopeia Pictures continues to work toward producing a feature
film. The producer is Kasia Skibinska, the director is Philip
Boston and the screenplay is by Stephen Potts. Last year, At
the Mercy of the Sea was produced as an audio book by New
Street Communications and is available at Audible.com and other
Jerry Polly, Madison, Wisconsin: "I would highly recommend a passage
with John. I have done two. One from Key West to Isla Mujures and
back and one from Bermuda to Newport. He is absolutely skilled in
every conceivable way with respect to sailing. He takes safety very
seriously but expects you to know your way around a boat. He does
not mother the crew by telling them how to do everything. He is
congenial all the time, almost to a fault. John is good humored,
flexible, a great story teller, somewhat of an entertainer. You
will have great fun with him. You will be left with other crew members
on watch and it will be your job to make that work; he does not
really referee, nor should he. You can pull as much learning as
you want from John. He will not push it on you; ask and he will
talk. Be quiet and enjoy the sea, and he will as well."
Offshore Training passages are the heart and soul of John Kretschmer
Sailing. These trips are unique and so are the people that find
their way aboard. I am not a sailing school, there are plenty
of those around and many do a fine job of teaching offshore sailing
skills. What we do is different. We make passages, we make voyages.
They're real, sometimes all too real, you are part of the crew.
Each passage is comprised of crewmembers with varying levels of
experience and we learn from each other. I learn something new
on every trip. And you learn by doing, life aboard Quetzal
is the epitome of 'hands on' training. You will stand watch in
fair weather and foul. You will reef the main when it's blowing,
maybe even blowing a gale. You will help with repairs, meals,
and the dishes. You will revel in landfalls, especially because
everyone shares the navigational responsibilities. There is nothing
like navigating when it really counts to instill confidence. You
can draw as much from a passage as you're willing to put into
it. You may master celestial navigation and you may learn to bake
bread. Or you may be more interested in learning how to pace yourself
through a long voyage. Passage making requires a mix of philosophy
and skills. And one thing I know from experience, you will have
a lot of fun and laughs and make profound friendships.
But don't take my word for it; listen to some of the folks who
have completed passages aboard Quetzal:
Rob Schlosser: "Hi John, I really wanted to thank you again
for the great sailing experience and for the wonderful trip to
the Bahamas last month! The two trips that I have taken with you
have done a tremendous amount to bolster the confidence I have
in myself, as a sailor and otherwise. And the difference in Patty
is truly amazing. She has gone from being scared to even talk
about sailing to planning our next trip. And eventually even trying
to sail full time for two or three years! I wish I had a million
dollars to send you to show my appreciation, but alas, all I have
are these few words of appreciation. I hope you will accept them
for what they are, heartfelt appreciation."
Dirk de Haan, Corpus Christi, Texas: "Susan and I had a great
time, I know you know. You've seen the picture of her with Lady
Liberty. Wow, what a fantastic trip THAT was. So nice to be able
to do. It was really something, also, for our son Dirk, who sailed
with us, because he had never seen Manhattan. The time of day
we would arrive there, and the tides were all in our favor, coming
in with the rising tide and leaving through East River on a falling
tide. That canyon, by the way, can pack some serious winds. 20
knots, on a quiet, foggy day. Wow. Sailing Long Island Sound was
very beautiful. What great scenery!! Entering Newport as well.
There I took over the helm form Susan to do a lap in Newport Harbor.
It was my 'victory lap,' a closing circle of sorts, since I started
there with you on Quetzal. I will always remember that,
and be grateful for your teachings and coaching."
Barry Chessick, Chicago, Illinois: "I sailed with John from Annapolis
to Antigua, a passage of 1500 miles that took ten days. For me,
it was an experience of a lifetime. Besides bonding a lifetime friendship
with John, a truly unique, capable and magnificent individual, the
sights, scents, sounds of being 500 miles offshore are tattooed
on my psyche forever. I experienced all the delights I had only
read about before: the night sky glowing with millions of stars,
dolphins playing, awesome sunsets and sunrises. Was it worth the
cost? For me, and the memories that it brought, it was worth many
times the cost, of course I wouldn't tell John that."
Joanne Matthews, Pensacola, Florida: "Regarding a long ocean passage
on Quetzal with John as skipper? I can say without a doubt
- go for it. We met John at a book signing a few years back and
then signed aboard for a passage from Annapolis to Antigua. There
were four crew members and we all got along wonderfully. A highlight
was Thanksgiving dinner, complete with all the trimmings, hundreds
of miles from land. A couple of topics, politics and religion, were
not discussed, but otherwise everything was on the table: books,
boats, weather, sailing, cruising, travel, relationships. We laughed
for 1500 miles over his crazy sailing adventures. He is clearly
the captain but we all shared equally the shipboard duties. I have
not doubt that in a time of distress, he would maintain a clear
head. He also truly enjoys sharing his knowledge, stories, and love
for the sea. He's an avid reader, and unfortunately, also sings
Gordon House, Kansas City, Missouri: "Considering a trip with John?
Bottom line, GO FOR IT! A passage with JK may be the high point
of your life, not to mention that it will make you the star of all
the cocktail parties for years to come. John is an excellent skipper
and has the uncanny ability to magically appear on deck just when
you need him to assess a situation that you may be unsure of. You
will never hear him raise his voice, even during the most trying
Amy Stapleton, Huntsville, Alabama: "Before sailing with John, I'd
never been on an offshore passage or sailed overnight. I wasn't
sure I'd like going offshore, but my first passage on Quetzal
sailing from St. Pete to the Dry Tortugas exceeded all my expectations.
It was an awesome experience and although it was challenging, John
made me feel very comfortable. He's also a great story teller and
provides for lots of entertainment. These passages are not comfort
cruises. They are hard work, but for me they have been a great confidence
builder and have helped me get a lot closer to my personal sailing
Ron Sorenson: "Sailing with John on one of his passages is simply
a great open water learning experience. I've been on two trips so
far (with more to come), and both were on Quetzal, John's
boat. One was from Panama to Florida, the other was a Trans-Atlantic,
and both were great. The Panama to Florida Trip was very relaxing.
For me, the trans-Atlantic was the best. It gave me an outstanding
exposure to open water sailing and what that can entail in both
good and bad weather conditions. John's experience showed when we
had some rough seas and his concern with the crew's safety was readily
John promotes a relaxed atmosphere on his passages. There's no rigid
daily lesson plan that one must follow but there are learning opportunities
galore. John works to make everyone feel that they are part of the
crew and spends time with each person answering questions or helping
them bone up on their navigational skills. And when he's not answering
questions from the crew, John has terrific stories that he loves
Lastly, sailing on Quetzal in the Atlantic during a heavy
weather period proved to me just how safe and solid that boat is.
She is truly passage proven. And I understand now why John is so
fond of her."
James Leonard: "I've sailed with John on two different passages.
Both involved some rather 'nasty' weather. Besides learning navigation,
seamanship, problem solving and how to fix things, I gained a confidence
from John that you won't get in a lot of other 'sailing schools.'
He's a pretty good cook and he tells a great story.
I look forward to going out with him again."
Rick Thomson: "I have known John Kretschmer for several years and
in that time, we have sailed many nautical miles together! We have
sailed in Greece, Tahiti, Australia, Thailand, the Caribbean, the
Pacific Ocean, Chesapeake Bay, and have crossed the Atlantic Ocean.
We have been becalmed, knocked down, broken down, braved storms
in winds of 60-plus miles per hour, but we have also witnessed unbelievable
sunsets, breaching whales, green sea turtles, dancing dolphins,
deep blue oceans, and brilliant white beaches, not to mention the
beauty of the galaxies, moonlight on the water and shooting stars.
That being said, I feel totally at ease when sailing with John.
John is the ultimate sailor. When the going gets tough, John can
cowboy-up, or I guess I should say sailor-up. I've never personally
known anyone physically stronger or more determined to achieve his
objective. John totally immerses himself in the sailing environment.
Celestial navigation, course plotting, and understanding charts
are second nature to him. John is perfectly at home on any vessel.
He knows boats and what to expect from them. He's a sailor's sailor!
On the personal side, John is the most personable guy I know. I
have always said, "If you can't get along with John, you probably
aren't going to get along with anyone." He is also an outstanding
cook. I have seen John cook delicious hot meals in very rough conditions,
when other skippers would be handing out peanut butter and jelly
sandwiches. You must try his Mayan spaghetti!
Captain John Kretschmer is truly a one-of-a-kind sailor, who will
show you a journey that you will share with others for the rest
of your life."
George Archibald, Commodore of the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron:
"Hi John. Just wanted to thank you again for coming to RNSYS last
Saturday. For the last week everyone who attended has been singing
your praises.You were a great sport to drop in for our special night.
I have been watching the weather and wondering if you got away,
if you did I hope it has been better than the weather ashore. All
the best, George"
Kretschmer Sailing fleece jackets and long-sleeve t-shirts are available