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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 2016 Schedule is posted now. Also,
I have added a December 2015 Trans Caribe passage--only
3 berths left.
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
store, or I'll autograph one for you during my book
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. 2015 is just over the horizon. It was more
than 30 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
It's been awhile since I updated the site copy, and that's
putting it gently. I left the web site with Quetzal in Spain in
the spring of 2012, yikes. That was a couple of years and a couple
of oceans ago. We've made some intriguing passages since
then, including two expeditions to the Galapagos Islands aboard
Blue Nomad, a 54' steel ketch. Quetzal did not let much
slime grow on her bottom as we crossed the Mediterranean Sea from
Majorca to Corsica and Sardinia. Then we carried on to Italy and
explored the Amalfi Coast before heading south to the Aeolian
Islands and Sicily. We eventually made our way to Malta where
Quetzal spent another winter ashore.
In 2013 we completed a couple of trans-Caribbean trips aboard
a Jeanneau 53, sailing from Tortola to Grenada and back. In March
we launched Quetzal and endured a stormy passage across the Ionian
and Aegean Seas before fetching up in Kusadasi Turkey. I wrote
about this crossing in the December issue of Cruising World and
won a Boating Writers International award in the adventure category.
Yes, it was that rough! The piece is here on the web site
under Articles, or click here: "The Lee of Ikaria". We spent the spring and summer cruising Turkey
and Greece and thoroughly enjoyed this beautiful cruising ground,
venturing as far east as Finike. In the fall we headed for Gibraltar
in two legs. This was an upwind slog back across the Med, and
on leg one we made our way to Majorca via Rhodes, Crete, Kalamata,
Sicily, and Sardinia. Leg two saw us visit Spain, Morocco, Gibraltar,
and Madeira before fetching up in Tenerife, Canary Islands.
Quetzal made her 6th Atlantic crossing in January. It was her
skipper's 21st crossing. We shoved of on January 4, 2014
and had Antigua in our sights 18 days later. I had great crew,
Ron, Robert, Danny, Keith and Gordon. It wasn't our fastest
passage but certainly not our slowest. We average 156 miles, or
This past winter and spring we had superb Caribbean trade wind
sailing. We made our way from Antigua to Grenada, then back to
St. Martin then back to Grenada. We stopped at every island along
the way mixing a few overnight passages with blustery day sails.
In April we made the passage back to Fort Lauderdale as Quetzal
returned to the states for the first time in nearly 3 years. Now
she's on the hard at Spring Cove Marina, in Solomons Maryland,
her home away from home. In August we'll head north to Nova
Scotia and in late October we'll slug south to St. Martin
via Bermuda, the annual Heavy Weather Passage.
Quetzal will begin 2015 in the Caribbean with both island hopping
and offshore passages. Then we'll sail north to Fort Lauderdale.
We will make two trips to the Bahamas, April and May, and then
sail north to Maryland. In July we head north to Newfoundland,
where Quetzal will base for the summer. We have a passage, the
Frobisher Expedition, scheduled for August that will take us all
the way to Baffin Island. In the fall we will head south, once
again making landfall in St. Martin by way of Bermuda. There are
a still a few openings so check the schedule and shoot me an email.
Also, it never hurts to place your name on the wait list for a
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.
AT THE MERCY OF THE SEA
Cassiopeia Pictures continues to work toward producing a feature
film with production scheduled for late 2014 early 2015. 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 online sites.
French Canal Boat Trip 2015
Each year Tadji and I offer one canal boat trip somewhere in
France. We work with LeBoat and charter a 45' - 50'
four cabin boat 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
short. We always have a wonderful time. Our trips have taken us
all over France from Brittany to Bordeaux. In 2015 we return to
one of our favorite areas, Burgundy, specifically the Nivernais
region. We are usually four couples, which works well with cabin
layout. We always have bikes aboard as the canals and bike paths
line rivers, a perfect way to explore the villages and small towns
of rural France. Check the schedule for specific dates and then
contact Tadji at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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