Quetzal - Kaufman 47 "... Never lost, just hard to find ..."

John Kretschmer Sailing

Training Passages - Workshops - Presentations - Expeditions - Writing/Photography

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.

More Poetry...

Sail through a lifetime of dreams in 10 working days at sea

from the Miami Herald, Sunday December 24, 2000

by John Kretschmer


    There is something strangely alluring about sailing a small boat across a wide stretch of ocean.  It is difficult to explain, especially to confirmed landlubbers, that spend­ing days or weeks in a cramped and often foul smelling floating cell, confronting calms and squalls, is one of life's great travel experiences -- and not a sure sign of looming insanity.  There is at once a sense of pur­pose and contentment as a sail­boat gambols over unseen meridians and parallels while following a circuitous track toward a distant speck on a wrinkled chart.


    An offshore sailing voyage lends credence to Robert Louis Stevenson's odd statement, "to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive."  And there is plenty of time to ponder Stevenson's intent because a sail­boat passage unfolds at the about the same pace as a paunchy, middle-aged jogger laboring along your neighborhood street.


    Many people dream of chucking the nine-to-five routine and sailing away into the blue unknown.  Of course, all but a few remain firmly shackled to their computer keyboards and 401K plans.  However, compressing the dream into a two-week crash course is feasible and over the years, I've introduced many to the wonders and terrors of offshore passage-making.  Just last month five otherwise sane peo­ple jumped at an offer from Sailing Magazine to sign on as my crew for the delivery of a 49-foot sloop from Annapolis, MD, to the island of Antigua in the eastern Caribbean.


    We were an interesting assortment aboard, ranging in age from 24 to 63. Barry, the oldest, was an entrepreneur from Chicago.  Rachelle, the youngest, was an advertising representative from Minnesota. Todd and Kent were doctors and Jim was a marketing direc­tor from Milwaukee.  Although it's not likely that they would have met otherwise, they all shared a love of sailing and quickly forged bonds that only an offshore sailboat can flourish.


    I am always intrigued by how people will respond under the magnifying glass, and make no mistake about it, your per­sonality will be revealed when your world measures 49-feet by 12-feet and is constant motion.  Luck was with us, everyone got along and the winds clocked to the northwest just before we reached the Gulf Stream. 


    The morning after we failed to elect a president, we gathered aboard a sleek blue-hulled sailboat called, Super Chief­.  Everyone was assigned a bunk and given instructions on how to operate the heads, or toilets.  As we stashed the last of the provisions into nooks and crannies in the teak paneled interior, I issued the one and only decree of the voyage: no politics allowed.  Spending ten days in extremely close contact with five people you've never met before is hard enough.


    We slipped our moorings and headed into the Chesa­peake Bay. Huddled in the cockpit, we discussed our upcoming adventure in geo­graphic and personal terms. I unrolled the chart and sketched our route. Once we cleared the bay and headed offshore, it was nearly 1,500 nautical miles to Antigua. 


    To put this distance into perspective, consider this.  Good going in Super Chief translates to 150 miles a day, and those are 24 hour days, there is no place to stop for the night on the ocean.  I let everyone know that after the Virginia coastline faded from view, we would be looking at watery horizons.


    This was a training passage, not a cruise, and all shipboard duties would be communal.  Cooking and cleaning shared equal billing with standing night watch and learning celes­tial navigation. We then talked about safety aboard. The boat was equipped with all the usual equipment, from an inflatable life raft to flares and life jackets.  Falling overboard is the most dangerous accident that can occur on a sailboat, and I urged the crew to wear safety har­nesses when on deck.


    Everyone chuckled when I suggested that they should get plenty of rest when off watch and make a particular effort to become regular.  I know from long experience that until your body finds its rhythm, it is hard to relax as the boat yaws and pitches relentlessly. 


    After a long night of motoring, we passed over the Chesapeake Bay tunnel and into the Atlantic.  As if on cue, the winds piped up.  We were forced to sheet our sails flat and sail close to the wind.  The ride was lumpy and sheets of cold spray doused the cockpit.


    A couple of hours later a few of the crew had taken on a dis­tinctly green patina.  I was hop­ing the winds would shift before we reached our first major navigational hurdle, crossing the Gulf Stream, which lurked about 100 miles offshore. 


    The leading edge of a cool high-pressure system ushered in strong winds, and within 24 hours Super Chief was running before a modest gale.  It was exhilarating sailing as we surged down the faces of cresting waves.  "How high are these waves," Barry asked while looking at a towering comber that threatened to crash down on the boat. "Oh maybe 15 feet," I said. "Pretty big, but nothing we can't handle."


    Jim, the most experienced sailor of the lot, steered for hours, soaking up the experience of ocean sailing.  "You just don't see rollers like this on Lake Michigan," he noted with a smile.  "Ten knots may not seem very fast ashore," Todd remarked, "but it feels like we're ready to fly out here."


    The strong winds eventually gave way to calms as we entered into the area known as the Sargasso Sea.  One particu­larly calm day, we lowered all sail, turned off the engine and went for a swim.  There is something eerie about cavort­ing about in 21,000 feet of water while the boat is more than 500 miles away from land.


    Eventually we found the steady, northeast trade winds and Super Chief found her stride.  By this time, more than a week into the passage, shipboard routines were well estab­lished.  Todd worked diligently on celestial navigation.  Rach­elle baked bread in the morn­ing, sending a delightful aroma through the cabin.  Jim and Barry adjusted the sails to maximize performance and Kent amused us with quirky stories of sea monsters.


    With land looming, the crew members had mixed feelings. They were anxious to contact their families, for we had been out of touch for nearly nine days.  But they also sensed that a powerful and sustaining dream had now passed into the realm of experience.  It was nearly time to put a check next to "offshore passage" -- for a sailor, one of the A-list items on the list of things to do in this lifetime.

What's New

Two new trips have been added for 2019: Trans Caribe 3 and Adriatic/ Ionian Passage. Click here for details.


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