Sailors, I need your help - Win stuff!

Campaign Progress (read below to see what these numbers mean):

of the required users
of the required placemarks

As avid readers will already know, I went back to Australia for a couple of months to see family, and also to work in order to pay for all this madness. I managed to get quite a lot of work done, and was able to put together enough money to truck my boat across America, as per the plan. However, past that... The budget doesn't allow for much else. That all being said, there is a way out of this, thanks to the founders of Bluemapia.com - The same company I've been working with, for the past several months. They've put together a sponsorship package which will provide me with the much needed funding to cross the Pacific this year - However, in return I need to achieve certain goals on the Bluemapia.com website. To briefly explain, Bluemapia.com is an online web application which allows users to freely sign up, and contribute sailing related media and information. The concept hinges around user-generated content, termed 'placemarks'. A placemark is a piece of information (photo, text, video etc) directly related to a specific point on the earth (a waypoint). My goals are to get 300 new users on Bluemapia.com, and 600 new placemarks. That might seem like a lot, but it's not - There are thousands of monthly viewers reading this website, and a large majority of them are sailors - You already have the knowledge, and I'm kindly asking you to consider putting it on Bluemapia.com to help me out, and also to help build up a phenomenal sailing resource. It costs nothing to signup, and everything you submit is Creative Commons licensed - That means it's yours forever.

For all your help, and if these goals are met... I've organised some cool stuff to give away: Through my own volition and unrelated to the Bluemapia.com sponsorship arrangement, I'll be giving away a prize each to the top three placemark contributors. They're all solo sailing related, and will be shipped to wherever you are in the world (including the three great capes!):

First prize - A SPOT Messenger - Update your position via the push of a button, to notify your friends and family, while also publishing it live to the web.
Second prize - Four sailing books every solo sailor (or, for that matter, every sailor!) should own: Sailing Alone Around the World by Joshua Slocum, Maiden Voyage by Tania Aebi, The Long Way by Bernard Moitessier, Alone through the Roaring Forties by Vito Dumas.
Third prize - Sailing the world alone - A DVD documentary on the 1994 singlehanded BOC Challenge.

To take part, assist in my passage across the Pacific, and contribute your sailing knowledge to Bluemapia.com - Sign up and start adding placemarks. A counter will be added showing how progress is going in the coming days.

Thank you Bluemapia, and to everyone who continues to read this site, write comments, emails, and just show an interest!


$10,000 prize - Vote for Constellation!

My dream is to finish this voyage: To truck Constellation overland to San Francisco, sail the South Pacific, ride a bicycle across America, and sail through the heads into Port Phillip Bay, Melbourne - I'd like to achieve this by the end of 2009. ING Direct in Australia are offering a prize that could make that happen - They're offering $10,000 as first prize for their 'My Dream Is' competition. This voyage fits perfectly into the criteria, and so I've entered. The competition rules encourage entrants to include ING branding in their photo - I've attempted that, and I hope the message of what I'm trying to do comes across.

Click on the above image or here to vote and rate it as '5'. The public choose the top 100 images for the competition, and then after that, it's up to panel at ING to decide who's dream is worth funding!

It will only take a minute of your time, and doesn't require you to fill out a form, enter your details, or anything else - Just a mouse-click. Voting stops on the 14th of December. (Note: The site takes a while to load properly - Give it a second)

Thanks everyone! nick

Constellation, Cape Cod, Planning

Wow, sorry for being so terrible on updates... I've been busy with a new job (yes, I have a job - More in another post!), a little traveling and more work on Constellation, as she continues to get revamped for the voyage ahead. While I haven't been great on posts, I do upload photos and other things periodically - The frontpage always contains all updates related to my trip - Photos, twitter, blog etc. Mari, who has been dedicating a lot of time and effort to help me over the past month, continues to assist, and Constellation is really coming together. We've even managed to build a new boom from a Catalina 30, that was lying in the yard in gross disrepair. With all manner of noisy tools, we cut two feet off the end, re-fashioned the end-boom roller fitting, and made various other modifications. With most of the new boom finished, we mulled over how it was actually going to connect the boat, at which point Mari disappeared to his computer and made an Autocad drawing of the stainless pieces we needed. He then emailed off to his friend Peter in another state, who had the pieces made and Fedex'd back - Genius! Thanks so much to Peter for helping out! If I hadn't ended up being surrounded by engineers, I would have been left to fashion it Nick style, which no doubt would have involved lashing the boom to the mast with tin wire and electrical tape.

While Mari did beautiful things with hot air guns and soldering irons:

All new panel electrics

I pulled the starboard toe rail off, and re-bedded it in an attempt to stop the mysterious leaks I'm encountering. Constellation continues to look forlorn on land, but, of all the boats in the yard, she definitely looks like she's sailed the furthest, and in my opinion, looks pretty cool with all that gear hanging off the stern (not including the fenders)!

Constellation, Long Island

My new job allows me to work from anywhere (perfect!), so I took the opportunity to visit Cape Cod in Massachusetts. I'm really falling in love with the North East of the USA... And I'm putting on weight as I sample as many New England Clam chowders as possible. I've even had lobster roll or two, in attempts to make up for overdosing on Ramen for the past year. I might grow a big bushy beard and start wearing flannel.

The US media continues to attract my attention with its madness over the economy and the election. I remember how lucid and relative things felt, when I was somewhere about here. It's places like that where you have happy existential moments, if you can imagine such a thing.

As to how Constellation will get to the Pacific, I still don't really know. I do hope with my new job I will be able to save enough to truck as planned, and as the petrol prices seem to have plummeted of late, maybe it will become more affordable. I've recently heard rumours that boats have traveled overland via the Canadian railway, but I can't really find any clear evidence or services. Is there anyone out there that knows something about this?

I'm very much looking forward to some deep offshore sailing with Constellation, and I really just need to get to San Francisco for an April/May 2009 departure. I now look at a map, and while we have a long way to go, sailing direct from San Francisco to the Marquesas, or even Fiji direct chops off a massive part of my voyage in a single stretch. If all goes to plan, I may very well be in Australian waters by this time next year. That may sound like a long time, but it isn't - It's just around the corner... Around this time last year, I was in France just about to do my first big offshore leg across the notorious Bay of Biscay, and I remember it like it was yesterday. Back then, I was terrified but adamant... Unsure of how I could keep things rolling. But we've come a long way since then, and now it's all just a matter of more hard work, time, and good fortune.

Thanks everyone for your continuing support and good wishes - I continue to get emails every week from well wishers, and they never cease to amaze me!


Manhattan, Long Island

At the scheduled rendezvous time, Tony showed up in his boat. I sat in my cockpit, expecting a sail boat to appear at the Coney Island anchorage, but low and behold, a twin hulled powerboat showed up, and Captain Tony was at the helm. Who is Tony? There are so many great characters who I meet along the way, you're forgiven for not following this sailing soap opera's list of top celebrities! Tony helped out with Commanders Weather forecasts, and also sent through weather updates and eddy coordinates (remember him? I do.) so I could actually make landfall, instead of spending my time as flotsam in the Atlantic, when all I really wanted was a bagel with cream cheese in New York. So for the first time I met my weather saviour, and he'd now just offered to dedicate a day to following me into Manhattan to photograph my approach. As you can imagine, photos of yourself sailing when you're singlehanded are most always impossible, normally achievable only by sitting in the cockpit and pointing the camera at yourself, which always makes me feel like Narcissus re-incarnated. As we motored along, I did 3.8kts, which is 'August the mighty Yanmars' current top speed (I think there must be something wrong...), and poor Tony in M/V 'Sea Lion' idled their twin 140hp engines and snapped a lovely set of photos, which I am incredibly thankful for:

Me, Constellation, New York City!!#$@@!
Manhattan Approach

Of course the highlight was anchoring outside of Liberty Island, which I thought would be impossible, but the reality is, you can get really close, and if you don't mind the swell, drop the anchor and get the best view in town. As my plan was to go up to the 79th St Boat Basin, we didn't stay too long, as it's first come first served, and I really wanted a mooring for the night. I jokingly mentioned that Tony could more easily just tow me to Manhattan, to which he showed a funny grin and setup a tow rope. Constellation then proceeded to be hauled up the Hudson River at 8kts, the wind vane bracket disappearing under water, and Constellation creating a surfable wake.

Statue of Liberty
Getting towed at 8kts

At the Boat Basin, I was entitled to a mooring as far away from dinghy dock as possible... As I heaved my rowing oars back to land, a(nother) Canadian boat took pity on my back, and towed me in with an outboard. In a single day, both Constellation and Bob the Leaky Duck had tows! On land I managed to get myself so lost in the subway system, I nearly ended up back in Coney Island. My brother gave up on me, as I kept buying packets of gum for quarters, so I could try and call him. As my luck continued, I met an aspiring actress who loaned me her phone, and I eventually found my brother, who came all the way back to pick up his silly sibling who couldn't navigate the subway (no GPS signal so far underground, and the stars are blocked out... That's my excuse anyway.)

On Saturday friends came down to see the mighty Constellation, whom I brought into the marina for show-and-tell. Friends from Australia were in town, my uncle & cousin and my 'mates in the states' all came down to visit, which was most exciting; such social excitement after the great voyage!

Captain Tony wrote all my tides down for the next days voyage, and I set off with a ripping Hudson for Hell Gate. I met Phil again who had also sailed up from Atlantic Highlands, and we departed together. I was terribly lazy and just decided to follow him until we got into Long Island Sound; what a mistake. By the time I'd reached the Brooklyn Bridge, what can only be called a squall of gigantic proportions arose. I was so lazy, I hadn't even bothered to look at a chart, as Phil disappeared in a dense fog, and I couldn't figure out what was up, down, left or right. Eventually after numerous trips into the cabin, awash with rain after each trip dumped the water caught in my wet weather gear, I pinpointed where I was, as our speed mysteriously increased. By the time we'd reached mid-Hell Gate, Constellation and I topped out at 9.4kts over the ground, skidding from port to starboard in the currents, the tiller going back and forth to keep us going in roughly a straight line. A super yacht approached from the stern, doing the same 'dance of Hell Gate', overtook and honked in mutual appreciation for the British ensign (which she was also flying). (At least I think it was a honk of appreciation... It could have meant 'get the heck out of my way!')


By Long Island sound, a breeze showed signs of intensifying, and I launched the genoa. Ten minutes later a squall blew through, took the wind with it, and I motored along, in search for Tony, who had again offered to come out and meet me. We eventually crossed paths, and hooked up the tow rope again, it being 4pm with still another 12nm in front of us. Back under the power of tow, we powered through the fog, and arrived at Stamford Harbour, conducting a creepy fog-bound entrance, for which I was glad to be with someone who knew the area. I couldn't see a thing, but Tony motored on, and eventually I was tied up at the Brewers yard - A very special thanks to Janie for providing a slip for two nights.

I spent two nights in Stamford with Tony and his lovely wife Eva, who showed such generosity, I'm still literally stunned when I think back to how wonderfully they helped me out. Provided with a comfy bed, delicious food, new clothes, provisions, parts and funds to keep me going, I'm humbled and indebted: Thank you so much Captain Tony and Captain Eva for your kindness.

As I left Stamford, I motored towards Port Jefferson, anchoring in the harbour for the night, refusing to pay $40 for a mooring. I was far away from town, but there was no way I could justify wasting so much money for a 'permanent anchor'. It's quite amazing how much 'transients' pay in America for overnight stays - I still don't quite understand the economics of it when compared to Europe... I only paid that kind of money once, and that was in Dover, England, for a berth no less! The next day, I decided to cross the Sound for Duck Island, and motored across on a windless day. By the time I'd reached the middle, 'August the mighty Yanmar' blew a great plume of white smoke, coughed, spluttered and died. He was not to come back to life, and I proceeded under sail, incredibly annoyed to be stuck in another motorless situation. I dove overboard to check for rope stuck in the prop, yet there was nothing but a bit of plastic and a bunch of red jellyfish.

Proceeding under sail, the God's shone down on us, and the winds increased. I had no idea what I was going to do should it die altogether... Sailing into Duck Island Harbour at night under sail, we managed to find other boats at anchor, and promptly dropped the hook. Excited by the thrill of sailing around without an engine in unknown parts of the world, I slept and waited until 12pm the following day for the winds to pick up. The sails up, anchor hauled in, we proceeded under sail for Greenport. Reaching 'Plum Gut' at a favourable tide, fighting for three hours against a SSW wind to get through. Eventually it was deemed impossible, and so the long route was taken around Plum Island, skirting the edges and risking passage through shallow waters to make up for lost time. Tacking back towards Greenport, a line squall showed it's nasty head, and I refused to reduce sail in defiance. I wanted as much speed as possible to make up for this ridiculously annoying and lengthening passage. It wasn't long before the rail was touching the water, and a gust almost knocked us over before I managed to release the mainsheet. As I made a tack, the boat seemed to de-power, as the sun drenched and tired genoa tore in three places. Slapping like crazy, caught on the port spreader, I had to knife the sail down and pack the remains into the forward hatch. Launching the #2 genoa, we got back under way, and slowly tacked all the way up to the Greenport breakwater. It was midnight, and we set course to sail right into the marina, sans everything (including an understandable chart of the tiny entrance). By great luck, a friend called, and shortly showed up with a powerboat, quite simply out of nowhere, hunting around for the Ghost ship Constellation, who had by now a fused bow light, and only the stern lamp still functioning. With all cabin lights on, I hoped we'd avoid collision and be found, which we were, and kindly towed to safety.

I haven't really explained what I'm doing in these parts, but the fight for Greenport was made because I have a slip here for summer. I'll be hanging about trying hard to figure out what's next: Do I go back to the Caribbean for Panama? Or do I go through with the crazy plan to tow Constellation to San Francisco? Time will tell!

For now, I'm enjoying great company, and am ever thankful for making the right decision to come north. America has been fantastic to me, with so much generosity and interest in my trip, I can barely walk up the pontoon without someone wanting to talk to me, offering help, or offering to make me dinner.


Characters of the Island

Did I say I wanted to leave on the 10th of February? Intrepid readers should know by now, that like wave height estimation, whatever is said on the sea in terms of dates, should be doubled in time, and wave heights always halved. If someone says they'll leave in five days, that means probably ten, and if the waves were five metres they were actually two and a half. That being said, I always have really good reasons for my delays (and my wave estimations are always 100% correct), and of course my reasons for this delay are great! But, that folks, is my story hook - I'm not saying another word! Maybe doubling the time is a little over the top, but I think the 10th is a little ambitious at this stage. Life on the tiny island has been interesting, to say the least. Last week when I mentioned I was well on my way to going stone broke, I hadn't quite expected it to become the understatement of the century. The following day, I thought to myself "how broke am I exactly, and surely I can almost double whatever I have in Euros to make myself wealthy in US dollars!'" Wealthy is of course a relative term, and in relation to me, it means being able to afford two minute noodles that come with two different flavouring sachets, instead of just one. Or maybe even the ones with the little dried shrimp in one packet, and the MSG, sorry, I mean, seafood flavouring in the other? As my online statement came up, I grabbed my heart in utter shock, almost careening out of my chair in complete disbelief, looking at what appeared to be exactly one million Euros in my account! No, really, there was a negative statement, the one million dollars was a typo... So there I was, numbers in red, with a negative symbol in front of them. How did this happen? It seems three and a half weeks of transactions were backlogged, and here I was thinking I was doing ok. This isn't a cry for money (that will come later, I've been talking to this Nigerian guy, and we have an idea...), I still think I can scrape together enough cash to provision the boat from my tax haven account in the Caymans, but things are really on the wire yet again...

I know you all come here for my seafaring stories, but since I am stuck on land for the next little while, my stories of strange encounters will have to do for now. I hope that's ok with everybody, and don't worry, I've met enough strange characters to keep this blog active for the rest of my trip, should Constellation decide she likes relaxing in the sun more than sailing.

So I'm sitting in the Sailors Bar, and a young guy comes up to me with a big backpack, and asks me if I speak German. Well! Naturally, yes, I was living in Berlin for a year, of course I can speak German! Blah blah blah blah blah blah La Palma. That's what he sounded like. All I could understand was La Palma. Ok, so I can't speak German, other than to order Wurst and large beers, so we will have to switch to English. It turns out this young German wishes to get a lift to La Palma (another Island). I thought about this for awhile, and then I said, "No, but maybe La Gomera." He wasn't interested in La Gomera, and I wasn't interested in La Palma, so then he asked if he could sleep on my boat. As you know my boat is only 26metres long (sorry, I mean feet), but I agreed he could stay for one night.

Later that day, a girl walked briskly into the Sailors Bar with a big backpack, and then disappeared again down the street. I thought it was a rather curious act, but ignored it and went back to drinking my tap water and surfing the web, leaving just before dark for a swim. As I was returning to the boat, I saw this same girl on the beach, and asked her what she was doing. She said she was French, and waiting for a ferry to another island. I asked her when the ferry left, and she said "tomorrow". At which point it was ascertained, she was intending on sleeping on the beach. So I asked her what she thought of Germans, and she seemed pretty non-chalant about them, so I said she could sleep on my boat if she didn't mind sharing the rather small space with myself and a German backpacker, because it was safer than the beach. Now... I know what you're thinking: You're thinking "gosh Nick is SO GENEROUS asking French girls to sleep on his boat" ... ! My next door neighbour (his name is Paul) later told me he uses a similar line with Spanish girls, something along the lines of "it's not safe to sleep at home, I have a catamaran!". But truly, as this girl tells me she will be sleeping on the beach, all I could think of was my Portuguese friends and all the other generous people on my trip. My boat is hardly the Hilton, and the cupboards are only stacked with Pasta, but it seemed it was the least I could do. Besides, I wanted to write some jokes down that started with "What do you get when an Australian, a German and a French..." etc.

That night, I made International Pasta (it's the same pasta I normally make, but in company it has a more exotic name), and raised the French, German and Pirate flags on the port spreader, to indicate I was no longer singlehanding in the marina - The Pirate flag was to indicate to the rest of the pontoon that we were not to be messed with. The French girl quite aptly took Croissants and Wine out of her backpack, and the German guy quite strangely pulled out a bag of mung beans. So we're sitting there with Croissants, Wine, Pasta and mung beans, and I can't think of a damn joke. Or maybe that is the joke? Anyway, it was Carnival night too, and trucks were going past the marina with Drag Queens dangling off the back. Is this story becoming surreal, or what? In the end, the French girl left the following day for her Ferry, and later in the evening Paul invited me and The German over for a drink, and then said it was a Sunday night, and that he and his friends would drive through the mountains for something to do (Paul is from Gran Canaria). The German then packs a sleeping bag, and asks if he can leave his big backpack on my boat for a bit. I agreed, and then he asked me to sprout his mung beans while he was away. Sure, why not, it's not like I have anything else to do... Later in the evening, after a hair raising drive through the mountains, The German walks off into the woods without a torch, holding a rolled cigarette filled with what appeared to be grey, dried flower petals (he was a health nut).

My Spanish friends said 'LOCO', and we left him there, and drove back down the mountain stopping at a quaint little Hamburger place for provisions. My Spanish friends kept saying "Nick, your friend is really really crazy, LOCO LOCO", to which I responded "yes, he is German, this is what they do", because really, it wasn't such a big deal for me to be dropping this kid off in the middle of nowhere... In fact, it seems like yesterday that I was curled up on the side of a road in Sweden! Thinking back though, I don't recall trying to smoke flower petals... Having said all that, he did seem quite resilient , and it's not as if it's Northern Europe here anyway, so the worst that could happen is he returns with a chill and an empty stomach.

After The German fiasco, I was back at the Sailors Bar to check my email, and met an American. I wanted to ask him if he'd sailed to Bermuda, to which he told me he had sailed from America via Greenland. Wow! What an amazing trip to do in a sail boat! Then he started telling me about how expensive fuel was... Now, I know fuel can be an issue, but really, a sailing boat doesn't use that much diesel. Later in the conversation The American starts complaining that he burns one ton of fuel every two days. ONE TON OF FUEL? What kind of sailing boat does this guy have? Or maybe he forgot to launch the sails? Later it becomes apparent that he actually has a small Coaster, or for the uninitiated, he actually owns a 30+metre diesel cargo ship, built in Norway. The American was using a cargo ship as a pleasure vessel, and had a crane, two cars and a Ducati onboard. He 'sailed' to Morocco, craned the Ducati off the boat, and then toured the continent! He makes money hauling cargo around the country (no, not that kind of cargo), and is unique in that his boat only has a small draft (meaning it can go in relatively shallow waters) with the ability to go up river and along the coast. I couldn't really fathom how this was possible from a bureaucratic standpoint - Surely you can't just buy a large boat and start hauling goods? To which he replied "No, in 1st world countries, what I do is not possible". Prior to here, he'd spent two winters and one summer, stuck in Belgium because they couldn't quite understand what a single American with such a big ship was doing in their waters...

So the point of the story is, if you have a big enough boat, it sounds as if plying up and down the African coast with legitimate cargo might be a profitable business. Which is why I'm going to use that one million Euros I have, to buy a fleet of those really sketchy looking Greek tankers you see everywhere... Maybe I can haul mung beans?

I promise my next post will be more nautical, and involve Atlantic preparation themes... And I know you'll want to hear about what happened to The German, so as soon as he shows up, I'll get the low-down on his Nature Adventures too.


Ciao Europe, Ola Airnavsystems.com!

Firstly, I'd like to welcome Airnavsystems.com onboard, as a new Bigoceans.com sponsor! AirNav build flight spotting software and products, and are releasing a new ship spotting product called 'ShipTrax'. It seemed like a very fitting partnership, and AirNav are assisting with additional funds, which is really what I need at the moment. I seem to be going through what little money I have at a great rate, buying charts, parts, and provisions. Very, very special thanks to Andre for approaching me with the idea, being so fast to help out, and for believing my trip is a worthy idea to support.

It's been a very busy past few days - I sat around sick for too long, and then when a good forecast came my way, it was all panic to get myself ready. As you can see from the above sponsorship, I haven't just been sitting on my laurels. I've also spent over a week waiting on another partnership which would have provided some neat communications potential for my trip to the Canary Islands, however nothing has come of it yet, and it's time for me to leave. If you missed it, there is a photo of the article regarding my Cape Horn aspirations (!!) located here.

Yesterday I provisioned the boat with supplies, which turned out to be an epic job. To begin with, I had exceeded my daily transaction limit at the bank, and only had 140euros in my pocket. I thought this would be enough for 15 days of food, but apparently I was wrong. By the time I was done shopping, my trolley was about to break, and I could barely push it. I tried to get money out, but it was futile, so I hid my trolley in the honey isle, and high-tailed it out of there, feeling really guilty about some poor kid having to re-pack everything because of my stupidity. It was with great luck that S/V Aquamarijn were able to loan me some money, and I ran back to see if my trolley was still hiding. Thankfully it was, and I caught a taxi back to the marina with a boatload of provisions. Putting all this food somewhere turned out to be a new experience, and I know for a fact, I will be finding food purchased in Lisbon, hidden around the boat for many years to come.

So my route now, is direct to the Canary Islands, not stopping anywhere. This is an 800nm trip, which I expect to take from anywhere between 7 and 14 days. I'm not going to mess up my expectations on maintaining a 4kt average like I did across Biscay, which put myself under a lot of pressure to arrive within three days, to tell friends and family that I was ok, and not to send helicopters. I expect to take around 10 days, but up to 14 I think is still quite possible. I have a decent forecast from Commanders Weather, but I've been waiting around today for reasons I'll explain some other time, so already I'm 9hrs behind where I should be. I will be heading 1degree east of a direct line to Lanzarote, anticipating a wind change in a few days to South, which means I will hopefully be in a good position to tack back onto course for the Canaries, without sailing directly into the wind.

'August the mighty Yanmar' has new oil, and I never found an explanation for the overheating. Today I ran it in gear (in the marina) at a decent pace for 30mins, and ran an infrared heat gun on the block, but there were no signs of overheating. Fingers crossed the issue was a bag around the inlet or something simiarly temporary.

I spent last night having another wonderful dinner with the Hooligans et al, and then had a second dinner and drinks with Pedro #1, Pedro #2 and Ana, which was really nice. I'm still in absolute awe at the generosity of everybody around me. Last night I came into my boat, and sat down, and I must admit (I don't get called Mr Toughguy for nothing!) I almost felt a little teary at everyones generosity and kindness towards me. I'm just some guy with a little red boat, trying my best to do my thing, and people are helping at literally every turn. Remember Pedro #1 saved me from a lonely Christmas, invited me into is really great family, fed me, gave me a bed, introduced me to his closest friends, and really showed me a side of Portugal people rarely see. Pedro #2 took me out for dinner and lunch everyday, showing me what amazing food the Portuguese produce, let me sleep in his house while I was sick, took me to the maritime museum, the planetarium and even parted with a bag of food and some extra money, citing I would need it for the marina in the Canaries! The Hooligans (plus Ton & Petra) have been really wonderful company in La Coruna, and here in Lisbon, and packed huge bag of extra Dutch provisions for my trip, and even loaned me a satellite phone (one of the reasons todays departure is delayed, finding a new SIM card) so I am able stay in contact, and hopefully maintain web-based position reports on my 800mile journey. I will miss everybody so much... I wish my boat were 15 times larger so I could just bring all the incredible people I meet along with me. I cannot necessarily return this kindness directly to the people who have helped me, but be rest assured, I will do my very best to 'pay it forward' and help others whenever I possibly can.

Thank you so much Portugal. The Canaries are Spanish territory, so this is the end of Portugal for me, and also the end of continental Europe. I cannot believe I am leaving Europe, after being here for almost two years. What amazing experiences and people I've met, from Berlin, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, England, Belgium, France, Spain, Gibraltar, Guernsey and Portugal. This is my longest solo non-stop voyage so far, over doubling my Biscay distance. I can't wait to reach the Canaries, and look forward to telling you all about my biggest passage so far.

See you in a couple of weeks, and check back when you can, because there is every chance I may be able to get some news up on this site from somewhere out there in the Atlantic. More than likely updates will come via Twitter or onto my tracking page.

-moby nick!

Well & Truly Stuck (in a good way)

It has now been three weeks in La Coruna. I guess it's become a self-fulfilling prophecy that I would end up here for winter... As I've said before, every major port I arrive in, I admit defeat and proclaim that I'm stopping, getting a job, and getting a haircut. Somehow I've managed up until here, but La Coruna clearly has some kind of magnetic anomaly which has me glued to the waters surface. I had however triumphantly proclaimed earlier this week that I'd had it, I was going south regardless of all my worldly problems: I still had one tiny trick left up my sleeve, which was to call Lloyds Bank, and somehow convince them I really needed the ₤90's worth of overdrawn fees returned to my account. I had a long forgotten automated transaction take me to to a 'whopping' ₤18 in the red, which resulted in this incredible overdraw penalty. I also had the fortune of a secret cheque in my name, to the tune of ₤125, yet it was useless if cashed onto an account already in the negative. This lone cheque was the result of the local Esso factory in Bursledon spilling it's black soot all over the boatyard I was in, entitling me to compensation to clean the boat. Good friends from the yard filled in the forms for me, and collected the cheque on my behalf, but I had no way of cashing it. I was really trying to avoid a bad credit record in the UK, so I had been pondering that I might cash it anyway, to get rid of my 'debt'... To cut a lengthening story short, I knew if I could get the fees back, cash the cheque, plus the €50 marina key deposit, I could release myself from these pontoon shackles, and edge further south in search of more good luck, and heaven forbid, maybe even a small job. But unfortunately, after telling you my most private banking secrets and hidden cheque stories, there is no triumphant or happy ending. Sometimes when you're about to hit a brick wall, you actually do.

Which brings me to my next thoughts on the topic; of why I mention all this... I often think back to the days when I dreamt all of this up, and just really had no idea how I could make it happen. You read the same story over and over again, about someone doing something on large sponsorship, a good pension, or simply a lot of money. I guess I'd like my story to be about the person who tried to do too much with too little. I tell you not of my woes in hope for a step up (but I am incredibly honoured when granted one), but rather to chronicle things for myself and others, and ultimately to be one of the limited success stories in small boat, small funded and independent long distance sailing. While I may make out that things are difficult (and mostly they are, but on a relative scale), the truth of the matter is, I would not have it any other way. Someone said to me the other day 'if it really gets too hard, why not just sell up and leave'? I've never thought of doing that - I've thought of what I might do if I sank the boat, (which if you're wondering, would be to start walking home, or buy another one) but very little energy has been dedicated to the subject of selling up. Besides, if I did that, then what would I do?

I say all this, to prep you (and maybe myself...) for the news that I simply cannot continue this year, and I will be staying in La Coruna, working, and building my own ideas into things that will power me forward, as early as possible next year. Up until now I have avoided saying the final 'this is it, I'm staying put', because I've always secretly held out that something would happen. But in my quiet reflections on the situation, I was honest with myself, and admitted that without sizable cash injection, even if I did manage to get out of here, I'd quite simply get stuck a little further down the coast, yet again. I also came to the conclusion that I was really happy to have come this far, and also felt good that I could sit back and stop for a minute, knowing that I had tried as hard as I possibly could to get here.

So what now? Well, I may not be able to sail, but I will never rest! I have my own ideas and projects to work on, and I hope to get enough paid work to keep me nourished and in good spirits (if you need any web development work, be sure to hit me up!). Over the next few months, I'll tell you all about what I'm working on, what I've been doing, and about future additions my sailing project. This entire idea has always been bigger than myself, and I hope to keep it that way with some slight additions and route changes.

Thanks so much to everybody for your help and encouragement in getting this far. Everywhere I go, people are helping in every way they can, and it's almost arrogant to say that I sail singlehanded. I hope my temporary defeat is not disappointing to you all, and I trust on prior experience, you know that any admission of 'defeat' is closely coupled with the word 'temporary' - I will get home, on a small boat, alone and with much gusto!


La Coruna Update

So it's now almost been two weeks since I arrived in La Coruna. My work situation has kind of disintegrated, for a number of technical reasons I won't bore you with. This poses a minor problem to my plans, but alas, there is nothing I can do but keep pushing and searching for solutions. I'm really becoming quite aware about how easy it could be for me to stay here and not move for the winter, which is unnerving, so the search continues. At present, I literally can't afford to pay my way out of the marina (you pay on departure here, as opposed to day-by-day, which means you put yourself in a debt of sorts...), so until something comes out of the woodwork, I'm iced in. I like to think of myself as being a Shackleton of sorts, stuck not really by choice, but rather by extremities. My capture being pure economics, as opposed to a harsh icy climate though - The weather here is actually quite stunning. I was somewhat amazed to find an article on the web about my attempts at work, yet it was positive, and definitely a good advertisement for any future employers! It was also quite exciting that Tom and Tina Sjogren of Explorersweb Inc. took any interest at all in my predicament, they being the ultimate adventuring duo, and also hosts to one of the largest portals of genuine adventure and exploration. It's also been one of my favourite websites for a long time, from the days of sitting back and dreaming of far flung adventures.

Besides all my ongoing woes, I've certainly not been bored while living here - Several days ago the German schooner 'Johan Smidt' appeared overnight, with a crew of high school students and teachers, on a program called 'Die High Seas High School'. One of the English teachers noticed my ridiculously large Australian flag (it was all I could find over here!), and came over to talk - He was quite unexpectedly from Adelaide, Australia, and invited me over for a cooked lunch, and to do a talk about my voyage in English to the students.

I spoke about my voyage across from England to Holland, and they were all rather impressed I knew Johannes Erdmann, who had in fact sailed up to Vlissingen with me. I spoke about my lack of toilet facilities, and explained that two buckets consisted of the toilet, the bathtub, and the kitchen sink. They were rather amused to hear I thought their boat was a floating motel, and insisted on seeing my little ship that I was intending to sail home on. So we walked around to Constellation, at which point there were gasps of astonishment, as they climbed in and out of my little boat, which I had to explain should not be boarded by all of them at the same time, for fear of sinking her.

I'd only spent a tiny amount of time with the crew of this new arrival, but when throwing their lines off, I must admit I felt a little sad. It's always hard being the one who is left behind - It's far better to leave first...

It wasn't long after, that I met a local Mini-Transat (Classe Mini) sailor, who invited me out racing. I can sail a boat in one direction, but I can tell you now: I'm no racer! It was a fun experience, and I've always wanted to sail one of these crazy French pocket rockets. I think they are the 21st century answer to the Contessa 26 - In fact, I wouldn't be suprised if they had a similar length in the water. There was little wind, but you could really feel that these boats go amazingly fast, and crossing the Atlantic in them in the bi-annual race is one incredible feat. It was also interesting to be on a boat specifically designed for solo offshore racing. They are virtually unsinkable, with foam core added for buoancy, and have a number of important safety features, such as the transom escape hatch, and the ability to completely seal off the cabin. Demasted or similar, I think you could 'happily' curl up in your floating pod and survive quite nicely. I'd love to have unlimited funds and the aid of a naval architect to build the ultimate one-handed offshore cruising boat! The minitransat is a nice idea for racing, but for my own super-boat design, I'd lessen her beam, increase the length a little, and up the displacement, increase the weight and strength of the keel, yet keep all the safety and unsinkable traits - I would now like to be referred to as 'Nick Jaffe, RNA, PE'.

After my racing experience, I suprisingly found another Contessa 26 in the marina. Noticing the owner onboard, I found out via the son being a translator, that the boat was named 'Fantasia', and had in fact come from England, via the French canal system, the Med, and around the Cape of Good Hope, right back up to Alicante! Who the skipper was, I have no idea, but if you know, please mail or leave a comment, I'd be most interested. I've been invited to lunch tomorrow by the owner, which I'm looking forward to.

So, while I've had a lot to do in La Coruna, none of it really solves my immediate problem of be stuck in an economic ice berg. I've tried to motivate myself by reading the adventures of Shane Acton, aboard Super Shrimpy, the 18ft plywood boat which he sailed around the world on with less money than I, but alas, it's neither made me any money, nor inspired any further 'southing.

What comes next, I'm not really sure. But one thing is for certain, I need to learn Spanish!


Serious Sailing

And I thought Biscay was big! Over the last seven days, I've sailed 200metres... Yes, I'm still in La Coruna. Why? Well, when I say I've run out of money, I don't lie. But firstly, thank you to Paul & Lisa, from the Swedish sailing vessel Eekaros, currently docked in Amsterdam. They're going around the world, and currently saving for a larger boat. Their current one isn't that much bigger than mine, and they're totaling three persons onboard (including the kitten)! I was looked after like family while in Holland by these lovely sailors, and they've assisted me again with some funds to keep me eating until my first paycheck. Here is a picture of us, with me wearing the same jumper I've had on since I left Australia, in 2006!

Monnikendam, Holland

Yes, I know the fenders are down. The engine failed, I wasn't suppsed to be sailing...

Thanks guys!

A few days after arriving here, by great coincidence, someone I previously worked for via the web emailed with a job. So, being in a fortunate position where work is achievable if I just have an Internet connection, I'm staying here for a month to refill the boat with beans & diesel. And make repairs... I don't earn a lot (seriously, working in a bar pays better) but if it means I can keep sailing, then I'll do anything.

I've been here for seven days now, and it's been fantastic. I've met really nice liveaboards, had a chance to recover from my sleepless Biscay crossing, and La Coruna is an interestingly transient place. There are ships from Norway, America, and even Japan coming through, and all going places far away. You can tell the boats that have made it this far, are not the day cruisers normally encountered when out sailing. The boats here have crossed the Atlantic, are just about to, or are heading off to other distant places. This also means that a lot of people are arriving from Biscay, all with stories of fighting FORCE 10 CONDITIONS. I'm well aware Biscay is more than capable of throwing up such harrowing storms, but I must admit, I've been taking Force reports with a grain of salt, and automatically reducing them by 3 points. It's a little bit like estimating wave heights at sea - If you think the swell is six metres, the true height is half. I've been guilty of it myself, but I blame horizon physics, a secret branch of a science I just invented.

It is also really exciting that I've been able to get a little work while in La Coruna, because this means that with about 75% probability (I've just calculated that on a large computer), I will actually be making my own Atlantic crossing by the end of the year, or, at the very beginning of the next. This is really amazing, because I never thought I would be able to achieve it so soon - Every port I've arrived in, I've told the locals that I can't continue, and that I'll have to 'winter'. And every time, something crops up that allows me to just move a little bit further. Also, having done with Biscay, I can relax for a little bit without fearing the weather too much. Biscay was a massive hurdle for the logistics of the trip, however now I can almost day hop down to Lisbon, wait for another good forecast, and go direct to Madeira.

I will probably wait in Madeira, or nearby for another few weeks, possibly I can even work again to make further repairs, and hopefully arrive in the Caribbean with more than $14 and six overdrawn accounts. So far, repairs scheduled for La Coruna, involve replacing all the chain plates for the standing rigging, installing an electronic bilge pump, replacing the mainswitch (again) and generally tidying up.

Other than that, my stay here will mostly involve being cabin bound with my laptop, watching the pilot vessels come in and out of the marina.


Camaret Update

After my disappointment at the thought of Biscay, and not knowing what to do, I moved on from L'Aber Wrac'h the next day to Camaret, to wait for a Biscay window. This annoying piece of water has to be crossed somehow, and after some encouragement and a day to think about my options, I decided I had to go. With the assistance of the professional weather routers Commandersweather searching for a weather window, a time was identified for a possible cross today - But upon further analysis yesterday, the passage deemed too risky - Swell of 8ft+ and winds of 30kts. I was somewhat disappointed, as I was ready to go... I had spent the previous few days going over Constellation, refuelling, and buying provisions, only to still be sitting in the harbour - At least I have some nice food for the next week! I really wanted to pop up in Spain with this post, but there you have it, I'm under the control of a fickle weather beast.

Re-packing the entire boat

Thankfully I did a good check of the boat, as I found an inner stay (one of the wires holding the mast up) had pulled through a chain plate on the deck. The plate had rusted on the inside and snapped. With the helpful assistance of a new friend in the marina, the plate holes were re-drilled, and a new U-Bolt was bolted in with an oversized stainless back plate on the underside of the deck. Not only that, but said friends cooked me one of my first real meals in months - In fact, the day before my scheduled departure, I was spoilt with more home cooked food, having met a local British couple who live in Brittany. They drove me around to supermarkets so I didn't have to walk everywhere, and then took me home for a cooked lunch! I began to think 'two of the best meals in more months than I can remember in one day, with a big crossing the following - This is either reward for making the decision to cross, or the last supper!'.

So today, I think I'll move on down the coast, and wait on a new window. The forecasters think there could be something coming up next week, so I'll keep exploring the coastline and see how I go. If I slowly make my way down towards La Rochelle, and if no windows open up, I guess I can investigate the Canal Du Midi which will take me through to the Mediterranean - However I suspect parts of it will be closed over the next two months, which may make that option impassable. I'm basically completely out of money now too, so I'll hang out for another week, see what the weather is doing, cross if I can, or keep moving to La Rochelle, where I may be forced to park Constellation and seek work ASAP. If I can get a desk and an internet connection somewhere, I may be able to generate some money and move Constellation later on.

Any cheap marinas with free high speed WIFI between Camaret and La Rochelle?