Technology

The Good Ship Harmony, Car vs Drones

This year I've been quietly trying to finish a short film on crossing the Pacific in SV Harmony in 2013, which has proved more difficult than anticipated. To keep me motivated and usher it along, I've created a short trailer for the project:

Between working on Serversaurus, and moving out of the city to live by the ocean as a means to spend more time surfing, I recently worked on a Vice Creators Project called Car vs Drones, where I led the drone team - here is a behind the scenes documentary:

The final piece:

This was a big budget production, directed by GMUNK and shot at Docklands Studio 1, here in Melbourne over the course of two days, with a series of custom made QAV400 quadcopters and 8 drone pilots.

New look, new forums

It's been a long time coming... A new website. And a slightly new direction. I've felt since finishing my voyage, I still wanted to write about sailing, what I was up to, and what I'll be doing in future - However, the old site was really about a particular voyage which has finished... Some readers said 'don't start a new blog, leave this one alone!' So I came up with a compromise... All those blog posts and stories are still here, it's just a new look, and a pairing down of sorts. The new site gives me the freedom to write about all manner of things related to sailing, and the ocean. It's also given me the ability to add a forum to the site, which I've wanted to do for a long time. Why a forum? Well, to be honest, if it wasn't for forums and the internet, I would not have been able to learn, get up to speed, and contact experts as I sailed Constellation half way around the world. The internet was absolutely fundamental to my trip, and it was a big part of why the voyage was a success. So, I've put together my own forum, and I really hope there will be an uptake to it. I'll jump into the forums each day, answer questions, and ask some of my own. I'll also be adding small articles and snippets of information from my log books and clippings.

In other news, Constellation has been purchased by Dave, who is based in Melbourne! So it seems, after everything, the world's most traveled Contessa across land and sea, will be hopping onto a trailer and heading south to Melbourne after all... Amazing.

It's also been a big week on the web - I launched ocean rower Roz Savage's new website too! Go check it out.

So as not to be forgotten, here is a screengrab of the 'old' Bigoceans.com!

I know not everyone will like the new version of this site, and I understand - But I hope you'll stick around anyway, because I promise there is going to be a ton of new and interesting content going up, including interviews, and more video.

Cheers! Nick

Bluemapia.com, Seasons, Trucking

If you've been following this madness for any amount of time, you'll have noticed I'm always broke. There are a few generous sponsors on the right hand side of this page, and numerous individuals who've helped me out, but life hasn't always been rosy on the high seas. Work has been a constant issue, and living in the USA hasn't helped - I'm not on a work visa, and so working here is difficult. I won't go into the technicalities, but trust me, the American visa situation is a maze beyond my cognitive abilities. So when I stumbled across a job that would let me work from anywhere, talk about sailing, and be part of something exciting, I was happy beyond belief. So if things around here have seemed a little quiet, I guess it's in part to being preoccupied with a job (a nice change). Say hello to Bluemapia.com, and say hello to a bunch of my photos and videos, geo-referenced all the way from the UK to New York:

Bluemapia is a social networking website dedicated to documenting the globe with photos, videos and useful information for sailors. It's the place you go to when you're wondering what an anchorage actually looks like, or are curious to find other sailors who've been to the places you're interested in yourself. I'm under zero obligation to talk about Bluemapia here, but I actually think it's cool enough to warrant a mention - So if you're interested, sign up and let me know what you think!

For those not in the northern hemisphere, the cold is definitely upon us. I managed to mostly avoid winter last year by sailing south, but unfortunately Constellation is utterly land bound, and in dozens of pieces this winter. I fear I'll forget how she goes back together; there seem to be pieces everywhere... Nights on the boat have been cold and uncomfortable. You can (sort of) get away with a tiny boat if you spend the majority of your time outside, and only sleep inside. However, when it's too cold to be out and about, life becomes slightly maddening. Last week I had a terrible case of cabin fever, and dearly wanted to strap the anchor to my foot, and jump into Long Island sound - As you know, I work on a computer, and with Constellation being such a small vessel, with such a tiny amount of room, trying to be productive onboard for hours a day, is a terribly difficult task (to understand what I'm trying to express here: Try doing your job in a space 8ft long, 5ft high, and 6ft wide, with a computer on your lap). I know I know, there are a ton of staunch small vessel boat owners out there frowning right now, as I tell it how it is: Small boats are great for sailing, but having lived on one for 1.5 years, my patience is waning...

As for that trucking idea (constantly on my mind), it seems this economic issue has diminished the Australian dollar to such an extent against the US dollar, those dreams of overland travel seem to be getting costlier and costlier - As if it wasn't expensive enough already - Sponsorship is also now a dwindling business, when companies have better things to do with their money (like pay employees), than help Australians with questionable methods of travel...

You're all yelling 'Panama Canal, Panama Canal' in your heads right now... I can hear you from here: But as far as I'm concerned, it's a terribly normal way of getting around the continent. Not to mention the demoralising problem of sailing over your own wake - Miles gained in a small vessel are painfully gained, and going backwards is soul crushing. The whole overland thing was an idea to do something a little different; something unusual and self-propelled. If you're one of those that think going over land is 'cheating', I think going through Panama is even more so - Tens of thousands of people died for that canal, not to mention all those political issues behind it. In my mind, there are only three legitimate ways of getting around the continent, using your own means: 1) Cape Horn/Straight of Magellan. 2) Overland. 3) NW passage. All those are out of the question in a 26ft boat, except for #2, or of course Panama. Going the Panama route has its own set of obstacles beyond any ethical reasons, and one of those is time: The season to head back to the Caribbean is after the hurricanes, and before the winter gales. That time is right now. However, sailing right now is completely out of the question. I get a lot of email saying 'hey, why have you stopped sailing, you should keep going!' and the answer to that, is there are seasons to sailing - You can't simply sail whenever your heart yearns for a new port, as romantic as that sounds. For example, if you want to cross the Atlantic from Europe, you have from late November till about May to do it (from the Canaries). To sail south from north east USA, you have the first two weeks of November to leave. To cross the Atlantic from the USA, you can do it in May or June, etc etc. So if you miss those dates, you more or less wait for the next season - Ok yes, it's more complex than that, but that's the crux of it.

So I feel it's all a really telling time right now, to work out how things are going to move forward. I seem to have several problems, and few answers... I have considered other options, such as selling up for more livable boat and traversing Panama regardless, but how that could be achieved I have no idea, without adding several years to the voyage. But, if you'd like to own a Contessa 26 in New York, I'm all ears. Haha!

A big hello to John of Yatton in North Somerset ;)

This time last year, I was in La Coruna, Spain.

nick.

Barbados, Sonimtech

Well, I think I've posted enough about the Atlantic - It's time to move on! Arriving in Barbados after Europe was a culture shock - I did very little research on the country, (other than how to sail to here), so everything was a suprise; when traveling, I always think it's best to have zero expectations, so you can never be disappointed! Upon docking in Port St Charles, I had to see Customs, Health and Immigration. This was all a big deal in comparison to Europe, where if you are an EU citizen it's quite literally plain sailing (except for Portugal, who like paperwork...). Everyone was incredibly friendly, and I guess that set the tone for the rest of my stay. The Immigration department insisted I drink plenty of Rum, meet a local girl and party hard. He said you only live once.

In Port St Charles, they have a small marina with private berths, and a few 'visitor' berths. Of course, they really only want visitors who sail enormous yachts (ie. greater than 100feet). Naturally, Constellation didn't fit that criteria, but fortunately she fit the 'Oh my God, you sailed the Atlantic in THAT?' criteria, so I guess you get a little bit of respect, for insanity rather than the size of your wallet. The dockmaster was however fairly adamant that 'small boats stay in Bridgetown' (which is secret code for: Please leave, your size is hurting the look of the superyachts!). So, it was a gentle sail down to Bridgetown, where I anchored out the front of the yacht club.

To travel throughout Barbados, there are several choices. If you have money, you can take a taxi. If not, there is the public bus system and the private bus system. The public system run ordinary blue buses, but the private buses are slightly smaller and yellow, or there are the mini buses, called 'ZR's'. If the slowness of my voyage had been less than thrilling, the private buses made up for it. To describe a typical journey: As the private buses work on commission, they race each other for customers. On one bus, they purposely blocked traffic so a competing bus couldn't overtake! Sporting Magnaflow exhaust systems, graffitied dash boards, the drivers wearing racing gloves and spoilers, these guys get you places, quick. The stereo system blurts out banging hip hop, the school kids sing pitch perfect to the lyrics, and the grandmas nod their heads, syncopated. The radio station they play is also interesting, the DJ insisting on singing over the top of the current track, and dimming the song to exclaim 'yo yo, let's party till luncheon' or something similar - I'm just imagining a station in Melbourne with one of our horrible breakfast radio DJ's singing over the top of Hotel California... An awful thought. The smartly dressed school boys (their uniform obviously still around since British rule) wear insignias reading 'Fear God, Think Clean, Aim High'. As you can imagine, I alighted for the beach bar with WIFI, thinking with cleanliness, but fearing rain over other things of a higher nature... Besides, I don't think God ever intended us to fear much of anything, but it was a complex argument to pose to the kid sitting next to me, while the reggae was turned up so loud.

Upon first impressions of the Caribbean, it really does seem everyone is quite simply, cool - I've been transported back to being the dorky kid at school... Even the old men have an aura of coolness I could only aspire to. I guess here I'm the dorky white guy, and that in itself is interesting. With the majority of 'native' Barbadians coming from a lineage of sugar cane slaves (of African lineage), it's a new feeling being well in the minority after Europe. The last time I felt like I was being looked at as a curiosity, was an accidental tour of some less than intelligent places to be walking in Bronx during 2004. The difference is, everyone here is immensely friendly and open. It's difficult to get used to people saying hello to you on the street, and not wanting anything. Coming from a culture where you don't get anything for free, the 'Bajans' are on the whole lovely and friendly people. Just yesterday while I was out 'exploring' the countryside near the Airport, I had ran out of change - A man at the bus stop insisted he give me the exact coinage for the fair (they don't accept anything other than the correct money). Not to mention Martin who I had been conversing with via email who provided a lot of pilotage info for my arrival, and handed me some money before departing on his own Atlantic voyage, exclaiming 'a donation for your trip' - Thank you kindly Martin.

After marveling at the colour and warmth of the water (this took a few days...) I proceeded onto the more bureaucratic aspects of my stay here, namely my requirement for a US visa. I visited the embassy, and was told to fill out a form online... I did that, and went back the following day, spending two hours waiting in various lines and sitting in offices waiting for my number to be called. Eventually number 62 was called up, and I had the opportunity to talk to a real person, at which point I was told I needed proof of employment, and a bank statement showing I had sufficient funds to enter the country! As you can imagine, I've been sailing since August of 2007, and employment is not really my forte. Neither is sufficient money. With the help of a former employer, I procured a letter and a bank statement, which magically did the trick... I also needed to provide a form because I'm male, and between the age of 16 and 45, which has something to do with terrorism. I had to list all the countries I'd visited in a tiny box within the last ten years; a list extending off the side of the page... Eventually I soldiered back to the embassy with all my paperwork, and arrived at 0730, exiting at at lunchtime, with my visa approved, being sent on to St Lucia early next week. Great day! Next time I decide to sail into Fort Knox, I think I'll better prepare my entry - For example, getting this visa months before, ie. when I was meandering through Europe or getting myself stuck in various places for lack of cash.

After my embassy delights, I had to extricate a Sonim XP1 mobile phone that was generously donated by Sonim Technologies, from customs at the Airport. After providing a commercial invoice stating a demo value, the cheeky people at customs opened the package, and Googled the phone online, and took the duty value from the most expensive retail value they could find! The duty was calculated at 20%, even though the package stated 'yacht in transit'... Personally, I think it was illegal of them to charge me duty, but I couldn't find specific documentation to say I was essentially 'stateless' and exempt - I tried the 'I don't have to pay duty on retail items, why should I pay it on items posted to me as gifts'? They didn't get it. Thankfully Sonim fronted the duty bill, which is most appreciated - Thank you to Angela at Sonim Tech in San Mateo for the phone, and also for all the assistance in actually getting my hands on it! Having destroyed one phone in the North Sea, I think the XP1 is better built for the task of sailing and being constantly dropped!

My second real gripe with Barbados, and something that kind of tainted the nice stay I was having here, was being told I had to pay $50 to leave the country, when I went to get my paperwork stamped at customs. No one ever told me of this charge, and it certainly isn't documented anywhere (there is one place it mentions a $25 charge if you're over 5 tons). I spent a lot of time petitioning the clearance fee, spending four and a half hours at the customs office. I know, $50 doesn't sound like much, and I've paid much more for marinas in Europe, but nowadays I just can't afford it, and that money could be a week or two of food... Even though this all really annoyed me, the customs guys made me coffee, and even fed me cake! So, what can I say... The people are fantastic, but rules maybe not so much, especially for small-time sailors. Barbados is a convenient place to stop if you need a US visa, but due to the clearance fee (and this is really only applicable to poor small cruisers), and general cost of things in Barbados, I would have to recommend that people continue on the 70nm to St Lucia. This is a disappointing recommendation, but the Barbados government don't really seem interested in small cruisers entering their country, and I guess that's what's going to eventuate: Already I've met several people who've said fewer and fewer people are arriving via private vessels (except the super elite).

So today, I head off to St Lucia! I'll leave at night to sail in the cool of the moon, and arrive with plenty of daylight as I sail into Rodney Bay. Below are a few photos (a hard reset on my screen-less digital camera brought it back to life!)


Sunset, Carslile Bay, Bridgetown, Barbados


Luckily 'Constellation' has a good 'Constatution'...


Constellation, at anchor in Bridgetown


Carslile Bay, Bridgetown, Barbados

More photos at the usual place.

-moby nick!

Site Review & Brainstorming Session, Ready to tackle the Diesel

Over the last couple of weeks the team at Searchenginejournal.com have been brainstorming on my behalf, thinking collectively on how best to utilise the web for my trip, as well as technical help on improving search ranking - Take a read of the full article on their site. They've all put in enormous effort, and come up with some really smart ideas. It has been a great experience to see people envisioning such potential in my project in regards to the web, because it's been hard for me trying to get across what I want to do with this whole thing. My trip isn't just about trying to sail around the world with a small amount of money in 12months, it's a lot more, and when Loren from SEJ says:

We believe Nick is partaking on a brave and unique adventure, one that will set standards for social media adventure and social pioneering.

I get dizzy with ideas and excitement, because time is of the essence right now, and I have a lot to do in order to squeeze all the potential out of what I'm doing. So over the next couple of months I'll be ramping up some of the ideas that have been brewing, and also begin implementing what I can of the suggestions from SEJ.

When I lost my site last week, I had to recover a lot of it from Google. I came across a page I had since deleted called 'How & Why' - I felt it was a bit romantic and washy and deleted it some months ago, however I've left it back on the site this time around, because it has reminded me what my very original intentions were. I've been so swayed over finances and the pressures of 'survival sickness' lately that a lot of thoughts have been pushed out of the way. I guess what I'm saying is, the SEJ folks brought a lot of ideas to the table, and those sparks lit up my mind again. The aspect of raising money for environmental causes has also been swung aside, so in the next month or so I'll be launching a project I began last November on what I believe to be a really interesting way of raising funds. Thank you to Ahmed Bilal, Bill Slawski, Carsten Cumbrowski, Gemme van Hasselt, Jessica Bowman, Loren Baker and Rhea Drysdale!

Non-webby news includes a possible article by www.segelnmagazin.de - A German sailing magazine. Nothing at all is definite, but there are signs of interest, so fingers crossed.

My book arrived today about Diesel engines, so it's now time to have a look at what I've got myself into! Tomorrow early in the morning I'm meeting Tudor at the Duke of York to pickup some sailing theory manuals and an anchor - Oh yes jokes abound: 'A man walks into a pub with an anchor and... ' Add a comment if you can make up the rest of the joke!

Back on the 2nd of April -

nick.

Global Positioning

I need to get a camera capable of doing Geocoding. Heres why:

Geocoding is 'tagging' a digital image with GPS coordinates at the time of shooting. Can you imagine, if I shot profusely, all the way from Britain to Australia with a geotagging camera? Lets say we then load those images into Google Earth, you could almost literally be there along with me.

Physical space has become so abstracted now, mere imagery is pass?ɬ©: Today we need to know an images location in space and time. This locality data is another addition to the images 'context' - It becomes more than merely mnenomic data, it gets closer to real experience, which as I've stated before, is really important to me - sharing the whole thing with the world via the web. I mean, not only can you place every image spatially, it can be placed in context with other images nearby to give even greater context.

I really see this as being a new form of book: Instead of a flat piece of paper with expressive terms, it becomes a multidimensional repository of data for 3rd party experience. What this really equates to, is that you no longer necessarily have to have the authors expressiveness manipulate you like a standard book. You are given the raw data and the tools to create something within your own imagination. Obviously it is not entirely democratic, because what I choose to provide as data is up to me, but it is certainly getting close.

I love the possibility of this so much, it's going to be a really exciting addition to my arsenal of tools for bringing 'deep' data to the site.

Now, to get my hands on a Nikon D200... Or take a look at Mappr for examples.

n.

Site Live

I'm putting this site live, after almost a month of blogging to myself, as things silently progressed. I was never sure if any of it was going to work, but things have happened so quickly I don't know where to start... If you trace back through my archives, you will see gaps in the story, and that is a result of things happening faster than expected. I will hopefully at some stage go back over them and make amends. I'm somewhat nervous about how people will take me. I spent weeks trying to figure out the best way to 'represent' myself. I asked a myriad of people, paced around inside my apartment, wrote multiple entries of my 'About Me' page... And, well this version you see now is what's left. I don't know if it's the best version, or if my public image is completely wrong or not, but much like this entire journey, everything I'm doing is in part 'winging it'. Having said that, I will learn, and things will progress. That's the idea anyway.

As of today, the deposit is on the boat and it is resting ashore in the UK. Hopefully I will get to go down to the marina in a couple of weeks on work, allowing me to check out what I've gotten myself into!

I'll try my best to keep this site interesting as I move forward. I guess the really really interesting bit will be when I leave work and actually start sailing. It is awhile off, but I have sponsors to coax, letters to write, and I may even do some of the navigational theory courses from home, so when I show up for practical sailing, I know a few things.

So I guess this is the beginning of the 'online version' of this escapade :)

Tchuss, n.

Technology

Pre-warning for people who don't give a damn about technology. I don't want this to become a geeklog, so maybe this will need to be moved into another section. However, I think the technology for this venture is quite important, in particular to keep this website live, and the data flowing. As is quite obvious, I'm blogging. There is nothing particularly special about this, however it is with the addition of third party services and the like which are plugging into this that is more pertinent. It is also important because you the reader are important for me, and for this whole idea. I don't have a 'technology' partner so to speak. When I do a Google maps mashup to give you my current location, I sat down and wrote it. So while this isn't the Volvo Ocean race, I would like it to appear so. In fact, I would like to take it further, because this boat being loaded with technology is, as I said, important.

Keeping in mind I will have limited bandwidth, and limited time 'online' while I am in the middle of nowhere, I need to utilise what I have. Statistical data is nerdy, so the technology here needs to have a human aspect to it in my opinion. Knowing my heading, speed and current location is interesting, but I would like to have more than that, and to have it current. As I've said in my How & Why section, I see this as a 'rich book'. And as such it needs to transcend mere textuality. The point of technology is to simulate a portion of reality. The reality in this case is an insane adventure, but the problem is, I'm the only one 'doing it'. I want everyone else to 'do it' too. So it is really about conveying experience as best as I can, via the mediums I am empowered with.

Today, I am empowered with many. How I use them is the next step, and I would really love any ideas to step this forward. As you can see I have 'live' tracking to begin with, as well as remote posting. What else is possible?

n.