Christmas!

Constellation, 25 December, 2006, 19:41: Heater on full, cabin cleaned, shower taken, mainsail packed.

I woke up this morning at 5am, rushed into the forecabin and gasped at the number of presents under the tree. Heaven knows how Santa made it through the skylight hatch, I’m sure it was locked! Nevertheless, I definitely found footprints, and under the tree was everything I needed for my journey. It was difficult unwrapping the Monitor Windvane, but boy, she’s beautiful. How exactly Santa knew which alternator belt I needed as a spare is beyond me, but quite clearly he (or she) is highly intelligent, and even knowledgeable about boating paraphernalia. So everything I needed on my wish list is accounted for. Wow!

Well, needless to say, it was a rather uneventful Christmas day. I woke up and wondered around the yard for awhile looking at boats. Al, the local catamaran owner invited me in for a coffee which was nice, and Chris the flight attendant (who is also a liveaboard) came by, and as it turns out, will be driving to Gatwick in the morning. I’ll be 12 hours early for the flight, but I figure waiting around at the airport is better than waiting around in Southampton if the bus doesn’t work out.

I have double packed the mainsail to bring back to Berlin. Hopefully if the stars align themselves correctly, I will have enough money to drive over to Poland and have a new duplicate made. If not, I’ll make a duplicate myself out of waxed brown paper and sail close to the sun.

Clearly there are several mysterious (minor) leaks on the cabin roof, as a hose down reveals a little fresh water in the bilge, from who knows where. I seem to have figured out that unless you own a brand new Hanse or similar, yachts tend to just have water hanging about the place no matter what you do. Note to self: Pack lots of sponges.

I’ve made a hefty list of things to bring back from Germany next time I come to the boat. The prices here in the UK are out of control. I’ll come back on an overnight bus, and smuggle cheap(er) German parts and materials in large suitcases. To my knowledge, there are no weight restrictions (within reason) on coaches, and while it’s a 24 hour ride, it seems worth the trouble.

So, I’m looking forward to going back to Berlin, going on my detox diet (a week of Christmas mince pies and triple chocolate muffins have taken their toll) and cranking the coal oven.

Merry Christmas to you all :)

nick.

Half Circumnavigation Plan B

Constellation, 23 December, 2006, 19:09: Heater on full, two new books in the library, zero public transport on the 26th, baked not fried crisps winning the daily taste war.

Today was my big adventure into Southampton, to find a calling card and investigate bus timetables. On both fronts, the results leant towards the negative end of a rusty battery terminal. Meaning, I couldn’t find a calling card anywhere, and the buses are not even running the day after Christmas, as I had previously thought (as with trains). So, I closely observed the route home, in anticipation of my long walk this coming Tuesday morning. I can only hope it isn’t raining, or I will be boarding Easyjet Flight 00FUN11 sopping wet. Is it just me, or does everything seem incredibly dramatic and arduous when connected to my endeavors?

It was bitterly cold and foggy again today… The kind of weather that does not encourage doing much at all, besides from thoughts of huddling in the corner with a large and difficult book, or prodding an open fire while exchanging hunting stories with old men. Needless to say, the last thing I killed with a gun was quite by accident when I was 14; a wee bird not worth exaggerating for the sake of a worthy tale. So, I stepped off the bus in Southampton right into Waterstones, a large bookstore that has gone down the Borders model of filling the place up with books, and then dedicating a good third of it to selling Latte’s and expensive muffins. But, as with all big stores devoid of a soul, at least you get a decent price (thats the point, right?). I soon walked out with two new paperbacks, skipped around the town twice (for the pesky phone card) found a German Christmas market (and felt at home) selling Gluwein, and decided the Christmas shopping extravaganza was far too much to contend with, and walked straight back to the open doors of a bus heading to the Burseldon bridge. Which brings me to the corner I’m huddled in right now, wrapped up in a sleeping bag with the heater (on full) eating ‘crisps’ (ahem, chips) and aptly enough, listening to ‘Bridge over troubled water’ by Simon & Garfunkel.

So, without further adieu, the wind has picked up, and it is time to fasten the tarpoline on the roof, board up the door, and settle down with a luke-warm cup’o’soup to cook up ‘Nicks half-circumnavigation Plan B’.

(It’s the plan where I sail home with three pounds fifty in spare change, two bananas and a used tea-bag.)

nick.

Bill of sale, Pubs

Constellation, 22 December, 2006, 19:37: Heater on full, decks scrubbed, local pub inspected, and Tesco’s Triple Chocolate Muffins deemed best buy for 2006.

Oh, and I have Constellation’s bill of sale!

I’m usually a little late to the party on these things, but I have unanimously decided all boat owners utterly mad, most certainly require a few weeks in a calm care facility, and damn well need of a stern talking to by someone with a loud voice. These flotation devices are mysterious black holes for just about everything, sucking you dry of any good sense and claiming every last penny, and then some.

For example, it’s a Friday night, and where would any self-respecting 25 year old be? At the pub maybe? Yes, well down to the Jolly Sailor I went for a quiet Fosters (oh, yes, I had my second pint of Fosters ever just a month ago!) only to come tearing back out of the rear entrance for fear of witnessing too much noise and camaraderie. Not to mention the fact there were no bar stools, meaning I would have to awkwardly sit at a table for two, pretending I was waiting for someone… Or worse yet, tapping on my mobile phone so I looked I was messaging said someone, telling them to hurry the hell up. In my haste to exit, I will admit to taking an extra second or two to witness someone eating fish & chips. Such cuisine is scarce if not impossible to find in Germany. If you know of somewhere in Berlin doing a nice piece of beer battered Flake, please pass on the coordinates…

The five mile hike to the local library is becoming tiring, and I only get internet access for a maximum of half an hour at best. I hiked all over country England, looking for an international calling card today, in order to phone home for Christmas, but alas, I found nothing. Daryl and I always have a whinge about Christmas, and it appears karma has the better of me; by trapping me in a leaky boat alone, without access to the outside world for a change. So, I think Christmas is going to be a quiet one… I’m not too fussed for my sake, but it would be nice to call home and say hello, but what to do?

I inspected my rigging today, and I’m convinced the halyards will need replacing. The topping lift looks like it will be gone by the end of winter, breaking exactly when I am standing underneath the boom no less. The standing rigging appears strong, with about two to three inches of adjustability remaining. I don’t know what re-rigging will cost, but I’m sure it will be a lot more money than I currently have (three pounds fifty).

On the issue of money, I need so much of it, it’s becoming depressing. Not including all the small items and repair work required, I have big expensive items such as the windvane, wind generator, EPIRB, new mainsail and certification training costs to contend with. Looking at my web logs, if every unique visitor gave me $5, I’d be out to sea come first sign of summer! But alas, it won’t be that easy… World poverty would have been solved by now if it were. I do need to formulate a financial plan though, or come up with an ingenious sponsorship bid. My two so far have failed, but I’m a dogged and annoying individual so I guess I’ll keep trying. The boat is finally mine though, so I guess I can relax for a week or two.

Over & out from the South of England, where it’s currently 8pm, foggy, and lacking bar stools.

nick.

Presents?...

Constellation, 21 December, 2006, 13:47 : Heater on full, cabin boarded up, three layers plus jacket, two cup’o’soups, one tea, one coffee and three rolls consumed. All water boiled with tea light candles.

I must say, while it is deftly cold here, I like nothing more than a walk in the nearby paddock. Every time I venture out, I could swear the countryside is going to yield a a group of fox hunters on steaming horses pounding out of the forest: I’ll see them first, and then the group will canter over and ask me what I’m doing in the middle of nowhere, to which I’ll exclaim ‘Sailing home!’ Because of my accent, they’ll assume ‘home’ is either South Africa or Australia (both far away) and invite me to their manor for tea, scones and a cigar by the open fire.

The other thing about sitting on a boat alone in the cold, is that you excite an overactive imagination.

However, the reality of it is, I mostly sit around contemplating cockpit drainage, re-seating deck parts with Sikaflex and my new hobby of calculating cost to taste ratios from my encyclopedic memory of the local Tesco’s Extra 24 hour, three hundred mega-hectare supermarket (thats how big it feels). Let me explain: For $1.40 you can purchase 250g of Danish blue cheese on special, which will last many days, because of it’s spreadability and rather strong taste. Another example is ‘Tescos Garlic Sausage’ which is sandwich meat impounded with either real garlic or garlic flavour. Whatever it turns out to be, the bottom line is, it packs a whole lot of taste per slice, meaning instead of using three slices of standard ham, you only need to use one. I know, true value. Other examples may include bottled Olives and Vegemite knockoffs.

But back to boating tales, the true reason you are here. Constellation gave me a very special present this year, to which I am eternally grateful: Several inches of water inside the cabin.

I can’t wait to see what I get next year! (Ahem, I will be on a scheduled route across the Atlantic this time next year, so lets pray Constellation only gives me ‘good’ presents in 2007!)

So, I spent the next 25 minutes pumping the bilge, wondering how the heck so much water got in. For a brief second I thought about pushing the boat off the standing, blaming the boatyard and collecting the insurance for a first class ticket home. Aye, but you know if I’m down to calculating cost to taste ratios, I won’t give up so easily.

I spent two nights huddled in the corner freezing to death. Mum, this is one case where if you said “you’ll catch pneumonia!” you would actually be 100% correct. So off I went to sort out a shore power lead and go back to my favourite three hundred hectare mega-store to find a heater. Even with the heater, its still freezing. To illustrate this, please inspect the ’smoke’ coming out of my mouth. Brrrrr.

But what about the water? Oh, well as it turns out, the cockpit drains into the bilge. Leave the boat long enough… She fills up. What to do? Connect the cockpit drains through a new skin on the transom? I don’t know. But after rummaging through the sail locker I almost slapped myself across the face for not finding the cockpit cover earlier… I don’t know though, it kind of seems logical to think the cockpit would drain on its own and not require covering… But I guess thats my first Contessa lesson for the winter.

I knocked off ‘66 Days Adrift’ all the while eyeing off my raft in the corner, with it looking back at me rather suspiciously. Note the ’six person’ sticker on top - You might think that means it can take six people, but the truth of the matter is, it takes six people to move the damn thing. I pretended there was a small baby trapped underneath, and then used my exponential strength to move it down into the cabin. I’m patiently awaiting the day I trip on the painter cord, and let her rip: Imagine that, blowing Constellation up from the inside because I tripped the raft line. Ha!

My ticket back to Berlin is for the 26th, the day after Christmas. It was the cheapest time to fly around this period, and I’ve worked out why: Its impossible to get to the airport! The train here isn’t running, however the bus is, albeit on a Sunday schedule. I think.

This post took six chilly smoke rings to compose.

nick.

In London en route to ?

(I’m still attempting to garner pledges for my certifications: 5 Days remaining, $330USD pledged so far! More information at my Fundable.org page or here.) (Don’t worry, I’ll soon stop pasting this in my posts!)

Firstly, thank you Nathan for the christmas present, very kind and generous :)

This week has found me in Scotland and London on work… I still don’t know what to do for christmas, but to stop my burgeoning indecisiveness on whether to go back to Berlin, take a random ?Ǭ£5 flight to anywhere in Europe, or stay on the boat. At this stage I think I’ll stay on the boat for christmas, in anticipation of being there at the same time next year… Albeit in water. I’ll ready the decorations.

So, if anyone from the UK is nearby, do come say hello! I’ve had a few people say they’d come out for a drink next time I was over, and I apologise for A) the short notice, and B) the time of year… Yet 2006 has been my most chaotic period, and it appears it will continue as such for quite some time to come!

I will be on email till Monday morning, but once down at the boatyard, it is a lengthy walk to the top of a residential hill, where I ‘borrow’ somebody elses wireless internet connection for email, so I could be a little inconsistant on checking. My mobile number is +49 304 9784389.

If I don’t post again before the 25th, merry christmas to you all!

nick.

Presents, Boat Ownership, TV Commercials. I like!

(I’m still attempting to garner pledges for my certifications: 12 Days remaining, $330USD pledged so far! More information at my Fundable.org page or here.)

Just ahead of schedule, after five months of freaking out and various setbacks, the day has come that Constellation is paid for!

This was incredible news after having yet another not-so-great month. However, I was saved a few times by some incredible luck… The day I was informed I would miss another payment (my employer called the boatyard and explained it was them, not me, and I was given a months grace) due to cash flow issues (contracting sucks), a phone call lined up two weeks of full time work, starting immediately. Incredible! This didn’t solve immediate cash problems, but it was a step in the right direction.

So, down to my last few Euros in change, friends donated (thanks Daniel!) & loaned me (thanks Bobby!) some money at the last moment. Only this time, I couldn’t access it because my ATM card had expired! I have a little collection of bottles sitting next to the fridge for a rainy day, and due to Germany’s recycling laws, they can be exchanged for money. So I traded bottles for food, and then another weird set of circumstances landed me some instant money: I was cast in an Audi TV commercial. In front of a greenscreen, I nervously said “Hi, I’m from Sydney. Audi is the sportiest brand downunder!”. The worst part of course, was that I had been scripted to say I was from Sydney! Melbournians: Trust me, I did try to wrangle Melbourne into my cameo, but the Germans didn’t think I was very amusing in my attempts. Anyway, so I made a little money on the spot, which funded my self-gratulatory drinks this weekend as a newly adorned boat owner.

I feel like quite the charlatan, between pimping Audis and dabbling in yachting, but I assure you I’m not like that… My boat is worth about as much as a family station wagon, and I only sold my soul to Audi so I could eat pasta sauce, instead of using vegetable oil make it go down. Excuses excuses, I know.

The past month has also brought my two very kind presents from strangers. Special thanks to Tudor for the chart of the English channel - I now have enough paper-based directions to make it from England to Gibraltar! I also received ‘66 Days Adrift’ from RisingSlowly. As I picked it up from the post office, I saw a friend on the way home. He couldn’t stop laughing when he saw the title of the book - His words were ‘Man, I think this is a hint!’. Hah! Lets hope not. Thanks so much to the both of you; lovely gestures.

Well, the boat may be paid for, but I guestimate I’ll need the value of the boat again in cash to get this idea afloat, so back to work I go.

nick.

Help fund my training with Fundable.org*

(*$330USD Pledged as of 29/11/06)

Attempting to garner sponsorship is big business. The number one query I receive from Google is ‘Sponsorship Letters’, because I have written a post or two on my attempts. Quietly I write around three letters a week, to varying degrees of success. I have already tried one slightly different way of aquiring a new set of sails with my online auction, which may not have been instantly successful, yet still has a chance of resulting in something.

I had previously mentioned I was considering not spending money on certifications, and hoped to learn on other peoples boats. However I have changed tack and believe it would be in my best interests to start with the Day Skipper. It is the surest way to compact a lot of technical information into a relatively short amount of time (9 days), and have a good base to work from with further mile building achieved via crewing afterwards.

So, in order to do that, my next public attempt at fundraising is to pool together $1500USD to fund my Day Skipper certification in February 2007.

Heres how it works: Using Fundable.org, donators make a minimum pledge of $30USD. Should the $1500 be raised within 25 days of the first pledge, the pledged amount will be extracted from your account and passed onto me, to complete the certification. If the funds are not raised, then there is no loss to anyone, and I go back to the drawing board - You simply pledge an amount should the $1500 be raised. Every sponsor will have their name/company name placed in the sponsors section, which I will hotlink if you maintain a site on the web. The first pledge I receive starts the 25 day countdown!

So, if helping me become Day Skipper certified tickles your fancy… Or if you just want to insure I don’t fall overboard or accidently sail north, please consider donating via my Fundable page located here.

Thanks so much!

nick.

Young Sailors

Yesterday I had the great pleasure of meeting German sailor Johannes Erdmann, who recently completed an Atlantic crossing this year at the young age of 19. Johannes departed in 2005, aboard a light-weight boat built primarily for Dutch lakes, a Fellowship 28. His story is exceptional, however all the details will have to be left to his upcoming book, which I can only hope will also appear in English. His site is in German, but I do suggest taking the time out to use various online translation tools to get the gist of his story.

What was most inspiring about Johannes’s journey for me, was his pragmatism and approach to the trip. Instead of terrifying stories about 60foot waves, tankers and insisting on requiring expensive gadgetry, his advice was straight-forward and realistic, which I was most appreciative of. Taking several hours out of his exceptionally hectic life, combining full time university, writing a book and doing talks, he answered a myriad of questions that have been building up in my head for the past several months, over coffee in Berlin. I gleened a lot of practical information about finding cheap sails, windvanes, the realities of storms, the cost of mooring in Kiel and even tips like making an effort to stock my food from Germany due to the low cost. I asked Johannes what he would do differently if he could take time capsule back and do it again, and his response was ‘take a better boat’. At which point he strongly commended the Contessa class, and believes the boat choice was a good one for its intended purpose.

I also heard certain stories which I cannot divulge (feeding the rumour mill!) regarding Robin Lee Graham’s old boat ‘Dove’, Hawaii and musical compositions…

Be sure to keep up to date with Aron Meder’s two year solo journey around the world, aboard a 19ft boat. I’ve been in contact with Aron, however I don’t think we will cross paths, as he has left already and I believe is somewhere in the Mediterranean. His site is in Hungarian, but photos are worth a million words in any language, and Aron tells me there will be more English information soon.

The 26 year old British sailor Aurelia Ditton is set for a second place in the Route Du Rhum. I found Aurelia when the race started, and was excited to see that she shares a similar passion for art and sailing. While her interests are very specific to sailing itself, and I feel I have more of an interest in the actual experience of sailing, it was interesting to note her prior work and the fact she is an honours graduate from Chelsea, a school who has produced big names such as Anish Kapoor, Gavin Turk and David Hockney among others. Don’t be too saddened at the news she will be chopping her very slick racing boat in half on arrival!

Bis sp?ɬ§ter, Nick

Cruising versus Sailing / Help.

I think I have started a terrible habit of only posting when I have news, or if something bad has happened. Or maybe that’s a good thing? I should insist on proving there is absolutely no glamour in all this, writing everyday about how I spilt my coffee, the cost of coal, my diminishing eyesight or the state of my still-broken fridge!

Work issues abound, but I don’t think there is the risk of losing the boat this time. The boatyard has given me some leeway on the payment timeframe, which I’m exceptionally thankful for.

So in light of the fact I have some free time now, after working near-on seven days a week for the past month, I have been thinking about my boating requirements. It’s starting to dawn on me (and anyone who owns boats or has done something similar will probably scoff at my realisation) that I am going to have to pair-down my requirements and expectations, and start thinking like a very poor sailor instead of a reasonably well off world cruiser taking a year off from their CEO position. I am the former with the attitude of the latter. From now on, I am only going to concentrate my energy on figuring out the absolute bare minimum requirements for my trip, and drop my pie-in-the-sky fantasies, unless I come across some serious money. I will be amending my Stuff I Need section soon.

For example, instead of spending ?Ǭ£1300 on 14 days of certification courses, I should probably start organising myself onto some yacht deliveries beginning in Feb, and learn ‘for free’ so to speak, and buy that windvane I need. I have already had a couple of people say ‘when you get Constellation in the water, I’ll come by and show you the ropes’ which is an invaluable opportunity. Are there people out there who can spend some time workshopping me? Or have a boat and can take me out on it and drum some experience into me? What about people who can help with navigation? Maybe there is someone who can spend some time running through theory and charts with me? I don’t know, what do you think?

It seems the more experienced people I can be around, and the more time I can spend on the water, the better. By December 31st Constellation will be paid for, and I am hoping to mix work and sailing from Feb onwards.

That all being said, maybe there is something I can do for you in exchange for help? If you have any ideas, hit me.

Till the next drama or appliance breakdown, nick

Massive site overhaul

As you have hopefully noticed, this site looks stunning. A huge thanks to the PR and design teams at MASSIVE in Sydney for sponsoring me with a complete site re-design!

I emailed the PR team at MASSIVE a month or so ago, asking if there was any chance of having them overhaul my crude site design. I was incredibly suprised when I received a positive reply and offer, considering they are such a large and renowned firm; I’ll be honest and admit I didn’t think they would have time for my cause. I sent off some dreamy specifications and a list of other sites I liked, and soon after the design team sent back a fresh look. Thank you so much!

I’d also like to give credit to Jo Mooring Aldridge from the www.contessa26.net association, for the use of the yacht image in the site design. I believe the boat is being helmed by Jeremy Rogers himself, the designer and builder of the Contessa 26 class.

(If people could send through any site issues they have, or if things are not displaying properly, I’d be most appreciative. My testing department have gone on holiday, leaving me all alone, as usual.)

Thanks again MASSIVE!

nick