Snowstorms, Christmas

I feel so terrible, enjoying a lovely warm summer, riding my bike with friends, having barbecues... All the while, Constellation is battling sub-zero temperatures, snowstorms, loneliness and a lack of love...

Constellation, Greenport, NY

Thanks so much to Jeff W. of Greenport for the photograph - !

Also many thanks for all the votes in my recent attempts to win over the ING $10,000 'My Dream Is' competition - [update] Winners already announced, we didn't win! As they say in Germany... 'Schade'. Nevermind, I've gotten this far; we're unstoppable!

Now, since I'm not doing much sailing at the minute (take a look at that photo up there again), you should go and see what Lee Winters is up to - He's just started his dream of sailing solo around the world, with Jargo his boat, and his gorgeous malamute friend Georgia. Lee is also responsible for a very possible change of plans next year... Don't worry, the voyage is definitely not going on hold, but only getting slightly more mad. More on that later...

If I don't post before 25th - Merry Christmas to all those who celebrate it! With particular attention to all who are alone for whatever reasons. Two Christmas's ago I was in England, alone on a freezing boat with a stupid idea, a six pack of Tesco's mince pies, and tea candles to heat the cabin:

Nick.

$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

Little People, Home Sweet Home

I'm not even going to apologise for going on all these blog holidays... Actually no, I can't help myself, I'm terrible, I'm sorry... Apologies also go to all those people who write to me, and get replies weeks later, or have their words drift into binary obscurity as emails back themselves up thirty pages down. So now, from the comfort of the worlds smallest continent, I'll try and explain. Two Friday's ago I had the fun opportunity to talk to a bunch of little people. While I tried to make funny jokes about visiting Columbus's house in the Canary Islands, and the reason for painting Constellation red was purely to increase her speed, questions about deadly snakes and whether Tasmanian devils really exist abounded. In all reality, I feel that little people are able comprehend killer animals better than small boat voyages - One seems cool, and the other makes little or no sense. At my uncles school I spoke to three classes of third graders about sailing, Australia, venom and geography. It was great fun, and I've decided to sell Constellation and invest my money in time machine research, because having your lunch made everyday, getting half day on Friday's, and playing with toys for 70% of your time, is awesome.

Questions with 3rd grade

For some reason the above photo is my most viewed on Flickr - If that's because it looks like a little person is giving me the finger, you'd be wrong - I believe I was actually getting the thumbs up for suggesting the idea that all Australian animals are either weird looking, or trying desperately to kill you.

After nervously standing among the little people to talk, it was soon time to board a Qantas 747-400 back to Australia. Oh! How did that happen? Well, the short of the long, is that one can only stay in America for 6months before overstaying a B1/B2 visa, and potentially never being allowed to re-enter. Don't mention Canada, because their border doesn't count for 'flag poling' (exiting the country to renew your visa). Therefore I had every intention of visiting Europe, as London was the cheapest destination across the Atlantic, and Australia was out of the question. That was of course until my family pooled all their hard earned frequent flyer points together, and coupled with fees & charges, I managed to buy a ticket for less than a return trip to the United Kingdom. I kept everything hush hush, poised for a great suprise on home soil, and managed to stealthily keep my arrival under wraps and shock those that thought I'd be at least another year until Constellation's bow bumped into Australia.

It's been a great reunion, and while I've just spent two years and seven months noodling around the planet, all my friends have all been doing exceptionally well in their endeavours, and it's being such a treat to see everyone after such a long time. I continue to be essentially homeless here, and will remain so until January, when I am set to fly back to chilly New York. I've been propped up in spare rooms, childhood bedrooms and friends houses through upstanding generosity over the last week, and must thank all involved (you know who you are).

Coming home has also had its elements of complete strangeness. On the one hand, I need to look at my own photos and pinch myself, in order to make sure I've actually done what I've said (you know, all that sailing business) - As in, I wonder if I ever left. Yet conversely, I feel like a stranger, trapped in a familiar dream, almost as if I've stood still and everyone else has kept walking... Or maybe instead of walking forwards or backwards, I took a left turn down an unnamed street in an unnamed city. Really, I have no idea, and this is probably my jet lag talking... I hate jet lag, and every day at 2am New York time, I want to curl up and hibernate.

So other than general strangeness, what else has changed? Well, it seems everything is 30% more expensive, and by the tone of my friends, their wages have not increased in equal proportion. Which is of course standard story - If you artificially increase the price of things just a little bit more every month, no one notices, and no one complains. There also seems to be a myriad of fresh petty laws, Police Hummvees lining the city streets, and a wave of inner city violence to boot. Maybe it's connected to the price increase of sausage rolls ($3 guys, where are the protests!) and rent... From the looks of things, the only safe activity these days is to stay at home and play Nintendo Wii.

Anyway, it's definitely a clear sign of old age when you complain about the cost of living and violent crime... So, before I begin ranting and raving, let's leave it at that!

More frequent updates on the horizon, promise.

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.

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!

nick

Constellation gets attention, new film

Sailing on your own all the time isn't easy. Nor is finding the motivation to work alone on your own boat, especially when you're not going anywhere soon. Working alone, can be characterised as a series of events related to figuring out how things are attached to the vessel, and more importantly, how to un-attach things from the vessel. All screws are usually through-bolted on the other side, leaving you to run into the boat, put a pair of vice grips on the nut, run back out, and through great patience take something apart. So when Mari offered to help me, I was overjoyed. When he told me he was an electrical engineer, and I glanced at my switchbox, I did a little dance inside my head. It feels like just yesterday when I had that box wide open, manually shorting wires to try and get my nav lights working again. I never did, and ghosting into Greenport with the cabin lights as a poor substitute, it wouldn't be until several months down the track, that I'd realise that the North Fork of Long Island were not going to let me leave again without a completely seaworthy boat.

So Mari dropped by, and asked what needed to be fixed... It was difficult trying to explain that everything needed to be fixed. I didn't want to scare him off, but I had to be honest: Constellation was built in 1972, and I had kept things barely working through lack of money, proper tools, and a second person to help me make real repairs. The Austrians are meticulous, the Australians are adaptive. I had adapted to a boat that had so many 'quirks', each individual system required special knowledge just to make it function, or knowledge of where the breakages were so as to be extra careful. Nevertheless, Constellation is an incredibly well built and seaworthy boat, straight off the rack. So while I may have been less than savvy from a number of different angles, my decision on her as the boat that could do it, was sound.

We carefully took each leaky window out, drove back to Mari's workshop, cleaned, straightened, drilled and sealed each window, before mounting them back and marveling at the possibility of a dry interior. Of course, it wasn't as simple as that, taking several days of somewhat irritating and gooey labour. In the meantime, Mari either didn't sleep, or had engineered several more hours of daylight onto the average day, and rebuilt my electrical panel. It now sports new switches, an LCD panel, displaying volage & current, both in and out (ie. charge from the solar panels), and even has descriptive labels! Not so long ago, the 'EMG/NAV' switch could have turned on any number of things, depending on what state of mind I'd been in at the last at-sea re-wiring exercise.

While all this was underway, the amazingly generous Mike Acebo of the Brewer Yacht Yard in Greenport, put two people on the job of sanding and antifouling the bottom with Interlux Micron 66. Mike has been instrumental in helping me out here in Greenport, yet I'll dedicate an entire post to his generosity at a later date.

As the antifoul dried, Mark from Doyle Sails dropped by with my foresails recut to suit a furler, and a new sail cover. Mark was disappointed to hear I was trucking the boat, thinking I wasn't a purest... He had a change of heart when told of my intentions to cycle, and so I was forgiven to contemplating the use of land to transport a boat.

There are still many jobs to complete, yet at last things are feeling more upbeat. When Constellation came out of the water, I knew it was going to take such an enormous effort to get her back in. My friend Walter and I put together a list of things 'to do' one rainy night, and the next day I looked at it with an air of depression... Yet now things now are coming together, and slowly Constellation will return to a state of seagoing glory.

Thank you so much to Mari, Mike, Nino, Rick, Walter and Mark for everything: Not only for the assistance, but also for the morale boost it provides. The wheels of this whole thing are still churning forward, even when at times it all seems ridiculous and even laughable!

And on the topic of ridiculous, I've put together a new video about my trip from the Caribbean to New York. It somehow blew out to 33minutes in length, and I apologise profusely for even thinking I could entertain you for that long, while I gawk and moan at the camera for 28 days.

nick.

One year anniversary, sanity, seamanship trophy

When I flew to Vancouver for a wedding some weeks ago, a friend said to me "have fun on your vacation from your vacation!", which I thought was quite hilarious. Is that the general consensus? It's been almost exactly one year since I set sail from Monnikendam, Holland, singlehanded, and here I am in New York. When I re-read the post about my departure, it genuinely felt like I'd left just several hours ago. I can still smell the hickory in the air from the Eel smoke house; I still remember shaking the dockmasters hand as I left on that rainy day; a line squall on the horizon... There was no one else around, it was a weekday, as I pushed out the bow and jumped onboard, motoring out through Amsterdam and the North Sea canal. It rained like never before, and I whistled a happy tune as the rain trickled down my neck, and 'August the mighty Yanmar' powered us through the centre of Amsterdam.

It wasn't long before that, when Constellation was sitting on jack stands in a marina in England. I was living onboard, working part time in a pub so I could work on the boat, climbing the ladder every night, waking up to sand the hull, and then repeating the previous days schedule. Every day felt heavy on the one hand, yet full of endless promise on the other. I had this lovely boat, and a wonderful dream, yet we'd never sailed together before, I had no cash reserves other than my weekly paycheck from the pub, which was quickly spent at the chandlery. And still I told everyone who asked, that I was sailing to Australia.

That feeling has returned: Constellation is back up on jack stands, only this time, on another continent. She's beaten and battered, we have over 6000 nautical miles under our belts, and yet there is a heavy feeling in the air again... It's that same sense I had every morning I woke up in England - Of impossibility, yet an unnerving compulsion to keep going. In England the challenge was to just to get the boat in the water - To see if she floated, and to see if we could float together. Amazingly we did, and in the end we floated all the way down the coast of Europe to the Caribbean, and then north again to New York.

So as the leaves change colour again, Constellation is on land, and the new challenge is to put her on a truck, and go overland 3000 miles to the Pacific. That challenge is the new weight on my shoulders, as we battle on to keep the voyage going. I was laughed at for suggesting I was going to sail across the Atlantic, and now I'm being laughed at for suggesting I'd truck a boat across America, following closely behind on a bicycle. In fact, when I say it out loud, I can really see the absurdity of it all, and do seriously spend days wondering what exactly it is I'm doing. The large majority of my friends are well placed professionals; some have kids, others have husbands and wives, and some even have dogs and houses. I mostly shudder at the thought of having any of that, yet the built-in societal sanity checker is in overdrive - Lately I can't help but wonder if I've surging ahead, or being left behind. In my days of great realisations, I know there is nothing to be ahead of, or behind, yet we all have periods of self-doubt, and mine are triggered by seeing a small red boat out of water.

So in the midst of all this, I recently received the "Seamanship Trophy" for my voyage so far, from the Contessa Association in the UK. I was never one for awards, nor for trophies, yet receiving unsolicited pats on the back from sailing associations is certainly rather nice. Special thanks to Jo Mooring Aldridge for accepting the trophy on my behalf, and thank you to the Contessa association for their support of my endeavours.

And so the vacation continues... Yet, as far as I'm concerned, vacations are lovely periods of sitting on the beach, spending the first week in utter relaxation, and the last week thinking about going back to work. Technically I have no job to go back to, yet the past year has been in that latter mode of vacation - You're not at work, per se, yet your head is totally consumed. This last year has been the greatest, as well as the hardest in my life, and I'm not even half way, with every spare brain cycle dedicated to continuing this journey. Since this projects inception in mid-2006, it's all I can think of, it consumes me every single day, it's what I dread most, and it's all I can do.

Thank you so much to everyone who's been following so far,

nick.

Fundraising, Bikes, Trip Update

Several weeks ago, a small powerboat arrived in the marina, with its occupants holding up a picture of the article recently published in the Suffolk Times newspaper here on Long Island, asking for the 'guy on the frontage'. That was me, I was found, and so there I met an incredibly lovely family who wanted to hear more about my voyage. As they left the dock, they exclaimed 'you should come around for a BBQ!'. A week later, they were back with a crazy idea: What if they were to throw a party, to raise money for Constellation's trip across America? I thought they were joking. But, it was no joke, and so a stunning party was held at a gorgeous house on the shores of Greenport:

The gracious hosts Trina, me, Carolyn & Joe

All sorts of people came, amazing food was laid out, money was raised, and I was amazed.

Not long ago I met someone whom I told about my trip, and about the generosity of people along the way. They looked at me, and said I must have such a different outlook on life, because so many people help me, and so many people are interested in what I'm doing. I'm not sure if my entire perception has changed, but a life where you're regularly helped by strangers certainly changes your view of people in general. This party was no exception, and what a generous gesture - Thank you so much to the Ferrara family for reaching out to me, and to everyone who attended and chipped in.

At the party I also had the opportunity to announce a new addition to my travels: (Drum roll... !) As Constellation is trucked across America, I will follow by bicycle, riding from Long Island, to San Francisco. This new portion of the 'voyage' will turn my trip from Europe to Australia, into a wind & human powered expedition, making it unique among similar endeavours. I had hoped to start the bicycle leg of my trip in October, but as of today, I don't think that's possible. I still have money to make for the transportation of Constellation (among a dozen other things), as well as many logistical problems to solve with regards to repairs on the boat, and now also for cycling. I hope to ride across America spending one day a week working on Habitat for Humanity construction sites, as well as doing talks at schools in landlocked states about the sea. This all takes a great deal of planning and forethought, and so I suspect it will not be until spring that I'll be able to depart.

With this addition of the trip, I now am in great need of cycling equipment - If anyone has any ideas, or things lying around they don't use which you might think could be useful for a 3000mile cycle across the country, let me know!.

nick.

P.S Thanks to everyone who left really nice comments about the short film I clipped together.

Atlantic Fundraising, Vancouver

I promised in my last post, I'd write from Vancouver... Yet I'm quickly running out of anything sailing related to write about, and so it took for the trip back to find any inspiration, or rather to stop and think (not that I really ever did think of anything sailing related to write about...But). However, I've finally managed to make good on my promise to spend the money raised during my Atlantic crossing on purchasing a bridge in rural Cambodia. If you're interested, visit my first post about the project to find more. Thank you so much to everyone who helped me, support someone else. I plan to continue my fundraising efforts on all solo passages over 1000nm - I just need to get back out to sea!

Oxfam Bridges for Cambodia Receipt

On the topic of fundraising, this Saturday is the day of a fundraising event to help me truck Constellation across America: Yes, that crazy plan is still on the cards. I'll write all about it post-party, as well as provide more detail on what is actually going on with the idea.

So I went to Canada to be best man at a wedding, which was quite an experience... My duties successfully completed, I've made it all the way back to New York, via one of the longest routes possible. I must have easily completed my entire sailing mileage on a single round trip to Canada!

Vancouver via Los Angeles
Canyon
Super Snow
Searching for Salmon

Arriving at Vancouver airport at 5am, I arrived back in New York by 11pm - Ok, so there is a time difference.. But only of three hours! (I should have sailed). Out of the airport I had the great fortune of the taxi getting a flat tire.

Changing tire, NYC taxi

Picked up by another taxi, the voyage continued, and I write to you from Brooklyn... Where not a lot of sailing happens. There is a nice picture of a Veolia Oceans one-design (Constellation II?) on my desktop though, which is about as close to sailing I'll be getting for awhile...

Next post to include video from my Atlantic crossing, as well as a report on the fundraising event!

nick.