Where is Royce? Click to sail along! ⛵
A following sea,
As we sail over the edge,
Sun behind our wake.
Where is Royce? Click to sail along! ⛵
It’s 5:30 on Sunday, the night before departure. The sun is casting long shadows as a light breeze moves over the water, shifting our boat slightly on her mooring. The crew is primarily milling around the cabin, straightening up bunks, finishing navigation calculations, or sitting around the settee. Two nights removed from boarding and we are all feeling much more comfortable with Falken, and ready to head to sea.
We just finished our second day of briefings. We spent the better half learning about weather patterns, and mapping our passage considering the forecast and prevailing winds. You’ll be pleased to learn, mother, that there is a 0% chance of hurricanes and given the low pressure system to our north, squeezing us into a barometric high, we should be enjoying a downwind sail for the next couple weeks. Of course, a local meteorologist is wrong half the time, so how the hell will we know what Neptune is planning for us over the next 3,000 miles?
And mom, you may be less excited to learn that I volunteered as the Man Over Board rescue team water boy. Should some unfortunate soul fall from the boat, I’m thrown in with the milling sharks to pull the poor sailor free. We practiced harnessing me to the halyard, but are leaving the dipping in the water to tomorrow, once out at sea. I don’t expect my new friends to chum the water prior to the exercise, but you can’t be too certain around these shifty foreigners. I’ll wear my water wings, just in case.
Other than a botched rescue drill, an erratic weather change, or an untimely Orca attack, what could possibly go wrong out there? I’ll be tethered to the boat at all times, and promise to wear my sunscreen.
I’m realizing, with our imminent departure, that I’ve been lazy on the character development in this story. The delay has allowed me to spend some time with this motley crew, so the following observations should be taken for gospel, regardless of your association to any. In no particular order, other than the number that was assigned us, like cattle, when we boarded:
1. Captain Chris - hailing from Germany, and probably in his mid 30’s, Chris absolutely sets the tone for our boat. He’s very easy going, a little quiet, terribly knowledgable, but quick to smirk at a crew member asking a dumb question. We learned today that he was skipper (captain) of one of the 12 Around-the-World Cutters that race every couple years out of the UK. These sponsored, 70-foot vessels, with 20-men/women crew are the professionals of this sport. My hypothesis goes that if he can manage a circumnavigation, under extreme conditions, with twice the number of humans, he’s got better than a 50/50 chance at rediscovering the world is not flat and depositing us somewhere safely in the Caribbean. Other than the German accent, I have little to fear. He’s got an infant and a UK fiancé, so unless he insists on goose-stepping while on watch, I think he’s harmless.
2. Staton - we met him the other night. We’ve had opportunities to work as a team today for MOB activities and yesterday in the fire drilling. I expect our watches will be memorable, or at least lively, given his gift of gab.
3. Nelson - Nelson joins us from Dallas. He’s in his upper 40’s, married with a son at Oregon and a daughter looking at schools out East. He’s an ER doc by trade, but has his hands in private equity around Texas. We’ve talked shop, discussed politics, covered the two sides to socialized medicine, doting on your daughters, and much in between. Funny guy, with a positive disposition. In addition to having someone that can remove my appendix at sea, his sarcasm is a healthy addition to the crew.
4. Me - I’m awesome. Just ask me. Ask the crew, and I might be volunteered as the first to eat should we become stranded in our life raft.
5. Jeff - I slept like a baby last night, so I can’t blame him for much any longer. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve seen him all day. I think he just returned with his laundry. Definitely someone that may wander off and we’ll never see again - he’s on the other shift, so I may not see him again until Antigua. Slight addendum after our crew dinner this evening - we all watched with mild amusement and collective embarrassment as he counted out 31 Euros in left-over-laundry coins to pay his dinner bill.
6. Alejandro - As always, he is the punching bag for most humor. We’ll blame the language barrier, but he definitely asks too many questions and draws the most eye rolls. Again, harmless and too lovable to sustain much harassment.
7. Vince - We introduced him the other night as well. He and I worked together on charting a course across the ocean today. He’s easy to get on with, sharp, but low key for an engineer from the East Coast. He was quick to point out how we crushed everyone else today while mapping - we’re two in the same with respect to misaligned confidence.
8. Vicky - Other than a heated discussion with Alejandro over some nuance of the Canadien school system last night, I haven’t heard much from her. She’s pleasant, but keeps pretty quiet around the rest of us neanderthals.
9. Bruce - Bruce is a New Zealander, who lives in the UK and is one of the longest tenured professors at the London School of Business. He’s a single guy, never married, in his mid-50’s and has done five or six sail trips with 59 North. As a Wharton graduate, I just hope he can keep up with the rest of us, intellectually. Despite his profession and academic pedigree, he’s very down to earth, friendly, inquisitive, and shares our sense of adventure. I enjoy Bruce’s demeanor, and have already learned much about the English pension system and Brexit. If this guy can go deep on Downton Abby, Lewis Hamilton, and obscure tracks by the Spice Girls, then the fortnight on Falken will fly by.
10. Ella - Ella is the second mate on the boat, which means she is only behind Mia and Chris for knowledge and sailing experience. Although she too crossing the Atlantic for the first time, she is 18 years young - destined for a life of excitement. She has been fairly quiet, but may be taking her time to find her place or her confidence. She is very nice and eager to help. Most exciting, Ella worked for Oyster Sailboats for the last year, helping commission new builds! Given that my dream includes owning an Oyster, I can’t wait to pick her brain over all things Oyster.
11. Mia - I’ve known Mia via email for a couple years. Married to Andy Schell, owner of 59 North, she is personally responsible for the successful passages of this company. I wouldn’t be back if it wasn’t for her (and Andy). She is so nice, so helpful, an amazing cook thus far, and along with Chris, sets the tone for the on-board environment.
If it’s not clear, I couldn’t be happier with the crew, their varied backgrounds, idiosyncrasies, unique personalities, and of course shared sense of adventure.
The numbers we’ve been assigned play multiple roles. They refer to our bunk positions on board as well as our shift assignments. Even numbers - Staton, Me, Alejandro and Vicky all are on top bunks around the boat and will be Crew “T” for Top (bunk, or intelligence, or sailing prowess - all open for interpretation but not argument). The odd numbers (or oddballs, also not open for argument) fall to the lower bunks, including Nelson, Jeff, Vince and Bruce. Clearly these individuals should be associated with second-rate sailors, second class citizens, or “groundlings” to stick with Bruce’s cultural past. They make up the other “lesser” shift, according to Chris and anyone with authority.
On the topic of how the boat is run, we will work on a schedule where shift 1 is sailing the boat from 8am to 2pm, and shift 2 from 2-8. From 8pm to 8am, we’ll rotate every four hours, so the next morning, the shifts switch. I was confused the first time too, but try to follow along. Mia and Ella will split the shifts, so we’ll get each of them for half of our shifts. Day 1 of briefing, I challenged the thinking behind this, and in a soft, historically sinister accent, Chris calmly explained how I will be lulled into appreciating the system by day three. And now I know why German trains run on time.
Once we set sail tomorrow around noon, blog postings, pictures, and all communication, short of a blinking Garmin moving ever so slowly across the Atlantic, will cease. I do have texting capability via a satellite device, but have limited my contacts to remain off the grid and unbothered by the complexities of real life.
I’ll continue to journal - God help your social life if you’ve made it this far with me and desire more - and will promptly post upon re entry. Based on charting, wind prediction, sail design, ocean temperature, the alignment of the moon, the Avalanche’s regular season record and the over-under on prince Charles’ coronation date, we should arrive in Antigua sometime two weeks from tomorrow. But then, one can never tell when a German-piloted vessel is to make landfall - they run on their own schedule.
Where is Royce? Click to sail along! ⛵
I was wrong about Jeff. Where I pegged him as an ex-pat with seedy beginnings, I’m now convinced he simply falls into the camp of the elderly. At lights out, I could have sworn he was in a fight with a chip bag, or a rat got loose in his bunk. The restlessness, multiple trips to the bathroom, and ultimate collapse into high decibel snoring made for an uncomfortable slumber in my bunk above. I’ve located my ear plugs for this evening, so should have a better go of it.
But let me bring you up to speed on the day. It’s 9pm on Saturday, and I’m relaxing on the topsides of the boat - cuddled up in sweat pants, long-sleeved shirt and a puffy vest. The breeze whispering across the harbor has made the evening a little chilly. As I look over the bow, I see the hillside twinkling with city lights, a crescent moon glowing next to Venus. If a sailor finds meaning in the night sky then…
A planet for love, a sky alive by the night, the journey is bright.
As we ate dinner on the boat, my bunkmate and Centenarian, Jeff, commented on how nice it is to just sit in the harbor. Despite his childlike sleeping habits, I respect his thoughts - I am at peace right where we are. Why slip the mooring lines, when you can enjoy this view?
Today was our first full day acclimating to the boat. From 8:30 to 6:30, aside from a break for lunch, we went through every perilous situation we may encounter, and our appropriate response. Fire, flood, man over board, abandoning ship…frogs, locusts, darkness, slaying of the first born. We left no stone unturned, or plague unvisited.
Breaking up into teams, Statton, Nelson and I were in charge of locating every fire extinguisher (8 total), every fire blanket (2), and every potential source for fire (propane, diesel leak, lithium battery bank self-destructing). Meanwhile, the other two teams were in charge of identifying every seacock (holes in the hull where water comes in or leaves the boat), every source of safety equipment from flares to pyrotechnics and all abandon-ship equipment from radios, EPIRBS (notifies the coast guard of our location), and medical kits, to a “grab bag” with our Passports, money, Colombian cocaine and coloring books - anything to pass the time in a life raft or trade for food on a desert island.
In short, the 8 of us spent over an hour looking in every crevice of the underbelly of this yacht to familiarize ourselves with any source of danger, and the equipment mandatory to survive it. Who knew there was a need for a hand-held angle grinder to saw off the mast in the event its lost during a storm. Even the local Orcas have learned how to sink ships by attacking the rudders of sailboats. Seriously, Pharaoh, the Atlantic presents dangers of biblical proportions.
We were cheerfully dismissed for lunch after our morning session, and craving an American meal, I led us to a local harbor restaurant offering up Coca Cola and cheeseburgers. Everyone complained about their undercooked burgers, but I was more concerned about the Kraken we were sure to encounter in the next few days than a little bacteria from an uncooked meal. I thought the meal was delicious.
The afternoon was spent above decks, in the blazing sun, learning every line (they are NOT called ropes), rigging, sail, halyard, winch, and life raft deployment strategy for Falken. We rounded out the day with donning our life vests and tethers, which will keep us safely on board at sea, or will abruptly deploy should we go in the drink. Captain Chris gave a quick lesson on assuming the fetal position in the water, and preserving your dignity and body heat, while bobbing like Orca bait hoping to be rescued in the dark before the boat slips over the horizon. In short, “do not go in the water” was the prevailing advice.
So now that we’ve been scared senseless, I’m crawling into my bunk below, hoping Jeff’s sleeping routine prevents my slumber and resulting ocean-crossing-nightmares. Only kidding, I feel safer and more familiar now with the boat than I did yesterday. Plus, I have my teddy bear so, like, I’m invincible.
Goodnight scary ocean. Goodnight moon. Goodnight Venus next to the moon.
Where is Royce? Click to sail along! ⛵
It’s 4:30 on Friday afternoon. It comes as no surprise that I’m drinking at a cafe’, injecting my daily dose of caffeine. I can’t decide whether its American culture or Starbucks to blame for our lack of sidewalk cafes in the US. Regardless, I’ll be damned if I don’t try to blend into my surroundings while here.
I left you about this time yesterday, just as my crew mates were making their way to my hotel for happy hour. Staton, from Seattle, Vince from Harrisburg, PA, Jeff from Thailand (the most white retiree I’ve ever met) and then later, Vicky from Toronto, all joined in last nights fun. The first three and I sat on the porch of the Santa Catalina, drinking vodka tonics for an hour, breaking the ice on what hopes to be a pleasant month’s long friendship.
The clear front-runner for entertainment is Staton. In his mid-30’s, he hails from Seattle, where he has his hands in multiple ventures, none of which I understand. Part of the IT gig economy, I guess. He owns a sailboat docked on Lake Washington, and enjoys cruising around the San Juans. His girlfriend lives in Breckenridge, so we found common ground early. He’s gregarious, and wasted no time to tell us all things about himself. Most stories were interesting, so one could ignore his voluntary exuberance. Tell us again how you lost half your calf in a road biking accident or what the name of the Navy vessel was that you were on when you saved Captain Phillips from the Somalian pirates.
Next to him was Vince. He is close to retirement, married with a son living in Denver, and a daughter finishing her anesthesiology fellowship on the east coast. Engineer by trade, he is a funny and easy going guy, and I can see that he’ll be my respite when Staton’s antics become exhausting.
Jeff lives in the mountains of Thailand, was somewhat secretive about his past marriage, existence in America, and dating experience in Asia Pacific. Apparently his month’s long visit to Thailand in 2020 ended up lasting until the present. He’s retired, and seems open to most things. His accent gives hints of the East coast, so I’m not sure if he’s running from mafia ties, or he’s too chill to share anything of personal nature. We’ll pay close attention to that one.
Vicky comes to us from Toronto. Recently married, she is crossing an ocean because her husband’s family are all sailors and she is either scoring a point, or trying to win the upper hand on her acquired kin. Like most from Canada, the only argument she’s likely had in years is over who gets to hold the door or pay the dinner bill. She’ll be harmless, and is fairly quiet, but hopefully will add something to the eclectic crew. I think she works for an IT company.
I have to run to the boat, so will need to unpack more of last night, later.
It’s now 10:30 on Friday night. I’m sitting at the table in the main salon of Falken. We are all moved in, fed, bathed, and aside from Jeff’s incessant sipping (he must have learned in the Orient), all is quiet on the Western front. This is my favorite time as a sailor. The dim overhead lights, casting a glow on the furnished wood belowdecks. The warm glow of the lamps, the smell of the salt water, the gentle lapping of water along the hull. Some say this is the closest you will ever be to the womb.
I made it back to the boat just after five, and following a quick tour below decks, we assembled in the cockpit. In the spirit of sleep away camp, and the first day of school, we spent an hour sharing our background with respect to sailing, our origins, what we hope to gain from the passage, and any other bits of info relevant, significant, or funny. I never can tell if my antics endear people to me, or destroy any semblance of respect in the first 15 minutes - I suppose you need to pick a side, which is better than having no opinion.
What I want most out of this sail is more experience flying the “kite” (The colorful spinnaker sail one flies going downwind), time behind the helm (steering the boat), and of course the bragging rights and subsequent tattoo acquired from crossing an ocean. I also learned that after 5,000 nautical miles, I’m allowed a sparrow tattoo. And a rooster and a pig inked on your feet (rooster on the right, pig on the left) is a good Oman as well. From sailing lore, when a ship wrecked, the farm animals (pigs and roosters were apparently the most common) would often be found riding along the floating debris from a wreck, long after any humans. Pretty sure these guys are just making shit up, but how cool would it be to show my rabbi a new tattoo of swine on my body?
When class was dismissed, we were allowed to unpack, and then given some basic instructions on the two most important elements of the boat - the galley (kitchen) and the head (bathroom). All fun ceases when someone stops up the toilet, or vomits in the kitchen.
We walked along the harbor to dinner, and sat outside as the sun set over the Atlantic, enjoying our first of many meals together. Conversation on one side of the table dove into the polarizing topic of Brexit (Bruce is the oldest tenured professor at the London School of Business), while the other side discussed the benefits of Opium (Nelson is an ER doc from Dallas). It’s clear already that conversations will be as varied as our backgrounds. I’m very curious about Jeff’s history, all the more concerning given that his bunk is below my own. I just hope he doesn’t have access to a horse head - there’s no room for that in my sleeping bag.
It’s about 11, so time to shut it down for the night. Tomorrow’s agenda: full day of safety briefing. I’m excited to learn how to remove my own appendix under sail.
Where is Royce? Click to sail along! ⛵
15:14, local. I’m sitting down on the portico of the Santa Catalina Hotel on the “Euro” tropical Spanish island of Las Palmas. My fourth cappuccino in fewer days, and as many as I’ve enjoyed in four years, is on its way. There is soft violin music, accompanied by a warm breeze, wafting along the open air patio. This hotel. Tara I and just watched the latest Yellowstone spin off, 1923, and I’m being transported to the hotel royalty might have visited during their Safari at the turn of the last century. I’ll keep my eye out for Spencer Dutton.
After a 2am Melatonin, tricking my body back into this new time zone, I enjoyed a good night’s sleep and was bright-eyed at 9am. A quick splash on the face, brushing, and clean outfit, and I made my way down to the complimentary buffet overlooking the courtyard. Fresh OJ, cappacino, crepes and a homemade omelette were a perfect start to this sunny day. The only dark spot in the day was caused by my novel’s antagonist so I abruptly stowed my Kindle, wrapped up my meal, and headed out on the town.
We're the Zimmerman Family!
Home Base | Denver, CO
A family of six that
LOVES to sail !
Follow our crew (Royce, Tara, Avery, Charley, Nora & Ruby)
as we blog our sailing adventures
Set Sail 4.22.23 | Las Palmas - Across the Atlantic - Island of Antigua
Set Sail 9.22.21 | Sweden - Germany -
Set Sail 7.18.19 | Newport, RI -
Martha's Vineyard, MA -
Nantucket, MA -
Thanks for reading !
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