Friday, August 21, 2009


Tell them I’m living in the islands, somewhere the days are always bright, no use writing letters or using the telephone, tell them anything that you might - but be sure and tell them I’ll be all right…

Morning of the Earth, Brumfield

Beautiful, right? Not sure what it is about this quote but it really strikes a chord and gets me giddy with excitement. The magic, the mystery, the sheer freedom...


Brittany and Scott


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The More You Know...The More You Don't

Summer is winding down in Chicago and Scott and I have been busy ringing the sun and fun out of these last few weeks. Last weekend was spent in Saugatauk, Michigan with friends, this past weekend was Chicago's Air and Water show entertaining a bunch of friends on my dad's boat (ours is too small to host 15 people!), this weekend we head to Northern Michigan for the Traverse City Triathlon, and next weekend we head to Wisconsin for camping and Jimmy Buffett (I am not ashamed to say I am a *HUGE* fan). Phew...and it doesn't stop there folks...things don't ease up until September for us.

While all this is exciting, all these weekends chock-a-block full-o-fun have left us little time for our boat. We have gone out for a sail here and there which means we continue to find new issues to add to our never-ending "to do" list. Because of lack of time, however, we just sort of sweep these issues under the rug for another day. What we are learning with this method is:

a) avoidance does not make issues go away
b) exactly how much we don't know.

How to charge our batteries, for example, while we are at the mooring? Sure, we run our engine in and out of the harbor - but how long is enough? We know we need at least one solar panel (because relying on running the engine isn't sustainable), but what kind? We know we need a new main sheet - but how long is long enough? Not to mention our radar and autopilot have been acting, for lack of a better word, "finicky" which we *think* has to do with the fact that our battery is not fully charged, but don't know for sure. We STILL have to calibrate instruments (!?!?) and bleed the air out of that blasted hydraulic steering system. Then there is the rig: how to check it, maintain it and tune it properly. And our FM radio? KAPUT...the AM works fine, but not the FM...why? We have no clue. One day we were sailing, rocking out to John Cougar Mellencamp and POOF! It just stopped transmitting. No reason. Power was on, AM still worked, we hadn't hit a weird wave or anything...A mystery. Sigh. None of this is stuff we can't figure out - but all of it requires TIME.

So we have made an executive decision to spend September working on the boat. We will enlist the help and expertise of friends and family (ahoy mateys!!) and roll up our sleeves and get down and dirty. We will continue to fix and learn in a Fibonacci-type sequence and inevitably, continue to discover just how little we know.

Your friends,

Brittany and Scott xox

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Light Reading...

Those who know and love me know I have a flair for the dramatic. So it should come as no surprise to anyone that these are the types of books I can really sink my teeth into. This particular book (pictured) is what I brought aboard my dad's boat for the infamous "Chicago to Mackinac" race. Which is a distance boat race. The longest distance boat race in a fresh water lake. So, while we were beating up-wind in the middle of the lake in sheer darkness, I was reading harrowing excerpts of books (most that I had already read) about, well, Near Death on the High Seas. What can I say? I believe reading about adventure inspires it.

Reading about the foibles, follies and disasters in extreme adventure books not only gets me more excited for our journey (backward, I know), but also reminds me that we will always be at the mercy of the sea and the elements. Sort of a not-so subtle reminder that life at sea isn't always gentle breezes, uninhabited islands and tropical slushy rum drinks...(just *most* of the time).

Some other FANTASTIC adventure sailing books I have read over the past year or two that I *highly* recommend to any sailor or adventure enthusiast are the following, in no particular order:

Sailing Alone Around the World by Joshua Slocum - a definite classic. Just beautiful and amazing at the same time. There is still so much to learn from this book and it's author.
A Voyage for Madmen by Peter Nichols - the cover reads: "Nine men set out to race each other around the world. Only one came back". Yeah. Intense.
Godforsaken Sea by Derek Lundy - this is the gripping story of the deadly 1996 Vendee Globe race and follows the journeys of all sailors and each of their trials and tribulations in the Southern Ocean. It's a great "pre-read" to the next book on my list.
Close to the Wind by Pete Goss - a true hero's tale. This is the story of the incredible rescue of Peter Dinelli (by Pete Goss)during the 1996 Vendee Globe around the world race. You will find yourself holding your breath. No joke.
Kon Tiki by Thor Heyderhal - this is a real-life Indiana Jones-style adventure. Six men set out to prove that Ancient Peruvians could in fact sail across the Pacific to Polynesia by making a raft to the exact specifications the ancient Peruvians would. What they learn and endure is just amazing. This has been a favorite of mine for years.
Adrift by Steve Callahan - Insane story of survival at sea about a man (Steve Callahan) who was shipwrecked and drifted around the Atlantic in a leaky life raft - for SEVENTY SIX days.

There are so, so, so many more that I could recommend - but these should keep you busy for a while!

All the best stories in the world are but one story in reality -- the story of escape. It is the only thing which interests us all and at all times, how to escape.

~ Arthur Christopher Benson ~

Happy reading,

Brittany and Scott

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Murphy's Law

"Scott?" I ask while reading an article on the couch the other night, "What exactly is Murphy's Law again?"

He looks up from his computer,
"Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong" he replies.

Yikes - I wasn't expecting that.

The line I was reading in the sailing magazine read: "...and remember: Murphy's Law is right. Every. Single. Time." Ouch. This particular cruiser was writing about watching his boat bust up (and, ultimately sink) against rocks somewhere off the coast of Vanuatu while he and his crew watched from some other rocks where they clung for their lives as they awaited rescue. A scenario surely in the top three worst things that can happen to a boat and legitimate fodder for the author's less than optimistic outlook.

What a gloomy Law. I mean, wow - aren't we taught to see the glass half full? What about "The Secret" and the theory that our thoughts manipulate our realities? Hmmmm. This is quite the conundrum and has got me thinking...

When you put your life in the hands, or the belly rather, of a 35 foot (and 35 year old) fiberglass sailboat floating in water with about 1,000 different things that can go wrong at any given time - it's probably not a bad law to be mindful of. In fact, I might just make a little placard to remind us of this.

I get a lot of flack for being (what I call) a realist - I tend not to expect the worst but prepare for it, and hope for the best (Who would dare go to sea, for example, without an emergency tiller? Anyone? Anyone? That's what I thought). Perhaps this is what Murphy's Law teaches us. Imagine, if you will, living on a boat with hundreds of feet of line, twine, wire, and rigging - gaskets, valves, hoses, and systems - connect all that to batteries, chargers, engines, and outlets and then have all of that sit, indefinitely, in corrosive salt water - you get the picture. Seems it is best to "expect the worst" because that way, you will (touch wood) be one *teeny tiny* step ahead of the constantly impending disaster that is one tug, push, pull, or flip of the switch away...

So really, Murphy just has a rather harsh way of making clear the importance of preparation, maintenance and stayin' on top of your shi...stuff.

Murphy, here's to you...and *hoping* you'll go easy on us. But we'll bring the emergency tiller (and the dingy, and the epirb, and the spares...), just in case.


Brittany and Scott

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Parlez vous Francais? Habla Espanol?

Well we do!! Okay…not YET, but we will. We have “acquired” all levels of Rosetta Stone French AND Spanish and gosh darn it, we are going to learn some foreign languages! Scott already speaks some Spanish, and I speak a really great mix of Spanish, Italian and Swahili – (I like to call it “Spitali” )and while it’s really fun (especially after a bottle or two of wine) – it really doesn’t get me anywhere. Once upon a time I had a life goal to be “tri-lingual” by the time I was thirty. Unfortunately, 30 has come and gone so I’m going to bump that up to 33. Or maybe 34. We’ll see how I do.

Scott has become something of a technology wiz and installed all the software and has made special accounts for both of us with voice recognition and everything! Let me tell you - this Rosetta Stone really IS something!! Gone are the days of flashcards and audio tapes – this is the REAL DEAL. I mean, this is the program used by CIA operatives (or so they say) and that is just plain cool. It is an "immersion" program that teaches you without translation or memorization. Rather, you learn through repetition and pictures. The idea is to learn via association. So instead of seeing a cat and thinking "cat = chat" you remove that "=" and just see "chat". I come home every day to a (very pleasant) robotic voice saying “Les hommes cuisine” and then I hear Scott repeat: "Lay OMM KWIseen". Before you know, I'm parked on the couch next to him and we’re both mesmerized and making that awesome “eeuuur” throaty sound like we’ve been speaking French for years. Pretty cool.

So – we’ll see how this goes. We figure we can pretty much converse our way around the world with this mighty triumvirate of languages – plus, it will give us something else to focus on and learn ASIDE from all things boat.

Scott is so enthralled (when he throws himself into something he REALLY gets into it) that he’s in the process of acquiring Mandarin. Me, on the other hand, I’ll just settle for French and Spanish!

Au revoir! Adios! Peace out!

Brittany and Scott

Monday, August 03, 2009

The Best Laid Plans o' Mice and Men...

Everyone these days seems to know what Scott and I are up to, and after the #1 question: Are you scared? (See previous post for answer) comes most common question #2: So what’s the plan!?

Sigh. What is the plan? Well (brace yourself people)…we don’t really know. I have found in my travels that the more you plan, the more disappointment you encounter (by way of broken plans). Weather changes, places close, people get sick, trains go on strike, buses break down, guidebooks are wrong (Traveler tip: if travelling to South East Asia DO NOT skimp and buy an out-of-date travel guide. I learned this lesson REAL quick when I tried to stay at a hostel that was the “hot spot” two years prior but no longer existed. Fun times.), and you never know what you will get into, onto, or out of while on the road. Spontaneity is everything when you travel. That’s my 2 cents anyway. Another, more sobering reason for not having a strict plan or timeline is that the #1 cause for disaster at sea are captains and crews making poor decisions in order to make a timeline. Sticking to a rigid schedule to be at point “x” by time “y” can cause you to make very bad and desperate choices you wouldn't usually make (like thinking you can “outrun” a brewing hurricane, for example).

That said we do have a very LOOSE plan. Right now it is this: We are planning on sailing our boat as much as we can the remainder of this summer (she has to be out of the water October 5th). This fall/winter, we are planning on keeping her at Crowleys, a local yacht yard where we plan on spending many fall and winter weekends getting her kitted out for cruising (fixing stuff, making upgrades, installations…etc. this is another VERY long to-list that is exponentially growing). Once we survive yet another dreaded Chicago winter (ugh) and spring has sprung – we plan on selling all our stuff (attention ladies who wear size 8 shoe!), storing the rest (mom, dad? Insert big doe eyed innocent smile) and moving aboard Rasmus in April 2010 (when our apartment lease is up). From there, we plan on continuing to fix all the things that continue to break (this past weekend’s victim? our FM radio!), sail all the time, and spend lots of time with our wonderful close friends who have things like a) laundry machines b) refrigerators and c) TV’s (wink).

We plan on enjoying one last Chicago summer, because, frankly – this particular summer flew south, or rather – to the Pacific Northwest (104 degrees in Portland!?) and we need time to prepare ourselves and the boat. As of now, we will leave sometime next August (a year from now) and sail all the way UP Lake Michigan, all the way DOWN Lake Huron, and all the way ACROSS Lake Erie to the Erie Canal where we will have to take our mast down and motor. From there we will connect with the Hudson River, into NYC, and then... the Atlantic Ocean!

Our dates are not arbitrary. We have chosen this timing because when we leave it’ll still be (dare I say?) warm enough to sail North and will get us out to the Atlantic in time to by-pass the hurricane season (which “ends” November). Once we feel safe and storm free…we will follow the smell of tropical slushy rum drinks south along the East Coast of the United States with our ultimate destination being the Caribbean. This portion of the journey will probably take us 5 months (give or take) so we think we’ll kick it Jimmy Buffett style once in the tropics…you know, cheese burgers in paradise, wastin’ away in Margaritaville…all that good stuff. Can. Not. Wait.

After that we aren’t sure. There are many different “ways” to go. There’s a great book we own called “World Cruising Routes” by Jimmy Cornell that outlines every which way to go and when. We also know (as we have both learned in previous travels) that there will be so many encounters with other cruisers who’ve “been there, done that” and we trust we’ll learn a lot from them as we go. We are thinking that the “trade wind” route will be best for us which would have us going through the Panama Canal after the Caribbean…but, you know what they say – “The best laid plans o’ mice and men…oft go astray”. Truer words were never spoken...we’ll just have to see what the Universe has in store for us!


Brittany and Scott

"Fit" for Sailing...

A lot of people ask us if Scott and I are “afraid” when we tell them what we are going to do. The answer is NO. “Free is the heart that lives not in fear” is a favorite quote of mine (along with nearly every line of the movie Captain Ron, so baring that in mind…). However, there are a few things that I am, for lack of a better word, nervous about.

Namely – exercise. I love the stuff. Scott loves the stuff. We are both triathletes who have to make a concerted effort to sit still. We get in “funks” if we haven’t worked out enough. I work out every day at lunch, and then – two to three days a week - head to the Bikram yoga studio downstairs after work. I am the daughter of an aerobics instructor. We are HAPPY when we exercise. We LOVE to exercise and frankly, I am trying to wrap my head around how to do this in or on a 35 foot sail boat. Sure, sure…there’s swimming. But those who know me well also know I have a shark phobia that runs wide and deep. I watch “Shark Week” religiously (it is, in fact, THIS week) and I also read a lot of sailing blogs/books and you know what? I don’t care what you say - the ocean is teeming with these toothy predators. They are everywhere. So I don’t foresee swimming long distances in open water all that much. Then there is “boat yoga”. Scott and I got excited while watching an episode of Lats and Ats TV and a woman demonstrated this “boat yoga”. Do you know the first and only pose she demonstrated? “Leg on Bow Rail”. I kid you not. She lifted her leg, placed it on the bow rail (the metal railing in the front of the boat) and called that a yoga pose. While it might be a nice stretch, it most certainly is not going to keep us fit.

Ugh. So what to do? I know that the cruising lifestyle is one that keeps you slim and trim naturally – constantly lifting and pulling things, eating small (mostly) healthy meals, and living on a moving object therefore constantly engaging your core – but what about cardio? What about running? Sigh. Guess we’ll just have to pack our running shoes and run ashore…or maybe we can get the DVD version of "Sweatin' to the Oldies" and do that on deck? Hmmm....

Yours in health,

Brittany and Scott
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