Below are a few articles that have been published in Cruising Outpost Magazine, Sail Magazine, and Ocean Navigator Magazine.
This first article was recently published in Cruising Outpost Magazine's print addition, and will soon be available on their website: http://www.cruisingoutpost.com/
Young Sailors on the Aegean - A Six Week Bareboat Charter
My friend Aaron popped his head above water a couple hundred feet offshore from Masouri Beach, on the island of Kalymnos, in the Greek Aegean Sea. The look of concentration mixed with excitement glistened on Aaron’s face behind his cheap snorkel mask. “Right here!” he yelled loudly as he pointed towards the sea floor. “There’s a small patch of sand between the weeds." I yelled at Aaron from the cockpit to move aside, and thrust our forty four foot Bavaria sailboat into gear. Anna and Tyler stood at the bow and helped direct me to the target, while Aaron and Spencer reported on our progress from the waters below. We were attempting to drop anchor next to a picturesque mediterranean beach, towered by prolific walls of red limestone that made Kalymnos a climbing mecca. The only two mooring lines at the beach were already taken, and locals had informed us that the seafloor had too many weeds to hold an anchor. Nonetheless, we had decided that the idea of anchoring our boat within swimming distance of the idyllic little town of Masouri was too magical to pass up, and so Aaron and Spencer had swam the length of the beach to find the only weed-free clearing that might possibly hold our anchor. Experienced sailors might laugh at our strange method of finding a good anchor hold, but putting on the snorkel mask for this purpose was a routine practice for us. We were on our first real sailing trip as captains of our own boat, and I was still getting used to maneuvering our eleven ton floating home. After a few failed attempts, the anchor landed perfectly in the middle of the small patch of sand along the seafloor. After letting out more chain and testing our hold, we felt confident that we were in an ideal position. We shouted our elations, dove into the crystal clear water, and swam the short distance to shore. This day marked the middle point in our six week journey around the Aegean Sea, and we were out on the town to celebrate our arrival to Kalymnos.
Exploration into sailing was the result of campfire fantasies that slowly took shape around our kitchen table in Lake Tahoe, where our crew of five lived together during the previous ski season along with a few others. At first, the idea of sailing and climbing in the Aegean was just a random idea that sounded awesome, but after several email exchanges with various authorities and a few high energy brainstorming sessions we realized it was more attainable than we originally envisioned. My brother, Tyler, arranged a bareboat charter with a company called Sailways (which was fantastic) and my friend Spencer and I enrolled in the required sailing classes through a sailing school in Santa Cruz, California called Pacific Sail (highly recommended). After that, we booked our flights and were ready to go. Our expedition around the Aegean Sea was a voyage to explore new lands and learn another culture, but it was also a journey to explore ourselves both mentally and physically. We are a group of close friends in our twenties, which includes two sets of siblings, and we all share a fiery passion for exploration. We've gone on many adventures together over the years, but there was something different in establishing a goal that required us to continuously grow in so many ways. Even after taking a sailing class and hiring a climbing guide to help us learn the basics, we were continuously tested in our problem solving, decision making, communication, teamwork, and at times our tolerance to deal with hardship and uncertainty. But that was why we signed up for the challenge - we knew it would encourage us to grow in ways that would extend far beyond sailing or climbing, while offering us boundless excitement along the way.
Among the activities required of us on a daily basis, none was as constantly present as the process of making decisions. Where should we sail next? Where was the best place to drop anchor? What time should we set sail in the morning? Should we call for help? And on and on ad nauseum. Although Spencer and I technically shared the title of “captain,” we were all inexperienced and wanted to make decisions together, so long as our actions felt responsible and safe to everyone onboard. Before our first crossing we realized that decisions under sail often required an urgency that only an autocratic decision making process could support, and so Spencer and I took turns leading our crossings, until the rest of our crew felt confident stepping into the role of captain as well. In situations that were less time sensitive, making decisions was far less simple. With five of us highly engaged in the process and feeling free to speak our minds, even simple situations sometimes caused lengthy discussions, especially at the start of our trip. One evening we arrived under sail to the beautiful little island of Nisos Archangelos, but were dismayed to find that the anchorage was already quite crowded. We drifted along the outskirts as we discussed the possible places we could park. We all wanted to be close to shore, that we agreed on, but each had different concerns. We dropped anchor directly behind a catamaran and in front of a large monohull, with a smaller sailboat to our right and the shore on our left. Some of us were concerned about swinging into the boat on our right and thought we should move closer to shore, and I was nervous about the rocks to our left and felt the opposite. As we often did in these situations, we each voiced our thoughts and tried to address the differences in how each of us were evaluating the situation. In similar situations, sometimes one of us would explain the rationality for a particular decision and we all came into agreement. At other times we understood one another’s judgement but simply disagreed. In these kinds of situations, we generally would discuss until we all felt understood and all arguments were exhausted, and then proceed with the option that seemed best to the majority. However, we each had veto power, and if anyone felt strongly that a decision was unsafe we would not pursue that option. In this case, we came to the realization that it was impossible to satisfy my concerns about the rocks, and also some others’ concerns about the boat on our right, and so we explored another corner of the cove with snorkel masks until we found a place that seemed perfect. That evening we skipped rocks from the shore, cooked a delicious meal, and slept in hammocks on deck beneath the Milky Way.
Over time, making decisions became easier as our confidence grew and we expanded our radius of familiarity. Although the moments of pure relaxation and bliss, such as emerging from the sea onto the shores of Kalymnos, brought an uplifting and rejuvenating spirit to our trip, it was the everyday experiences of managing our boat and learning how to sail that really made our trip inspiring to us. When we first envisioned sailing through an exotic mediterranean seascape, it was easy to sense the magic that the experience would bring, but we were uncertain of the challenges that such a journey would entail. I know that our future expeditions will see much improvement, one of which is already in the planning phase, but it feels great to know that we were able to learn and grow together as a group of friends, while experiencing places and environments that will stay with us always.
The following article was published in Sail Magazine's print addition in February of 2017. The digital version can be viewed on their website: https://www.sailmagazine.com/cruising/destinations-aegean-sea
Destinations: The Aegean Sea
Feelings of awe-inspiring exuberance were in the air when my friends Spencer, Anna, Aaron and my brother Tyler walked through the door of the Zeus hostel in Athens, Greece. While the five of us have spent a lot of time adventuring together, the expedition we were about to embark upon was certain to be the most unfamiliar and ambitious to date.
Six months earlier we had been living together in Lake Tahoe, California, for the ski season, fantasizing about the idea of sailing around the Greek Islands to climb rocks and explore new places. At the time, our combined sailing experience was minimal—none of us had ever skippered a boat for more than a daysail. Nonetheless, we sat around the kitchen table in our winter cabin and came up with a plan to make the trip happen the following summer.
As it came closer to our departure date, we had completed the prerequisite sailing classes, arranged a bareboat charter and figured out how to get ourselves to Greece. Shortly thereafter, we moved onto our new home, Hellenic Sky, a 44ft Bavaria sailboat, and looked forward to six weeks of exploring the Aegean Sea.
Sailways, our charter company, perhaps sensing our inexperience, offered to provide a local skipper for the first two days of our voyage, and welcoming a friendly Athenian local named Fiori to show us the ropes was no problem for us. In fact, Fiori proved invaluable in helping us get acquainted with this unfamiliar environment: teaching us how to use our navigation tools and showing us the nuances of the sailboat, and most importantly, how to identify a good spot to drop anchor.
We spent our first night anchored in a small bay at the Temple of Poseidon. The magic started taking hold as we jumped off the boat into the clear waters as the sun faded from the horizon. As the sun set, we swam to shore and climbed the steps to the ancient temple, ate dinner under the stars and went to bed in a mixed state—part blissful satisfaction—part exhaustion, a feeling we would experience often during our trip.
While we were sad to see Fiori leave when he boarded a ferry on Kithnos two days later, we were also thrilled as our newfound responsibility began to sink in. We felt confident we could manage our boat, but also knew a number of lessons undoubtedly lay ahead—and indeed, over the next few days every event seemed like a momentous occasion. Raising our sails required focus, pulling up the anchor was a five-person job, and each trip in and out of a new harbor was planned and discussed in detail.
From Kithnos we sailed to Rinea and then to the island of Mykonos. With its elegant beachside storefronts and iconic windmills overlooking the downtown area, Mykonos flawlessly blended ancient beauty with an eclectic crowd of fine dining tourists and young people there for the party.
We heard rumors of a surf beach on the other side of nearby Kolympithra and decided to check it out. Unfortunately, the fierce wind and swells made this impossible. In addition to learning how to sail, we were also new to climbing and eager to explore the Greek rock formations. Tyler arranged climbing lessons with a local named Manthos, who in addition to teaching us some of the fundamentals of outdoor climbing, explained the story of Exomburgo Castle, which stands at the island’s highest point.
While many things went smoothly for most of our charter, our passage from Tinos to Patmos did not. Despite Fiori’s cautioning message, we left Tinos harbor at dawn and spent 13 hours getting slammed by 8ft waves on the port beam.
Although we were miserably seasick the entire way, we also made it to Patmos with a newfound respect for the power of the sea. Every morning thereafter we diligently checked the forecast and planned our movements based on the sea and weather conditions, rather than our own partialities.
After spending a couple of days recuperating on Patmos, we sailed to the small island of Nisos Archangelos, where we anchored in a small cove and slept in hammocks on deck as we stared up at the Milky Way. As most sailors know, experiencing the immeasurable freedom and euphoria in having a self-contained home in a remote part of the world with people you love, is measureless. That night under the stars, we felt that enchantment collectively as we drifted to sleep.
Unfortunately, the next morning our engine died as soon as we were underway, and the charter company arranged for some local fishermen to tow us to the island of Telendos, directly across a narrow channel from Kalymnos, where we grabbed a mooring.With its endless cliffs and a culture that celebrated the natural beauty of the islands, we found Kalymnos to be a climber’s paradise and spent 10 days exploring before sailing on toward Santorini.
By now, although we were still learning, our crossings were getting progressively smoother and we were feeling more confident. As we approached Santorini and rounded its northern tip, we were awe-struck by the dramatic red cliffs that thrust up from the sea’s surface. The natural beauty of Santorini was only matched by the architectural elegance of Oia, which overlooks the sea from atop the steep cliffs. With classic Mediterranean white adobe flowing together seamlessly with the landscape, it’s no surprise that every picture taken in Oia is postcard-worthy.
From Oia, we sailed to the southern side of the island, where we anchored at Parisa beach, took our dinghy in, and ate and hung out at the casual beachside cafes, where we were able to climb on some nearby cliffs. As evening approached on our second day there, a wave of inspiration came over us and we decided to attempt a night sail to the nearby island of Los. Often when we embark on these kinds of trips, we are perfectly content sitting on a beach, reading a book. However, there are also those moments, like this one, when the hunger strikes and before we know it we are jumping into high gear. In this case, we got to Los at approximately 0200 hours, just in time to dance for the rest of the night. As we were nearing the end of our trip, this proved to be a great opportunity to celebrate before motoring back to Poseidon’s Temp and finally returning to Athens.
When we chose to embark on our sailing adventure, it was always about more than seeing new places and experiencing different cultures and atmospheres. Before I ever set foot on a sailboat I sensed that sailing awakens a feeling of personal empowerment, freedom and well-being, both individually and for those you’re with. Not only did we learn how to work as a team on this charter, we also learned how to work with the wind and the sea, an experience that was powerful, rewarding and humbling. It has also inspired me to continue to push my limits in the future and hopefully inspire other adventurers to do the same.
This last piece was published in Ocean Navigator in December of 2016: http://www.oceannavigator.com/January-February-2017/Novice-sailors-on-the-Aegean/
Novice Sailors on the Aegean
A few years ago, the idea of sailing and rock climbing in the Mediterranean was a mere fantasy to our group of close friends, most of whom had never actually been on a real sailboat. But we decided we wanted to learn how to sail and go voyaging. After a brief period of teaching ourselves the basics on the San Francisco Bay, casual campfire discussions sparked into concrete meetings to figure out how to make our dream voyage come true. My friend Spencer and I signed up for sailing courses with a company called Pacific Sail in Santa Cruz, Calif., and had a great experience acquiring our ASA 101, 103 and 104 certifications. That allowed us to charter a sailboat anywhere in the world.
When we sailed away from Alimos Marina in Athens aboard our 44-foot Bavaria sailboat two months after completing our eight-day course, we felt just confident enough that our voyage seemed reasonable but realized there were lots of lessons that laid in store for us. During our first few days alone on the boat, every procedure seemed like a big deal. Before pulling up our anchor or navigating into a harbor, we had thorough conversations about what each person would do, but often there were last minute details that required one of us to sprint across the boat to move a fender or secure a line. Our way of functioning had a rather clunky feel to it, but after each event we talked as a group to reflect upon what we could have done differently to be more effective and smooth. We identified the specific skills and activities that we each should know, and practiced each one. We rotated positions and responsibilities so each of us could learn multiple roles. Since we were also rock climbing during the trip, we spent an enormous amount of time around one another. Although we were close friends and overall got along great, there were a few instances of annoyance or disharmony that we talked about in an open and honest way to ensure we all felt good about our group interactions. Over the course of our six-week journey, we went from being beginner sailors to feeling confident and relaxed living and traveling in our sailboat together.