Postcards From Voyaging #1

Those of you who have been reading my stuff for a while might have noticed that I can be quite, shall we say, focused…OK, obsessive.

But over the years of voyaging to places that were outside my comfort zone—a lot of them, since I am by no stretch of the imagination any sort of hard man—I have also learned to manage my fears so that I can stay functional and even be happy.

One of those strategies I had to learn was to research the risk I was dealing with properly but then leave it alone before I veered off into obsessive behaviour that would adversely affect my ability to function.

A good example is doing a decent analysis of the weather in say half an hour once or, at the most, twice a day, but not checking every hour, as is tempting when things are going to get nasty.

A few days ago I realized that the research that I was doing to understand enough about COVID-19 to manage the risks sensibly for Phyllis and me was taking me to a bad place.

So I sat myself down and thought about what I needed to know and, more importantly, what I didn’t.

The result is that I’m reading less online in the evenings, because most of my usual sources are clogged with information I just don’t need to know, and so I have a bit of extra time—in case you are wondering, we don’t have a TV or watch movies much.

So I’m thinking that a good use of that time would be to share some pictures and short stories from our years of voyaging to at least remind myself, and hopefully you, that this too shall pass and there will once again be a wonderful world out there to explore in the best way possible: offshore voyaging in small boats.

Here goes:
(Click on photos to enlarge.)

I took the above photo at Ilulissat, Greenland in 2006, while serving as guide on a superyacht. A bunch of ice from the Ilulissat Icefjord that’s fed by Sermeq Kujalleq, one of the fastest moving glaciers in the world and located just a few miles away, had drifted into the harbour

The skipper and I were trying to keep a couple of growlers from banging into the boat, but every time we pushed them off they would drift back. We were just discussing putting the RIB over to push them further away, a big hassle at 10 at night, when these two fishing skiffs turned up and did the job for us.

Took them a good 15 minutes, and who knows how much expensive fuel, to get it done. When finished they sped back into the inner harbour without a glance or a word our way. Just helping out fellow mariners without expecting even a thank you.

I took the above on the same voyage, also in Ilulissat. I call it Waiting for Winter. To me it tells the whole story of the hard life that Greenland sled dogs lead. Chained out all summer with a rock for a pillow, with their working winter represented by the ice in the bay and the handles of the sled that they will pull.

The photo makes me sad for their hard life but also because hunting with dogs is a way of life threatened by climate change—I know, I am being inconsistent.

Anyway, it’s one of my favourites of all the thousands of photographs I have taken over the years, perhaps because it invokes real emotion, at least in me.

I took this a few years earlier in 2003, when Phyllis and I were cruising in Iceland on our way back from three years in Europe. We had stopped for the night and gone ashore for a hike on a small island off the north coast (the name escapes me).

As we chatted on our way back to the boat, I looked up and saw this set up. I only got one shot before the birds took off—this was in the days of film, no “spray and pray”.

The humour of the birds, two behaving and looking into the shot and one not, with the out-of-focus barn (long lens) and the wildflowers, really works for me. But most of all the shot reminds me of a wonderful afternoon with the woman I love, in a beautiful place that we, as a team, had reached in our own boat.

That will do for tonight. If the spirit moves me, and if readers enjoy the concept, perhaps there will be more of these. If nothing else, they will keep me away from too much bad news! And maybe they will provide a pleasant diversion for you, if only for a moment.

If you are wondering how I selected those three photographs, we have a large electronic picture frame on the wall across from where I sit in the evening (see the photo at the top of the post). It’s loaded with several hundred of my photographs that change every 10 minutes. So I just wrote about the shots that came up. And tomorrow morning I will get them out of my stock and insert them in the post.

Good night.

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John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 12 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

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