Hello and welcome.

I have set up this blog for family and friends to keep track of my Transatlantic Race starting June 26th, 2011. I will try to update as frequently as I can. You can also track our progress through Yellowbrick Tracking -- see links below.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Line Honors and Threading The Needles

Yesterday morning we finished our transatlantic race at the Lizard. Under a bright sunrise over the Lizard lighthouse and threatening clouds to the West we crossed just around 6am local time. Over 3200 miles sailed and I was pretty blown away by the gravity of it all. Hans had me at the wheel for the last 10 miles before the finish doing 10-11kts bearing down on the finish. I was definitely feeling the high. British Soldier and Carina who started on the line with us in Newport were only 5 miles behind us!  Simply amazing. Hans took the wheel at the last mile and I went forward to the bow (wanted to be first across the line, naturally). Lots of congratulations and a very nice Cuban cigar followed (thanks Uncle Mike!).

Little did I know what we had in store for us. Some of the worst weather we experienced was under motorsail in the  English channel -- horrible chop on our quarter, tons of rain and freezing cold breeze. Isnt it summer here in England???  At 5am local time I got up as we estimated that at that time we would be reaching the Needles at 6am (these are a chalkstone formation, tight channel, and lighthouse on the West end of the Isle of Wright). With a grey glow, and ripping tide with us we approached the Isle and slowly out of the fog I started to make out the red light and the chalk cliffs coming into focus. Very very eerie. We made it through ok and I brought us into Cowes where we have a pig roast and maybe a pint or two this afternoon. Great to be on dry land and am really looking forward to the last leg of the journey -- BA flight, Heathrow to Boston tomorrow night.

I hope you enjoyed these posts over the last few weeks and it gave some sense of what this journey was like for me. Thanks for following!

Saturday, 16 July
11:39am GMT
Cowes, UK

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Coming In Hot

We are just skirting the bottom of the South Irish Sea about 80 miles away from the finish.  At current course and speed we should reach Lizard Point tomorrow at daybreak.  I was thinking today that it will be nice to see land again -- then I paused, and thought, wow... I have not seen land in almost 3 weeks and only about 10 or so boats.  I woke up early for my watch this morning, around 4:30am local time, to see the sun rise.  To my surprise, there was a fishing boat right next to us and I have to say it was a bit strange to see another boat so close and other people aside from the 11 others on board Nordwind.  It is definitely going to take some getting used to being back on dry land and I am sure Heathrow on Sunday will be a bit of sensory overload.  The sun is just setting behind me as I write this -- my last sun set with no land (or anything else in sight for that matter) for a while.  Just some clouds and a few birds.  We are finishing strong with 5 sails up: an asymmetrical spinnaker, the staysail, the main sail, the mizzen staysail (or sometimes referred to as the "cuchillo" or Spanish for "blade"), and the mizzen.  We are humming along and the plan is to pass the Scilly Islands and Seven Stones to starboard and come in hot past Lands End and Penzance to Lizard Point.  I am definitely looking forward for the finish, a bit of a party in Cowes, and a quick safe trip back home.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Knit One, Pearl Two

The wind has been really fluky these last few days.  We are only doing about 6.7kts and are struggling to the finish line.  A bit frustrating after such a long voyage, but I just need to be patient and we will get there.  Our resident sail-seamstress, Daniel, had a pretty busy day yesterday.  We tore two sails in super light wind.  The Code Zero was torn while rubbing across on the rigging and the Code Three Spin foot caught on the bow and tore a 9 meter section out of the bottom.  Daniel and Santi put in a marathon session and repaired both sails taking them about 9 hours.  I think their last few stitches were "well lubricated" as I found a empty bottle of Italian wine in the salon where they had the sewing machine set up.  I didn´t think we would be using either of the repaired sails for the remainder of the trip, but I didn´t have the heart to tell either one of them.


My Dad recently wrote me a note reminding me of another memorable spot in Ireland I am passing by.  When we traveled there as a family, we went to small pub called O´Sullivans in Crookhaven on the South West coast.  While sitting on the patio we found ourselves watching a sheep dog (who´s name we later found out was Fado) bark and run around the patio.  After watching this little guy for a while we figured out what all the activity was all about -- he was ´herding´ a stray cat and any unsuspecting bird that happened along his little patio.  It was quite fun to watch him work.  A bit later on a small child walked onto the patio and Fado decided he would herd him as well!  He ended up having a cat and a small boy herded into the corner keeping a close eye on them.  Quite fun.


We have about 388 miles to go before we reach the Lizard, and we have gone north of the rhumbline a bit for breeze.  We have very clear conditions so I hope to see Fastnet Rock off Ireland tomorrow.  Fastnet Rock of course being the general location of the infamous Fastnet Race in 1979 where hundreds of sailors were put in danger when they were ill prepared for a storm that hit the fleet during the race.  Many folks abandoned their vessels in the height of the storm.  Ironically, every vessel (or almost every one, I can´t remember) was found floating and in general sound condition.  Lesson learned -- always stay with the ship.  I hope we don´t see anything like that these next few days -- it is not looking like we will -- weather looks ok for us.  We are also pretty close (in relative terms) to Mizzen Head where when I was 16, I went with Mark, Mom and Dad while vacationing in Ireland on the Dingle Peninsula back in the 90´s.  I remember the blowing wind, rain, and huge surf beating that point and thinking, who in their right mind would ever voluntarily go out there?

Monday, July 11, 2011


Alex, our skipper, asked me an interesting question yesterday.  He asked, "Why do you do this, why do you sail?"  He said that for him, his earliest memories were always thinking about the oceans and the clipper ships coming to and from Europe.  He said he was inspired by the early Roman and Greek explorers and this was the basis for his love of the water.  He also said that he recently new found respect and admiration for the New Bedford Whalers.  While in the Marquesas Islands in the Pacific two months ago Alex saw the outer limits of these whaling vessels territory and was on the actual island where Melville embarked on his whaling journey that would be the basis for Moby Dick.  Two months later, while standing in the New Bedford Whaling Museum he really saw the other bookend to what he saw in the Pacific.  I thought a bit about his question and although I sailed as a young man in New Jersey, it wasn´t until my Uncle Joe Melick gave me copies of Patrick O´Brien´s Master and Commander and The Far Side of the World books that I really gained an interest in sailing and particularly racing.  Although certainly a romantic vision of life on board a British Man of War, I found it fascinating that O´Brien used all of the correct nautical terminology for these ships.  Most of the time I found myself with two books on my lap -- an O´Brien book and a copy of the Oxford Guide to Ships and the Sea.  Aside from the idealistic thought of life at sea, I loved the idea of pushing hard to reach a destination or a chase and I think that somehow manifested itself into the reasons why I would voluntarily spend 3 weeks away from my wife and family to do what I love.  I owe a lot to my Uncle Joe for giving me those 2 books so long ago.

On a sad note, Ashley let me know this morning she was unable to break away from work to join me in Cowes at the finish.  A sober reminder to me of the commitments I have myself at IBM and at home and am eager to return and get back to the real life.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Silver Lining

A rough night last night, with not much wind and a few auto-tacks doing 3 or 4 kts.  It´s really hard going without any wind and trying to keep this very large, finicky vessel on a straight line.  With under 700 miles to go, we are about the distance between Newport to Bermuda -- which I used to think was a long way, but now feels like a bit of a sprint in comparison.  A saving grace was a huge pod of dolphins that appeared as I was driving this morning jumping clear out of the water right next to the stern of the boat just as the sun was coming up.  With pink clouds peaking through a grey overcast sky there was a silver lining literally on the horizon.  Certainly gave me a bit of a lift.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Channel Fever

Ironically we have a bit of a Northerly wind tonight for Nordwind as we beat nearer to the English coast.  Not exactly what we want at this point as the wind is coming almost directly from the Lizard necessitating us to tack our way into the finish for now.  I am keeping my fingers crossed for a backing wind to help us come further North and East in order to buzz up the rhumbline.

There is a term that I have heard a few times this past day and that is "Channel Fever."  It starts slowly with some chatter about dockage, hotels, flights, and plans for when we eventually get to the UK.  It seems to be ramping up at almost an exponential pace though.  In fact, I think I head our helmsman call out "Tacking for England!" during a tack today.  Maybe a tad premature?  I think so.  With breaking the 1000 mile mark, we start to get a sense that we are nearing the completion of this race, but with 823 miles left to go, there is still a long way to go.  As John Hammel said to me before leaving, "this is a marathon, not a sprint" and those words keep coming back to me.  It is tough though as I just learned that Ashley will be making her way over to meet me in Cowes.  I can´t tell you how great that makes me feel.  Almost feverish...

Friday, July 8, 2011

Milestones Monotony and Mayhem

We hit a couple of important milestones today.  At 2PM local time we crossed over 2000 total miles traveled.  We also calculated that we have less than 1000 miles to get to Lizard Point on the rhumbline.  We made some major detours early to go South in order to get in better position for wind, so I am quite positive that we will break 3000 total miles traveled when we reach Cowes.  Pretty amazing.

Tonight Alex cooked a lovely meal of risotto with black truffle oil, tomato soup with garlic croutons and a salad.  It was really very nice and made us all feel a bit more civilized.  Unfortunately that was really my only proper meal of the day.  The rest of the days nutrients (if you can all them that) consisted of cold spaghetti for breakfast, a milkyway bar, a granola bar, 4 chocolate covered espresso beans and six or seven Starbursts (I had to do something while helping Andrew and Santi pack the spinnaker).  I also had a coke and a Red Bull at 3am last night while on watch -- you got to do what you got to do.  We have a desalination system on board that we use for showers etc. and the fresh water tanks were filled with local Newport water right before we left -- surprisingly this actually does not taste too bad -- it is filtered.  Hans brought along A LOT of San Pellegrino.  I mean A LOT.  I have been averaging about a litre and a half a day and so has everyone else.  We are running a bit low, but chances are there are a few extra cases stashed elsewhere.

Health wise, I have to say I am feeling good other than being perpetually exhausted.  The days and nights really start to flow together and I find myself just keeping my head down looking for sleep and determining how I am going to eat before my next watch.  I am "hot bunking" (it isn´t nearly as fun as it sounds) with Tom and Franco in a very small state room.  It was supposed to be just Tom and I, but another crew member didn´t want to share his double with Franco off watch.  Not wanting any problems we took it on ourselves to make it work.  Tom has been amazingly generous and accommodating about sharing his room and we have seemed to have found out how to make it work without being all over each other -- it not easy easy though.  With 3 watches, this means I am either in that bunk for 4 hours sleeping, spending 4 hours in the salon on "standby" ready to help the team on watch, or I am on watch -- either driving, doing sail changes, or manning the radar.  That´s 12 hours.  So basically hit ´repeat´ for the last 12 days and that´s pretty much where I am at.  I am tired just thinking about it!  Trust me though, it´s far from boring with your adrenaline pumping at times handling the boat through some of the crazy weather, beautiful ocean wildlife, and constant activity, it has been quite an experience.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Fly By Night

After a few days of little to no wind we are finally back in the grove moving along at 10kts.  This morning I came on deck at 8am for my watch under 2 spinnakers and our mizzen sail up.  Our watch was able to post 42 miles -- a new record for this trip among all the watches.  Whoohoo!  The fog and mist made seeing a long way difficult, but we were followed by a pod of about 20 or so dolphins playing in the 10ft swells and chop next to the boat.  They were jumping almost entirely out of the water a few at a time.  Accompanied by some billowing whitecaps and a sort of rain / fog at 55 degrees you would think we would be pretty unhappy, but since the wind was up, the mood was high.

Tonight we are doing about the same speed, but with a few reefs in the Main.  Trucking along with a very bright phosphorescence tail being kicked up behind the boat which fades off into the distance at about 30-40 yards.  I don´t know why, but it makes me think of a magic carpet ride.

Because it is so hard to see the sails at night you drive 100% by instruments.  Andrew and I have been calling this "The Needle Game" which tonight is basically keeping our bearing on our magnetic compass between 95 and 110 degrees.  Seems like a boring alternative to something like Angry Birds, but consider this: if you veer off course (especially to windward) by as little as 10 degrees you risk broaching, tearing the spin and waking up the captain and crew. This makes The Needle Game much more interesting.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Culture Club

We have quite a mix of nationalities (and personalities) on board for this race.  We have 4 Germans along with the owner Hans, Alex the captain is Italian but grew up in Argentina, Franco and Santi are from Argentina along with Peter (who is married to a Canadian from just outside London!), Tom is half French and half English, so he certainly has his share of personality conflicts (just kidding, he is a great guy).  That leaves the American contingent to Andrew and I and we felt we needed to celebrate July 4th in style.

Andrew and I cooked bacon cheese burgers for the crew in honor of Independence Day and served with coleslaw and ice cold beer.  We tried to set the mood with a little country music, but that didn´t take as well as the burgers (I fried up proscuttio and used that as bacon -- perhaps that was the reason for the positive reviews).  I guess Toby Keith and Jimmy Buffett are an acquired taste.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Flemish Cap

We are 186 nm South and West of the Flemish Cap headed in a Northerly direction after riding the Gulf Stream for the last week.  There is a natural high off of the Azores and we don´t want to be that South anyway, so it was time to Jibe and make a more direct course to England.  This mornings watch was pretty challenging.  Although it was only blowing 10kts, we had these huge rollers from our stern quarter constantly making the boat either round up or auto jibe.  TONS of input into the steering wheel, so my arms are pretty dead only after an hour of driving.  Nothing like the Beneteau or newer boats I have driven.  Then again, I have not driven a lot in 10-15 ft rollers...  To make matters more interesting, we are shrouded in fog and can only see about 30 yards past the boat.  Nothing on Radar or AIS (a systems that reaches farther than Radar, but only applies to ships that have an AIS system -- a lot of Transatlantic bound boats, most tankers and larger cargo boats do), but I hear we were close to Carina last night -- maybe even saw some lights.  They have their AIS turned off as did British Soldier -- obviously both literally trying to fly under the Radar or in this case AIS.  Not surprising the Brits are going commando being Military and all.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Whale Ho!

Yesterday was a pretty spectacular day out here.  After about 7 hours of sleep I came on deck where Tom had set up his iPod and a set of speakers and was listening to a New Zealand band called Black Seeds (a kind of Reggae jam band). They had also rigged a sun shade over the helm turning the after deck into a sun porch.  It was blowing about 20kts and was sunny with just a little chop.  I was on the Starboard side next to the mizzen when I saw what looked like a puff of smoke at about 1 o´clock heading down the side of Nordwind in the opposite direction.  As it got closer, it continued to blow and was ID´d as a Pilot Whale.  A smaller whale about 20-25 ft long with a bulbous head.  It actually turned and looked at us as it passed by only 60 or so feet away from us.  A really cool thing to see.

Today looks like we are in for the same conditions as the squalls have not come into play.  My shift was from 5-9am and we spent the morning surfing down 20 ft waves.  It is a pretty amazing feeling driving this 88ft, 70 ton ship down these, but you really don´t get a sense of it until you go to the bow and really feel the power and momentum of this boat.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Big Squall Ya´ll

We moved through a few pretty significant weather systems today.  We had just raised our code 3 spinnaker under 20kts, when we noticed a darkening horizon.  Alex, our skipper told us to raise the Genoa in order to take the spin down under it (standard leeward take down).  Just as we were about to drop, the winds spiked to 40kts and completely blew out the clew and 2/3ds of the spin.  I was at the mast dropping the halyard and then ran to the bow to help bring aboard the now tattered kite which was quickly being washed down the side of the boat.  Once secure, we worked bringing down the Genoa before it too tore.  All the while we had about 15ft seas and driving rain.  In all, it took a few hours to get everything reefed and tidied up.  I am pretty exhausted, but have to go on watch at 4am, so need to get some sleep.  It is currently blowing between 20 and 30 with an occasional squall.  Today was a real welcome to the real North Atlantic, I think.

A Full Press of Sails

On Wednesday, during a sail change, I found myself looking up at 6 sails flying from Nordwind's rig.  We had our Code 0 spinnaker (smallish, asymmetrical spin), our Yankee, a Stay Sail, our Main Sail, the Mizzen Stay Sail (basically a spinnaker you fly in between the mizzen mast and the main) and a Mizzen. Quite an amazing sight to see.  With 10kts of breeze, a beautiful blue sky, and a calm sea it was quite a day.

Amazingly, I think my favorite watch is 4-8am.  Watching the sun rise over grey seas slowly turning them an icy deep dark navy blue speckled with whitecaps -- only punctuated by the bright powder blue and white wake thrown up by Nordwind.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Freakin' awesome

It has been a pretty amazing day and a half as we reach the Georges Banks.  We had a very exciting start in where the crew, really for the very 1st time, went through some drills and got us in place to set up for the gun.

With lots of family up by the light house at the Inn at Castle Hill as well many on the water I certainly felt very well represented.  I also really appreciated the on the water delivery of a ball of yarn for tying up the spinnakers by Ady and Blue -- thank you!  Just a quick note on the start -- I was not quite sure how to call the line for Nordwind knowing I wanted to be VERY conservative and not be over early.  It is tough to slow down and dial up a 70 ton yacht, so our timing would have to be perfect.  Hans was great at getting us in a clear position of the other boats and as we approached the line, I asked myself, how the heck do I call numbers of boat-lengths to the start on a 88ft boat??  Three boat lengths at 8 kts of boat speed.  Basically we were looking at  264 feet, closing VERY fast!!  Not a simple operation with a bunch of guys I never sailed with.  Andrew and was great though and we fell into a rhythm very quickly.

Then fog -- and lots of it.  We came fairly close to a tanker who we had hailed on the radio, but he for some reason decided to not do what he said he was going to do.  It is a very eerie and scary proposition to come across a tanker with about 50-75 ft of visibility.  Certainly a bit of a jolt to us all.

Things cleared out for a beautiful sunset and I was able to catch some sleep.  Saw 15 to 20 amazingly large dolphins kicking up phosphorous at our bow wave at 3am this morning during our 1st watch.  As Andrew said it best, "Freakin Awesome!"

We have some fluky weather for the next 24 hours followed by a low pressure system coming across, so I expect some wet weather and some heavier sail change work.  Will check back in shortly.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Race to the Race

After a furious flurry of activity provisioning, adjusting the rigging, measuring, cutting and applying spreader patches, running reefs, and setting up the prefeeder (those are just the items I helped with yesterday), and an amazing amount effort to exchange and organize the items that will stay on board and what will be shipped to the UK in the crate, I think we are finally ready to set the sails on Nordwind.

There are a few last items on the list this AM as we prepare to leave the dock at 9:30 ET.  We plan on looking at a few of the new sails and run some drills before the beginning of the 13:50 ET starting sequence. 

I wanted to take a moment to thank all of my family and friends who have been so amazingly supportive of Ashley and I these last few weeks.  The outpouring of well wishes and words of encouragement have been really touching.  Thank you.  Also, a huge thank you to my colleagues at IBM who have enabled me to make this trip and be a part of this event.  Thank you to you as well.

Very exciting -- here we go.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

All The Little Things

It's amazing how all the little things can make a big impact when planning for an event. Think about the last big family gathering you hosted or event you helped run at work. It's always the little things that end up adding up to big success or contribute to rough experiences.  Not picking up your new suit at the cleaners or leaving your phone sitting on a desk (been there).  Or forgetting something small like a prefeeder or the mainsail battens.  The small things can have big impact.  I know the risks are higher here and magnified by how separated we will be. You can always take a taxi back to the hotel to grab your phone...

Freaky things can happen last minute as well. I was sad to hear a prospective crewmate was thrown from a horse this past weekend in
Europe injuring his ribs -- making a passage across the northern Atlantic a considerably more dangerous and potentially painful endeavor. But as that door closes, another opens.  My friend Andrew Sayre from Saunderstown will be joining me on this Transatlantic race.  Andrew and I have raced a bit and managed to win a few regattas on John Hammels’ Elan -  a Beneteau First 36.7, USA51920. 
I am very happy to have Andrew with me, not only because he is a good sailor, but a really great guy. It will be good fun to have him along.

Now if only I can remember where I put my.... (insert any number of the hundreds of things I am trying to pin down before we leave Sunday).

Monday, June 20, 2011


Back in May a good friend, Chris Museler, asked if I was interested in doing a Transatlantic race on a boat that he sailed on in the 2005 race (which he wrote about in Sailing Anarchy in an entry entitled “Old School”). http://www.sailinganarchy.com/general/2005/atlantic_challenge.htm

After careful consideration and discussion with my family and friends, I decided to accept an offer to crew on Nordwind -- an 86ft Yawl built in 1939 by Henry Gruber.  Nordwind is owned by Dr. Hans Albrecht, founder and Managing Director of Nordwind Capital, a private equity firm based in Germany.   

I had a chance to meet and chat with our captain, Alex and some of the Crew (Tom, Santi, and Nico) and will meet Hans this week as we do a shakedown sail after having new sails cut by North and a fresh coat of ablative applied to the bottom.  Nordwind has been on the hard for over a week with her crew working diligently varnishing and prepping her for the crossing -- there is a LOT of brightwork on board, so a lot of hard work has gone into her.  In fact, I told my friend Meaghan that I felt like I was sitting in a china cabinet when talking with Alex below decks on my first visit with all the beautiful woodwork and cabinetry.  A VERY sturdy china cabinet. 

Really looking forward to the shakedown.