Offshore, Offline, and the Essence of Ocean Crossing

As the world continues to erupt into violence, bigotry, hatred and…the banality of red Starbucks cups or the size of Kim Kardashian’s ass being “news,” I’m even more thankful for the ability to unplug, log off, and tune in that comes from sailing over the horizon (and out of cell phone range) on a semi-regular basis.

Good things are possible under an expansive offshore sky.

But sailing to Bermuda as the days get shorter, the wind gets colder, and weather systems strafe the Gulf Stream is special. Maybe it’s because the first stamp in my first passport (entry by sea) was administered by a very proper Bermudian in the timeless port of St. Georges’s Harbour way back in nineteen hundred and ninety-three. Or maybe it’s because Bermuda is the way-station between the cold and bitterness of the “North” and all the hopes and dreams that come with sailing south to the “Tropics.” Or maybe it’s because Bermuda is a god-forsaken hunk of coral in the middle of a god-forsaken stretch of North Atlantic that’s going to kick your ass every time you set a course for it.

It’s all of the above.

But now more than ever, I’ve come to cherish the clarity and perspective that comes from the curious combination of being uncomfortable (on an ever-changing scale of intensity), exhilarated, bored, impatient, challenged, and most-of-all unmoored, that is the essence of offshore sailing.

Unmoored and free is way way better than rudderless or stuck in a social media spiral.

Being unmoored is NOT being rudderless. The opposite in fact. Being unmoored is the wonderful state of having a destination but not being where we were and not where we are going. Like when you have a layover in Dallas, or Philly, or Frankfurt, or LA. Being unmoored and in the moment in air world is a wondrously free and inspiring place to be. But even long flights end in a matter of hours and hours are mere childs play when compared to the days and days of “4 hours on-4 hours off” that happen on offshore passages. And the deck of a 64-foot yacht en route to Bermuda in mid-November is much less crowded than terminal 8 at JFK.

So, having just transited through terminal 8 in JFK on my way back from an offshore passage from Annapolis to Bermuda, you’re probably expecting a tale of starlit nights, and sea life, and crazy US Navy armadas (complete with full-on aircraft carrier, helicopter that buzzed us hundreds of miles offshore), and an endless procession of fighter jets booming overhead as we exited the Chesapeake, and 600 miles of 20-25 knot headwinds, and funky waves in the Gulf Stream we tried not to bash into.

Notice the military presence offshore and the camo on captain Travis.
Notice the military presence offshore and the camo on captain Travis.

But we’re not going to talk about any of that.

Breakfast is served!

Instead, I want to talk about stuff that’s much more important. Like friendship. And respect. And being a pro. And pancakes!

Pancake earthquake er… I mean…passagemaking pancakes.

And cool socks.


And most importantly, unplugging from the virtual reality that bombards us through our phones every day and waking up to the in-the-moment reality of being offshore and unplugged that’s even more real when you have a 800-foot long cargo ship hammering right at you in the middle of the night–in funky waves and 25 knots of breeze.

Unmoored. Unconnected. Unplugged. Offshore. Free.

Sail. Sleep. Eat. Repeat.

No email.

No undercurrent of fomo (and the not-so-subtle insecurity) that comes from lives lived through a Facebook feed.

No filter.

And while I’m no doctor, I can report on the healing powers of being…

Unmoored. Unconnected. Unplugged. Offshore. Free.

And the magic intensifies when a special group of people (like the crew of pros I sailed with) team up to sail to Bermuda together.

The Varsity!

Sailing offshore with, and getting to know,  and having real, face-to-face conversations with ex-superyacht captain Stewart Shattuck (left), Captain Travis Firth (right) and the amazing, talented, funny, engaging, gastronomic goddess Mimi Whitmarsh (not pictured) makes offshore unplugging even more meaningful.

So, as you can see by our curious track, we ran into some headwinds. And we covered a few more miles (slowly) that we would have hoped. Like way, way, different from the Phaedo program. Like polar opposite. And that made for a few more days to really unplug and tune into what really matters again.

Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 9.21.12 AM
Caroline has started calling me “The slowest sailor” in the world. Kind of a change from the Phaedo program, right?

The cool thing about sailing to Bermuda is…it’s always kinda hard. It always feels good when you get there. And St. George’s is one of the few places in this hyper-sped-up-world that never, never seems to change.

The customs office dock in St George's (and the whole town in fact) hasn't changed a bit in th elast 20 years.
The customs office dock in St. George’s (and the whole town in fact) hasn’t changed a bit in the last 20 years.

And like every adventure I’ve ever undertaken (even when I literally tried to sail away from all my problems back in 1993), the best part of going out of range and over the horizon is eventually coming home.

I’m incredibly humbled and grateful for the fact that I’ve been given a priceless gift. My life has already exceeded every single one of my wildest expectations, yet I still get to go on those adventures on the other side of the horizon, and to come home to a loving little family that is the greatest and most rewarding adventure there is.

Sombody couldn't wait to try my still salty sailing boots on as soon as I came in the door.
Somebody couldn’t wait to try my still salty sailing boots on as soon as I came in the door.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody! And I hope you get a chance to hug, and love, and squeeze, and tickle the ones you love as much as I plan on doing this weekend.

And wait till you hear about the next adventure! The whole family is coming and we leave next month!

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  1. says: Tery

    So so eloquent and beautiful. You are such an amazing teller of journeys. I felt like I could be there with you. Although I can’t say I wish I was with you! Maybe on the St. George end.
    Happy thanksgiving to you and yours.