Kir McLinn

  • Day295

    Beaufort, NC – Full Circle

    July 11, 2016 in the United States

    Yes, leaving the Caribbean-blue behind and landing in Florida was a momentous occasion but anchoring in the very anchorage we embarked from on our first blue water sail together brought a whole slew of new thoughts and feelings of accomplishment. I couldn’t help but reflect on our journey.
    We left these shores with little expectations except to get to Bermuda then start the Caribbean as far East as possible. We had prepared and stocked our boat to the best of our abilities. We had gizmos and gadgets that worked (maybe not so much towards the end). We had emergency plans. We had us and Gaia. And so we sailed with the unknown ahead and a knowledge that it could…/probably/would get rocky….

    After sailing THOUSANDS of miles (that’s multiple amounts of 1,000!) for 10 months we made a full circle. We were proud. We had overcome adverse circumstances, fears, really big waves, sea serpents, trifling rainbows, unruly groups of friends (as pictured to the right), and wild and untamed fresh fruit from the Leeward & Windward Islands! Good Grief!

    People told us we were brave… but you don’t feel brave when you’re three days out at sea, it’s 2300, and you poke your head out of the companion way hatch to see black walls of water on either side of you and a dark grey sky. You feel small and alone. And once you remember how overbuilt the boat is and how much preparation went into this journey… you smile for a weary second and think ‘Cool!’ before the motion of the boat whirls you around and your aching muscles remind you how sick and tired you are of this.

    We had so many memories now – good bad and funny (see above picture) and they weren’t without cost. Over the years, we gave up countless weekends working to the midnight hour at times. We gave up comforts of living on land, we gave up having a savings account, heck, we gave up our jobs to pursue this agenda of life. And we were blessed to have friends help us along over the years. It was an entire community who encouraged and inspired us; who worked on Gaia with us and toyed around the Boston harbor with us. Even our families didn’t fight our love of the ocean but gave us warm hugs and wished us well… (for the most part…I’m looking at you Dad! – but you did come around).

    Yes, when the anchor was well-driven into the muddy bed in Beaufort, NC, I took in the surroundings with a new perspective and it was great.

    Once we had our moment of, “we’re back”, we opened up beers, jumped into the dinghy, and dinghy-ed over to a floating concert. Near a sandbar, a dozen poorly-anchored motor boats clustered around a stationary barge with a full reggae band playing. A bud light gripped tightly in every hand, drunken girls yelling about pointless things, grown men with beer bellies talking about fishing or doing backflips off transoms, and a goofy smile on everyones face – it was a beautiful summer day in Beaufort, NC.

    11 July 2016 marked our one year anniversary as a married couple. We spent the day perusing local shops, eating at Clawsons, and settling down in a coffee shop to get wifi. We made a reservation at a nice restaurant on the water then returned to our boat to write our vows….

    It may seem a bit late to write vows one year after the fact…. for some people… but for us it was just right. The night before our wedding day we were both tired and realized neither of us had taken the time to sit down and write out some heartfelt promises. So we jointly decided to punt on it… and in the ceremony we honored the traditional Lutheran liturgy and recited a version of what my parents and my parents’ parents vowed on their wedding days. I also found out the first year anniversary should be commemorated with paper… (seems odd to me… considering the properties of paper and its ability to be torn in half or easily tossed into the trash) but we bought a pad of sketch paper and wrote our vows of marriage on that paper, thereby keeping that silly tradition alive for us.

    Our late night dinghy ride back to the boat. Dolled up and all, I can still operate the dink and climb my transom.
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  • Day294

    Camp LeJeune and Really Bad Music

    July 10, 2016 in the United States

    The great Intracoastal Waterway, serene, beautiful, idyllic. Just mind the gun fire. Camp LeJeune is a Marine Corps training base located on the edge of the ICW in North Carolina and from time to time holds target practice… alarmingly close to the ICW. So alarmingly close, I grabbed a few shots of the targets. The exterior had thousands of indentations giving the metal a rough swiss cheese appearance. We cruised on by with no problem but if the lights are flashing, cruisers are not permitted to continue towards the firing range.

    Mike and I stopped in the adorable town of Swansboro and tried alligator bites for the first time. It kinda tasted like calamari. Apparently eating alligator is no big deal in North Carolina. The gentleman next to us gave us an elaborate explanation of the culture of fishing and hunting. We grabbed ice cream and strolled through the entire downtown area (Main Street). We returned to the boat and enjoyed downtime sitting out in the cockpit. But with our leisure time we endured the town bar expel some odious sounding tunes.

    Night fell and we watched a few lightening cloud clusters move near our anchorage. One of those storms hit us dead on and the boat healed over in the booming gusts. The current was pushing the boat perpendicular to the wind and it felt like a bad game of tug of war between the wind and the current. We anchored close to a shallow sandbar and amongst all the surfing back and forth, we ended up going aground in a 4.7 ft patch of sand. Mike and I begrudgingly pulled on our foul weather gear and went above deck to re-anchor in the 20+ knots of wind and the rain and infrequent flashes of lightening. Well… at least the bad music went inside and was one less nuisance to handle. After multiple attempts to set the anchor, I backed down and finally saw an OK sign from Mike and also concluded we weren’t dragging or in any danger of swaying into shallows, lobster pots, or channel markers.
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  • Day293

    Then It All Went Black … ICW In Summer

    July 9, 2016 in the United States

    Along our passage we saw temperatures reach well into the hundreds. The person off duty would sit under a fan in the salon (on the couches) and read, write, or, if you’re Mike, code. Every once in a while it was polite (aka humane) to pop your head up and ask if the helmsman needed a drink with an ice cube in it.

    One morning after breakfast and coffee, I had the first watch starting at 9:30 AM. I felt fine and was steering by hand. We had just made the umpteenth turn of the morning and were set for a wide-open straight away (finally! I could put on Otto VonPilot and relax).

    But it happened all very suddenly.

    I felt something I had never felt before… my knee gave a slight involuntary jerk. It was very subtle but felt awkward enough for me to glance down. In the time it took to look back up, the blue water in front and yellow grass horizon to the side no longer existed, instead I saw nothing but blurry stars. My vision had completely given way. And that’s when my knees felt like jelly. It was unsettling to feel your body simply fail you. I saw nothing but blackness and felt myself begin to drop against my will. A second later I was crumbled on top of the seat cushions to my left. Half of my body on the floor of the cockpit and my upper torso neatly folded on top of the cushions; my right hand was still precariously on the helm. I yelled for Mike immediately and instantaneously he appeared at my side. My vision was still blurry and I was dizzy. I felt weak. Not tired or sweaty or achey just weak as if I had been fighting a cold for weeks on end. I knew enough to put my head between my knees and breathe deeply. Meanwhile Mike throttled back and took over steering.

    This experience brought to attention the need of safety in a form I had never considered; the importance and responsibility to keep yourself healthy. So often, captains focus on safety of passengers & crew, weather, the performance of the boat, safety features… What about keeping yourself hydrated and well fed? If the captain fails to be lucid, is there another person on board? Are they trained well enough to perform simple operations (like throttling back and hailing help)? Thankfully Mike knew what to do. Thankfully Mike heard me when I yelled for him. I don’t know what would have happened if he had his noise canceling head phones on and was unable to hear my call for help. Maybe I would have risen to the challenge by standing up and throttling back… maybe… but maybe… I wouldn’t have been able to regain my composure…

    Along our travels Mike and I learned a nonverbal communication for various situations, the most important being that look of when to leave a boring party. No, not really, (we still stink at that signal) more like anchoring. One of our tools, if motoring, is to throttle back. The sound of the engine is a bit loud on Gaia and if I were to throttle back it would signal to Mike, I wanted his attention on deck. Most of the time, it was to slow down for some motor vessels wake or to allow someone to pass… but that was infrequent.

    After I regained composure I went down below. Once I was awake enough, I did what any sane kid does… I googled ‘fainting’. And the first thing that popped up on the google search was something called ‘fainting goats’ which ended up being a set of youtube videos of, you guessed it, goats keeling over and fainting… it was oddly adorable. But after I learned of fainting goats, I learned what happened to me was called Vasovagal syncope – Fainting due to lack of blood flow to the brain; usually brought on by standing for long periods of time, heat, or standing up too quickly. Once you experience fainting, you become more susceptible to it. If you’re fit and in good health and you faint more than twice in a month… you should see a doctor… it might indicate a larger risk at hand. Just to be clear I am in no way a doctor. This is simple information gained from googling ‘fainting’.
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  • Day287

    We aint home yet, we goin to CharlesTON

    July 3, 2016 in the United States

    We left St. Mary’s inlet in GA and had a nice current helping us along.
    We departed Cumberland Island at 10:00 AM and started off at a strong 9 knots from the inlet. The wind was lighter than expected so we motored/motorsailed most of the day. Then a string of storms began chasing us.
    This is the second round of storms; not particularly scary. This brought winds up to 25-35 knots

    At least we had a beautiful sunset. Mike was down below cooking. :)

    During our night watches, we could make out large storm clouds passing around us. On my 1 AM – 5 AM shift I felt the winds pick up and a torrential downpour hit. For the umpteenth time I hid my chin under the fuzzy collar and internally thanked Mike for buying me a new set of foulies before we left Boston in 2015. The waves were rocking the boat at an uncomfortable angle. After slipping a few times and having a hell of time jibing, I called Mike up for another set of hands and as encouragement. After experiencing the lightening back in Georgia, I hit my ‘sailing wall’. I knew where I drew the line and that was at lightening storms. It was only raining at that moment but I still felt rattled and insecure, knowing that lightening could strike at any moment. It was pitch black and all I could see were the running lights on cargo ships coming in to port and black masses of clouds that moved in giant herds overhead. I was on my feet for my entire watch. I was so relieved to see Mike appear on deck early and say ‘tag’, our term for ‘okay, I’ll take over now, you’re watch is over’.

    Mike must have downed an entire pot of coffee because he took over from 5 AM until we anchored in Charleston. It was fun coming into the harbor… oddly, there were a lot of similarities between Charleston and Boston…
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  • Day285

    Cumberland Island – A Step Back In Time

    July 1, 2016 in the United States

    Cumberland Island….is a hidden gem, still unbeknownst to the masses. And that’s a good thing.
    As a self proclaimed melodramatic curious wanderer interested in history…. upon first sight, this place ensnared that child-like wonder in me. You’re first view of Cumberland Island is overgrown webs of Spanish moss which carpet the overarching limbs of giant oak trees. (Side Note: Super fun fact about Spanish moss… it’s not moss! *gasp* I know! if you’re as over-caffeinated as I am right now, you too are egregiously concerned about this deception…. it’s not moss it’s a bromeliad which makes it closer in taxonomy to the pineapple and succulent families.*you’re welcome*). Light trickles through the canopy of Spanish moss as timid mammals scurry under the protection of endless green ferns and in the midst of this welcoming forrest are neatly carved walking paths…. but mind the horse poop. If you walk from one end to another you’ll stumble across vastly changing environments ranging from an endless salt marsh, to sand dunes that best resemble a heard of oversized camel humps, and one hell of an expansive beach. And the clincher that really made me love this island, is the crumbling ruins of a mansion and traces of personal stories left to decay in the elements and history books.

    Cumberland Island was first inhabited by native americans, the Mocama people. The Spanish arrived in the 1550s and built a settlement on the island and they named the island San Pedro. Historical records show in 1681 there were as many as 300 Mocama and Spanish missionaries living on San Pedro. In 1683 French pirates looted the island and the following years were nothing but pirate skirmishes between the French and Spanish. In 1733 English General James Oglethorpe of Georgia arrived in on the scene and the island was renamed Cumberland Island. Oglethorpe built a hunting lodge on the island and named in Dungeness. Two forts were erected on the island and a small town came to fruition. Over the years, the forts and towns were abandoned and washed away in time. Revolutionary war hero Nathaniel Greene and his wife Catharine lived on the island until Nathaniel’scumberlandcarnegiefamily death in 1786. Ten years after Nathaniel’s death, Catharine remarried Phineas Miller and built a 4 story tabby mansion complete with 4 chimneys
    and 16 fireplaces. Catharine named the mansion Dungeness, after Oglethorpe’s hunting lodge. Further in the life of Cumberland Island, Thomas Carnegie, brother of Andrew Carnegie, brought his wife and 9 children to live on the island. The family moved out in 1925. And in 1959 a fire destroyed Dungeness.

    The island was a great stop. We were excited to see a submarine skulk by up the ICW and soon after have a refreshing storm pass over while we safely remained on the hook. Mike and I enjoyed Cumberland Island but in the end we decided…. The South is too hot for us northerners in July… we soon left for Charleston, SC.
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  • Day285

    The devil storm

    July 1, 2016 in the United States

    The day we motored through one hell of a devil storm we were snaking our way around a very flat and shallow salt marsh. The air was humid and tall seagrass lined the channel, neatly outlining our path northward. The wind was light coming in from the East but an encompassing dark mass of storm clouds were coming in fast from the northwest. I buttoned up the hatches and Mike stayed at the helm. The air suddenly died and a gathering breeze took its place from the opposite direction. And as quickly as the wind had shifted so too did the pelting rain. Fat rain drops clobbered the boat and we watched in giddy curiosity. That giddiness was smashed when lightening began to strike all around us. We put on pfd’s and I turned on the steaming lights and put on my foulies, joining Mike in the cockpit. At this point rain was darting into our faces making it near impossible to see the channel ahead. We slowly crept along, relying solely on the GPS and pressing buttons on the autopilot to turn left and right. The idea to drop anchor in the channel and wait it out on the hook was not lost on me… but it also encouraged a whole slew of different concerns. A boat stationary at anchor is a likelier target to be hit by lightening, we didn’t know what the bottom consisted of, and if we dragged – we’d certainly be pushed far onto a muddy shore.

    The boat heeled over in the gusts, now ranging from 30-43 knots. Incessant cracks of lightening were coming down all around us and booming thunder rattled me to the bone. I did not feel safe; not with one but TWO aluminum masts sticking straight in the air. With the boat as safe as we could make it, all that was left was to sit tight and hope the storm didn’t get any worse. I looked up at Mike, hoping to see some form of resilience that we were fine but all I saw was the same damn fear and uncertainty as I felt. And that’s when I knew what fear was. Fear was complete and utter lack of control in a perilous environment. The only thing that gave me comfort was from watching the storm earlier. It had ascended upon us quickly, which meant the storm was moving fast….to my logic that meant the storm would continue at its clip and it would end soon. The rain let up about 40 minutes after it began and just in time, we were approaching a bridge with a narrow channel – visibility would be nice to pass through it.

    Our next big destination was just over the boarder of FL, Cumberland, GA. And unfortunately, not without peril. Up until this point, we had really only one hard blow (see the Abacos and how we dragged – post), sure there were the crossings and sustained 25 knot winds and 10-18 foot seas… but our boat was built to sail that caliber of seas. And besides, you can only be so terrified for your life for so long before you realize (on the second day) you’re actually fine… Keep a sailors eye out and you’ll be fine, period.

    The afternoon brought sun as we passed by the industrious part of St. Johns inlet and St. Mary’s. We made anchor by the southern end of Cumberland Island, GA and relaxed in the stifling heat for the rest of the day.

    Next post… Cumbiiii! I want my cheap quality Cumbi coffee….. no not that Cumbi as in Cumberland Farms…. Cumberland Island, GA – Cumbi.
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  • Day284

    St. Augustine and then came the storm

    June 30, 2016 in the United States

    From Fort Pierce inlet we traveled 160 nm (184 statute miles) up the ICW to St. Augustine FL. It took us 3 days of motoring 8 hours each day (motorsailing with minimal sailing). We gladly took a mooring and didn’t think twice about the splurge, anchoring anywhere else looked painful.

    St. Augustine is the oldest lived-in city in the contiguous US. It was founded by the Admiral Pedro Menendez de Aviles of Spain in 1565 and has a killer oceanview sidewalk. St. Augustine in a nutshell has a long and turbulent history, grand and beautiful architecture,and that beautiful seaside walk. sigh… so nice. St. Augustine holds its’ history front and center. This is clearly seen as you walk through the forts and stroll past well-preserved buildings. It would be a great place to visit again… Mom, Dad… you mentioned retirement, you really need to look into St. Augustine.Read more

  • Day279

    ICW FL – we just wanted to see a rocket

    June 25, 2016 in the United States

    We timed our trip with an upcoming Atlas V rocket launch from Cape Canaveral. We did our research on different places to anchor and chose to stay on the “outside” in the Indian River, just north of the NASA Causeway. We could have taken the canal to a closer anchorage but decided it wasn’t worth the trip for us and our draft.

    Like all great sailors do, we made a plan and it was flawless. We were going to dinghy up to land, lock the dinghy, then walk or hitchhike to the Kennedy Space Center to watch the rocket launch. Fast forward 30 minutes after we left the boat…. So, we were in the back of cop car when we learned our plan was flawed….

    The causeway is a high speed 4 lane road with a grassy median and sides. We dinghy-ed slowly up to the causeway looking for a place to keep the dinghy for the day. Eventually there was a tree close enough to the water to lock the dinghy. And there we were, on the grassy side of the causeway. We were on the causeway for about 30 seconds when a cop car stopped right in front of us. He strolled out of the car and questioned what we were doing and nodded his head knowingly. He had been watching us for a while. He then patiently explained we were trespassing onto Federal property and couldn’t land our tender here. As we continued to explain we were going to be on our way and walk or hitchhike to see the rocket launch, he stopped us and said it’s also illegal to walk along the causeway (for safety reasons). Great, we’ve been in the US for 24 hours and we’ve already broken 2 laws. The launch was in 45 minutes and our hopes of getting to the Kennedy Space Center was looking further and further away from fruition. We must have looked innocent and desperate enough in our neediness he turned a blind eye and showed us some downright good Southern compassion. He radio-ed his ranking officer and informed him of our dinghy and location, once he received acknowledgment and approval of our unlawful arrival, he nodded. He let us know what we were doing was not okay and then gave us a ride to the Kennedy Space Center. Yeah, this is where we all say ‘aww, what a sweetheart/nice guy’. I was never a rebel in my high school days and not rowdy enough in my college years to earn a space in the back of a cop car. As we sat in the hard plastic seats with cramped leg room and no door handle to let ourselves out of this mini prison, Mike and I both smiled….. this was both of our first time in the back of a cop car…. AND we were en route to see a ROCKET LAUNCH!!! – how sweet.

    The Space Center greeted us with the feel of a nerdy adult version of Disney Land that also happened to be kid friendly… :) We had time to spare and walked along the ‘rocket garden’… as you might imagine it’s a bunch of rockets with all sorts of great information. There’s even a F-1 liquid fuel engine on display, which I found to appreciate far more than I expected. After reading about diesel engines and looking over Mike’s shoulder on our own Beta, I have a decent understanding of how these beasts operate. I thought it was pretty cool how similar it was to a rocket engine…. a super powerful rocket engine at that.

    As the countdown crept closer, we made our way to a comfortable grassy patch. We had an idea of where the rocket would blast up into the sky and in our moments of waiting…. Mike decided to watch the countdown on TV from his iphone. I looked over his shoulder as the video announced the preparation to the ‘official’ countdown. I looked up just as everyone around us gasped. The rocket launched! There was a rocket hurdling through the air. The video had a 30 second delay. Mike looked up as I ‘awww-ed’ along with the crowd. ‘Damn video delays’ he muttered. I would have laughed more at the irony of Mike’s almost-missed launch but the sound of the blast captured my senses and my eyes were glued to this massive aeronautical feat of human ingenuity. I think my heart may have skipped a beat as my senses dulled and a complete sense of aww struck a cord that left a dumb-founded smile on my face. I felt an overwhelming sense of pride mixed with inspired curiosity as we all watched the rocket arch into the heavens, disappearing into a mere dot within seconds. I’ll admit it, I got a bit teary-eyed, I was moved. I looked around at all the parents with kids now skipping at their heels announcing to anyone & everyone that they had just seen a rocket launch. I looked at Mike and could tell we both felt the same as all the kids -invincible.

    Foot long hotdog for lunch
    Vehicle Assembly Building - Largest building in America, they build rockets in there
    The american flag is huge, the stripes are 9 feet wide, the blue part is the size of a basketball court, and the stars are 6 feet big.

    Atlantis - you can see the scorch marks on the protective quilt layer

    So we had our space-dog, our space ice-cream and had our fill of inspired and overly energetic background music, we were ready to head home… We ended up asking strangers for rides and it worked out really well. A couple gave us a ride to our dinghy and it turns out they’re both sailors. We jumped out quickly and launched the dinghy as soon as humanly possible and before you knew it we were kicking back on the boat again.
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  • Day277

    Back in the USA (contiguous)

    June 23, 2016 in the United States

    The sight of abundant hotels and a developed coast line greeted us at the Fort Pierce inlet into FL. It was hauntingly familiar yet staggering to see so many tall buildings after… not for so long.

    After our overnight motor/sail of 120 nm we continued further up to Vero Beach. Situated behind a fun bar & restaurant and close enough to dinghy to the other bank and walk to a nearby Publix Supermarket. For everyone not from the South, Publix is a phenomenal grocery store; affordable, fresh, and a ridiculous volume of variety. Really liked our welcome back to the US so far.Read more

  • Day275

    The last sail in the Caribbean.. for now

    June 21, 2016, North Atlantic Ocean

    Goodbye Bahamas – Goodbye Caribbean

    We took a risk. We uplifted our lives in search for something new for different and wild places. We experienced everything from the surreal and eye opening unexpected experiences to the horrendous and brutal seconds that went on for days of discomfort. It is with a deep and heavy heart I leave the Bahamas, for me, our departure of the Bahamas recognizes the end of our Caribbean adventure. And what an adventure it’s been. We’re so grateful to have danced under the stars with friends new and old, to have explored both deserted and beautifully populated islands with new and beautiful customs. The food could have been better but what are you gonna do :) . We both have a new found respect for the environment and complicated infrastructures that allow for necessities like potable water, waste management, and transporting goods. The Caribbean is a vast and changing nook in the world, it’s definitely changed me and I hope we can share our experiences in how we live and what we do going forward. Thank you Bahamas for the all palm trees, white sand beaches, the wild life conservancy agencies, and thanks for all that clear water and fish.Read more

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