September 30, 2012
Saying Good Bye


September 15, 2012
Reflections on Our 27 Year Circumnavigation


September 01, 2012
Sea of Cortez Sailing


August 15, 2012
Back to the Sea of Cortez


August 01, 2012
After Circumnavigation: What to Take, What to Leave Behind


July 15, 2012
Mexican Booby Trap


July 01, 2012
Tackling the Tehuantepec


June 14, 2012
Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico


June 01, 2012
Sailing northern Costa Rica and Nicargua


May 15, 2012
Costa Rican Cruising


May 01, 2012
New Found Friends in Golfito, Costa Rica


April 15, 2012
It’s a Jungle Out There


April 01, 2012
Hunting and Gathering in Panama


March 15, 2012
Money.... Money.... Money


March 01, 2012
Feel Free Transits the Panama Canal


February 15, 2012
Transiting the Panama Canal


February 01, 2012
Feel Free is Back in the Pacific


January 15, 2012
Charter Skipper for a Week


January 01, 2012
Confessions of a Charter Cat Chef


December 15, 2011
Away to the Andamans Part 2


December 01, 2011
AWAY to the ANDAMANs


November 15, 2011
Sailing in a Freshwater Paradise


November 01, 2011
To Barf or not to Barf, that is the question


October 14, 2011
Remarkable Cruisers


October 03, 2011
The Sea of Cortez, Another World


September 15, 2011
Panama Canal Here We Come


September 01, 2011
Sailing for Humanity


August 15, 2011
A Hard Lesson on the Hard and Reflections on Boat Work


August 01, 2011
Here Come the Lion Fish


July 15, 2011
The Joy of Books


July 01, 2011
The Sailors of San Blas


June 15, 2011
The Good Life in Kuna Yala


June 01, 2011
The Dirt Dweller in Paradise


May 15, 2011
People of the San Blas, Then and Now


May 01, 2011
Cruising in Kuna Yala


April 15, 2011
Near Disaster in the San Blas


April 01, 2011
At Last in the San Blas


March 15, 2011
Chilling Out in Cholon


March 01, 2011
Ah, Cartagena!


February 15, 2011
Cruising the Cape Horn of the Caribbean Part 2


February 01, 2011
Cruising the Cape Horn of the Caribbean Part 1


January 14, 2011
Aruban Interlude


December 30, 2010
Hunkering Down for a Hurricane


December 15, 2010
A Day in the Life - Our Passage to Aruba


December 01, 2010
Stuck in Curacao


November 15, 2010
Stormy Night Sailing


November 01, 2010
Sailing In The Sticks


October 15, 2010
Safety, Security and Circumnavigating with some tips on how to stay safe


October 04, 2010
Feel Free Transits The Suez Canal


September 15, 2010
Red Sea Sailing


September 01, 2010
FEEL FREEs Voyage Into the Red Sea


August 15, 2010
And just a little further, to Curacao


August 01, 2010
Bonaire Diving


July 15, 2010
Then To Bonaire


July 01, 2010
Cruising Remote Venezuelan Isles


June 15, 2010
Cruising St. Vincent


June 01, 2010
Right Place, Right Time


May 15, 2010
The Spice Isle


May 01, 2010
To the Grenadines


April 15, 2010
We Be In Barbados Mon


April 01, 2010
Atlantic Passage Part II


March 15, 2010
Atlantic Passage Part 1


March 01, 2010
Provisioning for the Atlantic Crossing


February 15, 2010
Atlantic Crossing Preparations


February 01, 2010
Cruising the Canary Islands


January 15, 2010
Out Of Africa


January 01, 2010
Come With Me To The High Atlas Mountains.............


December 15, 2009
Two Years Of Mediterranean Sailing


December 01, 2009
Moving On To Morocco


November 18, 2009
Leaving The Med


November 13, 2009
Reaching The Rock Of Gibraltar Milestone


October 15, 2009
Sailing Spains Costa del Sol


October 01, 2009
Sailing Spains Costa del High-rise


September 15, 2009
Sailing The Spanish Isles


September 01, 2009
At Sea Or On The Hook, These Recipes Travel Well


August 15, 2009
An Interlude At Menorca


August 01, 2009
A Pleasant Passage To Menorca


July 15, 2009
The Agony And Ecstasy Of The Tunisian Coast


July 01, 2009
Tripping Around Tunisia


June 15, 2009
Tales From North Africa


June 01, 2009
Dont Freak If Your Fridge Fails


May 15, 2009
Into Africa


May 01, 2009
Meandering Around Malta, Then Off To Tunisia


April 15, 2009
Low-Tech DIY Ideas For The New Economy


April 01, 2009
The Med Set A Few Cruiser Profiles


March 15, 2009
That Sinking Feeling


March 01, 2009
Thailand to Oman: Three Passages, Three Ports


February 15, 2009
Doing Hard Time in Malta


February 01, 2009
Pirate Alley Part 2


January 15, 2009
Pirate Alley Part 1


January 02, 2009
So Many Islands, So Little Time


December 15, 2008
Cruising With The Bear


December 01, 2008
Versatile Vinegar, The Boaters Friend


November 15, 2008
What I Did In This Summer -- Dock Masters In paradise


November 01, 2008
Over The Top Of Oz


October 16, 2008
The Tumultuous Tasman


October 01, 2008
Sweet Memories Of The Splendid Surins


September 15, 2008
And Then We Were In Malta


September 01, 2008
Feel Frees Siracusan Story


August 15, 2008
The Best of Times, The Worst of Times


August 01, 2008
All Tied Up In The Ionians


July 15, 2008
A Greek Odyssey Our Journey to Ithaca


July 01, 2008
Anatomy of a Near Catastrophe


June 15, 2008
Good-bye Turkey, Hello Greece


June 01, 2008
More Winter Cruising in Turkey


May 15, 2008
Winter Cruising in Turkey


April 15, 2008
Talking Turkey: Marmaris Marina Living


April 15, 2008
The Joy Of The Side Trip


April 01, 2008
Return to Marmaris, And The Budget


March 15, 2008
Passing Time And Dodging The Meltemi


March 01, 2008
Home Sweet Home


February 15, 2008
A Little Working, A Little Cruising


February 01, 2008
Working Our Way Around The World


January 15, 2008
Welcome Aboard Feel Free


January 01, 2008
Liz Tosonis and Tom Morkins Feel Free


January 01, 2008
About Tom Morkin and Liz Tosoni


January 01, 2008
About Feel Free


January 01, 2008
Voyage Itinerary


July 15, 2011
The Joy of Books

West Lemmon Cays
Kuna Yala (San Blas Islands), Panama

The skies are heavy, clouds metal grey, the wind is howling, it’s raining off and on. A rare phenomenon in these parts, but it does happen. And who cares? Not us. Our anchor is secure and we’ve got books, glorious books. Is there anything more enjoyable than curling up with a good book on a gloomy day no matter where you are in the world?

The Voyage of the Northern Magic (McClelland and Stewart Ltd., 2002) by Diane Stuemer is one of those books to curl up with. It appeals not only to people who mess about with boats but also, landlubbers. When Tom’s sister Jane, who isn’t exactly what you’d call a book worm, or a boatie, visited us recently, she quickly realized there are certain times of the day aboard Feel Free that are sacred to us; for example, early morning quiet time featuring coffee and reading. It’s like a religion. Jane didn’t go for the coffee but she seamlessly slid into the reading thing.

When handed the Stuemer story, Jane became enthralled. She couldn’t put it down, as I couldn’t when I read it. Every spare moment Jane was grabbing for that book.

Not only is it a spellbinding saga of the 40,625 mile circumnavigation of a 42 foot sailing vessel over four years (1,445 days, 1997- 2001) through 34 countries, it’s also the remarkable odyssey of a family of five- parents Diane and Herbert Stuemer and three young sons, Michael, Jonathan and Christopher. The family set out from Canada’s capital city, Ottawa, with very little sailing experience but huge amounts of anticipation, determination, energy, and spirit, as well as a healthy dose of apprehension. They had a dream and they were going to fulfill it come hell or high water.

As is often the case with sailing couples and families, the dream originated with the male. Over a twenty year period Herbert spoke about his lifetime dream while his wife Diane humoured him, trusting he would eventually give up the crazy idea. “That’s a great dream, honey, and everybody should have big dreams” was her refrain over and over.

A near fatal accident for him and a serious cancer scare for her dramatically changed their outlook and the very fabric of their lives. They were mired in despair and feared for their future. Life goals and priorities were re-evaluated, material success suddenly appeared hollow. The idea of a sailing trip around the world took shape and Herbert and Diane both became passionate that they were meant to do it as a family. An initial ten year strategy evolved into a one year plan which included buying a boat, selling their thriving business, renting out their house, taking courses and all the associated preparations for such a monumental journey.

As impossible and even foolish as it may sound, this tenacious and determined couple managed to pull it off and after a harried, frantic year were heading off into the sunset to see the world. The story of their voyage is filled with incredible highs and lows, written in a captivating style that grabs your heart and fills you with admiration. You get to know the whole family and the people they meet intimately through Diane’s vivid descriptions. Everything that you can imagine could go wrong did go wrong from hellacious storms at sea to mechanical failures to being arrested in a remote archipelago to being hit by lightning. Often you wonder how they could possibly manage to carry on, but carry on they did, making significant contributions in places like the jungles of Borneo and remote African villages, arriving back in their home port four years later with a crowd of 2,500 people cheering them on and welcoming them back.

Diane’s weekly reports to the Ottawa Citizen newspaper meant that thousands of people were completely familiar with their everyday existence aboard their small floating home and the joys and dramas experienced during their epic journey. Little did the Stuemers know that they had made so many new friends back home!

At the other end of the scale is another book for your reading pleasure, especially if you are considering setting off on a long or short term cruise on your own boat one day. Around the World in WandererIII (Adlard Coles Ltd., 1956) by Eric Hiscock is a classic. In fact, Eric and Susan Hiscock should perhaps be considered the grandfather and grandmother of modern day cruisers. They were among the first to hatch the idea of sailing around the world in their own boat, and accomplish it, setting out from Yarmouth, Isle of Wight, England in 1952, returning in 1955.

Theirs is believed to be the first circumnavigation ever made by so small a vessel (30 feet) with a crew of only two. They gained an international reputation as popular cruisers through Eric’s many photographs, magazine articles and books about their adventures.

This is one of the many books I devoured before Tom and I set off in 1985. It’s a keepsake, having been given to us by Lou, one of my sisters one Xmas a long time ago. It remains in Feel Free’s permanent collection and is definitely not for trade in any of the yachtie book swaps.

The book is brought out of our library from time to time to review passages they made that we might be considering, to see how they made out and what kind of conditions they encountered or simply to recall their refreshing attitude toward handling situations and experiences.

Unlike Herbert and Diane Stuemer, both Eric and Susan had a lifetime of sailing experience on small boats before heading off on their great journey of discovery. A sail to the Azores from England aboard their previous boat Wanderer II, a 24 footer, whet their appetites for a bigger adventure. They realized however that their beloved 24 foot boat was too small to live in for a period of three years, and that it didn’t have the space needed for the stowage of the mountain of provisions and gear they’d require, which included a full stock of photographic materials and darkroom equipment “so that we could develop our films on board and enlarge to whole plate size”. Wouldn’t they be dumbstruck to see the way pictures are developed on board boats these days! They obviously needed a bigger boat and so, managed to save sufficient funds to have a 30 foot yacht designed and built especially for their voyage.

Being eminently practical people, the Hiscocks took many trial cruises after launching Wanderer III and actually looked for gales in order to test the boat’s seaworthiness and learn how to handle her in rough conditions. Here they are being greeted by the Harbour Master in Yarmouth England at the end of their voyage.

Their small yacht was equipped with a small engine and as Eric put it “But her auxiliary is only a 4 horse power motor, the chief function of which is to charge the 12 volt battery.” When in the island of Dominica in the Caribbean where the British fleet used to lay, he remarked that “the more we learn of the remarkable feats of British seamen in the lusty days of sail, the more do we admire their skill and hardihood.” Well, that’s exactly the way you could describe feelings for this plucky pair as you work your way through the story, marvelling at their grit and daring as they circled the globe, seen through Eric’s self effacing, often humorous writing style.

I laughed when I read the story of their visit to La Palma in the Canary Islands where “the climate is hot but the women are stuffily dressed in black so Susan wore a skirt ashore.” They were low on fresh water and so, had to collect it in jugs and needed to do a dinghy surf landing to accomplish this task, so Susan wore “her most demure shorts.” Passengers and driver in a passing bus were so fascinated by the “amazing sight of a woman with legs” that the vehicle was nearly capsized as the “human freight” moved bodily to one side for a better view. How times have changed! Short shorts and low cut tops with push up bras are the order of the day in the Canaries these days. And the simplest of water makers could provide them with a couple of gallons of water per hour.

Despite the absence of modern technology on board the Wanderer though, we present day cruisers have so much to learn from and owe a tremendous debt to Eric and Susan Hiscock. Heavy weather management, navigation techniques, sail trim and self steering, celestial bodies, even such practical matters as how to keep cockroaches off your boat, and so much more, all are described in such a pleasing and charming style. The Hiscocks are like the elders of the yachting community, their advice, age old and their books well worth having on board.

 

 

“What you can do or think you can do, begin it. For boldness has magic, power and genius in it.”

-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe