Caribbean Crossing

A bit late getting this post up, a few happy distractions at home including the birth of our baby girl and a big move into the mountains.  Updates next post!

The “Mahina” Expedition

In December, I had the wonderful opportunity to serve as crew sailing across the Caribbean Sea under the guidance of John and Amanda Neal. We sailed from Antigua to Panama over the course of two weeks. We made landfalls in Montserrat, Columbia, throughout the San Blas archipelago, and Portobelo before entering Colon, the Caribbean entrance to the Panama Canal.


John and Amanda Neal

John and Amanda Neal

John and Amanda have sailed around the world many times over.  They have explored most cursing grounds from Australia to Africa, Antarctica to Svalbard and the Mediterranean. They have been featured on countless covers of sailing magazines, written books, and are recognized as a few of the best sailors in the world. They invite sailors (for a fee of course) to learn passage-making skills on their own Hallberg Rassy 46 as they sail around the world.  What a life- right!


Just after making the turn off the coast of Montserrat. Now heading towards the Columbian coast!  All open ocean from here as the sun sets.

Expedition Goals

The ocean crossing is designed as a learning expedition to help novices (like me) gain offshore passage making skills, including mastering seamanship, navigation, and heavy weather tactics.  John also helps with boat purchasing decisions which will be very helpful when the time comes.  Additionally, the course also provides a certificate documenting training which will also help qualify when we purchase offshore boat insurance.  The sail also logs a few more weeks of sea time which will credit towards my coast guard captain application. But above all else, I just want to keep my family and friends safe on the water.  It was important for me to learn from the best rather than going out and volunteering on an ocean crossing with a questionably experienced captain.

The Boat “Mahina Tiare”

The Marina Tiare is a 46 foot Hallberg Rassy.  Built on the Swedish island of Orust,  Hallberg Rassys are well-known for their stablity and safety at sea.  Lauren and I visited Orust last summer and toured the Hallberg Rassy factory.


Lauren and I, last year on our dream boat HR 40, on the island of Orust.

During our visit, I learned that John and Amanda are well-known to the boat builders on the island.   Mahina Tiare had also been featured on the Hallberg Rassy website and pictures of her sailing in open ocean are highlighted on two months of this years Hallberg Rassy calendar.


The Mahina Tiare “Ship Shape” and secure in Colon, Panama after completing the crossing.

The Crew

I had the pleasure of sailing with…

Brian and Tammi– They have plans to purchase a boat and sail 3-6 months a year, island hopping throughout the Caribbean.  Brian is an ear, nose and throat surgeon.  Tammi an accomplished accountant.  Before Brian pursued a career in medicine he piloted fighter jets for the US Air-force.  Lots of amazing stories!


Brian and Tammi enjoying some down time, Tammi was the best navigator on the ship and we all asked her where we where from time to time!

Karen and Linwood– Retired engineers and both ex-Navy.  Lin served on a submarine during his navy days.  Needless to say, Lin never had a problem with sea sickness during our crossing like the rest of us.    Karen and Lin are boat owners who are looking to sail up and down the east coast in retirement.  They have a dog named Moose!


Lin and Karen, Lin knew everything there is to know about sailing and boats, they sent me a wonderful book on sail boat design after the trip.

Ken, an orthopedic trauma surgeon from Alaska.  A great sailor and humanitarian.  He just completed a crossing from the US east coast to the Caribbean with another crew.


Ken and Brian, enjoying some nice easy downwind sailing.  Looks like a boat speed of 7.9 knots from the instrument panel, not bad!

Education at Sea

All our sailing was done without the use of autopilot, John thought it was particularly important to gain endurance on the helm and learn to anticipate the ship movements under heavy seas. We took turns on watch and on the helm throughout day and night. I was on the helm 10-12am, 4-6pm 12-2am, 4-6am.


Selfie on the helm!

Life at sea was exciting but this was defiantly not a pleasure cruise! Teaching was nearly continuous. Absolutely no alcohol underway, not even coffee as dehydration at sea could get very serious quickly.  We were required to drink and document at least 3-4 L water daily.  In addition to sailing (trimming sails, reefing sails, plotting navigation, cleaning, watch duties, helm duties, and trying to occasionally sleep)  John had written an expedition companion for his students to read.  He and Amanda held practical lecturers at least 4 hours a day and we were tested on the content.


Lectures included a range of topics including -Safety Systems, Boat Systems, On Deck Procedures, Storm Sailing Techniques, Meteorology, Navigation, Communication at Sea, and Anchoring Techniques.  It was all pretty incredible and very organized.


Amanda did most of the cooking and ran the galley, the meal underway were fabulous.  Amanda wrote a book on the subject “The Essential Galley Companion”

While underway, we also learned all kinds practical skills such as sail repair, marine diesel maintenance, safety techniques, provisioning for long distance passage-making, even how to tow a generator under sail.  Every day we worked on learning a new knots.  We plotted our own course across the Caribbean and kept detailed hourly position logs and notable weather changes.


Every hour, 24 hours a day we plotted essential information into the ships log. With all the data readily accessible, even small changes in weather pattern become obvious when trended.

John and Amanda had their students handle all operations and boat handeling while underway.


Brian and John pulling in our fishing lines at dusk

Sailing, then learning about sailing, then learning about boat systems, day in day out as we crossed the Caribbean is just about as good as it gets. I loved watching the sun rise up over the water every morning on while on the helm.


Another Sunrise!

Sailing Conditions

Typically, swells are significant and winds brisk when sailing the Christmas trades across the Caribbean.  We had average conditions.  Healthy 20 knot winds with swells occasionally 10-12 feet.  The crossing required constant sail reefing but we never faced conditions that required sea anchors or advanced heavy weather tactics.   The swells were large enough that we all suffered a good amount of time dealing with sea sickness.  All part of the experience!


Screen shot from the weather app “Windy”  Columbia is partially composed of the northern terminus of the Andes mountain range.  The topography of the range contributes to the rough seas.

Land HO! Not all ocean sailing!

The crossing was very eventful.  As we sailed west out of Antigua, we enjoyed landfalls off the island of Montserrat, the city of Santa Marta-Columbia, multiple anchorages throughout the San Blas Island, the city of Porobelo- Panama, and the city of Colon-the Caribbean entrance to the Panama Canal.  The variety presented unique and exciting sailing challenges all of which contributed to learning.

Antigua —> The Island of Montserrat


Beautiful Antigua


Jolly Harbor, Antigua

After a day sail west off the island of Antigua, we arrived at the island of Montserrat were we anchored overnight.

The island of Montserrat is gorgeous, but half of the island is decimated from a fairly recent volcanic eruption and is still off-limits to visitors.  John and Amanda were able to get in contact with a guide service who took us around the island to explore the ruins.


Montserrat, you can see the lava flow that extends out into the ocean that completely devastated the island.  Still off limits as experts expect the volcanic activity to continue.

Montserrat –> Santa Marta, Columbia


Approaching Santa Marta


Columbia or Bust!

Colombian law allows visiting vessels to stop for up to 72 hours without clearing customs.  Great news for us, but unfortunately this resulted in no official stamp on my passport. We secured our boat in the new beautiful new IGY Marina for the night.


Santa Marta is the oldest city in Latin America, very few tourist and most visitors were Columbian.  This provided a fantastic cultural experience.  We all enjoyed a dinner at Donde Chucho, a nearby fish restaurant.  I took an early AM run through the city giving my legs a good stretch after a week on the water.





We also visited a sailing family in the marina.  Jon, Mia and their six year old son Teo (From Norway). Our captain John helped them select their boat a years ago and they are now sailing around the world as a family.  They just returned from an eco-lodge out in the Amazon.  I had the privilege of reading Teo’s travel journal.  I loved his illustrations and descriptions of all the exciting animals he came across during their side trip to the Amazon.  He was so excited to tell his story.  What a worldly education!


I really appreciated the boat Christmas tree

John and Amanda seemed to have friends at every Anchorage!

Santa Marta –> San Blas Islands (Swimming Pool Anchorage near Caliber Island, East Hollades Cays)


290 miles and 3 days later, we made landfall in the San Blas.  The San Blas consists of approximately 400 beautiful islands,  home to the Kuta Indians.  An epic sailing paradise!


Its advantageous to have good sunlight above when navigating around coral reefs.  You can clearly see the color changes of the water as depths change.  We always had a watch on deck.   Many boats have been lost in this area.

Coral reefs at every turn, most charts are unreliable in the San Blas so all navigation required a keen lookout at all times.



San Blas Mast

Having a bit of fun at anchor!

Caliber Island–> Mormake Tupe

Mormake Tupe is also known as Isla Maquina.  When we visited the island John paid regards to the village chief  by offering a small bag or rice.  We then toured the village and purchased “molas” (hand made fabric art) from the Kuna seamstresses.  John and Amanda provided donated reading glasses to the villagers.


Anchored off Mormake Tupe

Access to the village is extremely restricted,  it is only because of John and Amanda’s special relationships with the locals we were allowed the privilege to visit the small island village.




Local kids looked pretty excited to see me!


Beautiful molas, out for display and for sale.  I picked up a few and we have them framed under glass at home.


The real sailors on the water


Mormake Tupe–>Gaigar Anchorage

We Anchored overnight at Gaigar Anchorage, which was well protected from wind by mangrove trees.


John and Amanda motored the dingy to the lone shelter at the base of the bay, asked for permission to anchor in the bay and gave the family a gift of rice and fresh produce.


Practice going aloft! Fantastic views!

Gaigar Anchorage–> Bread Man Anchorage

A short day stop at a semi-exposed anchorage, off and island with no name that is occupied by a “bread man”.  We of course enjoyed fresh kuna bread before heading towards Yansandar Island as we made our way west.





Bread Man Anchorage–> Yansadar Island in Cayos Chichime

We anchored overnight off the shore of Yansadar Island,  a tiny one hut island.  The family living on the island paddled out to greet us.  John and Amanda gave them rice, onions and apples.


We were invited ashore for a visit where we explored the island.



Our boat Mahina Tiare anchored off in the distance


Yansadar Island –> Portobelo, Panama

After a full day of 20+ knot downwind sailing off the coast of the beautiful Panamanian isthmus, we arrived in Portobelo, Panama.


Passing another cruising boat heading west towards Portobelo


Sailing under a reefed jib and main


Potobelo, Panama

Portobelo is a deep natural harbor.  Legend has it that Christopher Columbus originally named the port meaning “Beautiful Port” It was established during the Spanish colonial period and the ruins of the Spanish colonial fortifications are one of the first things we noticed when entering the bay.  The other thing we noticed was the twenty or so shipwrecks thought the harbor.  I could not believe it, the whole place had a creepy wasteland, end of the road feel to it.  It turns out the a hurricane swept through the area and most of the boats moored in the harbor were destroyed. Nevertheless, very beautiful and we enjoyed a charming visit.


Can you see the shipwreck?



Portobelo –> Colon, the Atlantic Entrance to the Panama Canal

After exploring Portobelo, we sailed to Colon, the Caribbean entrance to the Panama Canal.  Lots of ships on the water!


AIS displaying lots of traffic outside Colon



Our main with a preventer line attached for safety as we entered Colon.

We completed our crossing in Colon.  Brian and Tammy attempted to join another boat as crew to pass though the canal.  The rest of us said our goodbyes and headed back to celebrate Christmas.  John and Amanda took a week off in Panama before a new group of students joined up with the Mahina Tiare.  John and Amanda are continuing their expedition west where they plan to sail to Hawaii, then down to French Polynesia for a few years.  We all plan to keep in touch and hopefully cross each other on the water sometime soon.

It was an honor to be part of the Mahina Tiare crew and to meet so many wonderful people. I look forward to more sailing adventures with my family and friends in the near future.


Fair Winds-




Boat children leaving their mark on the marina wall.  Panama is the end of the road for some, but for many just a start as they head west into the South Pacific.

Sail Log of the “Jenny”- Sweden’s Bohuslän Coast

This was a very special trip for me.  Around 20 years ago I sailed a similar route with my father on his 1972 Hallberg Rassy 31 foot sloop.  “Pada Rae” (to keep afloat) is solid, full keeled, Swedish-built boat that is almost impossible to turn.  It has no GPS, no depth finder, and no navigation equipment.  With just paper charts, a set of decent binoculars and my dads unwaviring enthusiasm, we sucesifully navigated the rocky Swedish coast and had a blast.

At that time we sailed from Åmål, my mothers home town on Lake Vänern, and passed through a large canal that connects Lake Vänern via a series of locks to the coastal city of Gothenberg. We then headed north up Sweden’s west coast towards Norway. It was a formative time in my life and inspired this homecoming.

Now I return to Sweden’s “Bohuslän Coast” with my pregnant wife and great friends to celebrate my 40th birthday! We are joined by the Kratz family, including Maya (2 years old) and Noah (2 months old).

I could not ask for anything more as I push up and over the hill!


Heading into Marstrand on my 40th Birthday

Sail Plan


Sail Plan, Garmin Blue Water Charts (iPad)

Sail Plan

Day one: Check in and enjoy a night on the boat, City Marina, Gothenburg

Day two: City Marina,Gothenburg —>Åstol Island

Day three Åstol Island —> Gullholmen

Day four: Extra night on beautiful Gullholmen (planned to sail north to Hunebostrand but the weather was uncooperative)

Day five: Gullhomen —> Käringön Island

Day six: Käringön Island —> Marstrand Island

Day seven: Marstrand —> City Marina Gothenburg, night on the boat and boat check out in AM


For this adventure, we chartered a new 2017 Bavaria 37 foot sloop.  We chartered through “Nautilus Yachting” based out of England, who more or less connected us with a local Swedish boat charter company “Sweden Yacht Charters”. They were excellent.  Easy to work with and available for any questions leading up the the sail.  Our boat was ready on time and in excellent shape.



When preparing for our week out sailing, I found very little information on the cruising grounds.  In the Caribbean and Croatia, I was able to purchase pilot books prior to the sail in order to get a feel for the anchorages, harbors and local conditions.  Local knowledge is key and it was unfortunate that no such recourse is available. To get around this inconvenience, I made a few calls to the Harbor Masters at each port to get an idea of the proper procedure for using their guest harbors and to check availability.  I also found a decent iPhone app which had links to outstanding satellite views of the harbors so I could familiarize myself with the area prior to sailing into the marinas.  I guess I’m not as adventurous as my father, but we had some important cargo onboard so I wanted to be prepared.

When calling Marstrand’s Harbor Master, I came to discover there was the biggest boat show in Northern Europe on the Island precisely on the same day we planned to stay the night.  We simply adjusted out schedule a bit and sailed our first leg up to Åstol then enjoyed Marstrand when heading back down the coast.

City Marina,Gotengerg —>Åstol Island 8-27-17


Our Sail track in Green

During our first leg, we enjoyed a consistent 15 kt wind out of the North-NW, we set a reef in the main to keep the the boat flat and comfortable for the crew.  We kept Maya, our two year old crew member, tethered to the deck to keep her safe while underway.   The coast is extremely rocky, many hazards are unmarked.  We all kept a keen eye on our position as we tacked through the narrow channel.  Navigation was a full time job while underway.  Lots of Rocks…lots.


Rocks, and plenty of them!

After a fanatic first day familiarizing ourselves with our new boat, enjoying sights of Sweden’s coast, and realizing that or 2 year old on board- Maya loved sailing.

We easily secured the boat in Åstols Guest Harbor.  What a place!  The harbor is nearly completely protected from winds.  It has become my favorite island besides Anegada!


Image downloaded from Google Images


Åstol, Sweden



A magical place!

30.6 nm Sailed

Fair Winds,


Åstol Island —> Gullholmen 8-28-17

Getting an early start, we continued north to beautiful Gullholmen.  Winds were westerly and light, 8-14 knots and seas were gentle.  Given the favorable conditions, we decided to head out to sea after negotiating multiple islands east of Åstol.


A great day of sailing north to Gullholmen, between Islands when leaving Åstol, a bit of open ocean sailing, and motoring up the narrow inlet outside Orust before entering Gullholmen

It is noteworthy that this area can get wild, it lacks the protection from the open ocean that Denmark and Norway provide.   A strong westerly swell can make things unpleasant.  However, conditions were ideal and we enjoyed a comfortable sail north, winds were consistently off our port beam.  I placed 2 reefs in our main to keep the boat flat  (one for each baby on board!). We averaged 5 to 6 knots under sail despite the reefs in the main.


Sweden’s West Coast, exposure to West swells. Open ocean between Denmark (south) and Norway (north).  Our track in Green

Dropping our sails outside Käringön, we motored through the well marked, narrow passage to Gullholmen. Overall it was a wonderful sail, lots of navigation, open water sailing, ending with motoring between many islands as we approached Orust.


Well marked channels can provide protection from westerly swells if needed, most of all it provides great views.  Our track in green after passing the island of Käringön

We entered Gullhomen and secured “Jenny” in the Guest Harbor for two nights, allowing time to relax and enjoy this fantastic town.



Gullhomen from our drone 

19.5 nm sailed

Fair Winds!


Gullholmen —> Käringön Island 8-30-17

We decided to spend an extra night in Gullholmen. For one, we needed and extra day to explore and enjoy this wonderful place.  Second, an aggressive low pressure system off the western coast of Norway kicked up the winds, forecasted to ocasionaly gust over 30 knots up Swedens Coast.  We were quite cozy and secure in Gullholmen’s well protected harbor so we decided not to venture further north.


Looking back it was a good choice, we enjoyed our time on the island and the extra night gave the young one time to play and run off the boat.  As the low pressure ventured further north, winds settled down, eventually shifted westerly as we set sail south towards the island of Käringön.

As we departed, winds died down to just 8-11 knots.  Swells however were significant at  3-5 feet so we did experience significant rocking and rolling, likely from the low that passed to the north west.  It was a bit uncomfortable at times for the crew, particularly when attending to small children below deck.  Fortunately, our sail was short, just 10 nm south.


Overall we enjoyed a lovely sail south.   While keeping a close look out for exposed rocks, we managed our way back into protected waters and secured Jenny in Käringön’s guest harbor.



Käringön, Downloaded from Google Images


We were amazed by the beauty of this island, unbelievable!

9.8 nm sailed

Fair Winds,


Käringön Island —> Marstrand Island 8/31/17

Today was a day to enjoy the wonders of Sweden’s west coast.  Deciding to stay clear of developing westerly swells, we motored through well protected channels and made our way south from Käringön to Marstrand.


We passed alongside many charming harbors, costal towns, and small fishing villages as we maneuvered Jenny through the archipelago.  We took a few mental notes of some fine places tie up during future endeavors.



Mollösund, Orust

We entered Marstrand, secured our boat Jenny, and enjoyed an exciting night of celebration!


Distance motored 18.2 nm

Fair Winds,


Marstrand —> City Marina Gothenburg 9-1-17

Perfect sailing conditions to finish off our week! Consistent 20 knot winds out of the west and lots of sun as we pointed jenny back to her home port in Gothenburg.


Sailing south, we stayed on a single starboard tack as we proceed down the coast.  Daniel managed the helm with precision as we kept a keen lookout for exposed rocks and small islands.  It really was a fantastic sail.  We averaged 8 knots and had a blast!  What a way to finish off our week.


Daniel dominating on the helm


No sailing once you pass below the bridge, lots of traffic through Göteborg’s busy port.



Cheers to a great crew! 

23 nm sailed

Signing off until next time!

Fair Winds,


Sail Log of the “Ellis Island II”- Redondo Beach to Catalina Island, California

Catalina Sail

We chartered our old faithful, Elis Island II, out of our home port of King Harbor. We enjoyed a 3 night, 4 day sail exploring Catalina Island. We were joined by family…. Jackie, Jim and Jamie Melton!


We have chartered the Ellis Island many times.  She is part of the Marina Sailing feet.  Ellis Island is a sturdy, well worn Catalina 34 foot sloop with lots of “character.”  Despite being a bit run down, the owner always lets us take along his personal kayak and paddle boards, a nice bonus!


Zero wind leaving Redondo

We departed from Redondo Beach King Harbor for lengthy 30 nm sail to Avalon Harbor situated on the southeast end of the island.  Winds were light so we motor sailed the entire way.


Great new app for wind lovers..check it out at

Sail Catalina

Our GPS track, Redondo Beach to Avalon

Despite the light winds, during the San Pedro crossing we faced a mixed 3 ft swell that caused Ellis Island to yaw from side to side.  By raising the mainsail and keeping the main sheet tight, the light wind stabilized the boat a while motoring.  This smoothed out the yaw, creating a bit more comfortable ride for the crew (an attempt anyway).


Along the Catalina Coast

After a lovely day and night spent exploring Avalon, we proceeded up the cost for a beautiful motor sail to Two Harbors.  Again, conditions were light and enjoyable.


Our track from Avalon to Two Harbors

After a rather relaxing cruise up the Catalina coast, we secured Ellis Island to a mooring ball in Isthmus Cove.


 Drone shot over Isthmus Cove

The mooring system is a bit different in Catalina.  Rather than only securing the bow to the mooring ball (as is typical in the British Virgin Islands) the system at Catalina requires a second stern hawser.  This effectively prevents the boat from swinging around the mooring ball, allowing more boats to squeeze into the harbor lined up side to side.


It does take a little practice as the boat will swing until the stern line can be secured.  Just a little reverse engine will cause a “prop walk,” a sheering force which tends to twist the stern to port.

As always when securing a boat…. slow is gold! Jackie and Jim were a great help getting us tied up without complications!



After few nights of great food and fantastic company, we motor-sailed home.  Conditions were warm, and winds were light.  We kept the music loud to dampen the constant hum of Ellis Island’s engine purr.


Fair Winds!


Sail Log of the Nina Croatia

Agana to the Island of Solta, Maslinica. 

We begin our sail log of our charter boat Nina on the central coast of Croatia, Marina Agna,  just north west of the city Split.

We chartered with the company Sunsail and upon arrival we were immediately impressed by the professionalism of the of the company and supporting staff.  Lauren and I attended our captain briefing which gave us an overview of the cruising grounds. The briefing mostly consisted of which harbors will provide the best shelter for any given wind direction we may encounter.

We were then notified that our boat was clean and ready to board.   We received a very through boat briefing by one of the expert boat technicians where we were introduced to all the major systems on the boat.  We inspected the standing and running rigging, and were ensured the boat was “ship shape” before our week on the Adriatic.  After time spent provisioning for the week, we relaxed and settled into our new home.


During our first evening, we both attended the Medsail welcome reception, caught up with old friends, and enjoyed our first night on our boat.

The next morning, after a glorious slumber,  I attended my first series of lectures -all part of the conference- “Medicine for Mariners and Saftey at Sea”.  We covered a few basic topics including Sea Sickness (etiology, prevention and treatment) as well as topics surrounding solar injury.

We then enthusasticaly set sail to Maslinica, a picturesque village on the island of Solta.

Our track in green, taken from our ipad Garmin Blue Water App.

Conditions were quite good for sailing, a low pressure system passed through overnight resulting in exciting downwind sailing and brisk winds out of the north.

Initially we hoisted a full main and unraveled a full jib, but quickly realized the gusty 20 knot winds slightly overpowered Nina so we rolled in the jib to the first reefing mark, reducing her heel.

After making our turn to the south, we preformed a series of long jibes before entering the beautiful harbor of Maslinica.   The marina was quite busy when we arrived, creating quite a bit of congestion at the harbors entrance.   We decided to circle outside the entrance to allow other boats who arrived before us time to tie up to the marina dock.  The idea was to clear up some mauvering room for Nina as we were inexperienced with Meditation Mooring.  While circling and waiting our turn we enjoyed our first close look at Maslinica.


Entering Maslinica, Solta Island


Circling outside Maslinica

On a side note-Prior to entering a new harbor, I get a good look at the digital chart to get an appreciation of any obvious obstacles to avoid.  I also find it useful to take a look at google earth to gain an understanding how boats are situated through the marina.  Perhaps a bit of overkill here, but planning is part of the fun for Lauren and I and its gets us excited about our new destination.


Google Earth, Maslinica

We were able to successfully mediterranean moor on the south side of the marina.  We also found the facilities and marina staff top notch.  We were offered all kinds of support  when docking.  Marina officers were zipping around in zodiacs, aiding in the docking process as boats squeezed into the marina, side by side, stern to, throughout the day.


Overall our first leg was a fantastic shake down sail for us.  We completed our first docking stern-to and loved every minute of it! Next stop, the Island of Vis!


Distance Sailed 12.0 nm

Fair Winds,


Maslinica to the Island of Vis, Vis Town

Our next leg was an exciting 20 nautical mile crossing, 180 degree south, to the Croatian island of Vis.  The weather was warm, and the our predicted wind forecast was perfect;  Constant 15-20 knot which had shifted Westerly.

Before sailing off, I attended our next series of lectures: “Onboard Medial Emergencies, Responsibilities of the Medical Officer, and Marine Envenomations”, just fantastic stuff! We had a good long slog ahead of us and Lauren and I were eager to make way.  When I returned to Nina after the conference, Lauren and already set up the boat for sailing, completed all our pre-sail instrument checklists and we were ready to push off.


Our GPS track in Green

As Lauren mentioned in a previous blog, our sail to Vis was quite similar to our experiences sailing in California to Catalina Island.  Vis is approximately the same distance off the mainland as Catalina, with a similar shape and topagraphy.  The manner in which Vis unveiled herself as we slowly approached created a cozy, nostalgic feeling of home.   Notable exceptions included the lack of any significant ground swell, fog, or worries negotiating enourmous cargo tankers that we invariably encounter crossing the channel to Catalina.


182 Degrees South, Vis coming into view

Winds were ideal.  Our gauges displayed boat speeds over 7 knots, just reaching our calculated maximum hull speed.   Wind speeds were occasionally recorded at over 25 knots, however, we did not trust our gauges, and attributed the wind high wind measurements as an apparent rather than true wind velocity  (our thinking was that our down wind boat speed was additive to the true wind speed with some sort of calibration error in our electronics).


25 knots? Probably around 18.

Regardless, it was an exhilarating sail to Vis under a full jib and a fully hoisted mainsail.  Just the right amount of heel to keep our speed optimized.



As we entered the harbor, we prepared our boat for docking by taking down the sails, setting out our fenders and tidying up all our loose lines.  We faced bit of cross wind during our approach, but we had plenty of room to maneuver and safely secured Nina and enjoying our first views of the island.


Overall it was a very memorable sail for Lauren and I.  Exploring the island of Vis was spectacular!

Distance Sailed 21.3 nm


Fair Winds,


Vis Town to Palmizana

After an action packed visit to Vis, including some time off the boat exploring the island via motor scooter, we were excited to head back out to sea to our next destination, Palmizana.  After two very interesting lectures, one in dive medicine, the other a review of recent dive accidents, Lauren once again had Nina ship shape for our next crossing.


Our track in Green

Palmizana is a small uninhabited village on the Croatian island of Sveti Klement (San Clemente).  Evidently, Palmizana’s marina is situated in one of the safest natural harbors in the Adriatic, only 3.5km from the neighboring island of Hvar.


Towing our Dingy (the Phat Fish) Vis in the distance

The sun was out and the weather was beautiful, winds shifted towards the SW, but unfortunately dropped down to 5-10 knots.  With our sails full, we averaged only 3 knots of boat speed.  I set the autopilot in these light winds, freeing our hands to enjoy delicious snacks.  The conditions were glorious so we decide to take a short detour and drop anchor in a bay on the south side of the island.


A number of large catamarans arrived before Nina.  They expertly dropped anchor in a shallower, more ideal area of the bay closer to shore, forcing us to anchor in approximately 40-50ft.  At this depth, I ran out 150 ft of chain, resulting in a 3:1 scope.  The anchor set well.  At that scope and depth I would not trust the holding as an overnight anchor, but it worked out perfect for a lunch stop! We enjoyed a peaceful lunch with beautiful island views.


After our lunch stop, we motored around the east end of the island through a tight passage, then preceded to north side of Palmizana.  Winds were light while securing Nina in the well protected, beautiful, natural bay.

A delightful passage!


14.8 nm sailed

Fair Winds,


Palmizana to the Island of Brac, Milna-Marina Vlaska

As Palmizana is largely uninhabited, it lacked the facilities or support to host our pre-sail lectures.  Understanding this, the “Medsail” conference organizers planed our morning lectures on Hvar Island, just a short ferry ride across the channel.  Topics included; Man Overboard, Safety at Sea, Seafood Toxidromes, Decompression Sickness and Issues Surrounding Arterial Gas Embolism when diving.

And yes! I did diagnosis myself with Scombroid in Dubrovnik, (Read Lauren’s blog!) a topic discussed in detail on Hvar.  A self diagnosis that I certainly would have missed without attending the lecture on Seafood Toxidromes!


Charming Dingy in Hvar

After an exciting visit to Hvar we set sail towards the town of Milna on Brac Island.   Initially, forecast called for light winds, 5-12 knots out of the SW, plenty of sun and easy sailing.


After rounding the west end of Hvar, we quickly realized a storm was approaching.  Nothing was reported in any of the forecasts! Winds shifted from SW to Northernly and the temperature quickly dropped about 10 degrees.  Now heading North towards Milna, Lauren observed frequent distant lighting strikes along the coastline. Visibility slowly worsened and we eventually lost sight of Brac Island.  We continued onward, somewhat reluctantly.  Light rain began to fall, and the winds picked up to 15 knots.  At that time we decided to take down our sails and prepare our boat for storm conditions. Lauren and I put on our rain gear, we made sure Nina’s hatches were tight, and we organized loose items below deck.  I even prepared the fenders early…. probably overkill… but my thinking at the time was that I did not want to be fumbling on the foredeck, tying the fenders to metallic lifelines in a lighting storm!

So now we were ship shape. We motored North towards Brac, winds continued to increase to over 35 knots.  Despite the conditions, we felt safe and secure on Nina. However, we did consider motoring to a nearby harbor if conditions continued to deteriorate.   We felt we had lots of options and plenty sea room if we got uncomfortable.

In order to get more information about developing conditions, I radioed ahead to a fellow flotilla captain who was positioned well north of our track and in a great positon to give us a wind report.   I was told that winds had eventually died down to around 18 knots as they approached Brac Island.  They also mentioned that our lead Sunsail Flotilla boat instructed all boats lower all sails!  I guess I missed the radio call, or the lead boat forgot about good old Nina!  However, all was well, and conditions improved as we approached our destination.


So after a bit of excitement, still under motor, we turned East towards Milna.  As we entered the bay, the wind dropped to almost a standstill and the sun slightly emerged.  We tied up at the marina, safe and sound; but amazed on how quickly the conditions can shift.  I love it!


13 nm Sailed ( around 6 under motor)


Fair Winds!


Marina Vlaska, Milna to Trogir

I believe I enjoyed two espressos and one delicious cappuccino during our MedSail Conference on the morning of the 25th!  We learned about marine wound care, management of drowning, cold water immersion, and we were presented an analysis of recent sailing tragedies and “lessons learned”.  Very informative and expertly presented topics!

The weather was beautiful, light winds forecasted 6-12 knots from the NE for our planned sail to the city of Trogir.



Our sail from Milna to Trogir turned out to be an easy, sun filled relaxing sail.  Winds were light at times, allowing us to really soak in our environment.  We enjoyed a long NW reach before dropping sails and entering Trogir.


Trogir is a beautiful and historic city, situated on the Croatian coast just south of the city Split.

IMG_2355As we entered the Trogir, we noticed a significant current passing between the islands  running from east to west.  By adjusting our angle of approach, and applying a bit more engine speed against the current, we secured Nina smoothly and easily in the ACI marina, situated on the south side of the harbor.


After a lovely sail, Lauren and I were eager to explore the city of Trogir.  We were off the boat and exploring in no time



17.4 nm sailed

Fair Winds,


Trogir to Agana Marina

Our last sail, a short 6 nm sail back to “Sunsial’s” home base of Agana Marina.  Sadly, this was our final day at sea.


Before setting off, I enjoyed our last group of lectures, “Updates on travel medicine, Marine infections”, and “Shark attacks and Health Maintenance at Sea”.  We said our goodbyes, exchanged contact information and made exciting sailing plans for the future. Overall, I was very impressed with the conference.  I learned an enormous amount and I look forward to continuing my work towards a Diploma in Dive and Marina Medicine.

As we prepared to set sail, conditions quickly changed.  Strong gusts up to 45 knots whipped through the harbor!  I then went to the marina office to pick up an updated daily marine forecast.


Warning! in the morning locally along the coast wind gusts 35-45 knots

Our plan was simple…. just wait a few hours until the winds lighted up.

While waiting out the winds, enjoying coffee, we watched a fully crewed boat attempt to enter the marina in these strong winds.   Unfortunately, the boat got caught up in the gusts, lost total control of the bow, and got pinned up sideway. Trapped on its side between the dock and the strong winds.  The boat was fine, and they received plenty of help to right themselves.

However, as we waited, the winds just did not lighten up! I started thinking seriously how to get Nina home safely.  Particular when observing other boats in distress.

In order to exit the harbor safely, we would need to

1. Drop the mooring line off the bow,  (this takes a bit of time)

2. Keep the boat strait, perpendicular to the dock using the engine and windward spring line

3. Drop the both stern lines (without getting the lines caught in our propeller once free)

4. Gain forward momentum, (careful as the strong wind is behind us)

5. Make a quick, controlled turn to starboard (right) against the force of the strong wind and current (careful to not get pinned against the other two boats directly facing us, just a few feet downwind and down current

6. Finally, when exiting the marina, (assuming I could make the turn in time) I would need to avoid other boats mooring lines that extend off their bow, effectively narrowing our exit even more


“The turn”  Looked worse when standing on the bow and calculating the turning radius!

My concern was the strong wind gusts and underlining current would make it extremely difficult to turn our boat safely.   If attempted, it was likely that the wind would push on the right side of our boat as I turned Nina towards the exit into the wind.  Also, Nina would have very little maneuvering room in the tight marina.  As a result, I would lack the necessary engine speed to counteract the forces of the wind.  I assumed, as we turned, Nina would invariably pivot to the left, giving way to the strong forces of the wind and current.  It was very possible I could loose control, get blown downwind,  and crash into the two boats just across the finger!

Lauren and I discusses this. I told her my concern that I honestly believed there was a good chance I would smash up our boat! Nothing like that could happen to our beloved Nina!  We agreed had we not had to turn in the boat by the evening, we would of just stayed put in Trogir waiting for conditions to improve.  Since this was not an option,  I decide to ask for help.

Some of the other conference members don’t sail, or they choose not to so they can relax! These boats have a paid Sunsail Captain on board.  Having these experts close by, we decided to get some help from Eddy, A Sunsail Captain and master sailor who has always been available to help out in situations such as these.

After some discussion with Eddy, who nervously laughed when he saw the tight and difficult conditions of our exit, we decided to use an extremely long spring line, and keep this line attached to the windward stern cleat and connected the dock as we motored out.  The line would prevent us from drifting into the other boats and we could use the line to twist the boat up wind.  Eddie controlled the line and the helm, letting out slack as he motored forward.  Lauren took care of all the other mooring lines as we moved off the dock.  I positioned myself on the bow.  I used a boat hook to grab a hold of the bow of the boat on our right as we turned.  These maneuvers prevented Nina from twisting downwind.  Eddy’s skilled work controlling the helm and the spring line, made it possible to exit the marina safely.

We did it!  Well, Eddy did it!  But I learned a new technique and Lauren was impressed I understood my limitations. Thanks Eddy!

After dropping off Eddy along the dock in Trogir, we enjoyed a fun sail back to Agana. Winds dropped off as we sailed West along the coast.  Marina Agana was well protected and we had no difficulty securing Nina safe and sound in Sunsail’s home marina.

Lauren and I loved our time in Croatia, we can’t wait to return and sail with family and friends.

6 nm sailed


Signing off until California!









Mediterranean Mooring in Croatia

Sailing in Croatia does present a few obstacles not faced when chartering in the British Virgin Islands.  

To sail without a hired captain (to bareboat) you do need a formal captains license. The base in Agana requires it and the local coast guard inspects vessels regularly. This includes privately owned vessels. I was able to convert my license from the American Sailing Association to an International equivalent prior to our departure. As this was our first charter in the area and as the base required a formal sailing endorsement, I was expecting channel 16 (emergency channel that a mariner is required to monitor at all times underway) to be quite professional as part of the required license is a VHF radio endorsement, however, our briefing captain let us know quickly that radio was full chatter from Italians crossing the Adriatic channel discussing wine, pasta, women…….anything but sailing emergencies. Lauren and I loved it, I just wish I could understand the Italian banter! Our briefing captain may have exacerbated a bit all in good fun.

In Croatia, getting into a marina requires to back your boat into the marina with the stern transom lying parallel to the dock. Below is our system for Mediterranean Mooring . For you expert sailors out there, take this with a grain of salt, but it worked well for us and I found this topic on the minds of most first time charters captains we encountered. I’m sure we will change things up next time, especially with a larger crew so join us and help out! One nice point to make is rather than anchoring offshore or tied to a mooring ball, stern to mooring puts your “apartment” right in center of the old city squares, just accross from coffee shops, restaurants, and makes for easy day excursions to explor the country.

1. Outside the marina, drop all sails in while in open water, get the boat ship shape. Tie off 3 fenders on each side of the boat, aft of the mast, I tie them off on the lifeline so crew can easily side the fenders for and aft to protect any contact point. I use a clew hitch so the fenders can be easily be undone and adjusted. When secure, I add a half hitch to the knot.

2. We then slow the boat down and retie our dingy from the stern cleat to the bow pulpit. I try to avoid using the bow cleat for the painter. (Dingy line) This leaves room on the cleat to tie off the sometimes very think mooring line. One line we had was so thick we had trouble tying it around the cleat. It’s never quite clear which side I will tie off the mooring line, but I try to keep the windward cleat free. I let out the painter line a few extra feet off the bow so it the dingy will float freely around other mooring lines extending off other boats. This way the dingy drags away and in front of the boat as you back in to your berth. 

3. Tie long stern lines to our starboard and port cleats. I tie a large bowline and secure the eye around each cleat, lead the bitter end outside of the stern via a chock, then back into the cockpit directly astern. Coil both lines on the lazerett so we can easily throw the lines to a marina agent. (Make sure the lines run outside of the pulpit so they can be tightened without obstruction). I take down the stern lifelines by unclipping the pelican clips to make it a bit easier to cast the lines off to the dock to the marina agent.

4. Take a quick visual inspection, checking the wind, current, make sure no loose lines are dragging in the water which can foil the propeller. Make sure no obstructions or lines obstruct the deck so you can move freely when tying down lines, avoiding trips etc. Get your boat hook ready. Look out for other boats leaving or entering the marina.

5, Determine wind direction. This is one of the most important steps. If across our starboard side when astern, we throw off the starboard stern line first, remember when the windward stern line is secure, you can use it as a spring line to keep control of you boat when attached while using forward propulsion. We did see few boats get pinned on the dock in high winds. It’s actually easier to enter a tight position as boats on either side will keep you in line.  (Remember you fenders in step one!)

6. Determine boat speed. It’s more difficult to control your boat while running astern. Slow is gold when docking, but as winds pick up, speed astern helps keep your steerage against the wind. Monohulls tend to pivot just aft of the mast, to counteract the crosswinds, use some speed with short burst of reverse propulsion to maintain control. 

7. Well outside your chosen spot, make you turn and start your approach stern to. I try to get as much room as possible so I can counteract prop walk which may require turning the helm full to starboard. The Marina agents will usually point to where they want you to dock. Giving yourself room so you can point yourself strait on, adjusting for current and wind with plenty of room, remember, the mooring lines extend forward of adjacent boats, so when entering make sure you avoid getting you keel under other boats lines. 

8. With just Lauren and I on the boat, I am on the helm, facing aft, controlling the boat under power while Lauren handles the lines. When in close Lauren will cast off the windward stern line to the marina agent. 

9. Using the boat hook, Lauren will then pick up the mooring line from the port or starboard side which is attached to the dock. Lauren will then pass the line hand over hand forward to secure the line on the bow cleat. (Use gloves! It’s also called a slime line)

10. Next the Marina agent will toss the windward stern line back to me, keeping a safe distance from the marina dock as Lauren is securing the mooring line, I will tie off and tighten the windward stern line.

11. Using gentle forward propulsion against the windward stern line, I try to keep the boat strait as Lauren secures the mooring line.

12. Next cast off and secure the leeward stern line, tighten all lines and your done! Make sure to keep an eye on the lines during the procedure, all of which are in close proximity to the propeller.

13. Enjoy the views!

Fair Winds!


Adriatic Winds

“At sea, I learned how little a person needs, not how much.”
-Robin Lee Graham

Captain’s Log, A first look, Sailing in Croatia. 

The Adriatic coast is rich in history and culture, however, for sailors the Adriatic is known for its winds, and they are legendary!

In stark contrast to the reliable “Christmas Winds” experienced sailing the British Virgin Islands, the Mediterranean has more than 45 localized winds all of which have formal names. Many are the result of funneling caused by mountainous terrain adjacent to the sea. They can reach gale force, so keeping an eye on the weather, utilizing local experts and speaking with fisherman and sailors will be essential for safe sailing. We do have excellent resources via our charter company, but the opportunity to understand and experience these ancient winds is an exciting part of our sail planning.

The compass rose is derived from the wind rose developed by Mediterranean sailors in ancient times to depict the directions of commonly occurring winds. Each has an identifying characteristic, hot, cool, dry humid and since they are faithful in direction, they were once valuable navigational guides.

A local wind worth mentioning specific to the Adriatic that we may encounter is the Bora. The Bora is a north-northeast Adriatic wind influenced by he Dinaric Alps. It’s a cold wind that can develop suddenly and it usually blows in gusts.  If encountered, we plan to quickly and safely reach our nearest harbor! The key is to watch high and low pressure systems just as we would when monitoring for Santa Ana winds off the coast of California.  If a cold high pressure area develops behind the Dinaric mountain range to the NE, and a warm low pressure area moves to the south over the warm Adriatic, wind created by the movement of air from high to low pressure is amplified by Bernoulli’s principle when traveling between mountain peaks…. and a Bora could develop!

Looking ahead at wind and weather reports just 5 days before we set sail, forecasts seems to change significantly from hour to hour!! For now, we will just keep an eye out to windward, and enjoy the fact that our adventure is all ahead of us.

Fair Winds,


“The next big thing……is Croatia” -Anthony Bourdain

Lauren and I are looking forward to sailing the Adriatic!


Sail Plan, Dalmatian Coast of Croatia

Continuing my goal of earning a Diploma in Dive and Marine Medicine, we plan to attend a Marine Medicine Conference in Croatia this May.

Medical lectures every morning on various islands scattered throughout the famous Dalmatian Coast.   Afternoons spent sailing and exploring archeological wonders, possibly a scuba dive or two.  Very exciting times!

A Diploma in Dive and Marine Medicine combines training in dive medicine, hyperbaric oxygen training,  marine medicine and marine science. The degree requires training as a Coast Guard Captain, becoming a Dive Master, obtaining a certification in hyperbaric oxygen treatments, passing practical sailing assessments, passing knowledge assessments in Marine Science, and completion of a Capstone research project in a related field.  It’s an entirely new program run through the Wilderness Medical Society and I am one of its first students.  I do this out of pure enjoyment.  “Medsail” conferences  put me in contact with a very specialized and fascinating group of health care providers with amazing skills and experiences, many of which who are leaders in there respective fields.

In May, we plan to charter a Jeanneau 36 with Sunsail USA.  A few feet shorter in length than our beloved Lady Vina,  but will certainly come in handy maneuvering trough narrow european harbors.  It should be an exciting and challenging charter!

A preliminary sail plan below

-Marina Agana to Maslinaca, Solt Island

-Maslinaca to Vis Town, Vis Island

-Vis Town to Palmizana, Havar Island

-Palmizana to Milna, Brac Island

-Milna to Trogir

-Trogir back to Marina Agana

Ending it all with a few buffer days to backpack through Dubrovnik before returning home.  Lots of planning to get prepared for the challenges of sailing the Adreatic!

Fair Winds,