Gone Floatabout

Sailing, Photography, Wilderness


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A day in the life… of working from home

Inspired by the Bartleby column in last week’s issue of The Economist“Diary of a home worker: The challenges of concentrating during a lockdown” practically had me in stitches. If you subscribe to The Economist, don’t miss it!

In the spirit that imitation is the highest praise, here’s my (lightly fictionalized) “diary”: Continue reading


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Whales!

Since everyone seems to have a different date for World Whale Day, I figured today was as good a day as any to share some whale photos 🙂

The humpback whales are here in Hawaii for the winter – saw five just the other day, including a baby! Seeing whales from a little outrigger canoe is possibly even more exciting than seeing them from CELESTE – one is so much closer to the water and very aware that the whale is a 40-ton creature and the canoe is a very tippy 40-pounds (she’s made of carbon fiber, hence why she’s so lightweight – and fast and fun!). Didn’t get any photos of the whales from the canoe (didn’t bring the camera), but here are some from back up in Alaska:

Breaching whale

Humpback whale seen from CELESTE in Southeast Alaska, 2014.

This is probably my favorite. I love how well it captures coastal Alaska – the rocky shoreline, the steep forest climbing up and up in background, the wispy clouds, the cool, overcast weather, and, of course, the star of the show, the breaching whale. Do you see the two black specks above him? Those are bald eagles… gives you a sense of how immense this landscape is….

Bubble-net-feeding whales

Humpbacks bubble-net feeding in Southeast Alaska, 2017.

Here’s another image I love. These whales are bubble-net feeding in the deep water right off the shore. Bubble-net feeding is a clever and cooperative technique that humpback whales use to corral small fish and krill into balls, whereupon the whales burst up through the center of the fish ball, mouths open wide, to enjoy their feast! There is incredible footage of this in the new BBC documentary Seven Worlds, One Planet – Antarctica. Highly recommended!

Gray whale tail

Grey whale diving off Mexico, 2018.

Here’s a grey whale in Bahia Magdalena, Baja, Mexico. Grey whales make the longest migration of any mammal, more than 6000 miles each way between the Arctic and tropical waters. It was pretty exciting to see these grey whales in Mexico after having seen them in the Arctic. Just like it’s wonderful to see the humpbacks here in Hawaii after having seen so many up in Alaska!

Spinner dolphins

Spinner dolphins, Hawaii, 2019.

Obviously these aren’t whales, but as I don’t have any pictures of whales from Hawaii, I thought I’d throw in spinner dolphins instead. I love spinner dolphins – they’re so playful and they often show up around the outrigger canoe. It’s always so much fun to jump in the water with them. Though this photo was actually taken while scuba diving – this was a wonderful dive!

 


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2020…

I’m not sure I’m ready for a new decade… so here are some of my favorite photos from the last one – I’ve chosen one photo from each year, though narrowing it down like that wasn’t easy!

Dawn Landfall, St Helena

Landfall on St Helena Island, South Atlantic, 2010

I love this photo of landfall on the British island of St Helena in the South Atlantic. For me it captures the wonder of sighting land after days at sea – the dawn light, the mountainous island, and the lonely ocean all around. St Helena is still one of the world’s most remote islands, but was even more remote in 2010 when access was still solely by sea.

Ellen trekking in the Alps

Trekking in the Alps, 2011

I love the mountains as much as the sea, and this image reminds me of some of my favorite treks, walking for days high up above treeline in the Alps. I love the silence of it, and the fresh cold air, and the immense vistas of the peaks crowned in ice. Continue reading


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BoKoa Farms and Forest Video

I recently created a video for BoKoa Farms and Forest, an off-grid farm on slopes of Mauna Kea on the island of Hawai’i. They practice restorative forestry, reducing invasive plant species and propagating native and endemic ones. Specifically, they remove strawberry guava and chip it, creating a great product for use in grilling and smoking: the wood chips impart a really nice flavor to all kinds of meat and veggies. In the cleared land, they propagate Koa seedlings, reforesting the land with these beautiful native trees. It’s a great cause and a creative way of addressing a problem that exists throughout the Hawaiian islands.

The video tells this story, along with an explanation on how to use the wood chips in your grill.


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Hiking Mauna Loa

 

Mauna Loa lava flows

Mauna Loa’s lava flows clearly visible

Mauna Loa, one of the two 4000-meter peaks on the island of Hawai’i, is the largest volcano on earth, as measured by volume. It’s still active: the last flow, in 1984, came within 4 miles of the town of Hilo. Raw black lava flows mark its flanks, and sometimes you can see it smoking.

Up in the thin, dry air on Mauna Loa is a wilderness of brittle lava rock, an immense caldera, and harsh tropical sun. The temperatures are cold – it snows – and the wind howls, but the sun remains at its brutal tropical angle. Sounds like a fantastic hike, right?

Hiking up Mauna Loa

Can you find me amidst all the lava? Hiking up the first section of the trail, Maui in the far background.

You can’t not do it, though: a 4000-meter peak that’s not a technical climb is pretty much impossible for hikers like us to pass up. So Seth and I summited Mauna Loa in September 2018. After many months aboard CELESTE at sea level, it was quite the challenge….

I wrote up the story of our hike for our sponsor Katadyn on their blog. You can read it here.

Mauna Loa at sunset

Mauna Loa seen at sunset from Mauna Kea (yes, that’s snow in the foreground. Aloha!)


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Home Ashore

Many of you know that we moved to Hawaii. For those of you who don’t, I realize how unexpected that must seem, especially after so much time sailing and so much time in cold places. The reason was primarily that Seth’s workload had increased to the point where he could no longer work from the boat.

Sailing in the Marquesas

No WiFi out here… South Pacific 2018

Trying to have a career while living aboard, let alone sailing to remote (read: without internet) places, is really hard. The confined space of a sailboat must serve both for sailing and living; adding career-type work to that is tough. So a land base became necessary. Fortunately, Seth’s remote work enabled us to choose almost anywhere in American territory that had good internet: we weren’t confined to a specific region or city. Hawaii might still sound like an unexpected choice given our seeming penchant for cold places. That penchant has really been mostly mine, however, and when picking a place to live, my Alaskan suggestions were never going to beat out Hawaii’s year-round coral reef scuba diving…

Many friends in Alaska had ties to Hawaii, too, which is what first put it on our radar as a place to live. So in October 2017, when it became clear we’d need to stop sailing so much and work ashore, we flew to Hawaii to scope it out, and thereafter we only sailed for a month or two at a time, continuing our voyage south and then across the Pacific in May 2018, in stages and working in between. Life on Hawaii pretty much took over from sailing after that. The island has a lot to offer: I’m always finding new beautiful places, making new friends, and learning new things, such as outrigger canoe paddling. Here are some photos of this lovely place: