Gone Floatabout

Sailing, Photography, Wilderness


4 Comments

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

It’s safe to say that I love the mountains just as much than the sea, and this image reminds me of some of my happiest memories, trekking 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.

Ski-touring in the Alps

Backcountry skiing in the Alps, 2012

I had a tough time picking out just one from 2012, one of the best snow years we had while living in Switzerland, but settled on this one of me on one of our biggest backcountry ski trips of year. Backcountry skiing essentially means hiking up mountains and skiing down them in wilderness areas away from resorts/infrastructure, etc. Like winter generally, a person either loves it or hates it. I love it, which made it fun to gain the skills and knowledge necessary for it (the danger of avalanches and rockfalls is very real). When this photo was taken I had only learned to ski two years previously… so I’m kind of proud of it 🙂

Fall in the vineyards.jpg

Alpine vineyards in autumn, 2013

There’s something about this image that captures the crisp air of autumn, that hint that winter is on its way. Even though the vineyards are still green, the overcast sky combined with the snowline and the red vine over the clĂ´ture give that sense of the changing seasons and the shortening days.

Bears fishing-2

Brown bears fish for salmon, Alaska Peninsula, 2014

It’s hard to choose an image from our first real voyage aboard CELESTE in 2014, but observing these bears on the Alaska Peninsula was probably the biggest highlight of the trip. Well fed off the salmon coming up the river to spawn, the bears seemed to tolerate each other in close proximity. To anchor CELESTE in this nearly landlocked bay (can you find her in the picture?) and to watch these impressive predators fish made for one of the most memorable weeks in all our years sailing.

Whalebone iglu

Whalebone iglu, North Slope, Alaska, 2015

Once again, it was hard to pick just one photo from our voyage to the Arctic in 2015. How to choose among the surreal beauty of the polar pack ice, the flocks of migrating birds so thick as to darken the sky, the midnight sun just barely touching the horizon, and the photogenic if somewhat unnerving sight of spray blowing off the crest of a wave in a gale? Instead, though, I chose this moment, capturing the interior of an old whalebone and sod iglu on the North Slope, a home still inhabited as late as the mid-1970s. The Inupiat elder at the entrance, who was born in one of these iglus, became our friend and host during our stay at anchor off his village, showing us around, introducing us to his friends, and recounting the history of this incredible place. If we had done nothing else and seen nothing else, our sail to the Arctic would have been worth it for this.

Alpine Waterfall

Hidden waterfall in the Alps, 2016

I had to put in one more Alpine image for 2016, the year we said goodbye to Switzerland. Coming around a turning in the trail, we caught sight of this magnificent waterfall, tucked away in my favorite part of the range, a fairly empty region that requires at least two days on foot to reach. This was our last big trek in the Alps before we left in the fall to return to the States.

St Elias Range

Stillness at dawn, Alaska, 2017

This is one of my favorite images of Alaska; it distills so much of what I love about the Great Land. There are the immense mountains, of course – in this case the St Elias Range, rising 18,000 feet from sea level – and the wild conifer forests, and the hardy little fishing boat heading out of harbor. But there’s also the beauty of a still, clear dawn after weeks of rain and wind, and the urge to make the most of it, especially as you can tell that the fleeting summer season is already gone and winter close at hand. You can almost taste the salty smell of low tide and feel the cold bite of the autumn air on the tip of your nose. 2017 was the summer we said goodbye to Alaska, fittingly with CELESTE’s lockers well stocked with our own jars of salmon – caught, smoked, and pressure canned – and this was our last port before rushing south down the Inside Passage to beat winter down the coast to California.

Celeste in mid-Pacific

Crossing the Pacific, 2018

I love this image for the sense it gives of the immensity of the ocean. It’s arguable that the ocean is the world’s wildest wilderness, in that humans cannot survive on it without man-made equipment (flotation, protection from exposure, fresh water storage), and I think this photograph captures some of that sense of one’s smallness and vulnerability out there. This was taken in the ‘doldrums’ (the Intertropical Convergence Zone), the band of inconsistent, squally weather around the equator, while on our second crossing of the Pacific. The 3,000-mile trip took us 23 days sailing, from Mexico to the Marquesas Islands of French Polynesia.

Stars coming out over Hualalai

Watching the stars come out from Mauna Kea, Hawai’i, 2019

Lots to choose from this year, too, but I couldn’t pass up this one of the stars coming out over the island of Hawai’i. Taken from about 9,500 feet on Mauna Kea (Hawai’i’s tallest mountain at 14,000 feet), the long exposure captures more light than is visible to the naked eye, and so we can see both the last rays of the tropical sunset and the stars already glittering in the clear night sky.  “Glittering”, however, is just a figure of speech: the air above Mauna Kea is in fact so undisturbed that the stars cease to have that “twinkling” quality one sees most other places. Mauna Kea is a truly special place: despite its tropical location, its heights are quite cold and even retain snowfall in winter; and despite its volcanic cinder geology, it has that same stillness and silence I’ve so loved in the Alps and other continental ranges.

 

 

 

 

 


6 Comments

Happy Earth Day!

In a change of pace from our usual ocean/sailing theme, we wanted to celebrate our beautiful planet with some mountain shots. Here are a few of our favorite springtime photographs from when we used to live in Switzerland.

Taken on this day, exactly 5 years ago:

Beautiful spring flowers on a couple of different hikes:

And the cows out of the barns in May:

Alpage fountain

Hope everyone gets a little taste of the outdoors this Earth Day!

 

 

 


6 Comments

An interview and an article

A couple of links for readers who are interested:

Our partner Katadyn has a new blog  and recently interviewed us by phone for it – the interview is up online here. Approaching Polar pack ice, Arctic Ocean_AlpineAire and Optimus Heat

And Classic Boat magazine just published their April issue, with my piece about sailing in the Arctic on a wooden classic as one of the cover stories! CBApril18-print-cover

I promise to catch up on our posts about the California coast soon!


4 Comments

Articles in Cruising World and Classic Boat

Celeste among growlersSome publication news for the summer! In the June/July issue, Cruising World magazine came out with my feature article about our 2015 voyage to the Alaskan Arctic. As usual, it was good fun to see it in print, and now it’s online on Cruising World‘s site. Our partner ZEAL Optics is also sharing a taste of it on their blog here. Hope you enjoy!

Also this summer, Classic Boat magazine in the UK ran a piece I wrote about the historic steamboats of Lake Geneva in Switzerland. The article is also now online, here. These 100-year-old (and older) paddle-wheel boats still ply the lake throughout summer and fall, taking passengers from one city to another, or on dinner or lunch cruises. The boats have a long, varied history, including the assassination of Empress Elisabeth of Austria and use by spies in World War I. If any of my readers plan to visit Geneva, a ticket on one of these gems is only a few francs and well worth it!

00 Savoie in Geneva - small

SS Savoie coming into Geneva

 

 

19 The author with Simplon's steam engine - small

Me on assignment for Classic Boat – in SS Simplon’s engine room

 

 

18 Telegraph in the engine room of Simplon - small

Simplon’s telegraph

 

 


44 Comments

Dr Leonard!

Seth's thesis defense

Seth’s PhD dissertation defense

Seth got his PhD! As many of you know, Seth has been working hard at this for the last six and a half years. I don’t write about work much on the blog, but this is a very special case!!  Again, as many of you know, we moved to Switzerland in 2010 for Seth to start the Masters in Economics program at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva. In 2012 he got his Masters and started on the PhD program. The PhD included original research (3 papers total), classes both at the Graduate Institute and at Gerzensee Study Center (a foundation of the Swiss National Bank), and also a job as a teaching assistant for the Masters courses, in which he essentially taught the nitty-gritty mathematics behind the models and concepts that were being covered in the courses. The grand finale was his thesis defense with a panel of three economists (two professors from the Graduate Institute – Cedric Tille and Rahul Mukherjee – and an external reader – Michele Lenza from the European Central Bank). The defense was a big success – summa cum laude for both the papers and the defense! So now Seth is officially Dr Leonard!


2 Comments

Interviewed by Psychology of Sailing Website

A few weeks ago, we were honored to be asked for an interview by Fabio at the Psychology of Sailing website, whose focus is how sailing and psychology can influence each other and promote mental health and well being, as well as a sense of purpose in life.  Our interview just got posted yesterday, and you can read it here. I hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed answering Fabio’s thoughtful questions! http://www.psychologyofsailing.com/outdoor_life_interview/

katmai

Celeste on the Alaska Peninsula, 2016


10 Comments

Arctic Voyage Video: Episode 1

Many of you have probably already seen this either on Cruising World magazine’s site or on our YouTube channel, but here is Episode 1 of our Arctic Voyage video series!

In it, the story begins in the storm-tossed Aleutian Islands in June of 2015. The year before, we sailed Celeste from Washington State to Dutch Harbor of “Deadliest Catch” fame but sadly didn’t take any video footage. So in this video we’re back after a winter’s work to re-commission her – think scuba-diving in the Bering Sea – explore the tundra-covered mountains of the island, and get ready for the Arctic.

Stay tuned for Episode 2 on both Cruising World‘s site and on YouTube – it’ll cover our first Bering Sea passage and the wildlife-rich Pribilof Islands!