Holland, 17 September, 2005

i have ambition to sail the seven seas.

i live on a boat in los angeles right now, an ericson 38' sailboat, and so for the last year i've been sailing the calm seas of santa monica, learning, quite literally, the ropes. while in holland a friend of mine, sam nemeth, invited me to go sailing. this was an invitation that, by necessity, could not be turned down for two reasons.
the first is that when you begin sailing, seriously, in the united states, you begin with a simple survey of boats, their hardware, their functions, their names, their specifications. then you start to learn about famous boats and famous exploits and captains and admirals and skippers that have strode around this great blue world of ours with what appears to be ease, but in reality is great endurance. you read the stories of ancient boats, and ancient craftsmen, and you brew in the legends of european trade and navigation. even reading books - american books - such as moby dick, leads you back to the european traditions of sailing and so eventually, inevitably, you arrive at the conclusion that there are two nations, perhaps three, that are the greatest sailors in the world. and the dutch are on the list there somewhere. and so a mythos of The Dutch Sailor looms large and you begin to think, "I need to go sailing with a dutchman, a flying dutchman."
or at least this is what happened to me.

anyway, the other reason is more simple; i have ambitions to sail the seven seas.

two down, five to go.

this is sam, on the left. sam's a good-spirited, wide-smiled, calm and personable gentleman that has a son named Zorro. sam used to work as a journalist. now he works for the waag. whenever sam speaks he seems to be laughing. i think this is because he's such a good sailor. problems have no place in his world.

sam's friend, and the owner of the boat, is jan-hendrick. these two sail around the coast of europe and compete in races and often win. hendrick's been sailing since he was a child, and it was his father that taught him how to do the thing that he loves as much as anything in his life (save for his wife, he pointed out).
we went out on a Breehorn sloop (Koopmans design), the "leopard-tank of dutch sailing" as sam puts it.

these are the kind of guys that, if you were to be stuck at sea, you'd want around.
but of course, you probably wouldn't get stuck at sea in the first place
if it wasn't for hanging around with these guys.

the sail took about 8 hours. along the way there were several events that happened, all of them to be lived more than written about. for the sake of The Record i have listed two and their lessons because, in the end, that's all sailing is: a lesson on living.
  • we went through some waves and had to reef the gib (which, to my surprise, was not self-furling. hendrick and sam both say that self-furling gibs are crap and can't be reefed in a squall. they are in accord on this topic). when the shit hits the fan, simpler is better.
    lesson: keep it simple.
  • as well as a kick-ass captain hendrick doubles as a galley cook. he made us coffee several times and smeared some kind of meat product on bread. it was a kind of wurst, though i never got around to checking. but then he made some pasta - a recipe he learned from a girlfriend nearly 20 years ago and now he still uses it. we had wine (which you can see hendrick had some of, below) and beer (i had some of the beer after some of the wine) and despite all this i kept eyeing the little sticker on the boat that said something like "u drinkt en ik ben dood" which is something along the lines of "if you drink I am dead"...okay, fair enough. but if you don't drink you don't live, either.
    lesson: eat and drink well.

    anyway, up the coast we went, through the rain, the waves, the sun, two channel locks and into sunset in time to dock the boat.