Book Update: Finding PAX is hot off the press! Almost:/

According to my editor, a repairman flew in from Germany to fix the KM 600 that does part of the work in the bindery to saddle-stitch FINDING PAX. So, that means a delay of at least one week for the arrival. 

New ETA of the pallet is August 16th, 2016.

NOTE as of October 2017: That original version of Finding PAX is no longer available. All but a few boxes of my gorgeous little first edition sold out. The rest are safely tucked away as keepsakes while we await the new, expanded 2nd edition to be published by Adlard Coles/Bloomsbury and distributed worldwide starting Fall 2018! 

Rotten news: unexpected joys of a wooden boat haulout

Rotten news: unexpected joys of a wooden boat haulout

Shipwrights Diana Talley and John Zimmer agreed to do the work. Pax was hauled, tapped, chalked up, and four planks (or partial planks) were chosen for removal. If you know wooden boats (or house projects) there might be a slight increase in your heart rate at the mention of removal. Behind every plank in boat (and board in a house) you're likely to find something else that might need to be fixed. 

So it went on Pax. With the planks off, we could see

Goodbye Good Boy

Goodbye Good Boy

As a life-long traveler and around the world sailor, I love to say 'see you later' instead of goodbye - knowing, of course, that the former could very well be the latter. Down deep, that truth always settles in a peace beyond words. 

Last week, my hiking buddy, my 'best man', our Border Collie 'Chase

Dog's Day, December

Dog's Day, December

Cold front has arrived.
North wind biting and barking.
Winter's brrr and grrr.

©Kaci Cronkhite

Here's to the craftspeople

Here's to the craftspeople

Not a day goes by that I'm not grateful to someone for something when I'm with my wooden boat. Thanks to their hands, their tools, their ingenuity... I can go sailing. I can rest assured.

In this photo alone, that includes:

Unknown people somewhere who made the cloth, the grommets, the shackle, the cotter pin, the thread, the bolt rope, the leather strip, the parachute cord and marlin twine. You get the picture.  We depend on each other more than we realize some days... too many days. 

Book Worthy: Inspiration from Worthy of the Sea, by Bray & Jackson

Book Worthy: Inspiration from Worthy of the Sea, by Bray & Jackson

The best books for me are the ones that I learn from in seconds and again in weeks, years and decades. In 2006, I bought Maynard Bray and Tom Jackson's book "Worthy of the Sea." The heft and beauty were huggable. The history and drawings overwhelmingly over my head. Occasionally, I would pick it up and try again, reading and studying captions, then whole paragraphs, then whole chapters. Over time, it sunk in. 

Today, in this excellent book I had both a "Duh" moment and a beautiful AH! The "duh" moment was in learning that GEORGE BERG, one of the 3 Danish Spidsgattter class designers I've heard about since buying PAX, was K. Aage Nielsen's design mentor. How in the world did I miss that all these years?

The "aha" moment was in this beautiful phrase on page 22, in the section about the Sparkman & Stephens years, when the authors marvel (as I do) - "That Nielsen and Stephens should both arrive at their respective professional stature by such vastly different routes says something remarkable about the nature of their craft - a blending of talent, confidence, determination , and perhaps knowing, (my favorite part!) LIKE THE SAILORS THEY WERE, HOW TO TAKE BEST ADVANTAGE OF LUCK AND FICKLE WINDS." 

If you haven't read the book, do! It's a good one for the Christmas or Birthday present list;) You can get it directly from the publisher, Tilbury House - proceeds from the book help support the Nielsen collection at Peabody Essex Museum in Boston - or from WoodenBoat Store in Maine, Wooden Boat Chandlery in Port Townsend, and of course, the online store named after a rainforest river. If you can, go smaller and make a bigger contribution where it counts.

The day I met Nancy Griffith, "the Amelia Earhart of the sea"

The day I met Nancy Griffith, "the Amelia Earhart of the sea"

Boats take you places you never planned to go. Sometimes to once-in-a-lifetime places where you cross paths with once-in-a-lifetime people. That's how I came to meet the legendary Captain Nancy Griffith—a woman as bold as Amelia Earhart, but who survived her crossing and crashes in the Pacific.

We met in the Cook Islands, 1994, in a place I was never intending to go. on I was sailing double-handed, on my second long ocean voyage. The south Pacific trade winds refused to shift much south of east for our east bound sail from Australia to Hawaii. We made New Zealand in 19 days, 10 days hove-to. Now, two weeks into the second battering ram passage against the wind I woke up to a strangely quiet boat hearing a happy Captain and relieved guest. We were at the entrance to Aitutaki, Cook Islands.  From the deck of the 32-foot boat, me and the other women discussed our options. According to the tossed lead line, the water was deep enough for our six foot draft right up to the reef, but what about that entry channel?

According to the charts, the entrance between coral heads was deep enough, but the water looked awfully light. For those of you who've heard my talks about cruising in the tropics, think 'darker is deeper'.  The white coral sand was especially bright and the darkest water in the channel looked minty green. My gut said no.  After more than an hour hurling the lead line and calling out depths, weighing risks, tacking back and forth on the leeward side of the atoll, the Captain came to her decision—too shallow.

Her husband’s notes in the log ship's log confirmed that the boat's last trip to this atoll almost ended in disaster. The captain at that time, the infamous Dr. David Lewis, had risked the entry, hitting bottom and several coral heads hard. It's never good to bounce a ferrous cement boat, but if you know Dr. Lewis' previous adventures (Ice Bird, Icebound in Antarctica, We the Navigators, to name a few), you'll understand why that barely raised his eyebrow. The Captain of our journey, the current owner of the boat, his anthropological research colleague, co-captain and fourth wife was now taking the boat - "her turn" - back to windward. She wasn't as inclined to risk.

Since tides only vary six inches max in that part of the Pacific,  time wasn't going to help us gain depth.  We decided not to risk it and instead began a 100-mile course to Rarotonga. After sunset, the wind died. Hand starting the 10hp diesel Sabb (the kind built in Norway, not the Saab in Sweden), we chugged through an inky sea that was so calm the stars and night sky were impossibly blended with the ocean phosphorescence. 

Arrival and tie-up at Rarotonga is not for the faint of heart. The harbor is tiny, has little protection from the trade winds and is full of moorings. We needed to drop an anchor between some of them - without wrapping the variable pitch propellor - and take a line to the shore. With more drama than I prefer, we did. Once settled, we went ashore for drinks and to find a place our crew member could stay. Her sea sickness on the passage had been debilitating. She had to get off the boat. We celebrated island style, with all night drinking and traditional island foods.

The next morning, a freighter that seemed too big for the harbor plowed in, rolling us out of our bunks with a bow wave, then expertly warped itself over to the concrete wharf. Most of the island was gathered in the marina to help as family, boxes, crates of chickens, pallets of building material and barrels of who knows what were hoisted by crane or rolled down the gang plank. Bronzed, muscular arms and legs maneuvered things on and off the boat and then, I noticed a woman with wild blonde hair step out of the pilot house. She'd blown the ship's horn and was now out giving someone on land directions.  

It was Captain Nancy Griffith.  Making our way to the ship, we waited until the crew was finished.  When it seemed polite to ask, we asked one of the crew who looked official if we could speak to the Captain.  Cook Islands are fluent in English and over decades of administrative links to New Zealand, speak English with a Kiwi accent in addition to their traditional Cook Island Maori. 

Ten minutes later, Captain Nancy Griffith waved us aboard for coffee.  For the next four hours, she told us her story, from three circumnavigations with husband Bob to the loss of her wooden trading schooner Edna to the purchase of this current ship, proudly operated by a Cook Island crew.  Salty, strong and warm as the tropical sun she loved and lived in most of her life, Nancy was one of a handful of woman circumnavigators who could Captain a boat and the only woman I've ever met whose circled the globe three times.  I'll never forget that day or that woman. She died in 2013 at age 79

Should I be surprised that her & Bob's boat was called Awahnee, meaning Peace? Or that six months later, I'd go on from that meeting to start a circumnavigation and twelve years later buy a boat named Pax (peace)?  Not anymore! It's a small, small world for women boaters. For all boaters, actually. The ocean brings and keeps us together. 

To listen to some of Nancy Griffith's tales (which is what prompted me to start this blog post), check out this video.  There are 5 videos, filmed in the kitchen of her cousin's house during a family reunion.  Thanks to the Hirsch family for recording and sharing these videos! A treasure!




Oh give me a home
Where the buffalo roam, and
Someone remembers.

© Kaci Cronkhite, 2014

Haiku: Long Day's Rain

Waves of rain drops
Rinsed the color from the sky
Into the flowers.

© Kaci Cronkhite,  2014

Loyalty: Working with a woman shipwright

Loyalty: Working with a woman shipwright

So, about 10:30, a white lady with dyed hair and fancy glasses rolls up in a black mercedes and parks outside my shipwright Diana Talley's boatshop. I can see her. She can see me - in my paint dusty jeans, purple gloves and '08 Festival hoody. Diana & I had just finished painting one side of PAX and were perched on the scaffolding stirring in the Penetrol to start rolling and tipping the second side.

"Diana here?" the lady calls while swinging her hips and shoulders toward us in that way people do when they come to the country with a bunch of money, or in this case, the boatyard.

"Yes, she's here. We're painting." I said, sensing she was on a mission and wanting her not to bug us right this moment.

Around the bow out of sight, double checking the tape, loading her brush and adjusting the old kindergarten chair she uses when painting, Diana asked who it was. I shrugged, clueless. Then the lady called out again and Diana recognized her voice. There was something in the way she reached for the Penetrol.

"Hi," Diana shouted out from the back of the boat. "We're painting."

Without breaking stride, the lady blew past me and for the next 15 minutes, went through at least 5 tacks of cajoling to get Diana down to their boat next week to give a bid on a big interior job. I watched the paint curdle on one brush. 

"Probably 5 figures," she said, ignoring me and ignoring PAX's paint.

Diana politely, but firmly suggested she hire someone else nodding a head toward PAX and the other way toward Pete's boat. Next round of pleas. Firmly, but politely Diana said "No." Last round. Firmly, but politely said, "I'm working. We're done."

Turns out, she'd worked for the lady before.

"Loyalty. Listening. Respect for the workers. Takes more than money to get a job done at this shop. Let's paint," she said. 

I smiled and dipped the roller. We've been through a lot over seven years, this shipwright and I. From my planks to frames, from varnish to hull paint, from a blank slate interior and cockpit, her work is all over the boat. Glad she's put up with me.