The Skipper

I have no idea what I’m doing, which is my favourite place to start all new adventures. [more]


I first sailed when I was a kid.

It was mostly on small, two-person boats in a lake at my summer camp —Arowhon— located about three hours north of Toronto, in Algonquin Park. Of all the camp activities, sailing was my favorite, with the exception of killing frogs and putting them in the girls’ toilets (an activity which I regret deeply —the killing part, that is).

After camp I grew up and never sailed again.

Instead, I moved to China when I was 23, learned Chinese and never came home. I spent the next 18 years in Beijing building and running my company —Teneighty Productions — producing for clients such as Coke, Apple, major Hollywood studios, and working with artists like Edward Burtynsky, and with independent filmmakers, like the ones who made Baraka and Samsara.

The work was fulfilling, but after 18 years of breathing bad air and running around like a street-dog in the 12%-annual-GDP-growth-turbo-treadmill that is China, I needed to find a counterbalance to my life.

That’s when I started looking to the sea.

Land just seemed too damn noisy and messy. I needed to find a slice of the planet with fewer humans. The ocean, it turns out, occupies 70% of the earth’s surface, but most people don’t know how to live on the water. These seemed like promising leads to forming an escape plan. So, at the age of 41, I bought a beautiful 43-foot-sailboat which I keep in Europe, for now.

My boat’s name — Esodo — says it all. It means Exodus, in Italian.

It took me almost two years to figure out what boat to buy.

After looking at a series of pretty images on the Internet for too long, I decided to fly to Cannes for the boat show, to see the hardware up close. That’s where I found my boat maker— the Italian shipyard Grand Soleil. I decided to buy a new boat because finding a good-quality, used boat was way too confusing—I didn’t have the time, patience or experience to know what was a genuine deal and what was a trap. Buying new felt safe, and I had the money— so what the hell!

I bought Esodo in 2013.

At that time I had no idea how to sail a 43-foot boat. Whatever I’d learned when I was 10 at camp had long fallen into the mental abyss. What I needed to pick up was some precious knowledge. So, while the Italians were building the boat— a six-month process — I went to Thailand and took a 12-day course, and earned some basic confidence and an American Sailing Association certificate.

When I launched Esodo in May of 2013, I nearly had a nervous breakdown; it was so much larger than I remembered, and I felt completely intimidated.

My first season was a short —five weeks.

For my second season I stayed out for four months. I overcame my initial anxiety and am now sailing smoothly into this new world of adventure and freedom. The Esodo has brought my community of friends closer to me; no one is in a hurry to come see your new apartment or house (fancy boxes), but when you have a sailboat on the Mediterranean ocean everyone wants to visit. Spending time with friends and strengthening my community are some of the many unexpected gifts I’m discovering that (ironically) come with a boat called Exodus.

Of course, I also spend lots of time alone, but I am never lonely. Nor am I bored.

There is never a shortage of things to learn and observe while sailing the ocean. Attention to detail is key to staying safe and having fun, because there are many dangers involved: challenging weather, equipment breakage, and financial pitfalls, to name a few. Every day spent sailing means a day that you are pitting yourself against the forces of nature, and though the ocean will offer you immense beauty and freedom, she can also twirl and twist you around in a tempest of rage. One must be smart, careful, and respectful at all times.

This brings me to the reasons I started this blog: learning, and having fun.

My greatest inspiration has been Bumfuzzle; Patrick and Ali Schulte showed me that you can just go for it— and that with a little luck and lots of hard work you can sail around the world and not get killed. My friend Bob Findlay also provided some much-needed encouragement. I sailed with Bob in Italy in June of 2012, and it only took him four days to convince me that I wanted to sail on my own. After that experience I decided that I was willing to make the commitment, and started looking at pretty pictures of boats on the Internet and reading a few sailing blogs.

While there are some great sailing blogs out there, I never did find one that spelled out everything I wanted to know as I started this journey with Esodo. Most blogs showed a lot of pretty pictures, but only provided a few tidbits of practical knowledge. This blog is my way of sharing the learning curve I’m on, so that others might benefit from my ongoing experience.



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