Bremble’s return – a heroes journey

Chris Bremble was this year’s guest-underdog. Last season a technical violation – anchor mutiny – earned him the 2nd lowest rating of all time, a “three”. First place going to Pomme with a “one” for nearly sinking my boat. See Rocks & Women and “The Bremble Mutiny

Bremble came into the season with strong math. He indicated that the odds where more favorable for him to aim for a negative rating than to foolishly aspire towards a meaningful positive score (“better to be infamous than average”). Sound reasoning from one of my most reasonable friends.

Well, I’m as surprised as anyone that he is receiving an unprecedented “twelve” this year giving him a strong average rating for the last two years – something he hoped to avoid – and this without any bribery or sexual compensation.

Note on the guest rating system. The guest rating system is a one-sided emotional feedback system whereby the Captian reflects on how a guest’s presence made him feel. There is no logical or illogical matrix that can be used to understand, predict or manipulate the outcome of a guest rating.

Bremble excelled at all guest activities:

Eating & drinking
Swimming
Toilet operations
Conversational proficiency
Enjoying oneself at all times
Being humorous
Deferential towards Captain
Grateful to be onboard and to be friends with me

But more than this, Bremble pulled a rabbit out of his hat and proved himself to be a great sailor! With almost no wind last season during his first visit Chris could do little more than mutiny, but with such a wind-full season this time, his true sailor arose.

Chris expertly sailed from Sardinia to Corsica and back. I happily trimmed his sails  – why does that sound so wrong? – while he skippered in 30+ knot winds. Never departing from his usual character, Bremble wore a focused and determined expression as we navigated the islands of the Archipelago Maddalena and across the divide between Italy and France so we could secure the coveted pain au chocolat.

We covered over 70 miles during Chris’s short visit. Although there we no dolphin sightings this year we did however have the great fortune to have the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup in the background of our trip.

Belated posting, Bangkok, Thailand, Nov 2015

Captain Awesome

 

 

Friedman & Berlusconi

I must admit, I take pride in having such an incredibly diverse tribe of friends in my life, and  I am often dumbfounded – in the sense that they are MY friends – at the caliber of these individuals, their achievements, their wit, and their humanity.

I have to assume that my character and my spirit are somehow reflected by my friends; providing something more than anecdotal evidence that I must be ok…or perhaps not ok…

Now enter Alan Friedman – Alan and I met in 2007 in China. I was his China producer on an Italian TV show he hosted and produced for La7, an independent channel in Italy. Before his arrival in China I was warned that he can be difficult, capricious and demanding…so basically just like everyone else in media.

Despite the warnings, he turned out to be a fascinating fellow and we pretty much became instant friends and have remained so for almost a decade now.

If you wanted to recreate Alan as a chemical compound, you’d use one unit genius-intellect and one unit creative-madness. Mixed together at room temperature you get the most extraordinary and fantastic universal alloy, Mr. Alan Friedman (AF). This inherently volatile compound (AF) can only be stabilized by his his wife, Contessa Gabriella Carignani (GC), by far the most enduring and tolerant element on the periodic table – without GC, AF would self-destruct.

A journalist by profession, this New Yorker left the States in his 20s, piled up British Press Awars at the Financial Times (the UK equivalent of the Pulitzer), became a top commentator at the International new York Times and Wall Street Journal and later reinvented himself in Italy as a revered journalist, talkshow host, documentary maker, prolific author and economist. He is a household name in a nation whose genius and madness mirrors his own. No coincidence here I’m sure….

Like so many of my guests, the dramas of their lives follow them onto the boat – which begs the question, “in this overly-connected world, is there such a thing as a carefree vacation anymore?” Let me answer that … NO!

During Alan and Gabriella’s 5 day stay I took a front row view to the 11th hour editing of Alan’s much anticipated and new biography of Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi. Before Alan boarded Esodo he spent a few days with Berlusconi at his villa in Sardinia and a few weeks before he went to the Kremlin to interview Vladimir Putin.

I revel in the action and the privilege to be exposed to such a world; nothing is more captivating than real life…well, ok…maybe Game of Thrones and the House of Cards.

I won’t betray my ring side privilege but I don’t need to – the book comes out in October in more than 20 countries and it’s a major page turner!  (In the USA they call it BERLUSCONI: The Epic Story of the Billionaire Who Took Over Italy, Hachette Books, Oct 20th, in Italy it is called My Way: Berlusconi Tells His Story to Friedman, Rizzoli Books, Oct 8th)

Regardless of life’s dramas and stress, Esodo, the sea, the wind and good friends are always good medicine.

The Contessa, a seafarer in her own right, was a little dubious of Friedman on a boat, and I must admit, I was a little curious too. But Friedman surprised us both and quickly took sailing like Pesca to water and ended up sailing most of the way from Sardinia to Corsica.

Our five day sail took us from Porto Cervo through the Archipelago Maddalena, over to Bonifacio, Corsica and back to Sardinia terminating in Porto Rotondo.

On a scale of one to ten, I must given Alan and Gabriella an 11.

Captain Awesome, Ravenna, Oct 2015

 

Birthday Rainbows, Fairy-tale lands and morning ships

There can only be rainbows with inclement weather – a great irony and an even greater metaphor.

Coming out of port early this morning – my birthday -I was greeted by bitter winds, heavy clouds and cold rain, but as the light slowly rose over the horizon so did the birth of a magical morning.

Below are a few images from this morning and the last few days of visual joy born from nasty weather.

Captain Awesome, Adriatic Sea, Sept 2015

BARI, Adriatic Sea

Ported in Bari yesterday afternoon to rest after pulling three all nighters. I was pretty much capable of falling asleep standing up, however when I saw how beautiful the afternoon light was shaping up, I grabbed my camera and took to old town for a 90 minute blitz.

Below is a photographic sampling of this wonderful town full of youthfulness, arts, and an energetic street life that kept my fatigue at bay a little longer.

Captain Awesome, Bari, Puglia Italy, Sept 2015

(Images should be seen in slideshow mode. Click image and use side arrows to see next one)

 

A life full of porpoise

 

I’ve been whingeing all season that dolphin sightings are low this year, but today all has been made right in the world. I stumbled across 20! The largest group I’ve ever seen.

I cut my engine and drifted with them for 30 minutes and watched them hunt. They didn’t mind the boat and even seemed to take pleasure swimming under and around it.

This large pod was split up into smaller hunting groups of 4-5 animals. Every now and then one of them would breakaway on a high-speed fish chase, like a five year old child on a sugar rush. It was an amazing display of power and grace!

After a blissful 30 minutes of watching and taking photos a German-flagged sailboat came charging in on motor like a war-machine, running right through the middle of the pod. I cursed these total culture-less wankers and gave them the finger in German – which is the middle finger with a little yellow mustard on top. Not surprisingly, about half the pod took off and chased their boat, swimming in and out of her bow. Dolphins love to play at the bow of sailboats.

After the “Germans are coming episode” I started my engine to continue my endless journey to Ravenna with a full porpoise send-off at my bow for about 5 minutes. Below are a few images from this blessing of an experience. More dolphin pics from 2014 can be seen here more dolphins

On a side note – I came acrross a rogue boat today. Was pretty eerie to see it just floating in the middle of the sea, without a human on it. I’m assuming it came off its mooring during the wind storm a few days ago. Just glad I didn’t sail into it at night. Boom!  Pics also below.

Captain Awesome, Gallipoli, Sept 2015

 

Storm Clouds, Jimmy Durante and going backwards

Woke up this morning on the Ionian Sea to a glorious sunrise and tranquil, glass-like water. However my mind was being pressed hard with one paramount, Jimmy Durante question:  Stay or go?

Big winds would be coming in from the NW later in the day and my current anchorage was pretty exposed. The only viable port was a 30 mile back-track up the Messina Straits to Reggio Calabria. I waffled for a few hours and texted some of my sailing brain-trust: Zack Gold, Pier Paolo Raffa, and Massimiliano Paxia. The consensus was go find a port and hunker down for two days. So I did! As Zack said, “six hours for some peace of mind is a decent price”.

So here I am in port, all tied up and tucked in. It’s howling outside, spitting hard, cold rain and lightning is flashing up the night sky.

I hate going backwards and that’s why I waffled for so long this morning. Losing all that gained ground (or water) felt like being held back a year at school — which several teachers tried to do to me back in the day. LOOK AT ME NOW BITCHES, I’M ON A BOAT!

I spent some of my day pondering the psychology of backtracking or being stalled when you have a clear destination and a drive to get there. It feels like you’re wasting time when you can’t move forward.

But then I remembered the countless times I’ve been stuck in limbo and how being forced to stop or even go back a few steps has provided huge, unexpected gifts.

In 2003, I injured my ankle while rock climbing in Krabi, Thailand. Spent three weeks healing on my bungalow porch while watching fellow climbers walking by, accompanied by the familiar and intoxicating sound of jingling metal bits of gear. It was heart-wrenching not to be able to climb.

But then something happened: I slowed down. My life became sort of a Jabba the Hutt porch — the world shrunk and got easy. Friends came by and talked. I read Steppenwolf and Nietzsche, wrote a journal, and developed some of my key ethos about life which still guide me today —  such as, don’t fall.

The point is, there is no such thing as wasted time. It’s all just time. What we do with that time is what defines our life. I can’t control the weather but I can control how I make decisions and that’s also how we define ourselves, by the type of decisions we make — big ones and small ones, they all add up and define you.

So next time you’re delayed at the airport, waiting for a woman to get ready, stuck in traffic, or, like me, waiting for the weather to pass in a port, don’t get pissed off and bitchy. Try and use that time well because when it’s gone it’s gone forever. Except waiting for a woman: that actually slows time down. If you were always waiting for a woman to get ready you would actually have two to three times more time on earth than everyone else. True science!

A few images from my day of clouds for your enjoyment.

Captain Awesome, Port of Reggio Calabria, Sept 2015.

 

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YELLOW IS BAD

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PINK IS NOT THE FRIENDLY COLOR YOU THINK IT IS

Esodo forcibly boarded by military rebels

A True Story

10:45: I was boarded by a mixed group of American and Italian rebels, escorted by well trained child solders._MG_925011:00: The one they call “Josh” ordered me to take them to a nearby terrorist training beach._MG_926512:00: It has become obvious that the one called Josh is NOT the leader. The leader is a vicious 5 year old called Scarlett._MG_9602Scarlett has a permanently attached bodyguard they call “MOM”._MG_951512:15: Arrive at beach, forced to put down anchor.

12:30: Group seizes Esodo’s gennaker halyard and commences military training “water bombing”_MG_932213:00: The one they call “Josh” prepares crude meal for soldiers._MG_942514:00: Child soldiers seized my paddle-board for aggressive core training._MG_963614:30: Child soldiers don pirate mask and force me to take photos for their terrorist web videos_MG_957414:45: Child soldier injured in training exercise._MG_971315:00: Was ordered to pull-up anchor and sail back to a secret base located close to where I was boarded in the morning._MG_927117:00: Group unceremoniously departed Esodo and threatens to come back next year.

17:01: I turn on engine and motored away as fast as possible.

The end

Captain Awesome, Aeolian Islands, Sept 2015

(see below, a billion images. They are all so good I found it hard to eidt them down)

The Tasmanian devil

There is a famous expression that I just made up:  “When two sailors get together, great winds blow.” And boy did Craig and I blow! (wait, that sounds wrong…)

I’ve known Craig – a Tasmanian – for at least 10 years now, but we’ve not spent much time together aside from bar-hopping in Hong Kong with mutual friends, but like pasta to pesto, Esodo keeps bringing people together.

I didn’t even know Craig was a sailor until he boarded my boat, but I’m thankful that he was because we sailed in the strongest winds I’ve yet encountered. Despite being on the leeward – on the eastern coast of Sardinia – we were facing 48kn winds from a Mistral howling in from the west (as they always do). Esodo almost broached 2ice but we managed to avoid a truly calamitous outcome. Phew….

We sailed every day during the 5 days Craig was onboard – so much so that we only have posey heroic sailing shots for this posting. When we weren’t sailing I was cleaning up mysterious coffee stains on the floor and chastising Craig over transgressions in dishwashing, which seems to be a common issue among Esodo guests.

We sailed up to hoity toity Porto Cervo, founded by the Aga Khan – however it has long since slid into a putrified play ground for Super Yachts, high class whores, compulsive shoppers, wannabes and still more whores… so obviously we had a great time there!! We danced and drank to sunrise in clubs called Soto Vento and Billionaire and we paddle boarded among bikini strewn Super Yachts asking them if they had “seen our lost dog”…our ruse to steal beautiful women from the super rich. Unfortunately we lost our paddle one drunken night and had to give up the scam. Paddle board was renamed just “board”

Porto Cervo wanted 320 Euros to dock for a night so we free-anchored the first night off the spectacular 2000 Euro a night Hotel Cala Di Volpe where we paid 45 Euro per drink (the hotel is outstanding despite the rip-off prices). I don’t have a tender so we hitched rides with Super Yacht owners on their not so dingy dinghies – including one belonging to a Saudi hot-shot on a 300 million Euro goliath. He still won’t return our text messages offering to sail on Esodo with the little people.

Our second night we took a mooring ball in the Porto Cervo proper – 140 Euro for a ball (buoy). Trust me, that was cheap compared to the 500-euro-a-night-ball option in Cala De Volpe around the corner. Note to self: buy big balls and then retire! I SAID BIG BALLS!

Esodo is the greatest investment I’ve made in my life. It creates the most valuable product we have – experiences. I figured out a few years ago that the material world is ultimately empty and will leave you feeling alone in the end. What I learned is that there are two great investments in life, yourself and other people. That’s it! Esodo is a magic machine that brings my friends and family together and creates experiences. Those experiences strengthen friendships and deepen our place in the world and the universe. It’s that simple.

I had a great time with Craig and despite his slightly criminal behavior with the washing up in the galley he has three things going for him: he is not Australian, he is a great sailor, and a true mensch among men. I rate Craig an embarrassingly boring 10 and look forward to sailing together with him again next summer.

Below is a wonderful little video Craig shot of our 48kn wind sail.

Captain Awesome, Bonifaco, Corsica, Aug, 2015.

 

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