Gloves Off With Clan Loehr

Peter Loehr is a man who wears no gloves – strictly a gloves off approach to life. His younger brother Gerald is bi-glove, wearing only one glove at a time, whereas Gerry senior, the patriarch of the Loehr clan, like myself, is a consummate gloves-on man.

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To say there wasnt’t some division between the gloves-haves, the glove-nots, and gloves-halves would be a lie, but despite these “handicaps” and difference in lifestyle choices, the Loehr family was very much a hands-on group of guests during their week-long stay on Esodo.

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I’ve known Peter for around 11 years; we met on the set of “Mission Impossible 3” in 2005, where Peter was the service producer and I was a nervous C-camera operator working under the mastery of Director JJ.Abrams and DP Dan Mindel.

Last year Peter and I met up at a friend’s wedding in Bangkok where we rekindled our friendship and discovered our mutual passion for sailing. It was there we hatched the plan to sail on Esodo, with the Loehr clan .

One of the things I love about the boat and I’ve said it before, is the amazing opportunity to create deep friendships and make new ones. It’s also a chance to reshuffle habits and find new norms for one’s life.

I won’t go into the norms of my life before the Loehr clan boarded, but since the Loehr family left Esodo there have been two major changes:

 – I now have an 11 am start-to-drink policy, which is non-negotiable (unless one wants a drink before 11  am).

 –  Esodo now recognizes that ice for drinks is more important than wind for sails, but both are preferred. 

A great week with Peter, Gerald and Gerry. See you in Greece next year gents!

Captain Awesome, Paxos, Greece, Aug 29th, 2016

(edited by Steven Schwankert, the literate submariner)

Albania

Apparently no one in the yachting community goes to Albania. Except for an adventurous few (like yours truly). Albania is the place you pass by on the way to Greece or Montenegro.

I begged to differ and took the Albanian challenge. I was only in-country for 48 hours but it was one of the most rewarding two days I’ve had in a longtime: kid-in-a-candy-store type stuff, eyeballs bulging out of my head with the excitement of seeing such a different world, the obscure world of Albania.

I’m using a sailing guide book last updated in 2004, that says things like “Our own feeling is that at present the situation is too unstable to risk a visit” & “Minefields, extending up to 20M off the Albanian coast, were considered a hazard after the Second World War…we have been unable to obtain any information on the current situation”  I assumed things had changed in the past 12 years. Faith, son!

What I found was an authentic people living an authentic life, unlike Montenegro or Croatia — whore-states selling what little culture and authenticity they have to misinformed tourists expecting value and quality. See blog post: Why the Game of Thrones and Esodo left Croatia and will never go back

A quick tidbit for you  – John Belushi was Albanian! 80630

Going into Albania, all I had was a name and number — Arben Ninga — the guy who can help you with immigration and customs, I was told. (thx Captain Bob)

Three hours from Durres (still unsure if I was actually going to go to Albania), I called Arben. My entire and final resolve to see Albania was captured and decided based on that one call. Arben simply sounded like the nicest guy ever — and he is!

We docked in Durres industrial port (Albania has no yachting marinas) at 8pm, where Arben stood waiting for me with sailing gloves donned ready to help with the docking.

Arben requested permission to board the boat,  “may I board, captain?” Within 15 minutes, all official paperwork was filled in, a modest fee for services paid, and Arben wished us a wonderful evening offering some dining options before departing. We were in Albania and free to explore! Wow…Albania.

Arben and I just before departing Albania for Greece. Gloves in hand.

Arben and I just before departing Albania for Greece. Gloves in hand.

Over the next 36 hours my boat guest and I explored Durres and the capital city, Tirana. We were likely only two of 100 Western tourists, or so it seemed.

I won’t pretend to be Paul Theroux here and expand on the deeper cultural observations or the history of Albania, which is vast and full of foreign occupation and human suffering. All I can express here is that we had a blast interacting with the people and the cities. We were treated warmly and with the exception of an outraged, possibly violent, bald, overweight vegetable vendor I sneakily photographed, we felt safe and free.

Below are a few photographic impressions of my short visit to Albania.

Incidentally, (as Captain Bob commented) they have the most badass national flag ever!

And a quick shout-out to my new Albanian buddy – Almir Mane – who gave us a lift to the bus station in his car when we were lost.

Captain Awesome, Corfu, Greece, Aug 23rd, 2016.

(Edited by Steven Schwankert- the literate submariner)

 

Why the Game of Thrones and Esodo left Croatia and will never go back

The answer is fish! After five weeks in Croatia my summary conclusion is FISH — as in that’s all the Croatians do well — and according to my Italian friend, Pier Paolo, they don’t even do that well. But I was quite satisfied with the fish so let’s allow for some good grace…but just a smidgen.

Culture is the new (and old) modern commodity. The Chinese are spending billions — one dollar a person — to leave culturally barren China and experience it. Europe is basically the world’s number one cultural destination.

So if culture is a commodity, then in a globalized, hyper-competitive world you better have a good product, otherwise you are going to lose.

To quote one of my great friends, the esteemed celebrity journalist and economist Alan Friedman, “Croatia is a cheesy poor version of Italy with one nice town: Dubrovnik.” Alan’s distillation is perfecto, as they say in Italia. However, I would argue that even Dubrovnik, at closer inspection, isn’t anything more than a cheap vaudeville act for tourists. Go and find out for yourself…or don’t!

I hate to subject an entire nation to such brutal and dismissive criticism, but Croatia makes it so easy. Listing what Croatia lacks is probably the best way to illustrate what it has, which is really just fish, and let’s be clear here, the fish are running out.

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According to the internet, culture is defined by the following:

The arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively. Those include facets such as: the arts, the humanities, intellectual achievement; literature, music, painting, philosophy, and the performing arts.

So let’s start with Music:

After attending a major music festival in PAG and three blow-out nights in the Hvar club scene at places like Carpe Diem and Pink Champagne, I can safely say they play the worst music on earth. It’s as if they want to play bad music, like bad music IS THE POINT. 

Look at this DJ — don’t be fooled by her authoritative perch and side-dancer — Miss Kay Dee will play Cyndi Lauper and Michael Jackson at the exact point you say to yourself, “hey, this music ain’t bad, I can work with this” and then like Thor’s hammer she will kill your vibe and send you whirling across the cold lonely universe for eternity. My mate Stevie and I gave Croatia four, 10-hour nights of our lives, for naught!

IMG_4171IMG_4171And now Food:

With the exception of grilled fish, which any fool can catch and put on fire, they have one other dish, it’s called called pekaPeka needs to be ordered four hours in advance so they can spend that time over-cooking either seafood or meat, ad nauseum.

My guests and I had the seafood peka, which simultaneously left all of us the next morning in a violent, collective purge. I will stop here!

 Language:

 They all sound like Russian thugs planing the sale of stolen nuclear arms to a rogue state. (This might seem insulting to Russian thugs. For this I am sorry.)

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Intellectual achievement:

They manage to organize a collective of elaborate money traps throughout the country to extract every dime from sailboats. In the photo below, the Dubrovnik Port Authority managed to extort 45 Euro from me for an “ecological fee” for anchoring in a country that already charged me for a sailing permit.

 Literature:

All I got was a pamphlet that I had to pay for.

philosophy:

Deliver mediocre service, food and experience in a post-communist nation with little charm at exorbitant prices. 

performing arts:

Performing a dramatic, off-broadway version of rip-off-the-tourists, the musical (with bad music of course).

To be fair, I did meet some wonderful people in Croatia: a dermatologist and a sailmaker — I had a suspicious spot on my sail. Turns out it was nothing…too much sun exposure.

Game of Thrones :

Well, they got the hell out of dodge and went to Spain. I have an inside producer source that informs me:

The Croatians couldn’t help themselves, they had the nerve to rip-off the mother of dragons, John Snow, and even the white walkers. Yes, Game of Thrones paying too much for peka both at the front-end and the back-end!

I for one will never go back to Croatia, it’s just charmless. I write this blog post from Corfu, Greece where everything is 10x more beautiful, 10x more delicious, and 10x more everything for half the price! 

My next blog posting will be a very positive story about the underdog Albania!

Captain Awesome, Corfu, Greece, Aug 16, 2016

(edited by Steven Schwankert — the literate submariner)

The 50 shades of Captain Bob

The 50 shades of Captain Bob

Had the great fortune of spending a half-day with captain Bob Findlay and his 47.5 foot FAEM today, here in Mljet. Croatia.

Bob is my stem-cell – all this sailing business started on FAEM in 2012. After only four days sailing with Bob and his motley crew in Italy I knew this was an obsession I could stay obsessed with. One year later I bought my own boat, I’m currently halfway into my fourth season and still chasing the dragon.

I learned how to RAFT today, that’s when two boats are roped together at the beam. This is how it works:

Under rigid instructions from Captain Bob, I pulled down my sails exposing my bare mast, gliding through the moist silky blue waters, I slipped up next to FAEM’s exposed port side from behind and then slowly but gently let the wind blow me to her, once alongside her Bob and his mate lashed my bow and my stern and tied me up firmly – no, this is not a porn, you sick degenerate bastards, this is RAFTING!

Anyway, the RAFTING thing is great fun, it’s like joining two tables for dinner at a restaurant…but with big boats instead.

Looking forward to fifty more shades of yachting with Bob and crew next summer in Greece. Always a pleasure and a gift to meet up with friends on boats.

Captain Awesome, Mljet, Croatia August 8th, 2016.

Hammock Helming

It took me four seasons, 6000+ nautical miles and endless hours of nothing to do, but today I finally cracked the code on sailing – hammock helming!

Captain Awesome, en route to Dubrovnik. Force 8 relax! August, 9th, 2016

hammock helming

Season 4, revenge!

Forgive me father, for its been a very long time since my last blogfession. My atonement starts now:

Season four started on June 7th uneventfully and prosaically in Ravenna, Italy, where I left Esodo for the winter.

Grand Soleil recalled my boat to the Adriatic at the end of last season for major deck work – seems gray chalking (the rubber stuff between teak decks) is unstable in 50 percent of the world’s boats. Just my luck, I’m in the wrong 50 percent…and I thought I was in the 1 percent…:-)

Actually, I started noticing the gray chalking was getting sticky at the end of season 2 and then it got way worse during season 3, so much so that it was basically liquifying and sticking to me and my guests.

When I told GS about the issue they accused me of using aggressive chemicals to wash the boat – to this a countered “IS SEA WATER TOO AGGRESSIVE?” The cheeky bastards bowed to my “aggressive” salty retort and agreed to re-chalk the entire boat for free if I would get the boat to Ravenna. I immediately agreed…unfortunately I agreed before checking where Ravenna actually is. OH SHIT, it’s 1,000 miles away in another sea! Twenty days of brutal solo character-building sailing later, I showed up in Ravenna and promptly delivered Esodo.
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So now I basically have a new teak deck; it’s as smooth as a baby’s bottom and makes you want to rub your face all over it. It’s still gray…but stable for now. My new deal with GS is that they have to do it all over if it happens again. I have that in writing bitches! 

BEFORE

 

DURING THE DECK WORK

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Another fun realization materialized during the winter – seems I sailed all of season 3 (2,000+ magnificent miles) with loose keel bolts. When Pier 12 (the Ravenna-based GS service yard where I wintered) hauled Esodo out of the water last October they noticed water leaking out of the keel/hull connection.

We can trace this issue back to Pomme, the dark siren who tried to sink Esodo at the end of season 2. (see Women & Rocks). The fateful rock-hit caused some minor delimitation on the hull around the keel. The repairs were undertaken by Carboway, an Italy-based company of good repute. Well, that’s where the repute starts and stops:

Carboway started the work before Christmas 2014, completing about half the job and then promptly went full MIA for six months after that. Apparently the boss, an Italian named Carmelo Savastano, had a nervous breakdown or who-the-fuck-cares-what and promptly disappeared.

This is what I imagine Carmelo looks like – one of the below

My emails went unanswered for half a year until one day I woke up to a message that the work was done and was asked to pay the balance invoice. When I asked for proof of work completed or a detailed lowdown of the repair for my insurance claim, the line when dead again.

I’ve never paid the balance and never will. I’m told the work WAS done but who the hell knows and now it seems Carmelo’s nerves were so frazzled that he even screwed up a screw! Regardless, Esodo is sailing well and her keel nuts have now been tightened to international standards of tightness!

No names have been changed to protect the innocent, there is no innocence in the yachting world. Everyone is guilty! 

Alleged work done by Carboway

The list of unprofessional service and crimes against humanity (mostly again my humanity) goes on and on. I will, over time, make mention of EVERYONE who has ever misbehaved. You will be brought into the light, you will pay for your sins in the public arena and you will be found wanting…or I’ll be found dead with my tongue sticking out of a slit in my neck…wait, that’s Colombian not Italian…you get the point!

I’m on the hunt and I’m going make your heads my trophy, like dentists to lions!Walter-Palmer-cecil-800x430

Captain Awesome, Split, Croatia, Aug 1st, 2016.

A life Plastica

It seems to me that I see more plastic in the ocean than marine animals. It’s as if plastic has become part of the biologlical succession process; an agressive new speciese dominating the seas. It’s as pervasive as poor teenage judgment.

In a modest attempt to help solve the problem, this summer Esodo and her guests have – when safe to do so – took time to fish-out floating surface plastic from the Mediterranean. Not only was it easy and fun, but often I felt disapointed when we couldn’t find any plastic to recover.

If everyone – skipper, captain, crew, fisherman, swimmer, suntanner – just took a few seconds to pick up some plastic, we would be half way to having cleaner oceans.

Below is a small montage of items salvaged from the summer.

Watch out 2016 plastic, we are coming for you in 8 months!

Captain Awesome, Ravenna, Sept 2015.

 

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

 

 

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