The Chmielowicz Polish gambit is on!  22 of Irena’s family are descending on Warsaw’s spring for a two week tour extravaganza of sights,  hikes,  and stories of the old country.   Look out fair people: The return of Chmielowicz women folk will not go unnoticed.   Overnight on the plane from Toronto to Warsaw,  the girls didn’t sleep a wink (nor did I!).  Now to a 3 am breakfast.   Cresswell Walker +1 604 562 0221www.cresswellwalker.comSent from Mobile Phone 

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Boat Show Vancouver 2016


20160124_122022_resized20160120_094825_resizedImagine, 5 days with nothing to do but meet new people as they drift by the BC Authors both at the Vancouver Boat Show!

I was a newcomer among the marine authors of BC, selling my humble single title, sandwiched between the experts. When I wasn’t busy with curious sailors wondering what a “Voyage of Uncommon Sense” would be about, I was chatting up my new writing friends about their experience writing and selling their wares. 20160124_121954_resized And this was complimented by my daily one hour seminar telling stories about our trip around the world. It was great to share my madness for the sea and sailing with others of the same affliction.

Even more, it was my pleasure to make some new friends among those I met who are in the process of going offshore – Bill and Candice especially – Welcome aboard the offshore cruising community.


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Vancouver Boat show Speaking Schedule


Conversations at Granville Island docks, our new moorage visible behind on the far side of False Creek beside the bridge concrete pilon

Boat Show speaking Schedule

I hope you will come out to visit me at the Vancouver Boat show in January. I will be on hand every day, hanging out at the BC Author’s both gamming away, and doing a daily talk, pictures shows really, on five different themes.

Wednesday, January 20 at 6:30 pm          “The Reality Escape Machine”   — What you need in an offshore boat for sailing around the world safely and comfortably.

Thursday, January 21 at 4:15 pm                “Bare Foot Sailing”: Living the tropical sailing paradise dream, what it is really like and how to do it.

Friday, January 22 at 1:15pm                      “Almost Outrunning Hurricane Ignacio and other Weather Stories” An overview of offshore sailing weather, forecasting, and planning your passages around the world.

Saturday, January 23 at 2:15 pm                “Going for it” How to get off the dock and into your dreams, whatever they are for you. This is an inspirational talk on what practically you can do to prepare yourself to set out for the thing you dream of doing.

Sunday, January 24 at 3:00 pm                   “The misadventures of a sailing fool” — In a lifetime of sailing, I have made an awful lot of mistakes and still had the most fun I could have with my clothes on and of course, learned some very important lessons.


A Womb with a View

I can’t quite see Conversations tied up at the False Creek Yacht Club, though the Club itself is plainly visible from where I stand. The boat is just out of sight behind the huge Granville Street Bridge, north side piers. Not only do we have a great view, we are a part of it. We are living under a bridge in Vancouver!


Home office?

All around, it’s a dull day. The sea gulls call noisily under the girders, a thing they do I imagine to show off with the acoustical amplification the bridge works. The Vancouver sky is barely not raining and it is dark at the modest hour of 5:00 pm as we are just past winter solstice.  So winter like! Such a great view of it.  We have been back in Vancouver now on little over 3 months now.  The sea going adventures of our 18 day passage as we made our way from Hawaii are like a dream, dimly remembered. How quickly old realities fade into the busy background of life in a city, a city filled for me with memories of my past lives, decades old. Even from 10 years ago when we left, the city is different. I am different. What I want is different. What a chance to begin afresh. It’s a whole new adventure!

For now, as we build a new life, Irena and I stay aboard Conversations where we gorge on electricity. Extra 120 volt lighting, toasters, electric coffee grinders, food processors, a water heater even Christmas lights – it is an orgy! After so long making our precious amps  – after so long being ‘the electricity Nazi’ on board – I am profligate . And I love it. In the rainy dark of a Vancouver winter, I love how the three electric heaters stationed throughout the boat, keep us dry and cozy despite the rain and blasts of wind. We are snug like bugs, happy in our False Creek womb with a view.


Frends at home

Being home with friends is good!


Conversations from Granville Bridge

Looking down from Granville Street Bridge on Conversations tied up between two ‘stinkies’

And, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all. I wonder how Santa Claus will find us this year so far inland! Kamploops with Irena’s Daughter and family.

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Making Landfall – Reality Sinking In

It’s was a cold morning here on board Conversations – our very own R.E.M. b541c-at2bsea2bshot(Reality Escape Machine). Day 17 from Hawaii. Patches of fog drifting about, solidly overcast, it was hard to believe land and life is only another sleep away. Soon the morning sun burned off the low cloud and nice brisk wind rose from the NW to blow away much of the rest of the cloud – the sun is out. Looks like its going to be a free electricity day! More solar and wind energy than our equipment can consume. Maybe we will celebrate by leaving all the lights on tonight…… not likely! We will be content to bring our batteries up, our fridge’s down and our device on line. So, this will be our last day on the open ocean – at least for a while. All too soon, things like job interviews, phone calls, and paying bills will take the place of trimming sails, tracking our course and watching & reading weather files. Indeed a totally different reality is waiting for us. As we contemplated this is new reality, Irena said “its a pitty, all this passage, no dolphins, no whales…. no……. whoooooosh – a pod of humpback whales blew spume close aboard to starboard! They are soooooo big, and beautiful in their effortless gliding through the water. This is all quite bittersweet for us. On one hand, by the time we are near the end of a 3 week passage, we are chomping at the bit to get to terra firma, go for a walk, get exercise and get a good full night’s sleep. On the other hand, we know not when we will return to the sea, so we are savouring every moment out here, the great expanse of sky and sea that surrounds us, even the fog and the cold and damp. (Well maybe not so much the cold and damp!) However my (Irena)emotions are running high, and that feels good. I feel alive and energized, fully engaged and filled with the wonderful anticipation of a new day, a new chapter. September is a good month for this. I remember well feeling like this at the start of each school year. It’s a time of starting fresh, all your pencils sharpened, all your intentions focused on doing well this year, the excitement of the all that novelty. And so it is here! We have slowed Conversations down to about 5 knots as we approach the coast in order to arrive at the channel entrance at first light tomorrow morning, now 50 NM away. We do get to break ourselves in gently however. We will arrive in Port Hardy tomorrow (Sunday at the north end of Vancouver Island) and once we are checked in with customs, we will spend the next 5 days day-sailing down some of the most beautiful cruising grounds in the world. The inside passage between Vancouver Island and mainland BC– a magnificent coast filled with lush fiords, islands and anchorages — is definitely the road/water less traveled. After ten years of passage making, we simply cannot get our heads around the truth that, at the end of this passage, unlike at the end of all others, we will be home. BTW our thanks again to Paul, for being our responsible person tracking daily our position, sending us weather forecasts, and keeping us cheered with his usual irreverent and humourous quips. All are comforting to us way out here…. Cress and Irena

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Heah! Somebody turned out the lights…

StormIt was like God went home, and turned off the lights on the way out. Dark and Windy? Hah! Rough? Last night, finally, the remnants of tropical storm Ignacio overtook us as she roared past to the north, dragging her southern skirts across our track. We went from bright sun, to deep dark overcast and high winds and rain. Dark came early and with no moon in the sky and not a star to be seen it was so dark, we could see nothing into the night. And so we were left to fumble with our sails trying to keep the boat under control in winds rising to 35 knots. Thats 60 kilometers for you metric types. Over the course of a couple of hours we shortened sail from full sail, to reefed sails to staysail only, a tiny sprite of a sail, and that was up at all just for stability in the giant waves. It was one of those long nights where Irena and I traded wet watches on deck for wet cat naps below. For those of you who have never been to sea in a small boat, the thing to know is the hardest part is the motion (if not the emotion fear). moving up and down 15 foot waves, the boat bucks and jumps and wiggles and rolls with such abandon, we cannot stand. Instead, we lurch from hand hold to hand hold, and crawl like a drunks down the deck as we go about about the business of sailing the boat in heavy weather and looking after our tender needs for food drink and potty time. It was a busy night and we are both a bit pooped. But it was short too. This morning the winds are down to 25 knots and the seas are calming though the rolling is really pissing me off as I try to type this and hang on at the same time. Best of all the sun is in and out and we and the boat are drying out. And even better than that – we are only 646 miles from Cape Scott on the north end of Vancouver Island. This means one quarter to go in a 2459 mile passage from Hawaii. We are keen!

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Half way, Tropical Storm Gracio in dogged pursuit

Day 9Hi everyone, Well we are now into day 9, a day or so from half way. The weather has been excellent and the winds cooperating nicely – so far! It has cooled off now which is relief for sleeping and just generally more comfortable. We have the side curtains down most of the time in our cockpit, feeling like we are in a bit of a bubble of warmth and dryness amidst the sun and the sea spray which would otherwise be showering us in the cockpit. The wind has now moved on to the beam (from ahead to right angles to us), so for today at least no splashing and waves crashing over the bow, and more comfortable motion down, especially below. We are getting very good weather information and Cress is also in touch with his buddy Paul in Vancouver who is tracking our progress and also checking weather for us. We are watching that tropical storm ‘IGnacio’ closely – but it is still 4 or 5 days away from us and forecast to track just north of us on Sunday or Monday. (See photo –Day-9-small This is a snap shot of the grib wind forecast for next Monday. The red circle with the yellow center is our expected position on Monday. Our present position is the red bullseye in the lower left corner). It has been instructional to watch the strength and path of this storm, since before we set out from Hawaii. It grew briefly to hurricane force the day before we left, while it was still 1000 miles from Hawaii then eased after that to “Tropical Storm” status. We have watched this storm track over the last 10 days. Since forming, it has traveled NW to pass north of the Hawaiin Islands then turning due north and parallel our course, always about five days behind us. Now it is traveling faster than us, and now accelerating, and swinging to track NE. The forecast indicates that it will pass about 100 miles north of uson Sunday/Monday. Of course this only a forecast, so it can change its course or direction, or could even just dissipate. By snuggling up nice and close to the high pressure to the south of us, we have a measure of protection. Even if we did get caught up in it, it has max winds now of only 50 knots – uncomfortable but manageable. For now, we are enjoying the boat and reading, cooking, relaxing…. and keeping a close eye on the weather picture. It looks like we will be arriving from the north end of Vancouver Island – interesting that this is actually shorter than a route up Juan de Fuca Straight. Possibly make landfall in Port Hardy around Sept 15th and will then make our way down the Straights of Georgia to Nanaimo by no later than Friday or Saturday Sept 18/19. We are planning a stop there before we sail over to Vancouver on Sept 20th. In fact we are inviting people to sail with us early Sunday from Nanaimo to Vancouver where will are throwing and boat party on Sunday. Yahoo. Cress

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Steady as she goes!

Day 7 is as clear and beautiful day as you could have at sea. Clear blue skys, azure waters, puffy playful cu’s, and little us, beavering along northbound at about 7 knots. We have not seen a single ship, boat, nothing but birds since leaving. We are about 850 miles north of Honolulu now, making good progress. The winds have moved into a more favorable quarter for our comfort and the waves have abated slightly. We have our sea legs, so are back on our feet doing more than just lurching from berth to cockpit, as so characterizes the first days of a passage when beating up wind. And so, ladies and gentlemen, for your viewing pleasure, for the first time ever, i will attempt to post a PHOTOGRAPH to our blog by email post from offshore!! Yes, folks isn’t that amazing!! Some of you know we are quite band width challenged out here. Our only connection with the outside world is via our trusty ICOM 706 MKIIg Ham radio. We hook our computer up to a gadget called a pactor modem (for ‘packet’ radio)which takes our computer created emails, chops it into bits. The modem then takes control of the ham radio, calls up a ham base station, transmits the bits, which are received and recreated into an email and stuffed into the internet for your reading pleasure. Your replies make the same journey in the opposite direction when we call up the base station to see if we have any mail waiting. There are about 50 ham base stations around the world which provide this service, for the fun of it. Excellent, but by pure internet standards, S L O W. So please don’t try this at home……no photo replies! In the photo I am sending, if it makes it, you sill see our position in red in the lower left hand corner and you will see our intended course to Vancouver arching northward over the top of the north pacific high, making landfall at the north end of Vancouver Island. Each diamond on the route is one day’s sail (140 nautical miles on an average day)The arrows are wind direction and speed indicators. Each full fletch on each arrow equals about 10 knots or about 17 km of wind speed. This weather file is called a grib file and this is the forecast for Sept 7, six days away. Who know if this is how it will come to pass? Everyday, I download a new set ol grib files forecasting out about 7 days using the same email function that brings you this. So far our long range strategy is holding together. Stay tuned. One thing you do not see on this photo are any tropical storms. This is a good thing. If I hear back this photo gets posted I will send out a picture of one of the tropical storms lurking outside the frame of this picture. Today, Irena and I celebrate our 16 th anniversary of being together. Wow, ten of them sailing about. Tonight we will toast to our good fortune and to our friends who helped us get so far! Cheers Cresswell

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Hawaiian lullaby After 11 days of being lulled into ?preparing to leave? we finally made our break from Hawaii on Wednesday afternoon. After arriving there on Aug 15th, we had the boat ready to go within a few days as planned. But Mother Nature had other plans. Part of our preparation is of course checking weather, and as you may have read in the previous blog, there was a tropical storm threatening Hawaii and the surrounding area – so prudence prevailed and we waited it out. Which was not altogether bad at all! A night in the wonderful Marriott Hotel, some extra boat jobs done, a few more happy hours with our neighbours. Not bad at all! Trouble though when a new tropical storm started to develop right on the heels of the previous one; and another one behind that one! And in between these storms, you guessed it ? NO WIND. Now what – wait another week? Another 2 weeks? As I watched Cress pour over the weather information each day, and also watched his increasing straining at the collar to leave, I knew something had to give. Sunday, we thought we would leave Monday, Monday we thought we would leave Tuesday?.. On Wednesday afternoon at the internet cafe (checking the weather of course) Cress was assessing the next tropical storm ? ?Ignacio? – its location, predicted path and strength and it was one of those moments of ? ?Let?s just go now! If we leave right now, we will be 100 miles further away from that storm than if we leave tomorrow morning?. So that was it, we high tailed it back to the boat, topped up the water tanks, let the mooring lines go and away we went. It was actually a relief to be moving, taking action, making tracks! We knew that we still had 6 days to get ahead of Ignacio, and that should give us ample time to get completely out if its range ? that is assuming the forecasted path remains the same. It is now Friday afternoon, 2 days out and in fact the tradewinds have filled in (after about 24 hours of motor sailing), and we are 200 NM along our track. As far as storm tracking goes, we know that Tropical Storm Ignacio is still out there, about 800 nautical miles ESE of us ? tracking WNW. We are actually sailing across its projected path on a northbound course. In fact we are now crossing where the eye of the storm will be 5 days from now! At least that?s what the forecast says. Suffice it to say that we are keeping our own ?eye? on Ignacio ourselves, and right now all is looking good. It does seem weird to be crossing a path where you know in 5 days the seas will be a lot higher and the wind a lot stronger. It?s a bit like thinking you know the future. Kind of like crossing the street where you know there will be a traffic accident in a few days. Ahhhh, but we all know that predictions are just that ? predictions. We shall see how accurate the forecast is within the next week. In the meantime, we will enjoy the great sailing we are experiencing now. Wind from the NE at 15 knots, sunny, blue skies, puffy clouds on the horizon which make for gorgeous sunrises and sunsets, (we witnessed the reddest sunset ever seen last night) and at dusk last evening we had no less than 10 tropical birds of some sort land on the bow pulpit and hitch a ride with us all night! Not sure what they were, blue slender beak, mostly white body with dark wing feathers and red/orange feet. They were practically stacked double decked on each of the rails and fighting each other for a prime landing spot. Great entertainment, and never a dull moment out here. Irena

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Tropical Storm Kilo


Nothing like a bit of weather to get your attention. And to shove aside, for a while at least, our modest human ambitions to sail from Hawaii to Vancouver

And nothing like a bit of weather to cast me into the abyss of too much information, and not enough experience.

Tropical storm Kilo, says the weathermen, is whirling around the neighborhood making threats of coming ashore in Hawaii and messing the place up with wind, rain and shore battering waves.  “Do we make a break for it or do we wait for a more favorable forecast?” , that was the question.2015-08-22_10-52-23

Now we might well enough have been gone ahead of the storm a few days ago – the storm was and is south of us, and we had almost a week to sail due north out of Hawaii, but we were not ready.

And tomorrow, when we will be ready it is just a bit too tight to make a certain getaway. And hurricane paths around the Hawaiian Islands have a history of abruptly making a hard right from their WNW trajectory and heading north. Who wants a 3000 mile passage to begin with a tropical cyclone in hot, wet and windy pursuit. Not me! Furthermore, far away to the west, super typhoon activity is pretty heavy – it is after all the peak of the typhoon hurricane season in the northern Pacific Ocean. The possibility of one theses monsters striding across the North Pacific is remote, but not impossible. Lastly, tropical cyclones change daily and unpredictably. Yesterday the prognosis was worse than today. But it might suddenly rebuild tomorrow. And by next week it might be a killer, or it might simply go Phissssst! And be gone like a cold beer on a hot day.

So down into the information abyss I swim. Fascinating stuff, really



The history of tropical storms in this part of the Pacific Ocean goes back to at least 1940: 2015-08-22_11-40-55

If you look closely, you will see the Hawaiian Islands in the lower middle above. You will see this is in a corner of historical tropical storm activity. Not much cyclonic storm activity north and North East especially. From this I conclude, if we can get even a 1000 miles north of Hawaii we are pretty much home free. We need a week of sailing to get well clear.

And so we will likely spend a wet, windy and rolly week this week safe in harbour in Kewalo Marina while Tropical Storm, maybe hurricane, Kilo has its way with Hawaii. Then next week, hopefully with a clear forecast, we will set sail. Waiting in Hawaii? It certainly could be worse, but I will bedeviled by the question, “Was I excessively cautious?”

What am I thinking when I say “The abyss of too much information”? I believe too much information is the curse of our times, but not because there is too much information. It is because increasingly, we have too little first hand experience in the world to make sense of wonderful depth of information we do have.  This week in Hawaii is a good example. For all my sailing the last 10 years, I have thoroughly avoided tropical storm seasons, I have no experience making decisions when tropical cyclone storms are a possibility. And now this week I have all this data, but no experience to make a judgement – go or no go. And nobody in the weather office will tell me go or no go. They will talk about probabilities, storm tracks possibilities, percentage chance of winds of every velocity in every sector, but none of them will be willing to make the choice to go or not go for me. After this experience, I will have something to work with in the future, but no very much.2015-08-22_15-59-35

And so it is with the rest of life. If we spend our lives with our faces glued to the one screen or another, we will see heaps of data, but not get much experience to make the data of practical use. It interests me that psychological studies are finding, feelings are essential to making choices. Feelings in use don’t arise from data, they come from experiences. Studies of life-coachingbrain damaged subjects, unfortunate souls who by accident have lost access to their feelings, were found unable to make choices. Instead, they would prevaricate endlessly between rational alternatives. We use our feelings to make choices – without them we cannot chose.

For me this underscores again the value of accumulating life experiences as an effective strategy to live richly and grow further. I suppose it is no surprise to learn this is so, but interesting to see it demonstrated to me so viscerally by tropical storm Kilo.


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Anatomy of a tough passage

addad-p5150268It is one week away from our passage on s.v. Conversations from Hawaii to Vancouver. My anticipation is growing as I make the psychological transition from workshop leader back to sailor. I will be leaving Jackson Hole for Hawaii and the boat on Saturday. Irena will be joining me there, just the two of us for the passage.

This is a tough passage, usually left for the delivery crew as the wealthy owner jets home to North America. Likely he or she has enjoyed the sleigh ride (downwind sail) to Hawaii from San Francisco or LA, perhaps in the company of his racing crew chalking up many fine yacht club bar stories of his daring do.

As the crow flies its about 2030 nautical miles from Hawaii to the Straits of Juan de Fuca and home, but we are not crows! Because of the NE tradewinds, home to Vancouver  lies is more or less upwind from where the boat is in Honolulu. Not a very fun sail, beating against the tradewinds this far. We know, because we did a 2500 mile upwind sail against the tradewinds once from South Africa to the Azores a couple of years ago. Fortunately, in this instance, nature has provided us with another option. Our route sailing home therefore appears ridiculously out of the way to the uninitiated, but it is a great example of working with nature rather than against it. 58922-capeofgoodhopeitselfOur route is about 2900 Nautical miles, about a third longer than the direct route, but infinitely more comfortable and probably faster than attempting to beat upwind against the fully developed tradewinds of 20 knots (35 kilometers).
2015-08-12_8-00-56Following this route, we will sail more or less due North from Hawaii, with the wind forward, but not on the nose. And we will keep sailing until we get north of the centre of the North Pacific High Pressure, and only then will we point the bow for home.  It depends on where the NPHP is when we get there, but presently it is about 1400 nautical miles north of Hawaii, or at about the same latitude as Vancouver as you can see on the photo. When we get north of the NPHP, we can turn west towards home, with tail winds hopefully. Though the best laid plans…….

That’s the theory! If tropical storm conditions permit, we will set sail around next Tuesday from Honolulu. We will attempt to post to this blog from sea as we sail using our ham radio and pactor modem. No pictures, at least until after we are ashore again, but we can provide our position and share our stories.

Do stay tuned to the blog for the next month to see how it actually goes. Something will happen…. it always does!  But I am reminded of the inimitable quote from the movie he Best Exotic Marigold Hotel:

“Everything is okay in the end. And if things are not okay, it must not be the end!”


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