My favourite picture of the year.

Horse Trek in Kamberg – Berg Trails

I decided it was one of those things I had to do. After talking about it, and never doing it, I finally got on a horse.  Lady was her name.  A big brown Appaloosa owned and trained at Sans Souci Farms in Kamberg, Natal. The horse riding aspect of their farm, Berg Trails, is home to about 50 free running, that is they don’t live in stables but run around on the 564ha farm.

I had a great time, but I think Lady was glad when we were done as I was definitely a heavy carry.  Sorry girl! Here is a culling of the best photos.

Walking up the track towards a ridge.

The Midlands, KZN: An Interlude from Sailing and Sailing Related Posts…

Here are a few photos from my walk today at Baldinnie Jersey Farm, the family residence and dairy farm belonging to the family of my friend Cameron.  It’s stunning.  It’s about 250 hectares. And a single hectare is 10,000 square meters or rather 100m by 100m.  Their farm therefore sits on a plot of land that is roughly 1500m on a side, were it square. It’s not huge by any stretch of the imagination, but a good hour’s walk took me across much of it and back to the farmhouse.

The sunrises and sunsets are particularly stunning right now as everyone has to have their fire breaks ready for the winter. It’s the dry season here in the Midlands and soon high winds will spread wildfires.  The breaks are burnt in by locals. The sky is full of smoke and you can’t see the hills that are no more than 5km away.

More to come. Tomorrow: Horse Trek in the Drakensberg!

STCW Training: The Breakdown or Nine Days in June

Wrapping things up

Leaving Cape Town wasn’t as easy as packing my bags, and hitting the docks. There was a lot left over after my STCW training was completed, a nine day course that ended on the 29th after a gamut of lectures, theory, and practical examinations. As it turns out, I had to cram an awful lot into that last day. In fact, that whole last week was about as full-on as you can expect. Lectures, biker-paramedics, gruff mariners, fires, and cold, cold water.

And never in my wildest dreams did I think, though, that with the Durban Boat Show starting on 19 July, that we’d be leaving on 30 June. With the number of cold fronts passing South Africa there was no way it was going to take more than 8 days, so even departing a week into July would have landed us in Durban in plenty of time. For some reason the skipper wanted to crack on and get going. So I had a lot to take care of. But I am getting ahead of myself. I need to explain what STCW is, and why I took the course. Continue reading

Coming Soon

Hey everyone,

Sorry for long time between posts.  From packing up the wife and kids, to packing up myself, cleaning the apartment, doing my STCW, and sorting out gear for the first leg of my EPIC ADVENTURE, I have had precious little time.

That said, I have just finished the first draft of a post about my experiences doing STCW, and that will come along in the near future.  I also have to write up my 7 day cruise from Cape Town to Durban that covered 794 non-stop miles of mostly downwind sailing, included on big cold-front, and some pretty light days as well.

Stay tuned, and thanks for the patience.


The Waiting is Over

After months of waiting for the start date, I leave for Durban on Monday or Tuesday.  The email came through this afternoon during class (PSSR: Personal Safety and Social Responsibilities).

It accelerates the timeline a bit, as I have a list of things to do as long as my arm, and not much time to do it. But I will manage on way or another.

Continue reading

Coming to a Close

After landing at Cape Town International Airport, after 32 hours in transit, my kids were surprisingly spry.  April had just slept for most of the 12 hour flight from Istanbul, and Charlie, despite restless sleep, and a good deal of fussing, was alert and giggling with the border agent as we checked in.  It was a different story for all of us once we were loaded into the combi that drove us the two hours north to Langebaan.  Fighting the sleep, we all lapsed into semi-consciousness.

That was 10 January.  After nearly six months, our stay is coming to an end.  And while we didn’t get proper jobs (the process is glacial versus Lauren’s experience with her new job in Montreal), and I missed out on a few opportunities to get some experience in sail-making (combination of miscommunications, and distractions all around), this time has been incredibly fruitful.

Lauren has finally taken the decision to put freelancing aside as the main source of her income; it has been difficult, and challenging to make ends meet when contract dry up, and the market is saturated with bloggers and content factories.  And I have examined the situation regarding my hope to return to McGill to finish my mathematics degree: the process has been long and annoying, with mixed messaged from the admissions department, weeks of work on personal essays lost because these people couldn’t give me a straight answer as to my status (I hold a BA from McGill, but started a BSc in Maths at UBC before withdrawing for personal reasons). I would have 4 years of undergrad followed by two of a Masters in Naval Architecture.  That is six years before I could start working in my desired field.  Instead, I have taken the advice of Bob Perry, well-known American designer of such beloved designs as Valiant 40 and others.

I contacted him last year, after reading his book, Yacht Design According to Perry.  It was an eye opener for me, and so seeking some idea of how I could get into the industry, I contacted him.  He suggested Westlawn, a distance education institution based in Maine. Many well known designers have studied there, including South Africa’s Dudley Dix, and J/Boats originator, Rod Johnstone.  With such highly successful designers as alumni, I could be in worse company.

So, as of March, after working my buns off to pay down some debt, and put some aside, I will enrol and begin my studies to be a Professional Small Yacht Naval Architect.  And you know what, it makes sense. It will get me working within 3 years, it will cost 1/5 the price of another Bachelors plus a Masters, and is recognised around the world.

The goal? Well, to design boats, obviously.  But I also wish to create something entirely new, but that is for another post.  For now, I am eternally grateful to the people here in Fish Hoek and Simon’s Town who have put me on boats, made me feel like a part of the family, and given me the opportunity to learn more about racing.  I am also grateful to the guys at North Sails Africa who took the time to meet with me, and make an effort to get me into their loft, despite it not working out.  Hopefully, I can use this connection to leverage some time in a loft in Montreal (yes they exist!).

From here, once the girls leave tomorrow, I take a sea safety course for 9 days, starting Friday.  Then, I hope to make sure I still have a ride back to Fortress North America in July (I haven’t heard from my skipper in a few weeks, but that isn’t anything abnormal if he’s on a delivery).  As such, I also have to express my gratitude to my exceptional partner, wife, and mother to my girls, Lauren, for suggesting this in the first place, and never wavering on her commitment to the idea, despite putting her at a disadvantage for 3-plus months, being a single mom working full time.  I couldn’t have asked her for this, but she has not once backed down.

Anyway, more on my trip later, once I know what the dates are. I hope to include a documentation of the preparation of the yacht for Durban, and for the crossing, as I am sure it will be of interest to a few people out there.

For now, good night, and good luck.




Musings on a Canadian Ocean Racing Training Program

This is taken from a post made on forums and poses some questions about Canadian involvement in ocean racing and where we go for training.  Here it is…


Dragon In Atlantic Cup (Photo by George Bekris)
Dragon In Atlantic Cup (Photo by George Bekris)

So, I’m pretty new, in the grand scheme of things, to sailing. I cut my teeth on keel boats in a Basic Cruising course in 2009, but since then, I have been obsessed and am doing everything I can to get on the water, and learn more and more about racing and seamanship.  In the process, I have met some amazing sailors both at home (in Montreal) and here in Cape Town.  My interest in ocean racing was peaked when I stumbled on the Volvo Ocean Race in 2011, immediately after that first night of catastrophe for Abu Dhabi and Team Sanya.  Since then, I have become more and more interested in this amazing sport.  But as a Canadian, I look at the UK and France, and see there is something different about the way that they promote and train their sailors.  In the “Innerview” with Alex Thomson, he stated that French students are put in boats as a life skill, rather than simply as a sport, as it teaches teamwork, leadership, and decision making.  Couldn’t agree more. The UK has organizations like Artemis Offshore Academy that specifically trains young British sailors to compete on the world stage of sailing.


These are the names I have come across in my research:

  • Derek Hatfield (Velux 5 Oceans, Vendee Globe)
  • Eric Holden (current Clipper race, Skipper with Henri Lloyd)
  • Chris Stanmore-Major (Clipper Round the World, Velux 5 Oceans,
  • Diane Reid (Mini 6.50)

Are there others?

They all came to the arena from different places by different paths.  It’s notable that the variety of experience is not unique to them. The international shorthanded racing set have just as varied a history as ours, but there are dozens and dozens of names on the list in the UK and France but ours seems so small.


My belief is that it comes down to options.  There are none in Canada. There is no Artemis Offshore Academy equivalent for Canadians where aspiring sailors can fast-track their learning.  We have the water, we have the conditions.  The only place that one can go to get concerted training with scads of experienced sailors is Europe.  Why can’t we get it going here?


So, what kind of interest is there in ocean racing amongst Canadian sailors? Where do they go for experience? Would they appreciate a home-grown program? With sponsorship of yachting events seen as a risky option in North America, who would step up to provide material support for such an organisation? Could such a program get off the ground?

There have been hugely successful sailing programs to come out of Canada. I’m thinking of the C-Class cat champs from 2007 and 2010  Fred Eaton and Magnus Clarke who set the bar as competition until Franck Cammas came in and crushed the field this past edition. Even Derek Hatfield came 3rd in the V5O.  So why not ocean/offshore? Especially when we’ve got inland seas, as well as massive amounts of coast on both sides of the country and no shortage of competition out of the US.  With the Class40 making headway there, and the newest entrant being a Canadian (Team Flatline’s Kyle Hubley is from Halifax, N.S.), there could be a momentous opportunity here to expand this class into Canada for both fully crewed and shorthanded races.

The incredible Solitaire du Figaro could also serve as a template for a series on the East Coast of Canada and the US to develop a solid solo racing program.  The boats are bomb-proof and not terribly expensive.  Being one-design, theywould provide a level playing field and solid training platform for talent.

All of this to say, I am incredibly proud to be Canadian and would love to see us show the world what we’re made of. Everyone knows we’re funny and polite. But we’re also tough as nails, incredibly independent, not to mention pretty good lookin. But what about stiff competition?

So, thoughts? Comments? Ideas?  Can Canada support such a program? Should it? Or should we continue to take ourselves to places like France, Britain, or South Africa to train?

EDIT: I just came across some news.  It’s  Seems that Sail Canada is starting to step up a bit and is endorsing a 3-boat team for the upcoming Brewin Dolphin’s Commodore’s Cup. 


Mike Birch came up in the thread above.  I hadn’t heard of him until now. Now it seems silly.  He’s a living legend.  A list of astonishing feats as long as your arm, and every bit the adventurer and epitome of the corinthian spirit, Mike Birch ought to be at the top of my list… And he keeps popping up on lists of races sailing multihulls to podium finishes as recently as  and was inducted into the Quebec Sailing Hall of Fame in 2012.  A search in your browser on this page for ‘Mike Birch’ will give you a nice summary of his resumé. EDIT: The more I read about this guy, the more amazed I am that I never heard of him before. Welcome to Canadian sailing I guess… Elaine Bunting on her Yachting World blog from 2011, said it best,

“The pity of it is, really, that Mike Birch is a thousand times more famous in France than in his homelands of the UK and Canada, where his feats deserved to be far, far better known.”

Yves Lepine

Second in 2005 OSTAR , behind Steve White of Britain coming in 20 days 5 hours 24 min and 21 days 4 hours 40 min respectively. Voile Quebec sailor of the year 2005.  Any links or info?

Gerry Roufs

Gerry Roufs was lost at sea during 1996 Vendée Globe after winning the monohull division of the 1996 OSTAR.  Posthumously inducted into the Quebec sailing hall of fame in 2012 along with Mike Birch, who has lived there for several years.

From Wikipedia:

He disappeared at sea in his boat, Groupe LG 2 in January 1997, in the South Pacific Ocean, while taking part in the 1996–1997 edition of the Vendée Globe, theround-the-worldsingle-handed, non-stop yacht race. Roufs was in second place in the race when his Argos position-indicating beacon ceased to transmit. His boat,Groupe LG 2, was found on the coast of Chile in July 1997. His last known position was 55°S 124°W.

Here’s another awesome class: The Beneteau Figaro II

The Beneteau Figaro II class is a one-design yacht built specifically for La Solitaire du Figaro, an offshore, single-handed, multi-stage race that is open to amateur racers as well as professionals. This boat is unreal.  Finding prices on one seems to be like looking for love in all the wrong places. You want it, but the harder you try, the harder it becomes.

Start of the 3rd leg of 2013 Solitaire, Photo Credit A. Courcoux, from La Solitaire du Figaro website
Start of the 3rd leg of 2013 Solitaire, Photo Credit A. Courcoux, from La Solitaire du Figaro website.

The Who’s Who of Offshore Wizards

The list of winners of this race is a who’s who of French sailing legends, including Michel “le Professeur” Desjoyeaux, Jean, Le Cam, Franck Cammas, and Armel le Cléac’h (the runner up of the last Vendee Globe single handed around the world race).

The boat by all accounts is a beast.  It takes a licking and just keeps cruising.  This video of British Figaro sailor, Sam Goodchild delivering his Beneteau Figaro II down the UK coast sees a spinnaker and full main in 60 knot gusts and they are tear-assing their way down wind. The HD version is definitely worth watching.  These guys are having a blast!

I’m blown away by the ferocity of this machine.

The next instalment, the 45th in fact, gets underway 8 June, 2014 . The first leg departs from  Deauville and finishes in Plymouth.  See the website for race details.

Cool new ride? Laser meet the RS Aero

This is the RS Aero from RS Sailing. A featherweight, it rings in at 48kg fully rigged and can be carried to the water as Mr Sheahan demonstrates below. I am impressed by the planing, and it looks like a ton of fun.

Here is a blog post from Matthew Sheahan at Yachting World where he takes one for a spin. The RS Aero is listed for sale at £4870 as special “Launch” pricing, the cost goes up to £5480 once they pull the plug on the deal. A complete price list is available here, where you can kit your RS Aero out with covers, trailer, camera, and instrument mounts, even a spare rig.

I’d definitely be in to getting on one of these for some high speed thrills!

Making Ends Meet

It’s been fun here in South Africa.  I don’t really want to leave.  After the full moon that rose over False Bay last night, my heart aches at the thought of leaving. But it’s getting tight.  My plan of getting a job has not come to pass, as my age apparently factors into it more than I had expected.  With LJ not getting a yes or a no from her prospect, she has moved on and is already pining for home, friends, and family.  And who can blame her? She’ll go home before me, spend a few days with her folks, before returning to Montreal to take up residence in our flat, take stock of what was stolen when the place was burgled in March, file the claim, and hopefully get the money back, send April to Day Camp, before knuckling down. Busy lady.

I am taking a three month trip back to Canada via the Atlantic and Caribbean.  10,000 nautical miles, later and I should have enough experience under my belt to challenge my exams and get the certifications I am seeking. I won’t be making any money per se, but have pitched the idea of a few columns to Cruising World Magazine.

Then, as I have heard nothing from the school I’ve applied to, I am likely make a phone call to a good friend who has always helped me in a pinch, and find a job running restaurants or perhaps even teaching some cooking.  It’s all very, very vague right now.  And stressful.  With nothing coming in on my end, it has fallen on LJ to be the bread winner and things are looking extremely tight. The ends are some distance apart now, and will close once certain people make good on their contracts to pay us back: our sub-tenant is two weeks late, and the sub-tenant we had last year who owes us $700 got in touch to ask how to get in touch with Lauren to pay her, only to disappear again. It’s nuts.

Anyway, enough griping. I’m in paradise, I’m with a great partner, and have great kids, and have great friends. It’s all gonna work out, right?


Follow Josh as he Plays, Eats, and Sails in Amazing Locations Around the World

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