Sassea Sails




Dawn to Dusk,,,

There he was. Or, was he a she? When I turned from filling the bird feeders I looked toward the trees behind the shed while imitating the flock of larks who were hungrily waiting for their day’s ration. Then, my eyes drifted downward. A stump about 3 feet high caught my attention. I tried to recall if I had ever noticed it before. Squinting as one would to clearly make out the markings two eyes were staring back at me. As still as the tree I initially thought I was looking at took a more defined shape. With his head erect and body pointing straight at me, I was reminded of Lucas, a four or five month old lion that I was fortunate to play with years ago while in South Africa. The only notable difference was that Lucas was a golden color typical of lions. This cat was wearing grey and his eyes the color of an ordinary house cat. In fact, his whole body resembled a pet many cat lovers enjoy as a companion.

This cat, the one standing about 3 feet from the house and about twenty yards from me, looked like a giant house cat. He/she didn’t meow or  grimace. He/she remained still, save for the wind perking up his/her thick coat. Wanting my mate to see, I stupidly started yelling in the direction of the upstairs loft where I knew he was inside doing his morning exercises. “Ron, Ron, you gotta see this.” Because he didn’t respond to my wailing, I slowly walked up onto the deck and opened the front door. Thankfully, Ron was already on his way outside. “Shush,”  he whispered, “and move slowly.”

Being the coward I am I stayed an inch or two behind Ron stepping into his footsteps as he peered around the west corner of the house. Only ten yards in front of us, the cat continued to stare at us. Then as quietly as he had been, he turned his head and slowly walked away from us and into the woods.

As if this wasn’t enough excitement for a city girl, while the sun was setting later in the day, a hefty, healthy looking  doe strolled into our front yard. For about fifteen minutes she nibbled at the bird seed beneath the juniper tree about 30 yards from our front door.  Her big ears turning in different directions. We were inside and taking pictures. The bird feeder is an actual tea cup, the kind fancy ladies sip from so there isn’t much seed in the cup when I fill it every other morning. Yet, this majestic ruminant mammal   nibbled, and nibbled for about 15 minutes,  yet still leaving enough for two birds to dive into the cup after the she strolled away.

Wow, a deer and a bobcat in our yard; one at dawn and the other at dusk. Quite a day for a city girl…



Blaming Fate

It must be fate that wiles my activities in its effort to hold me accountable. The epifocal of my plans to move to a more remote environment than the overcrowded lifestyle lived for the past 50 years, was designed to lure me into a new career as a writer. Yet, the seemingly tranquil, too cold to go outside, climate here in arid southern Colorado, has not exactly kept me indoors.

Knowing fitness would continue to be a priority, I participated in a “Hike on New Year’s Day” event held at Lathrop State Park about five miles from our home on the range. As the group of hikers, whom I had never seen before, gathered to hear the Rangers’ plan for the start of the year right adventure, I asked to make an announcement. Swallowing hard and grimacing when the ranger waved me toward the center of the room a thundering silence bombarded e my brain. “Will someone want to go hiking with me?” was the voice of a lifetime of  rejections that infiltrated my frontal lobe. Still, I persisted.

Polly, a tall radiant blonde wearing a multi colored knit ski hat with long braided tails raised her hand. Without hesitation she spoke right up.  “I love to hike and have been hoping to find a partner.” We decided to meet after the hike. It was a fairly easy climb to the summit at Lake Lathrop State Park in Walsenburg, Colorado (about 5 miles from my house).  Located on the north side of the  park, the trail provided several scenic views of two lakes and several mountain ranges in all four directions. The ranger took time to explain the geological history of the park and describe the features of the varied flora and fauna. None of his words took hold. My focus was on navigating the terrain. From small pebbles to flat topped boulders I was embracing each step.

After the hour long  hike the group reconvened in the visitor center. The park ranger and his staff of one provided healthy snacks, chili, coffee, and bottled water for the participants. Polly and I found each other in the group.  Being excited to be meeting at least one person my confidence encouraging others lifted my spirits. I again announced, “Any ladies interested in future hikes, please join us.”

Donna, a healthy looking gal about my age offered a seat next to her. Her spoken resume of hiking many of Colorado’s 14 ers (mountains with a summit of at least 14,000 feet above sea level), and other adventures as a career firewoman were intriguing. Despite her choosing to not join us on future hikes  (at least not so far),  Polly and I marked our calendars for the following Tuesday. That was the first week in January. Ever since, we have hiked 2 – 4 hours each week; each week on a different trail.  This past week two other gals joined us. Slowly our hiking experience is growing in numbers and terrain.

Hiking provides inspiration for memoiring. Past experiences from childhood up to today my life is filled with bittersweet memories. Some bring so much joy my laugh echoes across the meadows. Others turn on the faucet that like a dam opens to let the tears flow. Still others, the ones that perplex me the most are the irritations like jealousy that infuriate. While these thoughts provide impetus for writing, fate is being blamed for spending my time doing other things than writing.

Learning to play the piano and ukulele are an example. Three years ago I began taking piano lessons. A requisite for buying a house included the purchase of a piano. My battery operated piano keyboard had become a necessary  accouterment when traveling. A real piano has class, it adds to the ambiance of a home filled with music. Still, the portable piano was to be my travel companion. Its bulky maneuvering in the van led to the purchase of a ukulele. What I acquired was three distractors from writing: hiking, and playing the piano and ukulele.

Fate further infiltrated. Moving to SOCO (southern Colorado)  held the promise of a return to another love, skiing. During the first two months it was easy to dismiss slope surfing (my interpretation of downhill skiing. Using the need to get familiar with my new life in rural America, I lied to myself. “I’ll wait until next winter to take up skiing. After all it would be a 3 hour one way drive to the slopes and being as Ron and I are renewing our lives as a couple I did not want to go out of town without him. Skiing would wait, I silently repeated almost once a day.

Unexpectedly on a chilly winter’s day watching freshly fallen snow outside our living room window, a well respected sailing friend from the ’80s and ’90s sent me a compelling text. “Hi Marlene, I’ll be skiing next week. You and Ron can ski then spend the night with me and Kris.” Can you guess how long it took to respond? Well, fate insisted I leave the next morning at 5:30 for Wolf Creek Ski Area. Ron chose to stay home.  At $100 a day for fuel, equipment rental and lift tickets, there goes the budget along with another non writing day. And, there goes the budget…

Lest I forget my agreement to create a flyer for our neighborhood “Best Tasting Chili Contest,” prepare at least one meal a day, update my computer and phone at the local coffee shop where they offer free wi-fi, a weekly trip two hour round trip to Pueblo for groceries, dental appointment, lead the one hour walk around the neighborhood,  join my sweet for our evening  fire side chats, engage in a 45 minute fitness routine, e-mai friends, play a few rounds of Words with Friends, check the mail, organize tax documents, check on investments, listen to the radio for the ubiquitous political drama, and lastly, put another log on the fire.

Whew! just listing these endeavors tires me out. It must be fate. After all, the better part of my life has been spent contriving an escape from boredom. If I believe I can control these urges to do so many different things, than I feel undisciplined. If I blame fate, I more easily accept my failure to follow through. Oh, dear, I ask, “What’s a girl to do?”





Motivation Times Three

First, what motivates me more than an unexpected call to go skiing? In my present state of mind, not much else. Welcoming a new chapter in my life, skiing with friends, Simon and Krissy,  from our sailing past is remarkable…(Wishing Danny was here)

Second, what gratitude fills my heart with more than an unexpected call from a friend. Similar to me, she has crossed from one life style to another. Her reminder of the power of an ‘ant’ led me to copy the words to Frank Sinatra’s song “High Hopes.” If an ant can move a rubber tree plant, surely Max and I can move mountains…

Third, what sailboat intrigues me more than any other style than a try. Whether sailing my 17 foot Windrider or sailing offshore on my 35 foot Marples, tris are the way to go. Relatively fast and relatively flip over proof like my sailing friend Suky, we shall forever lust over these fine designs. Oh yea, what motivated me today was that I finally read a comment in which Suky reminded me of a typo. Need to change a prior post on Validation from listing to lusting…

If you believe in things coming in threes, well today was my day.

Cheers and please remember to provide me with feedback, check me out on facebook (can’t believe I am addicted to it) or zip me an e-mail:





Or, Picture 2

Sail in the Bahamas

Sailing Vs Hiking: What’s the diff?


Standing Waves

fullsizeoutput_2bfbViewing the Spanish Peaks Mountain Range, from our loft window,  there was relief knowing I am not as far from sailing the great oceans of our world as I once feared. The old downhill ski resort clearly shows the trails of a once thriving playground for winter sports.   From about 15 miles away the scenery is a reminder of how I connected sailing and surfing to skiing during my two years on the slopes of New Hampshire.  The drudgingly slow and breathtaking steps when hiking up a mountain has some semblance to sailing upwind in a stiff blow when it is 2 am and all you really want to do is  climb into your bunk. To get that extra 1/4 knot of speed you crank the winch. Your inner voice repeats a common refrain, “just keep moving, slowly and steadily, you are almost there.” 

Unlike the rise and fall of the ocean’s swell the mountains are solidly held in place or so it may seem. The earth is in constant motion. It perpetually  spins on its own axis while traveling around the sun causing winds, currents and temperatures to change. Inevitably this results in the evolving landscapes around the world. An earthquake is an example of how pressure from deep beneath the earth’s surface creates one of the most wondrous and destructive forces, illustrating the ever-changing motion of mother earth. 

In this manner, it can be argued that those majestic snow-capped mountains seen outside my upstairs windows, are not static. Rather, due the the earth’s vibrations,  they can be considered standing waves whose movement can only be detected by a sophisticated seismograph. In contrast,  sailors and surfers expect a wave to continue its path. Without warning about the second the wave is expected to crest, it seems to pause, leaving the boat or surfer hovering in curious wonderment before the wave returns to its destined crash  into a thunderous roar.  

Do the waves actually stop moving? Do the mountains really move? Or, do I just need to rationalize my new lifestyle 2000 miles away from the ocean’s door?

Woman Who Sail on Land

Woman Who Sail is a wonderful forum for communicating with others who share a similar interest. The site is largely composed of females who sail boats. As recently as today there was a reminder that there are many woman who sail through life, not just on boats. Take for example, Carol.

Carol lives in her recreational vehicle. Not the kind that is designed to float in water. Rather it is the type of vessel that is designed for travel on land. This puts Carol and the hundreds, perhaps thousands of other women who choose to navigate the world on land.

It is about sailing through life. Certainly the women who soar through the air in planes are also sailing. Maybe the terminology differs depending on the vessel, but still one is at the very least metaphorically sailing through life. At least that concept is helping me cope with my current choice to live on land while testing the waters aboard the s/v Coupleship.

Enough about me, for more inspiration about sailing on land check out Carol’s website:

Found this website and believe it is worth sharing. Here is an excerpt that speaks to me. This is especially true after my soliloquy on Sea of Life Parts I and II which was posted a few minutes ago. How timely???

3) Know the difference between fear and anxiety.

After reading a really wonderful series of blog posts by a fellow sailor and therapist, I know that what I feel is actually anxiety.  Not panic-attack level, medication-necessary anxiety, just run-of-the-mill Jewish Grandma worry. Understanding more abouthow my brain works has been helpful. It hasn’t cured me,,,but perhaps reading up on how you feel can make a difference. By understanding what’s happening in your brain chemistry,You can let feelings pass through you and acknowledge them, and ultimately let them go in a moment of zen, or treat them professionally if necessary.

Solo Sailing a 27 Foot Slanter Across the Atlantic

James Muggoch learns the hard way that solo Transatlantic cruising is all about practice, more practice, and yet more practice

My solo Transatlantic in a 27ft cruiser 

I first crossed the Atlantic over 49 years ago, aged 18, as one of 16 crew onboard the 180ft motoryacht Camargo V. I felt awe and fear at the vastness and relentless power of the ocean and vowed never to go near it again. So when, in 2014, my wife Louise asked: ‘What do you want to do for your 65th birthday?’ I have no idea why I replied ‘I’m going to cross the Atlantic single-handed.’

I planned to buy a small yacht, sail the Atlantic, run her up a Caribbean beach and give the keys to the first local I met, provided they drove me to the nearest airport. My friend Ian Joseph, who comes from Grenada, suggested that I give her to the Grande Anse Sea Scouts in St George’s, Grenada, instead.

Several months later, with the support of the Grenadian High Commissioner in London, His Excellency Joslyn Whiteman, and the Deputy Commissioner of Scouts, Tim Kidd, Louise and I started looking for a yacht that was up to the passage and would suit the Sea Scouts.

Finally we found a David Sadler- designed Frigate 27 in East Cowes. The owner of Annie of Orford knocked £2,000 off the price as it was for a good cause and threw in every spare part he could find. I’ve been afloat all my life but I’m very short on ocean sailing experience, and I only managed a few weekends sailing Annie in the Solent before leaving.

The broker, Boatshed’s Corrine Willard, proved an expert in her field and a good friend – indeed her husband Simon Judge delivered Annie single-handed to Marina Rubicon in Lanzarote and had to be restrained from doing the whole trip.

When I arrived in Lanzarote, friends of friends Mike and Jean met me at the airport, took me to Mike’s radio station (The Mix) for a two-hour local radio chat show, then down to the Marina to find Annie. With the victualling done, I had to wait for two days while a gale blew itself out – not a luxury I was to be afforded for the next 42 days. Finally I spent my last euros on ten lemons and a Mars Bar.


I set off at 0800 on 2 February 2016, or tried to. The 7hp Volvo engine refused to start despite an expensive service in Cowes. The spares would take 2-3 weeks to arrive so I asked the marina to tow me out of the harbour. The engine only had a range of 200nm anyway, and I would be able to sail her all the way. I had a solar panel and a wind generator to charge up the batteries to power the nav lights, GPS, AIS and VHF.

Once outside, I raised main and genoa and sailed slowly South down the coast of Fuerteventura. I’d been told that the northeast winds funnel between the islands but I left the sails up too late and, as darkness fell, I was going too fast. I had stupidly secured the preventer to the boom, so I had to cut it and, having opted for hanked-on foresails, had to go forward to change sails. An earlier accident, while breaking a stick to throw for my dog, left me night-blind in my left eye, and a motorbike accident four years earlier hurt my right shoulder so I was in considerable discomfort. While lowering the sails, I caught my right hand in the mainsheet track, fell into the cockpit, landing on my head, and had my first, but not last, totally sleepless night of the next 41.

Tired and battered

Next morning Annie and I were tired and battered, but still on course – or so I thought. After experimenting with sail combinations to get the Pacific Light windvane to behave, we were becalmed for five hours so I went below. My head was sore. It had stopped bleeding but I felt sick – not seasick, I don’t suffer with that. Otherwise all was well apart from the GPS, which wouldn’t lock onto a position. I saw a mountain far off on the port bow and thought I was looking at Africa. The wind came up, darkness fell and I found myself being blown onto a continental lee shore – as tired as I’ve ever been and sick with pain. The Pacific Light came apart and I steered by hand for 6-7 hours to clear the land, unable to get to a drink or food. In deep trouble, I cut my losses and, ignoring the ‘voices’ that were starting to haunt me, came about onto port tack, fixed the self-steering and went below.

I woke to a calm sea, aware that I had survived a very ill-prepared start. A good breakfast and co-codamol for my head made me feel much better, until I looked up and saw two large islands dead ahead, where there should be ocean. I shot below, turned on the GPS, which decided to work, and found out it was the Canaries. We were back where we started, two days ago.

Struggling for control

I pulled myself together and reached the open Atlantic. Out of the islands’ lee, with 25-30 knots over the deck, the sea came up. Eight days of heavy cloud and my eye problem meant I couldn’t see the compass, sea, sails or stars so I lay ahull and went below – not seamanlike, but the best I could do. By now I was hallucinating quite badly. Imaginary voices and shadowy shapes haunted the boat for two weeks and became seriously worrying. Days and nights blurred and I struggled to control Annie. I was managing runs of over 100nm a day, but with great effort and little sleep. The windvane had a will of its own and I would fiddle with it at dusk, creating no end of trouble through the night. About 500 miles south of the Canaries I thought ‘I haven’t seen a ship for six days’ when I saw what turned out to be the Maersk Tacoma. I contacted her Master, Capt Catalin Petrescu, and asked him to email my wife Louise. He also gave me the forecast: ‘Force 8 becoming 9, sea 8m becoming 12-14 overnight.’ Thanks for that…

I had to make a decision: head for the Cape Verdes, or press on to Grenada. My hands had rope burns, my shoulder was killing me, and salt water sores on my bottom made life very uncomfortable. I tossed a coin – and did the opposite: Grenada it was.

Over the next few days, Annie’s log records 35 knots over the deck, lost jib halyards, stray sheets, a soaked sleeping bag and bunk and lots of water below. The entry for 15 February reads:

‘Opened the main hatch and removed the top washboard when a breaking wave washed me back into the cabin. Floorboards afloat, electrics out and the sound of rushing water behind the galley lockers. Bailing like mad with no automatic bilge pump and the manual pump in the cockpit. Sprayed the electrics with WD-40 to dispel the sea water and carried on bailing, tiring badly. Suddenly smelled burning, smoke and flame from the electrics. Had extinguisher to hand, but thought it might make things worse, so turned the batteries off, which worked. Annie sailing on, waves still breaking on deck and more and more water coming below via the galley deckhead.’

I was at a fairly low ebb but kept bailing. Thinking I was sinking, I put out a pan-pan call on my handheld VHF, then I sent my first – and hopefully last – Mayday. With no response, it was down to me.


I lowered the sails, which stopped a lot of the waves driving over the deck. With a hammer, I smashed out the galley lockers, cut up two Tesco Bags for Life and rigged them so that any water coming into the boat went straight into the sink. The wind dropped and the sun began to shine so I pumped out and tidied up. The cooker had come off its gimbals – no more hot drinks or food – and the chart table had collapsed.

On deck I found that a port stanchion had been ripped out by the preventer as Anniebroached, leaving a triangular hole big enough to put my fist through. I tied my feet to the starboard grabrail, laid across the boat and tried to fill the hole with Plastic Padding, but the waves and the difficulty of mixing the paste with both hands while gravity tried to pull me overboard proved too much. I deployed the sea anchor and took the night off.

This was the third time I’d nearly gone overboard. On day three I just caught the starboard shroud with one hand as I went. Later I slipped while adjusting the windvane. I grabbed the ensign staff, which broke, but not before it had given me enough leverage to fall into the cockpit. After day two I gave up wearing a harness or lifejacket. Every time I went on deck I got tangled in something. I knew I couldn’t get back onboard unaided, as the emergency ladder I had was the same one with which fit, young magazine testers had failed to get back onboard – in a marina!


Things got better: tradewinds, sunshine and clear skies – I could steer by the stars! The windvane and I had come to an arrangement: with genoa and double-reefed main, we made 5 knots at 20 degrees off the wind.

With better weather came more sleep and an end to the voices. I’ve since found that I’m not alone in being visited by these bloody things and I hope never again to hear a voice I recognise threaten to kill me.

There were still ups and downs. I was becalmed for three days, which was worse than the storms. I saw loads of flying fish, dolphins and the spouts from whales. I didn’t kill the big fish that stayed with Annie for two days – I had loads of Army rations and the fish was the only friend I had. I rewired the VHF and re-installed the cooker for the last week: coffee!


I hove to 25 miles off Grenada to make landfall in daylight and got underway around 0500. At 0730 I heard a lady’s voice over the VHF saying ‘Morning Grenada, this is Cruisers Net radio. Come in please!’

I was beside myself with joy and listened to boats in Prickly Bay, Secret Harbour, St George’s and many others checking in. During a silence I called in ‘Grenada, this is Annie of Orford

‘Hello Annie! Welcome to Grenada, we are all waiting for you!’


Annie and I sailed past the South coast and turned to starboard, tacking for the first time in 42 days, towards Annie’s new home: St George’s Bay. Half a mile out, an officer on a police launch came up behind shouting ‘Put some bloody clothes on!’ I’d forgotten I’d been naked for four weeks.


Annie raced into the harbour and a large RIB came up behind with my best mate Brian onboard. ‘What are you doing here?’ I asked. ‘I’m with her,’ he said, pointing to my wife, Louise, who I hadn’t spotted.


The landing, the greetings, the landlegs, the first beer and the best burger in the world all passed in a dream, but I knew one thing: I had made it!

Lessons learned

James learned fast on a crossing where so much went wrong. These are his key lessons


Choose the right boat. Mine would be steel with a doghouse, a boarding ladder welded onto the transom, a bar running down the centreline for clipping on and a deep, self-draining cockpit (Annie’s drains are small and block quickly, once with a dead flying fish).

It would have granny bars at the mast, where you need two hands to work, plenty of handholds on deck and below that you can actually grab (Annie’s were too close to the bulkhead), a deep bilge and a sump where water can collect and be pumped out.

Having water sloshing around the sole soaking everything is no problem in the Solent but gets tedious on a 40-day ocean crossing.


On no account choose a boat with its mainsail traveller running at knee level across the middle of the cockpit. It’s difficult enough in calm seas and daylight, but a dangerous nightmare in rough seas at night. I still have trouble with two fingers on my right hand, which was in the wrong place during a crash gybe.

I’m sure there are performance advantages to a fin keel, but I was never happy with it. When I bought her I had a surveyor check the keel. Apart from a visual inspection, this involved someone swinging on the keel with the yacht in the slings, while someone else watches inside to see if the bolts move. She passed, but I was never truly relaxed at sea. Having once, many years ago, tied my Yorkshire Coble to a 40ft container while half-way across the Adriatic from Brindisi to Dubrovnic, I promise you that, should Annie have hit one of those at night or in bad weather, the keel would have come off.

Don’t replace your furling genoa with hanked-on foresails.

Have a waterproof ‘boat book’ with details of stores, spares and kit, so you can find things quickly when you need them.

Have comfortable, waterproof seating, both inside and out, and avoid wet clothing, which leads to boils, salt water sores, and all the associated discomfort.


Practice. You need to earn money to pay for the boat and time off work, so you don’t have enough time to go sailing. She’s out of the water, the engine needs attention, the sails are being checked, the liferaft is being serviced: there are always reasons not to go, but you must make time to sail before embarking on a long passage. It’s too late when you set off to realise you can’t see the compass at night, you can’t remember where various switches are, where things are stored etc. Go at night, in bad weather, alone – but go.

How not to clear in and out

Though delighted to have been made an Honorary Commissioner of the Sea Scouts, it was time to go home. Then I realised I hadn’t cleared in. I went with Scoutmaster Elisha St Louis to the immigration office at the marina. A strict-looking lady took Annie’s details and asked:

‘What time did you land?’

‘About 1220,’ I replied.

‘But it’s only 1130.’

‘Yes, but I arrived two days ago.’

‘You can’t leave Grenada if you haven’t arrived!’

She woke up the snoozing chap next to her.

‘Who’s he?’ I asked.

‘He’s the officer who hands out fines.’

‘Where have you come from?’ he asked.

‘The Canary Islands’

‘Never heard of them, where are they?’

‘Near Africa’

‘Who owns them?’


‘Right. Can I see your leaving documents?’

‘Sorry’ I said, ‘I haven’t got any.’

‘How did you leave?’

‘I just sailed away.’

Dead silence. ‘You can’t come into Grenada without leaving somewhere!’

‘Sorry,’ I said, ’do you want me to do it again?’

Luckily, Annie and I were still being treated like rock stars and a swift call to His Excellency Joslyn Whiteman (the former High Commissioner in London) cleared up the matter.

James Muggoch

My family moved on to a houseboat when I was 14 and 53 years later I’m still here. My other boats have been everything from canal boats to barges, RIBs to sailing yachts, motor yachts, oil exploration vessels and film location pirate ships.

I hold various qualifications such as ICC, Yachtmaster and Ocean Yachtmaster (shore-based). For the past 20 years I have owned the ex-RN steam tug Cob, and I’m hugely proud that she led the vintage tug flotilla in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant.

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