Sassea Sails




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.

FULL CIRCLE by Ellen MacArthur

Ellen’s book, “Full Circle,” confirmed the intelligence, ambition, and understandably of an incredible  woman. How many women do you know have sailed in a boat by themself? Well, Ellen did. She crossed the Atlantic Ocean when she was in her early twenties. And then, she went on to break the around the world single handed sailboat challenge.  Knowing Ellen’s round the world record breaking feat was completed on a trimaran further compelled me to put her on my list of heroes.  Before I could read her book I had to conquer my struggles with jealousy. More on that later.

The first half of Ellen’s book focuses on the 2004 round the world single handed race in which she broke the record. A more amazing challenge is told in the second half of the book when Ellen reveals her choice to hand up her sailing gloves. She calls it ‘sustainability.’ Her influence both in sailing and sustainability are a part of my everyday life.

As a reader/learner I develop an intimate relationship with the written words. Notes are written in the margins, with arrows pointing to pertinent phrases, and words I want to add to my everyday vocabulary. So it is no surprise that on April 18, 2017 I wrote these words on the front page of Full Circle.

To pick up this book to read has brought tears as the reality of my aspiration met with who I am, a dreamer, a jealous want to be extraordinary sailor–a solo round the world sailor, maybe one…not today!

Quote from the book:

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”   Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Hear Ellen’s Own Words at:

Solo Sailor Susan Sails at Seventy


Susan Tuttle retired from teaching special education. To begin her new lifestyle she looked to the horizon as she set a course for an offshore sailing adventure.  The easy part was finding the same style boat, a Contessa 26,  as the one Tania Aebi completed her round the world solo circumnavigation in the mid 1980s.  Having a friend who was an experienced sailor enabled Susan to have someone teach her the fundamentals of sailing. Then, the adventure began.

As an experienced commercial airplane pilot Susan understood the need to make course adjustments depending on the wind currents.  The first leg of her maiden voyage from Crawfordville, Florida to Isla Muejeres, Mexico took 11 days.  Along with her crew  Susan confessed, “We spent an extra week getting there due to a northern current that we failed to account for which in essence was taking us to Texas.”

In addition to failing to account for the current Susan mused, “I wish we had reefed earlier on our fifth day out.  By the time the squall hit us it was a difficult balancing taking the sails down with waves as tall as my house rolling us fore, aft and side to side. My boat is quite small and with the dinghy strapped on the foredeck I am sure I will forevermore heed the golden rule to reef early.

Safely arriving in Isla Mujeres Susan’s crew flew home. No stranger to living by herself Susan relished the time she spent exploring the village by herself while planning to sail to a more remote anchorage near Excalata, south of Isla Mujeres.  To interrupt the solitude Susan paddled her inflatable kayak to shore where she took several bus trips to visit neighboring villages and the many ruins that have survived the passage of time.

An unexpected pleasure came from meeting a guy she had previously met in her home port. Then, she met another solo sailor. He was from France. It was Susan’ introduction to the small world of sailors who roam the seven seas.  After a few weeks Susan again sailed to an even more remote area near the Mayan jungle. She anchored in an abandoned fishing village. Again, the call of the sea beckoned Susan to set sail even further south.

It was on this leg of her journey that her contentness alone at sea caused her ship’s demise. Susan said she had been below deck cooking, reading, and relaxing for about three hours when she heard the crackling crunching sound of a fiberglass boat being crushed on the rocks. Anyone who has made such a fateful mistake as failing to keep watch need not be questioned; the auto helm on a boat like cruise control in a car still requires human interaction. A mistake is a mistake, even like this one a costly one.

Fortunately, she was able to get herself safely to land while her Contessa lisped along the reef. Imagine how she felt walking several miles until she came upon a resort where she made a deal with some local fisherman to free her boat. They charged her $1500 which was considerably less than what the officials would bill her for.

Susan described a disheartening scene as her  pride and joy filled with water. Then, when the rudder broke free she knew her boat would best be left as scrap. Susan sighed at the remembrance,  “It was just a terrible thing.” Throughout the ordeal she never felt afraid. She just got busy doing what needed to be done. In fact, in all her sailing adventures thus far the only time she felt fear was when anchored about 14 off the coast of Key West. Speed boats were flying by at what she thought were reckless speeds. It was during the night that she realized how vulnerable she would be if one of ‘those guys’ decided to board her boat.

Did crashing her Contessa on the rocks or the fear of ne’ar do wells damper her spirits? Did she give up sailing? Did she wallow in her depleted life savings? NO. Rather, Susan took a job as a special education teacher in Huslia, Alaska. It is an Indian outpost about 250 miles west of Fairbanks. Every spare penny was saved and two years later Susan traded her earned cash for a FLICKA 24. Being similar to the Contessa Susan was confident to once again set sail.

This time, she cruised, alone, along the west coast of Florida to the Dry Tortugas.  Returning north her engine was not cooperating. Taking advantage of her Sea Tow insurance, Susan was towed into the nearest port, Everglades City. Looking for assistance she wandered into the town’s museum and was eventually connected to a mechanic and me.

Though most of her two weeks were spent on maintenance repairs, she was able to get her inboard diesel purring like a kitten. I am grateful to have had the privilege to drive her the required 40 miles to Wal-mart for provisions. We idled away many hours as sailors do, sipping wine and sharing tales of life at sea.

When asked what she has learned from her adventures she shyly smiled. Then, as if with indignation she said, “It is a lot of work. It looked like sailing would be easy, but it’s not. I don’t have a windlass and my anchor weighs 22 pounds.” With a sigh we nodded at each other, filled our glasses, and continued to gab til we fell fast asleep.

Susan’s spirit invigorated my passion for sailing solo. Something I may do again. Hopefully, reading this will inspire you to ‘sail through life, either on a boat or other means.’

The picture below shows Susan navigating the Barron River in Everglades City on her homeward voyage along the west coast of Florida. Her boat is a Flicka 24.


For more information about Susan you can access the May issue of the Mullet Rapper published for and about Everglades City or contact me at











Another First


Finally went on a river raft ride which ends with my reminding everyone to do something new. With this reminder I challenge readers to do something new. Then  share your experience with a photo and/or verbage of your experience. Whether you are eight or eighty the excitement of doing something for the first time usually leaves a lasting impression. When you grow old, there is nothing more endearing than those memories. Cherish the memories in your mind. The printed and digital pictures need to be shared with discreet attention. Your friends and family will be glad you selected the one visual that is worth a 1000 words, rather than having to politely endure an array of photos.  — you can contact me at

Welcome to a New Adventure in Sailing

Although sailing is my passion, lifelong learning is an inherent theme. Since running away from home at age 4 to follow my big sister and brother to the elementary school a block away from our apartment in Elizabeth, New Jersey, until now 3 years after retiring I have this urge, this need to be challenged. After drinking at least five cups of coffee today, I am awake and ready to embark on a website.

The purpose of is to be of value to others by sharing information about sailing as a reality and as a metaphor for life.                                                          

While I convert and/or attach my current blogging from sea knots and blogspot please feel free to send me comments, questions, or concerns (refer to item ‘f’  above). Thank you,

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