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    The Voyage(s) of the Cormorant, Part 3

    By Christian Beamish

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    “Check out that fin,” my buddy, Dillon Joyce, said.

    And there it was, 50 feet off the stern, an unmistakable dorsal, weaving in a slow “S” through the water. Wasn’t the sharp triangle-shape of a whitey, and as we were five- or six-miles out from Santa Cruz Island on our long sail back to the mainland, my best guess is that we were seeing a rather large blue shark. Nothing fearful about a blue shark, even if we sat a mere foot off the water aboard Cormorant. And compared to the wild ride of the day before, we were content to enjoy the light winds and the sight of thriving sea life in the Santa Barbara Channel.

    Editor’s note: If you’re just joining us, catch up with Part 1 and Part 2.

    I’d ordered a new pintle, cast in bronze by Classic Marine in the UK, fixed the rudder and returned to Santa Rosa to retrieve Cormorant. It happened that Dillon, a young surfer from San Clemente with whom I’ve sailed the islands once before, was planning a hiking trip out there and we agreed to travel together. Solitude has its place, but the safety and company of a good friend is priceless. The ranger had offered to give us a ride out to the backside of the island, as hiking with all the gear for the return sail would be impractical, and he met us at the dock.

    Above: A very simple arrangement: The haliyard runs through a hole in the top of the mast and ties off on a cleat—no stays, no fuss. Photo: Dillon Joyce

    Continue reading "The Voyage(s) of the Cormorant, Part 3" »

    The Voyage(s) of the Cormorant, Part 2

    By Christian Beamish

    Cb_1 

    When the pintle snapped I felt a moment’s disbelief and then something like panic spark down in my belly. But I tamped that feeling with a long drink of water and a pep talk, noting to myself that I was not injured, that I had plenty of food and water, and that the conditions were calm. Johnson’s Lee, a good anchorage on the southwest corner of the island, was about five miles down and I draped a sarong over the top of my ball cap and tucked it in to my long-sleeve shirt for sun protection, then leaned into steady pulls on the oars with the thought that I might meet someone at the anchorage who could help me.

    Editor’s note: In case you missed it, catch up with Part 1. Photos: Christian Beamish

    Coming in close along shore I had a good view of desolate beaches and the scrub canyons that led upwards, the water below was aquarium clear and revealing sand one moment, rock reef and kelp the next. At a corner of rock shelves and low dunes, two big elephant seals pushed against each other chest-to-chest without much enthusiasm for the fight, their percussive groans having no effect on the females in deep slumber further up the sand. I kept on, steadily rowing, not wanting to squander the momentum I had gathered. But I stopped occasionally for water and to shake the numbness from my hands. When a light breeze started up a couple of hours later I raised sail and steered with an oar, Polynesian style.

    Continue reading "The Voyage(s) of the Cormorant, Part 2" »

    The Voyage(s) of the Cormorant, Part 1

    By Christian Beamish

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    If I’ve learned anything in these recent years of open boat adventuring aboard my 18-footer, Cormorant, it’s that everything is fine until it isn’t. But also, as Yvon says, “The real adventure starts when something goes wrong…”

    Late July, 2014—Shoving off from Gaviota for the 27-mile crossing to San Miguel Island came with a new kind of anxiety, as I no longer travel solo in life but am now married with a soon-to-be three-year-old daughter. When the State Parks Lifeguard pointed to Natasha and our little girl, Josephine, and asked me if I was planning to bring them along, I vehemently replied, “Nooo!” aghast at the thought.

    But another thought came on its heels, and that was that if it this sailing journey was too dangerous to consider bringing my young family along, why was it OK to go alone? I’ve rationalized this by telling myself that I pick my days carefully (the forecast was for light-to-moderate winds), wear a lifejacket and lifeline, and carry a Spot satellite device if I really blow it and need to be rescued. So with the mental shrug of the shoulders that it takes to do these types of trips, I pulled Cormorant off the trailer, got her down the beach, and kissed my ladies goodbye.

    Above: High-seas selfie, 15-miles into a 27-mile crossing. All photos by Christian Beamish

    Continue reading "The Voyage(s) of the Cormorant, Part 1" »

    Days of Light – Alaska with the Malloy Bros.

    By Christian Beamish

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    You know it’s going to stay light until midnight in Alaska. Everyone knows this. But after three days here it still feels unreal and comes with a psychedelic quality of glowing sunsets that last four hours and never completely fade to night.

    Then there is the sheer vastness of the territory – the ice fields and snow chutes right down to the forests, the eagles, the bears, the humpbacks lolling in the lineups. The water is chalky at the glacier-fed rivermouths. And warm as the summer air feels sitting on the fantail of the trawler drinking a cold one in that endless afternoon glow, the water is still frigid.

    [Above: A headland with rock outcroppings in the corner of a long, black sand beach produced wedging left peaks, which Keith Malloy decimated on his trusty 6'0" FCD quad. His surfing was loose and coordinated despite maximum neoprene coverage in 45-degree water. Photo: Chris Burkard]

    Continue reading "Days of Light – Alaska with the Malloy Bros." »

    Underway - An Excerpt from "The Voyage of the Cormorant" by Christian Beamish

    by Christian Beamish

    Voyage_of_the_Cormorant_coverPatagonia Books is proud to announce our latest release: Christian Beamish’s first book The Voyage of the Cormorant, which tells of his journey down the Pacific coast of Baja in an 18-foot open boat he built himself. The book includes maps and is illustrated by Ken Perkins. Below is an excerpt:

    From Chapter 3 – Underway

    A full moon rose over the arroyos, the desert held a pinkish glow, and stars shone down like a compliment in a million points of light all across the water. I sailed along, swaddled against the cold in a parka and outer shell, drifting in my thoughts deep into the night. Eventually, the wind fell away, and the ocean settled into a broad, glassy sheet. I smelled the clean desert scrub on the suddenly warmer air. The lines and sails and my outer jacket seemed to crackle in the dryness.

    I knew that this was all the warning I would get.

    Lashing the tiller in place with a bungee, I scrambled forward and dropped the main sail. Not one minute later, I saw and heard the wind line across the water behind, roaring down and tearing at the surface like a swarm of locust: the dreaded Norte. People call it the devil wind because of the fires it breathes to life and, I suppose, for the madness too. It is a terrible, mindless thing.

    Continue reading "Underway - An Excerpt from "The Voyage of the Cormorant" by Christian Beamish" »

    Stormfront Boomerang – Part 2

    IMG_1026 Christian Beamish is back with his hand-built sailboat, Cormorant, and the conclusion to his story from Baja. Please read part 1 first if you missed it yesterday.

    This was bad, but in the realm of wilderness breakdowns, not so bad really. I was not injured, I would not go hypothermic – worst case scenario I would drift across the bay and wash in along the beach somewhere that night or the next morning. But how the hell did I know? Anything could have happened. So I guess it was a bad enough. At any rate, I soon caught sight of a panga charging towards me over the rough water, and yet again in my short career of Baja seafaring and beachcombing, I was about to experience the kindness and generosity of Mexican fishermen.

    Continue reading "Stormfront Boomerang – Part 2" »

    Stormfront Boomerang – Part 1

    IMG_0908 When you build your own sailboat in Southern California and attempt to sail it the length of the Baja peninsula you don't come back with just one story, you come back with many. Today, we're stoked to have Christian Beamish join us again with another high-seas tale to complement his Dirtbag Diaries episode "Three Eighths to Eternity." Here's Christian:

    A ten-mile sail across a shallow estuary, with cormorants and pelicans in their thousands on sand island rookeries, brought us to a desolate Baja village living out the hangover of a used-up fishery. One hundred miles of mangrove channels lay to the north, but our destination was the reef point where desert bluffs meet the sea on the other side of the barrier island. Everything came off beautifully – the dog stayed on board when we ran the surfline, my friend K called out the approaching set waves as I rowed the swift water of the estuary mouth, and then, once in deep water, we glided under sail (silent and magical) out to the headland.

    Continue reading "Stormfront Boomerang – Part 1" »

    Dirtbag Diaries: Three Eighths to Eternity

    Cormorant_logo The Dirtbag Diaries descend from the mountains today and shove off into the vastness of the Pacific Ocean with former Surfer's Journal associate editor Christian Beamish. As always, show host Fitz Cahall is here to set the stage:

    “The planks of my boat are three eighths of an inch thick. Three eighths – this is the distance between myself and the depths,” writes surfer and adventurer Christian Beamish. Two years ago, Beamish crafted an 18-foot-long sailboat in his San Clemente garage. His obsession with sailboat-assisted surfing began with small week-long voyages and evolved into a preposterous idea – sail the entire length of Baja looking for waves. It would be a solo mission. The proposed trip left his friends questioning his mental state and his mother in tears. It would require big, open-water crossings in rough seas, and in the end it would leave Beamish changed. How far would you go to find the physical and mental limits of human endurance? How raw does your soul have to get before you find peace?

    Audio_graphic_20px Listen to "Three Eighths to Eternity"
    (mp3 - right-click to download)

    Visit dirtbagdiaries.com for links and more information on the music in today's podcast. You can subscribe to the show via iTunes and RSS, or connect with Fitz on Facebook and Twitter.

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