Quetzal - Kaufman 47 "... Never lost, just hard to find ..."

John Kretschmer Sailing

Training Passages - Workshops - Presentations - Expeditions - Writing/Photography

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A Serious Ocean

You know it by the northern look of the shore,
by the salt-worried faces,
by an absence of trees, an abundance of lighthouses.
It's a serious ocean.

North Sea off Carnoustie by Anne Stevenson

Tomorrow will have an island
by William Stafford

Tomorrow will have an island. Before night
I always find it. Then on to the next island.
These places hidden in the day separate
and come forward if you beckon.
But you have to know they are there before they exist.

Some time there will be a tomorrow without any island,
So far, I haven't let that happen, but after
I'm gone others may become faithless and careless.
Before them will tumble the wide unbroken sea,
and without any hope they will stare at the horizon.

So to you, Friend, I confide my secret:
to be a discoverer you hold close whatever
you find, and after a while you decide
what it is. Then, secure in where you have been,
you turn to the open sea and let go.

More Poetry...


The 2016 Schedule is posted now.

Read "Fit and Refit for the Next 100K Miles" from the December/January 2015 issue of Sailing magazine

On August 22, I was interviewed about my new book by CBC Radio in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. Click here to listen to the podcast.

An excerpt from Sailing a Serious Ocean, titled "John Kretschmer's Darkest Hour at Sea," was posted on Sail magazine's website in July. It's sure to fire your imagination for the adventure and potential peril of a blue water passage.

Sailing a Serious OceanSAILING A SERIOUS OCEAN: Sailboats, Storms, Stories and Lessons Learned from Thirty Years at Sea

My new book is widely available. All humility aside, I am proud of it. It's an exciting mix of sea stories and seamanship. It's personal, humorous and at times terrifying. Learn what makes a boat blue water capable and how to handle it and the crew when the ocean turns angry. The book is filled with anecdotes and hard-won advice. I think you will like it. You can order an autographed copy from my online store, or I'll autograph one for you during my book tour.

It's Time

Thank you for venturing into the far flung world of John Kretschmer Sailing. If this is your first time, welcome, otherwise many thanks for dropping by again. 2015 is just over the horizon. It was more than 30 years ago we beat around Cape Horn in the brave little sloop Gigi, seems hard to believe. I have been sailing professionally, if that's what you call what I do, ever since. I have lost track of how many offshore miles I've logged. When my sailing odometer ticked over 300,000 I stopped counting. It seems absurd to keep tallying miles, I have nothing to prove and I am not convinced that miles matter very much. They define sailing as the distance between landfalls, as if land's edge defines the ocean and our relationship with it. That's crazy, it's the in-between that matters, the voyage, the journey, the interlude of being "at sea," that's where the magic lurks.

Quetzal blasting through big waves with sails reefed

What amazes me is that I am more passionate about what I do than ever before. I think I am old enough and maybe wise enough finally, to realize that I have a great gig. I love being aboard Quetzal, driving her through whatever conditions come our way. The people who track me down and sign aboard are always intriguing, they get it, they know that sea time is valuable and we usually end becoming friends and frequent shipmates. I remain devoted to providing unique, honest and challenging sailing and travel opportunities for my clients.

I am also committed to sharing useful information and hard won opinions about blue water and coastal voyaging, and more to the point in these interesting times, living life on your own terms. Deep ocean sailing in small boats, and at 47' Quetzal still qualifies as a small boat, offers a powerful blend of responsibility, freedom and self-discovery. Joseph Conrad titled his sailing ship memoir, "The Mirror of the Ocean," and I love that phrase. There is nowhere to hide at sea and the image that reflects back at you from the face of a steel blue wave is brutally honest. To thrive at sea you must take stock of who you are, not who you want to be. There's no pretending out there.

Quetzal and rainbow on calm seas after a storm

Our passages are rarely easy and at times downright miserable, they're all too real. And they're rewarding. The people that sail with me buy, sell, invent, teach, build, cure, protect, in short - they shake the world when ashore. But at sea, aboard Quetzal, they feel refreshingly small and profoundly alive. Time slows down at sea and somehow matters more, and what can be more important than managing your allotment of time?

I began my book, Flirting With Mermaids, "I make landfalls for a living." It's a good line but as I get older I have come to realize that making landfalls is easy. Making departures, pushing off the dock, unplugging the electronic handcuffs, subverting the shore side guilt, that's the hard part. And that's where I can help. Take a good look at the site: the schedule of training passages, the workshops, the pictures, videos, books and even the poems, then send me an email. Let's communicate. Sailing dreams are too important to leave for another day. It's time, time to go sailing, time to go to sea and I look forward to welcoming you aboard Quetzal.

Looking Back - Looking Ahead

It's been awhile since I updated the site copy, and that's putting it gently. I left the web site with Quetzal in Spain in the spring of 2012, yikes. That was a couple of years and a couple of oceans ago. We've made some intriguing passages since then, including two expeditions to the Galapagos Islands aboard Blue Nomad, a 54' steel ketch. Quetzal did not let much slime grow on her bottom as we crossed the Mediterranean Sea from Majorca to Corsica and Sardinia. Then we carried on to Italy and explored the Amalfi Coast before heading south to the Aeolian Islands and Sicily. We eventually made our way to Malta where Quetzal spent another winter ashore.

Quetzal surfing the waves under reefed sails

In 2013 we completed a couple of trans-Caribbean trips aboard a Jeanneau 53, sailing from Tortola to Grenada and back. In March we launched Quetzal and endured a stormy passage across the Ionian and Aegean Seas before fetching up in Kusadasi Turkey. I wrote about this crossing in the December issue of Cruising World and won a Boating Writers International award in the adventure category. Yes, it was that rough! The piece is here on the web site under Articles, or click here: "The Lee of Ikaria". We spent the spring and summer cruising Turkey and Greece and thoroughly enjoyed this beautiful cruising ground, venturing as far east as Finike. In the fall we headed for Gibraltar in two legs. This was an upwind slog back across the Med, and on leg one we made our way to Majorca via Rhodes, Crete, Kalamata, Sicily, and Sardinia. Leg two saw us visit Spain, Morocco, Gibraltar, and Madeira before fetching up in Tenerife, Canary Islands.

Quetzal made her 6th Atlantic crossing in January. It was her skipper's 21st crossing. We shoved of on January 4, 2014 and had Antigua in our sights 18 days later. I had great crew, Ron, Robert, Danny, Keith and Gordon. It wasn't our fastest passage but certainly not our slowest. We average 156 miles, or 6.5 knots.

This past winter and spring we had superb Caribbean trade wind sailing. We made our way from Antigua to Grenada, then back to St. Martin then back to Grenada. We stopped at every island along the way mixing a few overnight passages with blustery day sails. In April we made the passage back to Fort Lauderdale as Quetzal returned to the states for the first time in nearly 3 years. Now she's on the hard at Spring Cove Marina, in Solomons Maryland, her home away from home. In August we'll head north to Nova Scotia and in late October we'll slug south to St. Martin via Bermuda, the annual Heavy Weather Passage.


Quetzal will begin 2015 in the Caribbean with both island hopping and offshore passages. Then we'll sail north to Fort Lauderdale. We will make two trips to the Bahamas, April and May, and then sail north to Maryland. In July we head north to Newfoundland, where Quetzal will base for the summer. We have a passage, the Frobisher Expedition, scheduled for August that will take us all the way to Baffin Island. In the fall we will head south, once again making landfall in St. Martin by way of Bermuda. There are a still a few openings so check the schedule and shoot me an email. Also, it never hurts to place your name on the wait list for a passage.


Number 98 on Amazon's Kindle best sellers list!

My latest book was published in October 2013 has been very well received. It's been one of the top selling nautical books in 2013/14 and actually cracked Amazon's top 100 best selling books, a rare feat for a boating book. Thanks to all of you who have purchased copies and helped spread the word. It's available on the site in hard cover, and at book stores, marine stores, and online where it is also available as an e-book.


Cassiopeia Pictures continues to work toward producing a feature film with production scheduled for late 2014 early 2015. The producer is Kasia Skibinska, the director is Philip Boston and the screenplay is by Stephen Potts. Last year, AT THE MERCY OF THE SEA was produced as an audio book by New Street Communications and is available at Audible.com and other online sites.

French Canal Boat Trip 2015

Sunset at sea from the deck of Quetzal

Each year Tadji and I offer one canal boat trip somewhere in France. We work with LeBoat and charter a 45' - 50' four cabin boat that I skipper. Tadji does all the real work, organizing the trip, planning the route and most importantly, the gourmet cooking. I am in charge of the wine and we never run short. We always have a wonderful time. Our trips have taken us all over France from Brittany to Bordeaux. In 2015 we return to one of our favorite areas, Burgundy, specifically the Nivernais region. We are usually four couples, which works well with cabin layout. We always have bikes aboard as the canals and bike paths line rivers, a perfect way to explore the villages and small towns of rural France. Check the schedule for specific dates and then contact Tadji at naamrod@gmail.com.

Training Passages

Offshore Training passages are the heart and soul of John Kretschmer Sailing. These trips are unique and so are the people that find their way aboard. I am not a sailing school, there are plenty of those around and many do a fine job of teaching offshore sailing skills. What we do is different. We make passages, we make voyages. They're real, sometimes all too real, you are part of the crew. Each passage is comprised of crewmembers with varying levels of experience and we learn from each other. I learn something new on every trip. And you learn by doing, life aboard Quetzal is the epitome of 'hands on' training. You will stand watch in fair weather and foul. You will reef the main when it's blowing, maybe even blowing a gale. You will help with repairs, meals, and the dishes. You will revel in landfalls, especially because everyone shares the navigational responsibilities. There is nothing like navigating when it really counts to instill confidence. You can draw as much from a passage as you're willing to put into it. You may master celestial navigation and you may learn to bake bread. Or you may be more interested in learning how to pace yourself through a long voyage. Passage making requires a mix of philosophy and skills. And one thing I know from experience, you will have a lot of fun and laughs and make profound friendships.

But don't take my word for it; listen to some of the folks who have completed passages aboard Quetzal:


Rob Schlosser: "Hi John, I really wanted to thank you again for the great sailing experience and for the wonderful trip to the Bahamas last month! The two trips that I have taken with you have done a tremendous amount to bolster the confidence I have in myself, as a sailor and otherwise. And the difference in Patty is truly amazing. She has gone from being scared to even talk about sailing to planning our next trip. And eventually even trying to sail full time for two or three years! I wish I had a million dollars to send you to show my appreciation, but alas, all I have are these few words of appreciation. I hope you will accept them for what they are, heartfelt appreciation."

Dirk de Haan, Corpus Christi, Texas: "Susan and I had a great time, I know you know. You've seen the picture of her with Lady Liberty. Wow, what a fantastic trip THAT was. So nice to be able to do. It was really something, also, for our son Dirk, who sailed with us, because he had never seen Manhattan. The time of day we would arrive there, and the tides were all in our favor, coming in with the rising tide and leaving through East River on a falling tide. That canyon, by the way, can pack some serious winds. 20 knots, on a quiet, foggy day. Wow. Sailing Long Island Sound was very beautiful. What great scenery!! Entering Newport as well. There I took over the helm form Susan to do a lap in Newport Harbor. It was my 'victory lap,' a closing circle of sorts, since I started there with you on Quetzal. I will always remember that, and be grateful for your teachings and coaching."

Quetzal hosts a full boat! Jerry Polly, Madison, Wisconsin: "I would highly recommend a passage with John. I have done two. One from Key West to Isla Mujures and back and one from Bermuda to Newport. He is absolutely skilled in every conceivable way with respect to sailing. He takes safety very seriously but expects you to know your way around a boat. He does not mother the crew by telling them how to do everything. He is congenial all the time, almost to a fault. John is good humored, flexible, a great story teller, somewhat of an entertainer. You will have great fun with him. You will be left with other crew members on watch and it will be your job to make that work; he does not really referee, nor should he. You can pull as much learning as you want from John. He will not push it on you; ask and he will talk. Be quiet and enjoy the sea, and he will as well."

Barry Chessick, Chicago, Illinois: "I sailed with John from Annapolis to Antigua, a passage of 1500 miles that took ten days. For me, it was an experience of a lifetime. Besides bonding a lifetime friendship with John, a truly unique, capable and magnificent individual, the sights, scents, sounds of being 500 miles offshore are tattooed on my psyche forever. I experienced all the delights I had only read about before: the night sky glowing with millions of stars, dolphins playing, awesome sunsets and sunrises. Was it worth the cost? For me, and the memories that it brought, it was worth many times the cost, of course I wouldn't tell John that."

Joanne Matthews, Pensacola, Florida: "Regarding a long ocean passage on Quetzal with John as skipper? I can say without a doubt - go for it. We met John at a book signing a few years back and then signed aboard for a passage from Annapolis to Antigua. There were four crew members and we all got along wonderfully. A highlight was Thanksgiving dinner, complete with all the trimmings, hundreds of miles from land. A couple of topics, politics and religion, were not discussed, but otherwise everything was on the table: books, boats, weather, sailing, cruising, travel, relationships. We laughed for 1500 miles over his crazy sailing adventures. He is clearly the captain but we all shared equally the shipboard duties. I have not doubt that in a time of distress, he would maintain a clear head. He also truly enjoys sharing his knowledge, stories, and love for the sea. He's an avid reader, and unfortunately, also sings on watch."

Gordon House, Kansas City, Missouri: "Considering a trip with John? Bottom line, GO FOR IT! A passage with JK may be the high point of your life, not to mention that it will make you the star of all the cocktail parties for years to come. John is an excellent skipper and has the uncanny ability to magically appear on deck just when you need him to assess a situation that you may be unsure of. You will never hear him raise his voice, even during the most trying situations."

Amy Stapleton, Huntsville, Alabama: "Before sailing with John, I'd never been on an offshore passage or sailed overnight. I wasn't sure I'd like going offshore, but my first passage on Quetzal sailing from St. Pete to the Dry Tortugas exceeded all my expectations. It was an awesome experience and although it was challenging, John made me feel very comfortable. He's also a great story teller and provides for lots of entertainment. These passages are not comfort cruises. They are hard work, but for me they have been a great confidence builder and have helped me get a lot closer to my personal sailing goals."

Ron Sorenson: "Sailing with John on one of his passages is simply a great open water learning experience. I've been on two trips so far (with more to come), and both were on Quetzal, John's boat. One was from Panama to Florida, the other was a Trans-Atlantic, and both were great. The Panama to Florida Trip was very relaxing. For me, the trans-Atlantic was the best. It gave me an outstanding exposure to open water sailing and what that can entail in both good and bad weather conditions. John's experience showed when we had some rough seas and his concern with the crew's safety was readily apparent.

John promotes a relaxed atmosphere on his passages. There's no rigid daily lesson plan that one must follow but there are learning opportunities galore. John works to make everyone feel that they are part of the crew and spends time with each person answering questions or helping them bone up on their navigational skills. And when he's not answering questions from the crew, John has terrific stories that he loves to share.

Lastly, sailing on Quetzal in the Atlantic during a heavy weather period proved to me just how safe and solid that boat is. She is truly passage proven. And I understand now why John is so fond of her."

James Leonard: "I've sailed with John on two different passages. Both involved some rather 'nasty' weather. Besides learning navigation, seamanship, problem solving and how to fix things, I gained a confidence from John that you won't get in a lot of other 'sailing schools.'

He's a pretty good cook and he tells a great story.

I look forward to going out with him again."

Rick Thomson: "I have known John Kretschmer for several years and in that time, we have sailed many nautical miles together! We have sailed in Greece, Tahiti, Australia, Thailand, the Caribbean, the Pacific Ocean, Chesapeake Bay, and have crossed the Atlantic Ocean. We have been becalmed, knocked down, broken down, braved storms in winds of 60-plus miles per hour, but we have also witnessed unbelievable sunsets, breaching whales, green sea turtles, dancing dolphins, deep blue oceans, and brilliant white beaches, not to mention the beauty of the galaxies, moonlight on the water and shooting stars.

That being said, I feel totally at ease when sailing with John. John is the ultimate sailor. When the going gets tough, John can cowboy-up, or I guess I should say sailor-up. I've never personally known anyone physically stronger or more determined to achieve his objective. John totally immerses himself in the sailing environment. Celestial navigation, course plotting, and understanding charts are second nature to him. John is perfectly at home on any vessel. He knows boats and what to expect from them. He's a sailor's sailor!

On the personal side, John is the most personable guy I know. I have always said, "If you can't get along with John, you probably aren't going to get along with anyone." He is also an outstanding cook. I have seen John cook delicious hot meals in very rough conditions, when other skippers would be handing out peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. You must try his Mayan spaghetti!

Captain John Kretschmer is truly a one-of-a-kind sailor, who will show you a journey that you will share with others for the rest of your life."

George Archibald, Commodore of the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron: "Hi John. Just wanted to thank you again for coming to RNSYS last Saturday. For the last week everyone who attended has been singing your praises.You were a great sport to drop in for our special night. I have been watching the weather and wondering if you got away, if you did I hope it has been better than the weather ashore. All the best, George"

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