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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.
A second JK University workshop has just been added for 2014. See the Schedule for details.
The 2015 Schedule is posted, with 10 opportunities to sail aboard Quetzal. Our passages range from an expedition to the far Arctic, to several challenging offshore passages, to voyages in the Caribbean and Bahamas.
SAILING A SERIOUS OCEAN: Sailboats, Storms, Stories and Lessons Learned from Thirty Years at Sea
Book Tour Schedule
My new book is finally 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.
Thank you for venturing into the far flung world of John Kretschmer
Sailing. If this is your first time, welcome, otherwise thanks
for dropping by again. As 2012 dawns I realize that I have been
sailing professionally, if that's what you call what I do, for
more than 30 years. I have lost track of how many offshore miles
I've logged. When my sailing odometer ticked over 300,000 I stopped
counting. I don't need to impress anyone, or prove anything, indeed,
sailing that many miles might suggest that all I've done in my
life is sail, and of course, that might be right. The amazing
thing is that I am more passionate about what I do than ever before,
and why shouldn't I be - I have a great gig. I love being aboard
Quetzal, it's my natural realm, and the people that track me down
and sign aboard are invariably intriguing. I remain devoted to
providing unique and challenging sailing and travel opportunities
for my clients and friends. It's what I do.
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 freedom and self-discovery.
Joseph Conrad titled his sailing memoir, "The Mirror of the Ocean,"
and I love the 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. Our passages are rarely easy and at times
downright miserable, they're real. And they're rewarding. The
people who sail with me buy, sell, invent, build, teach, cure,
protect, they shake the world when they're 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 your allotment of time?
I began my book, Flirting With Mermaids, with the line,
"I make landfalls for a living." It's a good line, however as
I get older and share my sailing experiences with more people
I have come to realize that making landfalls, even the dicey ones,
is the easy part of sailing. Making departures, pushing off the
dock, unplugging the electronic handcuffs, that's the hard part?and
that's where I can help. Take a good look at the site: the training
passages, the expeditions, the workshops, the pictures and videos,
even the poems, then send me an a email. Let's communicate. Sailing
dreams are too fleeting to leave for another day. It's time, time
to go to sea, and I look forward to sailing together.
Looking Back - Looking Ahead, 2012-2013 (and a peek into 2014)
Quetzal logged another 10,000 miles in 2011. Our many passages
took us from Florida to the Bahamas several times, and then up
the east coast of N. America to Maryland. From Spring Cove Marina
in Solomons, Quetzal's home away from home, we headed east and
crossed the Atlantic. Our first landfall, 15 days from the Chesapeake,
was storied Horta in the Azores. After a brief visit we carried
on north, across the 50th parallel to Crosshaven, Ireland. When
land loomed on the grey horizon 7 days later we were across the
pond. It was Quetzal's 5th crossing, and my 20th. We tarried in
Ireland for most of the summer, exploring the dramatic south coast
and being treated royally at the Royal Cork Yacht Club, our home
In the Fall, after a boisterous and wonderfully Irish send off, we pushed
south, across the Bay of Biscay and along the Iberian Peninsula
to Puerto Santa Maria near Cadiz. Our last passage of the year
took us through the Straits of Gibraltar, to Morocco and finally
to Almeria, Spain where Quetzal is resting until spring. My sincere
thanks go out to everyone who sailed with me in 2011. We stood
watches under canopies of stars and on calm seas, and we stood
watch on dark nights and when the seas were anything but calm.
That's what we do.
2011 also saw the first installment of JK University, a four-day
intensive workshop focused on blue water passage-making skills
and insights. Nine brave souls turned up in Fort Lauderdale, from
as far away as Barbados, Brazil, Utah, San Francisco and Chicago.
We covered a lot of material. We spliced line, assembled rigging
terminals and discussed worldwide route planning and heavy weather
strategies. The highlight was on Saturday when we launched a Switlik
6 person liferaft from the pitching deck of Blue Nomad, a 54'
steel ketch, and scrambled aboard. Overall everyone was pleased
with the workshop. The next JK U is scheduled for April 2012 and
two are slated for 2013. Check the schedule and workshop tab for
The 2013 schedule is posted, finally, and once again we have an
amazing array of trips and passages scheduled. Check the schedule
for updates and email me for more information on each passage.
French Canal Boat Trip 2012
Join us, July 21-28, for this year's canal boat trip. We will
be cruising the River Loire that winds through the Loire Valley
of the Burgundy region of France. Loire Valley is home to the
famous Sancerre wine-producing region and is also known for its
goat cheese. We will begin our journey in Chatillon Sur Loire,
stopping for wine tastings en route and exploring local markets.
We will visit La Charité Sur Loire, a UNESCO World Heritage
Site and the Ducal Palace in Nevers built in the 15th century,
amongst other places. We will end our journey in the quaint town
of Decize where 300 year old trees line the avenues in typical
French style. The river and canals are lined with bike paths.
Our boat is 50' and has four private double cabins, a large saloon
and top deck. 6 spots are available. Cost $2400 per person includes
everything but transportation. For more information, email Tadji
Kretschmer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Quetzal will be Mediterranean based in 2012 and most of 2013.
A quick recap of 2012 looks like this: In April we will sail from
Almeria to Barcelona, along the dramatic Costa del Almeria and
Costa del Bravo. We will call into Ibiza and Majorca along the
way. In May we will sail from Barcelona south to Menorca and spend
10 days exploring the beautiful Balearic Islands, including sandy
Formentera, chic Ibiza and the stunning north coast of Majorca.
In June we head from Majorca to Menorca then offshore to Sardinia
and on to Corsica. This is one of my favorite passages, a combination
of great sailing, great landfalls, great food, and great wine,
basically a great passage. In August we depart Rome and sail to
historic Elba before making our way around the rugged islands
of Corsica. In September we find ourselves on the Amalfi Coast
and head south to Sicily via the pristine Aeolian Isles. In October,
we sail around Sicily, and visit Tunisia before finding our way
to Malta where Quetzal will bunk down for the winter. Back on
this side of the Atlantic, we'll wind up 2012 with the TransCaribe
passage. This is a mix of serious passage making and Caribbean
gunkholing. We will launch from Tortola and sail southeast, slashing
across the trades on a three-day passage to Grenada. We will explore
the Grenadines, making our way to Bequia, one of my three favorite
anchorages in the Caribbean. Then we'll head offshore again, sailing
nonstop to Tortola.
When 2013 opens we'll be on the other side of the world, in New
Zealand. This ten day sailing and land expedition will include
a week of sailing in the spectacular Bay of Islands, two days
in Auckland, and two days in the Marlboro wine region of the South
Island. Although it is currently sold out, I am considering adding
a second boat so keep tuned in for updates. February will include
another chance to attend JK U, and to sail Fort Lauderdale to
the Bahamas aboard Caribe, my dear friend Steve Maseda's Beneteau
First 456 double headsail sloop. Later in the month, we'll do
another TransCaribe passage from Tortola to the Grenadines and
back. In March we get serious - serious as in heavy weather, as
we sail from Malta across the Ionian and Aegean Seas, to Kusadasi,
Turkey. This will be a challenging passage, the Med is lively
in March. Landfalls will include Methoni, on the Peloponnese Peninsula,
Iraklion, Crete and beautiful Samos.
Now here's the exciting news, we'll be making two Atlantic crossings
in 2013 and into January of 2014. I will tell you now, don't wait
to sign up for these crossings, they will fill early. The first
passage I am calling, "East to the Azores." We will be sailing
"Infinity," Harry and Velinda's handsome Tayana 47. Harry and
Velinda have been frequent shipmates on Quetzal, including the
transatlantic passage in 2008, and I look forward to sailing with
them. Three berths are available for the 2500-mile nonstop passage
from Annapolis, Maryland, to Horta, Azores, scheduled for May
4-20. The second Atlantic crossing will actually take place in
January 2014 when we bring Quetzal home. The route will be from
the Canary Islands to Antigua, scheduled for January 4-24. Five
berths are available for this crossing and although it is two
years away, I can assure you it will be sold out 18 months in
Back in the Mediterranean, Quetzal has three exciting passages
on tap for the Summer and Fall of 2013. The first passage will
take us along the coast of Turkey from Marmaris to Istanbul. We
will call at Bodrum, Chios, Lesbos, and the ancient site of Troy,
near Canakkali before crossing the Sea of Marmara and into Istanbul.
The next two passages are slated for autumn. In September we will
sail from Turkey to Majorca, a 1500-mile passage in 15 days with
landfalls at Athens, Siracusa in Sicily, and Cagliari in Sardinia.
The second passage in October will take us from Majorca to the
Santa Cruz de Tenerife Canary Islands via the Costa del Sol, Gibraltar,
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."
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."
crew of the East Coast Offshore Passage makes landfall at
Spring Cove Marina in Solomons, Maryland after a wild ride
in the Gulf Stream
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
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
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
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
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
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"
Kretschmer Sailing fleece jackets and long-sleeve t-shirts are available