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.

The Poet's Obligation
by Pablo Neruda

To whoever is not listening to the sea
this Friday morning, to who ever is cooped up
in house or office, factory or woman
or street or mine or dry prison cell,
to him I come, and without speaking or looking
I arrive and open the door of his prison,
and a vibration starts up, vague and insistent,
a long rumble of thunder adds itself
to the weigh of the planet and the foam,
the groaning rivers of the ocean rise,
the star vibrates quickly in its corona
and the sea beats, dies, and goes on beating.

So. Drawn on by my destiny,
I ceaselessly must listen to and keep
the sea's lamenting in my consciousness,
I must feel the crash of the hard water
and gather it up in a perpetual cup
so that, wherever those in prison may be,
wherever they suffer the sentence of the autumn,
I may be present with an errant wave,
I may move in and out of the windows,
and hearing me, eyes may lift themselves,
asking "How can I reach the sea?"
And I will pass to them, saying nothing,
the starry echoes of the wave,
a breaking up of foam and quicksand,
a rustling of salt withdrawing itself,
the gray cry of sea birds on the coast.

So, though me, freedom and the sea will call in answer to the shrouded heart.

More Poetry...


Tadji with friends enjoying wine during a French canal boat tripTwo spots for the September 3-10, 2016 French Canal Boat Trip have just opened up! Don't miss your chance to join Tadji and me on an unforgettable cruise through the Loire Valley. Here's the brochure. Please email tadji@travelswithtadji.com to reserve your spot!

The 2018 Schedule is posted now!

If you are looking for travel planning advice and/or private guiding services, visit my wife Tadji's new site, travelswithtadji.com.

Check out an article about this past August's Gulf of St. Lawrence voyage: Northern Wanderings by Dallas Murphy, with photography by Nick McKinney

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.

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. 2016 is just over the horizon. It was more than 32 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

As I write, Quetzal is in Newfoundland after a summer cruise around the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Soon we'll be exploring the rugged fjords of the south coast as we make our way to Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. Then we will prepare for our annual rite of autumn, the heavy weather passage south to the Caribbean by way of Bermuda, and that's always an adventure.

Sunset at sea from the deck of QuetzalQuetzal and her many crewmembers continue to log prodigious sea miles. We tallied 10,000 in 2014 and by the end of 2015, we will have added 12,000 more, laying down tracks across the Atlantic. Two years, twenty passages, more than 100 shipmates, and a thousand thanks to all of you who signed aboard. The big news of 2015 is that we took the teak decks off, a major project to say the least. A special thanks to Spring Cove Marina in Solomon's Maryland and their talented crew. Friends Ron Sorensen, Alan Creaser, Danny Peter, Bruce Steely and Earl Bennett all assisted with this project. Quetzal looks beautiful and is ready for years of sailing.

The 2016 schedule is sold out but I do have wait lists for each passage so don't hesitate to drop me a line and see if there might be any openings. The 2017 schedule is being posted with this update and there are some intriguing passages to consider. Don't hesitate to contact me if you're interested in signing aboard.

We will begin 2017 in the Caribbean, Antigua to be specific. I am calling our first passage The Rhumb Line - a strong wind passage. The first leg to Barbados is a 300 mile run close reaching into the heart of the winter tradewinds. It won't be an easy passage but there is a reward, a Quetzal reception at the Mount Gay Factory in Bridgetown. Then we head southeast, reaching or running before big seas for 200 miles to Grenada, arguably my favorite Caribbean isle. Finally we head north to complete the triangle back to Antigua. This will be challenging sailing with great landfalls, a good combination. The next passage in March is our classic Caribbean Island Passage as we sail south from Antigua to Grenada.

Mediterranean Summer

Join us in the Mediterranean in the summer of 2017. Working with Sunsail, we have arranged three separate one-week voyages in three different locations. We will be day sailing primarily aboard comfortable Jeanneau cruisers. Each boat will have 4 double cabins and it is primarily aimed at couples to join Tadji and me. We are going to have a lot of fun exploring our favorite sea. The schedule is designed so that it is possible to join two or even all three voyages and spend the week between traveling inland. Like all our trips, everything is included except transportation to the boat and shoreside expenses.

Quetzal surfing the waves under reefed sails May 13-20, Leg One: The Balearic Islands of Spain. We will begin in Palma de Mallorca, one of the world's great yacht harbors and my old stomping grounds from many years ago. The islands of Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza are the best cruising area in the Western Mediterranean. There are beautiful anchorages in narrow coves called Calas, regal marinas in Mediaeval villages, and towering mountains and sheer rock faces that are steep too. It's real sailing between the islands and May is an ideal month for exploring this dramatic archipelago.

May 27-June 3, Leg Two: The Amalfi Coast of Italy. We will begin on the island of Procida in the Gulf of Naples and spend the next 7 days exploring what is not only the most beautiful coastline in the Med but maybe the world. This is one of those places that live up to the hype, to the dream. We will explore the islands of Ischia and Capri before heading to the Sorrentine Peninsula to visit Positano, Amalfi and Salerno. The sailing can be lively between the islands and we'll spend most nights in marinas or on moorings. The food, the wine, the vistas make this an unparalleled sailing experience.

June 10-17, Leg 3: The Cyclades of Greece. The Aegean is the still the classic Mediterranean cruising ground. It's windy, sun swept and the sea a shade of blue found only there. This passage is a bit more challenging than the first two legs, as we cover more miles and the wind is fresher. We will begin in Athens and make our way to Kea. From there we will explore the heart of the Cyclades including Paros, Naxos, Mikonos and others. Most nights will find us stern-to ancient quays. The Greek Islands are as charming as ever with great food, music, and festivals ashore.

Email me, or Tadji using the contact form at travelswithtadji.com, for more information, especially about ideas for combining passages.

Another strong-wind passage is scheduled for November, the Spanish Main passage from Grenada to Cartagena via Bonaire. This is the most consistently windy area in the Caribbean and will be a downwind romp in heavy seas. This is a challenging passage. In December, our final sailing passage will take us from Bocas del Toro, Panama north to Isla Mujures, Mexico. This is also a challenging winter passage, and will include stops in Providencialles, Roatan and Belize.

We are also offering two workshops in 2016, both in October. The Cruising Boat Buyer's workshop is scheduled for October 17-18, while the expanded JKU Blue Water Passage Making workshop is slated for the next week, October 22-25.

French Canal Boat Trips 2016

Our canal boat business is growing and Tadji and I are offering three in 2016. The July trip in Burgundy is sold out, however there are still openings on the two September trips. The September 3-10 trip will be in the Loire Valley while the September 17-24 trip will take us back to one of our favorite regions, Aquitaine in Western France. We charter 45' to 50' canal boats 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 out. We have bikes for each person and there's plenty of opportunity to ride along the canal or into nearby villages. The trips are relaxing and great fun. Email Tadji using the contact form at travelswithtadji.com for more information.

Sailing a Serious Ocean

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.

Here's what one reader, Amy Stapleton, had to say about the book in her Amazon.com review:

"This book chronicles John Kretschmer's adventures offering offshore training passages to all levels of recreational sailors. I've had the good fortune to sail with John on five separate adventures. You can't sail with John without becoming his friend. He embraces sailing and being on the water in the same way a virtuoso probably lives just to perform the next sold out concert. He is passionate about sailing the way an artist is completely consumed by her craft. If you like to sail, and you wouldn't be in a boat with Kretschmer if this weren't the case, then you can't help but be drawn in by the force of his personality and his passion for the sea. John is one of a kind. He can write as well as he sails. He's also the only person on earth who can welcome five to seven strangers onto his boat week after week and give each one the feeling that there's nothing he'd rather be doing than going sailing with them.

Kretschmer's uniqueness comes across loud and clear in this wonderful book--part memoir, part advanced sailing guide, part homage to the sheer magnificence of a life lived on the water (and the joy that comes from being able to share this experience with other sailors). This book has stories for everyone, whether you're a sailor or not. Although it's hard to pick out just one favorite section, I enjoyed the chapter on Storm Stories immensely. Each chronicle is both an entertaining nail-biter and a inventory of potentially lifesaving tips for the offshore sailor. It's amazing to see how detailed John's recollection of storm events are that occurred decades ago. Obviously he's preserved his logs from those many voyages and he's able to look back on earlier decisions and actions with the benefit of hindsight (and the wisdom and self-knowledge that comes with experience and age). His lessons learned are now documented for the benefit of the reader.

This book is a gift to those of us who have sailed with John, because it captures the feeling, which lies somewhere between insanity and redemption, that we experience during those finite voyages. John lives the life, and we're lucky enough to live it too for just a week or so. Read this book to see what it's like. Then decide if we're crazy or not."

At the Mercy of the Sea

Cassiopeia Pictures continues to work toward producing a feature film. 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.

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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