A Little Mystery

Here’s another story. With an open ending.

Our first encounter with Sean Hartel on the yacht “Extreme Snailing” ( a Seidelmann 29) was at Santa Cruz, California one evening in October 2010. They were ferrying friends back and forth to the beach in their 8′ f/g dinghy, loaded to within a few inches of the gunwale. They looked interesting.

Our second encounter with Sean¬† was in Monterey. I was peering around the bay from where we were anchored outside the harbour shortly after dawn. I was probably using binoculars, which is usual. The local CG 40 foot patrol boat left the harbour at high speed , went out about 2 miles , stopped and took a small craft under tow , then returned to the harbour. I recognised the small vessel as the dinghy from “Extreme Snailing”. I waited until a reasonable hour then went over to Extreme Snailing ,which was anchored nearby, to ask if Sean had a dinghy. He looked around, cursed, then accepted a ride into the CG dock to retrieve the skiff.

Ok , no problem. They were leaving Monterey and wanted to stop and anchor for the night rather than going long distances , and maybe do some surfing and exploring. We talked about Pfeiffer Point and what a sketchy place that is to anchor. We (Cor Leonis and Spray Venture ) had anchored there in 1987 and had a fun and interesting time anchored behind a big kelp garden to break the ocean swell. The 2′ beach break was enough for a dinghy pitchpole with all hands.

Sean and his buddy on Extr. Snailing had worse luck there. They arrived , still towing the dinghy with outboard mounted, and ran into difficulty with fouling kelp , followed by a capsized and sinking dinghy. This led to unpowered drifting towards rocks and surf where the decision to cut away the dinghy was made. Fortunately they had another dinghy , a small oval inflatable job with oars adequate for convenient stowing, only.

From Pfeiffer Pt they went to Santa Barbara where the crew was dropped off.

Next time we met Sean, a few days later, was at Smuggler’s Bay on the S end of Santa Cruz Island. We were hunkered down with 2 or 3 other boats to ride out a predicted gale in Santa Barbara Channel. Sean blew in before dusk and anchored a little closer to the beach. He’d had a good sail across the channel and was ecstatic to have figured out how to heave-to, with the help of a sailing textbook. That allowed him to pee , a good thing in a 7 or 8 hour crossing.

The wind really blew the next day. The big CG cutter from Santa Barbara came in to pick up the mooring to be ‘on station’ for the gale. Despite the gale , Sean came over to our boat for a visit in the evening. It was really blowing. We had difficully getting to the boat in our kayak and dinghy earlier in the day. Nearly blown past out west of Anacapa Island.

Sean blew down to our boat at hull speed in his toy dinghy. Hours later he decided to return to his own boat. It was really smoking and whistling. We offered him a place to sleep on our boat. He declined. He got stoked and set off like a Flightless Steamer Duck with those little oars a blur of spray. He made it back to his boat , but we found his lifejacket in our cockpit, forgotten. We returned it next morning , on our way south .

He had told us his story , briefly , that evening. He had spent his life until recently doing freestyle skiing. He was very good at it , and had won many competitions, at national and world venues. He had spent a lot of time helping a friend who had been badly injured , and had some really interesting stories about that. The sailing thing was new , but the attitude was normal for him.

So that was it , we sailed away towards Catalina Island, and he sailed away , planning to sell the boat and return to Tom’s River to work in the family business. Fifteen year plan.

That was October 2010. In August 2011 (like 3 days ago) I received an e-mail enquiry from a fellow , I think in California.

This guy had been night Scuba diving and had found a submerged yacht named “Extreme Snailing”. He googled the name and found our blog , which had mentioned the boat. He wondered if I had the story on the sinking. I wish.

Unfortunately the diver hasn’t responded to my request for more info , like location , depth , and condition of the boat.

I found Sean Hartel’s Facebook page , but he hasn’t responded to my message.

Undoubtedly there is more to this story.

Maybe this posting will elicit a response.

That’s It.

Eric’s Travels

Eric Friedli is on the yacht ‘Compay’. He has been around. Not around the world. Considering the extent of his travels over the past 8 years it is actually amazing he hasn’t circumnavigated just by pure chance. But he hasn’t , and has no plans to do so.

‘Compay’ is a stock Elan 40 that Eric bought from the factory in Slovenia 8 years ago.

He is a personable fellow in his early forties , so over a coffee , I asked him to give me the short version of his sailing travels since getting the boat. You might need an atlas to follow this.

Here is a summary of where he has sailed since then :

Gibraltar to Canaries to Cabo Verde to Brazil. BA to Rio to Montevideo and back to BA.

Across the Altantic to Capetown, then to Durban, Madagascar , the Seychelles , and on to Thailand and past the Maldives. He spent 9 months in SE Asia  : Malaysia , Str of Malacca ,Singapore , Borneo, and on to Phillipines. On to Vanuatu for 2 1/2 months then New Caledonia, Sydney , Tasmania. Across the Tasman Sea to Stewart Island and then Nelson on the S island of NZ where he stayed for 9 months.

From NZ he sailed to Raivavae in the Australs and on to Rapa Iti, Iles Gambier, Pitcairn Island, Marquesas , then on to Osaka in Japan.

In Japan he went south to Ishiyaki (formerly Bonin), then on to Hong Kong , Luzon (back in the Phillipines) , to Taiwan ,and returned to Japan.

From Japan , in the south he sailed to Kiska in the Aleutians, on to Dutch Hbr , Kodiak and Prince William Sound, Yakutat , Sitka before jumping off to sail down the W side of Haida Gwaii , visiting Port Louis (Kiokathli) and then on south to Kyuquot on the west coast of Vancouver Island. In to Hotsprings Cove , Ucluelet , Sidney (Van Is) and Friday Harbour USA. In October he sailed down to San Francisco , opting not to spend a winter in BC or Washington.

He sailed down around Cabo San Lucas and north up to Topolobampo to take the train into the Copper Canyon in the Sierra Madre mountains. On to Santa Rosalia , then back to Guatmas to visit friends , Alicia and Alberto on ‘Onverra’. On to Lapaz and then down the Mexican coast to Huatulco , Costa Rica , and Panama. , Las Perlas Islands , back to Panama , Ecuador , and then 32 days to Valdivia in Chile, arriving last December.

He then spent 3 months sailing down to Laguna San Rafael in the channels of Patagonia of Chile before returning to Valdivia, where I met him.

He mostly sails alone , but occasionally with friends, if they are available.

This is not a special boat. A fast production boat. He maintains it impeccably. The starboard toerail is damaged from a near miss from a ship in the Inland Sea of Japan. No windvane , only a standard autopilot.

He has a forced air heater but NEVER uses it : “too much energy and too complicated”. But , in Chile, he bought one of these really warm insulated work suits , as did I.

He worked for years in a business in Switzerland that repairs cars, first in the shop , then in the office. He did about 10 transatlantic yacht deliveries during that time.

He says he left to sail for a year. It seems that he really likes the life. He returned to Switzerland for the first time in 8 years recently to take care of ‘paperwork’, and see family.

Sometime , several years ago , he spent several months in a residential program in Central America learning Spanish. Along with English and French. So that’s handy.

What a long route to travel. Eric’s is probably not a particularly unusual story. Like many others, but perhaps a little more intense than many. 80,000 sea miles, mas o menos.