01 November, 2010


When visiting Rob Fargason in Alabama a few years ago.
Posted by Picasa

15 September, 2010

Road trip and Rodeo


Widge's last home - Swim at Sewanee - Race car in CO mtns - climb in
the rain - 4x4 with Knox - mushrooms with everything - to Dillon - new
fence and long talks - Blue Goose down in Missoula - Meg salvation -
To Omak - the Stampede - Meg and Mols - Juan's confrontation - Saved
from the heat and a ride to the mountains - Winthrop - Pasayten
Wilderness - time with Anne - Beer-gut Triatholon - of Ali and Mt
Rainer - many flowers - Helena - sushi and climbing - Spokane - To
Ballard - Finding Berg - Willy's horse ranch - the sweat and the 7
glowing stones - John Rand Reunion -

New Life

Wow ... so much to tell. And I don't know where to start ... where
did I leave off? ... and so so much has changed. How can I explain.
I live in a city. My boat is for sale. I bought a great bike in live
in a great great place: I've got chickens, a wood shop, and a
garden--and my landlord is a good friend.
There are all many of job opportunities. Well, at least right now I
am meeting so many people who are offering interesting ideas. I am
trying to sort out the opportunities that matter--really, trying to
soul-search and learn what I need and want out of this stage of life.

Seattle is buzzing with fresh thinking and opportunity to get
involved. I have good mentors: Anne and her roommate Mike are
insatiably active and involve. They vollenteer; they participate in
buckoos of various activities. For instance, Mike gets his vegetables
from a CSA, which is a way of buying produce directly from local
farms--not the store. You eat what is growing right now! I'd never
heard of CSAs.

We go mushroom hunting and blueberry picking. There are weekly
lectures on permaculture and the "transition town" concept which are
issues I'm very interested in. Anne and I climb on Wednesday nights,
play goaltimate (half-court ultimate frisbee) on Tuesdays, camp or
hike on the weekends (or climb) ... on and on. Dally bike rides are
slowly teaching me the arteries of my new home.

So I'm busy; I'm enthused; I'm ready for this stage, not really
knowing where this all goes. More education: mechanics or nursing?
... maybe. Business? Farming? Nautical? I have a long list of
ideas and I'm gaining information, pros and cons.
I want to be here ... I can ski in the winter, climb and camp in the
summer, live amongst the biggest trees in the world, sail in the San
Juans, be near Missoula, spent time with and learn from interesting
and dynamic people. Opportunities look endless from where I am today.
I'm excited.

This IS NOT a separation or a diversion from my past. This is a
contiuation of everything I believe in: challenge, learning,
....fear. It is building skills I want and need. It is a rebuilding
of things I've lost over the five years afloat. It is a reckoning..

30 July, 2010

On the Road ... again

I've left Columbia for a drive back westwards. I'm looking for a home
for a while as BRILLIG sleeps in Charleston.
I am having lots of contradictory thoughts: when I was in the Atlantic
I thought I would sail on forever. But now, being on land again, I am
leaning toward a reckoning, time spent back in the mountains to see
who I am, how I have changed, and where I am going.

I have a feeling this will be the way of things for a while, a change
from the sea I mean. There are certain things I've lost in the last
few years. And I mean to regain them. (A sense of work ethic, for
For the next month I intend on catching up with some old friends and
having some serious conversations, get out into the hills and get my
legs iron'd up, and hopefully learn a bit more about the future and my
place in it.

25 June, 2010

My Digits

Cell:  803 587.0531
country code: 001
skype:  svaraby

Home address:
Jonah Manning
c/o Charles Manning
751 Mallet Hill Rd
Apt 13105
Columbia, South Carolina, 29223

a tragic loss

I am wounded. My friend Remy, as wise and talented as anyone I've had the privilege of knowing, has lost his son Armand, at two weeks old. Remy and his wife are so full of love--I simply can't comprehend such a loss! Please send my friend your strength and love and compassion. Remy -- I am with you. We are with you.

14 June, 2010


Great to be home. Excellent wedding of one of my best friends. Will
write more as soon as possible. I've been so busy. The passage was

05 April, 2010

St Helena shots




Posted by Picasa

St. Helena


Napoleon – shark riding – Jacob's ladder – bar jam – hiking – manta ray

In the middle of the southern Atlantic Ocean rises an innocuous little
volcanic island named St. Helena. It has no airport. It receives a
freighter—maybe—once a month, on which an islander could hitch a ride
to Ascension Island to catch a plane to the Falkland Islands or the
U.K. It has no traffic lights, no cell phones, no cinema. It is more
isolated in the world that Easter Island or the Galapagos.
The islanders are amazing and unique in that they are a "naturalized"
mulatto, or what a South African would call "colored"—the Saints (as
they call themselves) are a mix of British, Portuguese, Chinese,
African, and Malagasy. Over the 500 years since the first settlement
of the island (1502) the intermingling of the races has come to
something like uniformity, physically something resembling Latinos or
Filipinos. I've never been anywhere in the world where a mixed
ethnicity developed into an ethnicity of its own. Really amazing. In
individuals atavistic characteristics still manifest: a woman with
narrower eyes, or a man with more curly hair, or fair skin—something
like that. I haven't seen any blond hair though.
I suppose all ethnic groups develop similarly—would the S. Americans
be themselves today if it hadn't been for the Spanish and other
invaders, plus their slaves and indentured servants to mingle the
blood of the Aztecs, Incas, ect?? Of course not.

I arrived on St. Helena not knowing anything about the island except
that it was on-route and that I could easily obtain water and
provisions. Well, that and also that the anchorage wasn't very fine.
Both of these facts proved accurate, but it the end I found much more,
much much more. Why are the good spots never where you expect them?

The island appeared on the horizon just as the sun rose up behind me.
There is always an electric feeling the first time you spot land. I
had a great passage and wasn't over-eager to stop, but St. Helena rose
like a massif from the lowlands—all this fine looking rock crumbling
down as it rises up from the sea. I so rarely sail near coastlines, I
was floored by the beauty of it. Good weather, moderate seas. Of
course I ripped the head of my jib only 15 miles out! Ha. Well,
that's what a stay'sle's for.
The anchorage is exposed to the north, but since the SE'lies are so
prevalent it is moderately safe, but deep and rolly all the same. The
swell also makes dinghy landing on the wharf a bit of a challenge, but
my weather on arrival was very calm, and would remain like that
throughout the week.
Where the anchorage is lacking, what I found ashore was much more
welcoming. EVERY SINGLE PERSON I saw on the street smiled and waved
at me. I spent an hour hanging out with the immigration ladies
because they were so friendly. What I found was a slow old-world
life. The island is still British Commonwealth and retains that feel.
There is limited internet, no cell phones, one radio station. There
are cars, but mostly one-lane roads. Few bikes, as the island is so
steep and rugged. Very little flat land, all ridges and gorges. Very
reminiscent of Scotland. The anchorage is in Jamestown. The north is
very dry and arid, like Baja. But as you walk away from town you rise
into the high center of the island and move into a rainforest. The
island is only 5 X 15 miles … small, but there is a real diversity of
climate for such a small place.
It is smattered with walking trails. Although I only intended on
staying a few days, I found the walking to be irresistible. The rock
is mostly basaltic, with some rhyolite and tuff or pumice—not good for
climbing, but the views from the coastal cliff walks are awe
inspiring—the whole Atlantic Ocean all around you. The island makes
clouds and there seems to be at least a bit of rain on most days. But
there are always rainbows—sometimes they are in the valleys beneath
you, sometimes they are in twenty meters between you and shore as you
row home.
From Jamestown, there is a stairway going straight up the valley to
the top of the next ridge. It is 699 steps and is called Jacob's
Ladder. Big steps and about a sixty degree angle. It is pretty cool
and one of the only tourist gimmicks on the island. John could barely
walk for three days after going up. [ADDENDUM: After over a week of
walking I was able to do the Ladder in 10 min 20 sec, up and down.
Pretty stoked about it. Island record is 8 min by a navy officer
though---and that is a big difference. Although my friends on Blue
Sky took 2 hours.]

The big name here is NAPOLEON. He was exiled here after Waterloo and
died here. I visited his house. Just a house, but hey, Napoleon
slept in that bed! I guess that is supposed to be cool. … …
… but let me tell you what I think is cool. … WHALE SHARKS are cool …
and cooler that that … RIDING A WHALE SHARK.

SHARK RIDER__________


I met an amazing guy delivering a cat to Greece. This is his 30th
Atlantic crossing!! His name is Gareth. He has nearly 500,000 miles
at sea!!! And what is more, he is only 28 years old. Great guy;
serious sailor; hard hard worker. That is another story … anyway, I
was standing in my dinghy at the back of his boat and he mentioned
that another boat, Ragin Cajin, had seen a whale shark and that they
themselves had felt something rubbing against their chain earlier in
the day. I started laughing because John on Dancyn has hunted the
world for whale sharks and found no success, and now it seemed as
though he had missed another one.
But as we were discussing the shark, Gareth's mate Jenna looked over
my shoulder and says, "Look, there it is." It's true; it's true; I
promise it is true. Sure enough, even as we discussed the very shark,
it swam right past the boat. I shoved off and skulled (a sort of
one-oar paddling) off the bow of the dink to get over the fish. It
was amazing … right there … the biggest fish in the world! But it
wasn't close enough. With my painter (bowline) in hand I jumped over
the side.
There it was, a lumbering boulder, softly sweeping his tail. It
didn't look real—it was just too big, too unworldly, majical. Jenna
calls out asking where John is and I tell her to hail him on vhf 71,
the station we use to chat in the mornings. For whatever reason, the
three of them are still on the cat. Jenna asks if I want a mask.
Hell yes I want a mask!
With the mask the shark really came alive. It was brown with faint
horizontal lines and striking white spots. It was ten meters long.
Longer than my boat!! But for an animal so large, it was beautiful;
it was strangely elegant. Elegant except maybe for its gaping mouth.
Like a manta ray or like baleen whales, the whale shark is a plankton
eater and strains the plankton out of the water by "gulping" large
amounts of water. So it has a tremendous head. But it is not a
predator; it's actually very docile.
Even before I got my mask on I had thrown off my dinghy painter. The
dinghy was slowly drifting away in the light breeze. I couldn't be
bothered; it wasn't going far. This was magic. In fact I knew
already this was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I
followed the shark all the way around the catamaran before John rocked
up in his dinghy, kindly fetching my dinghy. He also fetched Gareth
and his other crew—both with fins and masks now, finally willing to
jump in with the shark. John, however was dressed in his Sunday
best—he hadn't understood about the shark.
I berated him for lolly-gagging. The shark had now circled all the
way back to where it had started and seemed to be descending. Knowing
Johns repeated bad luck with whale sharks, I was sure it was about to
vanish on him yet again. It should be mentioned here that john is the
best free-diver I have ever seen in my life. He can hunt fish at 70
ft. Amazing. Again, another story.
John strips naked—not just a little naked, buck naked—and jumps into
the water—first breath, no fins—and dives down, down, down and touches
the great fishes back. It was some dive. He comes up screaming with
joy. At last … a whale shark! But the shark turns, and then rises,
rises all the way back two feet from the surface. Gently, John and I
dive and ease over its back and take a hold of a fin—and we ride the
shark, right above the gills. The skin was coarse as 120 grit
sandpaper, but nearer to the gills it was soft. John lost skin on his
Never in all my life!!!! … …

And the shark never flinched. It swam up and down up and down, back
toward the bow of the cat. We petted and rode. The imagine I will
never forget was when I was at the surface looking down and John went
down deep and held on by the end of the tail; he did a sort of naked
spread eagle, small against the girth of the shark and abyss of the
dark blue water behind him. A man dwarfed by the great shark and the
deep sea. It was magnificent, truly and utterly magnificent.

I spent about 30 minutes with the shark. When I get back into the
dinghy I was shaking with endorphins. I was so high I couldn't even
find my bottle of champagne after much disorganized searching. We
all climbed aboard the cat a drank ourselves silly—the biggest smiles
radiating from our faces, randomly breaking in to laughter or hoots of
residual pleasure. It is hard to say whether it was or wasn't the
coolest thing I've ever seen, but there is no need to make such a
claim. It was simply great—that is enough. The closest I can come to
describing the feeling is the scene in E.T. when the spaceship has
come to take him home, and E.T. is standing there and the boy is
looking at him, loving him, but also all of E.T.'s strangeness,
other-worldliness is utterly apparent. There is that moment when they
touch each other, loving and marveling at the strangeness of the
other. That is the story of my whale shark.

John left St Helena today, so we figured it would be good to go for a
last dive among the rocks. On our way back to the boat I spotted a
manta ray swimming right for us. It wasn't a big one, probably six
feet across, but what an amazing and graceful creature. We spent a
few minutes with it before it descended back into the depths. A whale
shark and a manta: two of the strangest, coolest—not to mention
hugest—creatures of the sea.

TRIAL BY FIRE___________


You would think it enough to have one life-changing experience on a
little island like St. Helena. And sure, it would have been. I
thought to stay only a few days and I've already been here nearly two
weeks with little thought of leaving. I've gone walking in the hills
nearly everyday. I've even played 9 holes of golf (for a laugh) on
what may be the most isolated golf course in the world. But something
much more meaningful to me happened, something for which I owe a lot
of thanks to a boat called Ragin' Cajun.
I met Tony on the radio a few days out of South Africa. I was trying
to get on the Peri-Peri Net for some weather, but the reception was
terrible. Out of all the static comes Ragin' Cajun. This is how I
met Tony. He was looking for weather too and having no more luck than
I at picking up the Net.
But we talked a bit and I asked about his interesting boat name.
Turned out he was not American, but Australian, and the boat was named
as it was because he loved playing Cajun style music. He told me he
had often played in bands and played the fiddle and mandolin. I told
him about my sister and my friends and how I love bluegrass and have
been learning the guitar myself. Maybe we'd get together one day and
play. You never know. He was on the west coast of Africa heading to
I arrived in St Helena before John. But John showed up the next day,
and just behind John was a bright yellow boat with a huge alligator
playing a fiddle. Under the alligator was written Ragin' Cajun. So
it was that Tony and I met for the first time.
St Helena being small place and little to do (if you aren't a walker)
the lot of us would get together for a beer at a little place called
Anne's. We broach the topic of music and decide to get together the
next day and play. However, to my initial dismay, as I show up at
Anne's I notice Tony has none of his kit. He says to me, "so what are
you doing tomorrow?" Slightly irritated at the trouble I had to go
through to get my guitar ashore in the rain, I thought about
responding that I had a big hike planned for the next day—which I did.
Instead I asked him what he had in mind.
He explained that he had met a few local musicians and had organized a
sort of jam at a bar in town called The Standard. I was welcome to
play if I wanted to. This was music to my ears. Well, sort of. I've
never really used mics or amps or any of that, and to play in a bar in
front of a lot of people—without ever playing with ANY of the
musicians—seemed to be asking a lot of my musical ability. Deep
water—just jump in, right? "Sure," I said. "Hell yeah."
Before long he coaxes me to get my guitar out and play. I didn't like
this much either. I still balk at playing alone in front of
people—and in this case, in front of an accomplished musician.
I played a song; he played a song; I played a song. And what I got
was a lot of feedback—quality constructive criticism—the very thing I
crave and need. It was great. It was even fun. Perhaps it wasn't an
audition as I'd already been asked to play, but it felt like it, and
apparently I passed, as he mentioned certain songs that he wanted to
play the next day—my songs. Wow.

I still manage to get a good walk in—not the full hike I had planned,
but good to move my blood around. I showed up 45 minutes early to
work my fingers. I met Johnny. Johnny owned the Standard Bar.
Johnny plays the bass guitar. Johnny is awesome. Stew showed up with
a four-piece drum set. Another guy set up a keyboard. Donny, a
bee-keeper, showed up with a set of harps. To my dismay, no other
guitars, no other vocalists.

What to say? Was it awesome? . . . hell yes! Was it perfect? . . .
heavens no. I mangled songs I've played a million and two times. My
mic was silent because I was sitting in front of speaker, but it was
the only place I could hear myself play. And yet people screamed and
applauded. People were standing in the doorway and beyond. The whole
damned island turned up. And all my yachtie friends.
For one thing, Johnny organized it so as to be back-up for Tony and
I—that was why his guitarist didn't come. Johnny has his own band, of
which the keyboardist and the drummer were a part. And man were they
good. They were killin' it.
And they were killing me. I had no guitarist to follow. Most of my
song had changes that would need rehearsing, so we ended up playing
mostly Tony's music—who didn't like singing either. There weren't any
changes and just three chords. But it was great. He was great. It
was heavy, foot-stomping, low-down country dancin' music. He and
Donny the harp player stole the show. They sounded so good together
you would have thought they'd played together all their lives. It was
something to behold.

Not having another guitar to follow was not comfortable. Not having
played this style of music or these songs was not comfortable. Tony,
telling me only, "this one is in D", was not comfortable. This is why
it was truly a trial by fire. These were fine musicians; we were
putting on a show, and I was the only guitar. Tony made it clear that
there were two principle rules: always stay in time and in tune, and
if you don't know it—Don't Play.
My rhythm didn't abandon me, but there were a few tunes I just
couldn't figure out. I just couldn't hear. I am learning to hear and
recognize chords of the guitar, but distinguishing an A from a D on a
fiddle was new for me and I wasn't completely successful.

That said, songs like Country Roads, Mama Tried, and Fulsome Prison
Blues got roaring applause. And there were
times where I could really relax and flow.

I did it.
I've now preformed with a band on a stage in front of a crowd. It was
an amazing experience. I had a guy come up to me on a break and
effusively tell me what a wicked-good guitarist I was. Twenty minutes
later he was unconscious on the bench, head lolling side to side.
Well … it wasn't an insult; take it or leave it.

The next morning I was walking up the road to go for a hike and I see
Tony coming down towards me. He said that a guy from another bar
heard us play and asked if Tony and I would come and play his bar
tonight. So, I took from the invitation that I couldn't have been all
bad. And free beer.

My South Africa

My South Africa__________

Bainskloof – Karen – Lionshead – climbing – white shark hunting – r.
bay braaiis – parking practice – music for xmas, ect – party in
Simon's town, wine and climb.

I'm not sure how long it was before I awoke to the fact that South
Africa was a "different" place. You might thing that everywhere is
different, and in ways you would be obviously correct, but often what
strikes me first is how much alike one place is to the next. And the
reason is because of the kindness of people.
For some reason I am always surprised. The common generosity of
people never grows stale, never becomes ordinary or expected. And
yet, for all that, it is so ubiquitous. So often I arrive in a new
place and am immediately met with open arms, brought into friendships
and allowed to share in activities. It is so warm; in fact it is a
primary reason why I travel in the first place.
But even in Kenya, where the coastal people were kind as so many
people I have met before them, I started to get another sense of the
Dark Continent, a slight tinge of potential violence latent in the
tribal culture of the land. Nairobi was a dangerous place on all
accounts. I spent little time there and had no problems.
But the sense of potential violence only magnified on making landfall
in South Africa, a country I admit to knowing very little about before
arriving. Racism, and racial violence; coupled with the Cape of
Storms and horrendous SW'erly gales were all I had heard of. And
these &&&&&& proved well founded. However, as my experience deepened,
the complexities of ALL these national markers came through. Nothing
is ever as simple as it seems.

In Richards Bay, my first port-of-call, we simply didn't leave the
port except to go to the mall, which was all there was in town. We
were told it was dangerous, though there were few blacks around the
port itself. I never much felt threatened, but the town was so dingy
and the population so shockingly overweight that it did little to give
a fair impression of the country. My time however was spent happily
with other cruisers having "braaiis' on the dock and playing music and
eating cheap icecream. I had a grant time. The sail was a slow safe
ride into Durban.
In contrast to Richard's Bay, Durban was a big city, and was truly
dangerous. One did not walk at night. One did not walk with a
backpack or phone even in the day time. It was in Durban where you
could really feel a threat. Conversely, it was also in Durban where I
met great hospitality from locals. Chris Sutton gave the lot of us
any info we needed and shared a good meal with us at his home. He and
Tony Herrick gave the town a warm feel in the midst of rapidly
accumulating horror stories of muggings, stabbing and rapes. I still
never ventured from the port area. No night life. We stayed close to
The passage from Durban to East London was a ball-buster. True South
African sailing. Strong wind, a rough sea. Some of the toughest
conditions I've sailed in. Only a quick stop there, and then on to
Port Elizabeth, which I arrived in 35 kts.
PE was a nicer, cleaner town than Durban, and safer. There still was
dangerous places near the port, so a cab was necessary, but John and I
did a fair bit of walking about the town in the daylight hours. There
was a nice museum and cheap food. It felt a bit like the world we
knew—but after over a month in South Africa, the weight of the
constant threat of violence was just unacceptable. Not worth it. Why
live in fear? After all, I am a tourist—I don't have to come here.
And as much as all the world laments racism, the cause for such
dislike is well established on both sides, white and black. The
native black population has suffered oppression for two-hundred years.
And even now live in poverty in a country that they now control. So
they lash out against their former oppresses with immoral violence and
cruelty. Whether it is out of vengeance or desperation becomes
immaterial. But the fact is there is mutual hatred between the
races—and that hatred is justly cultivated—and that is the moral
complexity that has no clear answer or resolution.
The stories of violence here trump anything I have ever heard in my
life before. I will not rehash those stories here. Suffice it to say
that people are regularly mugged, stabbed, murdered and raped—all in
most cruel fashion.
From Port Elisabeth I made a half-jump to Plettenburg Bay, where I
waited out a SW'erly and did not leave my boat. Plet Bay was the
first anchorage that was not a port I had moored in in the whole
country. For the first time, I was able to notice the natural beauty
of the land. It was stunning. The rocks along the bay were crowded
with fur seals and sea birds. The water was clean and clear. I felt
like my old self, anchored in the sort of place that reminds you why
you sail the long miles. I saw a bit of South Africa there, my first
taste of the land beneath the unrest. I stayed only long enough for a
fair wind to Mossel Bay.

Arriving in Mossel Bay was like a continuation, a sort of awakening.
Wow, this is a nice town, I thought, surprised, as if I had given up
on such an idea. Quaint and quiet and friendly and clean. I could go
running along the beach. The yacht club paid us good attention and
provided us with showers and services for no cost. For the first
time, we—John and I, along with others—went out at night. And had a
great time. Ironically of course, we were arrested for no justifiable
reason. A bit of a fall into the "old" South Africa. Was is racial?
… It was a "colored" officer (In South Africa "colored" is a mix race,
a mulatto in the US.) who was carrying a grudge. Be that as it may,
it caused a bit of a stir in town. And yet it didn't dampen my slowly
rising satisfaction with the place.
I had seen the beauty in Plet Bay. Now, in Mossel Bay, John, Laura
and I took DANCYN a few miles out of the harbor to Seal Island in
search of feeding great white sharks. It was the single best day I
had had in S.A. so far. We were active—doing something new and really
pretty cool. And it was unique to S. A. Mossel Bay and Cape Town
have some of the highest consentrations of great whites in the world..
Again … this is why I travel. This is what is unique and special.
We saw two tails and perhaps two on sonar, but no breeches, which is
what we hoped for. (Wrong season.) But it was a hell of a good time,
and we would try once or twice more.
We had good friends in Mossel Bay and there were no horror stories.
It was a safe place, an oasis. Lots and lots of cops helps. And we
had fun. And … we were only a hundred miles from Cape Agulhas. We
had learned something now: as bad as the weather and seas of S. Africa
could be, modern technology has changed the way we sail it so
drastically as to be a brave new world. 100 miles to Cape Agullhas.
That is one day of sailing, or motoring. Modern weather can forecast
that. Most sailors coming around the Cape are now using their cell
phones to upload weather files onto their computers. This means we
have continual weather forecasting. This all but guarrentees you of
at least a day of good sailing (when it looks like you have four!)
But 100 miles—that is a day! And often the hops along the coast
were not much longer. We waited; we were patient. We found our
windows and went. And for the most part the passages were fair,
strong, but fair.
I rounded both Cape Agulhas and the Cape of Good Hope in light airs or
under motor power. In fact I rounded the Cape of Good Hope within
five minutes of sundown in a completely glassy sea, running the motor.
It was stunningly beautiful, glorious—but, more to the point—safe.
Modern weather forecasting and wireless internet have changed the
risks of sailing in South Africa.

Before rounding the Cape of Good Hope I visited Cape Town. A friend
from Borneo lives there and offered to take me around. Her name is
Karen Ciellers; we spent time in the jungle together, but only a few
days. I knew the next time I set sail I would be leaving the
country for a long long passage. I also knew I had yet to really make
a memory, a touchtone experience that would tie my heart to the place.
I had shed now the disdain for the place that some of "colleagues'
maintained, but hadn't been won over.
Karen picked John and I up in Simon's Town where we were anchored and
took us up to the wine region just north of Cape Town. It was
stunning. Great beige ridges cradling lush green valleys. These
people didn't seem to be living behind bars and locks. They were
farming grapes in a fine land. We parked on a pass to the north of
the valley and climbed up a mountain. I was home again. Just
stunning. I ran the downhill and felt I had found what I was looking
for. We went down to the vineries and proceeded to wine-taste
ourselves drunk.
In occurred to me that I had wound myself into an unnecessary rush.
To allieviate this, I tempted Karen into taking a road trip with me.
I didn't care where we went—I just wanted to see the country I had
blindly been passing by. Amazingly, she was keen. We agreed on a
place called Bainskloof.
The drive wasn't long, one day, but it took us up high into some
granitic and sandstone mountains. That afternoon as we went out for a
short hike I was shocked to see how utterly climbable the rock was—it
was perfect, really truly perfect. The best rock I've seen since
Tennessee. It was hard, solid, sticky, and absolutely popping with
horns and jugs and chicken-heads, pockets, under-clings—holds of all
sorts. Amazing. I was a kid in a candy store.
The walking was therapy. It was a creek walk in a shallow gorge. We
rock hopped along on smooth river rocks from one crystal pool to the
next. We stopped to swim and picnic. Karen would lay in the sun and
I would amble off to climb. We spent time talking and spent time
alone. I needed the time alone to settle my mind. I was about to
sail a long, long passage and I felt I was giving this fact poor
mental preparation. Here was my place, mountains, water and rock—I
was at peace; I had found peace in a way that I hadn't known it since
Chagos in the Indian Ocean months before. Now I had found it here in
South Africa. Now I had my memory, my love, my experience of a place
to challenging to understand in a cycle of the moon, or maybe a
lifetime. But one can live well there. It has its beauty and magic.
And now I know it.

Jonah Manning

Online Journal: www.jonahmanning.name
Email - bellyofthewhale.gmail.com
South African Cell Phone:
international: [+27] 711797523
local: 0711797523

Jonah Manning
c/o Charles Manning
751 Mallet Hill Rd
Apt 13105
Columbia, South Carolina, 29223

Emergency contact:
Dibble Manning
phone: 001 - 803 - 787 - 4352
also check addresss in "to" column

05 March, 2010

Cape Town to Antigua

Charlie B -
Heading out of Cape Town NOW.....!! Only possible time to get out.
Sorry for no notice. Will be at sea for a long, long long long time.
Two months solid sailing. Will try a stop in St Helena, a little
island 1200 miles from here. My destination is Antigua in the E
Caribbean. The trip will take over two months. Worry after three.
It should not have challenges in weather or traffic, I hope. Just
water management and fresh produce.

Man do I have a big smile on my face!!!

Wish me well.

And to Karin and all S. African friends : THANK YOU. I have now
seen the true beauty and heart of South Africa. And I won't forget

And Chris Sutton, Tell Nick i am only now leaving if you talk to him.
I am a little late. And thanks man, thanks for everything.

18 February, 2010


I should add that John is arguably MORE famous--or infamous--here in
Mossel Bay for our jailtime that he was in Port Elizabeth.

The Famous John Rand

This is a funny thing that happened while I was in Port Elizabeth.
For reason's unknown to me, a reporter decided to interview John for
the newspaper. The young dashing American solo sailor thing, I think.
So a whole squadron of reporters and camera people came down to the
docks, crossed the fishing boats and climbed aboard Dancyn.

It was quite a spectacle. And John was brilliant. They really didn't
know enough about sailing to ask the right questions, but John didn't
care, he's gone give his schpeal no matter what they asked him anyway,
which turned out great for the reporters.
Of course the lead reporter was this young dutch girl with stunning
eyes, so John, naturally tries to work her for a drink. Sorry to say
that didn't pan out, and she seemed so keen on him, too.

Anyway. It was funny because after the article came out in the paper
everyone saw it and kept asking him what he was famous for. Being
John, he would come up with some story of some sort. It was all a
good laugh. "The young American sailor goes where the wind takes
him." Great stuff. They've even got a video on there. Check it
out. My boy is good.


Mossel Bay Departure

Should be leaving here on FRIDAY ... oooh. Well, a weather window is
a weather window. And it is a good one.
So I should be in be in Simon's Town within 48 hours of my departure
sometime in the afternnon - evening on friday.

Karen, can't wait to see you. And all those cruisers that I haven't
seen in months now. Kali - get your flute ready!

Here we go. This is the big one!

17 February, 2010

South African Rock

Beautiful, Tennessee-style sandstone (or Quartzite). I found it on a
run around the coast near this beautiful old lighthouse on a high
bluff. There was a coastal trail that headed under some crags and I
looked up to see how beautifully overhung and juggy they were, and
some good cracks and chimneys.
And as I had just run down the trail from the top of the bluffs, I
knew I should be able to set up topropes. What I needed was a belay.
But I didn't even have to hound John. He was was keen. So we set out
yesterday afternoon. The anchors were huge boulders on the top of the
bluff. The routes weren't long, but they were fun. There was a roof
I had to pull over using a finger lock that is a priceless memory now.
Oh it was perfect. I am so so happy to have been on good rock again,
and to find moves just within my ability. Great fun. I am floating
on air.
That and there is a good looking weather window coming this way. Soon.

15 February, 2010

Only One Thing ...

If I could keep only one possession . . .

. . . it would by my guitar.

Music is endless and eternal. You can carry it in your head or
express it loudly to the world. It is a relief from the tediums of
the mind. It calms and cleanses.

But it is also a door to endless mystery. One can play music forever
and forever find melodies and tunes that are new to him.

Through effort alone you grow. No matter what talent you start with,
you can always improve. This certainty is a bulkhead for happiness in
old age. I dream of being an old man, sitting on a backporch
somewhere in the country, with a guitar and a glass of sweet tea, and
a group of friends around to strum some tunes with.

Nothing ever remains the same long in my life, but today that is my
answer. Take my climbing shoes, my skis and my boat, my books, my
journals, my photos of the past. But I will fight for my guitar with
my last breath.

12 February, 2010


There is a great white shark named Lola--and she lives in the
anchorage where I am in Mossel Bay. She patrols the western
breakwater. I haven't seen her,which could be a good thing or a bad
thing. And--if you believe this--i had to get IN THE WATER to clean
my hull. Crazy ... not really. Everyone swims here; no one is ever
attacked. Mind you, I did have a friend with me in the water, and
Laura in the kayak. Group supported operation. Sickly, we actually
were mildly disappointed not to see her. Morbid, but true. Watch the
movie "Sharkwater" and you will feel differently about sharks. They
simply don't kill humans. Five deaths a year. Coke machines kill
more people.

07 February, 2010

two drafts of drafts

In the Jailhouse
Mossel Bay, South Africa

The short of it is that John and I went out with friends. We got
drunk. We walked home. Some Port police officers stopped us walking
home to tell us that we weren't allowed to drink (or be drunk
presumably) in the port. How the hell were we supposed to know that,
we argued. And what's more, we live here; you can't tell us we can't
go back to our boats. We have no where else to go. At this point
things got more heated than necessary and we were not so kindly asked
to get in the back of the truck. Which, very confusedly, we did.
After which, as we left, John decided this was all very very bad and
we should run for it. So he jumps out. He is far too drunk for such
daring, and drunk enough to try it. I jumped after him, but had no
feel for what we were trying to, but was confused, as we hadn't been
arrested or charged or anything. I just wanted a moment to think
before we went any farther. So I jumped, but abruptly stopped,
realizing it equated to "running from the cops" which I had NO
interest in doing.
John was taken down roughly and maced. His pants were ripped in half
and John is one of those men who prefer to NOT wear underwear. So,
maced, handcuffed, and half-naked we drive the long drive to South
African prison.
John is yelling and saying many rather nasty things which didn't make
us any friends. We had no passports on us. Normally we don't carry
them as it is too easy to be mugged and have them stolen, but it was a
shocking lapse on my part to not have a photocopy in my wallet. I
can't explain how or why it wasn't there. It is always there. I used
to have a copy sewn in my pants. And, now, when I desperately needed
it—it was gone, or removed. And this was grave.
So, why were we arrested? I don't know. Drunk in the port? Perhaps.
We were never given a breathalyzer to determine that we were drunk.
If that were the case, we should have been taken out of the port, not
arrested. (This could have happened if we had cooperated.) This is
what we were told we were being charged with. After we were maced,
It is clear now we are going to jail. In South Africa, this is not a
pleasant realization. But there is nothing to be down. I was calm
and smiling. There was enough fuel on the fire already. I didn't
like the cops but I wasn't going to let them beneath my skin. We had
little power. They refused us a phone call and there was no way for
me to know if that was local protocol or not. I tried to secure a
private cell for the night, which was a most essential matter, and
failed, as the mace-happy officer should me a great pool of blood, and
says, "see what happens … ?" Indeed I did, but wasn't going to baulk
under such a blatant intimidation.
We were thrown in with 5 somalis, all asleep. I eyed them all
apprehensively. They were young, small. The cell was small but
decent. I didn't know what time it was, but I was keen to stay awake.
It was fruitless in the end. They were all good lads. They weren't
criminals, just immigrants with expired work permits.
We were given coffee and four pieces of bread in the morning and told
we'd have to wait for the immigration office. Only one hour the
officer said. Half a day passed. Friends of the Somalis brought them
a bucket of KFC, and they shared with John and me. It was divine
food. And really, who shares food in jail? This was alright.
We start to believe we are in for the whole weekend. We had been
warned, never get arrested on a Friday because they will keep you
until Monday. We were arrested on a Friday. So we settle in for the
haul, make small talk with the Somalis. Yet shockingly, in late
afternoon, we are ALL pulled out of the cell. The immigration officer
drove an hour to met us on his day off. Perhaps the officer felt bad
about the manner and nature of our arrest. He told us in no uncertain
terms that we had done nothing wrong. I repeat. THE POLICE OFFICER
SAID THAT WE HAD DONE NOTHING WRONG. I will say that this is not
true. It is inexcusable to be without a photocopy of your passport in
a foreign country, in my opinion.
We were released late on Saturday afternoon. Everyone is rather
infuriated about the incident and we are meeting with a lawyer and the
newspaper in a few days, though I am really not interested.

longer one

It was a light and easy 24 hour sail into Mossel Bay from Plettanburg
Bay. The anchorage is more secure, but not much. In fact the open
anchorage is perhaps the only detraction to perhaps my favorite South
African town. Mossel Bay is quiet and quaint and safe. You can walk
about town comfortably and the streets and shops are welcoming and
attractive. A bit like small town America. In fact it was this
comfort and hominess that would, in the end, lead to 'significant'
A few boats were already in the harbor that I knew, Buena Vida and
Blue Falcon, and my friend Errol completed a two-year circumnavigation
here, his home. My first day in port was some walking about and
seeing old faces. That afternoon / night John on Dancyn came in to
port and he was equally moved by the tranquility of the place. As we
made a tour of the shops the next day—organizing supplies and hardware
to shore up our vessels for the Cape—we decided a night out was in
Strange, but I could really feel it. I was keen. I don't go out
much, and generally only go when dragged. But this time I was keen.
We enjoyed the end of the afternoon at the Havana Club drinking a $3
bottle of wine. I went off to a dinner on Buena Vida and that
encompassed the early evening, and drinking was, luckily, not
involved. When I fetched John from a Brai (South African bbq), he was
already going long. He was in good form indeed, and enjoying himself
as only John Rand can. I was with Kali and Cunnel from Buena Vida and
we laughed our way up the street from the yacht club to the first club
that our friends had recommended.
I should say, that just beyond the yacht club gate—a place with great
relevance to this story—we were past by a police car, whom John
quickly shouts good spiritedly to, and then asked if we could hope in
the back for a ride. This request was ignored at the time, but
granted enthusiastically as the moon rose and feel on the night to
Everyone was having a fine time. It was great to relax,be out with
friends, to be so close to the Cape. We met with a guy we had only
met earlier that day, Hansi. He worked in the local chandlery and he
introduced us to his friend Laura, who was new into the professional
yacht crew business. We sat around a very comfortable room with a few
more bottles of $3 wine listening to John weave funny tales of SE Asia
cruising. It was all fine.
It was a fine night all in all. We went to the local dance club and
met up with the rest of the Buena Vida crew and danced for hours and
all were smiles. Our crowd left us as the night waned, and eventually
it was only John and I. And John still maintaining a level of high
cheer. It must be late; the night is done. I figured it was as good
a time to go as we would find. I found no complaints from my boy and
we took to the road home.
John wasn't negotiating the hill well; I sort of walked the front line
and he leaned in and that got us into the port. … where we found a
'sort of' guard at the corner. I told John to shut-the-hell-up as we
walked by, which of course did not happen. And only moments later as
we approached the gate to the yacht club, mere yards from our
dinghies, the cop car pulls up along side us. And here the fun

I figured there was nothing to fear. If I wasn't sober, I was quite
lucid and in control and decent in everyway. We haven't done anything
wrong; broken no laws (that we were aware of); we only went out for a
few drinks and were on our way home. The port police never seemed to
expect that we actually "lived" in the port. I would explain this and
all would be well. But it wasn't well.
First, they didn't want to hear it. "You are not allowed in the port
while drinking. You are drunk." I could hardly argue the point, and
yet, we had to. "We live here. If you just let us walk another
fifty meters we will hop in our dinghies and be gone. We aren't even
anchored in the port." At this point, I think, in hindsight, we quit
listening to each other. I didn't sense that things were sliding into
dangerous territory.

04 February, 2010

Mossel Bay

Sittin' in Mossel Bay. Nice town. A friend here plays a flute, and I
am going just now to meet her at the yacht club.
Weather is scheisse, so I'll be enjoying it here for a few days.
Nervous I won't make the Classics Regatta in Antigua, but don't worry
because there is nothing I can do about it.

Brillig is rolling like a top, bad easterly swell. Take me to shore!!

Desert Solitude - Revisited

I'm not sure whether I ever published this post, and I have been
thinking more about it recently, interesting, more from an
antagonistic view point. So I publish it again, but with some more
meandering thoughts mixed in. There is no resolution, just questions.

I wrote this while in Chagos Archepelago. I was there, in the very
middle of the Indian Ocean all alone for 2 weeks. It was a truly
surreal experience, and an experience of solitude that is--and ever
will be--unprecedented.


Desert Oasis, Desert Solitude_________

Christopher McCandliss (or Alexander Supertramp) as he lay dying in
his bus in the far reaches of Alaska wrote in his journal: "Happiness
must be shared." Sailing alone I spend a lot of time thinking about
the "cost" of solitude and a life lived alone. I sacrifice family and
relationships; comfort, ease, and safety; social, sexual, and mental
stimulation. . . but do I also sacrifice the experience of happiness
as well?
On the whole, I don't think so.
McCandliss had it wrong, or not wholly right, or he wasn't ready for
the experiences he faced. He was not completely wrong. "Happiness"
is a vagary in itself. Is it the comfort of love and the pleasure
of life? For some--for most, perhaps—but is that perhaps not a bit
superficial as a life goal? …your own pleasure, your own happiness? ..
Isn't life a bit more grand than all that, a bit more important? If
not, then McCandliss was right. He lost the sense of grander purpose,
of personal ideology, with the suffering of his solitude. The meaning
faded. How many times have I seen some marvel and looked around me to
see who had shared the experience, only to find myself alone, the
experience dimmed, diminished—no one there to empathize, to
corroborate. This is true and this is what McCandliss learned I
think. . . in the end. Beauty is magnified with solidarity. Alone,
experience cannot be qualified, quantified, or otherwise measured. It
is up to the soul alone to give the experience its value. And this is
an exceedingly fragile system, as doubt ever creeps into the folds of
history and memory. Did that really happen as I remember it? Only
you know … or do you?

But there is more to life than this wink and the smile, the "hey, did
you see that??...amazing eh!—the life of solidarity and love. There
is a depth to certain experiences that is perhaps bolstered by
solitude—one is forced to commune only with his environment. One is
forced to accept his account of his memories and experiences. And one
is confronted by the precise dimensions of self. And there one
learns—or I have learned—that those 'precise' dimensions are hazy at
best. And the question returns yet again: If I forgo the happiness of
communal love, solidarity with family and friends and the peace of
security, even the dream of a wife and family—what am I living for?
Woe… this is where I can't be a generalist; I can only speak for
myself. I am living out the ideals of my personal dreams. My ideals
are growth, perpetual change, perpetual challenge, compassion for
everything, ultimate non-judgementality, and ultimate duality. (Don't
dwell on what this means.) But what you should notice is what is
absent: happiness. Nor was raising a family part of my dreams. I
strive to be better, not happier. Smarter, stronger, more
experienced, less naïve, more forgiving, more accepting, more at peace
(in the midst of chaos). Yes, peace means more to me than happiness.

It is when I tire or am weak that I think on happiness. Or is it then
that I lose happiness. The irony is that I am happy (Is that why I
don't value it?) (This is a vicious circle again: what does happiness
mean? Am I happy being alone or not?)
But I feel the weight of growing old, the weight of the seemingly
infinite denials I have suffered from the women I so wished to love.
I believe that it is these rejections make up ¾ or my suffering, and a
larger portion of my self-deprecations. Women are at once my greatest
love and the cruelest blade … that I repeatedly impale myself upon.
Just as my wounds heal I meet another set of rapturous eyes and I draw
ever-ready blade once again. I have lived this cycle since I was 15.
I grow weary of it.
If I were wiling to sacrifice my dreams, things could be different. I
have known love, been loved. And I have walked away, continued on my
way. And I don't regret those choices. I just want everything. I
want "the one" who shares my heart and my dreams. To me that would be

But what then would I lose? Would I lose my drive, my introspection,
my peace? I fear this, though less as the years pass. I am so
content, I sometimes fear such a change. Yet change, I know is
inevitable. I won't—I think—sail forever. Solitude I couldn't bare
in the mountains as I can at sea. Even in extreme solitude, one
cannot escape solidarity. One man alone on a vast sea doesn't feel
that way,instead he feels a part of the sea, a part of the vast
pregnant world around him. This is the solidarity and communion of
extreme solitude. And it is potent. But is it unique to the sea,
where you feel the inevitability of solitude? You can't jump in your
car and head to the bar to meet friends.

I think I am coming around to the idea that I am willing to suffer for
experiences that, for me, transcend the mundane, experiences that
recast my soul in their wake. I wish to see things that make me
tremble. I am currently in the midst of an experience of this sort,
and I may call it happiness, but in truth it is Awe. Akin to
epiphany. But I am alone, shockingly alone.

I don't know what is right or wrong. I know what I have done—what I
have chosen—and why. I know I will continue as I always have, alone
if necessary. I only hope I don't find regret in the days further
ahead, when I am too old to bare solitude as an ideal to some "higher
motivation". What will I ever have accomplished? Will I ever know?
As a test, I have always used the allegory of a man lying in his death
bed. What does he see when the veil comes over him? …what mattered in
his life? I try to live with that in mind. Building experiences,
memories, not wasting the time. But I also find that the women I have
loved are always at the top of those memories. In short, feeling
loved. I have loved more women than I have been loved by, and the
latter are the ones that stay with me.

A Long Short Passage

This is an older entry that I never properly finished, but I am
throwing it up now before to much time goes on and I forget again.

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to Richards Bay, South Africa.

This passage was noteworthy in several ways, and none of them
particularly becoming. I am quite sure that it is my slowest passage
to date, and that perhaps by a considerable magnitude. It took 22
days to manage 1600 miles. I was running 30, 40 and 50 mile days.
These are shocking numbers, nearly unprecedented for me. Indeed I had
light wind, very. But in my eagerness to be far offshore I completely
lost the fine, south-running Mozambique Current and entered a sort of
counter-current flowing north—against me. Having no wind, I was
nearly stopped in place, often sailing 1.5 – 2 knots.
I sailed so slow in fact that I did something very fun. When some
dolphins came along I tethered myself to a lazy sheet and threw myself
over the side. It was great fun because the usual haunting sense of
being alone in the deep ocean water was completely alleviated with the
presence of the dolphins. No fear of sharks with them around. They
talked amongst themselves and paid me some attention—not as much as I
would have hoped—but they were paired up, so I reckon they had other
things on their minds. It felt great to be at peace drifting behind
my boat. I felt weightless, like I might imagine an astronaut to feel
in space—because that was all there was. Space. Endless, vast blue,
bottomless blue. There is nothing like the blue of endless,
bottomless sea. The comfort of the dolphins allowed me to open myself
and surrender to it. That is, until I saw some of those strange
deep-water looking animals, the bizarre sort, square-shaped,
translucent things, looked like crystalline crowns … most strange.
The trance was broken; time to get out.

The passage was good for peace and music. For the first time in my
life I enjoyed the use of a single-sideband radio, or an HF, or SSB.
I came to really look forward to my afternoon contact with the living
world through a weather net. At 5 pm a man in Durban named Roy Cook
comes on frequency 8101 and discusses weather with any sailors who
listen in. The weather wasn't terribly useful, as nothing excepting a
typhoon would affect my course, but hearing a friendly voice was a
great balm. I will always hear Roy saying, "bu-bye … bu-bye." In his
particular way.
At last I got wind, and when I least wanted it. Just coming into S.
African waters, a southerly gale blew up and forced me aside. I
turned into Richard's Bay instead of Durban as was my intended
landfall. In the end it would take over a month before the weather
was suitable for me to leave again. In that time however, I accrued
some friends and memories that I shall carry with me forever.
Providence indeed.

01 February, 2010

Plettenburg Bay Sea Lions


The little black specks are the sea lions. There were 150 or so barking up a storm, lounging in the sun, and totally left in peace. There were no boats, no tourists, no fishermen. Nothing but lots of sea birds and me and Carrol, the little rowing dinghy.
Posted by Picasa
Plettenburg Bay, S. Africa ¬¬¬¬¬¬¬___________

Crossing from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic via South Africa is a
unique bit of sailing. It is the wrong way. Most often westerlies
and south-westerlies are blowing. However, these are often creating a
very dangerous swell and can be unpleasant to severely dangerous.
Yet to go east to west, you have to be fanatical about the weather.
Every morning I wake, boil a cup of "ghetto mocha" (coffee + hot
chocolate) and sit down at the computer to download weather files. I
was able to buy a little flash drive modem and put a cell phone sim
card in it, and thereby have wireless internet on my boat—when in
port, that is.
I download what are called grib files, a picture of a geographical
area—in this case S.Africa—with contour lines of barometric pressure
and small wind arrows indicating the direction and strength of wind.
I use a five day forecast, but the weather is so extreme here, that
the predictions change rapidly. But it is the best guide
available—and there are certain things that are known.
So with this wx info, I look for the opportunity of south-easterly or
easterly winds. These are the most favorable to me, heading west
toward Cape Town. These are winds mostly associated with high
pressure, and it has been a summer of sparing little high pres. So it
has been slow.
But when a window does open, I have to go like hell, because—forget
what the forecast says—it could close anytime. And to get stuck in a
sw'ly, would mean to turn around or heave-to—neither are good choices.
This means I often have to come into port at night, because you have
to come in whenever you arrive—there is no waiting here. This goes
against my rules of seamanship—NEVER ENTER NEW PORTS AT NIGHT. Here
the risk is too high to wait.

So the sailing has been strange, not like the island hopping of the S.
Pacific. And there have been no "nice" anchorages, just industrial
ports, dirty, big and busy. I have come through Richards Bay to
Durban, East London, and Port Elisabeth. That was the SE coast. Now
I am on the south coast, more rocky and beautiful, and it offers a few
capes that are safe refuge if you were caught in a sw'ly.
Plettenburg Bay is one of those. I used it as an intermediate between
Port Elisabeth and Mossel bay. I had a window too short for Mossel
Bay, but by making to Plet Bay, I have cut in half the distance to
Mossel bay that I'll have to cover in the next wx window. And what is
more—It is beautiful here!!

This is the prettiest anchorage I've seen since Chagos in the middle
of the Indian Ocean. It is a wide exposed bay, no protection except
for westerlies and sw'lies, but the rock escarpment to the south of me
is stunning, and crawling with sealions. I can hear them barking and
howling from my boat. I got the dinghy out and rowed over to see
them, perhaps 150 sealions lying upon the shelving rocks above the
smashing of the swell. The rocks remind me of the Channel Islands,
off the coast of Monterrey Bay, California, like Catalina. Very
The anc is rolly, but the peace is worth it. When the weather goes
calm again I will have to leave, as the protection here is limited to
the westerlies, but I am well pleased. There is no one hear. The
time alone was good to mull over things in my mind. I was in a low
mood; my heart was sore. But, having reception, I was able to skype a
friend and find solace. Amazing, the modern age of sailing. Ha.

Seventy miles to Mossel bay, and roughly the same around Cape Agullas
to Simons Town—where I'll check out. Simons town is a sort of twin
city to Cape Town, but cheaper with a boat. Two hops to go. And then
to sea again. My first crossing of the Atlantic and what lies beyond.

Jonah Manning

Online Journal: www.jonahmanning.name
Email - bellyofthewhale.gmail.com
South African Cell Phone:
international: [+27] 711797523
local: 0711797523

Jonah Manning
c/o Charles Manning
751 Mallet Hill Rd
Apt 13105
Columbia, South Carolina, 29223

Emergency contact:
Dibble Manning
phone: 001 - 803 - 787 - 4352
also check addresss in "to" column

Sirens of South Africa___________

I had my heart dashed on the rocks by a woman with silver-blue eyes.
She didn't do anything wrong, I suppose. Is it wrong to lure a man in
with such a gaze—is it conscious? I don't know, but she did. And she
did nothing else. She left me to the swell of my heart to be swept to
her, only to be smashed against an immovable shore, a stalward rock,
I wonder how many men have lost themselves to that gaze? … How many
have been crushed by her rigid passivity?
Not quite drowned, I crawled to the safety and lonely solitude of my
boat, slipped the lines and sailed for safer waters, those waters
without enchanting eyes to steal what heart I still have left.
The old saying goes that the greatest risk to the sailor is the shore.
Until now I haven't understood the depth of it truth. Danger goes
beyond, rocks and tide. A heart is a ship ever in uncharted water,
ever piloted with a desperate and wild helm, who desires the dangerous
waters and plies for them, to his own doom and demise. And does so
again and again, until his vessel is a shell and wraith of its former
Can a heart be renewed as easily as a caravel can be replanked? One must hope.

I am not so far gone as all that. My heart rejoices with each trip to
and from the safe waters of solitude. But the dashing seems eternal
now, as the years have passed. I have learned nothing from my
failures. I am the same man at 32 as I was at 22, not as brash
perhaps, but nearly as naïve. And capable of more harm.
I am unsure whether I have grown or regressed. In fact, as a man to a
woman, I am altogether lost to what I am and am not. I am little more
than a history of failures. The few victories I have I hold as
marvels, mysteries, inexplicably at odds with my experiences at large.
And those who shared them with me I revere more than the combined
majesty of the world.
Yet they are the seeds that grow in my hopes and dreams. Have I the
endurance to perpetually dust off and carry on? … hold my head up high
after yet another plastering? … I have thus far, but my heart starts
to feel its age. Some dreams are now reaching conclusion, and others
are on the brink of beginning. The gravity of starting on yet another
stage of life alone hangs heavily like the tolling of a bell. And I
have no alternatives, no plan other than my dreams, no recourse—only a
single-minded determination to pursue what drives me.
I never meant to do all this alone. But I have never put up a "help
wanted" sign for a lover and companion. I could, and it works easily
enough. In Thailand and the Philippines I could be married within a
week. And to a woman who would truly love me and care for me
exceptionally well. And yet I refuse all of these avenues. Why??
I don't know for sure … not what I want. Bluntly put, I want a
partner, not a servant. More balance.

I fail, perpetually, to turn the hearts of those I see spirit in,
those I dream could share my life, and I there. To this failure, I am
no closer to understanding than I was when I was fifteen. Then it was
Elise Caskey, and her bottomless, unforgettable eyes. In Port
Elisabeth it were eyes as similar as any I can remember in between,
destructive eyes.

Jonah Manning

Online Journal: www.jonahmanning.name
Email - bellyofthewhale.gmail.com
South African Cell Phone:
international: [+27] 711797523
local: 0711797523

Jonah Manning
c/o Charles Manning
751 Mallet Hill Rd
Apt 13105
Columbia, South Carolina, 29223

Emergency contact:
Dibble Manning
phone: 001 - 803 - 787 - 4352
also check addresss in "to" column

28 January, 2010


Off to Mossel Bay. It is turning out to be harder to leave here than
expected. Not just weather. I've met some folks who have really made
me feel at home. And I am not really ready to leave them yet; still
getting to know them. But maybe this is as good a time as any, though
it would be easier to say that if the weather wasn't merde.

Thank you all.

27 January, 2010

It is blowing 25 knots from the WRONG direction in Port Elizabeth. I
spent the day watching a track meet. The little girl I was there to
watch WON the 100, 400, and 4X100m. She was wicked fast, or my
animated cheers propelled her to new heights.

"if fate doesn't make you laugh, then you just don't get the joke."
... a line from Shantaram. I'm not sure how this book has escaped me
for so many years. It is a magnificent (true) story of guilt and
redemption ... or so it seems. I am just getting into it. A book to
make you laugh and cry in epic fashion. Gregory David Roberts. I am
already being changed by the book, and that, to me, is high praise,
perhaps the highest.

24 January, 2010



S/V DANCYN navigating through South African shipping on our passage from Richard's Bay to Durban. This was the closest, but not the only one. It is a busy coast. Luckily there is a strong south running current, so only south-bound traffic choose to use it. All north-bound ships stay closer ashore. However, when a strong SW wind blows, it meets the current head-on and causes waves to stand straight up. This is the real cause of the terrible 'rogue waves' that South Africa is imfamous for. When sailing, we stay near the 200 Meter depth contour, which is where the strength of the current starts. If threatened by oncoming SW'erlies, you quickly sail inside of this line and the seas subside considerably. This is counter to tradition seamanship that would say, "go offshore", but not here. Stay close. But watch out for these giant ships.
Posted by Picasa

19 January, 2010

Passage to East London, South Africa

East London, South Africa.
Finally a weather window. A week in Durban with friends was not too
much. But we are all ready to be at the western front of South
Africa. Leaving would be four boats: Denny, BLUE FALCON, John on
DANCYN, and me.
It looked like a three day weather window with a soft close, meaning
several days of good sailing followed by a change to weak or
unsuitable winds at the end of the window, this is the time by which
you hope to be in port. This is better than a window with a hard
close, which means the fair winds are followed swiftly by a change to
dangerous winds and seas, often being 20+kts from the southwest. Hard
closing windows suck because they add a menacing threat if you fail to
make port by the close of the window—or, heaven forbid—if the forecast
should change. And who has ever heard of a weather forecast changing?
. . Never, right?

Denny left with the change of tide in the late afternoon on Saturday
with BLUE FALCON. I would leave a couple hours later after dark. And
John would leave at 4 am. As Denny motored passed me, he said that
the forecast for a soft close with variables had changed to 15+kt SW.
Already it was changing for the worse. Not good news. We were all
heading to East London, only 240 miles south. This could be an easy
two days—much less if the current was any help—and the window was
three days. I thought, with the soft close, this was enough of a
buffer to be safe. Now the forecast called for SW winds and I would
have to make port in time, though, still, it shouldn't be a problem.
With a boat as slow as mine, and an engine as old, I don't like the
added pressure on performance. But I was already set to go.

Off I went in the dark. Very nervous about navigating through the
busy port. A police boat came and wanted an inspection. I yelled at
them. It was ridiculous. I was trying to exit a port alone and they
want to come aboard?? I told them, as they insisted, fine, but they'd
have to wait until we were safe outside. Then I realized I now had a
pilot boat and asked them to lead me out. Which they did. I became
much nicer after that.

We all set out into light winds with our motors pumping. Motoring
with the light air was a way to make some miles before the good NE
wind started blowing the next day. Leaving Durban, we all had to make
some miles eastward to pick up the famous Agulas Current which flows
down the South African coast. This aquatic freeway is great for
making good miles southward, but, when the wind shifts to a SW'erly,
the current opposes the wind and stacks up to great balks of water and
are some of the most dangerous seas in all the world. This is a fact,
not an exaggeration.
The Agulas Current runs close to land. It is deemed wise to stay
close to the edge so that if SW'erlies come you can sail yet closer to
land to avoid the dangerous swells that build. Because of this
proximity to land, sailors often find they have cell phone coverage.
It was in this way that I found out from a friend ashore that our
three day window had now become a two day window.
I was not picking up much of a current. I was sailing slowly in light
air through the night, trying not to motor. I may regret that now.
What looked like a bulletproof window was now in shambles and it was
actually looking doubtful that I would make E London before the SW
arrived. Where was the NE'er? It was hours overdue. That was the
key. I needed to sail, to make miles, pick up the current and go.
Almost six hours late, the NE filled in and not long afterwards the
current appeared at last. All or nothing, it seems. Before long I
was making good way in moderate winds. But again, the forecast called
for strong NE'erlies, and I suspected would be the case.
By Sunday morning, the second day, the wind increased quickly to over
thirty kts. I was able to preempt it and have my storm sails ready as
the wind came. However I didn't expect such poor steereage. The
smaller and smaller my sails got, I simply couldn't overcome a great
amount of weather helm. This is the effect of wind and sail on the
direction of the boat. Some conditions make the boat naturally want
to sail farther from the wind, lee helm; and some conditions make the
boat round up into the wind, weather helm. Weather helm is more
common on my boat. If I have too much sail the tiller will become
strong and heavy. This is the sign for me to reef my sails down.
But now I was reefed to my smallest sails and still had an incredible
amount of 'helm'. What do to? This was not what I expected. This is
a heavy weather boat after all. But she was bound and determined to
round up into the seas, and Herb, my windvane, who steers the boat,
was struggling to keep us on course. It took a while for me to accept
that I'd have to drop my storm try'sle ( a tiny main'sle for storms)
and sail with the reefed stay'sle only. This way all the sail area
would be forward on the boat and she should steer better.
Indeed, it worked. Well, at least well enough for the windvane to
steer a course not quite dead down wind. It is an important lesson to
learn and unexpected. I really had thought that I'd be able to carry
my try'sle no matter the conditions. In the open sea, I would often
heavy-to in such wind. But running with it, as I was now, is great if
the sea size is safe and the wind in the right direction. It was a
little shocking, I'll say. And will take some serious thinking about.
Now I know. After setting my sails to the growing winds, things got
easier. I checked my course every hour on the chart to be sure I was
following the 200meter contour, which is usually the strength and edge
of the Agulas Current. I was making 8 kts, which is extreme speed for
BRILLIG. 2.5 to 3 kts of that was current. At this rate I would
indeed make E London if the window held open as forecast, but the
worry now was that I'd be arriving in the night, and I'd be arriving
with 25 – 35 kts of wind. I'd have to do everything right, which
leaves, obviously, no room for error. I "hate" arriving anywhere at
night. I used to refuse to enter on principle. Sadly, those days are
gone. I had no choice, and this would surely be the trickiest bit of
the trip.

So, nothing to do but sail. Nothing had broken. I rested in ten
minute spats. I saw a fair amount of shipping. John on DANCYN had
gone farther out into the current, as had been my plan. Out of
shipping traffic there. But now time was of the essence for me. I
took the short line. And this turned out well in the end. The
current seemed stronger for me than for John. And he had considerably
larger seas. DANCYN is an ex-race boat, small, but considerably
quicker than BRILLIG, but not as stout. John was hoping for his first
200m day.
I couldn't really care about how many miles I'd do. It would surely
be more than 150 which was my record to date. As cell coverage came
and went I'd get updates on weather and the other boats positions.
Denny had motored well and was many miles ahead. I would be last. Of
course. As always. I kept regular contact with John on the VHF until
he was out of range. And I listened to weather on the Peri-Peri net
on the SSB. Too rough for the guitar. I rested whenever possible.
The farther out I got the more swells crashed around me. They weren't
large, but choppy and surgy. Things often would be tossed around the
cabin unexpectedly. The closer in, the smoother. For a while in the
afternoon the weather moderated modestly and the sailing was quite
decent. Luckily this trend continued until I was ten miles out of E
London. Clearly the SW was going to hold off until the next morning
when it was forecasted. And the strong winds I feared would carry me
into port were subsiding. As I approached, a text from John, already
in port, told me that the conditions inside E London were calm. This
was the best news I'd heard all day. The rest was less good. He'd
ripped his jib and fallen on his autopilot, breaking it. And to add
insult to injury—he had only managed 199 miles—1 mile short of his 200
mile day. That is a hard one to swallow.
BRILLIG, I proudly say, managed a 185 mile day!! That smashes the old
record of 150. That is averaging better than 7kts an hour. Smokin'.
But they weren't easy miles. Or comfortable ones.
The leading lights into East London were clear, ever for a blind man.
Even though I spilt my coffee all over my gps, it was still guiding me
true. The motor was running and the autopilot was on course. As
foretold the harbor was calm and quite. I anchored off a wharf before
a row of boats on mooring buoys. The squall that had followed me only
dropped a smattering of rain once I had finished clearing the decks.
It was eleven pm and I was safe again in one more port a little
farther on than the last. This one, however, carries a slightly
greater amount of relief than some of the others.

16 January, 2010

hit the road

Leaving Durban this afternoon, evening, or tomorrow morning depending
on when the wind shifts around. I have a good window so I hope to
make some good miles westward and with some luck the window will run
quickly into another one.

I would like to thank Chris Sutton and Tony Herrick (and Katherine, of
course) for being so encouraging and so very helpful. The time went
by in a flash.

And I leave here a true Poona at last. I am honored. Thank you, Tony..

We'll all meet down the road again someday, perhaps in the P.Nor'west.
Until then, "fair winds and foul friends" to all of you.

08 January, 2010

Departing Richards Bay

I'm off. Heading for Durban, but more than likely I will be able to
travel farther, East London, maybe beyond. There is nothing nasty on
the forecast. So. . . make hay, as they say.

02 January, 2010

no change

No news here.

Still in Richard’s Bay, South Africa.  The weather is improving.  In face, a friend left on what looked to be a thin window and turned out to be long enough to get them all the way to Port Elisabeth or beyond.  They screamed down the coast in their cat, hitting 22kts.!!!  Wow.


But I am still waiting on a couple of sheaves that needed new bushings.  When they are back I will catch the next window which should be Wed. . . hopefully, but things change daily.  Christmas was great fun.  But three weeks is long enough.  I am ready to be sailing again.  Once I reach CapeTown I will see a little of South Africa, particularly the Drakesburg Mountains (sp) and then set off for Brazil. 


That is the plan.  But there is some coastal hopping to do first.  And I have to do it right.  This is a brutal coast with serious south-westerly gales.  No Joke.