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About Brec's Art
About Brec's Reports
List of Reports
Block Island Times articles
17, 2003-front page
New London Day
Links to friends
Link to SV Karma
(a companion vessel during much of Brec's Journey)
for John Morgan
Phone for John Morgan
c/o John R. Morgan
P. O. Box 1982
New London, Conn.
Please use the following AOL account in the
event the e-mails are returned from the above addresses --
One from the Otter:
Notes from Bermuda
Friday, December 11, 1998
Dear Friends and E-mail Family,
It's evening and I'm sitting at the White Horse Tavern in St. George,
Bermuda over-looking the harbor entrance where I arrived three weeks ago.
Jose Feliciano is in the background singing "Feliz Navidad" and
the palm trees on Ordinance Island are spotlighted in red and green.
Christmas decorations and Santa Clauses in sleighs seem somehow out of place
in this pastel-colored, tee-shirt and shorts world.
I've been meaning to put my Journal notes into an abbreviated form to
send out to you since I arrived, and, like most things, it has taken a lot
longer than I expected. I hope you receive this before Christmas.
The following are excerpts from the "Log of the Otter."
Wednesday, November 4 -- Milford, Connecticut --
5:30 a.m. I get up after only two hours sleep -- I was loading
the boat until 3:30 a.m. My garage at the house is cleaner and more
organized than it's ever been. The boat now looks like my garage used to.
8:15 a.m. Leave the dock at Milford Boatworks. About 15 people show
up to see me off, including John and Glenn from Morgan Sign Company, who say
they want to be sure I really leave. Channel 8 News is there, too, and with
hugs and tears I untie the lines from my home on A-dock and am off.
It's unreal and hard to believe it's actually happening. Out by Charles
Island I put up the sails and start singing, cheering, and jumping around the
cockpit. I tell myself, "Sober up - it's going to be a long way before
you're home again!"
2:00 p.m. I enter North Cove in Old Saybrook after a cold, brisk
sail. Dad and his wife, Margot, are there to take the lines. I get stuck in
the mud as the tide goes out: there's only three feet at dead low and Otter
draws four. What a way to begin a World Voyage!
Thursday, November 5 – Old Saybrook, Connecticut --
I sail to New London and stay in a slip at the Thamesport Marina. I have a
wonderful dinner at my brother John's house in Waterford. Mom and all the
family members from "the lane" come by to share potluck and wish me
Friday, November 6 – New London, Connecticut --
I sail to Block Island. It’s bitter cold. I'm wearing six layers and a
Yukon trapper’s hat. I check the electronics. The new radar works well.
I tie up next to Ballards in Old Harbor. John, his girlfriend Barbara, and
my wife Sandy show up on the 7:00 p.m. ferry. We've rented Pat Doyle's house
for the weekend. It is a block from the statue of Rebecca and is large enough
for 12 people.
Saturday, November 7 – Block Island, Rhode Island
More people arrive: my men's group, my son Scott from Los Angeles, my
brother Geof and his friend Melody from Bellingham, Washington, and friends
I spend the day putting tie-down straps on all the gear and attempting to
organize the chaos. I'm concerned because the boat is much lower in the water
and the waterline has disappeared. Did I really need all my power tools? I try
to thin out some items and send them back with Sandy.
There is a big spaghetti dinner at the house in the evening and I'm very
moved by a round of toasts.
Sunday, November 8 -- Block Island, Rhode Island
Another day of prepping the boat. I notice a small leak by the steering
column. I hope it isn't serious. More tie-downs.
Steve Knauth from Soundings Magazine shows up and does an interview.
I show him the bottle of shells from Joshua Slocum that came from my
My daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren come out for the day - I realize
I may not see them for three years. My granddaughter Brechin will be ten when
I return. I realize I'll miss a big portion of their growing up.
The group tonight at dinner is smaller, as many went back on the 5:00 p.m.
Monday, November 9 -- Block Island, Rhode Island
Today is the planned departure date, but the forecaster at Commander
Weather Service recommends waiting until a front passes on Wednesday. The last
of my friends leave and I'm alone for the first time - the big jump is coming
and I'm very anxious.
Tuesday, November 10 -- Block Island, Rhode Island
Repacking and more tie-down work all day.
Wednesday, November 11 -- Block Island, Rhode Island
The weather service says it's OK to leave after the front passes. I close
down Pat Doyle's house after doing a last load of laundry and go to sleep on
the boat at 7:00 p.m. It's very cold.
Thursday, November 12 -- Block Island, Rhode Island and the Atlantic
Leave in pitch dark at 2:00 a.m. Cold. Lots of icy stars, thin moon, and a
stiff breeze from the west. We're on a beam reach.
I get seasick for the third time in my life. The last time I was twenty-six
years old. I'm seasick all day. I can't hold anything down, not even water.
As evening and darkness comes, I'm concerned about collisions with other
boats. My radar detector and the radar work well. Wind is 20-25 knots.
Otter is moving fast on a dark sea.
Friday, November 13 – Somewhere in the Atlantic
Last night a large bird similar to a cormorant came and slept on my
inflatable raft, just forward of the companionway hatch. It slept, head under
its wing, standing and swaying to the motion of the boat. It seemed to say to
me, ‘It's safe to sleep on the ocean - relax and get some rest.’
There is a storm predicted for Saturday night and I need to get through and
below the Gulf Stream as far as possible before it hits. I keep the engine
running all day.
I'm still not able to eat any food and feel very weak and cold. Tried to
start the kerosene stove to make hot tea, but the severe rolling is too much
for me to feel safe about lighting it right now.
I start shaking with the cold. I change into dry clothes; it helps. Sleep
in one-hour intervals, waking to check the boat or wait for ships to pass on
Saturday, November 14 -- Somewhere in the Atlantic
Wake from a dream where I'm driving with my friend Kim in a frozen
ice-cream bar of refrigerated white vinyl. Kim claims to have gotten it up to
245 miles an hour, but then it got sloppy. I think he's crazy to drive this
thing at all.
Ran through most of the Gulf Stream last night. I'm eating a little and
feel better. It's a gray and rainy morning, but it's starting to get just a
little warmer. The set of the Gulf Stream pushed me a lot farther eastward
5:30 p.m. The predicted storm is on us. Winds from the west,
picking up to 45-55 knots. The seas are up to 12-15 feet and cresting.
This turns into the worst night I've ever spent. I'm going to a deep, dark
place I've never been before. It's hard to describe, not depressed or afraid -
not fatalistic - but clearly aware that any minute something might happen that
I couldn't counter and survive.
I take one step at a time and do what I can to keep the boat as safe as
possible. Working on the foredeck in plunging seas breaking over the bow, I
rig the storm staysail and trysail and the parachute anchor and heave to.
I wait out the night, which seems endless. My first serious test.
Sunday, November 15 -- Somewhere in the Atlantic
The wind stays high all day until 2:00 p.m., when it drops to about 30-35
I want to get off the parachute anchor but can't even winch it in. The
trip-line is blowing to windward, away from me. Powering up to it, after a
second try, I'm afraid I'll foul the prop. I cut it all loose.
Exhausted, we turn and sail south all night, under the storm staysail
alone. With Otter on a broad reach, I sleep.
Monday, November 16 -- Somewhere in the Atlantic
Beam reach most of the day. The sun comes out and it's warm. I clean the
boat below. I wash and shave and feel refreshed. Barefoot in the cockpit, I
realize I've survived, or rather I've been allowed to pass. With the danger
gone, I cry.
Tuesday, November 17 -- Somewhere in the Atlantic
I notice that noises on the boat can sound like voices. I hear someone say
"hello." I hear something like the sound of my relatives talking
outside on the porch on summer evenings when they would visit when I was a
Another time, while I was steering, I heard the distinct sound of a car
horn to my right. My immediate response was to say out loud, "Hey buddy,
you think you own the ocean? There's a lot of room out here for everybody, you
know!" I guess I haven't been away from the commute long enough. It's
haunting me even out here.
Late evening, there are meteor showers so bright they light up the boat.
I'm frustrated Bermuda is still 180 miles away.
Wednesday, November 18 -- Somewhere in the Atlantic
Woke with dreams of being in a war zone. The crashing of the waves on the
bow sounds like shells exploding near my bunk.
Today, while trying to get a picture of a sooty tern, he eyes me, executes
a difficult banking maneuver in gusty winds, and releases a bomb directly onto
my bow. I'm so amazed I forget to click the camera.
Moving south fast. I'm impressed with how strong the boat is in these large
seas. I'm starting to trust her.
It's dark and windy out tonight again. I long to be home in my warm house
listening to the storm rage outside the window while I'm safe in a snug bed
that doesn't keep dropping out from under me every two minutes.
I'm on the edge emotionally: thoughts of Sandy, my family, and friends
bring me to tears.
Thursday, November 19 -- Somewhere in the Atlantic and St. George, Bermuda
The race is on to St. George. I pile on sail to keep speed up to
five-and-a-half and six knots. Blowing 25 knots with seas six-to-eight feet.
The first voice I hear in eight days is Bermuda Harbor radio on channel 16.
An English accent, sounding very chipper, bidding me a ‘good morning and
welcome to Bermuda.’ I can see its owner shaved and showered with a cup of
tea. I feel connected to the world again, and I'm willing to let these
civilized and chipper English run it.
3:00 p.m. Enter Town Cut and clear customs by 4:00 p.m.
Mr. Bernie Oatley, a semi-retired harbormaster, adopts me. He gets me a
slip at the Dinghy Club and then drops me off at an Italian restaurant where,
with greasy hair and foul weather boots still on, I eat a hot meal at a table
that won't stop rocking.
With my glass of wine, I toast the darkness and the seas that let me pass.
Friday, December 11, 1998
Dear Friends and E-mail Family,
My sea-going log ends here, temporarily. But activity on and around the Otter
After I arrived in Bermuda, I spent three days cleaning the boat, doing
laundry, and checking out St. George.
I'm meeting other people, couples mostly, from other boats headed south.
I have made some friends that I'm looking forward to meeting again in the
British Virgin Islands.
My brother, John, showed up as a surprise for Thanksgiving. We had
Thanksgiving dinner at the St. George's Dinghy and Sports Club. They had
everything, right down to the pumpkin pie. It was a delicious meal with
about 100 people in the Dinghy Club's Bingo hall. The next day, John's
girlfriend Barbara arrived -- also a surprise!
They left Monday, and on Wednesday, Sandy came to visit for
four-and-a-half days. We stayed at the Grotto Bay Beach Hotel. It was
wonderful to be able to stretch out on a three-pillow, super-king-size bed
after the tiny bunk on the Otter.
(When I start to think the Otter is too small, I remember the
officers’ quarters on the whaling ship Charles W. Morgan and I
don't feel so bad.)
Sandy and I did the full tourist-tour of the island with the Botanical
gardens, Gibbs Hill Lighthouse, the Dockyard Marine Museum, and dinner at
the Hog Penny Tavern in Hamilton as highlights.
Sandy brought my mail and e-mail notes. Even though I'm not able to
respond to every note, they are all deeply appreciated and I hope you will
continue to send me your thoughts, ideas, and updates on how you are doing
so I can keep up with your lives as well.
In the mail was my ‘Human Kindness Foundation’ newsletter. One thing
I read jumped out at me because it seems so true of the way the last
month-and-a-half has been.
Father Kelly writes, "Life is really no more than a series of
heart-breaking good-byes, so full is it of having and letting go." This
seems especially so in this nomadic journey I've begun.
After Sandy left, I began preparing for the next leg, to the Virgin
Islands. While replacing clamps around the hose that holds the packing gland
at the rudderpost, I noticed a bulge in the hose.
I called Robin Bradshaw at Pacific Seacraft, who said the hose was old
and needed to be replaced. "If the hose lets go 400 miles at sea, it
could ruin your whole day," was how he put it.
So, the boat was hauled at the St. George’s boatyard. I've dropped the
rudder and replaced the hose and refitted new clamps and also taken
advantage of the haul-out to repack the driveshaft stuffing box. I've become
a super contortionist in order to fit into the small spaces in the engine
I originally expected to be doing watercolors every day, but instead find
I'm repairing and fixing and tending to boat maintenance 80 percent of the
time. But Bermuda's not such a bad place to be doing all this work.
I've also had a chance to go out with Bermuda Aquarium Research team on a
green turtle tagging expedition. Plus, I was invited out on a "plankton
tow" by friends at the Bermuda Marine Biological Research Station.
There are more little critters in clear seawater than I ever expected.
When I asked if all these microscopic bugs were a health hazard if I
swallowed some seawater, I was told to think of them as very small sushi.
Well, repairs should be completed this weekend, December 12-13, and I
hope to set sail on Tuesday the 15th, weather permitting.
My next stop is Charlotte Amalie in St. Thomas. Hopefully, I'll be there
in time for Christmas. And then New Year's at Foxy's Bar in Jost Van Dyke.
But I'm getting ahead of myself, and fate always has its own plans.
We're all on the journey - Best Wishes
PS – Update, Friday, December 18: The weather has been stormy here
for days and it looks like the first real "window" is
tomorrow. If all looks well, I'll be leaving then, since it is a
seven-or-eight-day sail, plus. I expect to spend Christmas at sea
singing carols to the dolphins. I'll think of you all.