A Letter to Llyr – From Rob

Posted on Posted in Sailing
I emailed the following letter to the owners of Llyr.  In April, this family will embark on an ocean expedition to research bio-cultural diversity from their 53′ steel sailboat.  We’ve been communicating about crewing on their boat from Panama to the Marquesas — a 30+ day crossing of the Pacific Ocean.

Read more about Bri’s background in her letter to Llyr here.

Hi, Janis and Brooks-

My turn…..

Basic background: I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia and then got a BA in Psychology from Wake Forest University. Since then, I have lived in New Zealand, London, Madagascar, Colorado, Washington DC and now Missoula where I have been for 8 years working as a stream restoration director for Trout Unlimited. Mostly, I develop projects that restore abandoned mining areas. Bri and I have been together for 3-4 years and just recently got married this July.

A traditional watercraft with some of my friends in St Augustin in Madagascar.
A traditional watercraft with some of my friends in St Augustin in Madagascar.

So in terms of sailing, I’ll be perfectly honest. At this point in my life I have done a lot of things and consider myself to be a pretty capable person in many ways. But, I do not consider myself to be a super competent sailor. I first started sailing in Madagascar. From 1999 to 2001, I lived in a small coastal town in southwest Madagascar during Peace Corps, where I bought a 14 foot wooden outrigger canoe (hand crafted, no metal parts) with a mangrove mast and canvas sail that I sailed in the Mozambique Channel and nearby river delta. Trolling for tuna with handlines and snorkeling from that boat with my Malagasy friends are some of the most memorable, feel-good moments of my life. My more traditional sailing background is limited to our time on the 26 foot Canadian built (Paceship) sloop that Bri described. We were primarily navigating by sight and anchoring in rocky bays of 10 to 30 feet in depth. Bri and I spent two weeks in the Sea of Cortez last November with friends on a 22 foot Catalina sailing the Loreto Bay National Marine Park (I had to fix the outboard pull start with a rope I usually use for hanging our food in griz country) and, in March, we will be spending several weeks in the La Paz area with the same couple on their 1968 28 foot Pearson Triton that they bought this June. I also made the crossing from Florida to the Bahamas with a friend in a twin engine powerboat during college, and am a very experienced backcountry traveler in remote wilderness areas using map and compass.

Rob caught a toothy fish.

That said… learning better seamanship, navigation skills and a return to life by the ocean are a huge part of the reason we are undertaking this adventure. Bri and I both know its where we belong. I’ve been practicing the Navy Seals underwater knot tying test, researching various light, durable navigation/electronic schemes for us and am currently pursuing my Tech and General Ham radio license. At this point, my plan is for Bri and I to leave with a Macbook Air (solid state drive, no fan to suck in salty air) laptop downloaded with Maxsea software (free) and vector charts for the Pacific and Southeast Asia. We will also have a Bad Elf GPS attachment for our Iphone (waterproof case) and be downloading the Navionics App charts for marine navigation. I believe we will also get the new Delorme InReach for its global SOS coverage so that we don’t have to rely on anyone else’s EPIRB, Spot Tracker or other emergency devices. That should be a relatively inexpensive setup that weighs about 6 pounds total and keeps us in the know. (I’ve read some about celestial navigation but I think I’ll do better when I’m on the water and have some time on my hands). In the more hands-on realm, I also have a really cool Myerchin rigging knife and with marlinspike and Mako travel polespear that I’m pretty excited about getting wet. I would love to hear about other skills you are looking for and resources/training that you recommend. We’re trying to learn as much as we can. In effort to be prepared and very mobile, we’re trying to focus on bringing sturdy dependable marine safety, communication and recreational gear with us, while happily forsaking other novelty items that other people may think they want or need (like fluffy pillows and fancy clothes).

cuba scubaIn other words, I am not the best hand you will find for sailing and navigation right now. But I will get there and very quickly. I am a quick learner and I’m a very handy person in many other ways – and have a lot of skills to offer. In terms of medical training, I am Wilderness First Responder certified and have taken CPR/First Aid. I have also been assembling a pretty mean first aid kit for our trip so that we are self sufficient. I have been scuba diving for 15 years with an Advanced Open Water certification and have logged dives in the US, Madagascar, Costa Rica, Mexico, Belize, Fiji, Honduras and most recently this past January in Cuba. In my varied past, I have taken night courses in welding, kept a 1975 Volkswagen bus running, worked in a frozen food warehouse, designed the installation of an 30’ by 10’ outdoor mural, taught beekeeping, and started a weeklong youth conservation camp. I also speak French, Malagasy and passable Spanish. In the past eight years owning our house, I built a storage shed, wood fired sauna, outdoor rock fireplace, concrete patio, timber framed bike shelter, rock wall and raised garden, and knocked out our kitchen wall and replaced it with a bar made of locally harvested, beetle killed ponderosa pine.

I completely remodeled our downstairs bath this year...kind of like refitting a boat.
I completely remodeled our downstairs bath this year…kind of like refitting a boat.

And ironically (because its sort of like refitting a boat on land), I have also remodeled many of the systems in our house in the last year in preparation for renting it out for an undetermined amount of time. I painted the whole exterior, installed new doors, built a metal railing on the steps leading to the house, built and installed a new cabinet, sink, toilet and plumbing in our downstairs bathroom, and created a storage space by building a new wall in our garage. I contracted out replacing the roof, windows, furnace and hot water heater because prices are actually real good these days. My current interests include film making, kickboxing, building anything, and of course preparing for a long and varied journey. I am also a certified paraglider, and I’m pretty sure you can count on me to catch a fish or two as well (fly fishing or spin).

Finally, should we join you, I would definitely want to help you cross the Panama Canal and paint/outfit the boat in the Panama City area. For me, the work is part of the fun and learning. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I hope you will excuse our verbosity. We’re just super excited about the next few months of preparing and are generally curious and energetic people. Like Bri said, it has been fun communicating with you all. I think your plan and general ethos are commendable. However it works out, I wish you guys the best and I expect our paths will cross somehow or another. Talk to you soon.

– Rob

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