Kyle, an avid sailor and videographer for many years, tells us his experiences sailing on the east coast of the United States and beyond. When did you first sail?
My first notable sailing experience was on a 19' wooden sloop sailing out of Gosport Harbor off the Isles of Shoals. I grew up in the Seacoast area of New Hampshire, which overlooked the Isles of Shoals. After graduating Emerson College in Boston with a B.F.A. I moved back to the seacoast in hopes of maintaining a close relationship with the sea. I started volunteering on boats years prior with The Gundalow Company. My 1st paid job was with The Isles of Shoals Steamship Co. who operate the tour boat Thomas Laighton going out to Star Island and the Isles of Shoals. This job lead me to working for Star Island Corp. on their supply boat Perseverance (a 49' Duffy Maine built Lobster boat). After the days work was over, and the boat safely on the mooring, we would take out the Captain's 19' Wooden Sloop to have some fun at the end of the day. I remember these sails as the ones that really grabbed hold of me. Having no motor, sailing off the mooring, tacking out the harbor, sailing way past sunset, enjoying some cold beers with close friends, sailing for pure enjoyment.
What, in your opinion is the best part of being a sailor?
The best part of being a sailor is working with my hands, a tradition that I think is important in this day an age. My 1st passion is art, and I studied painting and I have always had a passion for the Fine Arts. I feel nostalgia for traditional methods, and old things. Working with your hands is as human as it gets, and in todays day and age people are forgetting about the hard work, the work done with your hands like seamanship. Even a lot of the Commercial Merchant Mariner jobs today have been automated or reduced to joy-sticks and button-pushing.
What has been your favorite ship to sail on?
My favorite ship to sail on has been the Liberty Star (formerly the Rachel B. Jackson). As Rachel B. It has been chartered by National Geographic to do whale research, it has circumnavigated the world, and worked doing day sails up in Maine. Liberty Fleet purchased her in 2012 and renamed her Liberty Star to work in Boston alongside the Liberty Clipper and to sail south do week long charters in the Virgin Islands. I've had the pleasure of sailing her up in Boston for the day sails, up to Gloucester, MA for yard work, and 2200 NM down to the Virgin Islands for a full season of chartering, and then back up to Boston.
What is your favorite port?
One of my favorite ports would have to be Beaufort, NC, where Black Beard ran aground his flagship "The Queen Ann's Revenge". I had a chance of visiting Beaufort on a transit north due to our engine water pump and impeller stop working properly. If you're ever in Beaufort looking for a good bar, ask a young local to take you to Hannah's, I did, you will not be disappointed. I think my favorite port has to be Gloucester, MA for its cultural significance in Maritime History, specifically schooners. I had the pleasure of spending a month on Liberty Star at Gloucester Marine Railways, one of the oldest shipyards in the country.
Whats your best experience sailing?
My best sailing experience has to be while sailing aboard Liberty Star wing on wing running down Sir Francis Drake Channel. The consistent Trade Winds from the East allow for great sailing in the Virgin Islands, and Sir Francis Drake Channel is a nice stretch of protected water between Tortola to the North, Virgin Gorda to the East, the Channel Islands to the South, and St. John to the West making for a great downwind sailing experience.
Whats your worst experience on a ship?
My worst experience on a boat has to be sailing a 42' Ketch on a sailboat delivery from Salem, MA to Bermuda en route to St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. I naively agreed to volunteer on a sailboat delivery to gain sailing experience, but what I didn't realize is that sailing offshore with unexperienced crew that you barely know is probably the worst idea ever. There was a night which I will mention below as the most dangerous experience I had, where I literally feared for my life as we lied a hull all night getting rocked in the cradle of the deep.
When you're not sailing, what do you do on your off time?
I am most happy on the water, so I find myself surfing when I'm not sailing. I've been obsessed with surfing in the same way that I am obsessed with sailing.
If you could sail to one city, area or port, what would it be?
I would love to sail north to Halifax and Nova Scotia. Listening to those old Sea Shanties, you hear of Halifax, but never been. I also really want to brave Cape Horn. Every sailor must watch Irving Johnson's "Around Cape Horn".
Whats your best piece of gear that you own?
The best piece of gear I own is my Myerchin rig knife and marlinspike. A rig knife is a must for all ships, and a marlinspike is a must for all tall ships. I also have a Mahogany Fid that one of my friends and fellow crew made me for a Christmas gift, however I have still yet to put it in use.
Whats the most dangerous experience you've had sailing?
The most dangerous was also the worst experience I had, during the sailboat delivery across the gulf stream 180 degrees south en route to Bermuda. We must of been in 20' seas with 40+ knots of wind. We took in all sail and lied "a hull" all night till morning came. It was the one time in my whole life other than public speaking that I feared for my life. After that incident myself and the other crew decided the Captain didn't know what he was doing and we would be quitting after clearing customs in Bermuda.
What are some lessons you've had to learn while sailing? Any advice you could give people who want to become a sailor?
Captain Cory Crowner, a great friend and sailor who I sailed with on Liberty Star taught me how to hove to (its a way of slowing down the vessel's forward progress or track by making the headsails and rudder work against each other, make it so the boat is slowly drifting with the wind naturally without the need to be steered. This is a blue water ocean trick to be used in heavy weather, but Crowner taught me you could utilize heaving to for man-over-board recovery, where as other sail boat maneuvers may call for dousing sail.
What have you learned to appreciate about the history and culture of sailing?
It is one of the oldest forms of transportation, and it has not been forgotten. We should be promoting the traditional sailing maritime industry for the fact that it is an old but useful form of green technology. There are some schooners which I believe are part of a green movement to utilize sailing for commercial use, whether it be dredging for oysters in the Chesapeake, or delivering goods down island such as Haiti. This is a movement which you should keep an eye on. I am extremely interested in these trends coming back into the mainstream.
Anything else you'd like to add?
I think this blog project is a great idea and it goes with my same interested in creating a documentary to highlight the art of traditional sailing. My documentary is currently titled "Atlantic; or, Life on the Water" and it is a personal documentary that explores my life as an artist as I enter the role of a sailor and take to a life at sea.
One Captain once told me: "Don't let that salt water get in your blood, you'll never get it out."