Monday, 26 September 2011

Goodbye, hello, goodbye

We're about to leave San Francisco. Walking the streets, waiting for wind. It seems strange to wait for wind in a windy place like San Francisco Bay, but offshore there's none.

Then one morning we're off from the anchorage in Aquatic Park. It's 6 am and it takes forever to tack the short distance to the bridge. And when getting closer we're getting more and more to a stand- still.

We realize that one of us has read the tide table wrong. Bika starts to move backwards. We turn around to Aquatic Park and there isn't much more to say about it. Nina is giving me the look. But I'm not so sure. Besides, I'm bad with numbers.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Golden Gate

I'm back at the bridge again. It's early morning, no wind. I can hear fog horns blasting mean and hoarse from several directions.

We're about to leave San Francisco. The weather forecast isn't promising. It will blow in the Bay for sure, at least during the day, but it doesn't seem to be much wind offshore.

So we get restless, although we're pretending not to be. It's the waiting game. Some cruisers wait for calm weather, other cruisers wait for wind.

We could easily have settled down in San Francisco. I think we actually said something like that the day before. But it's time to move on. Once the decision is made the Golden Gate becomes a prison gate.

photo: Henrik Nor-Hansen

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

The diversity of sailors

The Coast Guard regards Morro Bay as the most dangerous harbour in the US. Tidal currents are running wild in the estuary, and a hazardous sand bar makes the entrance deadly in heavy seas. But Morro Bay gives good protection from the weather, once you're in.

The harbour is small, and often engulfed in fog. However, a harbour is not a good place if you're paranoid. People do talk. Especially in a tight place like Morro Bay, where there's a mix of fishing vessels and pleasure crafts.

I take it for granted that people working at sea have a tendency to be slightly annoyed by people who are just there to have fun. Pleasure crafts should always try to stay out of their way.

But a modern sailboat is a castle of high-tech solutions. Both boats and men are loaded with safety and information. In some cases you might argue that they not even there to have fun.

photo: Henrik Nor-Hansen
Clearly there's a cultural gap between, say, fishermen and cruisers. There's a lot of showing off. I'm thinking it might be a feeling of inferiority on both sides, mainly because the sea is as it is, i.e. unpredictable and potentially deadly.

photo: Henrik Nor-Hansen

photo: Henrik Nor-Hansen
This foggy morning, when we walked the docks, we started to talk about the US Coast Guard. They have a terrible reputation among cruisers, but our experience have been different. They did some showing off, outside Bahamas, but we haven't encountered harassment of any sorts. Quite the opposite, they've been friendly and professional.

We were standing by the Coast Guard for a while, watching the young men in snug uniforms. It's difficult to say where the knowledge is, the sea being as it is.

Friday, 9 September 2011


Most people send out signals of stress, tiredness and even aggression; their whole being says "leave me alone." But some people radiate stillness. They tap into something bigger than them- selves. Their faces are introvert but at the same time open to everyone and everything.

Stillness is a quality that's pretty easy to spot in a crowd. People with stillness will stand out right away. There's something holy about them.

photo: Henrik Nor-Hansen

photo: Henrik Nor-Hansen

Monday, 5 September 2011


The Chinatown in San Francisco is the largest Chinese community outside Asia, according to Wikipedia. This city-within-a-city was established in the 1840s. Chinatown is now a major tourist attraction, but somehow it doesn't seem to rub off on the locals. Or maybe it does.

Chinatown is like a cultural labyrinth-within-a-labyrinth, and it's downright impossible to understand anything as a tourist. However, life among the numerous shop attendants seems a bit harder than San Francisco at large.

Of course, Chinatown has a history of gang violence and shoot-outs. It also has the meat on display (which never fails to surprise me in poor countries, as if we Westerners were all vegetarians).

I've been intimidated by shop attendants for years. It's their passive-aggressive undertow of not getting a sale that somehow gets me, since I never really buy anything.

But I'm fascinated by the vacant look in some shop attendant's eyes, when they're unaware of customers watching.

I started this project of taking pictures of bored shop attendants in Chinatown, but soon had to abort the idea. I felt bad about it, for several reasons. Mainly because they were so service-minded that just a hint of a customer was enough to wake them up from the trance. I'll have to pursue this theme somewhere else.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Red wine drowning

photo: Henrik Nor-Hansen
Feeling blue and alone I opened a bottle of red. Nina was in Boston. I read for a while, but lost my concentration somewhat and started to listen in on the radio.

I was invited to a dock party, and being at anchor I could keep an eye on people gathering on the dock. I felt uneasy and slightly nervous at the prospect of meeting lots of strangers.

It was getting dark. I could hardly see the figures ashore. If I was ever to join the party then this was the time. Besides, I was out of wine.

San Francisco had a rather cold spring in 2010, and I dressed up in a huge woolly sweater. Then I slid carefully down in our little inflatable dinghy. I rowed across the channel with my eyes on Bika.

What happened was that I rowed towards the dock and grabbed enthusiastically for a mooring that suddenly passed above me. Being slightly drunk I flipped the dinghy. Cold water rushed in. I soon realized that I was too heavy to drag myself up at the dock.

I was treading water behind an enormous motor yacht, with one hand on the slippery dinghy. But I couldn't see anyone. Being unable to get any help was a mixed blessing. At least I was spared the embarressment.

This is how I'll drown, I thought. Trivial and stupid. It even seemed vaguely funny.

But the water was damn cold and I needed to do something. I managed to ease slowly up at the dinghy's bottom, letting water pass from the heavy clothing. Then I could reach the dock. I overturned the dinghy and suddenly felt I could get away with this.

Rowing back to Bika I could see the party in the warm yellow light, moving around in the luxurious motor yacht, drinks in hand.

photo: Henrik Nor-Hansen
Nina once mentioned I'm writing a bit too much about alcohol. Unsure of the meaning I fenced it off. Later I've come to the conclusion that writing is exorcism.