Christmas at sea

<a href=”http://www.courseforadventure.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/santadrum1.jpg”><img title=”santadrum” src=”http://www.courseforadventure.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/santadrum1.jpg” alt=”” width=”525″ height=”350″ /></a>

Santa - aka Magnus Olsen - hands out Christmas gifts

This year the only global race at sea over the holidays is the Velux 5 Oceans. The small fleet is diving deeper into the Southern Ocean in search of wind and the big rolling seas that will propel them under Australia, toward New Zealand. It’s a tough time to be at sea, especially if you are alone and have small children at home. I have spent two Christmas’s at sea and while it was hard to be away from friends and family, they are the Christmas’s that I remember most. The rest just blur together.

This year the only global race at sea over the holidays is the Velux 5 Oceans. The small fleet is diving deeper into the Southern Ocean in search of wind and the big rolling seas that will propel them under Australia, toward New Zealand. It’s a tough time to be at sea, especially if you are alone and have small children at home. I have spent two Christmas’s at sea and while it was hard to be away from friends and family, they are the Christmas’s that I remember most. The rest just blur together.

<a href=”http://www.courseforadventure.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/santashelpers.jpg”><img title=”santashelpers” src=”http://www.courseforadventure.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/santashelpers.jpg” alt=”” width=”525″ height=”350″ /></a>

Filthy Phil and Patrick - santas helpers

The first was in 1984. I was racing across the Atlantic from Spain to Santo Domingo in an event that retraced the route Christopher Columbus took centuries earlier. I was hired to train a Finnish team and we were slogging our way “across the pond”, as they called it back then, oblivious to the fact that we were about to encounter Hurricane Lili. One of the turning marks of the course was the island of San Salvador in the Bahamas and we were about 500 miles east of the island when a small low pressure system passed overhead. As quick as it had come, it left and we thought nothing more of it; until two days later. The benign low had become a small tropical depression. It had stopped moving east and was now tracking west at around 15 knots. Aboard Fazer Finland we were sailing at 10 knots, being outpaced by the increasingly menacing storm that was on track to pass over the Bahamas. A day later the tropical storm was upgraded to a hurricane and was to become the second only hurricane to be recorded in the North Atlantic in December.

With a full spinnaker flying Fazer Finland was able to remain a safe distance ahead of the approaching storm. That was until Christmas day. San Salvador was a turning mark of the course and we had to round the island and head back east in order to sail over the top of Cuba and around the north side of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. We collided with Lili late on Christmas Day. The storm had lost some of it’s ferocity as it hit land but we were still dealt a full 60 – 70 knots of moisture laden breeze. The only mercy was that a few hours into it, Lili dissipated and all but died on the shores of Cuba. We limped into Santo Domingo the following morning, battered and bruised but with some Christmas memories fit for telling Grandchildren.

A year later I was deep in the Southern Ocean, aboard Drum, racing around the world in the Whitbread Race. We had taken off from New Zealand a few days earlier and were just kissing the strong westerly winds that the Deep South is famous for. Ahead of us, 3,000 miles away, was Cape Horn.

The Whitbread is now the Volvo Ocean Race and much of the fun and frivolity of the earlier days is gone. The racing is too serious, the stakes too high. It’s a shame because we used to look forward to birthdays, equator crossings and other milestones.

That Christmas, aboard Drum, Santa arrived early. He looked surprisingly like Magnus Olsen, the venerable Swede who went on to do another four circumnavigations. Santa came prepared, with two helpers and a bag full gifts. In order to get your present you had to answer a Trivial Pursuit question. Something like, “how many people are there in the Tokyo phone book?”  If you got the answer right, there was a follow-up question. “Well, what are their names?” No correct answer, no gift.

Later that night, under clear skies, we were treated to our real Christmas present. Aurora Australis started as a low, green tumbling cloud that looked like a surreal fog closing in from all directions. Just when it felt as if we were going to be engulfed, massive towers of light, brilliant greens and yellows, started to sweep the sky. On board Drum not a word was spoken. We watched in silence knowing full well what was happening. Santa was making his exit from the Southern Hemisphere.

This year the only global race at sea over the holidays is the Velux 5 Oceans. The small fleet is diving deeper into the Southern Ocean in search of wind and the big rolling seas that will propel them under Australia, toward New Zealand. It’s a tough time to be at sea, especially if you are alone and have small children at home. I have spent two Christmas’s at sea and while it was hard to be away from friends and family, they are the Christmas’s that I remember most. The rest just blur together.

The first was in 1984. I was racing across the Atlantic from Spain to Santo Domingo in an event that retraced the route Christopher Columbus took centuries earlier. I was hired to train a Finnish team and we were slogging our way “across the pond”, as they called it back then, oblivious to the fact that we were about to encounter Hurricane Lili. One of the turning marks of the course was the island of San Salvador in the Bahamas and we were about 500 miles east of the island when a small low pressure system passed overhead. As quick as it had come, it left and we thought nothing more of it; until two days later. The benign low had become a small tropical depression. It had stopped moving east and was now tracking west at around 15 knots. Aboard Fazer Finland we were sailing at 10 knots, being outpaced by the increasingly menacing storm that was on track to pass over the Bahamas. A day later the tropical storm was upgraded to a hurricane and was to become the second only hurricane to be recorded in the North Atlantic in December.

With a full spinnaker flying Fazer Finland was able to remain a safe distance ahead of the approaching storm. That was until Christmas day. San Salvador was a turning mark of the course and we had to round the island and head back east in order to sail over the top of Cuba and around the north side of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. We collided with Lili late on Christmas Day. The storm had lost some of it’s ferocity as it hit land but we were still dealt a full 60 – 70 knots of moisture laden breeze. The only mercy was that a few hours into it, Lili dissipated and all but died on the shores of Cuba. We limped into Santo Domingo the following morning, battered and bruised but with some Christmas memories fit for telling Grandchildren.

A year later I was deep in the Southern Ocean, aboard Drum, racing around the world in the Whitbread Race. We had taken off from New Zealand a few days earlier and were just kissing the strong westerly winds that the Deep South is famous for. Ahead of us, 3,000 miles away, was Cape Horn.

The Whitbread is now the Volvo Ocean Race and much of the fun and frivolity of the earlier days is gone. The racing is too serious, the stakes too high. It’s a shame because we used to look forward to birthdays, equator crossings and other milestones.

That Christmas, aboard Drum, Santa arrived early. He looked surprisingly like Magnus Olsen, the venerable Swede who went on to do another four circumnavigations. Santa came prepared, with two helpers and a bag full gifts. In order to get your present you had to answer a Trivial Pursuit question. Something like, “how many people are there in the Tokyo phone book?”  If you got the answer right, there was a follow-up question. “Well, what are their names?” No correct answer, no gift.

Later that night, under clear skies, we were treated to our real Christmas present. Aurora Australis started as a low, green tumbling cloud that looked like a surreal fog closing in from all directions. Just when it felt as if we were going to be engulfed, massive towers of light, brilliant greens and yellows, started to sweep the sky. On board Drum not a word was spoken. We watched in silence knowing full well what was happening. Santa was making his exit from the Southern Hemisphere.

<a href=”http://www.courseforadventure.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/santabag.jpg”><img title=”santabag” src=”http://www.courseforadventure.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/santabag.jpg” alt=”Magnus Olsen as Santa” width=”525″ height=”350″ /></a>

Santa arrives on board bearing a bag of &#39;adult friendly&#39; gifts

The first was in 1984. I was racing across the Atlantic from Spain to Santo Domingo in an event that retraced the route Christopher Columbus took centuries earlier. I was hired to train a Finnish team and we were slogging our way “across the pond”, as they called it back then, oblivious to the fact that we were about to encounter Hurricane Lili. One of the turning marks of the course was the island of San Salvador in the Bahamas and we were about 500 miles east of the island when a small low pressure system passed overhead. As quick as it had come, it left and we thought nothing more of it; until two days later. The benign low had become a small tropical depression. It had stopped moving east and was now tracking west at around 15 knots. Aboard Fazer Finland we were sailing at 10 knots, being outpaced by the increasingly menacing storm that was on track to pass over the Bahamas. A day later the tropical storm was upgraded to a hurricane and was to become the second only hurricane to be recorded in the North Atlantic in December.

With a full spinnaker flying Fazer Finland was able to remain a safe distance ahead of the approaching storm. That was until Christmas day. San Salvador was a turning mark of the course and we had to round the island and head back east in order to sail over the top of Cuba and around the north side of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. We collided with Lili late on Christmas Day. The storm had lost some of it’s ferocity as it hit land but we were still dealt a full 60 – 70 knots of moisture laden breeze. The only mercy was that a few hours into it, Lili dissipated and all but died on the shores of Cuba. We limped into Santo Domingo the following morning, battered and bruised but with some Christmas memories fit for telling Grandchildren.

A year later I was deep in the Southern Ocean, aboard Drum, racing around the world in the Whitbread Race. We had taken off from New Zealand a few days earlier and were just kissing the strong westerly winds that the Deep South is famous for. Ahead of us, 3,000 miles away, was Cape Horn.

The Whitbread is now the Volvo Ocean Race and much of the fun and frivolity of the earlier days is gone. The racing is too serious, the stakes too high. It’s a shame because we used to look forward to birthdays, equator crossings and other milestones.

That Christmas, aboard Drum, Santa arrived early. He looked surprisingly like Magnus Olsen, the venerable Swede who went on to do another four circumnavigations. Santa came prepared, with two helpers and a bag full gifts. In order to get your present you had to answer a Trivial Pursuit question. Something like, “how many people are there in the Tokyo phone book?”  If you got the answer right, there was a follow-up question. “Well, what are their names?” No correct answer, no gift.

Later that night, under clear skies, we were treated to our real Christmas present. Aurora Australis started as a low, green tumbling cloud that looked like a surreal fog closing in from all directions. Just when it felt as if we were going to be engulfed, massive towers of light, brilliant greens and yellows, started to sweep the sky. On board Drum not a word was spoken. We watched in silence knowing full well what was happening. Santa was making his exit from the Southern Hemisphere.

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