Carl Huber got serious about sailing at the age of 45. He fast tracked his learning with award winning American Sailing Association Instructors. He’s an entrant in the Golden Globe Race (GGR) adventure.
In this Podcast interview, Carl shares with us his emotional journey prior to and since committing to race solo around the world, non-stop.
LINDSAY: Today I’m interviewing Carl Huber who’s an entrant in the 2018 Golden Globe. I’m Lindsay Turvey, creator of toseethesea.com where you’ll find more interviews and blog posts to inspire and help you live the best part of your life on the sea.
Hi Carl and welcome to the interview.
CARL: Hi Lindsay. Good to talk to you.
LINDSAY: Whereabouts are you exactly? You’re in America.
CARL: Suburban Maryland on the east coast of the United States, about 45 minutes from the Chesapeake Bay.
LINDSAY: I’m really looking forward to our chat because we’ve never met and I’m inspired by people who are planning to race single-handed around the world on a yacht between 32 and 36 foot long, designed by 1988. You’re going to do this without the aid of modern technology. That means no electronics, no automatic time pieces and back to basics using a sextant, chronometer, compass and charts to navigate.
I did a wee bit of homework before calling you and I discovered you didn’t really get into sailing until later in life. Now to help people including myself get to know you, I’d like to take you back to when you first started being drawn towards the sea and sailing. Would you share with us your thoughts and feelings leading up to that point when you decided to make sailing a big part of your life?
CARL: I wouldn’t say there was any point at which I decided to make sailing a big part of my life. I think it’s always been in the background. It’s been there, was there for a long time before I actually decided or took the action to make sailing a big part of my life, which I didn’t do until I was in my mid 40’s. When I look back I can remember my first image of sailing from Maurice Sendak’s book “Where the Wild Things Are” where Max hops in a boat and sails in and out of days and over a year to where the wild things are. I think that’s exactly what I’m doing now.
The next memory I have after that is I’ve always loved the ocean, but I had a conversation just before my first child was born with some people in a social situation. I was saying, “You know, I’ve always wanted to sail around the world,” and it was a great conversation because as it turned out I was talking to sailors. I hadn’t known that up until then. They gave me a lot of good tips on getting going with sailing. I was 22 years old at the time and that’s where I first heard about the Cape Dory which at the time, in the early 1980’s was the boat for blue water sailing. So I always remembered that Cape Dory is the way to go. That may come up again later. But, as I said this was probably two months before my first child was born, and as anyone knows who has children they have a way of taking over life and the responsibilities and everything else that goes with them can be all consuming. My wife and I had our first daughter in 1983, and then we had four more children over a period of about 15 years. So all that pretty much took up life until I was in my mid 40’s and began to realise that a lot of time had gone by and I hadn’t even set foot on a sailboat. I took action at that point. I got scuba certified. I became scuba certified with a few of my kids. Three of the five are open water certified.
LINDSAY: That’s interesting you say that. My son just got his open water scuba ticket yesterday. Quite a milestone for him.
CARL: It’s a great experience. Always wanted to do that. I had wanted to do that since I was a teenager but I was barely out of my teenage years when I started my family. Anyway, as Don says, “Life hey, it can be overwhelming and then decades slip by and you go oh my gosh if I’m going to live then I better get going.” I was in my mid 40’s and I just took the bull by the horns. Saved up a bunch of money and plonked it down on a sailing class through the Maryland school in Rock Hall on the eastern shore, and had my first sailing lesson.
The next sailing lesson was in the Caribbean. I was doing the ASA progression from ASA 101, 102 and so-forth, and I did 103 and 104 in the Caribbean. Got totally hooked on the water and the islands. I’ve done almost all of my sailing since then in the Caribbean.
LINDSAY: So ASA, that’s the American Sailing Association, is that correct?
CARL: That’s correct, and I was fortunate to have some really, really good teachers. The two teachers I had through the Maryland school have since become awarded teacher of the year throughout the entire ASA which is I think about 4000 teachers. Don Boccuti and Captain Lee Tucker. Fantastic teachers and a good teacher can make all the difference, and I really appreciate them.
That’s how I really got started. Some friends of mine had taken me sailing – Leah and me, sailing a few years before that. That was actually the first time we got on a sailboat. It was a few years before I did the ASA and they let me take the tiller for awhile and I felt very natural and they observed the same thing behind the tiller. That was a very mild sail in the Magothy River, but it was a very memorable experience as well.
LINDSAY: So you did these basic courses with the ASA, and what happened next after that?
CARL: Well I started chartering boats down in the Caribbean. I took my entire family down to the Caribbean. We had nine people ages a few months to whatever age I am, or was at the time – 50-something. That was a great experience on a catamaran and the BVI for a week. I chartered a monohull with my wife and some friends a couple of years later. During that time I had decided that I really want to get into, kind of reverse the situation, I really felt that life is backwards. That the way we had life designed is pretty much backwards and it’s kinda sad because we have the means. Humanity itself has the capability of doing it differently and yet we seem to be trapped in this kind of existence that we’ve created for ourselves which doesn’t seem to make sense to me and it’s very frustrating. A good number of people, but still I think a minority of people do what they love to do for a living, I would guess 80 percent or more don’t really like what they do. I happen to like what I do. I’m a programmer but I also want to do other things. I want to be able to sail around the world and you can’t do that on two weeks of vacation a year. That’s what I feel is backwards. We could design things, if humanity…I think if people were just nicer to each other we would be able to do more of the things we all want to do since we wouldn’t be so engaged in competition and warfare all the time. We could relax and be more productive and have the time and flexibility and freedom to do what we want to do. Instead we’re all locked into this productivity race that keeps us enslaved 50 weeks a year or so. It just seems wrong to me and I want to change that in my own life at any rate. It’s a real battle.
LINDSAY: All the cards are stacked against you when you try and buck the system really isn’t it. The system’s designed for you to go to work, give taxes to the government and keep the industry working, and you give up the best years of your life doing that don’t you.
CARL: Absolutely. I’ve always been kind of a system bucker and I can tell you, usually bucking the system is the wrong way to go. The system can work for you if you’re not too resistant to it. This one, I’m not giving up and it’s a scary thing to operate outside of the normal urban existence. After I started sailing and got through a lot of the ASA stuff, and became a competent coastal sailing captain myself I started looking to buy a boat, and without a real concrete plan. I knew I needed to get a boat. I spent about three years just in spare time looking online mostly and stopping in marinas here and there looking for boats to buy. I was constantly faced with the same frustration that I had just enough money to be able to buy a boat, but if I bought a really good boat, one that I could really go out and sail across an ocean or around the world a) I wouldn’t have time to do it because I had a job and b) I wouldn’t be able to afford to quit the job to do it because I would have to pay for the boat somehow. I continued to feel those shackles as I continued to look for boats to buy and just try and find that perfect deal so that I could have it both ways. That I could actually own a decent boat and not have to make payments on it until I was 75 or 80 years old and didn’t want to be on it anymore. So that’s the situation I was in.
I was reading sailing magazines and I was in the back of a sailing magazine one night after looking through the sail boat advertisements and there was just this little quick paragraph in the back about the Golden Globe which had just been announced a couple months earlier. I was never interested in racing. I didn’t want to sail competitively. That didn’t turn me on at all. I just wanted to get out in the water and sail around the world, and see the world, and meet people, and have that adventure at my own pace. So I mentioned the Golden Globe to my wife and said I wouldn’t think of doing such a thing and her response was, “Why not?”
LINDSAY: You married a good woman there by the sounds of things.
CARL: Yes I did, but it really shocked me. Her response shocked me and I started finding myself…And this is interesting because so many people who are entrants in the Golden Globe have reported this similar kind of experience that you know they heard about the race and then they couldn’t sleep, and that’s exactly what happened. I was waking up in the middle of the night.
LINDSAY: Yeah. I hear you. You’ve made quite a big shift from your past life and routines in recent years since you’ve seen this ad in the back of a magazine. Tell us a bit about your experience since you’ve made this decision. What’s happened in your life on deciding that you’re going to become an entrant in the Golden Globe race?
CARL: To begin with shift is not the right word. It was a catapult. Shift might’ve been preferable but it’s been a catapult and it has been very challenging. Even though I want to get out of this urban employment trap, since committing to the Golden Globe and beginning preparations for it I’ve realised that there are also aspects to a job and employment that I hadn’t seen or appreciated before. It is a social community. I’m finding it difficult to put some of that behind me. I really like the people I’m working with and they know what I’m doing. I announced my entrance in the Golden Globe a couple of years ago and I’ve been preparing since then. There’s a shift in my social group and I feel either I’m pulling away or getting pushed away from the normal social engagement at work, and that’s painful. It’s difficult to do. I hadn’t expected that at all. I mean, I’m kind of a solitary person to begin with and I’m very much an introvert, and I was feeling like I couldn’t wait to leave, but I was surprised at how difficult it’s been becoming to do that. That’s part of it.
The other is that it’s logistically challenging. I’m selling the house so that I can do that and making radically different living arrangements. That in itself has been a huge challenge. My wife quit her job and we’re moving to Florida where we’re going to have our home base and we’ll be separated for some time because I’ll be continuing to work until the house is sold. We have to continue to make money to pay for things, and being a church worker she doesn’t make a whole heck of a lot of money. I’m going to stay employed in Maryland while she’s living in Florida for some time and I’ll also be re-fitting the boat during that time. I will also be getting my qualification miles in. I will be sailing to Bermuda next week and I’ll be on the ocean for about a month going out to Bermuda and then attending the Americas Cup out there, and then sailing up to Massachusetts. It’ll be four or five weeks. Then I’ll come back to an empty house because my wife is moving to Florida and I’ll continue to work, and work on the house, and re-fit the boat and we’ll be very distant during that time. That’s another difficulty.
There are a lot of challenges to this shift and there are lot of risks to begin with. I could never see a smooth path as I was saying going from the urban existence to the sailing existence. There was no smooth transition and in order to do this I really just had to toss all my considerations aside. I was being stopped because I was afraid I couldn’t pay for the boat and concerned about saving for retirement, and getting into the race was the catalyst for, “Well somehow I gotta make this happen,” and it just has to happen, and it has to happen fast. I went from three years of looking for the perfect deal to, I got to buy a boat right now and I went shopping and boat a boat, and disregarded the considerations. I didn’t let all those ideas about a smooth transition stop me. IT’s not smooth at all. It’s risky. It’s challenging. In a lot of ways it’s painful, and that’s the hardest part about it.
LINDSAY: I really admire your courage. It’s incredible what you’re doing. Selling the family home and making the move away from your job. You’re going to spend four months out on the water qualifying and I envy the fact that you’re going to be watching the Americas Cup racing live. I’ve been following that and watching Team New Zealand from my home country to slowly crawl up the ladder with no doubt a few Americas Cup newsworthy items to come. That will be great to be up there and you’re going to see the actual racing by the sounds of it.
Now, there’s one thing that I really want to ask you and it’s something that is bugging me about the Golden Globe race. It’s a back to basics race and I’ve just got a one word question for you, Why?
CARL: Well of course that’s the question everyone asks and in fact I’m writing a book, and I’m not sure if I’ll be able to do the question justice. It can be complicated or it can be very simple. In terms of the why as it applies to why a retro race – well that’s an easy part. The Golden Globe is about sailing. I don’t even think it’s so much about competition. Even though it’s a race. It’s about the sailor, and the boat, and the ocean. Modern boats today take the sailor away from the picture. I mean if you look at the Vendee Globe and these other big ocean races and circumnavigation races they’re technological races. These boats are airplanes with one wing in the water. They’re not really sailboats in a sense, and you know they’re going five, six, seven, ten times maybe the speed of a normal 35’ sailing yacht. It’s a totally different thing and everything is computer determined, from the design of the boat to the course, to what they skipper’s got to do next. I’m not denigrating it at all. It’s different. It’s just very, very different. It’s a different kind of thing and I’m sure it’s extremely challenging and it’s probably got to be a lot of fun and very rewarding. It’s not like sailing the way I think of sailing. You take all the computers and the competition away. You have a race and that makes things a little interesting. That adds a dimension to it, but you take everything else away and what you get is a one person on a very simple boat without digital assistance, making his own way around the world or her own way around the world, and it’s a totally different experience. I’m a solitary kinda calm and peaceful person so it’s perfectly suited to me and I can’t wait to be free from those shackles – the digital shackles like the iPhone that I’m talking on, and the GPS navigation that takes your eyes off the ocean and puts them onto a TV screen when you’re steering the boat. It’s a totally different experience and that’s the why for the retro part. It’s about me engaging with the world in a very, very basic way.
LINDSAY: That’s a very, very powerful reason why and I think it’ll carry you through some of the tough times that are ahead of you.
You touched on it before about the next question. It’s a bit of a personal question. How are you actually funding the Golden Globe Race. You’ve sold your house. There’s going to be ongoing costs. Is the sale of the house going to be enough or are you getting other incomes from perhaps sponsors or something like that?
CARL: I started saving very modestly, about 15 years ago. I started just putting away 20 bucks a week into a savings account – trading account online and every once in awhile I could afford to put a thousand dollars in, but usually it was just a few bucks every week. By the time it became time to buy this boat I had enough cash to pay for about half of the initial boat. I took a loan for the other half and bought the boat, and I’ve struggled to find money to refit the boat and pay for other expenses. At this point I’m finding myself about $50,000 short of having the funds to complete the refit and do everything that I need to do. I don’t know where it’s coming from. After I get back from the Bermuda trip I think I’m going to have to get aggressively engaged in finding a sponsor.
LINDSAY: Well there’s an opportunity for some people who might be listening to this. If you want to get behind Carl and help him achieve this incredible goal of sailing around the world single-handed in a boat that’s not more than 36’. Big opportunities there. It’s going to be world news in just over a years time. I think the race starts in June, so get behind Carl.
There’s a few methods that you can raise funds maybe with crowdfunding websites and things like that. I’m sure you’re going to get there Carl. I’m really confident you’re going to make that 50K shortfall.
I’d just like to move on a little bit. You’re going to be anywhere up to nine months I think perhaps sailing around the world on your own. Most of us can’t go more than a week without visiting the supermarket, so what sort of food are you going to be putting on the boat to survive for that long period of time at sea?
CARL: I haven’t completed my provision list at this point. I’ll be working on that over the next year. I will engage a nutritionist to support me in coming up with a good mix, but of course it’s all going to have to be food that stores well. I’ll have a small refrig, but I’m not going to count on it keeping things cold. Most of the food is going to be freeze dried and canned. I’m hoping to do a little bit of growing – either hydroponic growing onboard or maybe just some sort of flower pots type things that I can grow. I’ve got to come up with some kind of system of course. Everything on the boat is going to have to survive a capsize, so I’ve got to come up with some methods of growing some fresh food that can survive being turned over once or twice.
LINDSAY: Oh that’s really interesting. I’d love to see how you do that and I really like the idea of having fresh food on the boat if that’s possible.
Obviously you’re going to have to navigate around without GPS. You’ve done some training in navigation at all in the past? Have you got any idea how hard it is to navigate and what sorts of constraints do you think you think you’ll come up against while you’re out there on the water?
CARL: I have not mastered celestial navigation at this point, but I’m an engineer and a scientist, and a little bit of a mathematician. It doesn’t disturb me at all. It’s a skill that I’ve got to learn to use the sextant and I’ve got to of course obtain a decent sextant and a good clock, but that’s a technological thing that I have to be careful because I’m probably not thinking about it enough. It’s just one of those things that I’ve got to do. The only challenge will be if I go through a week or so without any sun, you know overcast skies or something like that then it will be less easy to know exactly where I am. That’s not too much of a concern either. As soon as the sun comes out I can figure out exactly where I am and correct my plot using the sextant.
LINDSAY: That’s interesting that you’re still going ahead with this. You’ve got faith in your ability to navigate with the stars and the sun, and perhaps even the moon. It’s interesting I learnt in the classroom and then put it into practice on a trip to Tonga and I found that it was a lot harder at sea. That four months that you’re out there I think you’re going to have plenty of time to practice and I’m sure it will all come together. Good luck with that, because you’re not even allowed to use a digital calculator are you? You’ve got to use the air tables and just maths.
CARL: Right. Yep. People have been navigating by the stars for millennia and I don’t think it’s going to present too much of a challenge.
LINDSAY: It’s all about being comfortable with the fact that you don’t know where you are most of the time. You get a good fix with the stars in the morning, a good fix with the stars at night and then running fixes using the sun during the day. That’s usually enough so long as you’re not too close to land. If you are close to land, then you’re coastal navigating. It should be good! I’m looking forward to seeing how you go there and I’m sure you’ll be fine.
What challenges do you see coming up as your biggest to overcome with the Golden Globe Race campaign. What’s going to be the hardest thing you’re going to have to get sorted before the start of the race?
CARL: The biggest challenges I think are after the financial challenges, just the amount of time that I have to refit the boat and get everything else done that I have to do, and continue to live the urban life in the meantime. It’s all logistical. A lot of juggling, fundraising and that kind of thing. The sailing challenges – I’ve got to get some qualification miles in, so I’ve got to spend as you mentioned three or four months at sea before next June. Those are just the fun parts. Those are not huge challenges.
The boat refit. Just getting to the start line with a boat that’s going to be sound.
LINDSAY: What sort of things are you going to have to do to the boat? I think there’s fairly strict rules about how the boat is set up. There’s water tight bulkheads and that sort of thing. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
CARL: This was a little surprising to me when I bought my boat. I was thinking it would be almost a turnkey boat. I know I would have to make some modifications for the water tight bulkheads and that kind of thing. As it turns out I basically have to rebuild the entire boat. I’ve got a hull and a deck, and a mast, and after that everything has to be replaced on the boat. Almost everything. So I’ve got the standing rigging, the running rigging, the sails, the engine really ought to be replaced I’m not sure. It’ll be a lower priority because I think I can keep it running. I’ve got to put an autopilot – a mechanical autopilot on the boat – a wind vane based thing. I have already replaced a lot of the thru hulls and the valves when I had it out of the water last summer. But basically everything’s got to be replaced. Everything that holds the boat and keeps it dry and keeps it going has got to be replaced. That’s a huge challenge both financially and just in terms of having the time to do it.
LINDSAY: You’re moving to Florida so I can see some massive opportunities there for one of the biggest yachting communities in the world to get right behind you there. Somehow I’ve just got this gut feeling that everything’s going to fall into place for you with one of the many boat builders are down there in Florida getting in behind you and associating with your challenge. I’m pretty sure everything’s going to fall into place for you there. It is a massive job setting up a boat for a non-stop trip around the globe, even an older designed boat like you’ve got.
What boat did you choose in the end? I haven’t asked that question. What sort of boat have you got?
CARL: I have a 1985 Tashing Baba 35. It’s a boat designed by Bob Perry and Bob’s still very actively designing boats. I think he lives in the Seattle area. I’ve communicated with him a few times. We’re Facebook friends and it’s a great boat. I think Bob has an extraordinary pedigree, has designed a lot of the fastest and soundest blue water boats in the world over the last 50 years or so. I have a lot of confidence in that boat. It’s a double-ender, meaning it looks kinda like a canoe at both ends. It’s got about a 30’ water line so I think it’s going to be a fast boat. Most of the boats that qualify including the Cape Dory and some others have slightly shorter water lines which means they’re slower boats. I chose that boat in consideration that it is a race. That was really the only reason I went with the Baba instead of the Cape Dory, because when I looked at the specs of the Cape Dory that I really had always dreamed about – the Cape Dory was four feet shorter. Even though it’s spec’d as a 35’ boat, it only has a 26’ water line. The Perry boats are famous for being fast, agile and very, very capable boats. I’ve got a lot of faith in that.
I actually asked Bob…I was considering reinforcing the shrouds – the cables that go up from the side of the boat to hold the mast up. I was asking Bob how I could reinforce them and make them stronger, and his response was, “Why would I undersize them in the first place?”
LINDSAY: So he’s got a lot of faith in the strength of the rigging.
CARL: And he has very good reason to. His boats are very capable.
LINDSAY: I’m going to change tack now and ask you a completely different question, do you get seasick?
LINDSAY: You do.
CARL: I’ve heard there are two kinds of sailors – those that get seasick and those that lie about it. I get seasick every time I set sail after I haven’t been sailing for a while. I’ll be mildly seasick for a few days. It’s not debilitating or anything, just a little bit uncomfortable or a funny feeling. Sometimes I will get very seasick if I have been abusing myself. Last summer I sailed from St Thomas to the Chesapeake and I did a couple of shakedown sails. That was the first time I had actually been solo on my boat, which I bought in St Thomas. I took it out. The first day I took it out I had not slept well, I had not eaten well, I had had lousy coffee at breakfast time, and I went out and the water was just mean and choppy, and I got violently seasick. I get pretty seasick on motor boats as well in choppy water.
I think everyone gets seasick and for me it passes within a few days and after about a week on a boat I’m just flowing with the ocean and it doesn’t bother me a bit.
LINDSAY: Have you ever had to deal with seasick crews in the past and how do you help them if they’re crook? Any advice you can give them?
CARL: I don’t know if it’s advice more than an observation but in dealing with crews, usually what happens is people come asking for medicine when they think they might be getting seasick, and all I can tell you is if you think you might be getting seasick you’re already seasick and it’s too late to medicate it. Go down land, lean out over the ocean and let it go. You’ll feel much better.
LINDSAY: Yeah, it’s interesting you say that. I did an interview with Dr Stoffregen who’s an expert in motion sickness and he said exactly the same thing – if you’re starting to feel seasick it’s too late, don’t bother with the medication. That’s in an earlier podcast that I’ve done so if you want to have a listen to that, that’s quite interesting.
There’s not much more you can do if you’ve left the medication too late, except perhaps get rid of it and look at the horizon.
CARL: That’s right. Don’t resist. What you resist will persist and it’s true with seasickness. Don’t resist it. Let it go and you’ll feel much better.
LINDSAY: And keep hydrated. Drink lots of water. Sip on it. That’s one way of making a fast recovery.
If you had a magic wand, what would your ideal income source be to maximise your life on the sea and how would that work? If somebody just gave you the power to create income, how would you do that best?
CARL: I enjoy writing. I’ve written one novel that is unpublished but I enjoyed writing it, and I’m working on another book right now and enjoy that a lot. I just enjoy writing, so I think my ideal income source would involve living on a boat and writing. I’m also a programmer and I enjoy that. If I could live on a boat and write programs that might be part of the ideal. That might also be part of the practical side of me coming out as well, because as I’ve matured in my profession as a programmer, I’ve actually found that the programming itself has become a little less interesting and I enjoy working with people more as I’ve gotten older, and less enjoy just working alone with computers.
I think teaching sailing or not just sailing, but I think I’ve got a very strong commitment to the quality of life on the planet. If you look at my website it says, “Live. Sail. Save the Planet.” It’s about saving the planet and to save the planet, what we have to do is get people related to the planet in a way that I think we’ve lost in our modern technological society. People today relate to the planet as if it’s an adversary. It’s something to be overcome, or something to take advantage of. I think our relationship, our individual relationship with the planet has to be like a relationship with another person – like someone you love. It’s a two way thing and the planet has been giving to us, and giving, and giving, and giving, and we’ve been taking, and taking, and taking and now we’re feeling the effects of that and the planet is dying. That’s no way to relate to a person. I think what we need to do as people as we learn to relate to Mother Earth to establish a different kind of relationship.
I think what I would like to do is help people to learn that. Putting people on a sailboat and taking them out in the ocean or around islands for a week or so, where you can really become re-established in that relationship and learn to appreciate it much more. I’ve thought about doing that kind of thing, you know saving the planet one person at a time. Putting people on boats. I know you can do that by having people climb mountains and so forth. There are a lot of ways of doing this but somehow we’ve got to get people back in relationships with the planet.
I think the ideal living for me, I don’t even want to think about an income source, but an ideal livelihood for me would be to have a livelihood that gets people re-engaged whether it’s through my writing or through bringing people out on a boat.
LINDSAY: That’s a great answer and I can see with the way the internet’s going and blogging being very popular – websites, and the skills that you’ve got, I can see your website, LiveSailSaveThePlanet.com is it?
CARL: I haven’t updated it…It’s a little bit behind. I’ve been trying to sell the house and write my book, so I haven’t updated it in about nine months, but after I get back from my Bermuda trip I will update it. It does go over some of my adventures in buying and refitting the boat initially and some of my trip across the ocean from the Caribbean is documented there as well.
LINDSAY: Okay, well we look forward to seeing those updates when you get back and there’s obviously some stuff there so if you want to learn a little bit more about Carl, go to his website.
Now you didn’t really start sailing until you were 45, is that correct?
LINDSAY: What’s the worst experience you’ve had at sea, or when did you feel really bad about the situation you were in from that time when you started sailing?
CARL: It’s hard to think about a worst experience at sea and maybe it’s kind of cliche’ but the worst experience at sea is better than the best commute to work I’ve ever had. There was one situation last summer when I was sailing from the Caribbean to Chesapeake on this boat I had just bought. I spent about six months refitting it. It was in much worse shape than I thought it would be and something broke on the boat every day. I was out on the ocean alone with this boat for a month. There was some touch-and-go situations as things fell apart and just about everything on the boat broke at some point. Sails blew out, furlers broke and malfunctioned, the engine had issues. I had three Sump pumps on the boat – two electric and one manual – they all failed. The boat was taking on water in various ways. There was some scary situations and I went through some serious storms as well, but those were all good experiences. If you can believe it. Those were challenges and exciting, and for the most part I dealt with them. I had a few moments where I was thinking I might just be losing it.
There was one situation that I was really pissed off about. My shore support people…On both ends I had shore support back in St Thomas and shore support on land in Maryland and I had a sat phone but the sat phone was…I won’t mention the name because I’m not going to say good things about it, but it was not functioning well and didn’t do its job. There were times when the people on shore got very worried about me because they didn’t have very good assessment of my situation. They were looking at maps that showed I was about to get trounced by a massive storm and they knew – we had text messaging working and that was about it on the sat phone. So we had very turse communications and they were worried, and ended up calling the coast guard. They and the coast guard at one point thought that I really needed to be rescued and the coast guard’s all about hoisting people off their boats. The coast guard really wanted to rescue me even though I didn’t feel that I needed it At one point I consented to support from the coast guard. I had made it all the way across about 13 – 1500 miles of the ocean and I was about 40 miles offshore off of North Carolina and my shore support texted me and said the coast guard is willing to tow you in the rest of the way. I had just made it across the Gulf stream that night and I was just about home. I was almost within sight of land, but I said, “Okay. I want to make them happy and don’t want people to worry.” The coast guard apparently had agreed to tow me in but the conditions were pretty bad – there were 15’ swells and it was pretty blustery out, but I dropped my sails and waited for the coast guard for about an hour. Then about an hour later I get a text message saying, “They’re not going to tow you in. They want to hoist you off your boat.”
LINDSAY: That’s not exactly an easy thing to do either. It’s one thing we used to practice when I was with the Navy Sail Training Craft we did quite a few High line Transfers with a Seasprite helicopter and getting a man off the cockpit on a boat that’s moving through the water, even in ideal conditions has got plenty of risk in it.
Obviously you didn’t leave your boat. What happened then?
CARL: At that point I was still in the Gulf stream so even though I had dropped my sails and hove-too and I was just sitting in one place, I didn’t realise how fast the stream was moving and it was at that point in the stream – that Gulf stream goes all over the place. It has one general drift that goes up from the south up along the coast and then veers off towards Europe, and I was in part of it that was sending me off toward Europe at a really good clip you know, five or six knots. As I sat there I thought I was about 40 miles offshore and just inside the stream and I could make it in, but when I checked my position again a couple hours after dropping my sails, and I got my sails going and I thought, “Okay. I’m going to head north a little bit.” When I checked my position again I was 70 miles offshore and I was caught in a very swift part of the stream and heading towards Ireland. So I set sail due west. I was doing six or seven knots through the water toward America and course over ground was about 2 knots towards Europe. That was kind of a scary moment because I realised as fast as I could sail I was caught in the stream and I wasn’t sure where I was going to end up.
LINDSAY: Yeah that is a massive current that you were in there. Five knot current has got to me one of the strongest in the world and I think that would’ve been creating some pretty big seas as well if there was any sort of wind. Is that correct?
CARL: Yes. The waves in the Gulf stream when there’s any wind have a totally different character from the other parts of the ocean and they can be a little bit more aggressive. They’re almost more like beach waves sometimes than the normal ocean swells. Shorter, steeper, closer together and crunchy at the top. The ocean state wasn’t that bad, it was just that I couldn’t fight the stream. I was going the wrong way. That was probably my worst experience because I started thinking, “Damn. They might get my boat after all.” I had been having a tug-of-war with the coast guard and I was by myself on the boat. The mind does strange things and I began to get paranoid and I thought, “They just want to sink my boat.” I was at battle at that point with the coast guard and I was determined that they were not going to get my boat.
I had an AIS system and at one point my antennae had broken and I wasn’t receiving, but it had repaired itself magically and my AIS was working. I saw about five miles away there was a cruise liner called Grandeur of the Seas and I hailed the cruise liner because I knew I was going to have to motor hard to get through the stream, and I didn’t have the fuel to do it. I was out of fuel. The coast guard actually mediated at that point. They had been doing a search pattern for me in their CI30. I was know 40 or 50 miles away from my original position having gone all day from when I had originally dropped my sails. They were searching out there for me and as soon as I hailed Grandeur of the Seas the coast guard cut in to make a long story short they mediated for me with Grandeur of the Sea to give me some fuel. I rafted up to Grandeur and out there about close to 100 miles offshore now and they hoisted three, 15 gallon drums of diesel onto my deck and I used that. I actually ended up motoring all the way home on that fuel.
LINDSAY: Woah. That’s quite an experience. I remember having to get some fuel off a larger Navy ship at one stage too on a trip to Fiji. It’s quite daunting being beside a massive great big ship like that on your little yacht really isn’t it.
CARL: Yeah. It was quite a scene I’m sure.
LINDSAY: So I’m going to change tack again and ask you what’s the best experience you’ve had when you’re on the sea, or when were you the happiest?
CARL: That’s a hard question again because I’m happy when I’m out there on a boat, even in the worst conditions I can be very happy. I remember two situations in which I just felt just overwhelmed with joy I think. The second of those was just last summer. I had been dodging a storm with the help of my shore support, and the storm started off kind of a powerful enough storm right off the coast of Hatteras. Something that I wanted to avoid. I was really afraid of storms at that point. I hadn’t really been through a real storm and so I was actually back tracking. I was about three or four hundred miles out and I had to back track a couple of hundred miles to avoid the storm. It suddenly just grew in size and proportion. It became a 200 mile storm instead of a 50 mile storm, and it got more intense, and just came straight towards me. I would have to be sailing hard again towards Europe to doge this thing if I could do it at all. So I gave up on that and turned the boat around and sailed straight into the storm, and that was a little bit scary but going through the middle of this thing with 40 knot winds I think was one of the best sails I ever had. It was an incredible day. So far I think that’s one of the most memorable and joyful experiences I’ve had. Just going up and down those huge waves in the wind and the rain, and realising that I didn’t have as much to be afraid of as I thought I did. The boat, in spite of all the stuff attached to it and in it kinda breaking day-by-day, the boat is an extraordinarily sound boat. It can handle a lot in spite of whatever skills I may or may not have. That was one of the best experiences.
LINDSAY: So it’s not all about the happiest times being when you’ve got perfect 15 knot breeze and the sea is relatively flat and it’s beautiful sunshine, you can really enjoy the wildness of the sea as well.
CARL: Those are just the normal happy days. Those are fun. The challenges – I think the challenges that I overcome along the way are the happiest moments. When I’m able to fix something that’s broken. When I was out there last summer my main sail blew out. That was a scary moment and yet I was able to find…I just bought the boat, I didn’t know really what was on it, and there was another main sail in the hold and it didn’t fit the tracks. It was kind of worn out. I had to take the blown out mainsail – I had to take down and I took the other one out of the hold and I had to replace the track cars on it and it took me half a day to do that. Doing that sail surgery and then getting the old one up again was another memorable experience. It’s a big challenge. First starting with this, “Oh crap,” kind of feeling, “My main sail has just torn itself to shreds.”
LINDSAY: I know exactly how you feel. That happened to us when we bought our boat. We bought our boat in the South Island in New Zealand and had to sail it on its first voyage up to Auckland which was quite some distances on a coastal passage. The main sail blew out on us as well. I had a few volunteer crew on board who were quick to get the sail repair kit out and they hand-stitched the sail. Just as well because the even older mainsail that we had that came with the boat blew. It didn’t take long to blow out either even though we were sailing quite conservatively. It’s not a good feeling when you start to have things like that happened. Yeah, I totally relate to what you said there.
Now I’m going to ask one of the last questions now. It’s an opportunity to help our listeners learn a little bit from your experience. If there’s anything more that you can offer our listeners and readers to help them get started and gain momentum, and realise their hopes and dreams of living a life on the sea and become a mariner, what advice would you give them? What can you share with them knowledge wise?
CARL: The first thing I want to say is don’t be stupid. The ocean is a dangerous place. It can be very, very dangerous. At the same time I was having my tug-of-war with the coast guard out on the ocean, I think a couple of days after I sailed through that storm that I had been trying to dodge, the storm went south and across Florida and a family of sailors off the coast of Florida died in that storm. They had a different kind of boat. It was not a seaworthy, capable boat and that makes all the difference. They were an experienced sailing family, but you can’t underestimate the ocean and don’t overestimate yourself. Do be careful and be safe.
In a lot of respects doing a solo trip the way I did it was a foolish thing to do and I’m not trying to advise too many people to do something like that. Solo sailing to begin with is very, very different from sailing when you have even one other person on board. It’s difficult to do things by yourself when it takes two or three people normally to do them. From just sailing the boat, or anchoring, or repairing something, it’s a different kind of thing. If you’re interested in doing solo stuff, think about that very carefully. Even if you’re doing things as a group don’t be foolish. Know your boat and know your boat’s strengths and limitations or it could have a very sad ending. That’s the first piece of advice is you’ve got to respect the ocean.
In terms of getting started, I started…I took the bull by the horns and I was running out of time so I went to a sailing school. That’s certainly not necessary. You can learn to sail from anybody but learning to sail from professionals who know what they’re doing and know how to teach and not all sailing schools are created the same, so you have to be careful with that. Going to a school is a good thing, or just starting on your own with a smaller boat on a lake or bays, or whatever is probably a good idea. Certainly if you’re interested in blue water before you do that.
In terms of making the break from this ordinary, normal, urban existence – I think you’ve got to let go of your commitment to security and comfort. You’ve got to trust in yourself and also understand that a lot of what keeps us where we are are stories and considerations that we have inherited from our culture, and the way things are supposed to be done, the way things have to be, or the way things are always done. You’ve got to be willing to discard all of this and think in an entirely new way.
LINDSAY: Really what you’re saying is think hard about what you’re doing, but also don’t take unnecessary risks and be prepared to change the way you’ve done things in the past. Is that a reasonable sort of summary of what you just said?
CARL: Yeah. It’s scary. There’s no doubt that it’s scary and you’ve got to be able to handle some fear and uncertainty and trust your own resourcefulness.
LINDSAY: Thank you very much Carl for giving us your time and hopefully this is helping other people who are thinking about getting out on the sea.
CARL: Lindsay I really appreciate what you’re doing. Thank you so much for contacting me and including me. It’s a real privilege and I think it will be of mutual benefit and hopefully we can, between all of us, we can get more people inspired and more people interested, and have more people realise they can live that dream.
LINDSAY: That’s the end goal. There’s a lot of steps in the process and one of them is getting the funding. Hopefully the sponsors will come on board and get behind you, and you’ll be able to tick that box without anymore stress of where’s the money coming from. Any sponsors out there, get right behind Carl and I’m sure you’ll get your money’s worth out of him.
We really look forward to those website updates when you get a chance. The website where the tagline is “Live. Sail. Save the Planet.” – if people google that they’ll probably find your website, but the actual URL is?
CARL: Its ggr2018huber.com
LINDSAY: ggr2018huber.com. That’s where you can go to see the reasons why and perhaps get the odd update as you get time when you come back from your four months sail you’ll be putting something on there no doubt. You’ll have plenty to write about, so it’s a good thing to do is to bookmark – ggr2018huber.com and find out what Carl’s been up to.
Thank you very much Carl. I appreciate you getting up so early in the morning and having this chat half way across the world. I’m sure we’ve created something of value for people here.
CARL: I hope so. Thank you again.
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