The S/V Proteus compared to…

Occasionally, we are asked by people who hear that we live on a sailboat…

“Gosh, that sounds really small…!”


“So… how big is it?”


“Can you stand up?”

I can rattle off all the data, but since most people in the world have never been on any sailboat – let alone one specifically 42ft 6inches long – the specific size remains acutely nebulous. But, as a thought experiment, it is kind of fun to think: “Well, how big is it, really!?”

Let’s (completely arbitrarily) compare the S/V Proteus to…

…a whale shark.

Male_whale_shark_at_Georgia_AquariumThe average weight of an adult whale shark is around 20,500lbs (or 9300kg). And the whale shark is one pretty serious creature. If you’re a shark aficionado and want to compare sharks, that’s almost three times the size of the average Great White Shark. If you’d rather stick to the whale side of the whale shark, you’re looking at a weight similar to some of the larger male killer whales (orcas) on record. That pales in comparison to the mass of a typical blue whale that average in the 400,000lbs (181,000kg) range.

So, Proteus weighs about a 20th of the weight of a blue whale. (Good grief, that’s huge.)

…a typical American school bus.

You know, the full-length yellow ones? The regular yellow/orange school bus that pick up kids all across the United States averages around 42ft. Some are longer (up to 45ft) and some states require their school buses to be no more than 41ft. But, in general the typical school bus measures just about the same length as Proteus.

Strangely enough, many of the school buses I saw online had a similar curb weight (empty) to Proteus, as well. Where the two comparisons diverge is the fact that a school bus is merely 100 inches (2.5m) or so: the Hunter Passage 42 is just under twice that width.

…a Honda Element.

Yes, the much critiqued original boxy SUV is almost exactly the same length (depending on the model year) as the beam of S/V Proteus at 14 feet (or 4.26m). And everyone knows what the infamous Element looks like, right? Coincidentally, I used to drive one of these strange people-carriers, and we have had more than a few adventures together all over the eastern United States.

If a Honda Element is too tough to wrap your head around, the S/V Proteus is wider than a highway lane in the USA and UK M-roads (measuring 12 feet, or 3.65m). So you couldn’t very well get her down a road without blocking traffic or having a big “WIDE LOAD” across the back. However, you could lay an elephant down inside: the average African elephant is 14ft.

…a Boeing 747.

Who hasn’t been impressed by the uber-massive Boeing 747’s sitting at the gate!? Well, the only real similarity between a 747 and S/V Proteus is the height of the tail off the ground. Our mast is very close to the same height at about 61 feet (18.6m). Granted, that might be reaching a bit, so instead, let’s compare it to something a little more feasible: a six-story building.

That’s pretty tall, but a six-story building is kinda boring! How about the uprights of an NFL regulation American football goal? Actually, Proteus‘ mast is taller by almost 13 feet (3.9m). It is also taller than the Arch of Titus in the Roman Forum, but it is exactly the height of each of the heads (head only: not the rest of the mountain) of Mount Rushmore in South Dakota and is only 4 feet shorter than the Sphinx in Giza. And it is exactly the same height as a regulation cricket pitch is long. (Whatever that is…)

…the fastest Olympic swimmer.

Actually, the Proteus‘ cruising speed is just under double the speed of Michael Phelps’ world-record setting 100m freestyle. Indeed. Michael Phelps averaged 4.4 miles per hour. We do pretty well to average 7 knots (8 mph) under full sail and efficiency. If the bottom is really clean, we can get close to 8.5 or more. Though we have pushed it up to 9 or 10 knots in a blow, we don’t like to break things.

And our maximum speed ever recorded was a *blazing* 12 knots over ground… but that was with a massive tidal stream abeam of The Needles at the Isle of Wight. Yeah, laugh if you want…

Okay, so, double the fastest human swimmer in the world, but is there anything that makes a good 7 or 8 knots on a regular basis? Not the human running speed: believe it or not, Usain Bolt busted out 24 knots, which is faster than most power yachts are able to sustain! Incidentally, Usain Bolt is 6ft 4in, which is about the minimum cabin ceiling height.

The closest I could come to 7 or 8 knots was the casual swimming speed of the average dolphin. (They can do much more than this!) It is a bit of a mystery exactly why dolphins love to play with boats, but maybe it is because they see the boats as just big casual dolphins…?

…an apartment in London.
S/V Proteus in Marina Smir, Morocco
S/V Proteus in Marina Smir, Morocco

According to the Telegraph, the average apartment in London is about 46 square meters these days. That’s a few feet shy of 500 square feet. Actually, that seems pretty small compared to what I’ve seen – and our own apartment in London – but that’s about the usable size of Proteus‘ interior. It doesn’t seem like a whole lot, but it was one of our deciding factors for moving aboard a boat. The apartment where we lived in central London was not quite 30 square meters: that’s just 320 square feet!

Pack all your stuff, a usable bed, a kitchen, the bathroom, and a place to sit, and you’re having trouble getting around! The Proteus has doubled our living space, given us three rooms, two bathrooms, and a bathtub! And we get a freakin’ awesome backyard… aka: anywhere on Earth.

Stay tuned…


Decisions to change plans…

By: Noah D.

I’m sitting here in Sines, Portugal. It is just after 10am. All the hatches are open and there’s a gentle north-ish breeze. A few minutes ago, two small RIB’s hummed by outside with their crews decked out and loaded up with spearfishing equipment. We spent yesterday afternoon hanging out at a beach bar: it is like something straight out of a spy movie. I don’t think I’ve seen a cloud in about three days. We finally made it to this part of the world.

That being said, not everything happens the way you think. Sometimes it turns out for the absolute best. And by “best” I mean “better than I could have ever planned.”

We will be turning left…

Instead of crossing the Atlantic this summer, we’re going to do the right thing – our insurance company definitely agrees – and stay on this side. We are running up against hurricane season and, rather than cross dodging tropical waves in varying stages of tropical depression/storm development, we might as well put a few more thousand miles under Proteus‘ keel. And that’s where things are going to get interesting…


We, being USA citizens and such, cannot stay in Europe indefinitely. Visas are serious things… even more so for professional travelers. So, we’ll be hanging out in some of the more obscure and (definitely) more exotic sailing locations of the Mediterranean. (A quick search to find out which countries are “non-Schengen” will give you a hint at our itinerary for the summer.)


Will it be hot? Freakin’ hot.

Will it be fun? Probably. And frustrating at times, I’m sure. But, mostly just completely different from our first 9 months aboard. We’ve been sailing in the high-latitudes – we JUST crossed below 40º for the first time! – so our learning curve is starting to reverse itself: “What? The tide difference is less than 2 meters!?” or “So, there are going to be other visiting boats in the marina??” not to mention “What do you mean, I have to put my anchor down in the marina and back into the quay…?” Most of all, I think we’re still getting over sitting on the midnight-to-4am watch without five layers and foul weather gear (and usually a wool blanket over all that)…

See what I mean? This is breaking into a new realm of sailing for us. But it will also be ushering in a new realm of living. We have been “moving the boat” since we left Ipswich. Now we are going to be taking it slow, considering time in terms of weeks rather than days. We will actually spend time in the places we are visiting. I’m ready to have a non-rhythm to my life. Furthermore, we will be stretching our budget to its absolute limits: by doing this, we will be forced to wring a budget meant for two or three more months into six… or seven… or eight.

Proteus in Sines, Portugal.

In late-October or November we will be back in this part of the world (i.e.: Iberian Peninsula) preparing to head south for the Canary Islands and Cape Verdes. I think these couple thousand extra miles have come at just the right time.

Since I began traveling years ago I have lived by the mantra, “Whatever happens, it’s going to be good.” I think this is a great time to say it again…

“What we need is here…”


Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here.
~Wendell Berry






Ile-d’Yeu, France

The allure of The Coast…

We’re headed back to Ireland and Proteus tomorrow. Perhaps needless to say, we are missing our home. It has been a great few weeks of vacation in the States with family, but it’s time to get back and get serious: we have an ocean to cross.

With that, I’ll leave you with a really beautiful video that all coast-wise humans might connect with…

The Coast from NRS Films on Vimeo.


…and have a great day! See you in Ireland.

What is in a boat name…?

By: Noah D.

“I think the act of naming something implies, very simply, that you’re not alone. We give names to things so we can talk about them. Once there’s a word for an experience, it feels contained somehow—and the container has a handle, which makes it much easier to pick up and pass around.”
~John Koenig (from The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows)

The closest I’ve ever been to naming a child was when my sister named her cat. But that did not take too much deliberation, because she had been settled on ‘Dinah’ forever.

But naming something is a significant moment. It becomes the weird, specific sound that comes out of someone’s mouth that someone else hears and connects a brain spark to a real, physical thing in the world. Or it is the little particularly-arranged little squiggles on paper that cause a person to see a massive “other thing” somewhere else. In the case of a dog or a cat, it is something you’ll yell out the back door. In the case of a human, names can set a kid up for bullying or to become the next power player. In the case of a boat, it can either make people raise an eyebrow in curiosity, in indifference, or in commiseration.

I’m fascinated by Plato’s concept of Forms. I had a comparative religious philosophy professor simplify it to a simple (but very Socratic) question: “At what point does a table cease to be a table?” At some point, you will no longer consider a table-like object a table. Maybe it would be too small and be a stool. Maybe it would be too large or have solid sides and become a desk or a counter-top. But whatever you think of as “table-ness” is in your mind somewhere with boundaries (even if they are rather blurry at times).

Naming a boat takes on a slightly different slant. It is already a boat, of course; but when a boat gets a name, it then becomes what everyone else sees even when you (as the owner/skipper/master/captain) are not present. (And, when you are present, you get grouped in by your boat first and the people who are on it only if they know you personally: “Oh, that’s John and Jane of the _______!”) Far be it for anyone to judge, but you must admit, if you have spent any time around any marinas anywhere in the world you will likely see more than one boat with a truly ridiculous name.

So, Lynn and I have settled on a name. If you’re reading this blog, you obviously know that Proteus is written all over the place for no other reason. I’ve been consternating my soul for some time now about it. I wrote long lists of names, hunted the internets, and called up all manner of references and descriptions to come to just the perfect name. Lynn came up with one: “Proteus.”

Before you think there was any strong-arming or argument involved, let me tell you who/what Proteus was. Proteus was a mythological deity of the sea, oceans, and great rivers. But, more than that, he was the shepherd of the sea creatures and keeper of the wisdom of earth. Kings and conquerors sought Proteus because he apparently was so wise that he could foretell the future. To evade his pursuers, he was known to shape-shift into any number of natural things. From this, the term “protean” is derived, with positive connotations of versatility, flexibility, and adaptability.

Of course, the name must be Proteus.

For our purposes, and the reason why it is such a great name for our boat, Proteus is an ideal to aspire to rather than some past conquest. We are expats and travelers, sailors and wanderers. We are choosing this strange life consciously, not because it is convenient or because we can easily afford it – neither actually – but because we aspire to more than just what is “standard” or “average.” We are not taking the path of least resistance or “settling down” into whatever whirlpool sucks us in. We say: “We want to see the world.” So we will go do whatever it takes to do that. The purchase of our boat put every coastline on the planet within reach.

To be completely honest, the previous name of the boat (seen in the banner above) was not horrible. “Oscar” was actually my grandfather’s name. But a number of factor’s precipitated our decision to change the name: one being that the former owners’ new boat’s name also is related to Oscar, and we just did not want to have two Oscars in the same marina. We will be going through the proper denaming/naming ceremony, of course, to stave off any bad superstitions that might hang around. And it is kinda fun to smash champaign onto hulls…

MAR ProteusFinally, there are a number of mega-yachts and older vessels around named Proteus. There’s even this weird thing that everybody freaked about when it pounded around San Francisco Bay a few years ago: the original incarnation of the WAM-V was named Proteus. But we were hard-pressed to find many Proteus-es (Proteii?) out there in the registries. We know of one sailboat (a beautiful Oyster 655) sold a few years back, but her name may have been changed since then.

Basically, we just wanted something that, if the boat could speak, she wouldn’t be ashamed or mumble her name quietly when asked. Because we sure will be proud of her. If you look on BoatUS’s Top 10 Most Popular Boat Names list, you might see what I mean. There really are people in the world who spend tens of thousands of dollars on a boat and then paste “Aquaholic” to the hull. Seriously.

For further reading, there are a few more posts around the internet regarding naming boats, but two of the classics are Bumfuzzle’s “How to Name a Boat” post and John Vigor’s “How to Rename Your Boat” or “A Simple Denaming Ceremony” which may or may not have become standard reading for newcomers to the boat name world.

Stay tuned for the results of the ceremony…

We bought a boat…

By: Noah D.

And, with shocking simplicity, we made the purchase.

Literally, a decade of dreaming and research has led to this.

And, as we were on our way home, the question, “Are you happy?” was raised. My answer sounds like a fortune cookie: Happiness does not come from the things we own, but the way we put to use the things we own. Cats can be happy with a cardboard box because they know how to play in them. But humans can be miserable with multimillion dollar mansions.

Happiness is our own responsibility, not the responsibility of anyone else or the things with which we surround ourselves.

Here we are, 42 foot sailboat in hand, doing everything we can to live our lives in a way that we will look back on it and say, “Wow, that was a great thing.”

A Mandate

By Noah


Some say travel is expensive. But, what better investment is there than to increase peace by being able to stand against bigotry, intolerance, and hate by intentionally and constantly traveling. What better way to fight terrorism than to use my passport and get on a plane. And what better way to fight ignorance than to get out there and show someone that even though smart people can believe ignorant things, the greatest evil is the promotion of ignorance: ‘I’m here because I refuse to be ignorant.’

Travel builds bridges, fights for truth, and defeats ignorance. And you may never see the return on your investment but your children might. Your grandchildren might. And so might the children and grandchildren of the people you call friends scattered around this very small mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

~written 1 July 2013 in a cafe in Istanbul, Turkey



Istanbul – July 2013


The Discovery of Sail

By Noah

The brilliant blog Wait But Why wrote a piece not too long ago entitled “The Fermi Paradox.” It’s definitely worth a read if you have a few minutes. Basically it discusses a few heavy topics about space and time that might, at first, seem quite aloof and not slightly sci-fi. If you hold out for the whole thing, you might realize–like the author does–that this incomprehensibly massive universe is a lonely place. Not “lonely” as in “nobody wants to be my friend” kind of lonely, but absolute and total emptiness, devoid of anything. And here we are.

Well, that’s a cheerful start to the first post!

Of all the technology that you currently know of–from the device you are reading this on, the phone you use, the car you drive, the medicine you might take, etc–how many of those technologies existed 10 years ago? How about 50 years ago? How about 100? For instance, my great grandfather was a profound mechanic: he made a great living fixing Model A‘s and Model T‘s. Did his grandfather ever seen a car?

So, while the past 500 years has brought the ability to print and mass-produce books, writing itself and the ability to communicate by written characters is clocked at about 5000 years, attributed to the Sumerians of ancient Mesopotamia around 3200BCE. Considered the “official” beginning of recorded history, the writings from that time are quite basic: most are not exactly “histories” as much as they are records of things.

Go back 3000 more years before that. This was the dawn of the sailboat. Though boats were likely used in prehistoric times (since prehistoric civilizations have been found to have lived on remote islands) the earliest record of a sailboat is from around 8000 years ago. So which of these is more shocking: the fact that most Egyptologists aren’t sure if wheels were used in the building of the Great Pyramids of Giza… or the fact that sailing is twice as old as the Pyramids! (BTW: Here’s an interesting article about ancient Egypt and their papyrus boats.)

Aswan, Egypt - 2008
Aswan, Egypt – 2008

Besides basic tools those used for cutting and pounding, the basics of sailing and the technologies involved with sailing have existed longer than almost any other technology. Who wouldn’t want the boat to push itself, right? And, until the rise of the airplane, the world has been conquered and empires have risen and then they, too, have been conquered… exclusively by sea.

Now, let’s take technology forward. Your cell phone was “old” after how long? Could you guarantee that we will still be using cell phones in 100 years? They were still using horses in World War 1; I bet every man in the American Civil War (50 years prior) would have bet everything they had that horses would always be used in war. How many of the people reading this blog–written on a laptop that is .7 inches thick at its thickest part–took typing classes on a typewriter when they were growing up? How many remember rotary phones? Whoever it was that thought, “Hey, let’s put up a big sheet in front of that boat and let it pull us!” invented something that literally has been done for 8000 years.

So I think I’ll do that.

Reading the following list, you might think I’m some sort of hipster: I like notebooks and pens; I prefer manual transmission vehicles and steel frame bicycles; I’d rather listen to a vinyl record all the way through to get to the song I like than jump to it on Spotify; and travel/living by sailboat is one of the finest of lives. I’m not stuck in the past or claim that one “works better” than the others. All of them work, most of them are relatively inefficient or downright frustrating, and I’m too much of a nerd to shun technology.

What do all of these things have in common? All of these things give tactile feedback to the user. I watch my notebooks pile up on shelves and in drawers, reminding me with their tattered pages and water spots that I did, indeed, travel there and record it. A manual transmission vehicle feels like I am driving it rather than it driving me. A steel frame bicycle flexes with the rider and any load you put on it and it is fixable with little more than a wrench and a welding torch. A vinyl record pops and crackles and is literally a needle picking up physical scratches on the surface of plastic. And a sailboat…?

Well, a sailboat is a direct connection to everything I cherish in a thing: a bizarre amount of history, the natural world, the wind, and the ocean. It represents a tactile feedback to all these things. And it represents a physical bridge between Point A and Point B in which you cannot just fly past or around the storm, you must go through it. Or you cannot zap yourself from here to there as if flipping channels, you must stay the course and have a longer than 17-second attention span. If properly prepared, all things to remedy the problem are within reach. The answer is here, you must only figure it out. Sailing simplifies and clarifies and–just possibly–purifies.

A friend of mine accused me once of being born in the wrong generation because, as a professional photojournalist, I have no problem using film. Maybe I was. But when it comes to sailing, it doesn’t matter what generation I was born in… because it has always been done.