artist & writer
Day 2 - Fort Augustus to Neptune’s Gates
Sunday September 21st 2014
The Swing Bridge and lock gates opened at 9:30 am and we were the third boat of three in the locks. Tourists crowded the banks watching in awe as we floated upward then onward through the 5 locks that make up Fort Augustus’ portion. Like old pros we made them in quick secession slowed only by the speed of the water. After two more single locks and another swing bridge we were moving across the waters of Loch Oich. Floating on a 52ft long sailboat with a 65ft mast on what looks like a skinny river is a very surreal thing. After the last few locks we came to the last of the swing bridges before Neptune’s Staircase. It was open and waiting and was different from the rest. This one was made up of a bare steel structure and was split in the middle. The bridge master waved as we passed and started hand cranking a handle and slowly the bridge crept back into place.
Docking just shy of Neptune’s Staircase we disembarked and walked its gates getting our first looks at it. Loch Linnhe, The Sound of Mull and these eight locks are all that stands between the Atlantic Ocean and us. Struan will be getting off the boat tomorrow after the crossing of Neptune’s Staircase and I will remain aboard with Celia and Dylan to compete the sail to the island of Eigg. We have been racing against the weather for 4 days. Storms and strong winds have been approaching and may force us to find anchorage for days if we cant make it to Eigg in time. I went and found Internet access at the canal facilities and everyone was asleep by the time I returned to the boat.
Day 3 - Neptune’s Gates
Monday September 22nd 2014
We awoke early and started getting everything prepared to finish the canal. Celia hoisted me up the mast to try and replace a light bulb that turned out to be an electrical issue. She then hoisted me to the top of the mast so I could attach my gopro and get a time lapse of the crossing. Once down we finished getting the ship ready. Celia prepared the engine and started it but it quickly died and she new there was a problem. Replacing the fuel filters and running through a series of steps to check fuel flow she tried again and the engine would not start. This repeated for over an hour and finally she looked up and said “Well the trip is over here.”
I had been watching my watch for the last half hour knowing that Struan was catching a cab to the train station at 10:30 and there were only 3 trains that ran a day. I quickly backed up all of my stuff and my drawing machine and within 20 minutes we were saying our goodbyes and walking alongside Neptune’s Staircase with our bags. Less than an hour later I was aboard a train traveling through the beautiful mountains of the Highlands of Scotland on our way to Glasgow.
I will trust that Neptune had good reason to deny me access to the sea at this point for the engine failing out at sea with a storm bearing down on us would not have been good. Someday I will return and complete the last stretch of the canal and Neptune’s Staircase, even if it’s in a canoe but only if he allows.
My latest article is up on the Huffington Post. I am joined by legendary NYC Art critic, writer and curator Bob Nickas in questioning “Should everything an artist makes be considered as Art?”
Day 1 - Inverness to Loch Ness
Sunday September 21st 2014
Leaving Inverness Marina at first light we are entering the Caledonian Canal today and hope to get through the first locks and Loch Ness and maybe further before they close the locks for the night at 5:30pm. As we moved into the first lock and the gates closed behind us a canal worker on the top of the canal explained some things to us about how it would all work as he looped our ropes around hooks and threw the rest of the rope back to us which we will keep tension on pulling the slack out as the boat rises.
Each lock is 5.5m deep with a possible boat beam of 10.7m and a maximum boat length of 45m. They have steel gates on either side when both are closed the one in the direction you are traveling opens flood doors and water from the other side rushes in at the base of the gate. The water churns in whirlpools and the chamber fills raising the boat to the level of the next lock. Running along Great Glen Way this system allows us to will climb to the height of the lochs then start our descent down the other side in the same manner until we come to the final 8 which are called Neptune’s Staircase.
When the canal was built to provide a safer passage for wooden sailing ships from the north east of Scotland to the south west, avoiding the route around the north coast via Cape Wrath and the Pentland Firth and at the time construction began it was thought to be a safe guard against Napoleon’s navy interfering with the shipping of goods but by the time it was complete Napoleon had been defeated. The original turnstile hand crank posts are still present near each of the modern gate doors.
There are 29 Locks in total on the Caledonian Canal and after the first four I realized it was going to be a long couple of days. I manned the front rope while Struan hooked the front and middle ropes. Celia worked the back rope and her son Dylan hooked the back. Between locks Struan and Dylan had to pull the ship by hand from one lock to the next while Celia steered and I did my best to keep us off of the walls by pushing the boat out.
After the first few locks we got stuck at a swing bridge at lunchtime so we had food and waited soon we were back to it and motoring up to the mouth of Loch Ness. The sun was out but a dense haze shrouded our view past a few miles creating a perfectly eerie effect for my first time to see Loch Ness. The boy in me couldn’t be more excited and I keep my eye out the entire time hoping Nessy would breach, give me a nod and descend. If she did I was looking the other way.
175m (574ft) - the deepest point is 227m (745ft)
Cruising past the ruins of Urquhart Castle which dates to the 13th-16th centuries, We pushed hard across Loch Ness trying to make it through the next set of locks at Saint Augustus before they stopped for the day. We reached them at almost 5:00 pm but they informed us the latest anyone was allowed to enter these was 4:15pm. Tying up to the pontoons we all headed out to check out the town.
Fort Augustus was a quite little village that has seen human settlement since prehistory. Until the early 18th Century the settlement was called Kiliwhimin and the modern Gaelic name of the village is Cill Chuimein. The village was mostly closed by the time we arrived so I returned to the boat after a walk. The fortress walls of Fort Augustus Abbey occupy the banks on the other side of the canal from where Selkie is tied up. Continuing down the path to its end at the shore of Loch Ness I gaze out upon its hazy waters. Turning back I see a tiny Pepper Pot lighthouse (the smallest in the UK) flashing a faint green beacon announcing the entrance of the canal. After dinner on the boat we all called it a night.
Sunday, September 14th 2014
Orkney Islands, Scotland
The morning brought us to the small island Holm of Papa to explore the Holm Tomb. The landing party consisted of Struan, Suly, Jean, Paul and myself. Landing on the rocky shore carpeted with seaweed we made our way up to dry land and started the short hike across the island to the grassy mound that housed the Neolithic tomb. The grassy fields showed little signs of life aside from faint sheep trails and a few birds flying away as we walked. Quickly reaching the northern shore of the island we were meet with cliffs and canyons stretching from the interior of the island to the coast very different from the gradual grass slope that was the south side of the island.
Reaching the mound we were greeted by a steel hatch and several glass cube skylights. Climbing down the fixed ladder into the tomb that was hall like with a wall and ground level opening on each end. Several tomb entrances can be seen in the main room with another in each of the smaller end rooms. This communal burial site is very unique in its design and size. First discovered in 1849 it dates older than Maeshowe on the Mainland. On the wall above one of the cells are manmade etchings referred to as “eyebrow” decorations, their meaning is still unknown. The original entrance to the tomb can be found in the middle of the chamber near to the ladder. It is a small square tunnel that leads outside, a walled channel frames it on the exterior of the mound positioned towards the sea.
Climbing back to ground level I make my way to the eastern shore of the island which is made up of dark flagstone. Walking along the shore looking for shells I slowly walked around back into the South Wick bay we were anchored in. Looking up from my beachcombing I see 16 pairs of eyes staring at me just out of the water belonging to a herd of seals, looking further down the beach I see my shipmates standing on the shore looking out at another large herd of seals watching them. They followed us as we walked along the beach back to the place where we left the life jackets. Captain Celia came to pick us up in the zodiac coasting slowly through the herds.
Once back aboard Selkie we hoisted anchor and made a quick 1 hour trip to the larger island of Westray to spend a few days in the marina to replenish our water supply, power up and use the services. After we secured Selkie to the pontoons I headed into the village of Pierowall about a mile from the harbor.
Coming upon the ruins of an ancient church, Lady Kirk, is surrounded by a beautiful cemetery. Viking Graves have been found here dating back to the year 800. The church itself was built in 1674 on the foundations of a church from the 13th Century. Inside the structure on the back wall stand two tombstones behind a glass case that date to the 1607.
"The Lily Must Decay"
After a latte at the Café I walked back to the ship by way of the beach.
Borrowing a bike I headed out to see the Noup Head lighthouse at around 9 pm. It was about 7 miles away up to the islands highest point. The ride/walk was strenuous and I didn’t see any cars or people out during the entire trip. About halfway there the road turned into a dirt road that lead through fields of sheep. Looking off either side of the road I could just see eerie green circles in all directions which where the sheep’s eyes illuminate by my headlamp. I passed several stone ruins of houses, which I had no interest in exploring at night. I could see the faint light of the lighthouse in the distance calling me to her cliffs. Near to the lighthouse I passed a loch which was full of birds that all began to chatter alarmed by my presence I pushed on to try and limit disturbing them as much as possible.
Finally the lighthouse’s shape came into view through the darkness, its light slowly turning with a beam shooting off in both directions made visible by the haze and fog. It was much smaller than I had imagined and was locked tight and closed to the public. Without my headlamp all of its details were obscured by the night. I took a number of long exposure photographs and a film of its motion. A half moon had appeared just above the sea, its orange reflection on the water was beautiful which slowly turned to white during the time I was there. I am sure the views are stunning in the daytime but I can’t see myself repeating this trip to find out.
I returned the way I came and made it back to the ship at around 12:30 am.
you can read about the voyages and the drawings at : huffingtonpost.com/jfrede
11:30 - Thursday, September 11, 2014
59° 22.846 n, 2°22.744 w - 23°C
Reaching the island of North Ronaldsay, we dropped anchor just off the southern coast nearest to the North Ronaldsay Lighthouse and the Old Beacon. Traveling by dingy to an old boat ramp we went ashore to explore the island and visit the lighthouse. An old stone structure greeted us with a sign that explained its former life as a workshop for the Lighthouse Keepers for making repairs and painting. A decaying boat sits at the top of the ramp with various bits of rope and rusting metal occupying its weathered hull.
A herd of North Ronaldsay’s famous sheep hurry past be with only mild caution and dismissed urgency in response to my stillness. This island largest population is that of the sheep the island is known for. Sheep have lived on this island for more than 5000 years and have evolved their diet to feed on seaweed unless they are lambing at, which time they are given hay by the locals. They are goat like in appearance and their coats produce very fine wool. All the of the sheep on the island are descendants of the original Orkney sheep presumed to have been brought to the island by Neolithic people and have survived on the island far longer than any humans.
My shipmates Jean and Paul were out about the sheep in a field of brilliant green grass near some very old sheepfolds when they began waving for me to come over. They had found a sheep on the ground in distress and when I got there I could see her back leg had somehow gotten stuck in her horns. Breathing heavily she looked as though she had been stuck for quite some time. I petted her a bit before slowly pulling her leg free of her horn while holding her horn in my free hand to make sure she didn’t react and cut her leg. Once I unwrapped her from her pretzel like state I gave her some love and we left her to relax and recuperate (as we were leaving the island me and Paul walked back over to check on her and were please to see she was able to get up and walk away from us)
Heading on towards the lighthouse that is the tallest in the British Isles standing at 139ft high. Built in 1854 to replace the Dennis Head Old Beacon, which is made entirely of stone and dates to 1789.
After a look around we ascended the spiral staircase to the top where we were met by a elderly man who spoke in a very quiet monotone telling us an extensive history of the lighthouse (far more extensive than anything I can find online). He had been one of the lighthouse keepers in the 1970s and continued until its automation in the 1990s. The lens is a First Order Fresnel Lens and is in almost perfect condition and is still in use today.
The lighthouse’s original clockwork is also still in place which is remarkable considering it is now run on a motor. The tour guide let me wind it a bit and I was very happy to do so. There was also a gold coin and a silver coin of Spanish heritage that he casually pulled out of the display case and handed us to hold and feel its weight and surface. The details of the lighthouse remained including a medusa like woman’s face that graced air vents that were opened when a flame was in the place of the modern light bulb, the lattice work of the lights lantern room featured a lions head at each intersection of the support bars. We were allowed to go through the opening in the lens and stand inside of it as it turned, I have never seen this level of access in the states and I was very stoked to have the chance to see it more from inside, even if it was 1 billion degrees in there.
After the tour he walked down with us and took us out to the foghorn where he blasted it for us, without warning of when the blast would come…. Luckily we were on the backside of it but still you could feel the sound shaking your chest as it blew.
The rest of the crew went to the gift shop for tea and ice cream while I made my way over to the old beacon. Walking along the shore with the sheep hurrying before me I made my way through the old sheep folds made of stone and finally to the old beacon. Sadly it is shrouded in scaffolding “waiting for money to restore it” after it was featured on a TV show which basically shamed them for letting it nearly fall down. So now it has been in this cocoon for 3 years untouched so it isn’t being restored and the beauty it once held has also been restricted from view.
Climbing over rubble of stones I found the small door opening. A pile of pigeon guano about 2ft tall sat in the middle of the tower. Looking up I could see the faint light of the beacons light window at the top of the tower. You could see the remains of the original stone spiral staircase coming out of the walls. It looked much shorter on the inside than on the outside. Climbing out I stepped back to look at it through the scaffolding. The circle that crowns the top of the light beacon is made entirely of carved stone and is beautiful.
Heading back to the shore I met up with the rest of the crew on the walk back to the zodiac. Passing the sheep I had untangled earlier in the day, she was up and about and was going to be fine. North Ronaldsay was my favorite island I visited in the Orkney Islands.
Monday September 8th 2014. Orkney Islands, Scotland.
Leaving from the Visitors Center in Kirkwall myself and Struan boarded the bus heading for Stromness. We alerted the driver we were going to the Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar. Heading west out of the city we were soon in the storybook-esque Scottish countryside complete with rolling green hills, stone houses and herds of grazing sheep. After about 40 minutes time the bus driver stopped and at a non-descript part of the road and said this was the stop. We stepped off and looked around and could see the Stones of Stenness in the distance.
The Stones of Stenness, Ring of Brodgar and the newly found Ness of Brodgar are all important Neolithic sites that are 5000 years old and predate Stonehenge.
A tour couch was there when we arrived but soon we had the site mostly to ourselves, after exploring the site and the “Farmhouse” foundation sites closer to the water we made our way up the road passing the “Watch stone” just before a bridge then we walked past the Ness of Brodgar which is closed to the public and is an active dig site. The Ness of Brodgar is an incredibly important find as it ties the two standing stone sites together and is the oldest Neolithic site in all of Europe. Continuing up the road we approached the Ring of Brodgar from the south giving us a great vantage point to see all of the stones in their mysterious glory before heading up the hill to walk amongst them. They are ancient and beautiful and a power that is difficult to translate into words. I spent time at each stone and took a good deal of photographs. Twenty seven of the original stones still stand. From time to time the sun would break through the cloudy skies and cast the most amazing light on the stones surface, their long shadows would darken and I was reminded of the possible intention of interaction with the heavens.
On our walk back we walked through the stones of Stenness once more, looking again for away to get to the location where the Odin Stone once stood but it seems to be on private property. I feel blessed to have seen these great stones and walked beneath them just as our ancestors did 5000 years ago.
Friday September 5th 2014 - Egilsay Island, Orkney, Scotland
We disembarked from Kirkwall Marina for a day sail to Egilsay Island. Onboard the Selkie was the Captain Celia Bull, her son Dylan, Howard Buxton, Selena Kuzman (Artist), Struan Kennedy (Artist), Suly Sanchez (Marine Biologist) and myself. We were off in search of the place where Saint Magnus was executed at the order of his cousin Earl Haakon. Soon I was raising the mainsail and shortly their after we were unfurling the Genoa jib. There was a nice wind blowing out of the (DIRECTION OF WIND) and the seas were quiet. Spending much of my time next to the Captain taking in as much as possible. As we sailed past the island of Shapinsay the Balfour Castle could be seen perched on the hillside. Continuing due North we passed several Cardinal Buoys painted Yellow and Black. Celia explained to me that the first meant safe passage to the south and the next meant safe passage to the north (on the chart this was noted by the arrangement of small triangles above the buoy icon). Arriving at the anchorage at Egilsay we dropped the mainsail followed by the anchor. We were all then transported to the island via a zodiac boat.
Once on land we made our way up the single road leading inland. The Saint Magnus Church stood on the hill north of us and was our first destination. It is thought that this church was built on the sight of the original church where Earl Magnus took refuge in pray the night before his execution. It is a very unique style of cathedral for Orkney, which has been attributed to the belief that this was the site of an early Celtic monastery.
Moving on from the church we walked up the grassy road and made our way out to a large stone monument that sat out in a field. This was the site of Earl Magnus (whom later became Saint Magnus) met his end.
Earl Magnus was executed under the order of his cousin Earl Haakon after he had been double-crossed at a peace meeting he had arranged. Magnus suggested he be banished to Rome or The Holy Land, Haakon said no thanks, then Magnus agreed to be imprisoned and Haakon replied with “No way Jose”. Next Magnus suggested he be maimed or blinded and to this Haakon agreed. But Haakon’s soldiers had had enough of dealing with two lords trying to rule and said they were going to kill one of them and it didn’t matter which it was to them. Haakon is quoted as saying “I like Earldom better than death, so kill him”. The problem now was no one wanted to do it, finally Magnus ordered Haakon’s cook, Lifolf to use his axe on his head, it took two tries.
After a lazy relaxing time at the site of a double axe wound to the head execution we headed back to the pier and finally back aboard the Selkie. Returning to Kirkwall Marina after a lovely day of sailing.
j.frede - Orkney Islands, Scotland - The Clipperton Project
I have been invited to sail the Northern Isles of Scotland as an Artist in Residence aboard the ship Selkie as part of The Clipperton Project. While aboard the ship I will be making drawings using the motion of the sea with a simple Drawing Machine I have designed. Inspired and influenced by the Harmonograph Drawing Machines of the 1800’s, I am making a tray that will move at will contained inside a larger box. As the ship heels and bobs the tray and paper will move side to side, back and forth recording the sea’s movement as a drawing. Each drawing will last for 24 hours at which time I will change out the paper and a new drawing will begin. In the end there will be a log of the ships motion for everyday I am aboard.
Along with the Drawing Machine I will also be keeping a daily journal, taking photographs and making videos of the expedition. These journals and images as well as photographs of the drawings made will be published as regularly as possible to my blog on The Huffington Post. Allowing all of my friends, family and everyone who finds romance in the open sea to follow along on the journey.
I have launched a Kickstarter to help raise the funds to complete the proper version of the Drawing Machine and with the other expenses that occur on such a voyage.
I will be playing my first live set in many moons next week at Trans Pecos in Queens, NY. I will be processing a field recording made inside the lens housing of the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse of the lens’ original clockwork in motion.
915 Wyckoff St. (Halsey L Train Stop)
8pm - $7
Thursday, June 26 2014
Anxiety death rock outta NYC
twee rock from SF
Brooklyn based experimental techno
On a Clear Day
Ambient cut-up modular electronics
Los Angeles conceptual sound artist
event invite: https://www.facebook.com/events/662673787119073/